16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m, and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Munitions seen in the SydneyDaily Telegraph of the 23rd instant the report that workers at a munitions factory in western New South Wales havedecided to work afive-day week instead of one of five and a half days? Is this decision in conflict with the wishes of the Government? If it is, what action does the Minister propose to take in order to ensure that the Government’s instructions shall be obeyed?
– At a certain factory in New South Wales which is seeking to work according to a schedule of five instead of five and a half days a week, the whole of the employees are working ordinary time for the full number of hours weekly. At present in question is overtime which the Government wishes them to work.I have reason to believe that a satisfactory solution of the matter is imminent.
– The former Directorof Gun Ammunition, Mr. W . J. Smith, has made serious allegations concerning munitions production in Australia, one of his statements being that many war factories are overmanned, whilst others are seriously undermanned; and another, that political interference is responsible for the inefficient conduct of Australia’s munitions programme. Will the Minister for Munitions make a statement concerning Mr. Smith’s charges?
– I shall be very glad to have a comprehensive statement prepared for the House at the earliest opportunity.
– I ask the Minister for
Labour and National Service whether, although a certain government munitions factory is very short of skilled labour, the applications of many skilled men working in private annexes to be transferred to it because it is nearer to their homes, have been refused:. Does not the honorable gentleman think that preference should be given to a government factory, and that he should take steps to enable these men to he transferred to it instead of being compelled to continue to work for private enterprise?
– I am not aware of the existence of circumstances of the kind related,but I am willing to have from the honorable member all the information he possesses. When that has been furnished, the fullest inquiries will be made and he will be advised of the result.
– Has the Minister for Munitions read a statement by the Director of Gun Ammunition,Mr. W. J. Smith, in to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph, in which he is reported to havesaid -
But it will reveal nothing tothe enemy if I say that as a newcomer into armament production I was responsible for the creation of at least twenty new developments. These arc now the subjects of patented machinery designed to increase and cheapen production of munitions.
I ask the Minister whether that is a statement of fact? If so, were the experiments conducted in Government annexes? Who is the owner of the patents, and has the Government paid any royalties on them ?
– I have not seen the news item to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall thoroughly investigate the claims contained therein. When Mr. W. J. Smith was associated with the Department of Munitions as the Director of Gun Ammunition, he advised the introduction of certain labour-saving methods and I believe that he contributed many helpful suggestions for improving factory operations. His recommendations were extended to other plants, which were doing the same class of work. For his advice and assistance in that regard I give him full credit; but I am not in a position to say whether as many of those ideas as the report mentioned emanated from him while he was Director of Gun Ammunition.
Mr.rosevear. - Have any royalties been paid on the patents?
– I am unable to give the information, but I shall make inquiries and furnish a reply tothe honorable member.
Production in Tasmania.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to make a statement relating to the disastrous position of the flax-growers of Tasmania? Has a decision yet been reached in regard to the payment of compensation to growers whose flax crops have failed owing to conditions that are outside their control ? If such a decision has not been made, when does the Minister anticipate that some financial relief may he given to them?
– Problems relating to the flax industry are now being handled by Senator Fraser, who is assisting me in the Department of Supply and Shipping. I understand that he, as well as Mr. J. A. Stevenson, the secretary of the Flax Production Committee, have attended conferences on the subject, and that certain submissions have been made by Mr. Stevenson. As the honorable member is aware, the flax industry in Tasmania has a history and the question of continuing flax-growing in certain areas of that State has been raised. A very wide problem has been opened up in relation to State committees, and the extent to which the Government has already been committed in connexion with the industry generally. I should not like to make a hurried decision. I had a discussion concerning the matter only this morning, and it is now in hand. The honorable member, and other persons interested, will be consulted before a decision is made.
– When does the Minister for Supply and Shipping think that he willbe able to visit Tasmania for the purpose of inquiring into the production of flax in that State?
– I have promised that I shall go to Tasmania in company with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and also, I hope, with SenatorFraser, but it will not be possible for us to make the visit untilnear the end of the present session.
– In view of the overwhelming evidence from doctors, dietitians and others as to the healthgiving qualities of wholemeal bread, which I believe are admitted by the Minister for Health, and the injurious and wasteful nature of the loaf made from white flour, will the honorable gentleman consider the institution of a national loaf, similar to that which is being retailed in Great Britain and other parts of the world?
-I do not know whether there is a national loaf in Great Britain or any other part of the world, but there is a good deal of controversy concerning the qualities of wholemeal bread. I am not able to state whether or not that is the best bread. Dr. Clements, who is regarded as an expert dietitian and is now associated with the Australian Food Council, is making an investigation of the matter with a view to submitting recommendations. I am not prepared to promise that I shall ask the Government to introduce a standard loaf of that or any other kind at the present time. I shall, however, obtain from experts a statement of their views, and shall advise the honorable member of the result.
– I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
It is intended to sit on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week and the following week. I shall probably try to arrange that the House shall meet on the succeeding Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, in order to provide what is known as the long week-end.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In compliance with requests that have been made to meby honorable gentlemen, I move -
That the following papers laid on the table on the 28th January, be printed: - Repatriation Reports (2) of committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives appointed to inquire into and report on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and any amendments considered necessary.”
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– If the honorable gentleman persists with his motion,I shall withdraw mine. The whole of the discussion on repatriation, along general lines, may be covered by the debate on Order of the Day No. 1 for to-day.
– How much time will be devoted to it?
– That matter has yet to be decided. I have undertaken that, so soon as an amending repatriation bill can be prepared - and it will be broadly on the lines of the reports of the committee - it will be introduced. The purpose of my motion is, not to have a general discussion of the subject but to meet the requests of honorable gentlemen who desire to obtain copies of the report.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Deferred Pay - Shoulder Badge
– A number of young men have been sent into the fighting zone with less than six months’ training. Deferred pay becomes operative after a man has served for a period of six months. Will the Prime Minister seriously consider the giving of deferred pay to men who have been in the fighting zone for three months, instead of their having to wait for six months?
– Very serious consideration will be given to the proposal.
– I ask the Minister for the Army what authority was given, and by whom, to members of the military police, to remove from the shoulders of members of the Australian Imperial
Force the “ Australia “ badges issued to them by the Army administration?
– I am not aware of any authority having been given to members of the Military Police to remove the “ Australia “ badge from the shoulder of any member of the Australian Imperial Force. Inquiries will be made immediately, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
– -I ask the Attorney-General: Under which of the four freedoms outlined in the bill at present before this House does the New South Wales executive of the Australian Labour party require the signature of certain individuals to a pledge either to do or to refrain from doing something?
– I believe that that is a question to which the honorable gentleman does not require an answer.
– In view of the pronouncement of the Minister for Labour and National Service, that he strongly favours the setting up of joint production committees of workers and managers in industry, and is making recommendations in that regard. I ask him whether steps have been taken to implement his proposal and thus facilitate the war effort, increase production, and improve efficiency in industry. Some employers encourage the practice and the workers are anxious to have it made general, whilst other interests are offering discouragement.
– It is true that I favour the setting up of committees upon which the workers shall have representation. The matter is now receiving the consideration of the Government. I hope to be able to make a statement as soon as a decision has been reached.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will Dr. Coombs, whose appointment as Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction was announced recently, be alone responsible for the organization and co-ordination of planning for postwar reconstruction, or is it intended to associate with him in this work suitable experts who have had practical experience of the industrial t financial, and social problems of life?
– As I announced on Wednesday, the Treasurer has been appointed Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Dr. Coombs will be his chief executive officer. I am quite certain that the department will enlist from time to time such expert advice as it may need.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether or not there is a remote possibility of the long-awaited dairying report being made available during the life-time of either this or any subsequent Parliament?
– This report will be laid on the table of the House at the next day of sitting.
– Will the Treasurer institute an inquiry into the principles of pay-as-you-go taxation in order to estimate its probable effect on Commonwealth income tax revenue for the year 3943-44? Will he then consider the application of the pay-as-you-go method from the 1st July next, and its effect upon the rates of income tax as fixed in the legislation which is shortly to be introduced? Will he at the same time give consideration to the changes that have been recently adopted in the United States of America in order to relieve taxpayers of the arrears of tax for one year ?
– The point raised by the honorable member has received consideration. Most of the advocates of the pay-as-you-go system hold that they should not pay the tax which they already owe; in order words, that they should miss the payment of a year’s taxation. All proposals for the payment of tax on current income have been investigated.
– Has the Minister for Transport personally examined current proposals for a serious curtailment of suburban bus services in the Melbourne metropolitan area ? Is it a fact that when the curtailment is effected there will he a reduction of asmuch as 60 per cent. in the present service? Will not the economy effected be more than outweighed by the disadvantage and inconvenience caused to the travelling public?
– It is true that the department which I control is making a complete survey of all bus services throughout Australia. The survey is being conducted by a committee of practical men who understand the industry thoroughly, and one member of the committee is a representative of the Omnibus Proprietors Association. This work, which has been going on for the last six months, is being done in close liaison with the Liquid Fuel Control Board and the Department of Supply and Shipping. The report of the committee has now been presented, and has been considered very carefully by the officers of my department, who are convinced that the curtailments recommended by the committee are necessary in the interests of petrol and tyre economy.
– The new schedule comes into operation on Monday next.
– That is so. I have not interfered with the recommendations of the committee, but if representations are made to me by honorable members, or by the people concerned, that undue hardship is being occasioned in connexion with the service on any particular route, I shall examine the matter further.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as Minister for Defence Coordination, whether it is the policy of the Government to refuse an allowance in respect of children of widows who have enlisted in any of the auxiliary services? Recently, I received a letter from a member of the Government stating that allowances would not be paid in such circumstances. My opinion is that such women are rendering valuable service to the country, and they should receive an allowance for their children.
– I have no present knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I shall myself inquire into it.
– The Liquid Fuel Control Board has compelled many owners of motor vehicles to fit producergas units, and their petrol ration has been reduced in consequence. Now, in many country districts of New South Wales and Queensland, and particularly on the north coast of New South Wales, practically no charcoal whatever is available, so that the owners of the converted vehicles can now obtain neither charcoal nor petrol. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether his department accepts any responsibility for ensuring that adequate supplies of charcoal shall be available, or whether it takes the attitude that this is the responsibility of private enterprise?
– I should say that the Department of Supply and Shipping must accept some responsibility for maintaining essential services. The supply of charcoal in New South Wales is largely in the hands of a State government department, only small quantities being provided by private enterprise. As a matter of fact, the charcoal supply is much better in New South Wales generally than it is in any of the other States.
– There is not abag to be had on the north coast.
– There may be a shortage in that district. The best I can do isto get into touch with the State authorities in NewSouth Wales with a view to having supplies of charcoal railed to the north coast, so that those who have been patriotic enough to fit producer- gas units to their vehicles shall not be penalized.
– Has the Minister for Air any further statement to make regarding the purchase of the Camera estate, near the Schofield aerodrome?
– I have no statement to make at present. Inquiries are being made, and information will be supplied to the honorable member later.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the proposed scheme for the establishment of country wool appraisement centres has been approved by Cabinet, and, if so, how much money has been allocated for the erection of wool stores? In view of the recent statement that the man-power .position in Australia is grave, will the Minister say whether the proposal to erect wool stores has been discussed with the Director-General of Man Power, or placed before the Priority Committee with a view to having it declared, an urgent undertaking?
– The proposal has been approved by Cabinet. So far, the allocations of the money are approximate only, and I cannot give the figures offhand, but I shall supply them to the honorable member later. The decision to establish country appraisement centres is in keeping with the Government’s policy of decentralization, and is in conformity with the desire of all genuine wool producers throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. I have received numerous requests for the establishment of country appraisement centres, and the Government’s decision is taken on the direct advice of the Director-General of Transport (Sir Harold Clapp), who stated that the establishment of country appraisement centres was essential in order to relieve the strain on transport. In addition, there is at present tremendous congestion in the wool stores in the metropolitan areas. Only recently, I conferred with the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, and with the Director of the Allied Works Council in an endeavour to have buildings erected for the purpose of relieving the congestion in the metropolitan areas where no fewer than 57 storage units have been taken over for defence purposes. This congestion, which has been a matter of great concern to the Central Wool Committee, will be relieved by the establishment of appraisement centres in country areas.
– During the visit of the Minister for Air to my electorate ho heard it stated at a meeting that complaints had been made of the waste of petrol by officers of the Air Force. Has the Minister received a complaint from officials of the Australian Workers Union regarding the waste of petrol by members of the Royal Australian Air Force? If so, what action does he propose to take?
– Some time ago, a complaint was received from officials of the Australian Workers Union regarding the alleged waste of petrol at a northern station, and the complaint was immediately investigated. A reply was sent to those who had made the complaint, and a general order was issued that care should be exercised in the use of petrol. Later, another complaint was received, and after an investigation was made a reply was sent that no cause for complaint existed.
– What action does the Prime Minister propose to take against the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney for once again deliberately and flagrantly violating censorship instructions in that they have published in to-day’s issue of the paper a map of the South-west Pacific Area in which it is proposed that Australian troops may, under pending legislation, be required to serve? What action has been taken against the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph for previous breaches of censorship regulations?
– I do not know whether there has been a breach of censorship regulations. I am referring now to what is alleged to have occurred to-day when a map was published in the newspaper. I cannot say whether any m,a: published, particularly when I have not seen it, is a breach of the censorship instructions. I do not know whether n censorship order was issued in respect of this matter, but, if the censor has given a direction which has not been observed, obviously ia breach of the law has been committed. I shall ‘have the facts examined, and if the law has been broken steps should be taken to vindicate it.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state the price paid each season by Australian wool manufacturers for all wool since the making of the wool purchase agreement?
Did the Minister, at the request of the Australian manufacturers, reduce the price of wool purchased by ‘the Australian trade? If so, what was the amount of the reduction? Will the consequent loss be carried by the British Government or by the Australian wool-growers?
– There has been no direct request to me by the representatives of the wool manufacturers. Wool was sold to them previously at a rate determined by the * ‘Central Wool Committee. The rate was kept as close as possible to the British purchase contract price. It was found that wool had been allotted to the manufacturers at too low a price, representing a deficit last year of about £26,000. The Central Wool Committee imposed a surcharge of 25 per cent, to cover that deficit, and increased the price to local manufacturers. Cabinet considered the matter and decided that the local manufacturers should get wool at the British purchase price and the Prices Commissioner was instructed to fix the price at that level.
– Yesterday I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps of New South Wales are being called upon to surrender ration coupons for the purchase of summer uniforms. Will the Minister give instructions that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps shall be entitled to obtain summer uniforms without having to surrender ration coupons?
– Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are entitled to uniforms, boots, hats, shirts and greatcoats free of coupons.
– They are issued by the Army. If members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are not being issued with those uniforms, it is because of a shortage. I understand that there is a shortage. First preference is given to the fighting troops; the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are on a lower priority.
– Who are the fighting troops? A great number of the troops will never see any fighting.
– Men at battle stations in various parts of Australia are given preference over the Volunteer Defence Corps which plays a more static role in the defence of Australia. I agree with the honorable gentleman that uniforms should be issued free of coupons, and I have booked a telephone call to the Commander of the Volunteer Defence Corps. I shall discuss the matter with him and ensure that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps shall be issued with uniforms >as soon as possible. I was assured this morning by the officer in charge of the Volunteer Defence Corps Headquarters in Melbourne that uniforms are issued free of coupons to the Volunteer Defence Corps.
– Not in New South Wales.
– I shall make inquiries. I thank the honorable member for bringing the matter to my notice.
– In view of the vigorous protests that have been made against the fixing of the price of pig meats, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what motives actuated the Government in fixing prices? Will he also say whether, if it can be shown that the majority of the pig-raisers are opposed to ‘the fixation of the price of pig meats, he will consider reversion to the open market?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I wish to know, before this question is answered, whether it is right for the honorable member for Wimmera, who is attached as an assistant to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to ask a question of that Minister on matters connected with the department which he is assisting to administer?
– That is a matter of comment, not a point of order.
– On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Barker receives pay as a member of the Army, and he repeatedly asks questions of the Minister for the Army.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented ?
– Yes, to some degree.
– The personal explanation will be limited to the misrepresentation.
– The objection taken by the honorable member for Barker to my asking a question of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is not well founded, because my attachment to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is of a most casual nature, is purely honorary, and is not continuous. I submit, therefore, that I had every right to ask the question.
– The price of pig meats was fixed by the Prices Commissioner as the only authority vested with powers to fix prices. He was actuated in fixing the price by a definite request from the Pig Council, on which pigraisers in every State of the Commonwealth are represented, that the price of pig meats be fixed and that, for a period of upwards of two years, the pig-raisers be guaranteed a return of 8£d. per lb. for first-grade pig meats. The price was fixed at S£d. per lb., with contingencies bringing it up to more than 9d. In view of the repeated requests which, no doubt, have been organized by vested interests, I am seriously considering whether the Government should wipe its hands of the pig industry and allow it to revert to the law of the jungle under which it operated previously.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to give the names of the supposed representatives of the pig producers of Australia who asked him to fix the price of pig meats?
– I resent the honorable member’s question. The implication is that I have been supplying false information to the House.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member is well aware of the existence of a body known as the Pig Council of Australia which represents pig producers in all States, including Western Australia. The minutes of the interview that I had with the representatives of that organization are now in my office. The deputation was headed by Mr. Watson, President of the Pig Council of Australia.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping give an absolute assurance that there shall be no repetition of the recent circumstances in which his department, for its own purposes, “ froze “ tomatoes grown in the northern district of Victoria at from 3s. to 5s. a case at a time when similar tomatoes, not subject to freezing and grown south of the dividing range, were sold on the Melbourne market at from £2 to £3 a case.
– by leave- Prices fixed by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner for tomatoes delivered to canneries in Victoria were 5s. a case of 48 lb. for canning varieties, and 3s. a case for standard grade. These prices are at least double the prices paid before the war, and the growers have received the protection of Government inspectors as regards the rejections of tomatoes unfit for processing. They are, moreover, guaranteed these prices for the whole of their crop during the period in which in certain areas deliveries of the whole crop are required for the canning programme. The prices, moreover, are prices at growers’ gate and should not be compared with the wholesale prices ruling in the metropolitan area. These wholesale prices include agent’s commission, transport and cases. In the fixing of the prices the growers were conferred with and every aspect was thoroughly examined to ensure as far as was humanly possible that no injustice should be done.
For a short period after the canneries took the whole of the supply from certain areas, prices in the open market reached a high level. This position has now been corrected by the determination of a maximum price for tomatoes in the wholesale market in Melbourne at 10s. a case of 24 lb. The maximum retail price in the metropolitan area is 8d. per lb., and for places in Victoria outside the metropolitan area the maximum retail price is the wholesale price plus the cost of transport, plus the maximum retailers’ margin of 2¾d. per lb. This is a maximum price and not a guaranteed price as is the case with prices fixed for canning varieties. In New South Wales where the supplies required for canning are not so great as in Victoria, the open market price has been falling, and this week it is at a level of from 2s. to 5s. a case, with a few cases at 7s. It is essential that the canning programme shall be fulfilled. The crop in Victoria this year is very large, and, if the canning programme were of normal proportions, prices of tomatoes in the open market might well be below the levels now fixed for canning.
The honorable member for Indi asked me for an absolute guarantee that similar circumstances shall not be permitted to recur in future, burt the House will realize that it is most difficult for the Government to give such an undertaking in wartime. Another consideration is that climatic conditions affect the ripening and marketing of tomatoes. The Government must obtain large supplies of tomatoes because they contain valuable vitamins that are essential to the health of our fighting forces. Naturally, the growers wish to secure the highest prices that they can for their product. If the price offering on the metropolitan market is higher than the price fixed for canning purposes, growers will tend to by-pass the canneries and dispose of their product on the metropolitan markets. In making that statement, I do not speak disparagingly of the growers. It is only human nature that they should desire to obtain the best possible returns. However, the Department of Supply and Shipping cannot permit the canneries to he bypassed in this manner when tomatoes are so urgently required for the troops. Compelled by this necessity to obtain supplies, the department took steps in Victoria to prohibit the transport by rail of tomatoes from certain centres in the metropolitan area. Tomatoes from those districts will bc consigned to the canneries.
– Will .these prices be paid throughout the season?
– Yes. The growers in the areas to which I have referred will receive up to 5s. a case. It is true, as the honorable member for Indi said, that some tomatoes from Werribee brought £3 4s. a case.
– That was for a 484b. case.
– I frankly admit one weakness that arose in connexion with this scheme, and I have no desire to “ pass the buck “. When the Department of Supply and Shipping took steps to prevent the despatch of tomatoes by rail from certain districts in Victoria, I specifically requested that a maximum price should be fixed immediately for tomatoes sold on the metropolitan market. I considered that such action was absolutely necessary, because the imposition of the prohibition on the part of my department to restrict the flow of tomatoes to the metropolitan area would naturally increase the prices for the remaining tomatoes that reached the market. In fact,, I foresaw that, without a general fixation, the prices on the metropolitan market would become exorbitant. When I was compelled to take positive action in the first instance, I requested the Prices Commissioner to prevent a skyrocketing of prices, so that, growers who were permitted to market their tomatoes in the metropolitan area would not receive an undue advantage compared with growers who were compelled to send their tomatoes to the canneries. Honorable members will appreciate the necessity for the Prices Commissioner to act simultaneously with the Department of Supply and Shipping in the matter.
– ‘Will the Minister consult with representatives of the industry on marketing problems?
– Yes. In somewhat similar circumstances, I discussed with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) problems relating to the market.ing of citrus fruits and I thank him for the practical aid that he extended to me. I am also most anxious to consult with the growers of tomatoes because if I can secure their co-operation, my task will be made less difficult. I hope to have their goodwill on all occasions.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that a large body of soldiers in varying states of health is attached to the Sydney showgrounds awaiting the decision of medical boards? Is it also a fact that no facilities have been provided for feeding and accommodating these men at the showgrounds, with the result that after assembling each day at 9 a.m., they are dismissed and granted leave for the following 24 hours? Is the purpose of this almost immediate dismissal each day to relieve the Army of the obligation of feeding and sheltering the men? Is it a fact that these men are without homes in the city and are forced to sleep whenever they can at night? If so, will the Minister ensure that in future soldiers are provided with food and shelter while awaiting the decisions of medical boards?
– I shall investigate the complaints immediately;but I am not aware that soldiers havebeen refused food and shelter at the showgrounds.
Mr.rosevear. - I did not say that they had been refused food and shelter. I said that no shelter has been provided for them.
– At the showgrounds there are a general details depot and other depots, and the reports which I have received are to the effect that the arrangements are working satisfactorily. 1 shall examine the complaints made by the honorable member and furnish him with a reply without delay.
– Under the terms of an order made under National Security (General) Regulations, dated the 12th January, 1943, and published in the Commonwealth Gazette dated the 20th January, 1943, it appears to be necessary, inter alia, for owners of farm lighting plants and even motor vehicles to furnish complicated returns of electrical generators in their possession. If that interpretation of the regulations be correct, will the Minister for Munitions amend the order for the purpose of excluding such generators, which seem to have been included by mistake? Will he also take steps to see that in future such orders are made perfectly clear so that they may be understood by the average citizen?
– I cannot understand how the honorable member could mis understand the regulations. They cannot possibly be construed to mean generating plants attached to motor vehicles or farm lighting systems. The purpose of issuing the regulations was to obtain an estimate of electrical plant that may be held by local governing bodies generally throughout Australia, so that in an emergency involving a breakdown of electrical services the Government would know where reserve plants could he obtained for the generation of power. My department made it clear to the Press that the regulations did not include electrical equipment on motor vehicles.
– The advertisement which appeared in the South Australian Press did not make that point clear.
– Presumably some misunderstanding arose,but I assure the honorable member that generators on motor vehicles and farm lighting plants are not covered by the regulations.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether an order has been placed with two large printing establishments, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, for the publication and distribution of several million pamphlets describing Australia’s achievements in the war? If so, will the right honorable gentleman agree with my opinion that the pamphlets would be not only a waste of paper, but also a source of danger as they might contain information of value to the enemy.
– The Treasurer has made arrangements to issue a publication on loan raisings, which has for its purpose the dissemination of information about what has been done in this regard in Australia. Only that part which can be told without endangering security will be told. The Government considers that the people of Australia should he informed of what has been done with the money the people have raised for war purposes. Other governments have issued similar publications. The latest one that has come to my hand was issued by the Canadian Government and it is extraordinarily illuminating.
– There is no shortage of paper in Canada.
– I understand that experts from the United States of America will visit Australia to examine shale deposits, and will report upon the practicability of extracting oil from them. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping give to me an assurance that the experts will visit Queensland, where the shale deposits offer better prospects of success ‘than those in other States?
– The government of the United States has sent to Australia, with the approval of the Commonwealth Government, three experts who will examine two deposits of shall in New South Wales. They will report immediately to Washington upon the practicability of extracting oil from them. The experts will be in Australia for a limited time and they are subject to the direction of the American Government. In the circumstances, I am unable to give an undertaking that they will examine any other deposits in Australia.
– Will the Minister make representations to the Government of the United States of America with the object of securing an extension of the time that these experts will spend in Australia, so that they may examine other deposits here?
– I am quite willing to do so, but our main problems arise from the lack of supplies of what the Americans call critical materials for the development of shale deposits. These are in short supply in the United States of America as they are in Australia. I refer to cracking plant, refining machinery, and retorts. Man-power also is a difficulty. We have been endeavouring to concentrate upon deposits which we think can be developed in the shortest possible space of time.
– Perhaps some plant could be removed from Newnes.
– We do not wish to remove plant from there; we wish to prove the deposits.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen a report in this morning’s Canberra Times, in which the chairman of the Wallsend Coal
Company, Mr. Scroggie, is stated to have said that the loss of coal in New South Wales during the last year, due to stoppages, absenteeism and other causes, had totalled 2,169,000 tons? Has the right honorable gentleman seen Mr. Scroggie’s other statement that the handing over of the control of strikes to employees’ organizations was nothing more than class legislation and an offence against the principles of democracy. If the statements attributed to Mr. Scroggie are correct, does not the Prime Minister consider that firm action should be taken to compel those engaged in the coal-mining industry to play their part in the nation’s war effort?
-I remind the honorable member that whilst statements of fact may be permitted so far as may be necessary to explain a question, comment on such statements is not in order.
– I have not seen the statements to which the honorable member has referred, and I do not know where they were made. A coal commission is engaged at present in making a survey of the best way to reach the objective we have in mind, which, I am sure, the honorable member desires to be reached. Whatever may be said in criticism of a certain section of the coal-miners, the fact is that never in the history of Australia has so much coal been produced in twelve months in New South Wales as was produced there last year. That is the first and most important point to keep in mind.
– Consumption was also greater.
– Every country in the British Commonwealth of Nations has experienced some difficulty in the coalmining industry. Absenteeism has occurred in other industries as well as in coal-mining. It may be that Mr. Scroggie was speaking with authority. If so, he must be conscious that part of the difficulty in dealing with the’ coalmining industry to-day is due to the legacy of injustice that has marked its history.
– I consider it desirable to remind honorable members of two of our Standing Orders in relation to the asking of questions. The first is that, in putting any questions no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain the questions. . The other is that members in replying to questions shall not engage in debate.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the service of members of the Citizen Military Forces in the Southwestern Pacific Zone for the duration of the present war.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 28th January (vide page 154) on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That this House, at this its first meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of war with Germany and Italy, and in 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 shall be brief in my contribution to this debate for I realize that it is only preliminary to other business which will come before us shortly. I regret exceedingly that the Government was not ready, when the Parliament met on Wednesday, to introduce the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has just given notice. Because of that fact we have wasted a week during which we and also the members of the staffs of the Parliament could have been spending their time to better advantage in connexion with the war effort. I know that by the resolution carried during the last sessional period the Government was bound to call the Parliament together not later than the 27th January. This suggests to me that, in future, it would be desirable to allow the Government some latitude in arranging the meetings of the House. As things have turned out, we are wasting our time discussing what, after all, is a futile motion.
I trust that during this sitting period honorable members will be given the opportunity to consider the decisions of the Constitution Convention that was held in Canberra at the end of November. During our last sittings the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) moved the second reading of a bill which provided for certain Constitution alterations, and the debate on the motion was adjourned. I understand that in consequence of the decisions of the convention that bill will be withdrawn. Apparently legislative action by this Parliament will not be necessary to give effect to the decisions of the convention. I trust that that does not mean that we shall not have an. opportunity to debate the subject. If necessary the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General should make a report to this Parliament on the decisions of the convention. That would open the way for a debate on the subject. This Parliament is, of course, deeply concerned in the issues that have been raised, and honorable members should be given a full opportunity to debate them.
I deplore the unseemly wrangling and continual argument that has occurred in this chamber since the beginning of our sittings this week about whether this Government, or some other government, has done the most effective work in connexion with the war effort. Such controversies cannot help, hut must hinder, the war effort. It is the duty of this Parliament to set an example of unity to the people and to inspire them to exert their utmost powerto strengthen every national endeavour in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, during parliamentary recesses, some honorable members take the opportunity to travel throughout the country criticizing the members of other political parties and stressing the achievements of this or that government. That sort of thing can get us nowhere and must lead to division among the people at a time when we need unity. What we should bear in mind is that the Government has a job to do in the interests of the country. I agree with the sentiment expressed by the Prime Minister on Wednesday that we all should go down on our knees and thank God that Australia has been saved from invasion. We should thank our fighting services for all they have done to resist the enemy. Members of this Parliament and civilians generally should feel humble when they compare what they have done with what the members of the fighting services have done to save Australia . from invasion. We should cease bickering in this Parliament and bend all our energies to the worthwhile duty of inspiring the people.
Whilst a good deal has been done to organize our man-power and resources for the war effort, I consider that additional action is desirable along certain lines. I do not intend to criticize the Minister for War Organization of Industry or his colleagues. I appreciate the difficulties which have confronted them. Yet I believe that our man-power could be organized to better advantage. The Government could set an example by overhauling the Public Service. Many men and women engaged in the Public Service could be released for more definite war work. I do not suggest that public servants have nothing to do; but many activities which may be desirable in peace-time are not necessary in wartime. From time to time numerous reports are called for which involve a great deal of work, and this is work of a kind which could well be held over for the time being. If the Commonwealth Government were to take a lead in this direction, its example would probably be followed by the State Governments. I am not satisfied that the large number of persons in the public services in Australia are being used in the best interests of the country at this critical period.
I am also concerned at the ever increasing number of boards and commissions, all of which require staff. In fairness to the present Government I admit that many of these boards were appointed by the previous Government,, but circumstances have changed since then, and it is time the matter was reviewed. Some time ago, I called for a report on the number of boards and commissions and committees in existence in Australia, and whilst I knew that there were many such bodies, I was staggered when I saw the complete list. Since then, the number has probably been increased. From my experience as a business man, I have reason to fear that there is a good deal of duplication of effort and overlapping associated with the activities of these bodies. I am not suggesting that the staffs attached to them are not working, but we have to ask ourselves whether they are working to the best advantage. I arn convinced that, with a little planning, it would be possible to employ many of them on work more directly associated with the war effort. Indeed, one is sometimes tempted to wonder whether we are not, trying to win the war with pens instead of guns.
There is a strong feeling throughout the community that the funds available to the Government are not always put to the best use. There is more than a suggestion that there have been waste and extravagance in many directions. I am a member of the War Expenditure Committee, and we have examined a great many items of war expenditure. .1. frankly admit that it, would be impossible for the Government to have speeded up the war effort in the way it has done, when hasty decisions had frequently to be taken, and still avoided waste in every instance, but I still believe that the exercise of a little care and thought could have saved large sums of money. I have in mind particularly the resumption of valuable properties in various parts of Australia. These resumptions appear to have been made without giving proper consideration to whether or not the property would be suitable for the purpose in mind. It often happens that properties are hastily resumed, the occupiers turned out, and then the property left unused for months. Sometimes existing buildings are pulled down and others erected, or extensive alterations are made, and (hen the buildings are not used at all. I recognize, of course, that in time of war the needs of the fighting services must come first, and the interests of private citizens must take second place, but I a.l so believe that, by the exercise of a little thought and courtesy, much inconvenience could be saved to private citizens, and, in the end, much money saved to the Government,
Honorable members are continually hearing stories of fabulous wages paid to men connected with the Allied “Works Council. I would not believe these stories at first, but I have since investigated some of them for myself, and find that there is some truth in them. One case I have in mind is that of a cook’s off-sider, who receives £25 a week.
– How many hours a da-v does he work?
– I know that, under the award, he is entitled to what he receives. He is brought on early in the morning to prepare breakfast, then he has to stand by for some time between breakfast and lunch time, and probably again in the afternoon before the preparation of the evening meal. For all this waiting time he must be paid, and this makes up his wages to £25 a week. I mention the matter in order to make a plea on behalf of the men who are fighting for the protection of this country, the men who have fought a determined enemy in the swamps and -jungles of New Guinea. 1 have heard complaints that while conditions are being improved for those who stay behind little is being done for those upon whom we depend for our freedom and safety. This is a point on which I feel strongly. If the country can afford to pay such high wages to those who stay in Australia, it should be able to do more for those who are offering their lives for the safety of the country. I. trust that, the Minister for the Army will take steps to ensure that men fighting in New Guinea are given adequate relief. They are fighting, not only against a determined enemy, but also against vile climatic conditions. Many of them have been stricken down with malaria, and arrangements should be made for their relief.
– The honorable member may be assured that arrangements for systematic relief have been made and are operating.
– I assure the honorablemember that the matter is being attended to, and that the relief is being continuously provided.
– I recognize that the financial conduct of the war is a matter of secondary consideration. “Whatever the cost we must foot the bill, and I believe that the people of Australia are prepared to do so. I suggest, however, that in view of the magnitude of our financial commitments, the Treasurer should endeavour to provide Parliament with a half-yearly statement of the financial position. I also draw attention to the fact that, although this is now the end of January, Parliament has not yet seen the Auditor-General’s report on the accounts for the year ended the 30th June, 1942. I appreciate the difficulties of the Auditor-General in compiling his report, seeing that he must obtain information from all over Australia, but I suggest that he should submit half-yearly reports to the House on those matters which he thinks should be brought to the attention of the Parliament.
The Treasurer delivered a temperate and able speech yesterday on the financial activities of the Government. I assure him that I for one never believed that we could pay for the war out of taxation and loans as we went along. I realized all the time that it would be necessary to draw on the national credit to a certain extent, but I am afraid that we are not mobilizing the financial resources of the nation to the best advantage. I understand that legislation is to be introduced shortly to provide .that more of the surplus funds in circulation shall be taken by the Government for the war effort,
Some of the regulations that have been issued from time to time should be reviewed by this Parliament. I wish to refer briefly to the Landlord and Tenant Regulation that was introduced for th, purpose of protecting the tenant. Unfortunately, many landlords need protection. I have been interviewed by persons who have wished to regain possession of their homes; they include widows, and persons possessing one or two properties, on the rents of which they are dependent. Certain parties having taken advantage of the regulation, it is impossible for the landlords to obtain possession of the properties.
– That is not correct.
– It is almost impossible, except after long-drawn-out procedure.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who administers this matter, made a statement to that effect two or three days ago. He is having the regulation revised in that connexion.
– Will the revision overcome the trouble?
– I do not say that it will remove the whole of the trouble. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Lilley has pointed out, that there are anomalies, and unnecessary hardships on the landlord as well as on the tenant.
– The difficulty has been, that a number of persons who wished to regain possession of their properties had nowhere else to live. A lady with three children, and a husband who is a soldier, let her property to the wife of another soldier. She arrived in Brisbane with her furniture, which she had brought down from the country, but although she had given some weeks’ notice she could not obtain possession of the property, even after she had instituted legal proceedings to that end.
– That is in the discretion of the magistrate. Prohibition does not apply except in respect of a soldier.
– I admit that. As the honorable member is aware, the procedure that has to be observed is lengthy. I accept the assurance of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), and am very pleased that the matter is being investigated.
I am concerned about the effect on the taxation revenue of the Prices Commis- sioner’s order for refunds to the public of what he deems to he excess profits, I put this matter to the Treasurer in a letter in the following terms : -
Takethe case of a company which is deemed to have made excess profits of £20,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1942, and is ordered to make a refund of this amount to the public. The company will be liable for tax on the excess profits, but in the following year, as its profits will be affected by the amount of the refund, the liability for taxation will be reduced accordingly.
I would suggest that a more equitable method would be to allow the taxation payable on the excess profits as a set-off against the amount to be refunded. This would not disturb the taxation revenues which, under the present system, must represent a considerable loss.
This is the point that I want particularly to make : -
In the final analysis in some cases it will be the Treasury which will have to bear the greater part of the burden in connexion with these refunds, as the taxpayer will, as I have already pointed out, receive the advantage, by way of reduced taxation, in the following year. In the case of a private company where the shareholders concerned arc on the maximum rate, the taxation on £20,000 will be over £18,000.
I would further point out that these refunds do not carry a relative liability for income tax on those who receive the benefits, as for the most part it represents transactions which do not attract taxation.
It may be said that “ what is lost on the swings is made up on the roundabouts “. That is not the position. I mention the matter because I regard it as very serious. The practice has been for the Prices Commissioner to order the retailer or trader concerned to make these refunds to the public, but, as I have pointed out, it will he the Treasury which, in the final analysis, will often be the loser, because it will have to pay the major portion of these returns of excess profits.
.- I rise to support the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) -
That this House, at its first meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of the war with Germany and Italy, and in the second year of the war with Japan, declares -
1 ) 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 reinstatement 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 have read that advisedly. I deplore the discreditable attempt that was made on Wednesday to prevent the right honorable gentleman from making those declarations. This Parliament is the symbol ofour democracy; the place in which, through their duly accredited representatives, the people of this nation may express themselves freely, without let or hindrance; the place where “ freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent “. Yet there is a disposition in this House to check freedom of discussion. We either retain a free parliament or get a dictatorship; there is no other choice. One realizes with a feeling of thankfulness that we still retain this symbol of our free democracy. In few countries of the world does that state obtain to-day. If some members of the Opposition do not wish to hear about the state of the war, and the imminent danger in which this country is placed at the present time, surely the people of the Commonwealth do. The news published in the press this morning is very disquieting. A ruthless and relentless enemy has concentrated considerable forces at a comparatively short distance from this continent. In my opinion, there is only one great thing that matters to-day; that is, the preservation of this Commonwealth inviolate. With that object, we have only one industry; that is, the industry of war, with all its ramifications, producing food and other necessaries for the fighting men and civilians, as well as arms with which our fighting men may defend their country. In addition, there is the training of our fighting forces. Therefore, the attitude adopted by a small number of members of the Opposition is inexplicable. They appeared to object to the Prime Minister making his statement. I believe that all recognize the intense sincerity, loyalty and patriotism of the right honorable gentleman. Whether or not there is agreement with his politics, the people of Australia as a whole consider that he is doing a good job. He was magnanimous in the overflowingmeasure of credit that he gave to previous administrations for the work that they had done. The Opposisition cannot object to that. When the history has to be written of this period during which Labour has occupied the treasury bench, the people of Australia will be thankful that at the wheel of the ship of State there was a leader of the calibre of the Right Honorable John Curtin.
In the debate there has been much discussion of methods that should be employed in orderto finance the war. We have been told that there are only two ways in which a government may obtain money with which to finance a war or any other undertaking, namely, taxation and loans. It has been disclosed that neither taxation nor loans, nor the two combined, can provide the abnormal amount that is needed in order to co-ordinate, correlate, and move into effective activity the different factors connected with this war. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has sounded what he has called a note of warning against inflation. He has spoken of the material lessening of the value of money. I admit the existence of such a clanger. When our products and the necessaries of life are becoming scarcer, and when wages are high, the tendency is for prices to rise. But I hold, and have long held, that there is no human problem which cannot be solved by the human mind. With careful control of the issue of currency, careful fixation of prices, and the pegging of rents, profits, interest and wages, we can secure ourselves against unhealthy inflation. The Leader of the Opposition has advanced his remedy, which is the taxation of the workers. He did not say, but I may infer from his remarks, that in his opinion the workers are receiving too much. I disagree with him. It is about time the workers came into a little of their own. For too long have they been satisfied to take the crumbs that have fallen from the table. The obsession of the Leader of the Opposition is that the workers should not only fight, but also pay for the war. Every nation to-day is financing its part of the war from what we call bank credit. Now, the creation of bank credit has passed the academic stage. We have the highest. authorities - Soddy, Haw-try, Keynes, McLeod, Hartley Withers, Sir Vincent Vickers, McKenna, McMillan and the Encyclopaedia Britannica - to name but a few - to prove that when a bank makes a loan it creates credit, The vitally important question is who is to have the power to control the issue of bank credit. In the past that power has been in the hands of irresponsible private individuals, the governors or directors of the private banks. Australia was fortunate in having a national bank in the Commonwealth Bank, before’ its functions became perverted and before it became a bankers’ bank instead of the people’s bank. Speaking on this subject yesterday, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) said - I took down his words verbatim - that the credit issued to the Commonwealth Bank was ^proximately £250,000,000. Why “issued to ‘ the bank”? Why not “ issued by the bank “? Why should the Commonwealth Bank have credit issued to it when it has the power to issue its own credit? Why create a debt when the Commonwealth Bank has the power instead to create a credit? I call the attention of honorable members to the difference between those two words “ to “ and “by”.
– The honorable member for Robertson did not say anything of the kind. He was talking about treasury-bills.
– I have repeated what the honorable member for Robertson said. We do not need treasury-bills, either. I repeat that the Commonwealth Bank has the power to issue credits, but it is not allowed to do so. Most of the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board were appointed to safeguard the interests of the private banks and other financial institutions. That is why the Commonwealth Bank has credit issued to it instead of issuing credit itself. I shall read four important resolutions of the conference of the Australian Labour party held in Melbourne in November, 1942, and January, 1943-
The operations of the Commonwealth Bank to be removed from and made entirely independent of private hanking interests and- free from sectional influences or constraint.
The abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Hoard and the re-establishment of the original method of control as set un at the time the Commonwealth Bank was founded.
– As it used to be.
– Yes, as it used to be in the time of Mr. King O’Malley -
Expansion of the bank’s business as a trading bank, with branches in all suitable centres, in vigorous competition with the private banking establishments.
A statutory provision that the banking of all public bodies shall be reserved for the Commonwealth Bank.
I am sorry that the Treasurer is not here, but I sincerely hope that he will bring into force the principles contained in those resolutions. Then we shall have no trouble in financing the war and the peace which we all hope will soon follow.
I strongly suggest that the pay of soldiers be at least 8s. a clay. Do honorable members think that the soldiers are not worth at least that? Honorable members opposite laugh. They should not do so, for no reward is .too great for the men who are carrying their lives in their hands in the New Guinea swamps.
– Before the war we used to pay the Militia Ss. a day.
– And it was reduced by the Menzies Government to 5s. a day.
– Yes; when the right honorable member for Kooyong was asked why the pay had been reduced from 8s. to 5s. a day, he said that the country could not afford the higher amount. Could not afford it! What rot! I further suggest equally strongly that discharged and demobilized soldiers be kept on the pay-roll of the Army until such time as they can be absorbed in industry, and that, if they are not fit to take up industry, they be nursed and trained until such time as they are able to go out into the world again. Who will say that this country, the richest in the world, cannot afford it?
– Only a Labour government will do that.
– Only a Labour government would clare to do it. South Africa has declared its intention to do these things and we can do no less.
I welcome the announcement that the Government will introduce a national welfare scheme embracing unemployment insurance, health insurance and nationalization of the medical, hospital and dental services. We must do that if we are to make this country a land worth living in and fighting for, and a land to which our defenders will gladly return. We do not want our soldiers to come hack to the same conditions as welcomed those who returned from the war of 1914-18, for we all know what happened to them. They came back to the most tragic conditions - a man-made depression, a depression brought about by the private .banks. We shall have the same thing again if the “ old gang “ remains in charge of the affairs of this nation. If those people remain in charge, the depression which will follow this war will be worse even than that which in the ten years of its course after the last war deprived our manhood of the opportunity to earn enough to live on and forbade our youths to learn a trade, owing to there being no trade open to them. One of the measures needed to guard against a repetition on a worse scale of the last depression is a national welfare scheme. I hope that the scheme which is projected will be introduced before the present sessional period comes to an end.
I was sorry to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) object to the establishment of wool appraisement and. storage centres in districts far removed from the coast. Theirs is the voice of vested interests. All our wool has been purchased by the British Government, and we are merely its custodians. Yet it is stored in the coastal cities, and we all know that the coast would be the first section of our country to fall to the enemy. To prevent the enemy from obtaining that wool we should have to destroy it. This Government, therefore, has taken steps to establish wool appraisement and storage centres in districts back from the coast. In my electorate two such centres have been established at Dalby and Soma, in the face of a barrage of opposition. Why take everything to the coast? Therein lies one of our greatest, dangers. Russia, very wisely, placed its factories far from, its western boundaries. Many of its factories are past of the Ural Mountains. Had the factories been placed within a short distance of its western boundary, where would Russia have been to-day? Surely there is a lesson which we must heed. Why gather 40 or 50 per cent, of our population in coastal capital cities?
– Vested interests!
– Yes. The wool has to be taken to the brokers; they will not go where the wool is produced - at least, they tried not to. They declared that they would not go to inland places to buy wool. The man in charge replied, “ Very well, if you do not go there, you shall go into the Army “. Their answer, “ All right, we will go came very quickly. They were in no hurry to join the Army. The word “ brokers’” is well chosen, for the brokers have broken 90 per cent, of the wool-growers.
The honorable member for New England also objected to schemes of irrigation. Why? What are our soldiers to do when they return? Surely, while this war is on we can go in for post-war reconstruction. If we do not, what will happen ?
– We shall never be able to populate our country unless we do irrigate it.
– That is so. We must have irrigation and water conservation. There is a project in Queensland for the building of the Mingoola Dam. If that dam were built, tens of thousands of acres of country suitable for tobacco-growing could be brought into cultivation. At present Australia grows only one-sixth of its tobacco requirements. Surely, therefore, the building of the Mingoola Dam is a war measure. Our soldiers and our civilians all need tobacco, and we can supply their needs only by growing it ourselves. To do so we must irrigate. Irrigation has caused the desert to blossom like the rose in such places as Mildura, Renmark, Yanco, Griffith and Leeton; places which were once sheep runs are now thriving towns. The cost of the construction of the Mingoola dam will be £1,000,000, which is less than our war expenditure for one day. If the money can be found for weapons of destruction, it must be provided for this important national work. Dr. J. J. G. Bradfield has a project for diverting westwards some of the streams which now flow from northern Queensland into the Pacific Ocean. Although the cost of the scheme is estimated at £30,000,000, the figure does not appear to be nearly so colossal when we realize that it represents less than one month’s expenditure on the war effort. If the project were proceeded with, vast areas in the Northwest, Central West and South-west of Queensland would be converted into a garden. I hope that in the post-war years the money will be provided for this important project.
Tobacco-culture is an important Australian industry which will provide employment for many persons after the war. Even though we are fighting a powerful enemy, .this industry should not be allowed to languish or stagnate. I bring to the notice of honorable members a suggestion that the Government should establish tobacco nurseries. Young plants, raised under ideal conditions, would be made available cheaply to tobacco-growers. The suggestion impressed me, and I submitted it to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who appeared to be interested in it.
We are apt to speak vaguely of the “ new order “ that will be introduced after the Allies have defeated the Axis, but in my opinion the “new order” can be achieved only through the education system. Education will be one of the most potent factors in bringing about the “ new order “. I should like to commend the action of the Government in granting financial assistance to the sons and daughters of parents in comparatively needy circumstances to enable them to gain a university education. At present, the universities require highly trained personnel. On the outbreak of war, large numbers of lecturers and students volunteered for service, with the result that the universities, instead of being a national asset, have become in some measure a national liability. Financial assistance will enable many boys and girls to attend the university, but I hope that the assistance will not cease on -the termination of war. In my opinion, the scheme should be enlarged. The “ means test “ should be abolished, and boys and girls should be given an intensive course of instruction. We urgently require engineers, scientists, doctors and dentists.
– There are 6,000 doctors registered in Australia, and 2,000 are required for the fighting forces.
– In the post-war era, the Commonwealth will desire to send its diplomatic representatives to the courts of the nations of the world. We shall have to “ deliver the goods “, as our American friends so effectively express it, in order to sell the things that we produce so prolifically. We cannot have too many highly trained young men for the work.
I regret that the proposals for constitutional reform do not include the transference to the Commonwealth of education. The reason for this omission is obscure. The States experience increasing difficulty in financing education, which is undoubtedly a national matter. The Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility for the education of the people, because education, like war, is one of the greatest fusing and unifying forces in the world. Over 40 years ago, Australians considered that it would be in their interests to federate. The motive that actuated them was the desire for unity. We come from British stock: we speak the same great language. From the English we have inherited all our great literature, with Shakespeare at the head. We have the same standards of civilization. In the circumstances, why should Australia have six different standards of education? Seven years ago I attended a conference on education in Adelaide, and I was astounded when I saw this evidence of six different standards and curricula, which result in overlapping and duplication. We federated for the purpose of achieving unity. Education is the greatest fusing and unifying force. In my opinion, the standardization of education must be regarded as the consummation of federation.
.- Last year, shortage of man-power and the excessive demands of the Army indicated the likelihood of a potato famine in this country. Warned of the danger, the Government persuaded growers to produce potatoes, assuring them of a minimum price at sidings, and appointed a control board which, up to a point, had considerable powers. For example, it could prevent a grower from sending a potato even to his grandmother. All transactions involving potatoes had to be done with the knowledge of the board. There are two periods of the year when the potato market is glutted. If the board had been empowered to regulate the distribution of potatoes to consumers, the story would have been different. The Government perceived the possibility of a grave shortage, and our worst fears were realized. Prices soared, and civilians were unable to buy potatoes. A famine prevailed. Then the new crop was dug, and a few days ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) announced a glut of potatoes and urged restaurants to serve large helpings of them. If the Government had agreed to purchase the potato crop and the board had been given power to form a pool, supplies to the public could have been regulated and the market would have revealed neither a scarcity nor a glut. During the famine, the price of potatoes was a little over £20 a ton but in Sydney recently the price had fallen to about £2 10s. a ton. A board with adequate powers would have prevented such absurd fluctuation. The supply of potatoes was adequate to meet all demands for a long period, if only the distribution had been properly spread. As the result of this unfortunate experience, growers are now asking the Government to establish a pool. Control could be vested in the board, which should have the advice of the growers.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– With the assistance of the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government was able to induce the potato-growers of Australia to increase their area under crop, so that service and civilian requirements could be met. But when the first glut occurred the authorities were unable to cope with the position. The board, not having power to order pooling, asked the growers to name their own agents. That was done and immediately the agents engaged in a competition which caused complete disorganization of the market. The glut was such that prices varied from day to day and eventually dropped to a figures which involved the Commonwealth Government in con siderable loss in order to meet promises that had been made to the growers. I desire to see the right thing done for the potato-growers. We should learn from our experiences of last year. If necessary, the Government should make arrangements now for a compulsory potato pool. One strong organization of potato-growers has already carried a resolution in support of such a move. Pooled potatoes could be placed in storage or dehydrated and released from time to time as they were required. This procedure would obviate gluts on the market. I have received the following telegram from the secretary of the potato growers of Donnybrook, Western Australia: -
Refer you paragraph West Australian, 20th January. Hogan reported saying potato shipping arranged by Foster. Contend therefore growers definitely entitled price ruling time of loading.
It appears that Mr. Foster, the executive officer of the Potato Control Board, requested that 2,000 tons of potatoes should he placed on board ship at Bunbury. At that time the ruling price was £13 a ton and the growers who supplied the potatoes naturally expected to receive that price, but I have been informed that, because the price subsequently fell, the Government proposes to pay them only £8 10s. a ton. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to investigate the position. If the position is as stated to me, there is a strong case for the payment of the price offering at the time of shipment.
I wish now to refer to the rabbit menace in Australia. In 1941 sales of rabbit-skins in this country yielded £600,000. In the following year sales increased to about £4,000,000. Complaints made by the hat manufacturers caused the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to introduce a measure which provided for the imposition of an export duty of 2s. 6d. per lb. on rabbit-skins. American purchases ceased at once and trappers lost interest in the industry. To-day rabbit-skins fetch only 7d. per lb. and nobody will trap rabbits when skins are , at that price. Honorable members who live in rural areas know what a menace rabbits are. Even good stock country soon loses its value if rabbits are allowed to run unchecked on it. The Vermin Board ofWestern Australia has power to enforce the destruction of rabbits on private property. Recognizing the seriousness of the present position, and also that there was no Pharaoh available to order bricks to he made without straw, the board issued the following circular to property-owners: -
As most farmers are aware, rabbits exist in greater numbers this year than ever before in this district. It is realized that, in some cases, it is difficult to poison owing to labour shortage, but farmers must keep down the pest if only for their own protection. If rabbits are allowed to increase, all the farmers’ other work will be rendered futile.
From a national point of view the position is becoming most serious. Farmers are therefore urged to proceed with the poisoning at the earliest possible date and to continue through the summer months.
By order of the board,
It is unfortunate that the Government’s action in the interests of the hat manufacturers has had the effect of discouraging all trapping operations and of stopping purchases by American interests. I therefore ask, in the interests of rural production, that the Government should now do something to encourage rabbit destruction. If the price of rabbit-skins can be stabilized, it will help to control the menace. If action to that end be not taken, rabbits will soon overrun and ruin a large area of valuable pastoral and agricultural country.
I wish to refer to one other subject. When the £100,000,000 Austerity Loan was about to be floated the Government made available a speaker’s handbook which contained an excellent statement by the Prime Minister with which I heartily agreed. It read -
Here is the pledge which I ask every Australian to take - “ We will make this austerity campaign the greatest and most stirring days of the war. We shall make this our finest hour. We pledge ourselves to throw everything we have into a stupendous effort. We shall cut from our lives every luxury, every relaxation, every temptation to slack. We shall make of our nation two complete fighting armies - the fighting forces to smash their way back through New Guinea, Java, Malaya, the Philippines and on to Japan; and the working forces that will back them to the limit in mine, factory and workshop. We who fight shall fight as Australians never fought before. We who work shall labour as men and women have never laboured before. We will forget privileges, comforts and rest. Nothing shall block the way to the attainment of victory.”
I subscribe to that pledge. I was surprised to find on arriving in Canberra last Wednesday that certain statements had been published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph regarding alleged interruptions of war-time manufacturing operations.
– That newspaper is unreliable.
– I am not suggesting that its statements are true. I was about to say that in the interests of the next £100,000,000 loan the Government should have the whole matter investigated. If the statements are untrue, the newspaper should be brought to book for having publishedthem. I challenge the Government to disprove the statements. It is not in the best interests of the public, or the war effort, that such statements should remain unanswered. The report to which I refer read-
Foundry Slackers Loaf on Jobs. (By a Special Daily Telegraph Investigator.)
Managers of some Sydney foundries and factories said yesterday that go-slow tactics are drugging production of essential war materials.
Production rate has dropped by half in places.
Report man-power interference.
Employers have given up trying to discipline slackers. They have found that if they sack a man, a work stoppage results, or they are ordered to re-instate the man by man-power authorities.
The unions, they say, discipline not the slacker but the conscientious or industrious worker who tries to give a greater output.
The rate of production is determined by the men themselves, and none dares exceed it, even where he could double the output.
At one foundry, moulders are now making nineteen boxes a man per 10¾-hour days, compared with 100 in an 8¾-hour day before the war.
– I do not know.
– It does not exist.
– I am asking the Minister and his colleagues to make inquiries, and if this is not true to have this damned newspaper wrecked and closed for all time.
-Why does the honorable member read it if he does not believe what it publishes?
– This matter has been published, and there has not been, to my knowledge, any refutation of it. With an expenditure of £1,500,000, terrible waste is easy, and those who contribute the money need, not know anything about it. That is inherent in all such expenditure. But it should not prevent this Parliament from doing its level best to avoid waste. We should try to get the. best results from the money that the Government collects from us in order to prosecute the war. Even the war does not justify looseness in administration. That is the sense in which I am stating the matter. If this matter annoys honorable members opposite, they should vent their displeasure on the Daily Telegraph. The article continues -
At another foundry a works manager set a rate of six articles per man per day.
The workers decided four was a fair thing.
Thu manager simplified the process, casing the labour required by 25 per cent.
The men accepted the new process, but still produced only four a day.
The same firm contracted for a number of articles each of which took 3 hours to mould.
Nine months Inter the (inn received a repeat order and quoted a price based on costs of the previous contract, plus increased allowances for wages and materials.
When the contract waa completed the Arm found it had lost on the deal.
That, of course, will please the Minister for Labour and National Service. I quote further -
Instead of the moulder taking 3) hours for the job he had taken twice as long.
Several firms have eliminated overtime since the beginning of January.
When the men found they had to take home pay envelopes £2 lighter than usual they held a meeting and sent a delegate to bargain with the employer.
The delegate gave the employer n list of articles which were manufactured at the foundry.
Against each article was marked a percentage which the delegate said represented the increased output thu men were prepared to give.
The percentages ranged from 20 to 65
In return the employer was asked to reintroduce overtime and increase wages by 10s. weekly.
The manager replied: “Add another 20 per cent, on to those and I’ll talk business”.
The next heading is “ Men Told to Ease Dp “. There is a lot of other matter which I shall not read. As a representative of the people in this House, I say that if it can be shown that there is profiteering the duty of this Government is to deal with those responsible just asharshly as I have asked it to deal with other persons who are not doing their best while our sons in the fighting front are offering their lives for a mere pittance. Investigation of the matter, and a revelation of the truth, would give considerable satisfaction and comfort to the people of Australia.
.- 1 support the motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). In common with many other honorable members,. I was nonplussed at the attitude with which it was received by the Opposition. It contains matter which could be submitted daily without warranting the reception which Opposition members gave to it. Possibly they realize the value that this Labour Government has been to Australia in its hour of very great need. I congratulate the Government upon its achievements after a brief term of office during a period when this country, to use the words of the Prime Minister, “ had its back against the wall, from which there could be mo retreat “. It is undeniable, and is recognized by the great majority of the Australian people, that the Government has proved its capacity to organize and to galvanize war production into activity. It has strengthened the defence line of this country. It has had to submit much unpopular legislation, make inroads on various industries, and touch the pockets of many business concerns. All these were necessary in order that this country might be organized on a thorough war basis. I am not actuated by parochial instincts when I assert that Western Australia was hit harder than any other State; because, when the call for man-power was made, it was without defence and did not have any war factories. That statement is unchallengeable. The result was that many of its valued artisans, having failed to obtain employment in war industries in their own State, came over to Victoria and New South Wales. The position has been accepted by our people. In respect of enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force and service in the Militia, their record on a population basis compares more than favorably with that of any other State.
– Also in regard to the number of winners of the Victoria Cross.
– My remarks apply also to man-power withdrawals and subscriptions to war loans. It was left to this Government to strengthen the defence line, and establish war industries in Western Australia. I have come into this House with the object of endeavouring to do the right thing f ot this country. I am definitely a Labour supporter. I make no apology to any Parliament or section of the people on that account. The press and public men who criticize this Government do not always adopt a fair basis for their criticism. Throughout Australia to-day there are what are known as “ Wardism “ and “ Dedmanism “. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) took over an organization in which the Government of which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was a Minister had failed to leave even a scrap of paper. It was an organization in name only, and was not functioning. The Minister for War Organization of Industry had to administer what no man or woman will say is not a necessary control if the whole of our war effort is to be organized on a correct basis. The constant attack upon him for these necessary activities is the sort of criticism to which I object. When I see newspapers blazoning forth “Dedman has killed Father Christmas”, my retort is that the Japanese would have killed Mother Christmas had the proper organization not been given effect. That sort of criticism tends to arouse a complacent attitude in the minds of the majority of the people, who even yet do not realize the dire peril with which we are faced. Such cheap gibes go far towards creating the complacent attitude that is to be found in our towns and cities. But that is not the position farther out. I have just returned from a visit to the far north of Western Australia. I witnessed the devastating results of enemy action at Wyndham and Broome. I met men and women who are rationed in regard to not only tobacco and beer, but also essential foodstuffs, because there is no transport by means of which they are able to secure supplies. The people of Derby, Wyndham, Fitzroy, Hall’s Creek and other outlandish centres are compelled to travel hundreds of miles to Broome in order to obtain supplies of foodstuffs. That only bare necessities can be carted long distances will be readily recognized. Men are employed on Allied works under wretched conditions which it is impossible to avoid because of lack of transport and other facilities. The Commonwealth should commence without delay negotiations with the Government of Western Australia, which is doing all in its power, with the resources at its hand, to bring some relief to the people who are suffering in the north-west. Not one complaint did I hear from those people. They realized that it is their responsibility to stand up to the position, and they are doing so uncomplainingly. They say that they will carry on to the bitter end. They are not going to be driven out of their country; all they ask is that help be sent to them as quickly as possible so that some protection will be afforded them should the enemy make another visit of the kind he made to Broome.
There seems to be different conception of hardship as between metropolitan and country districts. There is no real beer or tobacco rationing in the cities. A man may go from one shop to another in the city and buy a packet of cigarettes in each, but in remote country areas and in the settlements along the east-west railway, tobacco rationing is rigidly enforced. The Government should make another aeroplane available in order to assist the State in carrying supplies to people living in such isolated places, so that they may enjoy some of the amenities available to people in city areas.
Yesterday, I listened to the Treasurer pointing out that when the present Opposition constituted the government of this country, hundreds of thousands of people were out of work, and some of them were starving. I can endorse what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said because, at that time I was the secretary of a trade union. Every day when I went to my office I was met by a batch of men pleading for work or food. Today, those men are in the front line fighting for the security of Australia. Perhaps in the near future the fight will be brought much closer to our shores than it is to-day. I liken the enemy to a dingo pack prowling on our boundary fence and waiting to force an entry. At the present time, the Japanese are only 500 miles from Broome. I hope that when the war is brought to a successful conclusion the working people of Australia will not he treated as they were by the last government. It has been necessary for the present Government to impose heavy taxation, and the exemption figure has been placed very low. I admit that it seems unfair that the same men should be asked both to fight and pay, butI am convinced that the people of Australia are prepared to pay taxation, however heavy, rather than see the Japanese place foot on Australian soil. The Government has imposed these financial burdens because of the imperative need to establish an adequate defence organization and to equip our forces. We do not hoar to-day the cry that our troops are without equipment. Thank God the people of Australia have produced the necessary equipment ! I remind those who criticize the working class, and point to a few stop-work meetings and a few hold-ups by the miners, that the workers of Australia generally have made a greater war effort than those of any other country. I ask those critics not to gibe and sneer at the workers, because their sneering hurts honest men.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) said that he was nonplussed by the attitude of the Opposition to the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Members of the Opposition are certainly nonplussed by the action of the Prime Minister in introducing the motion. I have studied it, and can see in it nothing but what we on this side of the House have subscribed to ever since the war began. There is no need for us to re-affirm our loyalty. Of course, it may be desirable that Government supporters should reaffirm their loyalty and their determination to support a maximum war effort. The old tippler, the life-long addict to strong drink, endeavours from time to time to fortify his resolution of abstinence by signing the pledge. In the same way, honorable members opposite, who have all their political lives flirted with certain dangerous political doctrines, find it necessary from time to time to make resolutions of good behaviour, to reaffirm their loyalty, and to assert their intention to devote themselves to a maximum war effort. Surely every body in Australia can subscribe to the sentiments expressed in the Prime Minister’s motion, and it should not be necessary to take up the time of Parliament with debate. It should not be necessary for Government supporters to sign the pledge again. We can only conclude that the Government was not ready to go on with the legislative programme for which honorable members were called together from all parts of Australia ; either that, or Government supporters are indulging in a little pre-election window-dressing so that they may point out to the electorate what a wonderful war effort the Government has made.
The Government is now proclaiming its loyalty, but its supporters have taken a long time to realize their responsibilities. The record of the Labour party, and of individual members, requires close investigation. Ever since 1921, the attitude of the party towards the Empire and what it stands for has been questionable. In support of the statement, I quote the following resolution which was carried at the Australian Trade Unions Conference in 1921, and appears on page 32 of the official report of the conference: -
This conference, believing that the operation of the Defence Act re 70 days’ training of compulsory trainees is unduly harsh and morally degrading, enters its emphatic protest and calls upon the administration to immediately cancel same.
A few days ago, the Prime Minister had to attend a special federal conference of the Australian Labour party to ask permission to introduce legislation enabling members of the Militia to be sent overseas. Time after time, the Labour party has been forced by the pressure of public opinion to espouse proposals which it had formerly condemned with great vigour. For instance, the Labour party condemned the Empire Air Training Scheme when it was first proposed, but now ministerial supporters apeak glibly of the wonderful work which is being achieved under that scheme. “When it was proposed to send Australian troops overseas the Labour party condemned the proposal; yet now it is seeking an amendment of the Defence Act to permit it to send overseas, not only volunteers, but compulsory .trainees also. The Labour party also opposed the restoration of compulsory military training. It is no wonder that such a party has been in power for only two years out of 24 up to the time of its present accidental occupation of the treasury bench. The utterances of some members of the Labour party, as recorded in Hansard, reek with disloyalty to the British Empire. I hope that 1 shall not be challenged to quote those utterances; they have already been quoted ad nauseam. That the Labour party is rotten with subversive elements is proved by the fact that on the 24th March, 1940, while Australia was fighting for its very existence and when Japan was already a member of “ the Axis, and when we knew that we were “ for it the New South Wales branch of the party by 195 votes to SS passed an anti-war and an anti-British resolution in the following terms : -
The Labour .party lias always been opposed to imperialist wars, and to-day we demand that every energy should be utilized to bring about the establishment of peace at the earliest opportunity. We declare that the -Australian people have nothing to gain from the continuance of the war. The management of this war in the hands of the anti-Labour Menzies Government, in association with the anti-Labour Chamberlain Government, means that the war is being pursued in the interests of big finance and monopolists. Conference is opposed to Australian participation in oversea conflicts. The Labour party unhesitatingly demands that no Austraiian troops be permitted to leave Australia.
When the people learn who are the forces behind this Ministry and have their attention directed to the utterances of Labour Ministers and private members, as recorded in Hansard, they will know why we have strikes, go-slow methods, and absenteeism in industry. The published report of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions Conference in Sydney on the 18th April, 1940, reeks with disloyal, subversive and anti-war propaganda by union officials and delegates. The motion moved by Mr. Crofts on behalf of the executive, “ supporting the war against Hitler and Fascism “, was carried by only two votes. Sixty-eight delegates voted for the motion and 66 delegates voted against it. As another example of the subversive elements within the Labour party, I cite the resolution of the All-Australian Trades Union Congress, which stated, inter aiia -
Wo recommend that on the declaration of war organized Labour should resolve itself into a council of action to obstruct military operations by direct action or other means.
We all know how they can .obstruct military operations by direct action, but what did they mean by “other methods”? There is something significant, something really subversive, in “other methods” - something which they were not game to bring to the light of day. With a background like that, is it any wonder that the pages of Hansard are filled with disloyal and subversive statements made by Labour members? These subversive tactics were effective in nullifying the efforts of the Government of which I was a member. It was not until, first, Russia and then Japan entered the war on opposing sides that a change came. When Russia entered the war on our side as the result of the breaking by Hitler of the pact between Germany and Russia, the subversive elements changed their tune a little. Then, when Japan ranged itself alongside Germany, they changed their tune a little more for the sake of their miserable hides. Where is the devotion to the British Commonwealth of Nations referred to in this motion? I give the Government all credit for theefforts it has made to regain the ground that was lost as the result of the tactics employed by the subversive elements within the Labour party, but, foul seed having been sown, the .Government must await the plant before it will be able to eradicate it. It cannot, therefore recoverthe position immediately. That is whystrikes and absenteeism and job control arestill rife in industry. I impress upon thaGovernment that it must weed the subversive elements out of the organization. It will not do so by such methods aslifting the ban on the Communist party.
I direct the attention- of honorablemembers to some of the extraordinarymanpower muddles into which we have- fallen, not as the result of attempts to intensify the war effort,but because, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has frequently said, of the need to implement Labour’s peacetime policy. I know that in any wartime Ministry, only certain Ministers carry the heavy burdens of war-time administration. Other Ministers have plenty of time on. their hands. We all know the old adage that Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Satan certainly found some mischief for the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is taking advantage of the war situation to try to enforce compulsory unionism. I quote from circular No. 167, issued from the office of the Deputy Director-General of Man Power, New South Wales, which was distributed amongst the employees of the Department of Labour and National Service -
I am informed by the Director-General of Man Power that the Minister for Labour and National Service has asked that immediate inquiries be made to ascertain whether there are non-unionists employed in any national service office and should such be the case, he desires that a direction be issued that all employees of the Department of Labour and National Service must be financial members of a bona fide trade union organization covering their employment.
Labour Members. - Hear, hear !
– I am happy to have the assurance of honorable gentlemen opposite that compulsory unionism is the war-time objective of the Labour Government. Does the Ministry think that compulsory unionism will contribute to our achieving the maximum war effort? That is the argument employed by honorable gentlemen opposite, but how false it is will be readily appreciated by honorable members who analyse the facts as T. now propose to do. Rather than intensify the war effort, compulsory unionism will intensify discontent and trouble with greater loss of production than ever. In saying that without compulsory unionism there will be discontent in all union workshops Labour members deny the loyalty of those whom they represent. The Commonwealth Statistician has had something to say about this matter. I shall take three of the most highly unionized industries in Australia, the coal-miners, the engineering and metal trades, and shipping and wharf labourers. In NewSouth Wales in 1939 there were 386 disputes, in which 148,531 men were involved, causing the loss of 410,183 days. Men engaged in the coal-mining, engineering and metal trades, shipping and wharf industries were involved in 94.99 per cent. of those disputes, and 82.49 per cent. of the total days lost were lost by them. That happened when Australia was in the throes of war, and the Menzies Government was endeavouring to harness our industrial resources for war purposes. That was about the time when the resolutions towhich I have referred were carried. In 1940, about 174,000 men, of whom 91.47 per cent. were coal-miners, struck work, and 93 per cent. of the 1,238,161 days lost were lost by coal-miners. Engineering and metal trades workers lost 53,102 days through disputes - 3.52 per cent. of the total. In the first half of 1941 there were 218 disputes, of which 167 occurred in the coal-mining industry, and 68,419 men were involved, of whom 76.5 were coal-miners. There was a loss of 190,905 days, of which 49.10 per cent. were lost by coal-miners. Engineering and metal trades workers were involved in 32 disputes, in which 10,700 men were involved and 41.516 days were lost. That is the record of the highly-unionized industries in the days before Labour took office. It is quite plain that if compulsory unionism is introduced there will be an intensification of these destructive tactics in industry. I listened with interest to the Prime Minister’s tribute to the coalminers. That is one side of the picture. In order to give the other side I shall quote a statement published this morning in the Canberra Times -
The loss of coal production in New South Wales during last year, due to stoppages, absenteeism and other causes, totalled 2,169,000 tons, said the Chairman of the Wallsend Coal Company (Mr. Scroggie) at the annual meeting to-day.
He said the handing over of control of strikes to employees’ organizations was nothing less than class legislation, and an offence against the principles of democracy.
This does not square in any way with the statement made by the Prime Minister, and, if true, is a serious indictment of the unions concerned. I listened with some amazement to the vehement complaints of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie regarding the lack of transport for employees of the Allied Works Council in the north-west of Australia. I know that those men are experiencing great hardships, but I am not blind to the fact that our soldiers in New Guinea also lack adequate transport. They go into battle after forced marches of many miles and often on an empty stomach, and they do not complain. I direct attention to the following extract from the Canberra Times -
The threat by 250 miners employed at Wallarah colliery to hold a stop-work meeting within 48 hours unless transport is provided for the men to and from the mines was referred to to-day by the general secretary of the Miners Federation (Mr. Grant).
The greatest distance that those miners would have to travel would be a mile. While they were threatening to stop work unless they were provided with buses, our soldiers in New Guinea were laboriously making their way through the most difficult country in the world, so that the miners may retain the privileges of compulsory unionism. The whole thing is a tragedy ! The Government contends that if the principle of compulsory unionism be not accepted, discontent will be rife in industry and our war effort will suffer. Honorable members may be surprised to learn that of 1,955,000 workers in industry only 48.9 per cent, are unionists. That figure excludes the thousands of volunteers who are fighting for the preservation of Australia. I have no doubt that when they return they will be compelled to join a union. Though they were permitted to volunteer to fight for their country, they will be compelled to belong to a union before they will be able to get a job. Non-unionists do not hold stop-work meetings, or go on strike, and they are not affected by job-control. But they are working loyally and efficiently for their country, while the highly organized unionists go on strike.
I come now to what I describe as the “ great and glorious man-power muddle “. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has enunciated his views so often and so distinctly in this chamber that no one can doubt where his sympathies lie. We know his background, and the high esteem in which he holds the Communists. Consequently,
I am not surprised that the man-power regulations should be so designed as to enable unionists successfully to exploit their power. They use the name of the Minister indirectly to force recognition from their employers. Under the regulations, the employers are helpless. A worker may be dismissed for serious misconduct, but before he may be discharged, the case must be referred to the appeals board, which regularly and faithfully amends all charges of serious misconduct to charges of misconduct, and orders the employee to return to his job. The fact that he may have been discharged for subversive activity or inefficiency does not appear to matter. This policy is jeopardizing production in the factory. If the worker is fortunate enough to know a Cabinet Minister, he can secure a transfer from one factory to another without difficulty. Later, I shall cite examples to prove my statement. The Government has used a first-class party bias in drawing up these regulations. The basis of discipline in any factory is the right to take disciplinary action against an employee for serious misconduct or for other good reasons. The transfer of workers from one industry to another should be on the approved basis of a greater need for skilled tradesmen in another factory or a greater concentration of men in order to stimulate production of a certain kind. Unfortunately, at the present time transfers are effected to allow employees to get higher wages. Indeed, some workers have acknowledged that their only reason for transferring was to obtain increased emoluments. One lady who performed highly skilled work essential to war production was granted a transfer from a munitions factory to a silknit factory, where she would be paid a higher rate. By shearing the employers of their authority to dismiss an employee, the Government has created the very thing that it should avoid, namely, a lack of discipline in the factories, with a resultant loss of production. The employer has the right to appeal to a board but that body invariably amends a case of serious misconduct to one of misconduct and instructs the employee to return to his job.
– That is not true.
– I shall prove it. Every one knows that the foreman in a factory has a most difficult job. He must learn how to handle men, and he is re-, sponsible for production and efficiency. If the authority of the foreman be undermined, the output of the factory will be reduced. From time to time, I have read in the press of cases where foremen have threatened to resign if an employee who had been dismissed were reinstated. One firm, Stromberg Carlson (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, lodged 97 appeals with the man-power authorities; the employees won 92 of the cases. In my opinion, the unions are concerned, not about achieving maximum production in the factories, but only with the abolition of the employer’s right of dismissal. This is a fundamental principle of unionism and appears in the regulations drafted by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Before an employer may terminate the services of an employee he must refer the case to an appeals board. More often than not the board opposes the wishes of the employer. Stromberg Carlson (Australasia) Proprietary Limited cited the following experiences of their dealings with the man-power authorities : -
Mr. H. Trott objected to instructions given to him by our foreman, Mr. Glenn, on the night that we were announced a protected undertaking, viz., 2Cth March, 1942. He was suspended. On the 31st March, 1042, we reported this to the Man Power Department and Mr. Bull of the Kingsford office called to investigate the case within a few days.
Nothing more was heard until late in April, when a Mr. Dunleavy from the Department of Man Power called to investigate the case. Mr. Dunleavy admitted that he had known Mr. Trott for many years.
On 4th May we were instructed to reinstate Mr. Trott and pay him for all the time lost by reason of the suspension.
Mr. Freedman and Mr. Tyler interviewed Mr. Kelleher and Mr. Reid of the Man Power Department and it was pointed out that if Mr. Trott was reinstated we would lose control of the discipline of our machine shop, and in addition would lose a good foreman, who could not remain with us under such conditions.
Mr. Trott called to see us, and he was sent to interview Mr. Kelleher, who telephoned us to say that Mr. Trott would only resign if we paid him not only for 44 hours a week, but also for all overtime which he might have worked. As it was impossible for us to have him in the shop again, we were forced to agree to Mr. Trott’s terms and give him a cheque for ?42. On the 8th May, 1942, we complained to the
Deputy Director-General of Man Power that the large sum which we had to pay was due to the delay (five weeks) which it took the department to make their decision and asked for an assurance that any such matters would be more expeditiously handled in future.
This letter was replied to on 10th May, 1942.
Mr. Trott was released after he had received our cheque on 8th May, 1942.
I refrain from further comment with regard to this case as my time is limited, but I draw the attention of honorable members to the extraordinary delay in arriving at a settlement and to the terms of that settlement - [Extension of time granted.’]
Mr. G. Hancock, a toolmaker, asked for a release which was refused.
We reported this on 31st March, 1942, to the Man Power Department. An inspector called to see us and fully investigated the case. We made numerous telephone contacts but could get no satisfaction. On 24th April, 1942, an officer of the Man Power Department informed us that the file relating to Mr. Hancock was mislaid.
We, therefore, wrote again on 24th April. 1942, and enclosed a copy of our original letter and again urged the return of this man, pointing out the urgency, as he was doing special work on certain signalling equipment required by the Army.
On 14th May, 1942, we reported that Mr. Hancock was still absent. On 25th May, 1942. the Man Power Department told us that they had been “ unsuccessful in their endeavour to secure Mr. Hancock’s return to this company” and further stated that they have no power to force him to return to his previous employment.
Honorable members should not overlook the fact that the man-power authorities have power to order an employer to retain the services of an employee whom he has discharged. Stromberg Carlson (Australasia) Proprietary Limited also reported the following unusual case: -
Miss Bennett asked us for a release.
We refused, as per our letter to the Kingsford Man Power Office on 18th June, 1942.
She appealed to the Kingsford Office of the Man Power Department and Mr. Kevins from that office, interviewed Miss Bennett at our factory.
On 22nd June, 1942, we received a letter informing us that she must stay with us. We heard that she intended to still seek work elsewhere, and telephoned the Kingsford Man Power office, reporting her absence.
On 24th June, 1942, we received a letter from the department informing us that Miss Bennett could not accept another position and asking us to keep them posted regarding developments. On 25th June, 1942, we wrote to the department reporting her continued absence.
Mr. Bailey of the Kingsford Man Power office phoned us, saying that Miss Bennett had called on them with a letter from a Cabinet Minister and that we had better agree to her release as “ Goodness knows where it will end now “. On 2nd July, 1942, we spoke to Emmco who told us that Miss Bennett was working for them and had a permit signed by Mr. Bellemore. On 3rd July, 1942, we wrote setting out the position fo Mr. Bellemore. On 6th July, 1942, we had received no reply or communication of any sort in the matter, and so wrote to Mr. Bellemore again asking if he did, or did not, grant a permit for her release.
– Who was the Cabinet Minister ?
– That is what I would like to know. The statement was made by the man-power officer.
– If the honorable member does not know who the Cabinet Minister was he should not have referred to him.
– I was reading from a report on the actions of manpower officers. Such remarks should not he used by man-power officers in order to intimidate firms.
I have numerous other cases to which I could refer, but my time is too short. I shall, however, mention the case of a girl who was employed by the S’trombergCarlson organization in making signalling apparatus. She was given permission to change her place of work and she went to a silk knitting company at higher wages. In that instance, the war was made subordinate to the desire of the girl to earn higher wages. Apparently, it was only for that reason a man-power officer granted her permission to change her place of employment. Perhaps I have said enough to lead honorable members to realize that there is need for more attention to the activities of the Department of Labour.
I wish now to deal with the case of an employee’s application to leave his employment. The report I have received on this case reads as follows : -
A toolmaker employed by the above company applied to the National Service officer for permission to leave Airzone (1931) Limited and go to E.T.C. Industries. The National Service officer gave the necessary permission.
As Airzone (.1931) Limited urgently required the services of a toolmaker, the company appealed against the National Service officer’s decision to the Local Appeals Board and the board upheld the employer, i.e., the board ordered that the toolmaker should not leave Airzone (1931) Limited.
However, the toolmaker had left Airzone (1931) Limited immediately he had received the National Service officer’s permission, and, despite directions, he refused to stay on at Airzone (1931) Limited pending the hearing of the appeal.
On the day that the appeal was heard, the toolmaker called at Airzone (1931) Limited and became very abusive to the works manager, so much so that the works manager had to threaten to call the police to remove him.
Although the Local Appeals Board directed that he should return to Airzone (1931) Limited immediately, he did not do so until four days later, i.e., on a Monday. He refused to do any work that day, but just remained on the premises and loafed. He became offensive to the managing director, production supervisor and the works foreman.
On the next day. about midday, this employee walked into the works manager’s office and threw a -handful of orange-peel into the works manager’s fane. For this act he was immediately suspended.
The .matter was referred back to the manpower authorities, who advised that, in circumstances such as this, they were helpless to do anything
This case illustrates clearly that a section of employees cannot be controlled by the regulations and there is a number of other cases such as this wherein the employee has provoked the management to dismiss him.
That report shows clearly that our manpower organization is in a sad muddle.
I see the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) sitting opposite, so I shall refer to an incident in Newcastle. A man-power officer in that city sent certain men from a number of engineering establishments to a shipbuilding yard. They were skilled men whose time was fully occupied,. The firms affected were not approached by the man-power officer, who apparently had no knowledge of the kind of work that they were doing. When die firms appealed, the man-power authorities realized that another muddle had occurred and it revoked the order that had been issued, with the result that the men were sent back to the engineering shops. It is not difficult to imagine the hubbub, the talking, the vexatious delay, and dislocation of operations that must occur in such cases. This kind of. thing is undermining discipline and destroying authority, yet it is characteristic of the activities of our man-power administration. In my opinion, the talk that we hear about the co-operation of the manpower authorities with industrial executives is seriously inaccurate. Apparently, any person who can get the ear of the Minister and can say, “ If you do not let me go where I want to go, I shall see Ned Ward about it “ gets what he wants. That kind of thing is being said time after time in workshops throughout Australia, and people are able to get away with it. Notwithstanding the brilliant persiflage that we hear from time to time, 1. am of the opinion that our industrial activities are being undermined and that a. definitely subversive undercurrent exists which is most undesirable. It appears to me that an organized endeavour is being made by means of Labour’s supposed war-time policy to introduce a form of socialization, which, it is hoped, will be continued after the war. I do not like it, and I think that something should be done about it. It should not bc necessary for us to re-affirm our unity with the United Nations and our loyalty to those with whom we are associated. An honest man’s loyalty does not need to be proclaimed from the house-tops. If it is necessary to bolster up enthusiasm and morale by means of a re-affirmation of loyalty and unity, then there is something seriously wrong with our war effort. I am firmly of the opinion that there are undercurrents in1 our industrial and economic life of which the general public should be made aware.
– If the speech to which we have just listened had been made by a responsible member of this Parliament it would have had to be considered seriously. An accusation that a Minister of the Crown was engaged in subversive activities would warrant the close attention of the Government if it came from a really responsible quarter. I have been wondering what purpose the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) desired to serve by indulging in a tirade against the Government. No doubt he was partly actuated by his well-known desire to see in office a national government in which he was a member; but the making of such speeches will have the effect of leaving the present Labour Government in control of the affairs of this country for a considerable time to come. The people generally must be considerably disturbed in their minds on account of the scenes that have occurred in this House in the last few days. Several honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Wentworth, have dealt in everything except facts. I hope next week to be able to make a detailed statement on the specific cases to which he has referred this afternoon, but I am able to say now that there is not an atom of truth in any of his statements concerning man-power activities.
– The Minister should be forced to make that statement on oath!
– I am always prepared to make, outside of this House, the statements that I make inside it. I never refuse to accept full responsibility for die statements that I make.
Let us examine some of the irresponsible Observations which the honorable gentleman has just uttered. He said that dismissals for misconduct must always be referred to the appeal boards. Evidently he does not understand the regulations. If he does, he has deliberately misrepresented the position. In many hundreds of cases dealt with by the man-power authority, the decisions are not challenged, but are accepted by both the employers and employees.
– I meant to say that dismissals must be referred to the manpower officers.
– The honorable member referred to a number of specific cases but he did not supply us with the full facts. He also referred to a Minister of the Crown, but when he was asked to name the Minister he could not do so.
– The Minister of the Crown was mentioned by the man-power officer, not by me.
– As the honorable member was not able to give the name of the Minister he should not have referred to the matter in this chamber. Such an attack was most unfair. The honorable gentleman has been a fake ever since he entered this Parliament. He has accused me of having communistic tendencies and a communistic background. I have never been a member of any political organization other than the Australian
Labour party. The honorable member, however, has been a member of a subversive organization.
– That is not so.
– The honorable gentleman was a member of the New Guard in New South Wales when it was under the direction of Mr. Erie Campbell.
– The Minister is quite wrong.
– I believe that the Government will need to give consideration, very shortly, to one aspect of the manpower problem to which no reference has yet been made. The honorable member for Wentworth made certain statements against the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) in relation to the transport services for workers in northwestern Western Australia, and then began to talk about communications in New Guinea. He knows as much about communications in New Guinea as I do. He gets his information, no doubt, from the columns of the newspapers. In the light of recent happenings, I consider that the Government should take prompt action to call upon certain persons who are strutting about this country in military uniforms to decide whether they are, or are not, prepared to go to the localities in which active war operations are occurring. Certain persons also should decide whether they wish to be members of Parliament or soldiers, and the honorable member for Wentworth is one of them. The individuals to whom I am referring wish to strut about the country in military uniforms, but they are not prepared to take the risks involved in active service.
– The Minister has never been game to become a soldier.
– I ask the honorable member for Wentworth to tell us the meaning of the ribbons which he is wearing on his uniform.
– They are for service in the last war.
– Not all of them. Is not the honorable gentleman wearing the ribbons of the Jubilee medal and the Coronation medal across his chest, in order to make people believe that he has seen extensive active service? He cannot get away with it, so far as I am concerned. He has mentioned service in the last war. He went abroad with reinforcements for an artillery unit, and I am informed that when he got overseas he took a position in a strong post in a clothing store.
– That is a lie, andI ask that the Minister withdraw the statement. If he does not do so, he is a liar of the first magnitude.
– Order ! There should be mutual withdrawals. Roth the honorable member and the Minister are out of order.
– I ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw his statement. He has said something that he knows is untrue.
– The honorable member must first withdraw his own expression.
– Do you, Mr. Speaker, challenge the right of an honorable member to insist that a lying statement concerning himself must be withdrawn?
– The honorable member must withdraw the remark he has made before he can expect a withdrawal by the Minister.
– I will withdraw under one condition. The Minister has made a statement which he knows is deliberately untrue-
– Will the honorable member for Wentworth withdraw his statement that an observation of the Minister was a lie?
– I cannot do so, because I know that it is a deliberate lie.
– Order ! If the honorable member persists in speaking in that strain. I shall have to take other measures.
– Apparently the honorable member for Wentworth considers that he can make derogatory statements in respect of other honorable gentlemen without being attacked himself, but he cannot expect to come unscathed out of such an encounter. He is wearing the ribbons of the Jubilee and Coronation medals.
– I am also wearing service colours. I was in the front line with the 14th Battery.
– Order ! These personalities are undesirable and should be dropped.
– The honorable member did not “wake up” until 1916.
– Apparently the honorable member for Wentworth thinks that he can impute improper motives to Ministers of the Crown and charge them with subversive activities, and yet come unscathed from the conflict. The motion submitted by the Prime Minister ought to have been accepted after a discussion lasting only a few minutes. Every honorable member who has spoken has said that he favours the declarations that it makes. All that the honorable member for Wentworth had to say in criticism of the activities of the Government was that the man-power position had been muddled. Let us examine one or two aspects of it. For security reasons, we are not permitted to give the exact figures; but we can state the percentage increases that have occurred in certain directions. The Labour Government took office in October, 1941. This country had then been bled white of its defence equipment, which had been shipped abroad. Honorable members opposite seem to pride themselves on the fact that they were responsible for sending many thousands of Australian troops for service overseas. When we took over, a plan was in existence for the abandonment of large portions of North Australia without firing a shot, because the service advisers had stated that there were insufficient troops and equipment in this country properly to defend that portion of Australia in the event of invasion. That state of affairs was due to the fact that the war equipment that this country had been producing had been shipped abroad. I am informed that the position in regard to tanks is now approximately 2,000 per cent, better than it was in October, 1941. I understand that when Labour assumed office, of the very few tanks we possessed only one was in working condition, and it was regularly paraded, in Martin Place when war loan appeals were made. That constituted the effectiveness of our tank forces. To-day, those forces are considerable. What was the position in regard to aircraft? Beaufort bombers were practically non-existent. Although we had a few, I am informed that none was fit to take the air. All that the preceding Government left to the incoming Government were intermediate training planes, which were being used as fighters and. bombers. The Government pays tribute to the valor of the men in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. We have a good deal to be thankful for in that respect. But valor cannot win victories unless the men who display it are properly equipped. What happened to our Air Force in Rabaul? There, we had about a dozen Wirraway aircraft.
– I am prepared to concede that there were a dozen. They were manned by heroic Australian airmen, but they were shot down almost before they were able to get into the air. They did not have a chance. It was absolute suicide of some of the best men that Australia has produced. Have honorable members opposite anything of which they may feel proud in the fact that they sent men into battle areas under such conditions, without proper air defence ? Did not the same set of circumstances apply in connexion with the Malayan campaign? The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) on his way to Great Britain, stopped at Singapore, whence he issued to the Australian public, the statement that it was impregnable. We had Australian airmen in antiquated Wirraway aircraft. We were told that the Japanese did not have an up-to-date air force, that their airmen and their aircraft were no good, and that the Wirraways were quite capable of handling them. ‘ As a result, we grieve to-day over the loss of many gallant Australian airmen. Our position in regard to aircraft for the defence of this country has been immeasurably improved. We now have up-to-date fighters and bombers, and our production has risen by many hundred per cent. Honorable members opposite assert that the present Government is now reaping the benefit of what they did. Therefore, they say, they should share in the government of the country. Their complaint is that they are not permitted to do so. What sort of a race would we be able to run with a thoroughbred Government harnessed to an Opposition mule? Such a scheme would not work. If we - are to come through this conflict successfully, the Government must be left in the hands of those who have proved their capacity to get the best results on behalf of this country. “We have heard a good deal about complacency. It is said that we ought to make the Australian public understand the seriousness of the position. The Government has endeavoured to do that. Large sections of the workers are realizing it, and are co-operating with the Government. I agree with the statement of the Prime Minister, although it has been challenged by the Employers’ Federation - as we expected - that if the same measure of co-operation had been forthcoming from the employers’ organizations as we have received from the employees, we would have had an -entirely different war effort. What has happened? Members of the Opposition, backed up by the Employers’ Federation, keep saying. “ Give us an all-in war effort “. Why do we not have an all-in war. effort? Honorable members opposite have gained their point. There is now conscription of life. When are they :going to propose that we have conscription of wealth? All that- they say is, “ Let us have another loan. Let us have more taxes on the lower paid workers, because it is unfair that they should have too much to spend in these days, for the reason that, by competing for the limited quantity of goods available, prices may be forced up and we shall have the terrors of inflation”. I wonder whether any of them has studied the contribution that has been made by those who have been able to lend money to the Government! Despite the endeavour to heap ridicule upon the idea, I have always been of the opinion that this and other wars are fought out of past and current production, not on something that may beproduced 10 or 20 years hence. The workers in the factories are labouring for long hours, impairing their health, in order to .make possible the defence of this country. They are making the real sacrifices in this conflict. I believe that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) mentioned in this House on a previous occasion, and I agree, that whatever money can be secured by way of loans can be raised also by way of taxation; that is, if people are able to lend money to a Government, and we are supposed to be making an all-in war effort, why can they not give it by way of taxation? Yet the interest-free loans are actually falling, and our interest-bearing national debt has been mounting. Figures that I have received from the Statistician’s department disclose that the national income increased by £290,000,000 between the years 1938-39 and 1942-43, the national income in the latter year being an estimate. In the same period, the amount of interest-free loans to .the Government, to enable it to continue this war, fell from £3,865,000 in 1940 to £539,000 in 1942. This shows conclusively that those who control the wealth of Australia are not making a proper contribution. Remember how readily they accepted the economic regulations. There was then no protest from the Opposition. It did not say, “That is destroying freedom “, when jobs and wages were pegged and food was rationed ; but when the question was one of pegging or limiting profits, there was a squeal. It was argued that incentive would be destroyed, that the manufacturer would not want to produce, that his workshops would .be inefficient. What an indictment of those who control our industries, that they must have some greater incentive than the national need before they will do their best! I wonder why honorable gentlemen opposite put that forward as an argument in favour of discarding the proposal for the limitation of profits.
Let us study some of the figures that were cited by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) concerning the loss of -‘time due to industrial stoppages. Most of his figures relate to the period during which anti-Labour governments had control in this Parliament; therefore, the deplorable state of affairs he depicted merely proved conclusively that the great benefits of industrial peace which are now bestowed upon this country have been gained only as the result of the sympathetic handling of the problems of the workers by a Labour government. I, too, have some figures in regard to industrial upheavals, and the honorable gentleman might well study them. During the regime of the Menzies Government, 2,178,702 man-days were lost, an average of 21,152 a week. Under the Fadden Government, .which fortunately lasted for only five and a half weeks, the number of man-days lost was 284,155, an average of 51,664 a week. Under the Curtin Government, the figure is 8,477 a week, showing conclusively that that Government has reduced substantially the loss occasioned by industrial stoppages. Honorable members would attempt to make it appear that whenever there has been an industrial stoppage the workers have been to blame. Why did not the honorable member cite the innumerable instances in which not the man-power department, but industrial tribunals, conciliation commissioners, and other independent authorities had decided that the workers were justified in their complaints and had rectified- them ?
Let us now consider absenteeism of workers from industry. There has been too much exaggeration of certain features of this matter. The Government regrets that there is too much absenteeism in industry and is always striving to reduce it. The problem is being dealt with scientifically. Officers are making examinations, and interviewing workers in order to ascertain why they absent themselves from their employment. It has been found to be not due to their wanting to be perverse and to embarrass the Government ot- the war effort. Most of them have a legitimate reason for staying away. We are endeavouring to remove the causes of absenteeism. ‘ We believe that the position may be helped by an improvement of industrial welfare. When the honorable member for Wentworth referred to the Department of Labour and National Service, he said: “This is the peace-time policy of the Labour Government.” It is not our peace-time policy, but om- policy for any time, in peace or war. We believe that the best, results in regard to production by the workers can be achieved by having them happy and contented at their work. We discovered that 50 per cent, of the absenteeism was due to ill health. In the majority of instances; the loss was confined to one or two days, due to colds during the winter months. Honorable members opposite argue that improvement of welfare conditions should not be undertaken in war-time. We discovered that in Victoria two factories were working under one management. One was an old factory with very poor facilities for the. workers, the other a modern factory iti which several amenities had been provided. The absenteeism in the older factory was just double what it was in the modern factory. Wo are establishing canteen services, and improving lighting conditions in order to safeguard the health and eyesight of the workers. Honorable members opposite believe that we should leave these matters until after the war. A women’s industrial code is now being considered. Wc are working out a Commonwealth industrial code. The workers are striving to produce the best of which they are capable, in order to assist the war effort. Why should they be denied some consideration? It has already been stated that, although the number of men employed in coal pits has not been increased, the production of coal last year was a record, having been 500,000 tons more than had been produced in any previous year. In regard to steel production, although Australia is relatively only a young country, it produced as much steel per head of population this year as was produced in England. Is not that something of which we ought to be proud? Should not this Government be thanked because, in the few months during which it has had control, it has transferred 500,000 people from non-war to what is described, as essential war employment ? Because the pool of available labour has been almost exhausted, the Government is seeking to eke out our labour resources in various ways. To this end, the production executive, consisting of nine members of the Government, framed regulations to control the employment of domestic servants, and what a howl followed ! It was said that the regulations constituted interference with the liberty of the people. As soon as it appeared that certain sections of the community might have to do something for themselves to meet their every-day requirements, that some personal sacrifice would be involved, a campaign was begun in an attempt to jeopardize the existence of the Government. We are now dealing with applications for the right to continue employing domestic servants. 1 shall not give names at this stage, but 1 shall cite a few examples. Let it be remembered that these applications do not come from munitions workers, who, in many instances, must leave their homes early in the morning with a bit of lunch under their arms, and remain away all day. The applications come from people who live in the more “ toney “ parts of our cities. Here is one from Elsternwick for permission to employ twelve servants to look after six inmates. Another from Brighton asks for permission to employ six servants to attend to one inmate. One from Toorak wants six servants for one inmate, and another from Toorak asks for eight servants to attend to two persons. Applications of the same sort have been received from other States besides Victoria. The first one that I pick up from New South Wales seeks permission to employ ten servants to attend to two persons. Some of the reasons given in support of the applications to retain servants would not satisfy even the most hardened tory. We received one application to retain twelve servants to look after six inmates. The applicant said that he had 23 glass houses and conservatories, containing rare orchids, &c, besides extensive lawns. He formerly employed a staff of 23 men and six females, but since the war his staff had been reduced from seventeen to twelve. What a sacrifice ! Those people, and their representatives in Parliament, constantly belittle the efforts of the workers, although the ‘ fact is that we could not fight this war for five minutes if it were not for the workers. Those who try to cause division between the workers in war industries and the workers in uniform are doing the country a grave disservice. So long as the workers know that their sacrifices are helping the men in the fighting services they do not care how much they are asked to do; but they are distrustful of being asked to make sacrifices when they see that all the time the reserves of the big companies are being built up, and monopolies are reaching out for greater power and spheres of influence in all directions. Some of them, with the help of government money, are setting up plant which they hope to secure “for a song “ when the war ends. Those big companies look forward to a happy time after the war when all competition will have been crushed. That is the new order which they visualize. I trust that this Government will remain in office, not only for the duration of the war, but also for a long time afterwards, so as to organize the country during the postwar reconstruction period. The honorable member for Wentworth made various charges against the Government regarding its control of man-power. I have been watching the position very closely, and next week I shall be in a position to state the facts regarding the cases he has quoted. I hope that then the honorable member will have the decency to withdraw his charges. As a matter of fact, we have on our files sheafs of applications from members of this Parliament asking for exemption from military service for all classes of men, including accountants, clerks in offices, and dentists. Applications have been received from practically every member of this Parliament. The man-power authorities have been dealing fairly and effectively with all applications received. If a man has a case he is granted exemption.
The Government has now decided upon a policy of labour direction. The Labour party does not welcome this decision, but it is necessary, having regard to our limited man-power resources. The scheme, when it comes into operation, will apply, not only to the lower ranks of the workers, but also to the executives of big concerns. Although we are so short of man-power, reports have been received that city clubs are still well patronized, even during working hours. The worker cannot leave his job when he likes, but the boss can take time off for his morning cup of tea. He can, when he likes, pick up his golf clubs and go out for a round of golf. The Government proposes to see that there is no waste of labour at the top any more than there is at the bottom. Everything is being done to marshal our man-power resources, but there is always strong opposition whenever a reference is made in Parliament to the need for conscripting wealth. I. can see no reason why we should not conscript wealth. If we will not concede to a man the right to withhold his life from the service of his country, why should we allow any member of the community the right to withhold his wealth from the service of the country? The honorable member for Wentworth said that there should be no interference with management. Here is. an example of how seriously management sometimes takes its responsibilities: just after I became Minister, there was a partial stoppage of work in an important aircraft factory outside Sydney, and I decided that prompt action was necessary. The matter was reported to me on a Saturday morning, and I immediately telephoned to the works and asked for the manager. I was told by the girl on the switch that he was absent, that he did not usually come to the works on Saturday morning. I rang his home, but no one there knew where he was. I rang another private firm in which I knew he was interested, hut was told that he did not go there either on Saturday morning. I then rang the works again, and asked the girl with whom she would get in touch if anything went wrong at the works. She said .that she would ring the gatekeeper ! That is how some of the representatives of .private enterprise have organized themselves for the war effort. We want something better than that.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) made a valuable contribution to the debate, and offered some constructive suggestions to the Government. I can assure him that his suggestions for overcoming the difficulties which confront residents of the north-western parts of Australia will be given immediate attention. If any other honorable member has a submission of a helpful character to make to the Government for the better organization of the war effort, it also will be considered. However, I have been waiting patiently to hear honorable members opposite ask for the conscription of wealth, but I have waited in vain. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government wanted to force compulsory unionism on the country. I remind the honorable member that the great majority of the soldiers who are defending Australia to-day are unionists without any compulsion having been employed. It seems to be rather peculiar that although honorable members opposite want compulsory membership and compulsory service in certain directions, compulsory unionism is abhorrent to them. They say that compulsory unionism is not desirable in this country, but I contend that unless we have a strong trade union movement when this war ends, the people will be in a’ very sorry plight. Our national debt is mounting enormously as successive loans are raised. There is a call for greater services for returned men, and I agree with that. We should give to’ the returned men and to their dependants every possible comfort and benefit, but surely honorable members opposite do not think that when the war finishes we can do these things whilst we continue piling up our national debt at the same rate as we are doing while the war is on. It is claimed that a mounting national debt is unavoidable at present, but when Ave return to peace, there will be a clamour for the restoration of normal conditions, and “normal conditions” will mean the cessation of huge loans. The result will be that the government of the day will be faced with increasing claims for the improvement of various services for returned soldiers and other members of the community, and the Government W111 have to decide whether, in order to meet the annual interest payments upon the national debt, social services will have to be reduced. The granting of increased benefits under those circumstances would be ruled out as being impracticable. When the war of 1914-18 ended did we not have a depression for that very same reason? It is well known that certain members of this Parliament were saying at that time, “ We must meet our obligations in regard to our national debt”. The result Wai the introduction of the Premiers plan and a consequent slashing of out social services. When this war ends, we must have a strong trade union movement in order to preserve democracy, to preserve the rights of the people, and to see that they are assured of getting some of the benefits of the many sacrifices they are making to bring this war to a successful conclusion. Anything that I can do to assist the building up of a strong trade union movement and the co-operation of that movement with (he Government, I shall do gladly. I am pleased to have had this opportunity to pay a tribute to the trade unionists for their co-operation. I know it will continue, and when I next address this House I hope to be able to announce a further great reduction of absenteeism and stoppages, because if these people are approached in a proper and sympathetic manner, they will co-operate with the Government and with the nation to sec that the best possible war effort is made..
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in regard to my war service. In order to place the matter beyond doubt, I should like to point out, very feelingly, that during the last war the only two members of my family who could, offer their services did so. My brother took part in< the landing at Gallipoli and was subsequently killed while I was on my way overseas. I never served in any unit but a fighting unit. I know nothing of service in a clothing store. I served in the artillery as a sergeant and was constantly with the guns in the firing line. I refused to attend an officers’ training school in July, 1918, so that I could remain with the guns and go forward. My body shows the marks of minor wounds. For a while I was blind through gas. That is the service that I have rendered to this country, and I am proud of it. My record may be found in the official handbook in the Parliamentary Library. My family could not have given greater service to the country than it has done, and I challenge the honorable member to stand up to that record. When this war broke out I enlisted again, not in an administrative capacity, but in one of the fighting services, the Second Division Artillery. Subsequently, I was taken into Cabinet and was placed on the regimental reserve, which is an active service reserve the members of which may be called up at any moment. I was informed -that I would not be called for active service as, holding the rank of lieutenant. 1 was too old for service. I joined issue with the authorities on that matter. That fact can be substantiated by the Adjutant-General. I then took up duty in a purely honorary capacity, as liaison officer with the American forces. The fact that that service is purely honorary is shown in my paybook.
In view of those facts I claim that 1 have been misrepresented by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Honorable members know well what my record is. The unwarranted personal attack upon me is the result of somebody making lying statements.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Wentworth .(Mr. Harrison) made an attack upon me in which he imputed that I was engaged in subversive activities. He said I was only running true to my communistic teachings and communistic background. I should like to point out that there is no truth whatever in the assertions made by the honorable member. In regard to his own military record, I accept his explanation and regret that in this detail the information conveyed to me was inaccurate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
Taxation Inquiries by Police - Royal Australian Air Force: Punishment of SERGEANT K. M. Gregor - Parliament House : Additions - War Loans * Non-go-operation of Employers - Ma. J. A. Mendes - Man-power : Callup of Boys.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer to a matter which I raised in the House yesterday, namely, the action taken by a police officer, presumably on the instruction of the Taxation Department, in going to a private home in the absence of the husband taxpayer, and putting a series of questions to the wife relating to the financial circumstances of her husband. I was not able to convey to the Minister in my question all the details that were in my possession,, and I consider that the matter is of such importance that I take this opportunity to refer to it again. I have no reason to believe that the taxpayer in question has had any difficulties at all with the Taxation Department. It may be that his return has been queried in some respects, hut I have no information on that point at all. So far as I know there is no suggestion of any offence having been committed by him. The incident as it was related to me was as follows: In the course of the morning - obviously at a time when an office executive would be expected to be away from his home - a call was made upon the lady by a police officer in uniform. He presented himself at the door and asked the lady if she was the wife of this man. “When she said that she was, he proceeded to put a number of questions to her regarding her financial circumstances. He asked if she would describe herself as being comfortably off or well-off. Other similar questions were asked. The lady expressed very natural surprise at the interrogation and inquired what it was all about. The police officer said: “ I have dozens of these things to do In his hand he had a bundle of pink slips upon which apparently the information that he secured was to be placed. The lady got the impression from him that he was merely doing something in the ordinary course of his activities, at the request of the Taxation Department. Apparently he was interviewing, people and in due course conveying the information that he obtained to the Taxation Department. I do not know who was responsible for this action. It is possible that inquiries of this kind are conducted by officers of the Taxation Department in normal times, but that, in order to save man-power, some arrangements have been made with the police to conduct them. That is the only assumption which I can make from the facts. I shall certainly attack that as a policy if my assumption is correct. It is most reprehensible that <a private home should be visited and that the wife of & taxpayer should be put through this sort of an examination in the absence of “her husband when no offence has been alleged or charge laid in respect of any breach of the taxation laws. I invite the Treasurer to make an examination of this matter. There is a growing fear among members of the public generally - I am sure that the Ministry is aware of it - of the encroachment of bureaucracy into their private lives. I am sure that the Treasurer will agree that even in these days that encroachment should be kept at the absolute minimum. I bring this development to the notice of the Treasurer in the hope that he will be able to obtain a satisfactory explanation. If he finds, however, that the Taxation Department has adopted this method he should take immediate steps to bring the practice to an end.
– Inquiries are being made.
– Yesterday I made a statement regarding the case of Sergeant Pilot Gregor - and part of that statement I feel it my duty to correct. I stated that no appeal had been lodged, and this was based upon information supplied to me yesterday by Air Force Head-quarters. I was informed to-day that a notice- of appeal, dated the 11th January, 1943, was forwarded by Sergeant Gregor’s solicitors to the accused’s former officer commanding at. Narrandera, and subsequently to the training group headquarters concerned. The submission by Sergeant Gregor’s solicitors was not an appeal in the correct sense of the word, as the grounds upon which it was based were not specific enough to enable the matter to be properly examined and considered. As a result of a telephone communication with Sergeant Gregor’s solicitors, they advised that they desired the notice of appeal to be regarded as the actual appeal, and promised to amplify the grounds of appeal to facilitate full consideration by the Air Board. I regret that the information supplied to me earlier was not in accordance with the facts, and have taken steps to ascertain who is responsible for that incorrect advice. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the House may rest assured that steps will be taken to avoid a similar occurrence in the future, and that, as soon as the additional information required is received from the solicitors, the appeal will be dealt with by the Air Board and a decision expedited.
– Work has been commenced on the south-west portion of this building for the purpose of providing additional accommodation. Mr. Speaker was good enough to let me see the plans in the presence of the architect this morning. So far as my memory serves me, the present intention is identical with the proposal that was put before me when
I was Speaker in the previous parliament. Mr. Thorby was the Minister appointed by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to investigate this matter of providing additional accommodation. Although I did not agree with everything that Mr. Thorby suggested, his proposal to build the necessary extra accommodation where the building operations are now proceeding was tentatively agreed to. Members of the then Opposition, who occupied the party room now occupied by the United Australia party, objected to the proposal and asked me to hear their view, which I did. I considered that their objections were justified. I said that, of course, there was a shortage of accommodation, and that additional buildings would have to be provided. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) took a leading part in the negotiations. He suggested that I should allow a committee of the Labour party to go into the matter in order that it might make alternative proposals that would provide for the necessary additional accommodation and be more satisfactory generally. That was done, and the result was the erection of an additional wing - that portion now occupied by the library staff. The rooms previously occupied by the library staff were then made available for use by Ministers. My complaint is that a plan identical with the proposal to which objection was taken by the then Opposition is now being carried out. I do not know who is responsible, but I assume that it would be the Minister for the Interior. This plan has . been put into effect without the knowledge of honorable members on this side. The objections raised when the present Government supporters were in opposition were valid then and they are equally valid to-day. The buildings in the course of erection will interfere with the ventilation and lighting of the Opposition party room. Moreover, a new passageway 8 feet wide will reduce the area of the party room. I know as well as every one else that there are difficulties of accommodation. When the Labour party was in opposition and this plan was formerly under consideration the question of privacy also was raised. That applies equally to-day. On the plan, provision is made for a Ministers’ room only 7 feet from the party room. I suggest that a room occupied by a Minister and his staff 7 feet away from where party meetings are held does not provide the necessary privacy. I cannot see how it can be contended, as it has been, that lighting will not be interfered with. I realize that as further additions are made to this building, there will be fewer opportunities to have alternative proposals accepted, but had members of the Opposition known about the present alterations some weeks ago, alternative plans much less objectionable than those now adopted could have been made. It is unfair to the Opposition and to the occupants of the room in question that this work should have been commenced without their knowledge, when it must have been realized that the alterations would be objectionable to them.
– I bring to the notice of the Government, and particularly the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a matter relating to subscriptions to the war loans by groups of employees formed in various factories and on other works. We cannot expect a maximum contribution from employees without adequate co-operation on the part of their employers. I have received a letter from Mr. R. Scoble, Dubbo district secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union of New South Wales who states that he has been directed by the members of the Dubbo branch of the union to bring to my notice the failure of the staff in John Grant and Sons’ Dubbo office to co-operate with a committee appointed by the union and other interested local bodies for the purpose of obtaining investors in the £100,000,000 Austerity Loan among the workmen employed on certain government projects in the district, John Grant and Sons being the employing authority of those works. About 360 workers are concerned in the matter. They undertook to make contributions to the loan and to pay deposits at various times according to their capacity to pay. At the meeting of employees held on the 7th December last, £250 was raised, and on the 9th December the committee had in sight £1,100. John Grant and Sons refused to undertake to make the necessary deductions from the pay of the employees on the works, thus reducing to some degree the number of contributions to the loan, because it was anticipated that from £3,000 to £4,000 would have been obtained if the firm had agreed to make the deductions. In my opinion the firm has not acted patriotically. I understand that this is one of many instances in which employers have not been prepared to co-operate with employees in making deductions from wages for the purpose of war loan investments. Possibly many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost by way of contributions on that account. I draw the attention of the Government to the lack of co-operation on the part of many large employers, including even those who are engaged in essential war work from which they are making substantial profit. Some action should be taken by the Treasurer to see that, when future war loans are raised, employers are compelled to make deductions from the salaries of their employees in order to comply with the wishes of the committees set up among the various staffs who desire to contribute to the loans.
Mr.RANKIN (Bendigo) [4.36].- In view of certain remarks made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) on the adjournment of the House on Wednesday, concerning the case of Mr. J. A. Mendes, then of the Mayfair Hotel, Darlinghurst, I feel compelled this afternoon to bring to the notice of the House what appears to be a case of party political favouritism. In support of my statement I propose to relate in chronological order the various incidents con nected with the case. On the 11th September last, I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) whether he would call for the production of the file relating to Mr Mendes, and table it in Parliament, so that honorable members might investigate the suggestion that a racket was being worked in connexion with exemption from military duty. I asked the Minister whether it had been brought to his notice that Mr. Mendes had boasted that it had cost him more than £100 to keep out of the Army, and that he had experienced no difficulty in keeping the male staff of the hotel out of the Army.
Stating that he had no knowledge of the case mentioned, the Minister undertook to call for a report regarding the matter and to advise me of the result. On the 16th September I again asked for the file, and was informed by the Minister that the case in which Mr Mendes applied for exemption from military service on the grounds of great hardship had been before the Central Police Court, Sydney, on the previous day, and it was necessary for the file to be there. He promised to ascertain whether the file could be made available in Canberra on the following day. Thirteen days later, the application by Mr Mendes for exemption from military service having been dealt with by the court, I again asked the Minister for the complete file. The Minister replied that he would call for the file and that he understood that the Magistrate who considered the case had given Mr. Mendes six weeks in which to put his affairs in order before entering the Army. Not having heard anything further concerning this matter, I again referred to it in this House on the 3rd October. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) then stated that the Minister for the Army had said that he would send for the file, have a look at it, and decide whether he would lay it on the table. When I put it to the Prime Minister that the Minister for the Army had said that he would lay it on the table, the Prime Minister replied that the file would be laid on the table after the Minister had had a chance to have a look at it. Again, on the 7th October, I put a specific question to the Minister seeking an assurance that before Parliament went into recess he would table the complete file. The Minister replied in the affirmative. However, up to the time Parliament adjourned on the 9th October, the file had not been made available to me. When the House met for the two-day war session, I raised the question on the 11th December, and asked the Minister to honour his promise to table the file. He replied that lie would make it available. Not having received the file after waiting for a month, it was with some surprise that I heard the honorable member for Reid state in the House on Wednesday last that he had searched the file. Why was access to this file denied to rae, yet allowed to a member of the same party as that of the Minister for the Army? In fact, the honorable member for Reid told the House that in response to a request by him the Minister had made the file available to, him. The honorable member for Reid dealt at some length with Mr. Mendes’ application to the magistrate for exemption from military service. He said that my remarks - which after all were not in the nature of a statement, but a request for information - would be likely to have some effect on the magistrate. I cannot do better than quote extracts from the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th September of Mr. Mendes’ application to the Chief Industrial Magistrate, Mr. Prior. According to that report, Captain H. A. Henry, for the military authorities, said -
Here is a single man aged 34, Class 1, Fit 1. There is also the fact that he has already had exemption since July, 1941. He has not been singled out. He is only one of many young men caught in the comb-out. If Mendes succeeds in his application, every one will be entitled to an exemption. This application is impudent.
I draw the attention of the House to Captain Henry’s concluding comment on Mendes’ application. Obviously, Captain Henry, who appeared for the military authorities, and who, incidentally, urged a temporary exemption for one week only, must have had good grounds for that statement. A further extract from the report in the Sydney Morning Herald reads -
Mr. Prior (the Chief Industrial Magistrate) refusing the application, said that whether or not there had , been discrimination against
Mendes was not a matter with which that court could concern itself. Was it to be conceived that mcn should become exempt from the defence of their country by reason of the possession of financial resources which enabled them to become associated with big business ventures?
The honorable member for Reid asked the Minister to make a statement substantiating what the honorable member had said. I suggest that the Minister should explain to the House why he made available to a member of his own party a file which, up to the present, he has not made available to me, although I have made repeated requests for its production. Actions such as these make me suspicious, and are calculated to leave a bad impression on the public mind. A reasonable inference is that, in this particular case, the Minister for the Army has something to hide.
The honorable member for Reid said that I should state the name of my informant. I assure the House that, before I made the statement, I satisfied myself that the information was correct, and I have no intention of disclosing my source of information so as to allow Mendes or anybody else to persecute him.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) 4:A2].I direct the attention of the Minister foi1 Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to the fact that a circular has been issued by the Deputy Director of Man Power in Victoria calling upon youths of fifteen years of age to serve in the Shepparton fruit area under conditions laid down in accordance with the National .Security (Man Power) Regulations. Things have come to a sorry pass when a youth of fifteen years of age, on registering for work for the first time, is given no choice by the man-power authorities as to the nature of his employment, but is instructed to proceed to Shepparton, which is more than 100 miles from Melbourne, and remain there under certain prescribed conditions. A boy aged fifteen years should not be taken from his home under such conditions, and discretionary power should be given to the man-power officials, even though the shortage of fruit-pickers be acute. It is doubtful whether even boys of seventeen years of age should be compelled to take the employment which man-power authorities order. Honorable members will agree with me that a boy of fifteen still needs parental control and supervision. He should not be thrown into some encampment or hostel and made to work, even for a fair wage, and then left to his own devices when the job is completed. The man-power authorities in Victoria have been exceeding their authority, and have certainly demonstrated too much zeal in taking these boys into the service of those engaged in the canning of fruit. I make this protest here because this is not a matter which should be reported to the Minister privately. Such practices are likely to increase, unless honorable members protest in Parliament when the subject is brought to their notice. In my view, the question is sufficiently important to warrant ventilation in this chamber, and I hope that publicity will deter Deputy Directors-General of Man Power from taking similar action in future in the course of their duties.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) appears to resent whathe considers to be an act of favouritism on my part towards the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who was permitted to examine a file relating to Mr. J. A. Mendes. I assure the honorable member for Bendigo that I had no desire to show favouritism towards the honorable member for Reid. It is true that the honorable member for Bendigo has asked on several occasions for permission to peruse the file relating to Mr. Mendes, but as I informed him some time ago, the Deputy Director of Man Power in Sydney had advised the Army authorities that Mr. Mendes would be available for military service. Mr. Mendes, exercising his rights under the National Security (Emergency) Regulations, applied to a police magistrate for exemption on the ground of hardship. After considering the case, the magistrate granted him a period of six weeks in order to complete his business arrangements. I understand that Mr. Mendes was managing a hotel on behalf of his aged or infirm parents, who lived on the premises. The case never came before me personally as Minister for the Army.
– I did not imply that it had.
– When the Deputy Director of Man Power stated that Mr. Mendes was available, the Army called him up but the magistrate granted him exemption for a period of six weeks. Since the 7th November, 1942, Mr. Mendes has been in camp, and he is serving to-day. I shall be pleased to allow the honorable member for Bendigo to peruse the file immediately the House adjourns to-day.
– Why is not the file laid on the table of the House where it would be available to all honorable members in accordance with the usual practice?
– It is not customary to lay such files on the table of the House. The subject to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred, will, like everything else that he raises in the chamber, receive sympathetic consideration.
. -in reply - The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) referred to extensions which the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has directed shall be made to this building. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member said, that the previous Government approved of extensions to the east wing, but that the work was not proceeded with because certain objections were raised. It was believed that an alternative plan could be devised which would completely meet all requirements. The second plan was then proceded with, but with the increasing demand for offices resulting from the war, the existing accommodation is totally inadequate to meet present requirements. This afternoon I inspected the accommodation provided for members of the Opposition parties. I was previously well aware of the nature of that accommodation, and I now say that it is totally inadequate. Particularly is that so with respect to the accommodation provided for the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and their staffs. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has to direct his staff to leave his room when he is engaged in an interview. This building was- not designed to meet the present pressure upon it. The advisers of the present Government say to it, as they said to previous governments, that it is not possible to erect an additional storey on the present Parliament House foundations, and therefore it is imperative, if additional accommodation is to be provided, that the plan which was approved by a previous government should be proceeded with. There is now no scope for any alternative plan, as was the case then.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that that is so?
– That is the advice that has been given to me. A contract has been let for the erection of a twostorey building which will provide 2,300 square feet of office space, divided into 23 separate rooms. The contract price is £8,777 and the building is due for completion in July next.
– One half of it is for the use of Ministers.
– It is for Ministers and officers of the House and those who have business to do in this building.
– No additional facilities will be provided for members.
– I have not previously expressed this view to any one, but my hope is that when the proposed additions on the east side of the building have been completed a similar structure will be proceeded with on the western side, thereby adding another 23 rooms, and making altogether 46 more rooms. It is not practicable to start the two buildings at once.
– That would not interfere with any existing accommodation.
– There will be some interference with existing accommodation hut the net result will be a considerable increase of the accommodation now provided. I have had a look at the proposal submitted to a previous government, and
I find that the alternative plan which at that time was accepted - not too happily - by the Government-
– I think the right honorable gentleman is wrong.
– The alternative plan has not provided as much accommodation as will be provided by the plan which is now being proceeded with. The alternative plan which was put forward at that time would not have provided 23 additional rooms. There was a certain re-arrangement of rooms in another part of the building which enabled the alternative plan to suffice for a time. As things now stand, the accommodation in this building is not equal to requirements. The officers in attendance are engaged for long hours under conditions which are not those that we like to impose upon them if any other course be open to us. I need not draw the attention of honorable members to the congestion of the staff in several rooms, as that is already known to them. My belief is that the 23 additional rooms to be provided under this plan, if supplemented by a similar construction on the west side of the building, will meet much more readily than in any other way the present pressure upon the accommodation in this building. It may be said - and I myself have expressed this view - that Parliament House should not be an administrative building at all. If that view were accepted, alternative accommodation would have to be provided away from this building. Previous governments, as well as the present Government, have looked at that matter, and all have been forced to the conviction that the general convenience of members of this Parliament is best served if they are given access to Ministers as rapidly as possible. As Canberra is a place in which honorable members do not reside - the greater proportion of members arrive in ‘Canberra on the morning of the first sitting day of the week and leave at the finish of the week’s sittings - they impose on Ministers the obligation of dealing with parliamentary business and also a great many administrative matters while the Parliament is sitting. Therefore, for the mutual convenience of Ministers and members, the additional room can best be provided by increasing the accommodation in this building rather than in some other part of Canberra.
– The plan which has been accepted was obtained by me on my return to Canberra, by which time a contract for the work had already been let. . From my study of the plan, it appears to me that the proposal does interfere very seriously with the amenities of the Opposition room. A passage will cut off about 8 feet along one end of that room, although I think that an additional room can be made without interfering with the basic plan. Another serious objection is that the room proposed to be provided for Ministers will be altogether too close to the Opposition room, and may interfere with the privacy of that room. I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has looked into this matter. During this week-end I hope to have an opportunity to confer with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and also with the Prime Minister with a view to seeing whether some more convenient arrangement can be made.
– May I say that the plan which is being proceeded with was not devised by the present Minister for the Interior or any officers under his direction. It was prepared at the direction of a previous government, and no change has been made in it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Commonwealth purposes at -
Birkenhead, South Australia.
Kingswood, New South Wales.
Lake Bathurst, New South Wales.
Mathoura, New South Wales.
Parramatta, New South Wales.
Rhodes, New South Wales.
St. Mary’s, NewSouth Wales.
Tamworth, New South Wales.
House adjourned at. 4.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Appointment of Press Attaches.
– The question of the appointment of press attaches is always kept carefully in mind in the consideration of appropriate staff for all Australian missions abroad. In the case of the United States of America,to which the honorable member’s question is particularly directed, the Commonwealth Government has established in New York City a special news and information bureau. This bureau carries out functions which have, up to the present, made it unnecessary to appoint a special press attache to the Washington Legation, but as a result of the honorable member’s suggestion, the matter will be reconsidered.
e asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Will he inform the House why the request of the miners at Collie, Western Australia, for the appointment of a Coal Reference Board, has not been granted?
– During the last two years Boards of Reference have been appointed under the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations to deal with local industrial matters which have arisen from time to time. The chairman of those boards has been Mr. W. J. Wallwork. It has not been thought necessary to set up a permanent board of reference under National Security (Coal
Mining Industry Employment) Regulations. I have no direct application for a board, although it has been discussed more than once.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he amend the Commonwealth Bank Act to provide that any proposed change for the restriction or contraction of its powers, limitation of its operations or abolition of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, shall not become operative in law until the question has first been submitted and approved by referendum at the next succeeding parliamentary general election?
– This involves an important matter of policy. It is not customary to make statements of policy in reply to questions.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
y asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– It is assumed that the honorable member is referring to determinations made by the Wheat Harvesting Commission constituted under the
National Security (Wheat Harvesting Commission) Regulations (Statutory Rules 1942, No. 471), as amended by Statutory Rules 1942, No, 487, which brought harvesters of barley within the scope of the powers of the Commission. The Commission made two determinations, both of which are still in force.
t asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Payments made to its employees by the Allied Works Council are in pursuance of industrial awards given by competent tribunals in respect of the particular class of work involved.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many meetings of the Australian House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, the United States House of Representatives, the Canadian House of Commons and the New Zealand House of Representatives, were held in each month during 1940, 1941 and 1942?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he supply the House with the following information regarding loans issued in Australia since the outbreak of war: -
flotation expenses per cent.?
– Following are particulars of public loans raised in Australia since the outbreak of war in 1939 : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information with respect to them: -
n. - The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer’s: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 January 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430129_reps_16_173/>.