16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from the Governor-General a message informing the House that the proposed law bo an act to amend Part IX. of the Navigation Act 1912-1935 relating to Courts of Marine Inquiry, which was reserved for His Majesty’s pleasure, has been laid before His Majesty in Council, and that His Majesty has, by an Order in Council dated the 16th day of December, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, confirmed, approved and declared his assent to it. The GovernorGeneral has caused The King’s assent to be proclaimed in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazelle, No. 31, dated the 10th February, 1943.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that there are no representatives of the users of superphosphate on the newly appointed committee which is dealing with the superphosphate industry? If so, will he state the reason?
– This is purely an inter-departmental committee; it represents the whole of the departments concerned, and also has on it representatives of the manufacturing interests. There is no necessity to have on it a representative of the users, because a definite arrangement, which operates automatically, has ‘been entered into by the respective States, through the Australian Agricultural Council, to deal with the rationing of supplies.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a progress statement concerning the disintegration that has begun in the ranks of the Opposition in this Parliament, evidence of which is furnished by the resignation of certain leading members from executive positions? If so, will the right honorable gentleman prophesy the final result from an electoral point of view?
– I am not able to add to whatever knowledge may be possessed by honorable members.
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture requested the Dairy Committee of Inquiry, on the 1st July, 1942, to bring down its report within a -month, and as the committee was, in effect, an arbitrational body, will the honorable gentleman take steps to have its award of ls. 5-Jd. per lb. for butter paid to the dairymen of Australia without further delay?
– I do not agree with the ‘honorable member’s interpretation of the position. After the committee had made known its decision, the matter wa? considered by the Government, with tb result that a subsidy of £2,000,000 per annum was granted to the industry.
– Can the Treasurer tell me why, when he decided that an interest payment of 2 per cent, should be made in respect of excess payments of income tax, he departed from the very sound precedent established by other successful and consistent collectors of other people’s cash, namely, Dick Turpin and Robin Hood, who did not pay 2 per cent, to any person?
– I judge that the honorable member is endeavouring to be jocular upon a rather serious matter.
– Recently, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made an arrangement in connexion with the supply of wheat to poultry- farmers at a rebated price, but the Department of Railways of New South Wales is unable to utilize, for the transport of wheat, trucks that are standing at certain sidings. Can the Minister make provision whereby poultry-farmers may pick up such wheat at a depot, or at the principal port, Sydney?
– I shall immediately take up the matter with “the State committee in Sydney, which is under the control of the Commonwealth authorities, in order to ascertain whether arrangements may be made along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make, at an early date, a statement concerning the action of the man-power authorities in Melbourne, in industrially conscripting boys of fifteen years of age immediately they had registered for -work, and ordering them to proceed to Shepparton and other fruit districts distant up to 150 miles from Melbourne?
– I shall institute urgent inquiries in respect of the matter, and hope to be able to make a statement upon it to the House to-morrow.
– Officers of the Army located at operational stations throughout the Commonwealth, and in other areas, are paid a field allowance of 3s. a day. Air Force regulations provide for the payment of a similar field allowance to Air Force officers in such circumstances, but I understand that the payment is not being made, although Air Force officers in operational areas have exactly the same living conditions as Army officers. Can the Minister for Air give the reason for this discrimination, and state when Air Force officers may be placed on the same basis as Army officers ?
– I understand that Army officers in operational areas provide their own equipment because they receive a field allowance. Early in the war, an understanding was arrived at that officers of theRoyal Australian Air Force should have equipment provided for them, and on that account were not to receive a field allowance. This proposition was agreeable to the officers concerned. I am not quite sure that I am fully informed on the matter, and if any further information comes to hand I shall pass it on to the honorable member.
– by leave - I propose to outline very briefly the financial proposals which will be submitted to Parliament during this session. They are -
The Commonwealth Government, in common with the other Governments of the United Nations, has subscribed to certain principles of national policies which were expressed in the Atlantic Charter and on which are based our hopes for a better future for the world. One of the aims is the securing for all of improved labour standards, economic advancement, and social security.
The Government is convinced that it would be a great mistake to postpone the pursuit of these objectives until after the war. They involve a wide range of activities and much investigation and planning is required.
Certain fundamental preliminary steps have already been taken. As honorable members are aware, each State government has undertaken to present to its Parliament a bill providing f or the transfer to the Commonwealth of additional powers which will be essential for the work of post-war reconstruction. In addition, the Commonwealth has recently established a ministry of post-war reconstruction whose task it will be to prepare plans now for re-establishing in peace-time occupations people whose activities are concentrated on war.
Broadly, our post-war aim must be the physical development of our country, linked up with expanded production and an increase of population. Measures directed to these ends must aim at ensuring a high level of employment, which is fundamental to economic advancement and social security.
Further measures are necessary to ensure minimum social standards throughout the community. Accordingly the Government now proposes to lay the foundation of a comprehensive scheme of National Welfare which will be developed progressively and will be brought into full operation after the war.
Some steps have already been taken by the Government in this direction. For instance, the rates of invalid and old-age pensions have been increased and a scheme of widows’ pensions introduced. National welfare, however, covers a much wider field than this. It includes health, sickness, unemployment and many other associated services. The subject of health alone embraces many items such as medical, hospital and’ dental services, and child and maternal welfare.
It is impracticable in war-time to devise and introduce a comprehensive scheme for all of these services. For example, under war conditions the strain on our medical and nursing services is particularly heavy. But investigations are proceeding, and it is anticipated that it will be found possible to give effect to some of the services either wholly or in part when the inquiries have been completed.
In respect of hospital services it will be necessary to secure the co-operation and assistance of State governments, and with their aid it is hoped to lay the foundations of an adequate post-war arrangement. The Parliamentary Committee on Social Security, which has already made some valuable reports, is now examining all aspects of the health services of the community, and its further reports are being awaited.
Substantial progress has been made in the preparation of unemployment and sickness benefit schemes, but some time must elapse before they canbe completed. It is expected that a scheme for unemployment benefits will be brought forward within six months, whilst a sickness benefit scheme may take three months longer.
There are, however, certain steps forward which it is possible to take immediately. They are -
The Government proposes to establish a national welfare fund through which provision will be made to finance the full scheme. Commencing from the 1st July next, it is proposed to pay to this fund out of general revenue an annual sum of £30,000,000, or a sum equal to onefourth of the total collections each year from income tax on individuals, whichever is the lower.
In its early stages the fund will build up some credit balances which will be used later when the welfare scheme reaches full operation. For instance, in the first year a substantial credit may accrue. These balances will not be allowed to remain idle but will be invested, and will thus provide a useful source of temporary finance for war purposes, which will be replaced by long-term borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes.
As honorable members are aware, a maternity allowance is paid, subject to a means test, for the birth of each child. The amounts are £4 10s., £5 or £7 10s. depending on the number of children in the family. It is now proposed to abolish the means test and to increase the first two of these allowances making the new range £5, where there are no other children in the family, £6 where there is one or two other children, and £7 10s. where there are three or more other children. For a full year the estimated cost is £740,000, as compared with the Budget Estimate for 1942-43, based on existing allowances of £375,000.
The Government also proposes to pay a new maternity benefit to all mothers at the rate of 25s. a week for eight weeks in respect of all new births. This benefit will not be subject to a means test. The object of this payment is to provide for the extra expenses in the home, such as clothing for the baby, and the provision of paid domestic help before and after confinement. The cost of the maternity benefit in a full year is estimated at £1,250,000.
Funeral Benefit to Invalid and Old-age Pensioners.
The Government proposes to make a contribution towards the funeral expenses of an invalid or old-age pensioner. Actual funeral expenses will be paid up to an amount of £10. The estimated cost is £260,000 for a full year. repatriation.
Recently the Government considered two reports by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation, and as a result decided to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to give additional benefits to male members of the forces and their dependants. From the financial point of view the most important of these changes are as follows : -
These proposals are estimated to cost £500,000 for the balance of this financial year and £1,750,000 during 1943-44.
Proposals will also be submitted to provide war pensions and other benefits for women’s auxiliaries.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Invalid pensioners at present receive a pension of 25s. a week, plus the costofliving allowance. The Government now proposes to pay an allowance of 15s. a week for dependent wives of invalid pensioners. In addition, it is proposed to pay 5s. a week for the unendowed child of an invalid pensioner. Thus under these arrangements an invalid pensioner with wife and children will receive apart from ordinary child endowment a total family benefit of 45s. a week, plus the cost-of-living allowance on the invalid pension itself. The benefits for dependants are estimated to cost £640,000 in a full year.
The Government proposes to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to provide for long service leave rights being granted to temporary employees who have given continuous service over very long periods. Details of the proposal will be given when the bill is submitted to the House. It is estimated that the cost to the Commonwealth will be about £20,000 a year.
Income Tax on Individuals.
The Government proposes to finance the National Welfare Scheme by taxation. The most equitable way in which this can be done is by increasing the income tax on individuals. Further testation is also required for the additional repatriation and other benefits that have been proposed.
Increases of uniform income tax on individuals are now proposed which are estimated to produce £40,000,000 in a full year. This sum will provide for the contribution to the National Welfare Fund and the increased repatriation and invalid pension benefits, and will also provide some further contribution for war purposes-.
I wish to make it clear that the proposed increases will not involve any change of the present methods under the
Uniform income tax scheme, whereby taxpayers make a return of their previous year’s income and are issued with a tax assessment based on that return. The increased tax will be obtained by increasing the present rates of uniform tax and lowering the exemption. The main features of the new proposals are -
Property rates to be the same as personal exertion rates up to £200. Thereafter the property rates will rise more steeply than personal exertion rates until at £1,000 they are 25 per cent, greater.
The lowering of the exemption will mainly affect single taxpayers without dependants. The married taxpayer with one child or more will still have the tax on at least £175 rebated and will not, therefore, he affected by the lower exemption.
It hasbeen the practice to impose higher rates of taxation on property income than on personal exertion income. It is now proposed to modify this in the lower ranges of income so as to avoid hardship to persons with small property incomes. In future there will be no difference in the rates up to £200.
It is proposed to introduce a scheme of continuous instalment deductions, from salaries and wages, commencing from the 1st April next. This requires some explanation of the present methods and the proposed alteration.
The income earned by a taxpayer in one year is the basis on which is calculated his tax liability for the following year. For example, on the income earned last year he is paying taxation in the current year. The account - or assessment as it is officially known - is not issued to the taxpayer until, say, February, 1943. In the meantime, to meet this liability, instalment deductions from salaries and wages commenced about the 1st August, 1942, and normally would be continued for about 40 weeks until sufficient instalments had been accumulated to meet the tax. If the instalments exceeded the tax liability, the taxpayer, on presenting his account to the Taxation Department, would be entitled to a certificate exempting him from further deductions and also to a refund of any overpayment. Deductions would then commence afresh in August, 1943, for the next tax liability on income earned during 1942-23.
The modifications of this scheme which are now proposed in conjunction with the increased tax liabilities are as follows : -
These deductions will conform to the tax rates for next year which are to be applied to income earned in the current year. In calculating these deductions provision will be made for dependants’ allowances as at present. In future provision on similar lines will also be made for other concessional allowances including medical expenses, superannuation contributions, life assurance, &c.
For the current year any excess instalments paid by the 1st April, 1943, will be refunded on application, but if a taxpayer so desires he may leave any balance with the Taxation Department towards meeting his tax liability for next year which is based on the income earned in 1942-43.
Further details will be given when the Income Tax Assessment Bill is brought down.
It is proposed to make some amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act in order to provide for further concessional allowances to which I shall refer briefly - members of the forces serving in australia.
The exemption of members of the forces serving in Australia will remain as at present, namely, £250. In order to ensure that the margins between ranks, after taxation, are not unduly reduced, the benefit from the concession will vanish at £587 instead of £355 as at present. Members of the women’s auxiliaries will also receive the benefit of this concession.
Members of the forces who are serving overseas, including Papua, are exempt from taxation in respect of their service pay and allowances. merchant seamen.
It is proposed that merchant seamen employed on a sea-going vessel shall receive the same concession as members of the forces serving in Australia. dependants’ allowances.
Under the present uniform tax scheme rebates of tax are given for family dependants. For children in excess of one. the present maximum rebate of tax is £5. It is now proposed to increase this to £8, in order that the maximum rebate may be reached at approximately the same income as under the present rates.
It is proposed to make a concessional allowance by way of rebate of tax to a widowed taxpayer in respect of a daughter keeping house. The rebate will be based on £100 where a taxpayer’s income does not exceed £200, and will diminish gradually until the concessional allowance ceases at £500.
It is also proposed that a concessional allowance by way of rebate of tax shall be given for an invalid child over sixteen years of age who is dependent on a taxpayer. The rebate will be based on an allowance of £75 which will be reduced by the amount of any pension payable under the Invalid Pensions Act. For the purpose of this allowance “ invalidity “ is to be defined in the same way as for the Invalid Pensions Act and to be subject to the same medical test but not to any means test.
This is a convenient opportunity to advise honorable members of the general position of war expenditure for the current year. When the budget was brought down in September, war expenditure was estimated at £440,000,000, made up of expenditure in Australia £390,000,000 and expenditure overseas £50,000,000.
Expenditure in Australia.
With regard to the position in Australia, our efforts both in the firing line and in the factory have steadily increased, and the drain on the nation’s resources has become so great that, as announced by the Prime Minister on the 18th
January, we are now faced wath the necessity for choosing between maintaining the strength of our fighting forces and maintaining our output of war materials and equipment.
This intensification of effort is reflected in the rapidly increasing war expenditure. In the first six months of this financial year, expenditure in Australia amounted to £231,000,000, well over half the budget estimate, and the rate of expenditure is now in excess of £40,000,000 a month.
It is clear that the ‘budget estimate of expenditure in Australia will be exceeded by a substantial amount ; but even at this stage, it is difficult to make any firm estimate of actual expenditure by the end of June. It is calculated, however, that the excess will be about £70,000,000.
To the end of December, overseas war expenditure amounted to £21,000,000 compared with the ‘budget estimate of £50,000,000 for the whole year. This estimate represented the amount of London Funds which, it was then contemplated, would be available, and it was stated in the budget speech that any expenditure in excess of London Fund? available would be covered by a special financial arrangement with the Government of the United Kingdom.
The latest estimate of our balance of payments indicates that we may be able to finance from our own resources about £80,000,000. However, our total liabilities for the maintenance of our forces abroad and for equipment, &c., are likely to exceed this sum. This excess, which cannot be forecast with any accuracy at this stage, will be covered by the special financial arrangement with the Government of the United Kingdom. We shall, however, have to provide finance for £80,000,000 of overseas expenditure instead of £50,000,000, an increase of £30,000,000 over the budget estimate.
The latest estimates of the financial position for the current financial year are given below together with the budget Estimates. The revised Estimates take into account the extra revenue to be col lected in this financial year from the taxation proposals already outlined -
– Yes. I shall now briefly review the financial policy of the Commonwealth. The rapid increase of war expenditure this year greatly intensifies the problem of excess spending power in the hands of the public. As the result of the Government’s war expenditure, employment and aggregate incomes are constantly increasing whilst the goods and services available for civilian spending are continually becoming less. This condition is not, of course, peculiar to Australia. Every country engaged in a war effort of comparable magnitude is confronted with a similar problem.
There are two serious dangers in the existence of a large amount of excess spending power in the hands of the public. The first is that, if it were unrestrained, it would compete against the Government for the additional man-power and materials that are vital to our defence and would interfere substantially with our war programme. This is the most, serious possible effect. The other is that it may force a strong and continuous rise of prices. The Government has been alive to both of these dangers and has taken continuous steps to control them. The measures taken fall under two headings, namely, financial measures including taxation and loans, and direct controls.
Theoretically it may be said that th” whole of the excess spending power should be taken in taxation, but in no country in war-time has that been attempted a’ even put forward as a practical proposal. There are practical limits to levels of taxation that can be imposed if we are to avoid inequities and harmful repercussions.
This Government has, however, increased taxation very substantially. In 1940-41, total taxation amounted to £125,000,000. In the current year, the estimate is approximately £225,000,000, excluding collections on behalf of the Slates.
– Does that sum include indirect taxation?
– That is total taxation. The proposals I have outlined provide for a further increase of £40,000,000 in a full year.
Income tax assessed on individuals for Commonwealth purposes was £7,000,000 in 1938-39, £30,000,000 in 1940-41, £50,000,000 in 1941-42 and the estimate for the current year is about £70,000,000. With the proposals now submitted, the estimate for a full year is £110,000,000. Taking into account the income tax levied on behalf of the ‘States, the yield from the proposed uniform income tax on individuals will be in excess of what would bc obtained if the United Kingdom rates were imposed in Australia, and is roughly equal to what would be collected under the combined rates of the United Kingdom for income tax and post-war credits..
With regard to loans, £120,000,000 whs raised by public loans in 1941-42 coinpared with £64,000,00 in 1940-41. In addition the recent loan was oversubscribed and realized a further £S3, 000,000 for war purposes from 455,000 subscribers. It is difficult to estimate what further sum will be raised, between now and the end of the financial year. In view of the high rate of increase of savings bank deposits, it is not unreasonable to expect a large response both from individuals and institution?, but we cannot expect the full amount, of loan finance required to be obtained from public borrowings.
The balance of finance required to pf” for war services - -after exhausting taxation and public borrowing - is being provided from treasury-bills.
The significance of the treasury-bill issue may be exaggerated unless the effect of the Government’s control of banking is fully understood. Trading hanks have not been allowed to subscribe to war loans and their excess investable funds have been immobilized. If the previous practice of allowing banks to subscribe to war loans had been followed - it is also the practice of most other countries - ;we might well have had something like £100,000,000 of loans from the banks in place of a like amount of the present treasury-bill issue. A considerable part of the banking loans would have represented genuine savings by the public or banking funds set free by the restriction of civil industry. Obviously this part of the loans would not have been inflationary. It follows that the corresponding amount of treasury-bills which have taken their place are also not inflationary. The volume of treasury-bills therefore cannot be taken as measuring inflationary forces.
I come now to the second method of control to which I have referred, viz., the direct physical control of resources. The importance of direct controls cannot be over-emphasized. They are essential to neutralize the excess spending power remaining in the hands of the public after taxation and loans. These controls must ensure that this excess spending power neither interferes with the prosecution of t.ho war nor forces a continuous rise of prices.
The Government is not allowing resources of man-power or material to be diverted from war purposes to private unessential use. In accordance with the powers given by Parliament, everything that is needed for the war programme - man-power, material and equipment - is being taken and used for war. Civil incomes can be spent only on what is left’ after war needs are satisfied.
Direct action has also been taken to control price movements. Price control was established at the beginning of the war in order to allow only such increase of prices as was made necessary, by unavoidable increases of costs. Prices have risen in Australia in about the same degree as in most other allied countries. This rise is largely accounted for by increases of cost due to rising import and export prices, indirect taxation and some decline in the production efficiency of the resources which have been left for civil purposes after war needs have been met.
As excess spending power accumulates, price control is becoming more active and more positive. Price control policy will be continually developed in this direction. The Government is watching the position closely and. will take such further specific measures as may be necessary.
The Government has also supported price control by the rationing of clothing; tea and sugar, and has ensured the equitable distribution of these important commodities. At the same time rigid controls over production and distribution have been enforced which, together with price control and rationing, have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to spend that part of their income which is left after paying taxation. This unspendable margin can find no outlet other than in contributions to war loans or in idle bank deposits or holdings of notes. To the extent that the unspendable margin is not subscribed to war loans it is reflected in an increase in treasury-bills.
As the volume of excess spending power grows we shall need to exercise progressively stronger control over the use of man-power, materials and equipment, and to ensure effective price control and equitable distribution of goods to the consumer. Nevertheless the dangers of excess spending power have been guarded against in. the past and will be guarded against in the future.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Financial statement, by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
– When the business now before the House has been disposed of, the honorable member for Hunter may raise his point.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be madefor the purposes of a bill for an act to establish a national welfare fund.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Holloway do pre pare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr.Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the financial statement which I have just submitted to the House, I outlined the Government’s post-war aims in relation to the economic advancement and social security of this country. To secure these aims the Government is convinced that it is necessary to ensure minimum social standards throughout the community. It therefore proposes to introduce a comprehensive scheme of national welfare and to develop it progressively. Thewelfare scheme includes health, sickness, unemployment and other associated services. The parts of the scheme which it is proposed to introduce immediately are a new maternity benefit and the liberalization of the present maternity allowance, and the provision of funeral benefits for old-age and invalid pensioners. Investigations of unemployment and sickness benefit schemes are proceeding. It is anticipated that the unemployment benefit scheme will be brought down within six months, and that the sickness benefit scheme will be introduced three months later. The several health services will need much detailed preparation. It may be impracticable to introduce a complete health service during the war.
The chief purpose of this bill is to establish a national welfare fund to finance the scheme. The fund will take the form of a trust account under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1934.
Commencing from the 1st July, 1943, it is proposed to pay to the National Welfare Fund out of ‘Consolidated Revenue an annual sum of (a) £30,000,000; or (b) a sum equal to one-quarter of the total collections each year from income tax on individuals, whichever may be the lower. At a later stage proposals for increased taxation will be brought down to provide the necessary revenue for the fund.
Clause 5 provides that the fund “ shall be applied to making such payments as are directed by any law of the Commonwealth to be made, in relation to health services, unemployment or sickness benefits, family allowances or other welfare or social services “. It is not possible to indicate now what are likely to be the Charges on the fund in the next financial year. They will cover the three services which I have just mentioned - maternity benefit, maternity allowance and funeral benefits. Sickness and unemployment benefit - which, as 1 have said, will probably be introduced within nine months - will also be a charge on the fund for a part of the year. In the earlier stages, the fund will build up credit balances, which will be used later when the welfare scheme reaches full operation. These balances will not be allowed to remain idle, but will be invested and will provide a useful source of temporary finance for war purposes, which will be replaced by permanent borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes. Interest from the investment of any moneys standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund will be credited to the fund.
Debate (on motion by Sir FREDERICK Stewart) adjourned.
– Whether further questions will be answered is a matter for the Government to determine. I confirm the statement of the Treasurer that there was a slight pause before he rose, during which period no honorable member rose to ask a further question. In the circumstances, the honorable member for Hunter is not entitled to ask a question now.
– I strongly object to the procedure that has been adopted. It has always been the practice for Mr. Speaker to call on government business. This was not done. The Treasurer intervened during the period devoted to the asking of questions. He was given leave to make a statement; but he followed that by introducing a bill. What has been done is grossly unfair.
– I assure the honorable member that I would not have risen had an honorable member been on his feet.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my financial statement, I have already acquainted honorable members of the Government’s proposal to obtain an additional £40,000,000 from income tax. After exploring the various avenues from which this additional revenue might be obtained, the Government is of opinion that the most equitable method of raising it is by imposing an all-over increase on the individual income tax rates, and by entering the income tax field below the present minimum of £156. The proposed new rates will commence at 6d. in the £1, and will reach a maximum of 18s. 6d. I shall explain these new rates in greater detail when I move the resolution for the purpose of imposing rates of tax for the financial year 1943-44. ‘
An important feature of the bill now before the House is the proposal to modify the provisions relating to the collection of income tax by instalments.
The system of collecting tax by instalments, which was introduced on the 1st January, 1941, has proved of immeasurable assistance to employee taxpayers in meeting the burden of war taxation. As I have already explained in the financial statement, ‘ it i3 now proposed to extend the instalment system so that the burden of tax will be evenly distributed throughout the year. Under the present system, instalment deductions usually commence on the 1st August in each year, and continue until the tax payable for that financial year has been paid. When the tax has been paid, the employee is given a certificate exempting him from further deductions until the 1st August following. The result is that instalments are deducted throughout a period averaging approximately 40 weeks in each year. The Government proposes to spread the deductions over the whole of the 52 weeks of the year, instead of requiring the tax to be met in a period of 40 weeks. The Income Tax Assessment Act contains provisions empowering the Commissioner to issue certificates of exemption for any period, and to cancel those certificates. The Commissioner will take action to cancel all existing certificates of exemption on the 1st April, 1943, so that deductions for the new instalment year will commence on that date. By the 31st March, 1944, the tax in most instances will be due for payment, and all employees will have accumulated instalments for 52 weeks.
The establishment of new industries connected with the conduct of the war, and the volume of overtime which has had to be worked owing to the shortage of man-power, have resulted in increased incomes being received by many employees. With the termination of the war, the activities of many of these industries will return to normal, and overtime payments will decrease; in consequence, the incomes of employees will diminish. Out of their diminished incomes, employees will find it necessary to pay tax based upon the greater income of the last year of war. To assist in the payment of that tax, it is proposed that employees shall build up credits by using any excess instalment deductions made during the war period. The scale of instalment deductions to be prescribed will take into consideration the concessional rebates allowed for dependants, which, in the average case, are allowed also for other items, such as superannuation, life assurance, and medical expenses. There is provision in the bill for the Commissioner to reduce instalment deductions in any instance in which the concessional rebates allowable are not adequately catered for in the prescribed scale. Thus, the excess instalments to be retained will, generally speaking, be confined to those that arise from increased incomes. A certificate of credit will be issued to any taxpayer whose excess instalments are held by the Commissioner. The amount of the instalments shown in the certificate will bear interest at the rate of 2 per centum per annum during the time the excess instalments are so held. It is not proposed that all excess instalments shall be held as a credit, but only so much as will be necessary to meet the following year’s assessment. By a specific provision in the bill, any excess instalments accumulated by a taxpayer to the 31st March, 1943, will be refunded to him and will not be subject to the provisions which require excess instalments to be retained by the Commissioner. If, however, the taxpayer chooses to leave the excess with the Commissioner, he may do so, and interest at 2 per centum per annum will be payable thereon.
The opportunity provided by the introduction of this bill is being taken to implement a number of other decisions at which the Government has arrived in regard to matters affecting income tax. The first of these is concerned with the exemption provided by section 23s of the act in respect of the pay and allowance of members of the defence forces. Under the law as it stands, the exemption of pay and allowances earned in Australia by a member of the military forces prior to embarkation for service in the territories applies to members who (o) joined the forces by enlistment in or appointment for service beyond the limits of the Commonwealth; and (&) are members of the Militia Forces and have not transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. In respect of members of the Militia Forces who have transferred to the Australian Imperial Force, the effect of the proviso which it is proposed to repeal is to deny to them the exemption of pay and allowances earned in Australia prior to transfer. The amendment will remove this anomaly, and will confer the full exemption upon all members of the forces serving in the territories of the Commonwealth.
Although the minimum income on which income tax is to be imposed is, in respect of civilians, to be reduced from £15’6 to £104, the Government does not propose to reduce the existing special deduction of £250 allowed to members of the defence forces. Margins between ranks, after taxation, will be substantially preserved by extending the concession to incomes up to £586, compared with incomes of £354 under the present scale.
It is proposed, also, that the special deduction granted to members of the defence forces shall apply to sea-going members of the mercantile marine serving round the Australian coast and on the high seas. A deduction will not, however, be allowed to personnel serving in harbour and river craft.
The increase of the rates of tax has occasioned consideration of the rebates of tax allowed in respect of the domestic responsibilities of taxpayers. These have been recognized by the Government, and it is proposed to extend the personal allowances to include concessions in respect of a dependent invalid child of the taxpayer over sixteen years of age, and a dependent daughter who is keeping house for a widowed father or mother. As in the case of other concessional allowances, these concessions will be made by way of rebates of tax, The allowance in respect of the daughter-housekeeper will be based on an amount of £100, diminishing as the taxpayer’s income progresses, until it ceases when his income reaches £500. The allowance in respect of the invalid child will be based upon an amount of £75. This amount will, however, be reduced by the amount of any invalid pension paid by the Commonwealth in respect of the child, and the test of invalidity will be the same as that under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, although there will be no means test. In regard to dependent children under the age of sixteen years, the present maximum rebate for each child in excess of one is £5. It is> proposed to increase this to £8 to ensure that the maximum rebate shall be reached at approximately the same income as under the present rates.
Another concession contained in the bill is the provision for an allowance in respect of gifts to a State government for the purposes of defence. Gifts made by taxpayers to the national emergency services organized by the States will be subject to this concession.
The bill also contains a drafting amendment re-expressing the provisions of section 23a of the act. This section was enacted last session to grant a special exemption to the metalliferous mining industry engaged in the production of base metals and rare minerals required for war purposes. When the provision was enacted the Government had in contemplation that the exemption should apply as a stimulus to the production of those metals and minerals in short supply, or in danger of being in short supply in Australia, and urgently required for the production of war materials. The particular metals and minerals to which the Government has decided that the exemption should apply have since been specified in theIncome Tax Regulations. The basic ideaof the concession was that one-fifth of the profit arising from the production of the prescribed base metal or rare mineral, should be exempt from taxation. In. many instances mining operations result in the production of a prescribed metal or mineral in combination with metalsand minerals to which the concession wasnot intended to apply. In those cases, the present provision is open to the construction that the exemption extends tothe total profit derived from the miningoperations, including profits not intended to be included in the exempt class. Theproposed amendment will ensure that; the exemption will be limited to the profit derived from the prescribed base metals; or rare minerals.
A provision is being inserted in thelaw requiring taxpayers engaged in business to keep their records in the English, language, and to preserve such recordsfor a period of ten years. Great difficulty is being’ experienced in examining books* of accounts of nationals of other countries ^ who keep the books in their own languages. As honorable members are well aware, it is not an uncommon practice for taxpayers to try to avoid their taxation liabilities by lodging false returns with the Commissioner of Taxation, but when the affairs of the taxpayer are being investigated, the department is confronted with the fact that the taxpayer has not preserved his books and records, or has never, in fact, kept any proper books. This makes the task of the Commissioner in discovering the true income of the taxpayer exceedingly difficult. In any case in which the Commissioner notifies the taxpayer that the books and records need no longer be preserved, the taxpayer will be at liberty to destroy them. In the case of a company which has gone into liquidation and has been finally dissolved, there will be no obligation to retain the records. Apart from the division relating to the registration of tax agents, the remaining provisions of the bill are relatively unimportant, and do not call for any special comment here.
Honorable members may recall that the Royal Commission on Taxation 1932- 1934, in its third report, expressed the opinion that the registration of tax agents would be in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the Taxation Department. The royal commissioner said that registration would provide an assurance to both the taxpayer and the department that a person authorized to act on behalf of a taxpayer i3 reputable and competent. It would prevent exploitation of the taxpayer by unscrupulous persons who may ultimately involve him in serious trouble, and, perhaps, penalties. Moreover, it would also enable the department to deal effectively with such unscrupulous persons. These views of the royal commissioners, with which I agree, were approved by the government of the day, but at that time a system of registration was already in operation in the States of Queensland and South Australia, and it was decided to leave the matter to the States, in order to avoid duplication. In due course, the States of Tasmania and New South Wales enacted legislation requiring the registration of tax agents. Registration has not been required in Victoria or Western Australia. Since the passage of the uniform income tax legislation last year, however, the State laws relating to income rax are in suspense, and the establishment of a system of Commonwealth registration becomes necessary. Clauses have been inserted in the bill which are designed to give effect to the Government’s .proposal in this regard. The proposal to establish a separate board in each’ State accords with the royal commission’s recommendation. Each board is to consist of three members - namely, the Accountant of the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury in the State, who shall be chairman of the board ; the Commonwealth Chief Auditor for the State; and a third person who is to be appointed by the Governor-General, and who will no doubt be a person professionally engaged in connexion with income tax matters.
Where, however, as in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, a State board has already been constituted under the State income tax laws, provision is made to enable that board to function as a Commonwealth board. It will be subject to the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth law except as regards the appointment of chairman and acting chairman. Under the South Australian law, the Registrar of Companies has been entrusted with the duty of registering tax agents for several years past. As it is desired to utilize the services of this experienced official, there is a provision in the bill under which he may be appointed to the board instead of the Commonwealth Chief Auditor of the State.
The bill provides for the payment’ of a registration fee of £1. Annual registration, however, is not to he required. Once a person is registered -by a board his registration will remain effective until it is cancelled, by a board. It is considered that if a person is already registered as a tax agent for State income tax purposes he should not be required to pay another fee for registration for Commonwealth purposes, and this is provided for, although any tax agent seeking registration for Commonwealth purposes will be required to make application to the Commonwealth board.
Two most important features of the proposals are - first, that subject to minor exemptions, no person other than a registered tax agent may charge a fee for preparing income tax returns; and, secondly, that on every income tax return prepared by a registered tax agent, the agent’s certificate shall be signed by a person registered by the board. The bill also contains a number of provisions essential for the effective working of the scheme, which is designed to come into force on a date to be fixed by proclamation. If the Opposition concurs the Government is prepared to submit the bill to the Special Committee on Taxation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Division A. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
If the taxable income does not exceed £300, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £100 be 6 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £100 be 30.165 pence increasing uniformly by . 165 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £101.
If the taxable income exceeds £300 but does not exceed £1,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £300 be 44 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £300 be 96.01 pence increasing uniformly by . 01 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £301.
If the taxable income exceeds £1,000 but does not exceed £2,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £1,000 be 85.3 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £1,000 be 110.033 pence increasing uniformly by . 033 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £1,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,000 but does not exceed £3,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,000 be 114.15 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £2,000 be 176.015 pence increasing uniformly by . 015 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £3,000 but does not exceed £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £3,000 be 139.76 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £3,000 be 206.004 pence increasing uniformly by . 004 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £3,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £5,000 be 169.46 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £5,000 be 222 pence.
Division B. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Property.
If the taxable income docs not exceed £200 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £100 be 6 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £100 be 30.165 pence increasing uniformly by . 165 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £101.
If the taxable income exceeds £200 but does not exceed £300 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £200 be 26.25 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £200 be 75.74 pence increasing uniformly by 24 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £201.
If the taxable income exceeds £300 but does not exceed £1,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £300 be 50.6 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £300 be 123.51 pence increasing uniformly by 01 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £301.
If the taxable income exceeds £1,000 but does not exceed £2,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £1,000 be 106.55 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £1,000 be 137.534 pence increasing uniformly by . 034 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £1,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,000 but does not exceed £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,000 be 139.025 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £2,000 be 205.50275 pence increasing uniformly by . 00275 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,001.
If the taxable income exceeds £5,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £5,000 be 183.86 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £5,000 be 222 pence.
Division C. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
Division D. - Rates of Tax by Reference to an Average Income.
DivisionE - Rate of Tax by Reference to a Notional Income.
DivisionF. - Tax Payable on Certain Incomes of less than £113.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last five preceding Divisions, where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax payable in respect of a taxable income of less than One hundred and thirteen pounds would, after deducting all rebates to which a taxpayer is entitled in his assessment, be greater than fifty per centum of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds One hundred and four pounds, the income tax payable in respect of that taxable income shall be fifty per centum of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds One hundred and four pounds.
DivisionG. - Tax Payable Where Amount Would Otherwise be Less than Ten Shillings.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last six preceding Divisions, where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax which a person would be liable to pay after deducting all rebates to which he is entitled in his assessment, is less than Ten shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Ten shillings.
DivisionH. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, pursuant to either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936- 1943, to be assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A. B, C, D orE, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
DivisionI. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Company.
Subject to the last preceding Division, for every pound of the taxable income of a company the rate of tax shall be -
Division J. - Tax Payable inhere Amount would Otherwise Include Odd Pence.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding Divisions, if, apart from this Division, the income tax which a person, before deducting any rebate to which he is entitled in his assessment, would be liable to pay, leaves an amount of pence remaining when expressed in pounds and shillings -
if the remaining pence exceed six - the income tax payable by that person shall be the amount so expressed in pounds and shillings plus one shilling.
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply-
to so much of that part of the taxable income of a life assurance company which has been derived from its life assurance business as bears the same proportion to such part of the taxable income as the amount of the profits divided for the same year of income among the life assurance policy holders of the company bears to the total profits of the company’s life assurance business for the same year of income.
The rates of income tax on individuals proposed in the motion will increase revenue from this source by £40,000,000 to a total of £132,000,000 in a full assessment year. Although the rates will apply to the 1943-1944 assessment, they form an integral part of the Government’s plan to obtain additional revenue of £8,000,000 in the current financial year. As has been explained to honorable members, the additional revenue to be raised during this year will be obtained primarily by varying the present system of instalment deductions. The deductions to be made after the 1st April will be based on the higher rates set out in the resolution. The proposed rates of tax follow the form adopted for uniform income taxation and are designed so that the tax on each additional pound of income will be slightly greater than that on the preceding pound. For personal exertion incomes the tax on each additional pound of income increases continuously until it reaches a maximum of 18s. 6d. in the pound, when the taxable income reaches £5,000. Thereafter the tax on each £1 of income in excess of £5,000 remains constant at18s. 6d. in the £1. The average rate of tax commences at 6d. in the £1, rises to approximately 14s.1½d. in the £1 at an income of £5,000 and thereafter continues to increase towards the maximum of 18s. 6d. in the £1.
The effective exemption for taxpayers without children has been reduced from £156 to £104. The commencing rate has been correspondingly reduced from 8d. in the £1 on the first £150 to 6d. in the £1 on the first £100.
A new principle has been adopted in the rates of tax for property incomes. It has been customary in recent years to provide that the rates of property tax shall be 25 per cent, higher than personal exertion rates up to the point where the maximum rate is reached. Under the present proposals this practice has been modified. The Government considers that the heavy increases of tax now proposed would be unduly harsh to persons receiving very small property income if they were asked to pay 25 per cent, more than a corresponding income from personal exertion. Accordingly, it is proposed that the rates of tax on property income shall be the same as those on personal exertion income for all incomes up to £200. Thereafter the differentiation rises rapidly to the customary 25 per cent., being 15 per cent, at an income of £300, 23 per cent, at an income of £500 and the full 25 per cent, at an income of £1,000. The maximum rate on income from property is reached at £5,000, the rate of tax on income in excess of £5,000 being 18s. 6d. in the £1. The average Tate of tax on a property income of £5,000 is approximately 15s. 4d. in the £1.
The effect of the changes of rates of tax can be seen in Schedule A which has been furnished to honorably members. Schedule B, which has also been distributed, shows the change in the weekly deductions which will be made after the 1st April. The proposed scale of deductions not only makes allowance for dependants, but also makes normal Allowance for other concessional deductions such as medical expenses, superannuation payments, and life assurance. The tax concession properly made for these commitments will be reflected week by week in the deductions, and the taxpayer will not be required to wait six or nine months till he receives the concession. Moreover, if the taxpayer has exceptional commitments of this nature, he will be able to apply to the Commissioner for a further reduction of his weekly payments.
– by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) called my attention to the fact that a circular issued by the Liverpool Press, of 243 Collins-street, Melbourne, “has been sent to many relatives of members of the Services who had fallen in action. Other honorable members have -recently called attention to the circular, which has also been referred to by the press.
The circular states to the relative that the name of the deceased soldier is worthy of inclusion in an historical work which the Liverpool Press has in the course of preparation. It also states that certain -men have stood out in clear perspective for gallantry and devotion to duty and that the particular serviceman whose relative is being addressed “ belongs to this group and it is our desire to honour him as such “. The circular also represented that the historical work was to be published in two volumes and would be printed on high-grade paper, &c, and that a special presentation copy would be posted on publication. It also asserted that Volume 1 was “ nearing completion “. Finally - and this is the point - the circular stated that “ owing to the enormous cost of producing a work of this nature we are compelled to ask you for a fee of £1 10s. for the service rendered.”
Very careful inquiries have been made into the so-called Liverpool Press, which issued the circular. The conclusion reached is that the scheme is not bona fide but is designed to cheat and defraud. It appears that the name of the man responsible is Cyril “Walter Thornton, alias Jack Russell, alias James Russell, alias Julian Russell, alias John Russell, alias John Maxwell.
He is well known to the police of all States; more recently he has become the subject of activities by military intelligence and the Security Service. The man has a long criminal history. He has frequently been convicted for false representation, false pretences, obtaining money by fraud, and similar offences.
Normally this type of person can be dealt with by the ordinary criminal law. However, since the outbreak of war he has been guilty of a class of crime suggesting that he has become a menace to national security and the successful prosecution of the war. He first came under notice when attached as an interpreter sergeant to an internment camp. He was there charged with larceny of property belonging to an internee and was convicted. He was released from gaol, and his next conviction was for falsely representing himself as a military intelligence officer. He was sentenced to six months. In February, 1941, he was responsible for the delaying of the departure from Newcastle of a ship by wilful misbehaviour. His permit was suspended and revoked. Subsequently he obtained use of a permit under a false name and was sentenced to six months hard labour on two charges - first, using a false name to gain admittance to a prohibited place; second, being in unlawful possession of a permit issued to another person. He was recently released from gaol after serving these sentences for security offences. He then commenced this Liverpool Press business in Victoria.
As I say, the investigating officers are satisfied that the plan for publishing an historical record is not bona fide. Action has therefore been taken to-day to liquidate the business and, as far as is possible, to return the subscriptions to those relatives who seem to have been cheated by the circular.
A special National Security Regulation has been passed to prevent the repetition of similar attempts to defraud. In future, attempts to obtain advance payments in respect of the purchase of historical records of war service is forbidden without permission in writing and on such terms and conditions as may be specified. In any case, where money has been collected, provision is made for the establishment of special trust accounts. “Where, as in the present case, adverse action is taken in relation to such a scheme the money standing to the credit of accounts is to be devoted as far as practicable to the purpose of reimbursing those persons who have paid money in advance for the purchase of the historical work.
I think the regulation will satisfactorily deal with future cases of the same kind. It has been put into force immediately so as to prevent any further distress and loss on the part of relatives who have sent money to the Liverpool Press in the circumstances I have mentioned.
With regard to Thornton, alias Russell, the Director-General of Security has expressed the opinion that the acts of the man have been so detrimental to the war effort, that his criminal record excludes the possibility of employing him on war service without creating an undue security risk, and that punishment alone is inadequate to prevent similar acts detrimental to security. He has therefore recommended the man’s detention and that recommendation is being put into effect immediately.
Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 487), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the hill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. ARCHIE Cameron had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That,” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that any member of the Citizen Military Forces may be required to serve anywhere beyond the limits of Australia.”
.- This bill raises issues of transcendental importance, upon which honorable members shortly must cast their vote. Since my view differs from that held by most of my colleagues, I propose to give reasons at some length for my opinion.
The introduction of this legislation led to an extraordinary development in parliamentary procedure. Many Ministers preserved a significant silence, and even those who have spoken in support of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) hardly referred to the measure. The Opposition was presented with an opportunity to implement in full a principle in which it firmly believes, but honorable members on this side of the House resolved to vote with the Government, although they trenchantly criticized the measure. I shall examine the two reasons which they advanced for this attitude. First, they claimed that the bill represents a step, if only a small one, towards their goal ; and, secondly, that if the measure be defeated, the Australian Imperial Force will be left to fight alone in New Guinea for some months. When those contentions are analysed, as shortly they will be, they are found to be unsubstantial. Since the public has been informed of the action of the executive of the Opposition, it is only fair that I should explain my attitude. I acknowledge that, as a member of the executive, I was a party to the formulation of the recommendation that the Opposition should support the bill.
– A man is entitled to change his opinion once or twice.
– Three times.
– I do not propose to be side-tracked. I have come to the conclusion that my responsibility is to explain my attitude on the floor of the House.
– The honorable member may not be entitled to sit in this chamber much longer.
– It will not be long before we on this side occupy the treasury bench.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I hope that, at least from this side of the chamber, honorable members will not make interjections that will draw from me certain replies. I do not desire to create disunity among members of the Opposition. But, if provocative comments are made, I shall reply to them. During the last few days, the House has witnessed an extraordinary spectacle. Honorable members opposite, who are bound to vote for the measure, expressed strenuous opposition to the principle underlying it. Honorable members on this side of the House will vote for the bill, although they bitterly stigmatized it.
– Why not be fair and say that the Leader of the Opposition was instructed by the party regarding the course that he should take?
– If I am given the opportunity, without interruption, I shall endeavour to be fair in my presentation, but I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will not provoke me by interjection. I desire to indicate the principles that have guided me in deciding my attitude to this bill. My responsibilities in the matter are on the floor of the House. What a man says or does beforehand can be a valid subject of criticism for what he does on the floor of the House, but my responsibility is to the people of this country. Whilst we have an obligation to mould the public opinion of this country, we have an additional obligation to seek to interpret public opinion. I have not the slightest doubt that there has been a deep moral revulsion among people against this measure, and the conclusion at which I have arrived is that it is my duty to vote against the bill. Vital issues are at stake. Honorable members on this side have always advocated the principle of “ no restrictions upon overseas service”. I differ from my colleagues not upon the principle, but upon the implementation of the principle. On that issue, we are irrevocably divided. In the circumstances, I took the only course which was open to me, and indicated to my leader before the party meeting yesterday my attitude towards the bill. As I was a member of the executive of the party which had formulated the recommendations, my proper course was to resign from the executive. I have done so.
– .Will the honorable member resign from the Advisory War Council ?
– Does the honorable member want my seat upon it?
– The honorable member is not likely to advance the cause of the Opposition if he makes these comments while I am speaking. I did not interject when he or any other honorable member addressed the House, and I ask for the same courtesy of being heard without interruption. This issue affects not only our internal security, but also our international reputation. The reputation of Australia is at present in the process of being moulded, and ‘China and the United States of America are watching us very closely. When I was abroad recently, I realized that our prestige is in need of repair. If this measure is passed, irreparable damage will be done to our reputation. On my voyage through the Pacific area I saw soldiers of the army of the United States of America stationed on islands almost bordering on our own shores, and, as honorable members know, many American troops are actually in this country. I also saw many troops from New Zealand on those islands. The Southwestern Pacific Zone, which has been defined in this bill, cannot be justified by any strategical conception as to the area, or by any strategical conceptions as to our own obligations.
We should pay some attention to the effect that the passage of this bill may have upon our prestige overseas. In this connexion, we should ask ourselves two questions ; first, what will be the effect of the passage of the bill on our prestige overseas, and, secondly, to what extent will the passage of the bill assist us to discharge our strategic responsibilities?
There can be no doubt whatever that in defending this country we are primarily dependent on the goodwill of the United States of America. The security of Australia depends largely upon our obtaining help from America. I am sure that the Prime Minister will con cede that without American help our position would be perilous indeed. Upon the continuance of that help our whole fortunes depend. To continue to obtain such help we must retain the goodwill of the United States. But the matter does not stop there. “We all hope that a better world will be established after the war. We all desire also that Australia shall play a more important part in the international sphere after the war., and! that our prestige among the nations shall be high. Our ability to do anything worth while at the peace table will depend upon our prestige among the United Nations. “We should, therefore, keep in mind the two overriding considerations that I have mentioned.
I have come to my present position only through unhappy passes with my colleagues on this side of the chamber; but I have concluded that the discharge of my duty requires that I shall vote against this measure. It was no simple matter for me to reach this conclusion and to find that, after five years of association with my colleagues, I had to break with them. But I shall break with any colleagues, or with any party, when I feel that my duty as a member of the Parliament demands it.
– And when there is political danger.
– I see no political danger; nor do I see any political benefit to be gained by me through doing what I am doing.
Let us consider for a few moments some of the epithets that have been applied to this measure. I am asked to sign a page of history which my leader has described as a “ smeared page “. I am asked to take a step, albeit a small step, along the path of dishonour. I am asked to support a measure which has been described as “ pitiful “ and “paltry”. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) last night made one of the best speeches he has ever made in this House, and it was packed full of reasons why this limited measure should be opposed. Yet it must be confessed that the honorable gentleman brought his speech to an anti-climax. Every argument that he advanced really justi fiedopposition to the measure, yet he intimated that he intended to vote for it. The unlimited scorn that has been heaped upon this bill emphasizes the propriety of the stand that I am taking. Support of the measure has been described as “ a small step “ yet it is one which leads along the path of dishonour-. It has been characterized as a “ smeared page “ of history, and I am asked to sign my name to that page.
– Does not the honorable gentleman consider that the bill establishes a principle ?
– I do not. No principle is established which has not already been established in the enunciation of government policy upon this subject. I see no merit whatever’ in placing this bill upon the statute-book simply to mark some declaration of policy by the Government.
– The bill affirms a principle.
– The honorable gentleman may think so; I do not. I repeat that I can see no virtue whatever in placing a measure upon the statutebook merely to affirm some declaration on behalf of the Government with which I totally disagree. I cannot see how the Prime Minister or any member of his Government can recede from the step which has been taken whatever may happen to this bill. I certainly am not prepared to assist in turning over what has been described as a “smeared page” in our history.
– The honorable gentleman has had a fortnight in which to reconsider a recommendation which he endorsed as a member of his party executive.
– It is true that I have been able to give the matter consideration for another fortnight.
– With a trained legal mind !
– I say to the honorable member, as I say to other honorable gentlemen in this House, that having come to the conclusion that I made a mistake, I believe it to be my duty not to confirm the mistake, by confusing obstinacy with courage, but to admit the mistake. I believe that having made a mistake in judgment the proper course for me to take is to retrace my steps rather than to persist in my error, :ind I make no apology for doing so.
What possible advantage do honorable gentlemen imagine that I should obtain by taking this course of action? This is an unpleasant course for me to take, and I cannot see how it can be imagined that it will afford me any advantage. In any case, I consider it to be my duty to state my views in this House as a responsible representative of the people. I have noticed in a section of the press to-day a suggestion that the motive of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and myself is merely to prostitute our position in public life for our own personal advantage. I wish to say clearly that I am taking this stand because I .believe that I ought to take it. My record in this Parliament and in my own party is a suffiwent reply to the accusations in the newspapers to which I refer.
– The honorable gentleman entered this Parliament without a party.
– That is so. I have always endeavoured to retain an independent mind and to hold independent views, and I shall continue to do so.
Let me develop some of the reasons why this “pitiful” and “paltry” measure, this “ smeared page “ in our history should, not receive the approbation of this Parliament. I begin with a statement made by the Prime Minister on the 18th November last. At a special conference of the Australian Labour party held in Melbourne the right honorable gentleman moved -
That, having regard to the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence, the Government bo authorized to add to the definition of the territories to which the Defence Act extends the following words: - “and such other territories in the South-west Pacific Area as the Governor-General proclaims as being territories associated with ‘the defence of Australia.”
At that time the Prime Minister clearly had >u mind the South-west Pacific Area as we knew it at th alt time, and not the South-western Pacific Zone defined in the bill. But he has changed his mind somewhat.. We now find that the area to which he then referred has been reduced. Upon reflection the right honorable gentleman proposed that the- extended area in which our Militia shall serve shall be what is now called the Southwestern Pacific Zone and not the Southwest Pacific Area that he earlier had in mind. That is the area under General Douglas Mac Arthur’s command. Subsequently, a zone was fixed which stopped at the Equator. I asked the Prime Minister, when he was making his speech, who had advised the drawing up of the map, and who had assisted to draw it. Any person with a knowledge of the countries through which the lines of this zone pass would not have drawn such a map, and I cannot imagine its having been drawn except on the basis of political expediency.
– The honorable gentleman does not suggest that I drew the map of the South-west Pacific Area !
– No. Somebody drew the map of the zone, and I have a good idea who it was.
– We all have had a hand in defining the areas.
– I have heard it suggested that the Advisory War Council had some responsibility in respect of the South-west Pacific Area. I am speaking now of the zone which stops at the Equator. It appears to me that the argument that the zone alone must be considered for the purpose of determining the degree of liability for overseas service is specious. The Prime Minister himself has said that there is nothing to prevent the Navy or the Air Force from serving beyond that area ; yet he seeks to confine the area in which the Militia shall serve. Examination] convinces’ one that the Government has been driven to desperate straits in order to justify the area proposed. Who drew the line at the Equator? Certainly the only relationship of the fixed zone to the South-west Pacific Area is that it is a part of that’ area. It cuts through countries or islands in a manner which has no bearing upon any strategic considerations. I challenge the Prime Minister to state what service advice he received when the map was drawn. Despite what was said by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) in regard to the extent of 4he territory involved, the cold fact is that this measure has no real value in respect of only the mainland of
New Guinea, Timor, and the islands between those places.
A booklet of important speeches of the Prime Minister states further -
On 20th November, 1942, Mr. Curtin, in a discussion on war strategy, said that Australia was at present being defended on an outer screen running through New Guinea, the Southern Solomons, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Fiji. If the more eastern parts of the screen were held, we could defend the eastern part of Australia from the Owen Stanley Range in New Guinea. If the Japanese could be pushed out of the Solomons and New Guinea, he would have to retire to his bases in the Marshall Islands. It was better to keep the eastern mart of Australia inviolate from the ravages of war by keeping the enemy at arms’ length than to let him in. The same applied to the defence of the northern and western part of Australia, where the battle would have to be fought in Timor and the islands adjacent thereto. These islands were within the theatre of the Southwest Pacific and were vital to the holding of the Commonwealth. Because of the nature of the continent of Australia, it became in fact a series of military islands, the movement to and from each involving grievous transport problems, all of them making mobility a matter of difficulty and talcing time.
The right honorable gentleman concluded with these words -
The delays in this connexion were a bitter handicap in dealing with the enemy. That was why one army under one command for the military operations in the South-west Pacific was now a military necessity.
If those words are to be given the value which one is entitled to place upon the expressions of the Prime Minister, they mean, first, that the whole of the area within that string of islands is of strategic importance to the defence of this country: secondly, it is the area from which we must carry the offensive to the enemy; thirdly, for the purpose of carrying an offensive to the enemy, we shall suffer a bitter handicap if we have not one army under one command. Yet in this bill the right honorable gentleman was obliged to propose to this House that the Equator shall be the northern limit of the operations of our Militiamen and many of the islands he has mentioned shall be excluded therefrom. In defence of this, it is said, first, that New Caledonia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the Solomons do not come within the South-west Pacific Area. I have dealt with that contention ; it can have nothing to do with our responsibility as to where, if the opportunity offers, our men shall serve. The second defence is on the ground that we have exhausted our manpower and that that in itself is a reason why we should not enter into any greater obligations. Our gesture to the world should have been that we are prepared to move forward to the limit of our resources; and only such a limit should condition the assistance that we should give. Our man-power position from time to time will determine where it is possible for our men to serve. Thus, that reason is proved to be completely shallow Thirdly, I judge from this statement that the Prime Minister had in mind what I have in mind when I talk of “one army”. By that expression, I mean a complete merger of all forces. Any man who says, “ I want one army must mean a complete merger. Yet the Treasurer (Mr. ‘Chifley) has affirmed that there was no intention to merge the two forces. Where, precisely, are we? We have two armies, one the Australian Imperial Force and the other the Militia, in respect of which varying conditions and obligations of service apply. In this debate we have not, perhaps, given credit to the feeling of the Militia :n regard to the matter. I cannot believe that the Militia would not welcome the complete removal of all restrictions upon their going forward with the Australian Imperial Force whenever the occasion demands. I am under no misapprehension; in the immediate months we shall not be able to strike at Japan by a great advance. I realize the difficulties that still confront us in our efforts to shift the Japanese from Lae, Salamaua, and the other places in New Guinea that they now hold. I admit that that task is likely to occupy us for a considerable period. That i3 one reason why this bill in its present form could well be thrown out. If that should mean an appeal to the people, it could take place quickly and I should be prepared to accept the verdict that was given. If the bill is not thrown out by this House, I sincerely hope that it will be by the Senate. in order that the matter may be resolved. I believe that the people whom we represent support the view that I am expressing. Let democracy determine the matter, and I shall then know whether I am right or wrong. Where Australia stands would then be made clear to the world.
I wish to compare the words of the Prime Minister with those of General Sir Thomas Blarney - the defensivemindedness of the right honorable gentleman with the offensive-mindedness of the general in charge of land operations. At page four of the booklet, the Prime Minister is reported to have repeated the following message from General Sir Thomas Blarney: -
We have our comrades in Malaya and Pearl Harbour to avenge. Let us go forward and hit wherever he gives us a chance; then follow up and hit again and again until he is beaten and destroyed.
That, to me, is a stirring message, which expresses a grand view. I consider that it reflects the temper of the Australian people, and particularly the Militia.
The chances are that, for some months, we shall be fully occupied in New Guinea. Can it be conceived, however, that when we ultimately resort to the full offensive we shall have large numbers of garrison troops in Australia and New Guinea whilst other men go forward? Is it to be left to the members of the Australian Imperial Force, who have already been fighting for three years, to carry on the fight no matter how long the war lasts? We have committed ourselves to a policy of fighting a holding war in the Pacific. Germany is t’o he defeated first. Two or three years may elapse bef ore we shall be able to smash Japan. In a war of this kind it is not sufficient -just to defeat our enemy - we must destroy him. In this fight we must play our part, and surely we cannot accept the position that the Australian Imperial Force is to be the only force to be drawn upon. I have a very intimate concern with the prisoners of war in Malaya, a concern which, I am sure, is shared by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). We sent those men to ,Malaya; and over 16,000 are prisoners in Japanese hands. Some of them are known to members of this Parliament. Are we to go forward to their rescue, or is that to be left to somebody else to do? It seems to me that what Field Marshal Smuts, the Premier of South Africa, said in a recent election campaign there could well be applied to our own case. Referring to the use of South African troops outside the continent of Africa, he said, “ I am going to fetch the boys from Italy”. I am convinced that we should besmirch our reputation in the eyes of the world, and in the eyes of the Australian people, if we allowed this bill to go through. Let us go to the people, and see what their response will be.
– Are the South African soldiers volunteers or conscripts?
– They are volunteers, but the issue was whether they could be sent to serve outside Africa. Fundamentally, the issue was the same there as here. With a full knowledge of our limited man-power, I still believe that we should say to the world, “ We shall go forward without restriction as far as our resources will permit “. That is the flag under which I propose to march.
The arguments of those on this side of the House who are prepared to support the measure fall under two headings. They say that the bill is at least a step forward, and should therefore be accepted. Their second point is that, unless the bill be passed, we shall be abandoning the Australian Imperial Force in New Guinea.
– There is a third point: we followed the advice of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– I cannot believe that the honorable member would follow blindly the advice of any one. Dealing first with the second point: No one with an understanding of our immediate responsibilities during the next three or four months can place reliance upon that argument to justify his acceptance of this measure. With the first point I have already dealt at some length. If we cannot block the bill in this House, it may be blocked or suitably amended in the Senate, so that the people will be afforded an opportunity to express an opinion on the issue.
I pass now, by way of anti-climax, to the speech, if one may call it a speech, delivered last week by the Minister for the Army.
– Let the honorable member tell us of the speech which he made at the secret meeting of members of Parliament.
– I am coming to that. Apparently what took place at that meeting has become common knowledge, which is an interesting commentary upon the manner in which some honorable members accept their responsibilities. It has always been my desire to tell the truth, and in March, 1941 - not September^ of 1942, as the Minister for the Army suggested - I told members of this Parliament at a secret meeting something of the condition of our defences. Apparently, if a man tells the truth, and reveals defence deficiencies, it will always be used against him. The art of politics - I am learning slowly - seems to be to refrain from telling the truth; then it can never be used against one. At the time I gave that information at the secret meeting, the present Attorney-General thanked me for having made the position clear. If the condition of our defences at that time was as I described it, there was ample reason for it, as was made clear the other day by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Indeed, if I so desired, I could give a list of deficiencies which still exist, but that would serve no useful purpose. It has always been my practice, when I wish to bring some defence deficiency under the notice of the Minister for the Army, not to make a public statement on the matter, birt to write to him. I know the difficulties which. Ministers have to face, and I know how easy it is to criticize them. I remember the perilous time which followed the evacuation of Dunkirk. Those who sat in the War Cabinet at that time can never forget it. The world seemed to be crumbling around us, and the question to be decided was whether we could send to Great Britain war equipment from our own limited supplies. We did not hesitate to do so. I am with my colleague, the honorable member for Indi in the stand he has taken. What was our obligation when after the campaigns in Libya, Cyrenaica, Greece and Crete our troops were without even small arms? Was it to say that we had not enough armaments to equip them because we had to equip our men at home? No! Ott 1 obligation was to send our materials of war to where the fighting was. I take full responsibility and make no apology for meeting that obliga tion. Again, New Zealand wanted rifles and munitions. We sent them - not many, it is true, but at least a token. We also sent equipment to New Caledonia. We had to help in the fields where fighting was taking place. I have always sought to avoid recriminations, and I hope that when this debate concludes there will be an end of this stupid practice, because it cannot serve the country one iota. Certain comments from me are, however, called for.
Everyone here knows of the length of time which it takes to bring a project into being. Let me instance the tank. The Minister for the Army knows how long it took before the manufacture of tanks was translated from the drawing boards to the factories. The Minister for the Army knows how many tanks are coming off the production line to-day. He also knows that, if we returned to power, we could say to him twelve months hence : “ See how few Australian tanks you had and look at the great numbers that we have.” Indeed that applies to everything. The credit for the expansion of our munitions programme is due primarily not to any individual Minister, but to the executives and workers engaged in the munitions industry. The only credit that a Minister can claim is for the initiating of plans and general principles. Consider the Bofors predictor, for instance. I do not propose to discuss it in detail. But the Minister for the Army knows how long it has taken to bring the Bofors predictor into production. He knows what correspondence he and I have exchanged on the subject. It would be unfair for me to disparage the Ministry for the length of time it has taken to bring the Bofors, predictor into production, because I know the difficulty there is in- obtaining all the machine tools and other equipment necessary to manufacture it. Months elapsed before the first Bofors gun was manufactured, but its production is a magnificent achievement by the executives and workers responsible.. When we left office the Bofors gun was just about ready to make its first appearance. Inevitably, the incoming government reaps the fruit of the labours of the outgoing government.
I intend to cite figures illustrating the expansion of munitions production which took place while we were in power, but before doing so, I point out that the first speech I made in this House in 1937 contained two main points: First, that in the event of another world war we could not hope to receive any substantial assistance from Great Britain because of its other obligations, and, secondly, that this country must prepare itself against the possibility of, not raids, but invasion. At that time, the defence vote was most meagre. All parties must accept responsibility for that. Even when war broke out, we did not believe that we were imperilled. It was not until France fell that we realized that we were engaged, not in a “ phoney “ war, but in a war which threatened our very existence. We became acutely aware of our danger only when Japan struck.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Warringah has announced that he intends to give particulars of the munitions production when his party was in power. The Prime Minister (Mr. Cur tin) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) have given percentages of production. I contend that if the honorable member for Warringahpersists with his intention the enemy willbe able to make certain deductions which will enable him to know what our production is to-day.
– There isnopoint of order.
– I shall give no details. It is my intention to present the general picture of the manufacture of munitions while we were in power from the 30th June, 1940, to the 30th September, 1941, when we left office. I shall take June, 1940, as the base month and 100 as the index number and on that basis the figures were : - 1940 : July, 147.7; August, 187.7; September, 199; October, 185; November, 228; December, 267. 1941;January, 264, February, 301; March, 318; April, 397; May, 418; June, 434; July, 675; August, 584; and
September, 772 . [Extension of time granted.]
– What are the items?
– Thatshows the total expansion of the production of munitions.
-What kind of index figure is the honorable member using - monetary values ?
– Those figures are basedon monetary values at a time when costs were substantially constant.
– Was that information supplied by the Department of War Organization of Industry ?
– No. By the Department of Munitions.
– I very much doubt whether thosefigures are correct.
– I obtained them from the report of the Director-General of Munitions forOctober, 1941.
– What about giving the figures for 1942.
– Oh, yes, of course. On the programme laid down the momentum was such that production should have trebled within six months of the Labour party’s assumption of power. I do not wish to depreciate the efforts of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), but I point out to him that when he took Ms portfolio the programme had already been laid down and the momentum was quickening. The credit for the expansion that has occurred must be given to every body.engaged in the industry, from the Director-General of Munitions down to the meanest operative. I have the figures relating to all the projects, munitions factories, and the total programme of munitions. After studying all the reports, I contend that 80 per cent, of the present munitions programme has its direct foundation in the efforts of the previous Government.
– That is an exaggeration.
– The figures prove that it is not an exaggeration. I shall now deal briefly with some of the observations made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in his speech last week. First, he said that the Army was now two and a half times larger than it was when he took office. He did not explain that included in the Army are the men of the Australian Imperial Force, whom the Government recalled from the Middle East. In the formation of those units, the Minister played no part at all. Indeed, he resisted the raising of an army for service overseas. In addition, he omitted to explain that the substantial increase of equipment was due partly to the fact that the returning divisions of the Australian Imperial Force brought with them not only the equipment which had been sent to them from Australia, but also arms which had been supplied to them by Great Britain. The Minister was content to portray himself to the public as the man responsible for having improved the equipment position. If any Minister is justified in taking that credit, it is his colleague, the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin).
The Minister for the Army complained also that the previous Government had left the country unprepared to repel an invasion. That statement comes ill from a member of the Labour party, because I can recollect an occasion late in 1941 when the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) suggested to me - I think he will recall the incident - that consideration should be given to a reduction of the number of men then under arms, or a reduction of their period of training for the purpose of making man-power available for the munitions effort. In making that statement, I do not criticize the right honorable gentleman - we all can be wise after the event - but some honorable members opposite declared that the previous Government was oblivious of its responsibilities.
– Did I ever say that the previous Government was oblivious of its responsibilities?
– No, the right honorable gentleman paid a generous tribute to the efforts of the previous administration, but other members of the Labour party were not so fair. All of us, as I have said, can be wise after the event.
The Minister for the Army read to the House a prepared statement which gained for him a tremendous amount of publicity. In my opinion, it will do incalculable harm to this country. If the Minister personally prepared that statement, he obviously had not done any other work for the previous three or four weeks. The speech fairly bristled with inaccuracies, and I propose to deal with a few of them, because I have checked his statements with the official records.
– There is a gulf as wide as the Pacific Ocean between the speech of the Prime Minister and the speech of the Minister for the Army.
– The Minister for the Army declared that 70 per cent, of our fighting forces, who are physically fit for combat service, had volunteered for service overseas. I do not understand what the Minister means by that statement. He means either that 70 per cent, of the Citizen Military Forces have volunteered, or that of all the combat troops, 70 per cent, have enlisted. Either way, he is wrong. If 70 per cent, of our Army have enlisted for service overseas, I see no reason for the opposition to the amendment proposed to this bill. If the statement means that 70 per cent, of the Militia, which consists of lines of communication units in addition to operational units, have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force it is wide of the mark.
– I said that more than 70 per cent, of the physically fit manhood of Australia in the fighting forces have enlisted for service in any part of the world. That fact cannot be contradicted.
– That statement differs substantially from the press reports of the Minister’s speech. But if 73 per cent, of the physically fit manhood of Australia have enlisted for service overseas, why does not the Government extend the limits, so that the remaining 27 per cent, may be called upon to fight in any part of the world with the big majority of the Australian Army?
– Where did the Minis ter obtain that base figure?
– Doubtless he obtained it from the “ Department of Wardisorganization “. If the Minister compares the strength of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces at the time he took office with their present strengths, he will see that the difference is 33 per cent.
– That is not so. The honorable member is trying to misrepresent the figures that I quoted.
– When I wish to misrepresent any case, I shall seek the advice of the Minister for the Army. It was my administration that he particularly challenged. The Minister referred in a mean and paltry attack to the equipment position. He pointed to certain items, all of which I have examined during the last three or four days. The Minister declared that at the time the Labour Government took office our equipment was hopelessly inadequate. He asserted that the field artillery lacked sufficient ammunition to meet the demands of one week of modern warfare. I suggest that he confused field artillery with small arms ammunition. He would not know the difference.
– The honorable member for Warringah has reflected on the Minister for the Army in an unwarranted manner.
– If I did, I withdraw the statement.
– That is quite a different attitude from that which the honorable member adopted when he sought promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
– The Minister should be ashamed of himself for making that statement.
– When a Minister of theCrown is driven to make such a remark, it is obvious that he has a very poor case. He also declared that when he took office the Army had only 20 per cent, of the required number of tommy guns. I shall tell the House a story about tommy guns. Immediately before the previous administration went out of office, the total initial equipment plus reserves was 30 per cent, of requirements, but within the next five weeks a further allotment was received, increasing the total to 50 per cent.
– That is a different story.
– We must give the Minister credit for accepting delivery of the guns.
– Those statements were used unfairly against the previous administration.
The second point I make is that we were assisted materially in resisting a threat of invasion because the young men in New Guinea had the Owen gun available as a fighting weapon. I do not claim any credit on that account. The credit belongs to Owen. All I did was to make a test of the gun possible for the young inventor at a time when he found it impossible to get over military barriers. One of my last ad ministrative acts as Minister for the Army was to direct an order for 20,000 Owen guns to be placed.
I do not propose to go any farther along this track, or to pick out any more of the miserable items mentioned by the Minister. I could, if I so desired, and if security reasons did not forbid me doing so, refer to deficiencies that still exist. I could say, for example, that item A of our war requirements was supplying only 9 per cent, of our needs. It would be unfair of me to do so, because I know the reason why that situation exists. The Minister for the Army is meeting difficulties similar to those which faced me when I was in office. I hope that the Prime Minister will do his best to see that recriminations of the kind to which I am referring shall cease. [Further extension of time granted.]
The charges that have been made against the previous Government have been most unfair, and it is necessary that they should be rebutted in this public way; but surely the time has arrived when we should bend all our efforts towards pressing forward unitedly in our war effort. Only in that way shall we discharge our duty.
I regret having delayed honorable members for so long, but, in the unhappy circumstances in which I found myself, I considered that it was essential that I should state the reasons for my action. I have indicated to honorable members where I stand and I am prepared to meet any criticism to which I may be subjected. I had to take this attitude in order to discharge what I regarded as my duty to my country.
.- I rise to support this measure. I subscribe to the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) that it is necessary that we should implement it as quickly as possible. The note of urgency should not be disregarded by the House. I have listened with great interest to the speeches that have been delivered on the bill, and in particular to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I have also reflected on certain political happenings within the last 24 hours. I indicate, by what I shall describe as a sympathetic silence, my opinion of the efforts that certain honorable members have made to vindicate their attitude.
The speech delivered yesterday afternoon by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) brought home to me afresh the urgent necessity to support this’ measure and to do everything possible to ensure that it shall be passed at the ea rliest possible moment. Our boys who are fighting in the islands adjacent to this country need all the help that they can be afforded because some of them are in an almost untenable position. I shall support this bill because, after it becomes law, we shall be able to amend it in order to extend the boundaries that have been fixed in it. Obviously, some honorable members opposite have seen the necessity to review their previous attitude. They have had to retire from the position which they previously took up, and they are now ready to accept a principle which, earlier, they would not accept. I make it quite clear, however, that the Opposition will take every opportunity to enlarge the area in which members of our Militia force may fight. We believe that our troops should be sent to fight wherever the sons of Australia may be needed to fight for the defence of their country and the preservation of the Empire.We need one army. We believe that a merger of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces is absolutely necessary. We hold that our troops should be under one control. I shall quote a couple of verses from a poem by that great Australian, Henry Lawson, which sets out the position very clearly as I see it -
There are boys out there by the western creeks, who hurry away from school,
To climb the sides of the breezy peaks or dive in the shaded pool;
Who’ll stick to their guns when the mountains quake to the tread of a mighty war,
And fight for Eight or a Grand Mistake as men never fought before.
There arc boys to-day in the city slum and the home of wealth and pride,
Who’ll have one home when the storm is come, and fight for it side by side;
Who’ll hold the cliffs against armoured hells that batter a coastal town,
Or grimly die in a hail of shells when the walls come crashing down.
Those verses express clearly the spirit of the fighting men of this country and of the great majority of its people. We must be united in this great conflict. We do not wish to see our war effort impeded by divisions. We consider it wrong that our fighting forces should be marshalled in different sections. We know exactly what ought to be done in order to make a maximum war effort. No Australian worthy of the name has ever yet shirked his responsibility in a great national cause. Some persons may be tempted, because of editorial comments in the press, or for some other reasons, to forsake their duty, but they are few and far between. Our purpose in this Parliament should be to do our utmost to bring assistance, as quickly as possible, to our troops who are to-day defending our shores beyond the boundaries of our own country. Never in my wildest flights of imagination did I expect to be associated with Government members, including the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), in the passage of a measure for the introduction of conscription for military service abroad, thus doing honour to the country which has bred us. The amendments that have been foreshadowed provide us with an alternative if we are prepared to subscribe to them. I give the greatest credit to and honour those men who have remained loyal to their convictions both inside and outside the party, by their advocacy of conscription, but I do not care for late withdrawals from undertakings that have been given. No man is more loyal than I am to his convictions, his God, his country, and his fellowmen. If this measure were defeated and withdrawn, the matter would be shelved for some time. We should have the sorry spectacle of the Government being dissolved, and of our going to the country in a time of crisis, with the J apanese massing on islands to the north of our continent, and an invasion possible. One of the most bitter issues in the history of this country would be raised and division would be inevitable. What would the people think of us as their representatives, if we were to lend ourselves to such a proposal? At the ballot-box they would obliterate us from public life. For that reason, I am ready to support this measure, knowing that the Prime Minister has introduced what no Labour man in the past has dared to sponsor - the conscription of the manhood of this nation for service beyond the shores of Australia. The matter is only in its infancy, and we accept it in that form. “We know that at the appropriate time the sons of Australia will go wherever they may be required, and will do their duty to this country and to the great British Empire.
I have heard criticisms of different Ministers. I listened to a scathing attack
On the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I was disgusted with the inaccurate statements of that Minister when he addressed himself to the bill. They were altogether different from those that he made a fortnight after the Government had assumed office, when Japan had entered the war. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he then said, “ The Army of Australia is at the highest standard of efficiency “. The Minister for Munitions and Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) also said that we were ready for any attack that might be made upon us. In the speech that I made on the budget introduced last year, I said -
Of course everything is all right. But these mon did not do this in three weeks; they merely carried the torch which had been lighted by preceding governments. Those governments laid the foundation deeply and firmly for the manufacture of guns, ammunition and other implements of war.
I give to honorable gentlemen opposite every credit for the manner in which they have implemented the plans that were laid by the Menzies and Fadden Governments. They themselves must not try to belittle the efforts of those Governments. Australians will always play their part faithfully and well. I have had much to do with the Minister for the Army. He has embittered many .people by his stupidity, dunder-headedness, and maladministration. If those qualities signified statesmanship, he would be a Disraeli. I could point to blemishes that can never be forgiven or forgotten, due to stupidity and, chiefly, negligence. Whether he himself, his departmental officers, or some other authority, must shoulder the responsibility, I cannot say. An admission that the conditions are shockingly bad has been made to me by the honorable gentleman.
We have a great job to do. We have to ensure the passage of the bill through this House, and must disregard any amendments of it that may be proposed. As the right honorable .member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said: “It is like the only dose in a bottle of medicine.” Sons of Australia are waiting for the bottle to be filled so that there may be sufficient to give to each man a quantity that will enable him to endure the hardships to which he is subjected. I make no apology for what I have done. I believe that it will have the endorsement of my constituents. I shall stand or fall by it, because I hope that I am a man whose word is still his bond. The sooner assistance can be given to sons of Australia who are fighting beyond its borders, the greater will be the benefit to those who urgently need relief. We need one army to fight in any part of’ the world in which the safety of Australia may be threatened. It must have the backing of the wonderful spirit of the Australian people, who are fighting for the retention of the greatest empire the world has known - the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I strongly support the amendment, and congratulate the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) on their fearless speeches. I support them the more gladly, because this country owes a good deal to their courage and judgment in the past. In the years before the war, they continually stirred up the then Government in the cause of national defence, and unceasingly fought the Labour party, which, as the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has said, opposed many of the moves that were made to organize our strength. In the short period during which I have been, a member of this House, I have f frequently seen these two gentlemen come forward to urge the right and proper course. They have advocated the maintenance of the British tradition, and the strengthening of the link which was strained by the Statute of Westminster.
They fought the uniform tax legislation which, long before the introduction of the Commonwealth Powers Bill, handed to a government of centralizers and socialists, a matter of the most vital importance, namely, the power of the purse. Last week, these gentlemen again rightly assessed the feeling of the Australian nation. This was a simple issue. It was not an issue like the Statute of “Westminster that could be clouded with legal subtleties; it was not an issue like uniform taxation, in respect of which the Treasurer could lead the nation with his pious financial platitudes : it was an issue of national honour, of national decency, and this nation is behind the honorable member for Barker and the honorable member forWakefield. They have seen, as Tennyson said -
Into glossy purples, which outredden
All voluptuous garden roses.
We who follow those honorable members believe in the courage and decency of the Australian people. We trust the people on this great issue, and we accept the challenge of the Government. We would welcome an election on this issue. I cannot see the nation returning a government which is continually calling for help from people who have adopted the draft when it will not adopt the draft in our own country. I cannot see the people returning a government which refuses to use the Militia for the rescue of our own prisoners, or which, when the offensive begins, will refuse to use the Militia to relieve our own sick and wounded men. It is a simple issue, and I believe that the nation is behind those who have challenged the Government upon it. The soldiers particularly are behind them. I had a telegram to-day from the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia strongly advocating that the Militia bill should provide for service wherever required. As the Prime Minister has told us so frequently, this is a global war, a total war. Premier Tojo, of Japan, recently stated that Japan had no road block; it must and would continue to attack to the full power of its 100,000,000 people until the British Empire and the United States of America were crushed for ever. Unfortunately, we have a road block; it is constituted of the isolationists who would prevent our men from serving outside a certain restricted area. The Government would condemn the nation to fight with one hand tied. In this war our slogan should be Delenda est Carthago - Carthage must be destroyed. In our case, Japan must be destroyed, and by the full force - not the partial force - of every one of the United Nations.
Let us praise the Prime Minister for taking his political life in his hands, for overcoming his own political inhibitions, and for taking even the small step forward which this bill represents. We congratulate him on his courage in publicly announcing his conversion. We realize his difficulties, and think that perhaps he was forced from his original proposal. We realize that he probably had to say to his masters, in the words of the hymn Lead Kindly Light -
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
But the difficulties of the Prime Minister’s position cannot excuse the unhappy fact that these weak proposals may seriously damage our military reputation, as well as our good name and status, both now and in the future. I shall not speak of the effect on our military organization - others more capable than I have dealt with that - but I point out, in the first place, that this bill does not introduce conscription. Conscription was introduced into Australia by the Defence Acts of 1903 and 1904. It was extended in its operation beyond the “3 mile limit” by the Menzies Government in 1940. All this bill does is to extend it farther. In other words, this is a controversy, not on the principle of conscription, but on a matter of geographical limitations. At the present time, members of the Militia cannot be sent outside certain prescribed areas. If our New Zealand cousins or our American cousins should need our help, we cannot send the Militia to New Zealand or to the Solomons. This is what has so aroused the public, quite independently of anything that has been done, or has not been done, by members of this House. The Prime Minister implied in that tragically weak speech on this measure that when the offensive comes the Militia will remain in Australian bases, or on lines of communication, or in occupied territory, like the elderly German Landstrum or Home Guard, while allied conscripts and the Australian Imperial Force go forward to the fighting front. That is the suggestion which has upset the Australian people, not that honorable members on this side of the House have shown either weakness or strength. It was those timid words - I do not like to use a stronger expression - of the Prime Minister that have aroused this nation, and made the people feel that they have become, in the eyes of the world, objects of contempt. The draft troops of Great Britain, of New Zealand and of the United States of America are legally free to be used in any necessary strategy ; but the Prime Minister tells the Militia that they must remain behind barred in by equators and parallels and meridians like lions at the zoo, or like an Australian Labour Prime Minister at a conference of Australian trade unions. So absurd is the proposal, that the Militia can be sent to eastern Java, where they may take Sourabaya and Samarang, but they cannot go over the hills to capture the capital. They cannot traverse the plain to the west to free our own men imprisoned at Batavia, including Colonel Blackburn, V.C., and his battalion composed mostly of men from my own State of South Australia. Do honorable members believe that the Australian people will stand for such cowardice as that? The Prime Minister, in a statement issued on the 6th December last, and published in No. 47 of his announcements, said that -
All the islands surrounding Australia, including the Solomons and the Netherlands East Indies, were vital to our defence.
And he made this strong statement -
Limiting the zone to some of them negates common sense.
What has happened since the 6th December? On that date, the Prime Minister said that all those islands must be defended and that to limit the zone negated common sense. Yet, here we have the Prime Minister introducing a bill that negates common sense. I want to know what dangerous anti-Australian influences have deflated the Prime Mini ster since the 6th December. Honorable members have stressed the question : What will happen when our defence has pushed across these ridiculous barriers? The Militia will not be able to reinforce the Australian Imperial Force. Both the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) and I know one man who, wounded three times, is being sent back to the firing line. We all know men who have defied sickness to go back to the firing line. Only a few days ago I heard of a man who fought in Syria, whose battalion was cut up in New Guinea, and who was sent back to Australia for a fortnight’s leave. Why, men who have never left Australia and never been in the fighting line have had a month’s leave! Unfortunately, we cannot discuss it here, but we know that certain of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Force have been trained for co-operative action. Experience in Libya has proved that such units must act together. How will these units be able to act together when the Militia will be held back by meridians and parallels and other lines on the map. We do not know why the Prime Minister has failed to amalgamate the armies. After the right honorable gentleman addressed the trade unions in Melbourne, Mr. Nicholls, the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council, Adelaide, returned to Adelaide and said : “ The proposal to weld the two armies is long overdue from the viewpoint of the defence of Australia.” There is a Labour man who goes to the Melbourne Trades Hall, hears the Prime Minister, and comes back thoroughly thrilled with the Prime Minister’s suggestion, saying, “ Here is a proposal long overdue for the defence of Australia “. And the Prime Minister brings down this proposal! I ask the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) whether he knows what dangerous, anti-Australian influences have deflated the Prime Minister in the vital suggestion to weld the two armies. The whole proposal is humiliating and degrading to Australia. We are indeed fortunate that our great allies have not adopted the same sort of outlook. About April, 1939, at Baltimore, I attended a conference where, amongst other things, the subject of war was discussed, and I was absolutely horrified to hear the views of the isolationists, who are now, fortunately, a very small group in the United States of America. I heard Major Eliott, one of the great experts, tell the conference that if war came it would be the duty of the United States of America to establish a defensive ring through the Bermudas, the “West Indies, down through Panama, across to Hawaii and up to the Aleutians. His advice was that the United States of America would fight in that ring.What would be our position to-day had the United States of America adopted Major Eliott’s advice ?What would be our position if the United States of America had made the Equator the bound for its draft as we are making the Equator the bound for our draft? What would be our position if Great Britain had limited its actions to the seas and islands surrounding the British Isles, as it might well have done when, in 1940 it was fighting single handed to save the world. The outlook of our great allies is, thank God, much more generous than is the outlook of Australia as shown in this bill. I quote the words of A. P. Herbert summing up the unselfishness of Britain -
This tiny isle of muddles and mistakes -
Having a front on every wave that breaks,
We might have said “our shipping’s on the stretch,
You shall have all the tanks that you can fetch,”
But that is not the way we fight this war
We give them tanks - and take them to the door.
That is the outlook of Great Britain and the United States of America, and it is a tragedy that this country will not copy it.
I realize that a great deal of the trouble in the Labour party is due to ignorance of geography. We have recently had from the other side of the House some appalling examples. The Minister for Labour and National Service said recently - and his words are on record - that Russian conscripts had not fought off Russian territory in this war. Well, Russia has invaded Poland, Bessarabia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Esthonia and has fought a whole war on Finnish territory. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), for whom I have the greatest respect, showed lamentable and dangerous weaknesses when he implied that America was helping Australia in American interests. Before the war, America had a defence quadrilateral west of Hawaii; now its defence line runs from Panama to Hawaii and from Hawaii to the Aleutians. Nobody who has crossed the Pacific and realized its immense distances imagines for one moment that the United States is defending Australia in American interests.
– How then does the United States hope to retake the Philippines ?
– There are at least two other routes. The whole thing is geographical ignorance. I deplore efforts, no matter how unconscious they may be, to belittle the very great generosity that the United States of America is showing to us.
I have shown the inadequacy of these proposals in relation to our strength. I want to say a little about our present status. I turn first to the United States of America to which we owe so much. It was very interesting to read reports from Washington that Australia’s credit has risen since the Prime Minister initiated this Militia business. There has certainly been a good deal of criticism in the United States of America, and one wonders where our credit stood before it started to go up. At the end of November the Christian Science Monitor, a paper of world-wide fame, circulation and reputation, said -
The limitation of service of the Militia has perplexed and disturbed Washington and raised doubts in some minds as to the extent to which Australian troops will go when the defensive phase of the war in the South Pacific is over and the advance to Tokyo begins.
That is a grave indictment of. this country, but worse follows. The newspaper proceeded -
The fact is that until Mr. Curtin’s move there was an unfortunate tendency in some quarters to fear that Australia was more concerned for her own security than with carrying the war to its final conclusion, wherever that might lead. The fact that there were two Australian armies, one available for overseas and the other restricted to home service, has seemed to some people in Washington an anachronism, which has complicated unnecessarily the problem of planning offensive operations. On this new expanding of the military horizon it seems to Washington to be of particular importance that Australia has her decks clear to go ahead, particularly since, while -America is providing the bulk of naval ii nd air forces involved, Australia is and must be relied on to contribute a substantial share of the ground forces. Mr. Curtin’s initiative, therefore, is accepted here as u tangible measure of good faith. If it is implemented by parliamentary action, it will further remove concern about the future availability of the Australian Army when the real offensive gets under way.
In spite of that strong statement, Australia still has two armies, and the Government will not be able to use one of them when the offensive is launched. I shall not refer to the volume of criticism published in the New York Times. The Attorney-General has described it as “ inaccurate and intemperate “. But it io unfortunate that a newspaper of the status of that journal did publish criticisms of the Australian war effort.’ The Americans do not consider that things are altogether satisfactory. For instance, the Christian Science Monitor declared last October -
Ships have been held up at quaysides foi days and hours longer than necessary, and have sailed with unimportant goods, leaving essential goods in wharf sheds.
In late December the New York Telegram wrote that, with General Wavell preparing to attack Burma and the allies hammering in the (Solomons, “ conscription could not come too soon in Australia “. That paper added that all-out Australian help may be decisive at any time. One comment was damning -
Australia’s defence set-up is one of the most paradoxical amongst the united nations. If the allies threw the Japanese out of Singapore or the Buna area, certain categories of Australian troops could not enter Singapore or advance in Dutch New Guinea.
In spite of that criticism, the Government has introduced this bill,, which debars the use of certain categories of our troops in Malaya or the Solomons. When the Prime Minister obtained the consent of the unions, we heard from the United States of America some criticism and some restrained applause. For instance, the Chicago Tribune early in January wrote -
The Labour party has approved Mr. Curtin’s proposal to send Australian conscripts over seas, but service is still restricted to the South-west Pacific.
Unfortunately, the bill does not include the whole of the South- West Pacific Area. Hostile criticism of our proposals was voiced by Senator Tydings, and shortly afterwards the Australian Minister in Washington, Sir Owen Dixon, significantly broadcast an address which may have been designed to allay some of the impatience with the Commonwealth’s attitude. When the context of this bill is understood . in well-informed circles in the United States of America, considerable disappointment will be expressed.
What will be the opinion in Great Britain whose navy has guarded Australia since its foundation? We know from American sources that even now British naval units are operating in the Indian Ocean for the purpose of protecting our western flank. Last November The Times published a very disappointed comment when the conference of the Australian Labour party postponed the discussion of the Prime Minister’s proposal to despatch the Citizen Military Forces beyond the territories of the Commonwealth. It declared -
The decision of the Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne on using the Militia outside the Commonwealth is not very satisfactory at this stage of the war, when at any moment it may become necessary for Australia to send reinforcements to the Solomons and New Guinea in numbers greater than th» Australian Imperial Force can supply.
Then follows a trenchant comment which I shall read for the benefit of honorable members opposite -
The Australian Labour party’s reluctance to extend the compulsory military service to territories outside the Commonwealth defence zone may seem odd to those not familiar with Australian politics who recall the Commonwealth’s declaration of its determination to share with the allies the burdens and perils involved in the struggle.
In the last few days there has been increasing evidence of British anxiety and perplexity, and we have received the serious information that The Times has published an editorial so critical that it has been broadcast to the United States of America. The attitude of our allies will be perfectly clear, namely, that the Primp Minister who told the world that Australia was “ fighting mad “ has armed a large part of our forces with, boxing gloves.
While our allies anxiously watch this introduction of a limited measure of conscription, our enemies have not failed to take advantage of any successes by anti.conscriptionists, who played into their hands. Thus the Axis hastened to inform the world that the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party had rejected the Prime Minister’s proposals and specially recorded the fact that the presence of the Prime Minister himself had been without effect. I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne and his friends do not know the harm that they are doing to Australia. Both in the Commonwealth and overseas, their attitude is gaining the condemnation which Deborah and Barak poured on the cities of Israel who refused, to come forth and fight Sisera. The honorable members for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) might well recall the curse of the leaders of Israel -
Why did Dan remain in ships?
Assher continued on the seashore and abode in his breaches.
What will be the future of a limited Iia bility nation, not only at the peace conference but also in the future when the sins of the fathers may be visited on the children? The war has taught us that Australia is not the hub of the universe. Nor are we alone capable of defending this workers’ paradise from the inroads of the alien serpent. If it were not for the English-speaking alliance, we could not hold this country. To date, Great Britain has protected us and purchased more than half of our exports. When Britain experienced severe trials and tribulations and could no longer protect us, we appealed to our cousins in the United States of America and they sent to us very generous assistance. We should not forget our obligations to them.
– We are helping all the allied countries.
– The mosquito helping the elephant!
– Why decry Australia’s war effort?
– We have seen how other email countries like Belgium and Holland have been exposed to attack. We should he insane to neglect our obligations. We know that in Great Britain strong influences have claimed, for many years, that the Empire is a liability; but we have come to expect the British taxpayers to spend infinitely more per capita on the defence of the Empire than we have been prepared to spend on our own defence.
Secondly, the Americans are people of widely differing political views. There is a strong isolationist element in the United States. If Great Britain or America were to withdraw into isolation, the result would be very serious to us; if both were to withdraw, it would be fatal to us. We have received help in this war because our allies have considered us to be worthy of it. Who made u3 worthy of it? Not the men who died in Australia, but the men who went out and fought and died with the men of the Allied Nations in France, in Gallipoli, in Greece, in Crete, in Syria, in Libya, in New Guinea, in Timor, and on the Malay Peninsula. The statesmen who have made this country worthy, and who have brought its name before the world, have been those who in two great wars have gone out and made across the seas those personal contacts, which to-day are the main strength of the offensive which is being conducted by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt.
In conclusion, I point out that we need moral armaments as well as physical armaments. Moral armaments are, in fact, even more important than physical armaments. Moral armament won the battle for Great Britain. Moral armament is winning the battle for Russia. Moral weakness lost the battle for France. It has been so throughout history. Moral vigour has kept small nations, like the Scots and the Dutch, in the forefront of civilization.
– The United Australia party needs some moral armament at the moment.
– I refuse to be sidetracked by such interjections. Moral weakness has thrown great empires into the dust. I have heard in this country some sneers at our small sister Dominion of New Zealand, because it has poured out its manhood for the allies. I have heard jeers to the effect that New Zealand will deserve whatever it gets.’
However, tie Allied’ Nations will not forget New Zealand nor its Labour Government. Like the greatest peoples in history, the people in New Zealand have shown that they can “ fight and never heed the wound “, and “ give and never count the cost”.
The people of Australia, and also this Parliament, are to-day facing a supreme choice. They must stand for moral righteousness with Great Britain, America, New Zealand and Russia, or they must be damned and go down in history as one of the “ lesser breeds of the earth “. I urge honorable members to vote for the amendment. I urge them to take their political future in their hands and to ask the public whether it stands for a government which is continually “ squealling “ to allies whose policy is one of fuller sacrifice. I ask the House to follow the honorable member for Barker, the honorable member for Wakefield, and other leaders who are prepared to actfearlessly, not only for our own good name and safety, but also, what matters much more, for the good name and safety of our children, and the good name and safety of generations of Australians yet to come.
.-Unlike the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price), and some other honorable gentlemen opposite who support out-and-out conscription and the sending of our men to fight, in any overseas countries, and, in fact, anywhere except in their own country, I consider that the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is totally uncalled for. At this time, when Australia is still in great peril from invasion, we should concentrate upon the defence of our own country. The Government of the United Kingdom concentrated upon the defence of Great Britain when it was being attacked relentlessly, and surely that is a good example for us to follow. With my colleagues on this side of the chamber, I believe in the voluntary system if properly applied.
– The trade unions apparently do not believe in it, for they want compulsory unionism.
– If the voluntary system had been applied properly in this country we should have had a much more effective mobilization. I believe that every person in the community is willing and anxious to do everything possible to defend this country. If the previous Government had undertaken the mobilization of our forces in a more effective manner, we should have been in a much better position to-day.
– Does the honorable member believe that the population of Australia is sufficiently large to enable us to defend ourselves?
– Of course it is. Even after eighteen months of war there were still thousands of unemployed people in this country who should have been put to work immediately after the outbreak of hostilities on jobs definitely linked with the war effort. For about two years after the outbreak of war we had idle factories in Australia which could have been set to work manufacturing war equipment. We all are well aware that the previous Government sent our troops to Egypt before they were properly equipped. In fact, some of our men were in Egypt for six months before they were supplied with rifles. Undoubtedly the previous Administration failed to mobilize efficiently the nation’s resources. However, I do not wish to indulge in recriminations; I am merely stating the facts in order to show clearly the situation which faced the present Government when it assumed office and the legacy of unpreparedness it received.
In view of the present emergency, I appreciate the desire of the Government to have this bill placed on the statutebook as early as possible and the reason why it considers there is need for the introduction of a measure of this kind. Under existing conditions the members of the Militia cannot be sent across the border of Papua, or of the mandated territory, in order to fight in Dutch New Guinea. The Australian Labour party is also convinced of the need for a measure of this description. As a democrat, I abide hy the decision of the majority on a subject of this kind. It has been said that the Labour Conference agreed, by only one vote, to the introduction of this bill. I remind honorable members that some of the greatest reforms in history have been introduced by the slenderest Majority. The Commonwealth Bank, which is one of the really great institutions in Australia to-day, was brought into being as the result of a measure which was passed by a very small majority. We have been given to understand that child endowment had to be practically forced- through a meeting of the Opposition parties by. the executive. I do not think that any one would suggest, to-day, that child endowment should be discontinued. It is a principle of democracy that measures .agreed to by the Parliament shall be applied to the whole community, even though such measures were passed by only a small majority. As an honorable member has remarked, the Labour party stands for compulsion in various directions. I do not always agree with the decisions that are made but I abide by them. The movement considers that compulsion is necessary in regard to membership of trade unions and military service for home defence. It has been contended that, in effect, the Government is merely seeking an extension of the policy of the Labour movement, in respect of compulsory service for home defence, because long-range bombers which can operate from islands to the north of this country have proved that such defence exceeds the area bounded by the 3-mile limit. I regard that as a fair argument. The Prime Minister acted entirely within his rights when as a delegate he placed his views before the conference of the Australian Labour party, in an endeavour to prevail upon the other delegates to alter the policy of the movement. Criticism cannot be levelled at the right honorable gentleman in that regard. There are two things for which we must always give him credit. Since he came into office, he has done his utmost to save this country,, first by an appeal to the United States of America and later by the return of the Australian Imperial Force. These actions prove that the first consideration of the Government is resistance to an invasion of its own country. The Prime Minister has applied himself to the task of’ keeping the Labour movement intact throughout the present crisis; In previous crises since the Beginning of federation, the- movement- has been split asunder by disunity within its own ranks. This occurred during the last war and in the years, of the economic depression. I am confident that, by a. continuance of his efforts he will meet with success.
The voluntary system might have been given a further trial, with the cooperation and assistance of the Army authorities in arranging for the transfer of militiamen to the Australian Imperial Force in accordance with the policy of the Government. The co-operation so far given in that connexion has been insufficient. Many persons did not enlist because of private considerations, but the great majority of those who were called up subsequently became reconciled to enforced service, and with proper handling would have been prepared to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force and to fight anywhere in the world. I have had evidence of that. The transfer of those who have signified their desire to join the Australian Imperial Force has not been facilitated. The father of a young man wrote to me that his son had applied for a transfer as far back as last June, yet so far had not received his “ NX “ number. This proves that there is something radically wrong. I have accepted the invitation- of the Minister for the Army to supply examples to him-. A couple of months ago, an Army service unit, consisting of approximately 80 militiamen stationed not far from where I reside at Willoughby, was notified- at a late hour to attend a parade at 6.30 a.m. on the following day. On- parade, the men were asked to declare whether they were willing to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force> and were informed that, if not, they would have- to take what was coming to them. The men resented that manner of approach, and- I am informed that only one man decided to join the Australian Imperial Force; He was not sent out of Australia, and I understand is still, here. The remainder were instructed to return to their unit. Later that day, they were taken to Ingleburn, where they were medically examined and inoculated with a view to being sent to a battle station.. Although many of them were married men with families, no leave was. granted. After a protest had been made, their relatives were allowed to visit them at the camp on the Sunday ; but the men themselves were not permitted to leave the precincts of the camp. Action of this sort is undermining the morale of the troops, and breaking down the voluntary spirit which could be mobilized if the Army authorities understood how to handle the men diplomatically. I took the matter to the Minister for the Army. Although all the details were not admitted, the report which he received substantially bore out what I had slated. Certain officers do not seem to be able to handle the men tactfully. Recently the wife of a young man who was in camp at Bathurst was about to give birth to a child. For two months, I made representations to the authorities to permit him to return to his home for a short period prior to the confinement of his wife ; yet leave was not granted until the child had been born. That sort of thing makes bad soldiers. Subsequently, this man was absent without leave. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald recently a report which stated that 60 members of the forces had been court martialed and convicted of various offences, for which they had been sentenced to detention for periods ranging up to two years. This shows that there is something radically wrong with the handling of the troops. If effect were given to the policy of the Government to facilitate transfer of the Militia to the Australian Imperial Force, a much larger percentage than the 70 per cent, mentioned by the Minister for the Army would make the transfer. This is the best way to weld the forces into one army, and it would be on a voluntary basis.
I deplore the misrepresentation and propaganda in certain sections of the press, the effect of which must be to undermine the morale of the community and the fighting . services. In addition, the prestige of this country overseas is being injured. The statement that resentment is felt in Great Britain and the United States of America is not borne out by the cable news from abroad. In that regard, I quote the following report from the Sydney Morning Herald on. Tuesday last, the 9th February : -
re ACTION IN U.S.A. and BRITAIN.
Canberra, Monday. - The Prime Minister’s Department to-day issued the following statement: - “ Advice has been received in Canberra from the Australian Offices in New York and London that the Militia Bill has had little attention in the Press in America and that only two pa pers in Britain referred to it. “ Criticism in the American Press was made in theNew York Times and the Christian Science Monitor, the former carrying a story from its Canberra correspondent stating that surprise and disappointment would be evoked in Australia. “ No American papers have carried editorial comments since the introduction of the bill, but the Associated Press story circulated among many papers resulted in the National Broadcasting Corporation’s commentator, Mr. Chaplin, dealing with the story. Mr. Chaplin said that Australian volunteers were the equivalent of an American army of 9,000,000, and Australia’s problem seemed to be how to keep men at home to keep industries going rather than how to send more men to other countries.
Mr. Spender Quoted. “ Mr. Chaplin quoted Mr. Spender as saying that the bill ‘ gave notice to the world, especially America, that we do not propose to fight outside an exceedingly limited area,’ find then commentated that almost 500,000 Australians had given the world a quite different sort of notice. Those men in all the distant theatres where they had volunteered to right, despite a law which gave them an excuse to stay at home, had been voted among the finest fighters. “Mr. Chaplin then quoted the Australian casualty figures and Mr. Curtin’s Christmas message to the forces, and commented, There is nothing isolationist about that. I think Mr. Curtin canbe depended on to help lower isolationist bars just as far as Mr. Menzies or any one else wants.’ “ In a cable message dated last Saturday, the Commonwealth’s London Office advised that the London Time’s and the Birmingham Post were the only British papers to refer to the Militia Bill. The Times’s report, after covering the main speakers in the debate, said that undoubtedly the fear of an election had been the Opposition’s prime factor in making its decision.
The Birmingham Post said there was a temptation to contrast General Smuts success in securing a big step forward with Mr. Curtin’s failure in Australia to ask for a big step forward, but’ we shall be wise to resist that temptation and refrain from unjustified comparison.’
South Africa’s Case. “ ‘ The proper corrective,’ the paperadds, is to recall that South Africa is only to-day doing what Australia has been doing since the war began. They have already served in Greece, Crete, Syria and Libya. Nor is these any doubt that Australian volunteers will again be ready and eager for service outside the limits of the Militia Bill. “’ Mr. Curtin has asked all that is politically possible, a view confirmed by Mr. Fadden’s acceptance of the bill. Sooner or later developments of grand strategy of the United Nations will weaken one reason Mr. Curtinhas given for his policy - the fact that the Dominion Governments have as yet no very big voice in strategical decisions of the Allies. Until then it is fair for Mr. Curtin to recall how much Australia has already done.’ “
That clearly indicates that the people in the democratic countries are not nearly so interested in this matter as “we have been led to believe. Those who are trying to create disunity in Australia at the present time are doing a great disservice to the nation. Their attempts to divide the nation constitute an open invitation to Japan, already poised for another attack, to strike at Australia. I believe, with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), that we should refrain from “knocking” the nation’s leaders, and endeavour to set an example to the rest of the community. It has been suggested in some quarters that a referendum should be taken on this issue. It might have been all very well to take a referendum during the last war, when the enemy was 12,000 miles away, and Japan was on our side. It would be impracticable and dangerous to do so now. In the referendum campaigns during the last war, the country was split asunder with over 1,000,000 voters on each side, and the hatreds then engendered still persist. If a referendum were held now, members of Parliament would be required to travel the country campaigning; the business of running the war would be held up, and the safety of the country endangered. Therefore, I ask that this matter be settled quickly.
Let us rely upon and use the spirit of voluntary service which is strong among the Australian people. The industrial workers have, ever since Japan entered the war, been asking for the establishment of Volunteer Defence Corps units so that they may be trained to fight in defence of their country, as were the people of Great Britain and of Russia. The young men of Australia have never hesitated to volunteer for military service overseas. As far back as the Sudan a contingent of volunteers left
Australia Our men went in thousands to the South African war, and no fewer than 400,000 volunteered for service in the first world war and over 50,000 made the supreme sacrifice. I am convinced that when we have driven the Japanese back from the immediate neighbourhood of Australia, there will be no lack of volunteers to emulate the men of the Australian Imperial Force in the first and second world wars. The spirit of our men was shown when 500 members of the Australian Imperial Force serving in Timor refused to leave the island when the opportunity presented itself. They preferred to stay and fight on, only asking that they be given support. There will be sufficient volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force when the time comes to chase the Japanese back through New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, Indo-China and finally into the heart of Japan itself.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to 8 p.m.
. -This is a bill to amend the Defence Act in order to enable members of the Citizen Military Forces to be sent to a limited area beyond Australia and its territories. At St. Paul’s Cathedral there is a tablet commemorating the great architect Sir Christopher Wren in these words, “ If you would see my monument look around”. All I say to the people is “ If you would see the monument of this Government and this Parliament, look around “. In this bill the Government has produced the tiniest of gnats. At the outset I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on his having had the courage to go to his party to impress upon it the necessity to require men called to the Army to serve beyond the bounds of the Commonwealth and its territories. I was prepared even to wait until January for the verdict of the party. Then, when, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, I inspected the map, which hangs in the Cabinet room, showing the area in the South-west Pacific under the command of General MacArthur, I expected something really important, especially as I share the confidence placed by the Prime Minister and every one else in that brave soldier, who has proved himself on the field of battle. But this measure sorely disappoints me, because I find that it excludes a large portion of the South- West Pacific Area.
I am led to remember the speeches made by Government supporters when they were in opposition. I remember that many of them threatened that when they controlled the treasury bench they would not only prevent our men from going overseas, but would also bring back to Australia those who had gone. Are we fighting this war as a member of the British family of nations or only as Australians? I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that this nation could not exist if it were not for the British Empire. I refuse to be associated with the sentiments of Eire, which no longer belongs to the British Empire, and has tried to stab it in the back. The isolationism of Labour supporters smacks very strongly of the isolationism of Eire. They must realize that this country has not left the British Empire, and that when one part of that family is at war the whole is at war. When France capitulated, Great Britain was left to fight alone, except for its dominions. In the debacle which led up to the evacuation from Dunkirk, Great Britain lost all its ai m aments - its guns, its ammunition, its transport services and large numbers of its men - and we had to deprive ourselves of weapons in order to help the great Mother ‘Country to save the cause of democracy. I remind my honorable friends that their forebears fought for that freedom which they now enjoy and that it was Britain’s lone stand after the collapse of France that preserved it. The attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite is, “ We want to retain these privileges, but we are not prepared to fight for them. Oh no ! Let the silly mutts in the Australian Imperial Force go away and fight. They can take all the knocks “. I remind them that the men of the 6th and 7th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force, after fighting throughout the Middle East - in Egypt, Libya, Greece and Crete - were brought back to this country, sent to Darwin to meet the threat there, and then switched without relief to New Guinea to fight in the worst country that man ever fought in. The Prime Minister knows better than I do how few of the battalions reached the firing line in full strength, owing to the deplorable inroads on health made by the con ditions there. I know what the men have to contend with. My own kith and ‘kin are with them. One of my sons who fought in Egypt and Syria, went to Darwin, and is now at Buna with the American forces. Do honorable members think that I have no feeling for the lads who fight for our freedom in New Guinea ? Are they content to say, “ The silly mutts. We will stay here and defend the womenfolk”. Men have come back from New Guinea and the other theatres of war maimed, hut what does the Government care about them? It lets them return home in any sort of train without sleeping berths - men who have lost limbs in the defence of this country ! Time and time again the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has had to apologize for the way in which the wounded have been neglected and has laid the blame on some under-strapper in the department who overlooked the fact that they were returned soldiers.
– The same thing happened while you were in power.
– I have never been in power while we have been at war. I was doing “ my bit “ in the last war.
– And after the last war the honorable member was one who allowed the men who came hack from it to carry swags up and down the country looking in vain for work.
– The Labour party was mainly responsible for that. The maimed and the blind from the last war are in Canberra now to see what the Repatriation Bill contains. Mr. Lawson. - And the honorable member has been with them.
– No. I have not been to see them yet. But I have seen men who should have been at the last war running after them and offering to do all they could to help them. The best thing any one can render is service, and the best service one can render is service to one’s country.
– What did the honorable member do when he was Minister for Repatriation?
– My records show that the Scullin Government cut repatriation pensions and other pensions. I realize that circumstances forced it to do so. I concurred in the reductions as reluctantly as the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) introduced them. I remind the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that I was Minister for Repatriation in the government that replaced the Labour government. The records of the House will show what I did towards restoring pensions, particularly widows’ pensions.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member enlisted men for this war at a wage lower than was paid to our soldiers in the last war.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has refused to speak on this measure. There is a conspiracy of silence amongst Government, supporters. They fear to speak lest they should, commit themselves. While congratulating the Prime Minister on the courage he displayed in going as far as he has gone, I say that he should agree to amend this measure in order to enlarge the area, particularly in the Pacific, in which our Militia Forces may be required to serve. I remind the House that our sister dominion, New Zealand, whose people are as British as ours, is excluded from the area defined in this bill. ‘We have said to New Zealand, “ You need never call upon us for assistance “.
– That is not true.
– Actions speak louder than words, and New Zealand is not within the area to which this bill says that our troops may be sent. I have been a constant visitor to New Zealand, and I know the views of the people. I knew the late Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Savage, who was born in Australia, and I knew that his view was that there should be the closest links between the two dominions. We have done nothing in this bill to bring the two dominions closer together. In the words of the Prime Minister, and those of his supporter’s who have spoken, Austral:an troops shall not be sent beyond the limits provided for in this bill.
– That is not true.
– Oh, yes. I know all the whispers in the lobbies. “ Let me whisper it in your ear, not too loud lest some one should hear, but, if clanger threatens and we have to enlarge this area, we shall’ introduce another amending bill for that purpose” - that is the sort of thing one hears.
In times past Labour’s policy has always been, “ We shall have a voluntary system “. If it is a good thing to have a voluntary system for the defence of democracy and the privileges that have been handed down to us, it is equally good to have a voluntary system for work. Yet a- Labour government has introduced industrial conscription into this country. I remember that when Labour was in opposition the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and others charged the Government, of which I was a supporter, with proposing to introduce military conscription and declared that that was the first rung on the ladder to industrial conscription. We did not introduce industrial conscription, but the present Government did. I am not finding fault with it for having done so, because the Prime Minister could have done nothing else, but the fact is worthy of mention. If the Prime Minister had not introduced industrial conscription, our output of war materials would not have been sufficient to meet all requirements. The right honorable gentleman now claims that Australia is experiencing a severe shortage of man-power. If he were to make an inspection of some of our big factories, he would change his view. The loafing that occurs in some of the industries which are allegedly engaged on the production of war materials is shameful and criminal. Last Tuesday a man came to my office in Sydney, and I shall repeat his story, because it proves what I have said. A first-class tradesman, he was given a job as a pattern-maker. He said : “ I might just as well shoot myself for all the good I am in the works. I started a job on Monday and finished it by noon on Tuesday. I went to my chief and told him that I had completed the job. He expressed surprise at the rapidity with which I had done the work, and told mc to check it. The next hour I spent partly in smoking and partly in checking the work. Then I returned and told him that I was satisfied with the job. He said that the work could not have been done properly in the time, and told me to see him on the following morning. When I reported to him again, he declared that, he had allowed eight days for that particular job.”
– The honorable member is telling me, in effect, that the boss is a person who ought not to be retained in the service of the Commonwealth. If he will suppply me with the name of that person, I shall investigate the case.
– When, recently, I had. occasion to complain to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) about a certain matter, I did. not denounce the person concerned in the House; but I submitted the information on three typewritten sheets to the right honorable gentleman.
– Those typewritten sheets bore no signature. I saw them.
– I supplied the Attorney-General with not only the private address of my informant, but also a letter in his own handwriting.
– But without a signature.
– The AttorneyGeneral inquired into the case, thanked me cordially for my intervention, and stated that the information contained in the documents was substantially true. I do not blame the Government for everything that happens ; but, when instances of maladministration are cited, the Government should take notice of them. Many rumours are now circulating in Sydney of bribery and corruption in connexion with the Allied Works Council. Whilst I do not believe them, I consider that the Government should investigate them.
– The honorable member knows that an investigation is now being conducted by a highly competent and impartial man, who has been the trusted servant of successive governments. I shall await his report before I take any action.
– I agree that Sir Harry Brown, who is conducting the inquiry, is one of the ablest men in Australia. Unfortunately, his investigations are restricted by the limited terms of reference.
– Sir Harry Brown has not intimated to me that the terms of reference prevent him. from investigating matters that he considers to be essential for arriving at a proper decision.
– The press reported that Sir Harry Brown was prevented from inquiring into a certain matter because the terms of reference did not cover it.
– The terms of reference are not so limited, because the inquiry has proceeded for weeks.
– What are the honorable member’s views regarding the bill ?
– The people look to this Parliament for guidance in these perilous days. Every honorable member recognizes the seriousness of our position, and sympathizes with the Prime Minister in his great responsibilities.
– Then why does not the honorable member assist the Prime Minister by refraining from criticizing him?
– I desire to help the Prime Minister. I am simply suggesting to him the advisability of extending the zone in which the Citizen Military Forces may be required to fight. The inclusion of Timor is most important, because from that base the Japanese may launch an attack upon Western Australia. In this war the air weapon has been predominant, and the armies of the Axis have advanced successfully by making full use of air bases. As we do not control the Pacific Ocean, particularly north of Australia, we cannot send troops by sea without endangering their lives. Ships bearing food and munitions have been intercepted and sunk by the enemy. If we can hurl the Japanese from their advanced air bases, we shall make Australia secure from attack. In peace-time the administration of New Guinea constructed 54 landing grounds on the mainland between Salamaua and Aitaipi, north of Ma dang, and all of them are available to the Japanese. Australia is endeavouring to recapture Salamaua and Lae, which probably has the best landing ground on the mainland. The disadvantages of having to transport men and equipment across the Owen Stanley Range are tremendous, but we have confidence in our high command, and rely on our forces to expel the Japanese.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) declared yesterday that he would support the bill because his son was serving in New Guinea. He added that reinforcements were urgently required to relieve our battle-weary troops in the forward line. The right honorable gentleman overlooked the fact that this bill does not enable the Government to send increased aid to our soldiers in New Guinea.
– What about Dutch New Guinea ?
– We are not fighting in Dutch New Guinea.
– Not yet.
– We are still fighting in Papua.
– I can only say that the honorable member is not fully informed.
– The zone defined by the bill is anomalous. For example, the Government will be able to send the Citizen Military Forces to the shores of Singapore, but not beyond the beach. Seven of my nephews who were in Singapore at the time of its capture by the Japanese will not derive new hope from this bill. Its spirit is contrary to the resolution of the British never to pause until they have released their brethren in captivity. When Livingstone was lost in South Africa, Britain did not rest until he had been located. But in this legislation, the Commonwealth Government tells our diggers, whose wonderful services we have lauded, “ You silly mutts, you have been taken prisoner and so far as we are concerned you can stay there “.
– That is what the honorable member says.
– No words of the Minister for Transport will obliterate from the records of this House the fact that this bill permits the Government to use the Citizen Military Forces in a very limited area. Knowing the personal views of the Prime Minister on this subject, I appeal to him, even at this late hour, to reconsider his decision. Personally, I should prefer to be in khaki and fighting for the British Empire rather than debating this pettifogging bill.
– Sham-fighting !
– I agree that it is a sham-fight.
– And the honorable memis sham-fighting.
– I was on active service in the last war, while the Minister “ sham-fought “ at home.
– And the honorable member has talked about nothing else since his return.
– What are the honorable member’s views regarding the amendment ?
– I shall vote for the amendment. My party knew from the beginning my attitude to the bill, and nothing will prevent me from voting for an amendment designed to increase the zone in which the Citizen Military Forces may be used. In the last resort, I shall vote for the bill itself, because it is a small step in the right direction. At the same time, I make it clear that I disagree with the views, not only of the Prime Minister, but also of the executive of the Opposition. If the Government extended the zone of operations, it would receive the plaudits of an overwhelming majority in Australia. In delivering this speech, I am not attempting to make any political capital at the expense of the Government. I am anxious to assist Ministers to do what is best for the country.
This afternoon the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) stated that Tojo would be pleased to hear of the dissension in this House. Tojo will probably be delighted to know that this Government has introduced a bill of such limited scope. In effect, the Government is saying to Tojo : “ You need not be frightened. You keep out of our country and we will not pursue you to Japan. We shall stop at the Equator.” I have received a letter from a member of the Citizen Military Forces in New Guinea in which the writer says that the boys there do not care what the Australian Parliament does, because they have decided that they will chase the little yellow rats right back to their holes in. Japan. That is the spirit of the men of the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force. Glorious exploits have been performed by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal
Australian Navy, and in this connexion I do not forget the wonderful achievements of the men of the mercantile marine. Only a few days ago some members of the mercantile marine who had lost their ship managed to get ashore in boats, after a heroic battle with the elements. I regard those men as being in the same class as the men of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army.
The Prime Minister has often said that this is a global war. Yet, strange to say, though we have appealed to the United States of America on our bended knees for assistance, saying in effect, “ For God’s sake give us some help “, we now are saying to Americans. “ Thank you for coming to help us, but we have no intention to go to help you to chase the little yellow, rats out of the Philippines “.
– Call them monkeys !
– No; because sometimes the native boys in New Guinea are called monkeys, and I would not think of applying such a term to the Japanese rats. The native boys in New Guinea have done a wonderful job in helping our troops.
– Hear, hear!
– I trust that we shall never f orget what they have done and that after the war we shall do all we possibly can to acknowledge our indebtedness to them, and our realization of their fitness to be citizens of the Empire.
I hope that even at this late stage the Prime Minister will take some steps to widen the scope of this bill, so that we may take a part more in keeping with our dignity and more useful to the allied nations in fighting for the victory which we all desire.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment for reasons which I shall state. There is a long history behind this subject. T do not intend to restate it in detail, for it has been traversed many times in this Parliament in recent days. Basically this bill is for the purpose of authorizing the Government to use the Militia in areas which are forbidden under existing legislation. The present law came to this Government as a legacy from the political evolution of the Commonwealth. The existing law was passed many years ago and, although successive governments have had the opportunity to review it, the provision against compulsion for service overseas has remained on the statutebook because of definite pledges that have been given by the representatives of all political parties in this Parliament. If there be any culpability for the restrictions of the law as it stands that culpability must be shared not only by the political parties in this Parliament but also by the citizens of Australia as a whole, for the Parliament consists of representatives elected by the citizens. It can be said that the existing law is incontestably the creation of the people. I do not wish to tell the story behind this law, as it could be told with varying political emphasis.
I must say, however, that the war came definitely to Australia when Japan decided to collaborate with the Axis. That decision completely transformed the whole problem of the war for our people. Up to that period previous governments, acting in accordance with plans long formulated, have regarded it as the duty of Australia to contribute to the common cause in such places and in such manner as not in any event to bring war to Australian soil. This country, under those plans, was to become the exporter of war equipment and the provider of fighting materials. The previous Government, in conformity with that view, with which it agreed, endeavoured to make Australia the arsenal of the Pacific. Every effort was put forward to develop a greater munitions capacity and to employ our man-power and our resources to the utmost degree to this end. It was our purpose to supplement the tremendous man-power which the rest of the Empire possessed, and to furnish it with all available material at the most convenient places. The Government of the day also considered, properly in my view, that as Great Britain had to contend against a most serious submarine blockade, it was important that Australia should produce not only munitions and war equipment to the utmost of its ability, but also foodstuffs of all kinds. It will be recalled that in the early months of the war the Commonwealth Government did its utmost to stimulate productive agencies in Australia, by the. provision of bounties to various enterprises, having first surveyed the whole field and the possibility of establishing new industries that would be of value in a total war effort.
I believe that I have faithfully and fairly stated, hundreds of times, that the industrial structure that has served Australia so admirably during the whole course of the war was based upon the activities of previous governments. But the momentum that has been gained since this Government assumed office has probably enabled it to show better statistical results than the previous Government could do. I say, also, in answer to all the critics, that the infusion of new energy which became possible as the result of the change of government, accel- erated the flow of Australian production. An immensely important factor in this respect, too, was the entry of Japan into the war. This brought Australia face to face with such a grave danger that the public outlook on the war was immediately re-orientated.
This bill has been introduced as the result of war experiences and the threat to the shores of the Commonwealth. It has come, not out of previous political prejudices on the part of any body, or out of the political partisanships which belong to old controversies incidental to this issue; it has come out of the new threat to Australia. When Japan entered the war it became obvious immediately that our man-power was unequal to the task that confronted the country, and to the commitments which had been made in respect of production and the supply of war equipment. We had to face the necessity to increase our self-reliance to the maximum degree. We had. to take all possible steps to provide locally new supplies of all kinds of equipment. We could not depend upon sources of supply which were previously open to us, not only because of their distance from us and the immense problems of transportation, but also because such sources might become closed to us almost overnight.
Therefore the Government was faced with the urgent necessity to carry through plans which had been evolved as the result of careful and sober assessment of the naval, military and air requirements for the defence of Australia in the light of the physical resources of man-power available to us. That programme was f ormulated in accordance with such competent and expert advice as could be obtained by the Government. I make no pretence to being, in any way, a strategist in defence matters. I have a plain and simple rule to which I have adhered. It is that in all matters relating to the operational direction of the war the whole responsibility shall rest upon the High Command. The duty of the Government consists in allocating to the High Command such forces as it seeks and such equipment as it calls for. Ifthat cannot be done - and so far we have heard no suggestion that it has not been done - then the whole problem must be submitted for examination to a War Commitments Committee, on which the chiefs of the services will be represented equally with the heads of the civil administration, so that the total problem may be reviewed by allthose who are entitled to make separate demands upon our resources. The time has now come when no more can be done in any particular sphere of activity without doing something less in some other sphere of activity. All transfers from one sphere must now have an effect upon another sphere.
With the entry of Japan into the war several dramatic surprises came to us, and new and urgent problems arose. There was no political machinery in force for concerted action by the United Nations to deal with such problems. We had to improvise the necessary machinery, and it has been developed as the result of consultation and agreement. No one government has had its own way; no one government ever does get its own way. The Government of the Dominion of New Zealand and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia consist of men of broadly the same political principles and policies, who are able to bring to the consideration of the war effort and to our problems generally the same ideological outlook. I have been accused here, time and time again, of having in this bill abandoned New Zealand. That is utterly untrue. Such plans as the Australian
Government has formulated for collaboration with the Government of New Zealand in this perilous struggle were drawn in concert with representatives of the ‘Government of New Zealand, who came to Australia for consultations before theatres of war had been defined. Those representatives attended meetings of the Advisory Wai* Council, which directed a drafting committee to co-operate with the representatives from New Zealand in formulating plans concerning the theatres of war in which responsibilities could be jointly shared by the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New Zealand. It was called the Anzac theatre. It included New Zealand, New Caledonia and Fiji. It was much further south of the Equator than the area proposed by the present bill. It does not matter who was on the drafting committee; that committee was appointed by the Advisory War Council. It was perfectly in accordance with the wishes of that body, as well as the Governments of the two dominions, that Australia and New Zealand should be in the one theatre, to be known as the Anzac theatre, and that the boundary should be much further to the east than is the present boundary between the South-west Pacific theatre and the South Pacific theatre.
– But by the bill, New Zealand has been excluded.
– I am pointing out that it was the desire of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand ‘…… there should be one theatre. The .northern and north-western limits of the zone defined in the bill considerably exceed those which the Governments of New Zealand and Australia drew up for submission to the Governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The Government of the United States of America desired a different theatre; in consequence, disregarding the wishes of New Zealand and Australia, a separation of theatres of responsibility was effected. I did not support that partitioning, but I accepted it; because I have accepted the leadership of the great nations which have the great resources, and on that account must inevitably have the dominant voice in the determination of global strategy. What is the purpose of these boundaries that have been drawn between different theatres? It is not to exclude co-operation, but to ensure definiteness of responsibility. As a matter of fact, there is a continuance of the most complete cooperation between those who have been given responsibility in respect of these separate theatres. I reveal no secret when I say that even the press has told the story of the recent division of responsibility in North Africa, between the American commander and the’ British commander - General Montgomery. So there has proceeded, in the battle of the Solomons and in respect of New Caledonia, as well as New Zealand, the most intimate and, indeed, the maximum concert which the circumstances have permitted, between the commander of what is called the South-West Pacific area and the commander of the South Pacific area. All the talk about abandoning New Zealand is indulged in by gentlemen who are either ignorant of the facts or for some reason choose to ignore them. It i3 said that Malaya is outside the South-west Pacific theatre. As I have mentioned, this Government wished for some other theatre which would not go so far north as that. That did not mean that we are unconcerned about Malaya or the Philippines. It does mean that in a cold and, I hope, factual assessment of our capacity, with all the resources that are integral to it, in an examination of the problem that now confronts us, with the knowledge that we possess of the nature of the assistance upon which we can rely and of the character and objectives of global strategy, Ave do not pretend to accept a measure of responsibility, beyond our capacity to discharge. In any event, the boundary line has been drawn by others whose responsibility for global strategy is greater than mine. It is useless to ask me to give a reason for the way in which it has been’ drawn. That question must be put to persons in other parts of the world.
– Who drew the boundary line of the zone described in the bill?
– I have said that the zone which the Governments of Australia and New Zealand preferred did not go as far north as the boundary fixed in the bill.
– Who drew the boundary line in the bill?
– The bill was drawn by the Government. As a matter of fact, Malaya is not now and never was a responsibility of the South- West Pacific Area. Honorable gentlemen say that General MacArthur is unable to send men to Malaya. Under his directive, and in accordance with plans formulated by those who are responsible for the division of the whole world into theatres of responsibility, General MacArthur has not any responsibility in respect of Malaya. Malaya is in the India theatre, and thus is under the direction of Field Marshal Wavell.
– General MacArthur has a certain degree of responsibility in respect of the Philippines.
– Honorable gentlemen may argue as they will and say what they like; I have approached this problem as one who has had given to him a high trusteeship. Charges have been made against me in this matter, both to the right and to the left. The short story of it can easily be told. To the north of this country there is New Guinea, only a part of which is within Australia and its territories. To the north also are the islands of Timor and Ambon. There are, too, the Netherlands East Indies. I have accepted, and so has my party, what we believe to he the inescapable duty of Australians to defend this country with the maximum of its resources. In 1940, the Labour party agreed that, for the defence of this continent, it would accept compulsory military service. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has said, that, arising out of that decision, the trade unions and the Labour movement of Australia have accepted conscription for the defence of Australia.
– It is to their credit that they have done so.
– The problem as it emerged became very simple. The enemy had established himself, with landbased aircraft and complete control of the seas, in islands from which he was able constantly to batter vital strategic points on the Australian mainland. I do not believe that I reveal anything that is not now commonly known when I say that
Darwin and Port Moresby are keypoints that are vital to the maintenance of Australia. Darwin can be attacked daily from Timor and Ambon. Broome has been raided; a target has been made of Wyndham; Port Headland has been attacked ; so have the islands on the outer fringe. Reconnaissance planes are systematically circling over vital areas. Only a part of New Guinea is within what is described as Australia and its territories. The war .in New Guinea, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has so well said, is one in which the enemy is not only the Japanese but also the country itself. The wastage from sickness and disease has been four times as great as that caused by battle casualties. In all those islands to the north, and even Darwin itself in the wet season, the sickness rate is one of the great causes of difficulty in the defence of the country and the maintenance of the requisite strength of manpower to ensure that they shall be held. In order to hold Darwin, surely we must have something more than anti-aircraft defences and fixed garrisons ! We need bases from which our airmen can push out regularly and systematically, and bases from which our naval vessels can put to sea. It is necessary, also, to have available forces that can move north to protect such additional dromes as we may be able to acquire. Port Moresby has three points of attack, of which Milne Bay is one. That had to be taken from the enemy. The Owen Stanley Range is the second that has to be held. Merauke, in Dutch New Guinea, may be described as the third point from which the enemy may be attacked. In order that there may bc fluidity and efficiency in grappling with the enemy in those places, all of them vital to the holding of Australia, it is of the first importance that the Commander-in-Chief shall be able >to move whatever forces are most contiguous to the position to which he desires to move them. Having regard to all the circumstances, I came to the conclusion that the policy which was sound for the defence of Australia would have to be applied to those islands which are a part of the outer screen of Australia’s defence. I considered that, in order to be able to make to the commander the allocations for which he would call, we had to be in a position to meet a difficulty which did not exist in November, but would, I felt certain, arise as a consequence of the way in which the war would develop, the wastage it would impose, and the fact that we were engaged in what has been described as a holding war for what may be a protracted period. Knowing these things, and having that sense of responsibility which I should hope would distinguish any occupant of the office that I hold, I went to the Labour conference. Had I failed, I alone would have paid the price of failure. My party would have survived, and my colleagues could have continued to conduct the administration.
– And Australia could have gone, too.
– Australia would not have gone.
– The right honorable gentleman has said so. That is why he asked for this power.
– No. That is mere hyperbole.
– Why, then, did the right honorable gentleman ask for it?
– Because it was necessary.
– That is right; and in the event of a refusal to grant it, Australia would have been in peril.
– The honorable gentleman always qualifies his statement with an “ if “. I did not fail to obtain it.
– But the right honorable gentleman was discussing the contingency of failure.
– Had I failed, as Leader of a party and as Prime Minister, I would have been so circumstanced that I could no longer have stood in this place where I now stand. I do not give that as a brilliant example of my own virtues, whatever they may be, because they are unimportant; but on both sides of this House, as Leader of the Opposition as well as Prime Minister, I have thrown in the leadership of my party as a trophy to be disputed about, not only on behalf of the policy for which I stand here to-night, but also on behalf of policies launched by the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member, although his own leaders did not accept such a risk. I have done that from the day on which war began. The amendment proposes that all restrictions shall be removed, and that men may be sent anywhere to any part of the world. It is argued by those who favour the amendment that if we do not accept it we shall be letting down the Empire and the United Nations. The leaders of the United Kingdom understand our position; they know our circumstances; they are familiar with our problems. They acquiesced in the return to this country, because of man-power problems, of Australians who had been fighting in distant theatres of war; the United States of America, which is not a part of the Empire, also recognizes our man-power problems, because the Government of that country has said to us, in effect : “ You have not enough men of your own. Therefore, we shall send you a given number of men to make up the deficiency under which we know you labour.” There is no misunderstanding on the part of the governments of the United Nations, but there are mischief-makers in this country who seek to manufacture such misunderstandings. I could quote cables that have been despatched by those who seek to work up synthetic problems for this Parliament, and who manufacture misunderstandings of Australia and the Australian people in order to achieve some miserable little political purpose of their own. I am staggered that it should be suggested that a bill which proposes to lessen the restrictions imposed on the use of the Militia- Forces should be described as a measure which lets down the Empire and the United Nations, and besmirches our own reputation.
If this bill does not pass, the existing law stands. Has Australia, under the existing law, such an ill record that any one may reproach us with not having made as valorous a contribution to the struggle, having regard to our resources, as any other country? Has not General Douglas MacArthur said of us that no other nation in the world has geared itself more effectively for a total war effort, having regard to our resources? Do not Ministers of previous Governments know that they suffered no impediment under the existing law in providing magnificent divisions of Australians to fight in the Middle East and Malaya ? There was no impediment in the law to the sending of many units of the Australian Navy - units now unfortunately lost - to serve in practically every ocean of the world. More than 11,000 Australians have gone overseas for training under the Empire air scheme, and Australians are serving in great numbers, and with great distinction, in the Royal Air Force. When it is reported that, night after night, the Royal Air Force was over Germany or Italy or occupied France, bashing industrial targets, it ought to be said that in the Royal Air Force there are very many Australians who have gone abroad to serve the cause for which we fight. I am astonished that any honorable member on the other side of the House should say that this bill smears Australia’s record, for without the bill the law will stand as it stood during the whole time that they had the responsibility for administering the country’s war effort. Do they say that, as it then stood, and with this disability, as it is called., on the use of Australian forces, the record of our fighting services was such as to enable any one justly to reproach Australia on its war effort?
This recrimination is too pitiful; it is unworthy of what we have accomplished. Such misunderstanding as may develop will be largely of our own creation. I ask that it cease, for obviously the struggle in which we are involved demands of us a united effort. We have a small population and an immense area to defend. We have all sorts of physical difficulties to overcome. We have transport problems between the south and the north by road and rail, and we have to struggle with the day to day effects of the deadly U-boat campaign against the shipping of the United Nations, a campaign which has the effect of greatly reducing the tonnage available to Australia. So grave is our problem that it is imperative that we dispose the forces at our command in the places which the enemy may attack so that we shall be able to meet him - for the enemy has the initiative in the Pacific, not the United Nations, and he retains the initiative because for years he systematically prepared for war, because he gulled and lulled the United Nations, and particularly the United States of America and the United Kingdom, into accepting his suggestion that he would attempt to achieve his co-prosperity sphere in the Pacific by peaceful negotiation.
I remember when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was abroad, and the Advisory War Council issued a warning to the Australian people, the very newspapers that are now attacking the Government on this bill described the warning as crying wolf. They said that it was all “ hooey “. It is not for me to surmise what difficulties may have arisen among the Opposition, but I am aware of certain facts. I know that last Tuesday, at. a meeting of the Advisory War Council, I laid certain documents on the table, and at that meeting there were four former Prime Ministers. Three of them were sitting as representatives of the Opposition, and one, the right honora’ble member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) I had co-opted. Next day, I understand, there was a meeting of the executive of the Opposition. All those who had represented the Opposition at the meeting of the Advisory War Council are, I believe, members of the Opposition executive. I do not know what effect the reading of those documents had upon them ; but I understand that the executive of the Opposition recommended its mem’bers to move no amendments to this bil], but to let it pass. I understand that that decision was confirmed at a subsequent meeting of the executive, and was ratified by the party. I ask the country, as I ask the House, can we disregard the significance of that chronology? Can it be assumed that the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), a former wartime Prime Minister and present day leader of the United Australia party, together with my colleagues and myself, would come away from the Advisory War Council with one opinion, and then go into some other place and develop another opinion ? No !
– The decision of the executive had nothing whatever to do with it.
– I have long admired the right honorable member for Kooyong. There is no more brilliant man in this Parliament. He has all the talents, but I suggest to him that he is creating for himself a unique record. His motto seems to be, “ I can always pull out “, and pulling out is becoming a too frequent activity of the right honorable member. Neither in the Parliament nor in the party can any man have his own way all the time. I dp not pretend that in this Parliament, or in my own party, I always get my own way, but on broad issues of major importance, when some course of action is decided upon by a majority, it is expected that there shall be general adhesion to the decision so reached. I have always practised that. It has happened in the course of this war that, in the light of decisions reached by the combined chiefs of staff at Washington, the hopes and expectations of the chiefs of staff in Australia have had to be abandoned. We all have to surrender something if this concept of united action in Parliament and among the nations is to be accepted and acted upon. I say to the right honorable member for Kooyong that if he cannot get his own way to-day, in his own party or in the Parliament, well, he must wait until to-morrow. In the meantime, let him help the men who helped him when he was with the majority.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) accused me - wrongly, as it happens - of changing my mind about the submission which I made to the conference of the Australian Labour party. He said that I had put up a proposition to the conference which it accepted, and that subsequently I altered my mind about the boundaries within which the Militia might ‘be required to serve.
– I judged the Prime Minister on the views which he had expressed.
– The honorable member accused me, wrongly, as I say, of having changed my mind, and he went on to suggest that there was something culpable in that. He accused me of changing my mind, and he did so just five minutes after he had been justifying to this Parliament his own change of mind since the end of last week.
However, these features of the debate are of no real relevance to the point at issue. The bill, far from limiting the power of the Government under the existing law, proposes to remove some of the restrictions which the existing law imposes. The bill widens and enlarges the contribution which Australia had previously made to this global struggle to the extent of taking in all that area which, in the light of our immediate problems and those which we can envisage for some time to come, represents the range of effective action which lies within our power, even with such help as we may expect from abroad.
Finally, this country is reversing a tradition. Honorable gentlemen opposite are quite right. I did have to convince the Labour conference that the circumstances of the country warranted it in reversing the tradition that the Labour party had fought for and stood by throughout the whole history of federation. Bear in mind that in 1903, when the first Defence Bill was brought into this Parliament, the limits of service of the Militia were fixed by those who preceded us as the mainland of Australia. It was not until 1939 that the territories of Australia were added. In the interim, we had experienced one world war. There had been all kinds of disputes, consultations and controversies, and yet the law had stood. I remind the country, and I remind Parliament, as I am entitled to do, that for only two short years in the last 25 years has the Labour party been in possession of the treasury bench and had the power to introduce legislation into this Parliament. Some honorable gentlemen opposite have said that they have always stood for using the Militia anywhere. I do not accept that as their belief, because, if it had been, they would have amended the Defence Act in the direction they desired.
– There has been no war in the Pacific before now.
– What about war anywhere? This war in the Pacific makes it less possible for Australia to send troops to other theatres than when there was no war in the Pacific, because the primary responsibility of any government is to defend its own territory. Its next duty is to make its contribution to the common cause. Thi3 Government has organized Australia so that as near as possible our maximum capacity is available for the defence of our own country. We know of nothing that we could do more than we have done. I am aware that a lot that we have done has not been well done. As times goes on it may be possible to do better. Mistakes have been made, all because of the terrible urgency under which we have had to labour. But we have done our best for Australia and for the total cause, because, in defending Australia, we are defending not only our own country but also holding a base of the utmost strategic importance to the United Nations in the prosecution of the war against the Axis powers. Therefore, it is not a selfish doctrine to hold Australia, for in holding Australia we are holding a place of immense importance to the United Nations against the time when they will be able to place here the requisite forces to array against the enemy. Does this war against Japan mean that great masses of Australian men, infantrymen and the like will march from island to island? That is not my view. My view is that we shall conduct our campaign against Japan from the sea and the air, and leave in each place we conquer a garrison to hold at as the Navy and Air Force move on to Tokyo. If this war does not mean that, it will be a long and dreadful night, with a huge expenditure of men. No government should predicate a policy involving such a prolonged campaign.
This bill was introduced with the deepest sense of responsibility. We have brought it down because wo believe that it enables the men of this country to be used to the greatest advantage under the pressure of war in those places where war is raging and where the security of our country is being assailed and fought for. I believe that this bill is requisite. I say that to my side. I believe that it is adequate. I say that to my opponents opposite. It is adequate for the immediate problem and, being adequate, it should be passed. It enables the future of this country to be envisaged much more securely than otherwise would be the case. We make a contribution not only to the security of the 7,000,000 Britishers of this country, but also to ensure that the peoples of the United Nations shall have a base to which to bring such strength as they can when the state of the war in other theatres enables them to release more men and materials than they are now able to release to this theatre. I make no complaint about the contributions made to this country by other countries. I know their problems. But nobody in authority has made any complaint about the contribution that Australia has made to other theatres. No, those who have the responsibility of conducting war are not quarrelling; the mischief-makers outside are doing that. I ask that we shall be more disposed to let the world know the magnificence of our achievements, that we shall talk more about what our fighting men have done by sea, land and air, that we shall be more ready to praise the workers for the immense labour that they have engaged in and the vast production which has flowed as the result of it. If we are to .become abusers, let us abuse the common enemy. Let us stimulate each other ; let us, by friendly and helpful counsel, by expressions of goodwill and by developing a spirit of cooperation and understanding of each other, ensure that the Australian people in this first conflict for the retention of their soil in a history of more than 150 years shall display the vigour, strength and purpose which are the attributes of their origin and will, when the war is over, I venture to say, evoke the admiration of the world.
– I rise with no pleasure to speak on this bill, not because of what is happening on the Government side of the House, but because of what is happening on this side. I shall speak with more reticence than I should have displayed a few days ago, because I now find that what I shall say will not have the wholehearted support of my colleagues. But I say to the Prime Minister that my views are more in accordance with those expressed in his speech than with the views that have been expressed’ by certain members of the Opposition. I say that quite openly. I owe it to my electors to give my reasons for the vote which I shall cast. I support this bill. I declare that quite frankly. It is because I desire the introduction of full conscription that I take my stand alongside the Government. I see in this bill the only possible way in which conscription may be accomplished. I believe in its accomplishment step by step. The Prime Minister, by introducing this bill, has taken the first step. During the last war the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on two occasions appealed to the people for authority to bring down measures which went a little further than this measure goes. On the first occasion the referendum was defeated by a large majority and on the second the majority against the right honorable gentleman’s proposal was larger still. Even to-day in country towns in my electorate I know people who have not been on speaking terms for a quarter of a century because of bitterness engendered between them by the conscription campaigns of the last war. Those campaigns divided the people. Division was bad then, but it would be worse to-day. Anything that would split this country in twain must at all costs be avoided, and I believe that a proposal for out-and-out conscription at this stage would have that very result. Not all the people are behind this measure and a very much larger number would be against any measure for full conscription. The true adherents of the policy of full conscription realize that unless we have the people behind us when we introduce it, we shall fail. I give to the Prime Minister the greatest credit for the part that he has played in this drama. I realize the importance of the step he took when he went to the Labour conference with his proposal. I have read in the Century newspaper and in pamphlets reprints of speeches made by him during the last war. The right honorable gentleman and most of his supporters were, during the last war, outandout opponents of conscription. Indeed, the Prime Minister was in the very forefront of those who fought against the proposals made by the right honorable member for North Sydney. “We must remember, however, that 25 years or more have elapsed since then and this is a different war.
Although that time has elapsed and this war is not the same kind of war, I realize that the word “conscription” is still obnoxious to most of the right honorable gentleman’s party. To be Prime Minister is to occupy the greatest position of trust in the land. The Prime Minister is faithfully carrying out that trust. He is in consultation with the leaders of the United Nations and he knows the peril which faces this country. He also knows that unless the people are solidly behind him it is not worth while trying to impose conscription on them. He knows that conscription of the character wanted by some of my colleagues would cause strikes and all other sorts of turmoil and that the assistance he wants to give to the United Nations in the united cause could not be given. He has, therefore, acted very wisely in taking this step. Some of my colleagues describe it as only a small step. It may bf; only a small step, but I remind the House that it is only a small step that the condemned man takes when he steps on to the gallows trapdoor. Before he went to the Labour conference, the Prime Minister occupied a position somewhat similar to that which the man occupies while the hangman adjusts the noose around his neck. He placed his whole political career in jeopardy by taking this “ small “ step, but he survived to bring this bill before Parliament with the approval of his party. Talking of small things reminds me that our forefather, Adam, took only a little bite of the apple. But the smallness of the bite was sufficient to cast him from the Garden of Eden. The Prime Minister’s love of this country is so great that he went to a party traditionally opposed to the conscription of Australian men for service overseas with a proposal that they put their tradition aside. He succeeded. His majority was small, it is true; but it was sufficient, and now he has his party’s support. I notice that, although his supporters will vote for him, they have not had the courage to come out rand say that they will. They are not so game as he is for they have not the pluck to say openly what they intend to do. I know that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) received the approval of his electoral council to support this measure by only 30 votes to 28. The honorable member nearly went. I repeat that the Prime Minister has done a great thing in taking this step. It is now up to our party to go a little way to meet him in order to ensure unity. I have sufficient faith in the Prime Minister to know that he will act in the interests of this country. His conduct since he has been in office has convinced me that he is trustworthy. If it becomes necessary to extend the area in which our Militia may be compelled to serve, or if it becomes necessary at any time to introduce complete conscription which will enable our men to be sent anywhere overseas to fight, I have sufficient faith in the Prime Minister to know that he, probably better than ourselves, will do whatever is necessary.
I have on my right a former Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the highest regard, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable member did not attempt to introduce conscription, although the necessity for doing so existed during his term of Office, because he feared that it would tear the country asunder. During his term of office, the country experienced considerable industrial unrest and the right honorable member even visited the coal-fields in an endeavour to pacify the miners. They would barely listen to him. When he had the audacity to introduce petrol rationing, deaths heads were painted upon many garages throughout the country. He received no support from the Labour party. Because the country would have been divided into bitter factions, he could not take certain steps that were urgently required. Only one man, namely, the present Prime Minister could introduce conscription, though he took his political life in his own hands in doing so. As he has taken that risk, it behoves me to support him in this matter. I shall vote for the measure of conscription that bc proposes to introduce.
– There is just as much opposition to-day to conscription as there was in 1916.
– Many people take the view that as their sons are serving in theatres of war, they should be reinforced by those who are left at home. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in an excellent speech yesterday, mentioned that his son, after fighting in the Middle East, had been transferred to a battle station in New Guinea. He and other honorable members who have relatives in theatres of war, support the bill because they wish to avoid disunity in these critical times. Last week some honorable members on this side of the chamber held opinions different from those which they now express. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), a member of the United Australia party executive, informed us a few days ago that he had decided to support the Government. At a second meeting, the executive saw no reason to alter its view and I understand that this attitude was confirmed at a third meeting. For my part, I was satisfied with the original decision because it agreed with my own view. Last week-end I visited a leading town in my electorate and had cause to reply to the toast of “ The Parliament of the Commonwealth “. I said that the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had” tendered to us some excellent advice. I know of no more loyal citizen than he, and I considered that I was justified in supporting him. During the week-end, the honorable member for Warringah went to Sydney, where he wobbled and changed his mind. Strangely enough the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) underwent a similar change of mind, also after a visit to Sydney. I do not criticize them for their altered outlook, because I do not doubt their loyalty and sincerity, ‘but I have to explain on the platform my reasons for supporting the bill. As the honorable member for Warringah explained his change of front, it appeared that the platform itself had dropped from under me.
The Prime Minister deserves encouragement for having introduced the bill, because he has received little support from honorable members opposite. Some of them would like to chase him with a meataxe for this departure from Labour’s traditional policy. He has not convinced all the trade unions of the necessity for the bill, and some are hostile to him. If he cannot secure the unanimous support of honorable members opposite, I should like to see him gain the unanimous support of the Opposition in this matter, because we must set an example of unity to the people. I support the bill because half a loaf is better than no bread. The zone in which the Citizen Military Forces may be used is perhaps not so restricted as some honorable members fear. The Equator is only an imaginary line, a considerable distance north of Australia. If during the life of this Parliament our troops are able to advance as far as the Equator, we shall have cause for congratulation. It will then be time to consider any extension of the zone, and I have sufficient .confidence in the Prime Minister to believe that he will take the right step at the appropriate time.
In making these statements I do not wish it to be thought that I favour the Labour party or its tactics. However, I do not upbraid the Prime Minister for having approached the trade unions junta for advice regarding the introduction of this limited measure of conscription. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have always censured the Labour party for owing allegiance to an outside organization, but we must not forget that sometimes more than one-half of the people of Australia support the Labour party. I should prefer to obtain advice from such an organization rather than go to Sydney, as the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Wentworth did. I do not know who they met. Perhaps they subscribe to certain newspapers, which led them to change their minds. Much as I dislike the organization, I should prefer to seek advice from the trade unions organization of Australia rather than be dictated to by any newspaper, or any two or three of my electors, who might tell me that for political reasons I should change my views. Of course, my guess as to what occurred may not be correct. Perhaps consciences of those honorable members pricked them. Although they may ‘be satisfied with their position, they have made difficulties for other honorable members, including myself and the Leader of the Opposition, who have committed themselves to support the bill in accordance with the wishes of the executive of the party. I do not. wish to criticize members of the United Australia, party whose views on this bill differ from my own. I have worked harmoniously with them for years, and I think that the present turmoil will disappear and unity will be restored. But to-day, I am closer to the Prime Minister than I am to some honorable members on this side of the chamber. I make that statement fearlessly, because I consider that I am serving the best interests of the country in doing so.
The honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) expressed great concern at the view which the United States of America would take of Australia if this bill became law. What the United States of America thinks about this legislation is a matter of complete indifference to me. What did Australians think about the United States of America and Russia eighteen months ago ? When I visited America, I did not find any one who thought about Australia at ail. I searched in vain in the American newspapers for any news about Australia, but, the only happenings to receive notice were double or treble murders in Melbourne or Sydney. On half a dozen occasions, I was asked what language Australians spoke, and a resident of New York expressed surprise when I informed him that all Australians were not- black. Even in the English press, Australia received little publicity. Our sins were mentioned, but our good deeds escaped notice. I should add that I saw no criticism of Australia. But oven, if we are criticized, we need not be disturbed unduly. We desire to govern this country as we think it should be governed. In peace-time, democracy worked smoothly and unobtrusively; in war-time democracy has good and bad features. But even with its bad features democracy is better than Nazi-ism or any other “ ism “. Democracy is a slowworking machine. If we lived under Nazi domination, conscription would be introduced overnight, and the people would not be divided. If there were any objectors, they would be promptly shot. In Australia, we desire to retain our democratic institutions, and we move forward one step at a time because more than one-half of the people have on different occasions expressed opposition to conscription. I believe that they were wrong. But we may be able to set them right.
.- Four main features of this bill call for consideration. First, there was the attack by some members of the Opposition on the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for the manner in which he sought to obtain an expression of opinion from the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. Secondly, there was the attack by some members of the Opposition on the right honorable gentleman because he appealed to the United .States of America for help in this period of national emergency. Thirdly, there is the peculiar attitude of some members of the Opposition to the bill. And fourthly, there are the merits of the bill itself. I never considered that it was wrong to obtain either from my electorate or from the group of people I happened to be addressing an expression of their opinion regarding matters of national importance. Consequently, I saw nothing extraordinary in the Prime Minister’s approach to the conference of the Australian Labour party, which represents a substantial body of opinion in the Commonwealth. The New South Wales delegates represent approximately 250,000 trade unionists, who form a substantial part of the adult population. Their opinion would be a good guide to the general view of the country upon a certain matter. Irrespective of any powers which the Government may have under the National ‘Security Act, I consider that it is essential that it should introduce only those measures which it believes to be in accordance with the wishes of the people. The difference between this Government and the Opposition is that the Opposition is not so greatly concerned about the will of the people. I believe that the Prime Minister appreciated the necessity to obtain the approval of the people to any measure of this description. He realized that the people would not swallow anything that he offered them. Every prudent business man, every man of ordinary common sense, would take care to survey the prospects of success of any project that he had in mind. In effect, that is what the Prime Minister did when he consulted the federal executive of the Australian Labour party.. Consequently, the attack that has been made upon him under this heading has been quite unjustified.
The Opposition has also assailed the right honorable gentleman because of his appeal to the United States of America for assistance. It has been, said that we have no right to ask America for assistance and to expect that country to send American draftees to Australia unless we are prepared to send our Militia to fight wherever those draftees are expected to fight. I disagree with that view. I wonder what attitude honorable members opposite would take if this Government were to object to the American Government sending to this country men of full, or even part, negro blood ? We should be told by the Government of the United States that that was a matter of American internal politics. The American Government would undoubtedly regard as a matter for Commonwealth decision, the question of whether the Australian Militia shall serve in this, that or the other theatre of war. It is our right to say where our Militia shall serve.
We have witnessed an extraordinary spectacle in this House to-day. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has resigned from the United Australia party, of whose executive he has been a member. I ask him, in the “ fair dinkum “ Australian way, whether he intends now to resign from the Advisory War Council.
– He will be kicked out of it.
– It is useless for an honorable member to advocate in this House policies which he was not prepared to apply when he had the opportunity to do so. I refer to this point because the Prime Minister informed us this evening, that the limits imposed under this bill are not so restrictive as those originally suggested by the drafting committee which was appointed by the Advisory War Council to consider this subject in consultation with representatives of the Government of New Zealand. It may just as well be made public that one of the members of the drafting committee which proposed narrower limits than those now provided in the hill was the light honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies).
– That is untrue. The whole statement of the honorable member on this point is untrue, and is characteristic of him.
– With great respect to the right honorable member, I prefer to rely upon the information supplied to me.
– By whom?
– I decline to say by whom.
– Then it must be put down to an anonymous liar.
– The right honorable gentleman who is now questioning my bonafides is the same person who, prior to the entry of Japan into the war, compelled the waterside workers to load pig iron for shipment to Japan.
– That is right.
– I rise to order. I wish to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you intend to allow the Government Whip to interject from the front bench ?
– I ask the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) not to interject.
– Do you intend, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to apply the Standing Orders to the front bench, or must we apply to an Australian Labour party conference for a direction on the point?
– Order !
– The right honorable member for Kooyong is culpable in the highest degree in respect of certain things that he did when he was Prime Minister. If he attacks my bona fides, he must expect me to reply in this way.
– Did not the Prime Minister suggest that recriminations should be discontinued?
Mr.FALSTEIN.- It is desirable that recriminations should be discontinued; but the Oppositionshould not ask for trouble.
The merit of this bill is, as the Prime Minister has said, that it has regard to the nature of the war in the Southwestern Pacific Zone, and also to the possibility of the invasion of Australia by the Japanese. We have been told this evening that Japanese reconnaisance planes have been flying over towns in the north-west of Australia. We should not assume that Australia will be attacked only from the north-east. The attack might come from the north-west. Having regard to the fact that the Advisory War Council had before it a recommendation that the Militia should be used in a more restricted area than that prescribed in the bill, I think we can, at least, regard this measure as providing adequately for the present defence of this country, and therefore we may with propriety, agree to it. It cannot be justly said that because Malaya and the Philippines are not included in the defined area, we are deserting the troops who may be prisoners in those areas. Those who make such statements are playing the game of party politics. I consider that the bill is adequate for present needs. It draws a fair line. I conclude by expressing the hope that the members of the Opposition who are opposing the bill, and also certain newspapers of this country which are attacking the Government, will also draw a fair line and will not make available information which may be of value to the enemy, or act in a way which may exceed the bounds of public decency.
– Like all other honorable members, I was deeply interested in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Credit is due to the right honorable gentleman for the fight that he has waged to introduce conscription for overseas service, even to the degree provided for in this bill. Unquestionably the bill will legalize the use of Australian forces beyond Australian territories and beyond our territorial waters. Moreover, it will be. quite practicable for this Parliament, at any future time, to extend the bounds within which the Australian Militia may be required to serve. As the Prime Minister rightly said, if this bill be not passed, the position will remain as it is at present. For that reason I intend to support the measure. I remind the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and those who are supporting him, that if the amendment be agreed to it will not be possible for us to unite the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen
Military Forces, even in the areas prescribed in the bill. That will undoubtedly be to the detriment of this country. It will then be possible to say of us that we lost an opportunity to establish the principle of conscription in the time of our greatest national stress. I agree with all that the mover of the amendment and his supporters have said about the bonds of Empire, and about the splendid service of the Australian Imperial Force. I believe that the Australian Imperial Force should be supported by the Citizen Military Forces wherever the fighting is proceeding.We should have one army under one command. It is wrong that the members of the Australian Imperial Force who have fought in the Middle East and have since fought in New Guinea should be called upon, without having had any proper rest, to engage in fighting in any of the areas to which the Militia can not now be sent. Unless we agree to this bill, the Australian Imperial Force will be called upon to make still greater sacrifices.
I do not think that the Prime Minister is adopting the right attitude towards the United States of America in this matter. He appealed to President Roosevelt to provide forces and equipment to defeat the Japanese, but to the unions he appealed for an extended area for the protection of Australia alone. Every true Australian will agree that we should do our utmost to defeat the Japanese. Our ultimate objective is unquestionably the complete defeat of the enemy. The Prime Minister issued our declaration of war on Japan that goes beyond the defence of Australia. Why, then, should we not agree to send our troops even as far afield as Japan to achieve this worthy objective? By doing so, we should be honouring the pledge of “ total war “ to which we agreed a. few days ago to do everything possible to overwhelm the enemy. We cannot defeat Japan by keeping our troops in Australia, or even in the restricted area defined in the bill. When the great principle of conscription has, by the passage of the bill, been adopted in this country for the first time in its history, it will be a simple matter, as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said, to enlarge it. In the past, the principle alone has been at stake. The Attorney-General has said-
No one can say dogmatically that the area fixed will be found to be too limited, at any rate for a substantial time.
That means that, until we can conquer the enemy throughout New Guinea, including Dutch New Guinea, in Timor, and in other islands of the Pacific in the zone defined, this will be sufficient. The right honorable gentleman added -
Parliament has complete liberty to alter the area at any time.
That is my contention. We should do an injustice to Australia, to our troops, and to our allies, did we not wholeheartedly support the passage of the hill. The efforts of the Prime Minister to achieve this result redound to his credit. The right honorable gentleman has said that some of his own members would attack him - presumably with stilettos and batons. Whilst prating about the deeds of Australians and feeling proud of their achievements in this and the last war, we must realize that the whole of the credit is due to the Australian Imperial Force, not to this or any other Government. It is our duty to support by every means in our power the young men who have established an enviable reputation for Australia on foreign battlefields, and are continuing to do so. They should be given the full assistance of the Militia, so that they may not have in their minds thoughts such as have been expressed in statements similar to those contained in a letter that I have read from a young man who is serving in New Guinea, to his mother, as follows: -
Provided the Japs don’t push hard and get reinforcements soon, we should have this strip under control. I hope so. It’s been a hard and costly campaign for the few units that have been used. It’s been about entirely an Australian Imperial Force effort. It looks sometimes as though they are trying to settle the Australian Imperial Force-Australian Military Forces question by getting rid of the Australian Imperial Force. . . .
In a later letter, he states -
You will be amazed when you hear how the 7th and part of the 6th Division have been used. It seems as though they will settle Australian Military Forces-Australian Imperial Force problems easily by putting us in again and again without reinforcements. By the papers it looks as though this campaign has been quite normal and successful. However, any 6th or 7th Division soldier will tell you it’s the hardest. We started with 560 odd; now, with killed, wounded and sick out, 58 is the approximate strength now in the unit. Had we been continually reinforced, they would still have units with all experienced men to some degree.
Upon their return from the Middle East, many of these lads had only five days’ leave in their homes before being sent on to New Guinea. If the Government is not prepared to act in the matter, there should he some executive authority which would he the custodian of the interests of the Australian Imperial Force. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia could be officially appointed their guardians to see that the Australian Imperial Force gets a fair deal in future operations. It does not appear to have had one in the operations that have so far been conducted. I know that the Militia desires to do its part, and not to leave the heaviest load to those who, in other battlefields away from this country, have already performed deeds of which all of us are proud.
Honorable members who have suddenly decided to oppose the bill have not altogether played the game with their party. They were members of an executive of seventeen which placed before the party the unanimous decision that the bill should be supported. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has since given expression to the unanimous decision of the executive, and cannot change has ground. Those who have not yet spoken, however, do not occupy a similar position. That is deplorable. My opinion has not been changed by these defections, because I believe that we shall be acting rightly if we secure the measure of conscription for which provision is made in the bill. We should support the Prime Minister because of the great fight he has waged to reach the present position. Only in this way can we ensure that the Australian Imperial Force will be given even this limited assistance and that we shall participate to a greater degree with the Empire and the Allied Nations in the future conduct of the war. The defeat of the bill would be a calamity. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said last night, there are two schools of thought - those who do not want anything if they cannot have fullblooded conscription, and those who do not want conscription at all. Those who support the amendment of the honorable member for ‘Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) claim that there should be full conscription. They object to the Prime Minister having approached the Labour conference, because of the time that was thereby lost. I offer the same objection. But how much moTe time would be lost if the bill were defeated? Months would elapse, during which no Australian would go beyond the limits of Commonwealth territory except the Australian Imperial Force. Some time will be occupied in cleaning up the areas now occupied by Japan in the zone defined in the bill. The establishment of the Commonwealth was hailed as giving effect to the ideal of “ one people, one flag, one destiny “. In the Commonwealth to-day, we have two armies and two sets of people. From time to time, the manifestation of party politics is as bitter as it has ever been. There is advocacy of two objectives, one the defence of Australia and the other the defeat of Japan. We should achieve one destiny and one people, with the institution of one Australian parliament, in in which there would be a national government owing allegiance to one flag and prepared to have it carried to Japan in co-operation with the heroic British and Americans, but for whose efforts in the Solomons and other theatres Australia would doubtless have been invaded. If Americans are requested to assist us to defend Australia, we should be prepared to accompany them right to Japan. Just as the Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand said : “ When Britain fights, we fight ; where she stands, we will stand “, we should say to the Americans in this country: “As we are within the war zone and the United Nations realize that we must first protect Australia, our next resolve must be that wherever the forces of the United States of America fight in the Pacific, we, too, shall fight; and wherever they stand, we shall stand, .until their enemy and ours has been defeated on Japanese soil.” I sincerely trust that the Australian Imperial Force will be given the fullest degree of assistance that the Militia and themselves desire to afford. The Militia desires to participate in the defeat of Japan and the winning of the war. What is needed in Australia to-day is a great united army ready to fight in any place to preserve the welfare of Australia; one great united national parliament and a national government controlling the destinies of our country, and backed by a nation united in the ideal “ one people, one flag, one destiny “.
.- I propose to address myself to the amendment before the Chair. I refer to the amendment, because I spoke last week on the second reading of the bill before any amendment had been moved. I now propose in my turn to move an amendment to the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I wish to move -
That all the words after “to serve” he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ in any area or areas which His Excellency the Governor-General, after consultation with his military advisers, deems necessary for full co-operation with our allies and the defeat of our enemies.”
I put that form of words forward because they seem to embody what ought to be the real principle of this matter. It is necessary that I say something to the House to indicate how it comes that I am myself submitting an amendment, because it is notoriously well known that I was a member of the Opposition executive which, on several occasions, recommended to the Opposition that no amendment should be put forward. I know that I am in a position where I am exposed to very great and just criticism, and I am not seeking to evade one word of it. It can be said, as it has been said with great force by some intimate friends of mine on this side of the House, that the position occupied by a man who shares with his colleagues in a recommendation and subsequently departs from that recommendation, is not an enviable one. That is true. So far from offering any criticism of the views held by the majority of honorable members on this side of the House, I admit that I am the person liable to be criticized. It will be said, of course, that some pressure, from newspapers or elsewhere, has been exercised upon me. Honorable members will not need to be told that my experience of the newspapers of Australia is not such as to make me feel peculiarly dependent upon their favour, and, therefore, I shall not need to assure honorable members that the attitude of the press on this matter is of no great significance to me. It will be known by my colleagues on this side of the House that, from the very beginning of the consideration of this matter, I have not felt myself able to share in one particular opinion, namely, that this bill is an important step in the right direction. My colleagues on this side of the House, with complete honesty, and with great reason as they see the problem, have said that there is embodied in this bill a principle which they approve, and that we should be indeed foolish if we were to risk the loss of that principle by seeking to amend the bill. If I were able to accept that view with a whole heart and a. clear mind I should do exactly what the majority of honorable members on this side of the House are going to do, but, as I indicated in my second-reading speech, I do not accept that view. I believe that this is a deplorable bill. However, as hasbeen quite accurately pointed out, I shared in a recommendation that we should not take steps to amend the bill; in other words, that we should not create at this time a political crisis over the issue. I realize to the full the embarrassment which my departure from that recommendation must cause the Leader of the Opposition. He has faithfully represented the considered opinion of the majority of honorable members of the Opposition. I realize the embarrassment which my action must occasion my colleagues in the Opposition, but if honorable members will spare me a little time I shall explain to them the process by which I reached my decision. Nobody who heard my speech last week on the bill can entertain much doubt as to what I thought of it. Subsequently, and erroneously - I make no reservation about that - I concurred in a general view that the bill ought not to be opposed. Not very long after I had done that, I found myself confronted with the most difficult issue that can confront any member of Parliament. I daresay that there are many honorable members of this House who have been confronted with it at one time or another. It was this : If I voted against an amendment which expressed my own opinion on this great matter of principle, I should be for ever compounding with my own judgment - I should be for ever falsifying my own expressed views.
– Only a lawyer could understand that
– A great many people are capable of understanding it - probably every honorable member of this House except the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini).
– The right honorable member did not consider the position of his leader.
– I gave a great deal of consideration to the position of my leader because I knew that, as I had shared in the recommendation of the executive, if I subsequently voted in accordance with the speech I had made and the belief I entertained, I should be turning down the Leader of the Opposition and. my colleagues on the executive. No one need think that I did not sweat about that. I was confronted with the most difficult problem with which I have had to deal since I entered this Parliament, and no one who is aware of the facts can doubt me when I say that I have had some pretty difficult problems of personal conduct to solve since I have been in this House.
– The right honorable member has always taken the easy way out.
– Perhaps the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) thinks that when I resigned the Prime Ministership I took the easy course?
– No, I did not mean that. I mean when the right honorable member got out of the Lyons Government.
– Does the Minister suggest that, when I resigned from a position of seniority in the Lyons Govern ment, and went back to what looked like permanent private life, I took the easy course? I will not concede that. No course that I could follow in regard to the problem with which I was conf ronted on this issue could have been easy, because no course which I could take would leave me with full credit. I am the last man who would deny that I am exposed’ in this matter to the severest and most just criticism. However, if one must make a choice between serving those with whom he is associated, and following his own judgment -on one of the greatest issues that has ever been raised in this country, I believe that there can be only one choice. If it had been my fortune to believe, as many on this side of the House honestly believe, that this bill ought, not to be lost, the easy and honorable path to follow would be the one trodden by a majority of my colleagues, aud I should be glad to walk on it. Let it not be inferred that I am criticizing the Leader of the Opposition, either expressly or by implication. I believe that he has behaved with complete propriety. He did what he honestly and properly believed to be right, and if any one seeks to put forward the paltry story that, because I found myself in a position of difficulty, I was engaged in some murky manoeuvre against an honorable man, then I give that story the lie.
Only one thing remains to be said, and it arises from a suggestion in the extremely adroit speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The Prime Minister said that the Advisory War Council, upon which there are four ex-Prime Ministers, met last Tuesday, and that on Wednesday the Opposition executive made a certain recommendation. The implication, of course, clearly was that we of the Opposition, sitting on the Advisory War Council, had received such information that our judgment was at once constrained in a certain direction. The answer to that suggestion is that the Opposition executive made its recommendation on last Friday week, before the Advisory War Council had met. The Leader of the Opposition will confirm this. I am certainly surprised to be told that anything which occurred at the meeting of the Advisory War Council had a bearing on the matter now under discussion.
It is further said that the Advisory War Council established a drafting committee to define the proposed Anzac area. It is my fortune to sit on a fair number of drafting committees, and I am reminded that I was a member of the drafting committee appointed by the Advisory War Council. So I was, and what do honorable members think we drafted? Do they think that we drafted the square on the map which defines the area within which the Militia may be required to serve? Of course we did not. Do they think that we drafted the South-west Pacific Area? Of course we did not. We were concerned to draft an Anzac area, including New Zealand and New Caledonia. But I have an immeasurably more important observation to make on the point than that, Is it suggested by any Government supporter that the Advisory War Council was fixing an area within which the Australian Militia was to serve? Of course it was not. All we were concerned with was an area of command in this part of the world. It is true that great importance was attached to having a distinguished general and a unified command in an area particularly affecting Australia, but what that has to do with the territorial limits placed upon the use of the Australian Militia I completely fail to understand. They are two entirely distinct problems. The United .States of America is a party to the arrangement in connexion with the South-west Pacific Area, but has it been suggested by any one that, f or that reason, the service of Americans in the draft should be confined to that area? Of course not. American conscripts may be required to serve in any part of the world, just as English conscripts may be required to serve in any part of the world. That obligation is not qualified by the fact that, for operational purposes, it has been arranged that there shall be a unified command for certain purposes within a certain specified area. The answer to the case that has been presented by the Government in this matter is that the Government has been confusing the military problem with the political problem. In a military sense, it may very well be that for months, for many months, to come Australian troops may be capable of being used only in certain areas on the earth’s surface. That is the military problem. That is something which the High Command will determine. But the political problem which arises in this matter is this: when you come into partnership with other great countries, when you enrol yourself as one of the United Nations fighting the Axis, do you go in on the basis of a less contribution than that of your partners? It is quite idle for the honorable mem’ber for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) to suggest that I say that Australians are putting up a poor performance in this war. I should be the last to say that. I say that the contribution to this war, the effort of Australia in the war, is such as to give immortal pride to this country. Of course, I do. What I am addressing myself to is, in the highest sense of the words, the greatest political problem, and that is : When you are in partnership with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Russia, and others of the United Nations of the world, do you set limits which they do not set ? I agree with the honorable member for Griffith that Russia has set a limit in the Pacific. Yes, as the honorable gentleman reminds me, Russia is neutral in the Pacific war. We shall not discuss that. But the United Kingdom has set no limits and the United States of America has set no limits, and why should we set limits? That is the great political problem that has to be discussed in this matter. The other thing is this : the moment you draw a line on the map, the moment you say that there is no capacity to use the Citizen Militia Forces beyond that line, or some other line, you make it impossible to have one army in Australia, you ma,ke it impossible to have one united fighting force which can go wherever the High Command wants it to go. The crucial thing is not that we should decide whether this area, that country, or that island should be in the fighting zone, but whether we should have one force under one command which can operate in accordance with one plan. If we do think eli at, then this bill leaves the problem untouched. If we do not, we can support the bill with good heart.
– I formally second the amendment by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies).
– Order! The amendment of the right honorable member for Kooyong on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is premature. The House can deal with only one amendment at one time, and it must, first deal with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker. If that amendment is agreed to, the right honorable member for Kooyong may then move his amendment,
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, am I to take it that, if the House, on the question being put “ That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question “, votes in favour of the retention of the words, the result will be that no other amendment of the honorable member for Barker or the amendment which I wish to move can be moved ?
– The result will be that the right honorable gentleman’s foreshadowed amendment cannot be moved.
– If the House votes for the retention of the words proposed to be left out the result will be the defeat of the amendment of the honorable member for Barker, and the exclusion of all other amendments, because the House will have determined that the original words shall stand.
– That is the position.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Archie Cameron’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on the clay on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– I move -
That all the words after “on” (first occurring) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “a day to be fixed by proclamation which shall not be issued until the Governor-General is satisfied that the provisions of this Act have been submitted to the electors, and that a majority of the electors voting approve such provisions “.
The object of the amendment is to ensure that the bill shall not become law until the majority of the people, voting at a referendum, approve of the proposal. The purpose is to give the people a voice in determining whether this great change of policy shall be made. In 1916 and 1917 the people were given that opportunity, out nobody has had a voice in the determination of this matter. The democratic processes by which the Labour party changes its platform have been short-circuited, and the rank and file have not had an opportunity to express an opinion regarding the proposed change. It is idle to contend that the alteration will lapse after this war. Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada introduced conscription for the first time during the last war, and they remained permanently conscriptionist. The change which will be effected by this legislation will remain for all time; but before the alteration is made, the people should be consulted.
– I understand the reasons which have moved the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to submit the amendment. They are entirely consistent with the views that he has held al] his life. He is opposed, of course, to the principle underlying the bill, and I respect his views. However, this change has become one of necessity in the light of what is required for the effective activities of the Australian forces, particularly in New Guinea at the present time, and I am not able to countenance any procedure that will permit of longer delay.
– I refuse to accept the view that this matter is one of urgency. There is no reason why the people should not be consulted, either by an election or by referendum. I believe that the people are as much opposed to conscription, to-day as they were in 1916 and 1917, and honorable members opposite contended, in the course of the second-reading debate, that if an election were held, the opponents of conscription might win, in which event this legislation would be shelved. If our claim to be democrats has any merit we should then not object to consulting the people on this matter. The point which arises is whether time permits of . a referendum being taken. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) declares that the matter is one of urgency; the honorable member for Bourke claims that there is time to consult the people. Considerable delay occurred as the result of the discussions at the conferences of the Australian Labour party in November, and later in January. If a period of two months could be permitted to elapse at that time, there is no reason why we should hasten now. As I believe that the people would reject conscription if they were given an opportunity to vote upon it, I think that their decision should be sought.
– While the Japanese threaten the country !
– Arch-reactionaries like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who does not believe in trusting the people, but who wants to dip his hands wrist-deep in the blood of the young men of this country -
– That is rubbish. The honorable member would sacrifice his country for his shibboleths.
– I rise to order. Surely the honorable member for Melbourne is not in order in alleging that the honorable member for New England was prepared to dip his hands in the blood of the young men of the country. I ask for a withdrawal of the statement.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).If the honorable member made that statement, he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the statement, if objection is taken to it, but at the moment. I cannot think of any other picturesque analogy to substitute for it.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I withdraw it. The principle of a referendum is incorporated in the policy of the Labour party, and as a member of that democratic body, 1 should like the Prime Minister to agree to consult the people before this bil] becomes law. As they ultimately elect members of Parliament and such members are their representatives, not their masters, they should be consulted. I regret that the right honorable gentleman will not accede to the wish of the honorable member for Bourke, whose amendment must, therefore, be defeated. It is, most assuredly, a bad thing for Australia that the people are not given the opportunity to express an opinion upon this legislation.
– I should like to refer to what occurred in 1916 and 1917 when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) submitted the question of conscription to the people for their decision. After the first defeat of conscription, the right honorable gentleman was returned to office at a general election with an overwhelming majority. Towards the end of 1917, when the war took an extremely grave turn, he was asked to introduce conscription without referring the matter to the people, although he had given his pledge that he would not do so. To his credit, he refused to break his word. At that time the Allies were in the worst possible position. Italy had been virtually knocked out of the struggle by Austria, and Russia was withdrawing from the conflict. Notwithstanding that crisis, the right honorable gentleman stated that he would not introduce conscription for service overseas without again consulting the people. I can see no greater urgency to-day than there was in 1917, and I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment.
.- Whilst I do not believe that the committee will accept the amendment, I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to pass without comment. He stated that the close of the year 1917 was for the Allies the darkest period of the last war. I disagree with him. I consider that the gravest period occurred not after Italy had been virtually defeated by Austria, but after the 21st March, 1918.
– The honorable member will admit that the position was extremely grave at the end of 1917.
– If Italy had sued for peace at that period, it would not have had any more effect on the ultimate course of the war than would Italy’s withdrawal from the conflict to-morrow. A comparison between present-day conditions and those of 26 years ago reminds me of the answer that was sent by the Spartans to Athens when they were asked to go to Marathon. Th ey said, “ “We never march until the moon is full “. In the opinion of this Government, nothing can happen until the moon is full, or until all the procedure of the party has been complied with. I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act “the South-western Pacific Zone “ means the area bounded on t he West by the one hundred and tenth meridian of East longitude, on the North by the Equator and on the East by the 150th meridian of East longitude.
.- I move -
That the clause be postponed., as an instruction to the Government -
That the areas of the South-West Pacific arena be extended to include such other areas ils the Governor-General may from time to time proclaim as being essential for the defence of Australia or for the defeat of the enemy.
This clause definitely establishes the limit, beyond which the Citizen Military Forces may not serve. My object in submitting the amendment is to place the responsibility for the conduct of the war where it properly belongs, and to confer full power, with that responsibility, on the Commonwealth Government. With the enemy at our door, it is imperative that we should be in a position to meet any emergency swiftly. No restriction should hamper the Commonwealth Government in making decisions and in moving troops. At present, the Government desires to approve of tactical moves for the purpose of conforming to the wishes of its military advisers, but the Defence Act is hamstringing it. The emergency to which the Prime Minister referred this evening, arose, I believe, last November, and it means that Australia must for the first time use the Citizen Military Forces beyond the boundaries prescribed by the act.
What has happened in the three months since the Prime Minister made the statement that the added powers sought were in conformity with the wishes of his military advisers? The overworked Australian Imperial Force and the forces of the United States of America have been defending our country on our very doorstep. It seems to me that by writing into this bill the limits which are now proposed we shall confirm a state of affairs from which we are trying to escape. 1 cannot see any logic in the proposal. This measure should be made flexible so that the Government could act effectively to meet any emergency. If we pass a measure so rigid as this is, we shall brand the Parliament as ineffective and make our country ludicrous in the eyes of our allies and of the world. We owe something to our allies. I do not say that Australia has not done a magnificent job in this war, but it cannot be denied1 that British conscript troops are fighting all over the world, and that American draftees are actually defending our shores. American opinion is already being expressed in somewhat critical terms in the American press. We have to consider the mentality of the man in the street, and we do not wa ut American opinion to crystallize against us. We do not want the Americans to say : “ You appealed to us for help. Our draftees were sent to protect your country. Now you will not allow your draf tees to stand in line with our draftees.” We should not give room for any such opinions to be formed. No amount of argument can dispel the feeling that this bill applies limits which are far too restrictive. We should he prepared to strip the country for war and to range ourselves without reserve beside our allies. If this bill be passed in its present form, we shall, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, smear a page in our history. Even on selfish grounds, we ought to be prepared to remove the limits from the bill. I can see no advantage whatever in the limits that have been prescribed, but I can see that they are likely to have a seriously hampering effect on our war effort. The measure should be made as flexible as possible. We need a united army. Our troops should fight side by side without any divisions. If the limitations be removed from the bill, we shall he able to effect a saving in administrative costs and in man-power which will be abundantly worthwhile. There is another substantial reason why we should amalgamate the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. At present, we have men from both branches of the service living together in camps and other establishments, and I am informed from reliable sources that brawls occur every day between members of the two armies.
– There is no evidence to support that statement.
– I regret to say that there is. Trouble occurs every evening at the canteens and it interferes with discipline and decreases efficiency. I believe that this Parliament should nail Australia’s colours to the mast and make it obvious to the world that we intend to march side by side with our allies until victory is achieved. It is absolutely essential that there shall be complete trust among the Allies if we are to fight a winning campaign. If we remove the limitations from this bill, we shall scotch criticism. Such action, in my opinion, would be in harmony with the wishes of the great majority of our people. The overriding desire of the Australian people is that we shall reinstate in this country our troops who are at present prisoners of war, and that we shall completely defeat the enemy. By placing limits in the bill, this Parliament will not contribute to the attainment of those objectives.
Let me remind honorable gentlemen of another consideration. When victory is won, the delegates of the United Nations will meet round the peace table. Representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China and Russia will be present and possibly representatives of the Dominions also will be in attendance. I ask honorable members to bear in mind that one of the most important principles in Australian politics is the maintenance of a White Australia. We shall need friends at the peace table to watch our interests in this regard. At the peace conference there will be delegates from China and also, we hope, from an India with, dominion status. We shall be asked to indicate how the moral standards of civilization have been advanced by our White Australia, with its protective tariffs and the like. If we refuse to take our fair share of responsibility in the war we shall not appear in a good light. More important, perhaps, is the need for us to preserve for our children and our children’s children the traditions of this country. If we allow this bill to pass with its present limitations we shall make the way hard for those who come after us. I appeal to the Government to give earnest consideration to the points that I am raising. If clause 3 be postponed or withdrawn, ample provision will still remain in clause 4 to allow the Militia to be used in the Southwestern Pacific Zone. There need be no delay in putting the measure into effective operation.
– But there will be no definition of “ South-western Pacific Zone “.
– I would not be permitted to discuss clause 4 at this moment, but I am advised that the position would bc amply protected.
– I think the honorable member is in error in that regard.
– I have been advised otherwise. I am confident that under clause 4 the Government would still have all the power that it needs, and that it would be able to bring into service all the forces which the nation possesses.
– I give notice of my intention to move the following amendment: -
That the- words “ one hundred and tenth meridian of East longitude, on the North by the Equator and on the East by the one hundred and fifty-ninth “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ninetieth meridian of East longitude and on the East by the one hundred and eightieth “, and that the following words be added at the end of the clause “ and shall include the Dominion of New Zealand”.
I shall support the amendment of the honorable mer.-her for Henty, but in the event of it being negatived I shall invite honorable members to support my amendment which provides for inclusion within the scope of the bill of Burma, including the Burma Road, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and the adjacent islands, the Philippines, Fiji and New Zealand. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he desires reciprocity with the Government of New Zealand. We should make a gesture in this bill which would assure the Government of New Zealand that we are prepared to allow our troops to fight side by side with the troops of that dominion.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) is consistent with the view that he expressed in his second-reading speech. It is, of course, of primary concern to Australia that this country shall be kept secure, but I point out that the United States of America also has a deep interestin this theatre of war, not only in order to help us but also in order to preserve this country as a strategical factor in the defence of the United States itself in the war against Japan. The Government of the United States of America is conscious of this important fact. The United States of America has a cousinly interest in this country which we deeply appreciate, but it also has a positive military interest in it, ‘because of its importance to America’s own security. I express our gratitude to the United States of America for the assistance that has been given to us, but I point out that in holding Australia, we are making a distinct contribution to the ultimate security of America. There seems to be some misapprehension regarding the strength of the American forces which are co-operating with Australian forces in this theatre. It is only ‘fair, therefore, that I should say that the great majority of the forces at the disposal of General Douglas MacArthur in this theatre are Australian forces. I do not make that statement in order to detract in any way from the notable contribution which the United States of America has made to our defence or to lessen our appreciation of what has been done.
– What about the Solomons?
– The forces in the Solomons are in a theatre which has been demarked not by me but by America as its special responsibility. That applies also to the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender). Both New Zealand and Australia were anxious to be in the one command, but those who have a greater voice in the determination of global strategy, determined differently; in consequence, the command of the area east of the meridian specified in the bill is outside the South-west Pacific theatre and is under a commander other than the Commander-in-‘Chief of the forces to which Australia has already assigned all its combat forces. Having assigned to the command of General MacArthur all the combat forces that Australia has, we are not able simultaneously to assign them to other commands. The question of Co-operation in the Pacific war, as I said earlier, is one which cannot he decided in the best way until the United Nations are able to provide the requisite naval and air strength, which is the paramount consideration in the war being waged by them against Japan. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen to talk about, disposing of large armies here, there and everywhere. Until we can engage the naval and air forces of the enemy with a strength justifying a major engagement, we are in no position to dispose military forces in islands that are outside a given region of practicability. I say with great respect, that the merits of the amendment which the honorable member for Henty has just proposed, have already been determined by the House. I have said to my own side that the bill is necessary and to the Opposition that it is adequate. I did not make those statements without having given the most careful consideration to the matter, a consideration based on the most accurate knowledge that anybody could have of the probable commitments that will be expected of Australia and where the forces will be disposed. It would be quite easy for us to say, “Let us make a gesture”. But wars are not organized and conducted by gestures. In a struggle of such ruthlessness as this, I appreciate the necessity for the most sober realism in examining the position that confronts the Government, bearing in’ mind the duty that we owe to the
Commander-in-Chief of this theatre, who was appointed as the result of concerted action by all the governments involved. At some future time, when the state of the war may warrant a reassessment of the situation by the Parliament, the genius of the Parliament and its instinctive humanity will, I have not any doubt, enable it to resolve the problems that then exist. The bill as drawn is, in the views of the Government, after adequate consideration, in keeping with the present responsibilities of Australia, not only to itself, but also as a partner of the United Nations.
.–On behalf of Opposition members who hold the view that I do, I have to say that we are not prepared to associate ourselves with the amendment. The view that we now take has been held consistently. As a matter of fact, the principles outlined in the amendment have already been voted upon in the division which took place earlier on the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has stated in no uncertain language that if the emergency of theposition and the gravity of the circumstances warrant, the territories in which, the Militia may serve will be altered to meet military requirements. As the principle for which the Opposition stands has been established in the bill, and the bill would be destroyed by the acceptance of any amendments to which the Government is not prepared to agree, the Opposition, on whose behalf I speak, will not associate itself with such proposals, but will support the measure in its present form.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated that he had told his party that the bill is necessary, and the Opposition that it is adequate. He has not told us what we all know, namely, that the bill is us far as “he can take his party; therefore, if we make any move towards the rejection of what is offered, and perchance secure the acceptance of the amendment, the bill may never be enacted under the auspices of the -Government of which the right honorable gentleman is the head. He has said that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) has been consistent in the views he has expressed during the debate. I direct the attention of honorable members to a motion submitted last May by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in the following terms:- -
That, in order that the Australian Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force may he effectively welded into one fighting army, available for offence as well as defence, this House is of the opinion that all territorial limitation upon the power of the Commonwealth Government to employ the Australian Military Forces should bc removed.
To all intents and purposes, that is identical with the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Henty this evening. How did the honorable member vote upon it? It was defeated by 31 votes to 26. Hansard shows the name of the honorable member for Henty among those who voted against it. If we were so misguided as to vote for the amendment, the bill would be defeated, and the measure of conscription proposed, which is the limit to which the party will permit the Prime Minister to go, would- be thrown overboard. If the honorable member is as virtuous and sincere as he professes to be, it is rather difficult to reconcile his attitude to-night with that of seven months ago, when the position was just as grave, menacing, urgent and desperate as it is to-night. The amendment is so much humbug. I want to see conscription enacted. The honorable member for Henty may be given an opportunity in the not far distant future to assist to pass legislation along these lines. We shall then see how he will vote. We shall first assist to have this measure placed on the statute-book, so that there will be no possibility of retreat or escape from what is proposed by it. Then, at the appropriate time, we shall see whether the honorable member is so strong in his resolution to do the right thing by the country as he professes to be this evening. The Prime Minister deserves every credit for what he has done. Honorable -members on this side of the chamber must assist him to put this measure through; otherwise, we shall be recreant to our duty as conscriptionists. I frankly admit that I am an all-out conscriptionist. The amendment, it is true, would impose certain limitations upon the operations of the Militia. The great disadvantage suffered by the Australian’ Military Forces at present is that they consist of two separate armies under two separate commands. The amendment does not touch that very important and serious aspect of our defence system. If adopted-, it would merely perpetuate the existing position. What is required is an alteration of our defence system in order to effect the amalgamation of the two armies. I shall not support the amendment; but I hope that the honorable member will support a proposal from this side designed to achieve the amalgamation of the two armies.
. This night is an unhappy one for Australia. The amendment of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), if carried, would make the position even worse than it is. He proposes so to amend the bill that the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force can be used anywhere throughout the world; that, in effect, the two forces shall be amalgamated under a complete army merger. The clause as drawn is much better than it might have been had the Cabinet exercised the powers given to it by the Labour Conference. But the area defined could have been restricted even further ; and the further it was. the happier 1 would be. However, minorities cannot get their way, and what is proposed in the bill is something better than might have been, and certainly better than what is proposed by the honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). In this matter the honorable member for Henty has at least been consistent, not merely since he became a member of this Parliament, but for long before that. I know the honorable member ‘ probably better than does any other member of this Parliament. He and I were colleagues on the Melbourne City Council six months before the war began. I remember that, almost on the day that war broke out, he expressed in the council views practically identical with those which he expressed to-night. He did not need to go to Sydney or Melbourne during the last weekend in order to consult newspaper executives so that, they could make up his mind for him. Any sneers regarding his attitude are unfair and gratuitously insulting.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) quoted the text of a motion which his party submitted in May last, but from which they propose to run away to-night. He and his fellow members have said that this bill will have the effect of smearing the pages of Australian history. This sort of talk comes from men with strong exteriors but weak interiors. It comes from men whose anatomical ‘weaknesses include backbones that consist of a gelatinous compound of jelly and glue. There is one section of the Opposition which at least is honest, and whose opinion can be respected, but as for most members of the Opposition, their opinions can be changed within 24 hours under pressure from outside. Their opinions regarding the meridians prescribed in the bill would no doubt change again if the Prime Minister were to adjourn consideration of the measure until next week. In the meantime, the army of the Cameronians might very well receive important recruits. I can see no difference between the proposal of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and that of the honorable member for Henty. The proposal of the honorable member for Wakefield, which is intended to be a gesture, is scarcely worthy of consideration. If we are to make a gesture to New Zealand, why not to South Africa, or even to Great Britain itself? If it is suggested that we should choose another meridian so that we may rescue the prisoners in Malaya - if they are still there, and not in Tokyo - why should we not go the whole way and fix boundaries that would enable us to send the Militia to rescue Australians who are prisoners of war in Greece, or even to send them to Germany, where most of these unfortunate men now are? The real issue is whether there should be conscription for services outside of Australia at all. New Zealand has conscription, but Canada and South Africa have not. The principle of conscription was endorsed in Canada at a referendum, but the Prime Minister has declined to bring it into force, saying that he does not wish to destroy the unity of his country. I trust that our Prime Minister will follow his example, and that, even though the bill be passed-, he will decide not to enforce it. Honorable members opposite say that in a consideration of this matter they are as free as the air, and carry into this chamber no clanking chains rivetted upon them at party meetings.
– Order !
– You, Mr. Chairman, if I may say so with deference and a certain amount of trepidation, did yourself consult with the wheat-growers of Western Australia,
– I ask the honorable member not to be facetious.
– Well, to return to the 160th meridian. Apparently, the fixed decision of the executive which controls the destinies of honorable members opposite, the thrice unanimous executive, the seemingly permanently .unanimous executive, has decided that the Opposition must vote against the proposal of the honorable member for Henty. In their hearts they would like to vote for it, but they are not prepared to force the issue. Let us bring about an election, and I have no doubt that the people will reject conscription as they did in 1916 and 1917.
.- I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the Opposition to this amendment. Indeed, having regard to the metaphysical exercises indulged in by members of the Opposition this evening, it is difficult to understand their attitude to the bill as a whole. A good deal of their criticism is plausible, but it lacks the quality of realism. Surely the members of the Opposition must admit that they have gained a great deal. I offer that observation, not in the form of congratulation, but as consolation in their tribulations. Surely it is something that they have obtained recognition of the principle of conscription for overseas service by a Labour Government, and by the Labour supporters of a Labour Government. I take the high ground which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) took earlier this evening, and freely admit the victory of the Opposition. The Labour Government is now committed to the policy of conscription for service in foreign parts. I point out for the consolation for the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), and those honorable members opposite who are busy licking the wounds suffered in the course of their inter-tribal contests, that this measure when it becomes law will not be as the law of the Medes and Persians. The bill was submitted to Parliament as a contribution to the defence of Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has repeatedly said with unchallengable sincerity, I believe, that in the defence of Australia we are proposing to give nothing less than our all. It is true that I have ventured in a personal sense to qualify that a little by saying that there are some things so precious that we cannot dare to yield them up for any material purpose, but except for that qualification we are agreed that we should give our all in the defence of the country. For the comfort of the Opposition let me point out that it is more than probable that, after due consultation between the Government and the High Command, the boundaries fixed in this bill will be altered from time to time to meet the military necessities of the situation.
– The chair will be resumed at 12.15 a.m.
Honorable Members. - Take a vote. Let us decide this first.
– The question is “ That the clause be postponed “.
Honorable members interjecting,
– There being no “ Ayes”, I declare the question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from11.45 p.m. to
Friday, 12 February 1943
– The question is “ That clause 3 be agreed to “.
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling is that the amendment has been disposed of? I say with great respect that you had left the chair before the amendment was put. I do not see how you could have resumed it to put the question.
– Order ! The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) concluded his remarks at almost exactly 11.45 p.m. I did rise in my place and intimate that the chair would be resumed at 12.15 a.m. There was a general cry from the committee for the question to be put, and I put it. I had not left the chair.
– The question was not put.
– It certainly was not put.
– Some honorable members had left the chamber.
– The clerks beside me know what happened. They have made the records of the proceedings. Their records will show what was done. I am not relying on my own memory.
– Did you not say that the chair would be resumed at 12.15 a.m.?
– I have already said that I got as far as that, but I did not leave the chair, and I did put the question. I put it distinctly. If the committee does not seek to re-open the discussion, but wishes to vote upon the question more distinctly-
– That is pretty weakkneed.
– In the circumstances I will stand by the action I took. I did not leave the chair. The result has been recorded.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it so happens that I was speaking up to 11.45 p.m. There is no possible room for doubt about the fact that when I sat down you said, “ The
Chair will be resumed at 12.15 I do not undertake to say what may have passed subsequent to that, but I do say with positiveness that you did say that. Therefore, any person was entitled to conclude, as I concluded, that the whole question was still open and that I, for that matter, was free to speak a second time on the question.
– I have already stated the position. The honorable member for Batman was just resuming his seat when I rose. I did say that the chair would be resumed at 12.15 a.m. There was then a general cry, “ Take a vote “.
– You had no right to recall what you had said.
– The honorable member for Batman is disorderly. I put the question straightforwardly: I called for the “ Ayes “ and “ Noes “ and there being no “ Ayes “ I said that the question was resolved in the negative. That has been recorded and that record must remain. The question is that clause 3 be agreed to.
– I think I am entitled to cast a vote on the amendment.
– The honorable member did not call for a division.
– There was no opportunity for me to call for a division, because, after the Chairman said that the chair would be resumed at 12.15 a.m., I took no further interest in the proceedings. I shall move that the Chairman’s ruling be dissented from in order that we may have an opportunity to vote on the amendment. I think that the committee should give permission for a vote to be recorded when there is some measure of doubt,
– I was not present, so I do not know what took place; but I think that the committee is entitled to have its wishes declared in some way or other. There is no sense in having a long discussion about procedure. I am quite ready to have the question resubmitted, but I ask that,if that be done, the committee vote upon it immediately.
– I have been informed that certain honorable members made inquiries of the clerks about the proceedings; they were informed that the question had been decided on the voices, and they went home. In the circumstances it would be difficult to retrace our steps.
– I do not dispute your ruling.
– The records of the committee must stand.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
New clause 6.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “6. Notwithstanding anything contained in this or in any other act, no member of the Citizen Military Forces who has not attained the age of 21 years may be required to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and those of any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.”.
If itwere competent for me to do so on this bill, I should move that no one under the age of 21 years should be required to serve anywhere in the tropics. I should exclude them from service in Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, because I’ think that men of less than 21 years of age are too immature for service in the tropical areas. It is not fair to them and it is not in the interests of the country to send them there. However, I am restricted by the terms of this bill to moving that they be not required to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
– I appreciate the motive that prompts the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to move his amendment, but the Government cannot accept it. The Government has decided to press for the passage of the bill in its present form. The provision contained in the proposed new clause could be implemented if the Government of the day deemed it advisable to do so, but we believe that we should not insert this new clause and that whatever provision is made shall apply to all.
– My experience has been that some young men have completely developed at the age of eighteen or nineteen years, or have more completely developed then than other men at the age of 22 or 23 years. All who have served in the front line are aware of that fact. Similarly, at the other end of the scale, some men are practically “ burnt out “ at the age of 40 years, whilst others are still physically fit at ages between 50 and 55 years. Much depends on the environment in which they have lived, and on their mode of life. I have seen at the front incidents on which we cannot pride ourselves, because the’ young men concerned should not have been sent into the front line. On the other hand, some of the most courageous acts in war have been performed by young men. I know a man in South Australia who received a decoration at the age of nineteen years for an act of bravery committed two years previously. I sympathize with the motive of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in submitting the proposed new clause, but I agree with the Government that we should not lay down a hard and fast rule as to the age at which young men should be permitted to serve in the front line.
New clause negatived.
– I had circulated another proposed new clause providing that, if Parliament were not sitting at the date of the issue of any proclamation under the authority of clause 4, it should be summoned to meet within ten days after that date, but I understand that the Government intends to issue a blanket proclamation embracing the whole zone as soon as this measure becomes law.
– That is so.
– Therefore 1 do not intend to submit the proposed new clause.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 12.30 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In order to prevent rises in the cost of living, the federal Council of Switzerland decided to put on the market a brown bread of good nutritive value, of which the price should be no higher than the price of bread hitherto. The millers produced a so-called wholemeal flour of a mixture of four-fifths wheat to one-fifth rye, the- degree of extraction being fixed at 82-85 per cent. A loaf of bread made with this flour was sold at five to ten cents cheaper than the ordinary bread. Although the Government had not made any special propaganda in favour of this bread the consumption reached a level of 65 per cent, of the total bread consumption in the first month, falling, however, to 10.5 per cent, nine months later. At the beginning of 1938 its consumption was 15.8 per cent, and, at the end of the year, 11 per cent, of the total bread consumption. The new cheap bread has, in fact, only replaced the other brown breads previously eaten and has not replaced white bread to any appreciable extent.
As previously stated bread in England is now 85 per cent, wholemeal. No reports have been published giving any information as to the effect of the use of this bread upon the health of the people.
– On the 3rd February, 1943, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me a question, without notice, in relation to homes that are being erected for munitionsworkers in the Maitland district by the Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust. At the time I intimated that certain complaints had been received from the Maitland district on this question, and that an inquiry was being made, the results of which I hoped to give the honorable member within a few days. The chief executive officer of the Commonwealth War
Workers Housing Trust has now advised me as follows: -
The Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust has arranged for the construction of 50 war-time cottages in the Maitland district to meet the urgent housing needs of men who must be brought in from other districts to staff the local factories. The trust points out that, following the entry of Japan into the war, the Government found it necessary to exercise the utmost economy in man-power and material, which it was necessary to divert tourgent defence works of high priority, and, therefore, it was impossible to proceed with the construction of permanent housing. Although the war-time cottages are not of a type which the trust would build if times were normal, it considers that, under present conditions, these dwellings are the best that can be provided. They have been very favorably received by munitions workers who are occupying them in other districts. The trust also refers to the fact that the rentals are extremely low : 12s.6d. for two-bedroom cottages, and 14s. for three-bedroom cottages - the tenant to pay the sanitary fees. The trust agrees that there is a marked difference between the standard of these dwellings and that of the houses being erected for the executive staff of the factory, but it has no control over the staff’s housing, which isa matter for the Ministry of Munitions. Attention was drawn to this matter some time ago, and it is understood that no further houses of the permanent type referred to are being built.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) To the 30 th September, 1942- £922,569; and (b) to the 30th September, 1942 -£1,990,737.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What is the amount of monetary grant, pension or other allowance (if any), payable by British or Australian authorities to holders of the Victoria Cross or other war decorations?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Victoria Cross. - Members of the Australian Military Forces below commissioned rank who receive the Victoria Cross are paid an annuity of £10 from the date of the act of bravery by which the decoration has been gained. An additional annuity of £5 is granted for each bar added in consequence of further acts of bravery. Officers do not receive this annuity. A holder of the Victoria Cross, whether an officer or soldier, who is discharged from the forces, and is in receipt of a service or disability pension of less than £75 per annum, will be entitled to a further annuity (with a minimum of £20) to raise his total payment to not less than £75.
Military Medal - Meritorious Service Medal. -No monetary grants are payable in respect of these awards.
Victoria Cross. - Conditions of grant of the Victoria Cross are the sameas for the Army in respect of annuity and making up of pension, where applicable.
Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. - Petty officers and men are eligible for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. Petty officers may be awarded an annuity of not more than £20 with this medal. Lower ranks may be awarded a gratuity of £20 on discharge from the Service.
Royal Australian Air Force.
Victoria Cross. - Conditions of grant are the same as for the Army in respect of annuity and making up of pension, in applicable cases.
Military Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, and Distinguished Flying Medal. - A gratuity of £20, plus £20 for each bar, is to be credited to the account of an airman awardedsuch decoration when (a) he is appointed to commissioned rank; (b) be is transferred to the reserve; (c) he is discharged. A pension of 6d. per day may also be granted to Royal Australian Air Force recipients of the above decorations as in the case of Army awards under paragraph 1. (b)
Price of Firewood.
y.- On the 28th January, 1943, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following question, without notice: -
During the last couple of years the price of firewood in Tasmania has been considerably increased. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is prepared to lay on the table of the Library the file relating to the retail price of firewood sold to the people of Tasmania in the last eighteen months?
The Minister for Trade and Customs now advises me that he has consulted the Prices Commissioner, who indicates that in no circumstances can the file referred to be made available for inspection as information of highly confidential nature is recorded on it. The Prices Commissioner points out that regulation 11 of theNational Security (Prices) Regulations prohibits the director indirect communication of facts revealed in the course of an official inquiry.
The Prices Commissioner has indicated to the Minister for Trade and Customs that prices of firewood in Tasmania have varied as follows since the outbreak of war : -
At 31st August, 1939.- 20s. per ton, 10s. per half ton, 5s. per quarter ton,1s. per bag.
At present. - 33s. to 38s. per 60 cubic feet, 17s. to 19s.6d. per 30 cubic feet, 8s. 9d. to 10s. per 15 cubic feet,1s. 9d. to 2s. per 3 cubic feet. (Sixty cubic feet approximates 22 cwt., varying according to the type of wood.)
At 31st August, 1939. - 24s. to 25s. per ton.
At present. - 38s. per ton, 19s.6d. per half ton, 10s. per quarter ton, 2s.1d. percwt.
The Commissioner states that these increases have occurred mainly on account of production and distributing costs, which have increased substantially since the outbreak of war, particularly as regards the wages earned by wood-cutters. On each occasion since 31st August, 1939, when an increase in prices was contemplated, the position was examined by the Deputy Prices Commissioner at Hobart, and the increase was sanctioned by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430211_reps_16_173/>.