16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn; took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave-From time to time, honorable members have asked me questions in regard to the brown-out regulations, with particular reference to the use of motor car headlights in Kew South Wales and Queensland. The Defence authorities have now decided that in Queensland, south of a line drawn at and including Rockhampton, masks may be removed from motor car vehicles provided that the lights of such vehicles are not directed seaward. The owners of motor cars are required to keep their masks in serviceable condition, for immediate use when so directed. Similar concessions are to be permitted in all areas of New South Wales and the other States of the Commonwealth. These regulations are to be operated by the States after they have received a direction from the Department of Home Security. It will be necessary for the States to promulgate regulations cancelling those that are already in existence.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the proposed call-up of women will operate by age groups, beginning with the younger and unmarried groups, and be uniform throughout the States?
– I hope to be able to make a detailed statement next week.
Transfers of Militia to Australian Imperial Force - -RECRUITING
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that my statement that 70 per cent, of Australia’s fighting forces who are medically fit for combat overseas service had volunteered for such service, was not correct, and asked what I meant by it. In order to clarify the position in the minds of honorable members-
– I rise to a point of order.
– The Minister having been given leave to make a personal explanation, the honorable member Ls out of order.
– In order to make the matter clear to honorable members, I ay that the medically fit members of our fighting forces referred to by me include the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Militia, apart from those members of the Militia who are unfit for overseas service, and comprise about 23 per cent, of its total strength. On the strengths of the forces, given by the latest official figures in the reports of Chiefs of Staff, it will be found, after deducting the number of medically unfit men, that 73.7 per cent, of the medically fit men of the fighting services have volunteered for overseas service. Taking the strength of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia alone, and excluding the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, it will be found that 64.7 per cent, of the medically fit personnel have volunteered for overseas service. That, I repeat, is a record of which any country can reasonably be proud. Still, there are some persons who would rob us of that credit by wrongly stating that Australia has not done as well as I have claimed.
– Order !
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister for the Army was given leave to make a personal explanation, and he is grossly abusing the privilege.
– I have already called the Minister to order. He is now exceeding the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I have since checked the figures on which I based my statement, and have also had them checked by other persons. I repeat that 73.7 per cent, of the men of the Australian fighting forces who are medically fit for combat service, have volunteered for service anywhere in the world. That statement :s based on official figures, and is absolutely correct. If the honorable member for Warringah will come to my office, I shall show to him the figures on which the calculations have been based. For security reasons, they cannot, be made public.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
-Does tho honorable member claim to have been misrepresented !
– I do. In the first place, I draw attention to the fact that the statement of the Minister which I contradicted was not identical with that which he has made this morning, because in his original statement he said that 73 per cent, of the fit men of Australia had volunteered for overseas service. That was incorrect. If the statement was intended to be confined to the Militia, as I thought it was, it would also be incorrect. In my statement, I mentioned that the Army consists of lines of communication units in addition to operational units, and I alleged that it was incorrect to say chat 70 per cent, of the total number had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. It would be wrong to suggest that more than 30 per cent, of the total has so enlisted.
– On a point of order I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is necessary for an honorable member to obtain leave of the House to make a personal explanation. The Minister for the Army did, in fact, ask for leave. I seek your direction, sir, as to whether or not an honorable member may make a personal explanation, irrespective of the view held by a minority of the House. If an honorable member asks leave to make a statement, the position is different, is it not? In that event, if objection is voiced by one honorable member it is sufficient to prevent the honorable member from making his statement.
– The privilege of making a personal explanation is in the gift of the House and not of the Speaker ; but leave is granted so consistently that in practice Mr. Speaker assumes that the approval of the House has been given and calls upon the honorable member. Should doubt exist, or the slightest dissent be indicated, Mr. Speaker asks the House to express its approval or otherwise. I did so in both instances this morning. When it is clear that approval will not be withheld, I assume the authority of the House and call on the honorable member to make the personal explanation.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the recruiting for the Australian Imperial Force has been discontinued? What are the present activities of the Australian Imperial Force recruiting committees ?
– -Because of the universal call-up and the great shortage of men, active recruiting for the Australian Imperial Force has been discontinued. When men are called into the Citizen Military Forces they are given the opportunity to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force or the Royal Australian Air Force, according to their preference. I shall discuss with the honorable member the activities of the recruiting committees.
– When does the Minister for the Army expect that approval will be given for the thousands of transfers that are pending from the Citizen Military Forces to the Australian Imperial Force?
– I have made inquiries regarding the lag in the transfer of men from the Citizen Military Forces to the Australian Imperial Force. The number of men awaiting approval of their transfer to the Australian Imperial Force is negligible compared with the number of those who have transferred. I am assured by the Adjutant-General’s Branch that there is every justification to believe that the men whose transfer has not yet been approved are scattered all over Australia and that it necessarily takes some time, after they have filled in the transfer forms, for the forms to reach head-quarters from the various commanding officers. I assure the honorable member that the transfers are being carried out with the minimum of delay, and that the men concerned will be given their X numbers as soon as practicable.
– Will the Minister for the Army have inquiries made into the extensive impressment of some of the most valuable real estate properties in Brisbane? Could not less expensive properties be acquired for military purposes without adverse effect?
– I have been working on that matter for four days.
– I have received numerous telegrams in connexion with not only the particular property to which I now refer, but also other valuable properties in Queen-street, Brisbane.
– All Queensland members have received a number of telegrams, some of which have been presented to me in my office by the recipients. I have been in communication with the Hirings Administration. The Director-General of Hirings is in Canberra, and I intend to discuss the matter with him shortly. I shall be pleased if Queensland members who are interested will hear in my office whatever explanation he may make.
Increased Acreage in Queensland - Interest Charges on Pool Advances - Reduced Price to Millers.
– Will the Minister for Commerce explain what is meant by the term “ temporary wheat farms “ as used in National Security Regulation No. 29, issued on the 4th February, 1943? Is it intended under this provision to increase the area under wheat in Australia ? If so, in what State is it intended that the increased sowings shall take place? Has the Minister given full consideration to the effect which any increased sowings will have upon Australia’s already enormous wheat surplus?
– The amended regulation referred to will apply only to Queensland. It hasbeen found that not nearly enough wheat is grown in that State to meet local requirements, and the greatest difficulty hasbeen experienced in obtaining transport for the bringing in of supplies. At one time this season there was only a little over a week’s supply of wheat in Queensland. It is desirable to increase the acreage in that State, and so this arrangement, which is of a temporary nature, has been made.
– Can the Treasurer say whether interest is now being charged on advances made to wheat pools to cover the period in which wheat is held before sale?
– I shall indicate the exact position in a prepared reply.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture explain why the price of wheat to millers has been reduced from 4s.0¾d. to 3s.11¼d. a. bushel, a reduction of1½d. a bushel, since, the Labour Government took office ? Why have millers been granted this concession, as the price of flour, namely, £12 18s. 6d. a ton, including tax, has not been altered during the last eighteen months ? Does it mean that the Government has granted this concession to millers and added the difference to the sales tax ?Will the farmers receive 1½d. a bushel less for that portion of their wheat consumed in Australia?
– I am not aware of the detail’s of the subject, but I shall obtain them for the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether war materials are still being produced under the cost-plus system? Is it a fact that under this scheme many industries are carrying surplus labour, including men who had been trained as coal-miners, and whose services are now required in the mines to make up the shortage due to the compulsory retirement of miners at the age of 60 years ? If that be the position, will the Prime Minister consider revoking the regulation which forbids experienced miners from transferring from other industries back to the mining industry where their experience would be of greaterbenefit to the country?
– It is a fact that certain of the industrial activities associated with the war are being conducted under what is called the cost-plus system. It is also a fact that the Parliament of New South Wales passed a law compulsorily retiring coal-miners at the age of 60 years. It is also true that some men who had been working in the coal-mines are now working in other industries, but those industries are as important as the coal-mining industry in their relation to Australia’s war effort.
– But the men I have in mind are surplus labourers-.
– That may or may not be so. At any rate, regulations dealing with the direction of labour are under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service. He has authority to direct, not only unemployed labour, but also labour which is engaged. I have nodoubt that he will have the whole matter reviewed, and willreach a proper decision.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to pay the fares of six union delegates who are to attend a conference of trade unions in Great Britain in April next? Can he give an estimate of the cost involved, and does he not think that, in view of the heavy taxation forecast by the Treasurer yesterday, this money would be better spent on Australia’s direct war effort rather than on paying the expenses of delegates to a purely party conference?
– The proposal to hold a conference of trade unions representatives from the United Kingdom and the Dominions was firstbrought to my notice by the High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce. The suggestion was that three delegates should be sent from Australia. The Governments of New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom have approved of the holding of this conference, regarding it as an invaluable contribution to our total war effort. It is to be held in London in April next, and three delegates are to go from Australia. In the very nature of the problem, transportation could not he provided except by the Government, and the Government proposes to provide it. All other costs, including those for loss of time, hotel expenses, travelling allowances, &c., are to be borne by the trade unions. If the Government did not provide transportation, the delegates could not go, and the conference could not take place. We regard the holding of the conference as a valuable contribution to the solution of the problems which the governments of the Empire have to face. The solution of the problems involves the co-operation of trade unions in the war effort of each Empire country and of all the countries among the United Nations. The conference is being sponsored in the best interests of ultimate victory.
– Has the Minister for the Army investigated allegations that a large residential hotel in the heart of Sydney, with accommodation for 500 guests, has limited the number which it will accept to 150, who are mostly country visitors, and refuses to admit servicemen on leave, including Americans of all ranks ? If the facts are as alleged, will the Government consider taking over the hotel as a temporary hostel, or at any rate, requiring the management to admit, members of theservices ?
– Inquiries are being made, and when I am able to give the honorable member some definite information on the subject I shall do so.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In at least one newspaper published this morning it is stated that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is serving in the Air Force overseas, had paired in favour of the amendment which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) moved to the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill. That is incorrect. I, as Whip of the Opposition party, had no means of ascertaining the views of the honorable member for Balaclava, and it is not correct to say that he was paired. As a matter of fact, there were no pairs in that division. The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell), who is absent on account of illness, and who wished to vote against the amendment, sought a pair, but was unable to obtain one.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether a newspaper report is correct which states that the War Commitments Committee consists of the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, Mr. W. C. Wurth, as chairman, the First Naval Member or his deputy, the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces or his representative, the Chief of the Air Staff or his deputy, the Director-General of War Organization of Industry, Mr. G. T.. Chippindall, the Director-General of the Allied Works Council, Mr. E. G.Theodore, the Director-General of Munitions and Aircraft Production, Mr. Essington
Lewis, and the chairman of the standing committee of the Allied Supply Council, Mr. D. J. Nolan? Is that a full list of the members of the committee? If so, who is responsible for the choice of this very select band? In view of the great importance of the trade union movement to the war effort, which of those members of the committee may we regard as the representative of the trade union movement?
– The War Commitment Committee does not come under the control of my department, but I understand that its personnel is as the newspaper report has stated. The committee was appointed on the decision of the War Cabinet, but I cannot say on what basis representation was decided.
– The secretary of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne, Mr. J. V. Stout, is reported to have said that the War Commitments Committee should have the responsibility “of advising the War Cabinet in the work of policy, formation and planning of work associated with the subtraction of additional labour from civil industry and industries only directly connected with the war effort. If that statement be correct, I ask the Prime Minister in view of the immense importance of this problem to the Labour movement, to explain why no representative of the trade union movement has been appointed to the committee?
- Mr. Stout and Mr. Clarey, M.L.C., were misinformed, and, in consequence, their criticisms were unwarranted. Last Monday, I explained to the president and secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions the functions of the War Commitments Committee, and they agreed that the proposals were satisfactory. The purpose of the committee is to ensure that projects involving the extensive use of man-power shall be examined by all the departments whose work will be affected by the jobs. In addition, the committee will consider the order of priority to be allotted to them. If the strength of the Army were to be increased by 50,000 men, they would have to be drawn from industry, and that would affect the production of food and clothing, or even munitions. The purpose of the War Commitments Committee is to review all these problems, technically, as a whole. The committee will meet as or when I direct; but the direction of man-power will not be one of its functions.
– I assume that the Prime Minister would not often reject the recommendations of the committee.
– That remains to be seen.
– The committee should include a representative of the Labour movement.
-The committee is composed of officers of the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the War Commitments Committee will examine the Government’s project for the erection of country wool appraisement centres ? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed honorable members that the initial cost of the projects will be £180,000, and I understand that ancillary stores will have to be built by the Central Wool Committee, at considerable cost. This work will absorb 1,000 men for a year. As the Prime Minister has declared that the man-power position is of the utmost gravity, will he say whether this work has been examined by the War Commitments Committee, and if it has been approved, what order of priority has been allotted to it?
– The War Commitments Committee, which has been established within the last fortnight, will deal only with matters of major policy.
– Are not works costing £300,000 or £400,000 major projects?
– The committee will deal, not with the details of projects, but with matters of strategical and economic significance involving the employment of not merely 1,000 men, but 10,000 or even 20,000 men. That function is indicated by the very composition of the committee.
Stock and Station Agencies
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will remember that I communicated with him regarding the call-up of men associated with stock and station agencies, pointing out that different conditions seemed to obtain in different States. Will he examine the position with a view to establishing uniformity of practice in all States?
– I have asked for a report on the matter, which I hope will be supplied to me within a few days.
– Is it a fact, as stated by Senator McLeay in the Senate, that ships which came to Australia to load meat for Britain had to leave without being fully loaded because supplies were not available?
– The honorable member must not refer to statements made in the Senate during the current session.
– The statement quoted by the honorable member is misleading, and was obviously made without a knowledge of the facts. The matter of meat supplies for the United Kingdom is directly under the control of my department, and no person outside that department can know the true position. The statement was wholly erroneous, and should not have been made.
– Order! Both the question and the answer are out of order.
– Under legislation passed recently through this Parliament, provision was made for the payment of a subsidy of £2,000,000 to the dairying industry, but only £1,500,000 was allocated for the unexpired nine months of the year. Instead of making the period from the 1st October, the date for the application of the provision was put back to the 1st July. Will the Treasurer consider making available an amount of £2,000,000 instead of £1,500,000 from the 1st July last until the 30th June next?
– That matter will be considered by the Government.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that a meeting of representatives of all butter and cheese factories on the far south coast held at Bega on the 4th February last, carried the following resolution : -
That this meeting, representative of all the butter and cheese factories of the far south coast, bitterly protests against the meagre amount of the subsidy just disclosed, it being pointed out that the subsidy means an average of 10s. per week to each farm property, representing as it does the combination of a number of employees and a large capital investment, and that this meeting insists that nothing less than the price of1s. 8d. per lb. to the producer for butter and a commensurate price for cheese agreed upon at the mass meeting of farmers held in Bega during October, 1942, will allow farmers to maintain production.
Is the Minister prepared to give consideration to that request?
– Yesterday in the presence of the Attorney-General I made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for a revision of Statutory Rules 1943, No. 14, being amendments of the National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition) Regulations. The Minister conveyed to me last night his decision to revise the regulations. I now ask him whether, in order to preserve the general excellence of the regulations, he will meet my wishes to have anomalies removed by the simple expedient of eliminating paragraph a of sub-regulation 4 of regulation 17? That would allow the remainder of the regulations to remain in force.
– I have conferred with the Attorney-General and the apple and pear interests, and it is proposed to eliminate the paragraph to which the honorable member has expressed objection.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior tell me when arrangements for taking over the Beaumaris Gardens, Hobart, will be completed? Numerous letters have been written on this subject and promises have been made that the matter will receive immediate consideration and that a decision will be made at an early date.
– I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to furnish a reply by next sitting day.
– by leave - Following the question asked on Thursday, the 4th February last, by the honorable member for Hume (Mr.Collins) in regard to dogs being conveyed in horse boxes to dog race meetings, I have had inquiries made in respect of this matter and am informed that racing dogs were on one occasion transported in horse boxes. Extra facilities for accommodation of racing dogs on ordinary trains are provided occasionally where the use of additional engine power is not involved. I do not approve of the practice of transporting racing dogs to race meetings in horse boxes, and have taken the necessary steps to ensure that racing dogs shall be conveyed only in accordance with the usual facilities available for their carriage. I am not prepared to alter the restrictions placed on the carriage of race-horses to country meetings or elsewhere.
– Does the Prime Minister think that the scurrilous cartoon in the Sydney Daily Telegraph this morning is the work of a fifth columnist? What action does the right honorable gentleman propose to take?
– I regard the cartoon as merely the creation of an unscrupulous controversialist, and that is all I have to say about it.
– When does the Minister for Repatriation propose to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation?
– To-day. I hope to make my second-reading speech next week.
Detention of Proprietor
– I recall to the Attorney-General some observations he made yesterday regarding a man suspected of exploiting the anxieties and griefs of relatives of soldiers who have fallen, and the action taken by the Go vernment. The right honorable gentleman said that the person concerned was to be detained. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether that person is to be charged with an offence and tried in accordance with law? What is the character of the detention to which the right honorable gentleman referred?
-I made a statement to the House on this matter yesterday. The view of the Director-General of Security is that the activities of this man are so systematic and so calculated to interfere with the prosecution of the war that it is not sufficient merely to try him and obtain a conviction, because the moment he is released from prison he immediately endeavours to commit security offences.
– That is a rather dangerous principle.
– The principle is this: in war it may be necessary to protect the public by prevention rather than merely by punishment. That is the view of the Director-General of Security. The man concerned is being detained under the power to detain a person in order to prevent his endeavouring to obtain military and naval intelligence to the danger of the nation.
– That is the Gestapo method. Every man should be required to answer for his alleged crime according to law.
– There is no Gestapo method. It may be that the man will be tried for the particular case of cheating; but he is being detained on security grounds alone.
– Is the Treasurer aware that very high rates of interest, frequently in excess of 10 or 12 per cent., are being charged on renewals of promissory notes representing payments on machinery - tractors, trucks, and so on - used by primary producers? Does the honorable gentleman consider that that is reasonable and is in accordance with the policy of the Labour party ?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I assume that the honorable gentleman is referring to the interest charged on hire-purchase agreements.
– That matter was inquired into by the committee set up by the previousGovernment to inquire into and report upon the hire purchase and cash order systems. That committee made certain recommendations to the previous Government. It has been brought to my notice quite recently that some of the rates of interest charged are excessive. I have asked the Commonwealth Bank Board to advise me of its views on these rates of interest.
– Can the Minister for the Army tell me to what degree, if at all, the new army hostel in Sydney is being used for the accommodation of service men? If it has not yet been used for that purpose, can the Minister explain why there has been so great a delay beyond the date of opening anticipated by the honorable gentleman ?
– When it was decided to take over the Marcus Clark building as an army hostel, the General Officer Commanding Lines of Communications Sydney, Major-General Fewtrell, estimated that within three weeks some men could be housed in the building. He had in mind the removal of the then tenants to other accommodation which he thought would be suitable for them. He found after consultation with the tenants and inspection of the proposed new accommodation that they were not satisfied. At great pains Major-General Fewtrell eventually found accommodation that gave them complete satisfaction. One of the tenants had occupied seven floors and the other two floors of the Marcus Clark building. The delay in finding suitable accommodation for the outgoing tenants interfered with the work of remodelling the Marcus Clark building and made it impossible to have the work carried out within the estimated time. I said, after consultation with MajorGeneral Fewtrell and the architect supervising the alterations, that the work would he completed not later than the middle of next month. I am satisfied that it will be the finest hostel of its kind in Australia.
– I present the report on proposed standing rules and orders of the Standing Orders Committee. It is a comprehensive review of the Standing Orders.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in a position to indicate when he proposes to introduce legislation to amend the Companies Act? I remind the right honorable gentleman that last year he stated that he would give early consideration to the introduction of such a measure.
– Some doubt exists as to whether the Parliament of the Commonwealth is empowered to pass a uniform companies law.
– The Attorney-General informed me previously that the Commonwealth’spowers inthat regard were not in doubt.
– The State Premiers have agreed to place the issue beyond doubt by recommending to their Parliaments that the necessary powers be referred to the Commonwealth. When the State Parliaments make their decision, I shall consider the matter again.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Commonwealth Bank Bill 1942 - Report of Special Committee appointed to consider the bill.
The Government has decided to adopt the recommendations of the majority report.
– When does the Treasurer propose to proceed with the legislation to establish a mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank?
– To-day I tabled the majority and minority reports of the special committee which examined the matter; and I intimated to the House that the Government had decided to give effect to the recommendations contained in the majority report. The Commonwealth Bank Bill, which is nowbefore the House, will be withdrawn and I shall introduce a new measure incorporating these recommendations. Subject to the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition, the bill will be brought down next week, and the debate will be initiated forthwith.
– Will the report be made available to honorable members ?
Bill presented by Mr. Frost, and read a first time.
– In view of the dissatisfaction felt by many people regarding the latitude allowed to enemy aliens in this country, will the Attorney-General inform me whether the Government is considering a tightening up of the existing restrictions ?
– I shall obtain from the Director-General of Security information relating to the present position.
– I move -
That Statutory Rules Nos. 471 and 487 of 1942, being National Security (Wheat Harvest Employment) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
So far as I am able to discover, the promulgation of these statutory rules is in no sense necessary to the prosecution of the war, and consequently I am of opinion that these powers have been improperly taken by the Commonwealth Government. The history of the regulations is most interesting. Parliament adjourned on the 9th October, 1942, and Statutory Rule No. 471 was promulgated on the 23rd October and Statutory Rule No. 487 on the 9th November. The House assembled again on the 10th and 11th December, and the statutory rules were laid on the table on. the second day. The moment they were placed on the table, I indicated that, at the first opportunity, I would submit a motion for their disallowance. The Government has made use of the powers conferred on it by the statutory rules, although the House has not had an opportunity to discuss them. Regulation No. 5 of Statutory Rule No. 471 states that there shall be a Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. The commission was appointed under the regulations. One member of it, Mr. J. W. Diver, received the following letter from the Chairman Mr. Arthur Blakeley : -
I desire to inform you that pursuant to powers vested in him under sub-section 3 of section 5 and sub-section 4 of section 6, of the abovementioned regulations, the Minister had determined that the commission shall not continue to function later than the 26th January, 1943.
In other words the commission was discontinued one day before this House met for this period of the session. The whole thing seems to me to be sticky. In my opinion the action taken under the National Security Regulations was not in any way associated with the war effort. In connexion with the use of war-time powers in this way I quote the following newspaper report of certain remarks made by Mr. Forgan Smith, the former Premier of Queensland: -
When the Labour ex-Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, recently declared that it was “ dishonest to use the war for political ends” he was speaking in advance of the promulgation of the Wheat Harvest Employment regulations and therefore could not have been referring to that outstanding misuse of the Commonwealth’s emergency powers. It is only too true that the Commission acted more expeditiously than the Arbitration Court would have done in the determination of harvest wages, but no Arbitration Court in Australia would have stultified itself by issuing with or without consideration so fantastic a schedule of wages and conditions as that which has been saddled on to the wheat industry by the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. The knowledge that such special bodies are apt to be more irresponsibly liberal than experienced tribunals is of course the reason for their growing popularity and the fact that they are popular (in the right places) may he a sufficient explanation of the regard in which they are held by the Minister for Labour (Mr. Ward).
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) appears to be jealous of the honour and reputation of the Government in respect of the use of war-time powers for other than war-time purposes as is indicated by the following newspaper report : -
Sydney, 17th January. - The Government did not enact regulations for any ulterior motive but solely for war purposes, the AttorneyGenera] (Dr. Evatt) said to-night. Regulations which caused unnecessary hardships could be and were withdrawn. It was wickedly false to say that the Government was using wartime powers to sneak in socialism. He urged Australians to study the real meaning of words and phrases.
I do not think it can be denied that wartime powers were used for the purpose of appointing the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission, but until this moment we have not had an opportunity to discuss the subject in this House. I have no doubt that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) will contend that the commission was established at the request of the wheat-growers. Such a statement would be a half truth, which is worse than a lie. I shall indicate to honorable members exactly what occurred, but before I proceed to read a long statement giving all the details of the negotiations, I point out that when the representatives met to consider the subject, the chairman of the meeting, Mr. Murphy, who represented the Minister for Labour and National Service, informed the delegates that if they did not participate in the proceedings certain history, of which we all are well aware in connexion with the, Women’s Employment Board, might be repeated. In other words, the representatives of the wheatgrowers were threatened in an objectionable manner. Undoubtedly, the meeting was packed. The following statement deals with all the details of the case : - “ It would appear that the Minister for Commerce, Mr. Scully, is armed with sufficient copies of a statement made by Mr. J. Hazelton. State secretary of the Wheatgrowers Union of New South Wales to send to all those who complain about the harvest wages determination.”So said the president. Mr. J. W. Diver, at a meeting of the Wheat Executive of the Primary Producers Association last week. The statement referred to was placed before the executive by Mr. E. A.
Melhuish, of Pithara, who had received it from the Minister in reply to correspondence arising out of motions carried at a meeting of farmers held at Dalwallinu recently.
Mr. Hazelton’s circular reads as follows: ; “It is desirable because of the extent to which the matter has been misrepresented that the factors which led upto the fixing of a harvest award should be outlined. When the New South Wales Harvest Advisory Committee met in August last it reviewed the man-power position and decided that if farmers were forced to outbid one another for the small amount of labour available the effect on wheat-growing would be disastrous. The only practicable means of overcoming this problem, it believed, was to fix an award. The representatives of the New South Wales Wheat-growers Union and the Farmers and Settlers Association accordingly joined in a recommendation to the Government that it establish a wage-fixing tribunal, expressing the opinion that this was preferable to asking the Arbitration Court to adjudicate. The exact terms of the telegram despatched on 1st September, 1942, were as follows: ‘Wheatgrowers Union Farmers and Settlers Association and Australian Workers Union consider it imperative that immediate action be taken fixation wages Commonwealth wheat harvesting. Suggest competent authority be appointed under National Security Regulations. Competent authority could be conference three representatives of employers and three of employees presided over by independent chairman appointed by Government. Signed Tilson (Wheat-growers Union), Cambridge (Farmers and Settlers Association), McNeill (Australian Workers Union) ‘”.
Later, the Wheat-growers Federation, in the terms of the request, appointed two representatives, the Australian Workers Union two representatives and the Minister for Labour a. chairman. The award was determined by this body.
Commenting on these happenings, and the subsequent criticism, Mr. J. Hazelton, State secretary of the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales, says- “We cannot gather our harvest without employing labour, and the question is not what we can afford (we cannot afford anything) but what the man we must employ will need to provide a reasonable living standard for himself and his dependants. To determinethis the Government recently invited wheat-growers to confer with employees and elect a tribunal which, after considering the many aspects involved, would be in a position to frame conditions of payments equitable to both farmer and employee. All wheat-growers’ organizations participated in the election of our two members to join the tribunal and all knew the conditions under which the tribunal was to be set up. Under such circumstances every intelligent member participated, and every organization implicated was in duty bound to accept and abide by decisions made. But what happened? Wheat-growers’ representatives failing to impress the tribunal with their views, hurried off and with two or three others claiming to speak for the Australian Wheat-growers Federation hurled abuse at the tribunal and decisions reached. Incidentally, they disclosed the real motive behind their intentions by deciding to capitalize the incident politically. Protests were made as coming from the Australian Wheat-growers Federation. Thu federation was not consulted. All the surrounding circumstances reek with insincerity and hypocrisy and the poorest of poor sportsmanship. Time would not permit .the matter being referred to the Arbitration Court. National Security Regulations had to be invoked and this was acceptable to all organizations. Nothing was mentioned about the sin of ‘by-passing the Arbitration Court’ or ‘ star chamber tactics ‘ when the tribunal was set up. These constituted afterthought inventions to try and discredit 1,0.th the tribunal and the Federal Government. The Wheat-growers Union agreed to the establishment of the tribunal and having done so wore hound to accept whatever rates this body authorized. This appeals to us as the only honorable course open. We arc living in extreme .times mid cannot ignore that fact. Greatly increased living costs demand higher wages to maintain a reasonable living standard. The award rate of 18s. a day for a 48-hour week is not unreasonable. In many areas in New South Wales last year the ruling rate was 20s. a day and keep and. in some’ instances, competition increased this amount by 25 per cent, to 50 per cent. The wage being assessed on the total hours worked, overtime this year will be negligible. Mr. Diver, president of the federation nml a member of the tribunal, suggests that our farm womenfolk will revolt against granting the workers’ womenfolk a standard of living exceeding that enjoyed by themselves. This is a libel on our farm women which will be universally accepted with scorn and resentment. Did he further suggest that our womenfolk -were against the standards of luxury living being provided by us for brokers, agents, millers. &c. ? Here again we have no recollection of any action being taken. According to Messrs. Diver and Kendall (of the Farmers and Settlers Association) our industry is doomed because we are now asked to pay a very temporary employee a wage. We are glad to dissociate the Wheat-growers Union from such utter nonsense. Since the advent of the present Government to power, the Australian Wheat-growers Federation, with complete disregard for growers’ interests, has converted the federation into an instrument to discredit the Government and an avenue t” give outward expression to galling disapproval of appointments given to others for which expectations were very real within the personnel of the federation.”
Mr. Hazelton was not a member of the conference. For that reason it is desirable that I should submit to honorable members the observations made upon his report by Mr. Diver, .who is, the president of the wheat-growers’ section of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia and also the president of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation. His comments are as follows : -
The president of the wheat section of the Primary Producers Association, Mr. J. W. Diver, reported to the executive on the matter in the following terms: - “My attention has been drawn to a circular letter by Mr. Hazelton, secretary of the New South Wales Wheat-growers Union, dealing with thu above subject, which is so misleading - although headed “‘The Truth about the Harvesting Award “ - that it would be better described as a list of inexactitudes and personal innuendoes.
So far as my knowledge serves, the people who are responsible for the genesis of this award appear to be Mr. Tilson, of the New South Wales Wheat-growers Union and Mr. McNeil of the Australian Workers Union. With their motives I am not concerned. I ^received a letter from Mr. Tilson written on the 20th August, 1942, in which he outlined the steps taken by his association on this subject, and asked that the Wheat-growers Federation should consider same.
As the federation later received an intimation from the Minister that a conference would bc held in Canberra to discuss the matter with the Australian Workers Union, the subject was placed on the agenda of the conference of the federation hold in Melbourne on the 2nd October. Mr. Hazelton speaks with considerable show of authority, but his information is obtained second-hand, as he was not a delegate to this conference, his union being represented by Messrs. Tilson and Burke, and the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers being represented bv Messrs. Field and Nock.”
What follows is significant, and if honorable members wish to determine what is the attitude of the wheat-growers towards the matter they will be guided by it -
The minutes show that Mr. Bevan (Victoria) moved: “That until such time as the prices for primary products are placed upon a cost-plus basis the rural workers’ log remain in abeyance.” Seconded by Mr. Little (Victoria).
Mr. Field (Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales ) : “I am supporting that resolution.”
Mr. Nock (Farmers and Settlers Association. New South Wales) : “I will support the resolution. I can tell this meeting that it is in absolute accord with our last conference decision.”
Excerpts from the minutes show that even the union’s own representative, Mr. Tilson, said he thoroughly disapproved of the log that had allegedly been presented.
The resolution was carried without a dissentient voice, and thus became the policy of the federation.
The federation then decided to be represented by two delegates from each State to hold further discussions as to the appointment of a tribunal and to take such steps as they think fit in accordance with the policy of the federation as determined by this conference.
On the6th October, at the invitation of the Minister, a round-table conference was held at Canberra between the Australian Workers Union and the Wheat-growers Federation, and the following is an extract from the minutes: - “Mr. Diver explained that in the first place the wheat industry was not an essential industry, but was an export industry, and it was up against inescapable costs which could not be passed on. He thought that the federation could not be a party to the creation of a tribunal such as was suggested, and thus be the maker of a halter that would completely tie up the industry.
The chairman, Mr. Murphy, said he thought it was desirable that some tribunal should be created. He was of the opinion that it might so happen that the Government would create it board even if the wheat industry did not agree.”
Evidently it was a very pressing matter, and everything was done “ under the lap “. The statement continues - “ The Government were forced to make a choice in this matter, and he thought it would not be wise to have a repetition of what happened with the Women’s Employment Board.”
If that is not coercion, I do not know what is. The statement proceeds - “ Mr. Diver said that if the Government arranged to have the industry set on a “costplus” basis the position would indeed be different, but we have no assurance of that. He then asked that the conference be adjourned for half an hour, in order that the federation might discuss the position further. The conference adjourned.”
Federation delegates resumed.
Mr. Lyons moved ; “That this federation is opposed to the establishment of a tribunal to determine the rural wages and working conditions until such time as a cost-plus basis is applied to the wheat industry, but if the Government is determined to appoint such a tribunal we. desire representation thereon, and we will co-operate in the implementation thereof.” Carried by eight votes to three.
In the light of that resolution, it cannot be contended that there was agreement with the establishment of the tribunal; but, as it was to be established, the federation considered that it wasletter to have representation on it than to be left unrepresented. The statement continues -
Round-table conference resumed.
Resumption took place at 2.15. p.m. A very lengthy discussion took place on the recommendations that should be made to the Minister. After further discussion the following drafting was agreed to: - “ That we recommend to the Government that a body of two representatives from each side, with a chairman nominated by. the Government, be appointed to formulate an award covering rates and conditions in the wheat industry, such committee to make provision for State boards of. reference or committees in each State, and that the committee shall have power with the armed forces and man-power authorities to obtain and direct man-power in the industry.”
Mr. Stott asked for a direction from the chairman as to what the nature of his report to the Government would be. After Mr. Diver had explained that it must be clearly understood that the federation desired that the Government should place the wheat industry on a payable basis to enable the growers to pay any award which may be fixed by the tribunal.
The chairman explained what the nature of his report would be, which would include everything that the delegates of the federation had said. The conference then closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman.
The fact stands out that the federation accepted the tribunal and representation thereon lust worse might befall.
When the commission settled down to business, it became evident that the worst fears of the federation were going to be realized, and that the so-called “tribunal” was nothing more than a recording mechanism of the views of its members, previously determined, the economic possibilities of the industry being totally disregarded.
That is the statement as I received it from the chairman of theWheat-growers Federation; it records the views of those wheat-growers who were present.
Rightly or wrongly, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has never been kindly disposed towards the wheat-growers of Australia.
– -Then the honorable gentleman has changed his opinion. In Hansard, volume 149, at page 140, he is reported as follows: -
I say quite frankly that, in my opinion, the primary producers, through their representatives in this Parliament, have been able to exercise an undue influence upon the Government and thus obtain relief which in many cases is not warranted. That is my considered opinion. I hope the time is not far distant - -
It arrived in due course, and, without the authority of the Parliament, he made full use of the opportunity. He appointed a packed tribunal, contrary to the wishes of the federal organization of wheatgrowers, and that body made determinations which awarded double the wages that would have been awarded by a duly constituted arbitration court. It also made provision for a prosperity advance of 5s.
I continue the quotation from the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service -
I hope the time is not far distant when we shall have in this Parliament a government which is not dominated by that particular section of the community.
This is a very serious matter for the Prime Minister. I expect that his Ministers have informed him that this action was taken at the direct request of the growers themselves. It may have been requested by unionist wheat-growers who were seeking certain favours from the Government in return for support that had been promised and probably had already been given. How would the Prime Minister like to be judged according to his relations with a section of the Labour party which recently held up the business of the country for approximately a month while it determined Labour’s attitude towards a certain matter? The wheat industry is the second largest industry in Australia, and its very existence is at stake ; yet thisdetermination has been forced upon it by a packed tribunal. The Minister for Labour and National Service waited a long time for the fulfilment of the desire that he had expressed on the 13th March, 1936. When he had the opportunity to act, he misused war-time powers. I suppose that he is now satisfied. But he cannot claim that the wishes of the primary producers have been met. What he has done illustrates the bitterness of the feeling that he has towards the wheat-growers. He does not consider that they should ride about in motor cars; only city folks should have that privilege. He said -
They are always talking about their povertystricken conditions; yet, whenever one visits a country show or race meeting, one cannot get near the entrance gates because of their motor cars.
I have the names of approximately twenty roads boards which object to what has been done. In Western Australia, roads boards are established principally in the wheat-growing areas, and collect rates from wheat-growers. TheState Country party of Western Australia sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister on this subject: -
State Country party definitely opinion that farmers in Western Australia cannot pay wage rates ordered by Harvest Commission.
While we believe agricultural labour entitled wage equality with industrial farmers are themselves entitled living wage. Both cannot be accomplished at present product prices. Unless Federal Government prepared immediately pay cash on delivery price for all grain crops covering fully costs production plus margin of profit to leave farmer proper standard of living should be cancelled. Urge you immediately take action one way or the other to relieve intolerable position. Would remind you 3s.10d. bulk payable only portion wheat crop off restricted area. This price is equivalent about1s. 9d. prior last war.
The decision of this tribunal is contrary to the accepted practice of all properly constituted tribunals, including the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Is the honorable member in favour of an approach being made to the Arbitration Court for an agricultural award?
– Undoubtedly I urn. From the Arbitration Court we may expect justice to both sides. Here is a pronouncement by J udge Piddington that has a bearing on the matter -
The view acted upon by every arbitration tribunal in Australia up to the present - that the two fundamental functions of a court in declaring a living wage are -
A statutory tribunal which fails to consider either of these consequences when declaring a living wage fails to discharge a primary function.
The Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, Sir George Beeby, has put on record the following statement: -
The court has always conceded the “ needs “ of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing a basic wage. But it has never, as a result of its own inquiry, specifically declared what is an average family, or what is the cost of a regimen of food, clothing and shelter and miscellaneous items necessary to maintain it in frugal comfort, or that a basic wage should give effect to such finding. In the end economic possibilities have always been the determining factor.
I maintain that economic factors were not taken into consideration when this decision was reached. The tribunal consisted of two farmers, two representatives of the Australian Workers Union, and, as chairman, Mr. Blakeley, a former secretary of the Australian Workers Union, and a former Minister in a Labour government. This was the body that sat to decide the destiny of the primary producers. After several minor matters had been dealt with, one of the union representatives moved the adoption of the award as a whole. The representatives of the farmers voted against it but, the chairman voting for the determination, it was declared carried. This award, therefore, is contrary to the definite and declared opinion of the wheat-growers who believe that the matter should be determined in the light of the ability of the farmers to pay. I have received numerous communications from representative bodies in Western Australia condemning the new award. Mr. Diver has received from Mr. H. T. Berry, chairman of the State Wheat Harvest Employment Committee, a copy of the following letter received from the Kondinin Road Board : -
Harvest Aw abd. “ The members of the Kondinin Road Board, mi behalf of the ratepayers, offer the strongest possible protest to the determination relating to the terms and conditions of employees engaged on manual work in connexion with the harvesting of wheat sown during the year 1942.
The conditions imposed are altogether too drastic for districts still only partly developed, such as Kondinin. It is further evidence of a vindictive persecution of members of an industry, which a royal commission had previously reported unable to pay its way, and it is well known that conditions have deteriorated since the report of that commission.
Furthermore, as the Western Australian acreage for wheat production has been compulsorily restricted by one-third, the ill-effects of the determination are greater than would otherwise be the case.”
There was no call for this award. When the men left the farms to join the Army or to work in munitions factories, farmers were obliged to pay almost any wages they were asked. The tribunal, which was not concerned with the welfare of the wheat industry, brought in a one-sided determination that paid no heed to the ability of farmers to pay, or to the quality of the labour offering. The rates fixed are to be paid to anything in the shape of a man, no matter how old or bow young he may be. For any sort of labour that might be offering the tribunal fixed rates which were double those fixed by the court for any other industry.
– What other award has the honorable member in mind when he says that?
– The award for rural industries was £3 2s.. and if the Minister looks at the new determination he will see that stack builders and thatchers have been allotted rates amounting to nearly £8 a week, plus keep. Then if you please, a 5s. “ prosperity loading “ is placed on this bankrupt industry which every government for years past has had to subsidize.
– The industry was kept bankrupt by anti-Labour governments.
– That sort of gibe will not answer the farmers who have lost their export market, and who are unable to pass on rising costs. The Minister has acted without giving Parliament a chance to discuss the matter, with the result that something has been done which is diametrically opposed to tho welfare of the industry and the country.
. - I am at a loss to understand what the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) hopes to achieve by taking up the time of the House in discussing this statutory rule, which was- brought down to meet an emergency that arose during the harvesting period just completed.
– It was introduced through the trickery of the Minister for Labour.
– The honorable member for Forrest, who began by accusing me of telling half truths, has himself gone on to make statements which contain even less than half the truth. This matter was first brought to the notice of the Government by the wheat-growers themselves, who were anxious lest they should not get sufficient labour to take off the harvest. They agreed to the holding of a conference with the union concerned, and this conference took place during the last session of Parliament. I did not attend the meetings, which were presided over by a representative of my department. This officer duly reported to me that the conference had unanimously agreed to the setting up of a tribunal which would fix rates of pay. What the honorable member for Forrest objects to is, not that a tribunal was set up, but that Opposition members did not get the sort of tribunal they wanted, namely, one which would fix starvation wages.
I wish to correct a misapprehension that may have been created in the minds of the wheat-growers by some of the extracts from Hansard quoted by the honorable member. It is true that, on occasions, I have criticized some of the alleged representatives of the primary producers in this Parliament, and condemned some of the attempts which they made to obtain preferential treatment for certain sections of the primary producers. Some of the primary producers have passed through very bad times in the course of the years, but there are other sections which, under all conditions have, relatively speaking, done fairly well. When he quotes from Hansard the honorable member should do so fully so that the full significance of my remarks might be apparent to wheat-growers. I challenge the honorable member for Forrest to submit to the House a comparison between the treatment of the primary producers by my party and their treatment by his own party. I remind him that when the Scullin Government introduced the first wheat bounty legislation it provided that the bounty should be paid to all wheatgrowers regardless of income. There was no means test. If a wheat-grower had considerable income from other activities he still received the wheat bounty. The money available was limited, and it must be obvious that growers not in need of assistance dipped their hands into the Treasury at the expense of the more deserving. When the United Australia party was returned to power in 1931, it did not have to depend on the Country party to remain in office. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was Minister for Commerce in the first Lyons Ministry, and he introduced legislation restricting the payment of the wheat bounty to those wheat-growers who had not earned a taxable income in the previous twelve months. I remember that the then honorable member for Warringah, Sir Archdale Parker, said that the bounty was for the needy and not for the greedy. It was recognized then by the United Australia party that only those wheat-growers in need of assistance should receive it. The Country party sponsored amendments aimed at the defeat of the restrictive clauses of that legislation, but the move was defeated because the Labour party realized the justness of the provisions and supported the Government. At the next general elections the ranks of the United Australia party were thinned and those of the Country party increased. The Country party was then able to put the screw on the Government, and it demanded that the wheat bounty should be distributed without restriction among all wheat-growers. The honorable member for Forrest, every time wheat bounty legislation was before Parliament, supported the view that all wheat-growers, the wealthy as well as the impoverished, should participate. Our attitude was then, and still is, that monetary assistance to all primary producers should be limited to those in need of it.
– Does the Minister not regard the honorable member for Forrest as an impoverished wheat-grower?
– Certainly not; nor do I regard him as a contented wheat-grower. When he was Minister for Commerce, the honorable member for Parramatta disclosed that when the distribution of the wheat bounty was unrestricted large sums of money went to overseas companies instead of to the Australian farmer. I challenge members of the Country party to show one instance of lack of sympathy on the part of the Labour party for primary producers or one instance of the Labour party ever opposing the granting of assistance to those in need of it. What we have done is to endeavour to regulate the assistance so that those most in need would receive it. That is what the honorable member for Forrest, who is reputed to be a very wealthy wheat-grower, condemns as “ hostility “ to the primary producers.
When there was no lack of labour for the farms, the primary producers were able to obtain abundant labour at very low wages. Some of them argued that primary industries could not afford to pay a decent wage. The following official report shows the position then: -
Prior to the labour shortage in Victoria the rates for harvest hands in Iiic Mallee and Wimmera were from £:i to £4 per week with keep, while the rates in the districts of Ballarat, Werribee.. Laverton and Malton were as low as ls. per hour. Last year a .survey was made in Victoria which indicated that the rates paid for last year’s harvest were from 15s. to £1 per day with keep. This would be in all cases on a 10-11 bour day.
One shilling an hour was what they were paying ! It is evident that in many cases not even that amount was paid. What did we do? We have been charged with having set up a “ .packed “ tribunal. There was no protest from the honorable member for Forrest, or anybody else, when that tribunal was “packed”. The protest came when it had made its decision. Any body would imagine that the tribunal awarded exorbitant rates of pay to the men engaged in harvesting. Where is this revolution amongst the primary producers which Country party members said would occur if we persisted in giving the harvesters a decent wage? I do not accept the honorable member’s claim that he speaks for the majority of the primary producers. He speaks for a very small minority, those who are always, reaching out for assistance and who refuse to pay decent wages and provide decent living conditions for their employees. Throughout the history of this country Labour governments have been compelled to force sections of primary industry to pay decent wages and observe decent standards. There .are, however, many primary producers who take a different view. Before. I state what their view is I must point out that this tribunal, which is supposed to be packed, consists of two representatives of the wheat-growers, two of the employees and a representative of the Commonwealth Government - an industrial officer and conciliation commissioner who is highly experienced in controlling the deliberations of wage-fixing tribunals. It is a false charge to say that the chairman and members of that tribunal are in -any way biased. The following statement sets out the determination of the tribunal : -
The basic rate of 2s. 3d. per hour is made up as follows: -
The index number operating as from the first day of November, 1942, is 89.2 equalling 89s.
Prosperity loading is awarded by the
Commonwealth Court as follows: -
New South Wales, “Victoria, Queensland - Gs. per week.
Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia - 4s. per week.
For 30 towns the sum of 5s. per week has been fixed.
Tn all Commonwealth awards a margin is allowed where the work is of a casual nature.
This is to compensate for wet weather, annual leave, fares, &c. The margins run from 10 per cent, to 40 per cent, in the present award; the margin for the casual rate of 2s. 3d. per hour is approximately 14 per cent. The basic rate, at 2s. 3d. per hour, for a 48-hour week equals £5 8s. per week, which is made up as follows: -
The wage is ;E5 Ss. a week. The honorable member for Forrest did not mention that the employees have to “find” for themselves. The wage does not take into account the time lost in moving from one place of employment to another. Under present conditions, by no stretch of imagination could that rate be described as exorbitant. One of the matters which the honorable member did not mention, but which I expected him to mention, is that the full adult wage is paid to all employees in the industry over the age of nineteen years. We recognize the fact that a lad of nineteen years of age is capable of doing a man’s job on the farm and is therefore entitled to the full rate of pay. The honorable member for Forrest cited a report by Mr. Hazelton, but used only that part of the report which suited his arguments. Most of Mr. Hazelton’s statements are in commendation of the Government’s policy and of what has been achieved by the tribunal.
Mir. Scully. - Mr. Hazelton represents two-thirds of the wheat-farmers in New South Wales.
– That is true. The honorable member for Forrest, who does not speak for the majority of the wheatgrowers, said that the Government had acted behind the back of Parliament. Does the honorable member suggest that I, as Minister for Labour and National Service, and this Government itself, should have done nothing to ensure that labour should be available to harvest the wheat crop. If we had taken no action and the crop had not been harvested, the honorable member would have been one of the first to charge the Government with having bungled labour matters. Some of the difficulties in meeting the labour requirements of the wheat industry are due to the fact that men who formerly worked in primary industries realize that they could earn more money in the cities. Many primary producers recognized this, and. were prepared to assist the Government and themselves by offering decent wages and conditions as an inducement to men to remain in the industry. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I, and my colleagues in the Ministry devised a scheme whereby the wheat-growers would be assured of an adequate return for their labours, but, as one of the conditions, we required that they should pay their employees an adequate wage. The honorable member for Forrest would have honorable members believe that there was a widespread protest against the rates of pay determined by the tribunal. In contradiction of the honorable gentleman, I cite the following advertisements from the Northern Daily Leader, Tamworth: - 10th November, 1942. - Wanted extension head man, 30s. per day and keep. Globe Agency, Treloar’s Brisbane House, Tamworth. (Repeated on the 12th November, 1942.) 25th November, 1942. - Wanted bag-sewer, 26s. per day and keep. Same agency. 28th November, 1942. - Wanted a man for platform, £2 per day. Norman Tindale, Loomberah. 1st December, 1942. - Wanted a man to sew bags on ground, 20s. per 100 and keep or contract. W. Evans, Byamee Post Office. 2nd December, 1942. - Wanted a man to sew about 3,000 bags, £1 per 100. Start immediately. B864, Tamworth. 10th December, 1942. - Wanted bag-sewer, 1,000 bags, 25s. per 100. Garvin and Cousins, Tamworth.
– Those are contract
– Not all. The first advertisement does not refer to contract rates. The amount of £2 a day for a man for platform work is not a contract rate. On the 24th December last, the Sydney Morning Herald contained the following paragraph: - “ Soldiers saved bountiful Riverina harvest said Mr. Stallman, secretary of a War Agricultural Committee. “ Upwards of 200 men in one camp worked a total of 5,500 working hours, for which they were paid 2s.6d. per hour.”
That is 3d. an hour above thebasic rate of 2s. 3d. an hour set by the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. That evidence demonstrates conclusively that all the primary producers do not object to paying decent wages in order that the industry may continue.
If honorable members will peruse Hansard, they will discover that on all occasions when the honorable member for Forrest has delivered a speech on the wheat industry, he has said that decent wages should be paid to workers in primary industries.
– If they could afford it.
– Yes. He never failed to make that qualification, and he never mentioned a price that the wheat-growers should receive for their product before they could afford to pay to their employees a reasonable wage. The Labour Government determined that the primary producer should obtain assistance to harvest his crop, and should pay a decent wage to his employees. Honorable members opposite have often declared that the Labour party represents only the workers in the cities. The Government is now demonstrating the falsity of that statement by proving that it also represents the primary producers. I believe that if it is right to regulate the wages of city workers in order to ensure to them a proper standard of living, it is equally right for the Government to regulate wages in country districts in order to ensure that employees shall receive adequate payment for their labour.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) failed to make out a case for the repeal of the regulations. The statutory rules are promulgated for the purpose of meeting an emergency, and the regulations apply only to this harvest. Of course, I do not say that the Government will not take similar action next year to regulate wages in country districts. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has suggested, and the honorable member agreed, that the matter could be referred to the Arbitration Court.
– And why not?
– I have no objection. But that advocacy represents an advance from the stand that members of the Country party have taken hitherto, because they always objected to the application of awards to rural industries, whether the determinations were made by a special tribunal or the Arbitration Court. In the present instance, Ministers were urged to act without delay in order to meet an emergency which was brought to our notice last October. An examination of the records of the conference will reveal that the wheat-growers urged the Government to take prompt action because delay would have prevented them from obtaining labour for harvesting. Consequently, the Government appointed a special tribunal to deal with this special problem. The chairman made no threats, as was suggested by the honorable member for Forrest, against the primary producers. He merely pointed out that unless the conference reached an agreement, the Government might have to try other methods. There was no suggestion of coercing primary producers into accepting the decisions. The final resolutions were carried unanimously, although the representatives of the primary producers were at liberty to vote against, them. At the time, they raised no protest. They had asked for the conference, and for the appointment of the tribunal. The Government did not take the initiative in convening the conference and did not compel them to attend. The primary producers pleased themselves whether they attended or absented themselves. As the result of the decisions of the conference, the tribunal was established and no honorable member of the Country party raised a protest until its determination had been announced.
– Did not, the Minister receive a telegram from the wheat-growers’ organization requesting the appointment of the tribunal, as Arbitration Court procedure was too slow?
– Tes. The wheat-growers constantly pressed the Government and myself to take prompt action for the purpose of dealing with this urgent problem. A large number of primary producers are grateful to the Government for its assistance. Wc shall at all times endeavour to help them with their urgent man-power requirements, but we expect them in return to pay to their employees a. reasonable rate of remuneration.
In promulgating these regulations, the Government had no thought of going behind the hack of this Parliament. The House adjourned shortly after the conference was held, and the Government had to act before the Parliament reassembled in December. I knew that honorable members would have an opportunity to express their views on the regulations and the honorable member for Forrest, like every other honorable member, received a copy of the statutory rules which established the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. He did not protest against the tribunal until it announced its determination. Members of the Country party then declared that the rate which had been fixed would ruin the primary industries. The great bulk of the harvest has now been taken off, the wages prescribed in the determination have been paid, and there is no evidence that any sections of the primary producers have been ruined or forced to leave their holdings as the result of the action taken by the Government. Fair-minded members of this chamber will recognize that the Government did the proper thing when it accepted the advice of the wheatgrowers and the unions representing the employees to establish the tribunal. 1 am satisfied that the tribunal did excellent work in helping to secure the necessary labour by fixing basic wage rates for harvesting the crop. The majority of primary producers appreciate the assistance which the Government rendered to them.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) devoted nearly the whole of his speech to matters that were irrelevant to the points raised by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). That is a common practice on the part of Ministers, who find it more expedient to avoid replying to the issues than to deal with the merits of the case which they are called upon to defend. The Minister has posed, as one who has always been concerned with ensuring that the primary producers receive a fair deal. He declared that the farmers are justified in looking to the Labour party to obtain for them proper living conditions. That statement is ridiculous. ‘Some years ago, the Country party sought the approval of Parliament for the payment of a bounty to wheat-growers, because the price had fallen to the tragically low figure of 3s. a bushel. The Government of the day introduced a bill to authorize the payment of a paltry bounty of 3d. a bushel. The then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) submitted an amendment to the Government’s proposal to the effect that the bounty should not be paid to a wheatgrower unless he could establish that he was the victim of adverse seasonal conditions, and even in necessitous circumstances.
– A “ means test “.
– The then Leader of the Opposition had grudging support from the present Minister for Labour and National Service, who at that time had left the fold of the official Labour party. The right honorable member for Fremantle justified his attitude by citing figures from the report of a royal commission which had shortly before inquired’ into the cost of the production of wheat. The royal commission concluded, from its investigations, that one-half of the wheat-growers of Australia were able to produce wheat at 3s. a bushel. I shall analyse the basis of costs which the commission adopted. The figures have a bearing on the present t case, because they satisfied the Minister. The royal commission presumed that the wheat-grower should have an annual remuneration of £125; that no wages were to be paid to members of his family under the age of 21 years who assisted him; that no allowance was to be made for the cost of food and shelter for those children ; and that members of the family over 21 years of age, who assisted, were to receive a wage of £1 a week. The Min:ster was entirely satisfied with those conditions, because he resisted the payment of a bounty to the wheat-growers.
– That is not correct.
– The facts are reported in Mansard.
– I have never voted against the payment of a bounty. Doubtless 3 voted for the amendment. The then Leader of the Opposition sought to have the money paid to farmers in necessitous circumstances.
– The Leader of thi Opposition had moved that the bounty should be paid only to those who produced evidence to the satisfaction of the prescribed authority that they had experienced adverse seasonal conditions and as the result was in necessitous circumstances.
– That provision applies to the granting of all forms of relief.
– The Minister overlooks the fact that the farmer was limited to an annual remuneration of £125, and that members of his family under the age of 21, who assisted him, were entitled to no wages. That disposes of the sympathy which the Minister pretended to have for primary producers. It demonstrates as humbug this pose that the Labour party is the only political party concerned with securing fair rates of pay for the people. If it is right to have a fair standard for workers in industry, it is equally right to have a fair standard for those who work in their own business.
Sitting suspended from lS.Jj.5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to address myself now to the questions of whether the appointment of the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission was necessary, and whether the appointment was made under reasonable conditions. I thought it had been sufficiently well established in this country that the determination of wages and conditions in any industry was the responsibility of the Arbitration Court. I can understand, of course, that the necessity might arise at any time to establish a special tribunal to deal with an -emergency. But the sowing and maturing of a crop of wheat does not Occur within a fortnight. Everybody knew months before the last harvest that the wheat crop would have to be gathered, and ample opportunity was available for the Government to take steps to deal with the situation and to obtain from the Arbitration Court an award covering harvesting work. The Arbitration Court could have examined all the relevant circumstances. Had the subject been referred to the court, it would have compared the position of the workers and the employers in this industry with that of the workers and the employers in other industries, and, in the light of all the circumstances, including the capacity of the employers to pay certain wages, the court would no doubt have given a fair and equitable award. But that course waa not taken. A special tribunal was appointed to deal with the subject. It has been said that the industry asked for this award; but no facts have been adduced, to substantiate that contention. It is true that representatives of the wheat-growers brought their impending difficulties in respect of man-power to the notice of the Government, and asked that something be done to help them to secure labour to reap this essential foodstuffs crop. It was not suggested, however, that the shortage of man-power had anything to do with the rates of wages payable for harvesting work. It has been the common practice for a very long while in this industry to pay a daily wage of £1, 25s., or even more, to men engaged in driving headers and harvesters, in stack-building. and in other harvesting work.
– That statement destroys the argument of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that this determination would be ruinous to the wheatgrower.
– It does nothing of the kind. The fact is that this award fixed a minimum rate of pay for boys of 19 years to men of more than 70 years of age. Very many of the men who worked on the harvest fields during the last harvest were more than 70 years of age. The award was made without regardto the capacity to work of the men engaged in harvesting. The request of the wheat-growers was that additional men should be drafted to harvesting work, but not one additional employee was obtained by that means. The appeal of the wheat-growers fell on stony ground, if one may call the ears of the Minister for Labour and National Service stony ground; definitely it was not unfertile ground, for a tribunal was established which made this extraordinary award.
– The representatives of the wheat-growers agreed to the award.
– They had to do so. The honorable member for Forrest has outlined the circumstances in which the tribunal was established. The Government said to the wheat-growers, in effect, “ The commission will be established whether you like it or not; if you do not accept the invitation to appoint representatives, the award will be made in the absence of such representatives”. It was another version of the old story, “ Hands up or else- “.
The award was made to apply to the harvesting of barley and oats, as well as wheat, and, here again, there was a total disregard of the capacity of the growers of such crops to pay the rates fixed. What is the position in respect of these two cereal crops? The growers of oats receive a rate of 2s. 2d. a bushel, and, in the States where the barley pool is still operating, the pool prices apply to barley. But the barley-grower gets only a first advance. In the locality in which I live, where a good deal of barley is. grown, nearly all the barley produced in the last harvest was classified as feed grade, and the first advance for it was only 9d. a bushel. Three bushels of barley go to the bag, so that the barleygrowers received 2s. 3d. a bag as a first advance. But each bag costs1s.1d., so the amount received by the barleygrowers was only1s. 2d. a bag. The harvest in the area that I have in mind yielded about eight bags to the acre; therefore the grower received an advance equivalent to a little more than 9s. an acre. But what rates have to be paid to the men engaged to harvest the barley? It is customary for men employed on this work to spend ten hours a day in the field. They receive under this award up to 3s. 3d. an hour for eight hours, and 4s. 10½d. an hour for the extra two hours, making their rate of pay about £2 a day. It must be obvious, therefore, to all honorable members that the award was made without regard to the capacity of the farmers to pay the prescribed rates.
– What wages does the honorable member think a tractor-driver should receive?
– I do not intend to be led into that trap; but it has been the custom to pay from las. to 20s. aday and keep to the men who drove tractors during the barley harvest. As a matter of fact, the men were far, butter off than the barley-growers. The same circumstances apply to the growers of oats. In their case, too, no regard was paid to capacity to pay the rates fixed. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, or the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, whether any evidence was submitted to this tribunal concerning the capacity of the growers of oats and barley to pay certain rates of wages?
– And I ask the honorable member whether it is not a fact that the farmers were represented on the tribunal ?
– There was nothing to prevent the farmers from submitting evidence to the tribunal.
– In reply to my pertinent question, one Minister asks me another question, and the other Minister says that evidence could have been submitted. It is apparent, therefore, that no evidence was placed before the commission. All the circumstances indicate clearly that the commission neglected to consider the capacity of the industry to pay the rates of wages which it prescribed. The award consequently is ridiculous. Very few farms are wholly devoted to the growing of barley or oats. Such cereals are grown On properties on which mixed farming is the practice, and the men engaged on the farm work spend their time at different occupations. A man may drive a reaper and binder, or a harvester, in the morning, and he may be called upon to do some other work in the afternoon. He may, for example, be engaged in cutting pasture hay. That work is not covered by the award. Rain may fall for half a day. No provision is made for that circumstance. The stacking of pasture hay is not covered by the award. To any one acquainted with the circumstances of the farming industry this award is silly and indefensible, and the honorable member for Forrest was fully justified in moving for the disallowance of the regulations. It is proper, also, to bring to notice the fact that the commission had concluded its work before the members of this Parliament had had an opportunity to discuss the position. The honorable member for Forrest was denied the opportunity to move this motion while the harvest was still being gathered. That was the proper course for him to take.
– No opportunity was denied to him.
– No opportunity was given in the sittings lasting two days that were held just prior to Christinas.
– The honorable gentleman should not accuse the Government of attempting to suppress an honorable member.
– I repeat, no opportunity was given; that is undeniable. No objection would be offered from this side to the Government seeking an award for those who are engaged in agriculture or any other industry. What we contend is that the Arbitration Court is the competent and trained authority to make such determinations.
– Would the honorable gentleman favour an immediate application to the Arbitration Court?
– I am not the Government. Certain action has been announced in respect of the dairying industry, in which I am equally interested. I have said in and out of Parliament that I would not protest against the Arbitration Court making an award for that industry. That applies also to other cereal industries. The Arbitration Court would take into account the capacity of the employers to pay what was awarded, and would place on the Government, which desires an award to be made, the obligation of seeing that employers were enabled to observe its conditions. In this matter, I speak for every honorable member on this side of the House.
There is another aspect of high importance, to which too little attention has been directed; that is the complete departure from traditional policy in this country since the last war, in the abandonment in this award of the principle of preference to returned soldiers, and for the first time the enactment of preference to unionists in its stead. I protest against that. I am amazed that such a departure should be implemented under the authority of national security regulations. Power given to the Government because of the circumstances of the war has been employed by a Minister for the purpose of discontinuing the traditional preference in employment to those who fight for us in time of war.
– What has that to do with the regulations?
– I am astonished that a Minister of the Crown should ask such a question. It has been incorporated in an award made under these regulations.
– -Is it not a fact that this provision was unanimously agreed to by every member of the tribunal, including the representatives of the wheat-growers?
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member obviously has not examined the records.
– Is it likely that a matter of Government policy would be handed to the representatives of the wheatgrowers, or any other interests?
– Does the honorable member believe in government interference with industrial tribunals?
– A tribunal of this character should not have been .given the right to alter the policy of this country in respect of preference to returned soldiers. Nothing will alter my view on that matter. Are we to have a sequence of tribunals, any one of which, in turn, will be empowered to strip from returned soldiers the preference in employment that they have so far enjoyed? Exercise for so bad a purpose of the authority vested in Ministers is absolutely improper. If it be the policy of the Government to withdraw preference to returned soldiers-
– The honorable member knows that that is not the policy of the Government. He has made a most improper suggestion.
– I stand for preference to returned soldiers. I recognize that there is a body of opinion in this country which, in view of the fact that many men are to-day not permitted to wear service uniform, considers that preference to returned soldiers should no longer exist. I disagree with that. If, because of it, the Government considers that the policy should be abandoned, then this Parliament is the proper place in which to discuss and decide the matter. But the only way in which it can be dragged into this Parliament is by the submission of a motion such as that which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has placed before honorable members to-day. If there were no other reason, my voice would be raised and my vote cast in this place to negative these regulations.
-. - The honorable member is discussing regulations that no longer exist.
– Then this debate cannot be in order. The Minister should so inform Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member knows well that the regulations are not in existence; so does the honorable member for Forrest.
– I know that; but this was the first opportunity I had to submit the motion and make a protest.
– Are we to understand that the Government is a party to this Parliament being asked to engage in the farce of debating a motion for the disallowance of regulations which do not exist? I do not believe that that is the position. I know that the commission has been disbanded, but I am not aware that the regulations have been withdrawn.
– The commission appointed under the regulations has ceased to exist.
– Exactly. The personnel has been disbanded, but so far as I know the regulations still have as much force as they had when made. Therefore, that barrel has misfired. I am unwillingly driven to the conclusion that this expedient for abandoning preference to returned soldiers, and substituting preference to unionists, cannot be dissociated from the post-war reconstruction plans of the Government; for surely if it bc a good thing in time of war, while men are. actually in uniform and fighting, to withdraw the preference they have previously enjoyed, ipso facto the same authority must consider that it would be equally good to abandon all pretence in regard to preference to returned soldiers when the war is over. I associate myself with the honorable members for Forrest and Swan (Mr. Marwick) in demanding that the regulations shall be withdrawn. Both of those gentlemen, and you, too, Mr. Speaker, come from. Western Australia. This debate recalls to me a view which I heard strongly put by a competent gentleman from Western Australia - Mr. Watt - during the Constitution
Convention. He argued on behalf of your State that there was grave doubt as to whether additional powers should be reposed in this Parliament, and, through it, in Commonwealth Ministers. On behalf of himself and other representatives of Western Australia, he expressed himself as not at all satisfied that such powers would not be abused. If ever there’ has been an example of unwarranted abuse of authority, it is to be found in the employment of the National Security Act to withdraw from returned soldiers the preference that they have enjoyed in respect of employment, and to substitute for it. preference in employment to unionists. In general terms, I associate myself with the desire of the Government that this Parliament shall enjoy additional power and authority, but pursuit of the course adopted by the Government will convince the people of Australia of the wisdom of denying that additional authority.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has presented his case admirably. He has been condemned by every member of the Opposition on the ground that he has no sympathy with the primary producers. When the Min is.ter for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and I advocated that there should bc; payment to the wheat-growers of 4s. a bushel in respect of the first 3,000 bushels produced we had the whole-hearted support of the honorable gentleman. He said that his policy was that a fair price should be paid to every man, whether he was a worker, a primary producer, or a business man.
The principal argument of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is that the wage awarded should not have been fixed because the industry cannot afford fo pay it. What is the reason for that inability? Is the fault to be laid at the door of this Parliament? For a period of ten year3, during which honorable gentlemen opposite could have fixed a price for all primary products, they did not show any consideration for the wheat industry. Twenty years ago I, and the farmers in my district, paid a higher wage than was fixed by the present award. As the Minister for Labour and National Service has explained, all interests were represented on the tribunal which made the award. It has been argued that the matter should have been referred to the Arbitration Court. We know what lengthy periods are involved in hearings before that tribunal. Had it had the determination of the matter, a decision would not yet have been reached. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that the matter is more one of obtaining labour, irrespective of what is paid for it, than of what wage has been awarded by the tribunal. That is proved by the advertisements which appeared in the newspapers. The objections to this determination come from 2 per cent, of the wheat-growers; the other 9S per cent, are only too pleased to be able to pay high wages if the industry can afford it. The parliamentary committee which was appointed to inquire into rural industries in Australia found that the prices -of most primary products were not sufficient to allow the industries to pay their way on a proper basis. There is no doubt that there has been sweated labour in the dairying industry, due entirely to the neglect of the members of the Country party who have no consideration for country interests, but are more concerned with the interests of those who farm the farmer. The present Government brought down regulations providing for the payment of a guaranteed price to the producers of meat, but the regulations have been disallowed by the Senate We maintain that the primary producer should be guaranteed an adequate price so that he may be in a position to pay fair wages to his employees, but every time the Government brings forward proposals for fixing prices of primary products they are turned down cold by the members of the Country party and the United Australia party in the Senate. They are opposed to a Labour government doing for the primary producers what they Themselves had refused to do when they were in power. When the Scullin Government wanted to fix a guaranteed price for wheat for a period of five years it did not get one vote from the Country party or from the United Australia party. The Scullin Government guaranteed a price of 4s. a bushel and arranged to make the money available, but its proposal was turned down in the Senate. The fact is that the men on the land have been crucified by honorable members opposite. They will talk for hours about the needs of the primary producers, but when the time comes they will vote in the opposite way. Surely there could be no greater example of hypocrisy than that. Talk does not matter; the way in which a man votes is what counts. Honorable members opposite cannot blame the Labour party for the plight in which the farmers find themselves to-day, seeing that for ten years the Labour party was in opposition. The honorable member for Forrest cried over the lot of the poor wheat-growers who are unable to pay a living wage to their workers, but why are they in that position ? Because the Government which he supported for so long did nothing to ensure that they would obtain a fair price for their product. The organizations which claim to represent the wheatgrowers ‘represent only the more wealthy of them. The alleged representatives of the wheat-growers fought tooth and nail against the proposal to pay a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, and the price would never have. been received except for the efforts of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I do not think that any primary producer can pay the wages prescribed out of the prices now being paid for primary products. However, if the Government is given a little time, it will see that guaranteed prices are paid for all primary products. The trouble is that, as soon as we make a move in that direction, our efforts are frustrated in the Senate. My advice to farmers is, that for their own welfare, they should return all Labour senators at the first opportunity.
There are some wheat-growers and some wool-growers too, probably, and some dairy farmers, who would have men working for 2s. a week if they could, but they represent not more than 2 per cent, of the whole. The ordinary farmer realizes that a man is worthy of his hire. I am pleased that the Minister for Labour and National Service is administering these regulations in such an able manner, especially when it is remembered that he has had no experience in the industry. I hope he will remain in. office for many years to look after the interests of labour, because they have in. the past been neglected just as much as have the interests of the primary producers.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). This is the first time in the history of any Australian industry that an award has been made by backdoor methods of this kind, and without reference to the Arbitration Court. This Government has missed no opportunity to use tha methods of a dictatorship against those with whom it does not agree The Country party has always fought the battles of the farmers, including the wheat-farmers, in this Parliament. Had it not been for the efforts of the Country party during the last ten years the lot of the farmers would be much worse than it is.
The Australian country-side was almost denuded of young and fit men and then the man-power authorities went in and took the few who remained. Most of them had volunteered for service in the forces, leaving their fathers to manage as best they could until they returned. I believe in paying good wages, and have always done so. At the present time, however, there are very few workers of any kind left in the country districts, and the few who remain are only second grade.
– They will not be pleased when they read that statement.
– I mean only that, for the most part, they are no longer young. I am not so good a man as I was twenty years ago, and neither is the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). The Government, instead of referring the matter to the Arbitration Court, appointed a tribunal to fix wages in an industry for the product of which a fair price had been prescribed. When a former government fixed the price of wheat at 3s. lOd. a bushel in 1940, the wheat-growers protested because the price was not payable. A price of 4s. all round would be satisfactory. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has told us the new award was drawn up by a tribunal consisting of two representatives of the union, two representatives of the farmers, and a chairman who is a member of the Public Service. The chairman, Mr. Blakeley, is not qualified to weigh evidence impartially, as is a judge of the Arbitration Court. He does not understand the wheat industry, and therefore the tribunal was loaded against the farmers from the very start. The general wage fixed is £5 Ss. for a 48-hour week, with an additional £1 16s. 6d. for keep. The Minister said nothing about this £1 16s. 6d. That is his way of attempting to hoodwink the public. A driver is to receive 2s. 9d. an hour for an eight-hour day, or £6 12s. a week, plus £1 16s. 6d. for keep, making a total of £7 18s. 8d. Compare that with the basic wage rate of less than £5 a week for a 48- hour week, or compare it with the return to the man who owns, or tries to own, the land. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), it is stated in the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry that the farmer who was trying to pay off the debt on his land was allotted only £125 a year for his keep. Does the Minister for Labour and National Service approve of that wage? Compare the wage of the harvester under this award, who receives £7 18s. Sd. a week, with that of the railway employee who works on the permanent way, and who has to go out in all weathers. I have always felt sorry for him as he bends his back in the hot sun. He receives the basic wage, which does not amount to £5 a week, as against the harvest worker’s £7 8s. 6d. a week.
– The railway worker is in a constant job.
– Most land workers have permanent jobs. Does the honorable member not know that many farmers provide their workers with houses rent free, allow them to run cows, provide them with fuel, and do all sort of things for their benefit? Now the farmers have to pay higher wages. The Minister for Labour and National Service cited advertisements from the Northern Daily Leader, and said that farmers had offered to pay more than the prescribed wages.
The honorable gentleman declared that some farmers had offered 30s. a day for labour, but he did not say what number of hours had to be worked. No farmer will pay 30s. a day except in return for a full day’s work.
– How many hours are there in a full day?
– More than eight hours. I say to the Minister that a man who offers 26s. a day for a bagsewer does not expect to get one and does not deserve one, because no bag-sewer worthy of the name would sew fewer than 200 bags a day, and for twenty years the contract, rate has been 15s. a 100. A bag-sewer would expect at least 30s. a day. The farmers are driven to pay these high wages because they must save their crops.
The release” of soldiers from military camps to assist in harvesting has been advocated. Many farmers have applied to the Army for the release of their sons from nearby camps to assist them. These requests have met with regular refusal notwithstanding the fact that the lads are frequently in camp within 24 hours’ travel of their father’s properties, and are often idling their time away because they have been fully trained and have nothing to occupy their time. Rather than order the release of these lads on special harvesting leave, the Government would force the farmers nearer to the bankruptcy court by compelling them to hire at exorbitant rates whatever labour they can obtain to replace their sons, who, if they are single, earn in the Army £2 9s. 6d. a week, compared with the £7 or £8 a week that their fathers have to pay to hired hands. Imagine what the farmer and his son think about that. Do they regard that as justice? They do not. Who would ? Very few sons of farmers have obtained leave from the Army to assist their fathers. I met one boy who obtained leave to harvest his own crop of about 300 acres. As the season was good he harvested about 4,000 bags. The harvesting operations occupied the whole of his period of leave and he had no time to sew the bags. He was not able to sew them himself because his leave had elapsed, and he told me that he had to return to camp to do nothing, leaving the bags unsewn. That is apparently what the Government likes to see. One lad from the district represented by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) obtained leave to help his father harvest. His father -was ill and the boy had to work his hardest for eleven or twelve hours a day to get the crop off. He applied for a further fortnight’s leave, but was refused. He took it. When he returned to camp he was court-martialled for having been absent without leave. The father, who appeared at the court to give evidence on his son’s behalf, had applied by letter for his son to be given leave to help him on the farm. One passage of the letter stated -
If the man-power officers were given some harvesting work to do instead of playing tennis they would know what help the farmers want.
– That applies to parliamentarians, too.
– Yes, and especially Ministers. The son stated in evidence that lie owned a farm, near his father’s farm at Murray Bridge. Owing to his father’s ill-health, there was not sufficient labour on both farms for the harvesting work. He had already had five weeks’ special leave, but an application for leave without pay during the period for which he was absent without leave had been refused. He admitted that he had deliberately flouted the instructions that he was not to have leave, but said he had no intention of deserting the Army. The father said that he could produce a medical certificate to show the extent of his illness. The certificate stated that the doctor considered that his claim on his son’s assistance was a reasonable one. During the whole of the time his son was absent without leave he had worked on the farm for between ten and eleven hours a day. That is the sort of thing the farmers’ sons have to do.
– The sons of thousands of farmhands as well as the sons of the farmers are at the front. All the younger men have been called up.
– No. many of them have sneaked into munitions works and other protected undertakings in order to avoid going to the front, and are earning £11 and £12 a week. Instead of helping the farmer, this Government is doing all it can to hinder him. The last Government fixed the price of wheat at 3s. 1½d. a bushel. Labour members then joined with me in saying that it was not enough. All that this Government needed to do was to increase that price in accordance with the increased costs of production.
– The honorable member forgets that that price was an f.o.b. price.
– That does not matter. When the price was fixed the price of cornsacks was 8s. a dozen, to-day it is 14s., and next year, according to the latest information, it will be 18s., and that is an increase of costs to the farmer? of 2d. or 3d. a bushel. The cost of superphosphates has risen beyond all reasonI concede that the Government is bearing a share of the increased cost, but, owing to shortage of supplies, the farmers are not obtaining sufficient superphosphate to ensure that they shall have a decent crop next year. This Government introduced a scheme guaranteeing the return of 4s. a bushel on the first 3,000 bushels and 2s. a bushel on any wheat in excess of that quantity. Under that arrangement most farmers receive an average of 3s. or less a bushel. After paying freight many farmers under the previous Government’s arrangements received 2s. 9d. a bushel, whereas under this Government’s scheme they are receiving only 2s. 4d. and 2s. 5d. a bushel. That is not assisting the farmers. Meetings of wheat-growers are being held all over the country to demand that they be paid 4s. a bushel for all their wheat. Many of them thought that they would get 4s. a bushel and at last be able to make a small profit. They find, however, that, having to pay a high wage for a working day of eight hours, plus 4s. an hour overtime, the arrangements which they thought were so good leave them in a position even worse than they were in before. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have to give up his idea that he has done a service to wheat-farmers. Those farmers who are able to sow and harvest without the aid of superphosphates may be all right under these arrangements, but I assure the Minister that the South Australian wheat-growers are up in arms. Not only have their costs of production been enormously increased by their being compelled to pay higher wages and meet increased costs in other directions, but also this Government has penalized them by its failure to establish the longpromised mortgage bank. The farmer should not be required to pay more on mortgages than is the prevailing rate of interest on loans. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to introduce the mortgage bank legislation at an early date, but I also understand that no provision will be made in that legislation for the rate of interest paid by the farmers to be reduced to a proper level.
– ‘What does the honorable member suggest would be a fair rate ?
– The farmer should not be required to pay more than 3^ per cent, or 4: per cent. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who is a supporter of this Government, has been highly critical of the harvestworkers award. On the 10th November the following paragraph appeared in the press : -
Mr. Wilson said today that while it was freely conceded that conditions and wages for farm work had long called for attention ;
I agree with him - surely the first step should have been to deal with the debt and over-capitalization position of the great majority of farmers, which prevented that large section from earning even a meagre competence for themselves.
The honorable member is right. It often happens that the man who pays the wage does not earn as much as the man who receives it. Until the wheat industry is placed in the position of being able to afford to pay high wages it should not bo compelled to pay those wages. The Government must ensure that not only the worker but also the farmer shall receive a just reward for his labours, and that is not the amount of ?125 per annum recommended in. the report of the Royal Commission on tho Wheat Industry, of which Sir Herbert Gepp was chairman. The report continues -
At present, the type of labour offering for harvest work was, generally speaking, incapable of rendering efficient service.
I blame the Government for having issued regulations to fix the wages of harvest-workers when it knew that firstclass labour was not obtainable. The farmers would willingly pay for first-class labour. I have never paid less than ?5 a week to a farm labourer at harvest time.
– What about the ordinary time?
– I pay good wages for good men at all times. The right thing for the farmer to do is to pay fair wages, and the employee in return will give good service. This award will cause a cleavage between the farmer and the worker. I shall cite an example. A man who had worked for a fanner for seven years had on his employer’s property a cottage rent-free, milk, poultry and firewood, and was paid ?4 a week. When the tribunal announced this award, the farmer told the employee frankly that he could not afford to pay him ?11 a week, because the property could not bear the expense. The farmer decided to harvest as much of the crop as he could without assistance, and the remainder would be left to rot. That has been a fairly common experience in South Australia. When the employee left, he had to find a home for his family, and he was sent to work in a munitions establishment.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest, because I consider that the award was secured by a “ backdoor “ method. The Government had no right to issue the regulations without ascertaining whether first-class labour was available to be put into the field. Mention of “ regulations “ reminds me that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has avoided informing the House whether regulations have been, gazetted fixing the price of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels of the farmer’s crop, and 2s. a bushel for the second 3,000” bushels. So far as I can ascertain, nosuch regulation has been issued, and thelegality of the Minister’s decision isextremely doubtful. Unless the requisiteregulations be gazetted promptly, action* may be taken to test the legality of theMinister’s proposal. At present, the Government is attempting to hoodwink the* farmer into believing that he will be paid’ a good price for his wheat. I support the motion.
– I. cannot understand why the honorablemember for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) submitted this motion, unless he desires to* make political capital at the expense of the Government. The honorable member would not deny to the worker engaged’ in a rural industry a fair wage for his’ “labour, and the wage which has been fixed by the tribunal is not unjust. The Government has been compelled to place the primary producing industries on a sound economic basis. Accordingly, it fixed for wheat one of the highest prices for many years. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) implied that the Government, was paying a differential rate of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels and 2s. a bushel for the second 3,000 bushels of a crop. The fact is that the Government w]ill guarantee a price of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels, but the balance of the crop will be placed in a pool and the grower will receive the proceeds from the sale of that wheat. If present prices be maintained, it is possible that the grower will receive 4s. a bushel for the balance of his crop. The Government is making an advance of 2s. a bushel against those sales. “With the stabilization of the price to the grower, the Government was obliged to take action to ensure the harvesting of the crop and to safeguard the position of employees in the industry. The growers were most concerned about the lack of man-power in the industry. They were not able to obtain the necessary labour, and the Government did not intervene until the industry requested it to do so. Early last August, the New South Wales Harvest Advisory Committee, on which the Wheat-growers Union and the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales were represented, discussed the serious manpower position, with particular reference to the wheat harvest. After an exhaustive survey, the committee conveyed its findings to the man-power authorities in unmistakeable terms. The following motion, which, was submitted by Mr. R. T. Tilson, the secretary of the Northwest Division of the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales, was carried unanimously : -
That in order to establish a reasonable and uniform wage for harvest employees to be applied to nil wheat-growing States of Australia this Harvest Advisory Committee urges the Director-General of Man Power to immediately convene a conference between the Australian Wheat-growers Federation representing the employers and the Australian Workers Union representing the employees for the purpose of discussing this important question. It is the desire of this committee that the matter of discussing wages and conditions for harvesting should not be referred to the Arbitration Court as it could best be decided at a round-table conference of parties.
That conference was arranged, and the committee expressed the opinion that if an application were made to the Arbitration Court for an award possibly two years would elapse before effect could be given to it. In this case, immediate action was required. Up to this stage, the Government had not intervened, but the New South Wales Harvest Advisory Committee, believing that things were moving too slowly, sent the following telegram to the Minister for Labour and National Service : -
Wheat-growers Union, Fanners and Settlers Association and Australian Workers Union consider it imperative that immediate action be taken fixation wages Commonwealth wheat harvesting (Stop) Suggest competent authority lie appointed under National Security Regulations (Stop) Competent authority could bc conference of three representatives of employers and three of employees presided over by an independent chairman appointed by the Government.
The signatories were Messrs. R. K. Tilson. of the Wheat-growers Union, W. C. Cambridge, of the Farmers and Settlers Association, and W. McNeill, of the Australian Workers Union. Following that request, the Government acted promptly. The tribunal was appointed, and determined the rates of pay. The announcement of the determination was the signal for the launching of a campaign against it, and numerous complaints were received. In a letter to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Diver protested strongly against the determination, and the matter has now been raised in this chamber by the honorable member for Forrest. I have a letter , from the secretary of the Wheat-growers Federation, Mr. Hazelton, dated the 4th December, 1942 -
Mr. Diver’s claim that he speaks tor the Federation is incorrect. No meeting of the Federation was called to consider the mutter, nor were affiliated organizations consulted. Our organization, an affiliated unit of the Federation, disagrees Wi t 1, the action taken by Mr. Diver and we desire .to disassociate ourselves from such. He was not authorized to use the name of the Federation.
In this State farmers generally have accepted the award as an equitable effort to meet difficult circumstances. Movements t.. ferment opposition to it have failed. The action taken by Mr. Diver mid his associates are based on sordid political motives. We strongly resent Mr. Diver’s attempt to involve the federation and our organization in party matters of such nature, and should Mr. Fadden accede to their request, facts in our possession ure furnished to permit of the exposure of the insincerity and hypocrisy underlying what is being attempted. Some amplification of these facts will he found in the columns of our official newspaper (copy of November issue is enclosed). Newspaper comment is not always accepted as reliable. Confirmation of any statement is available.
The meeting at Gregra can be regarded as an offset to that at Loxton, South Australia. The Gregra meeting challenged the writer to attend and defend the attitude of his organization to the award. Organized opposition was present to make the defence difficult. After a stormy meeting (all present were farmers) only one vote was recorded against a motion asking for endorsement of .the Union attitude towards the award. It was truly an instance of “ coming to scoff and remaining to pray “. The writer is confident that a similar result can be obtained wherever the facts are properly stated to farmers.
One of the foremost opponents to the award (on principle), W. C. Cambridge, joined with those who made the request for its determination. His subsequent acceptance of appointment to the Tribunal to determine the award and later hypocritical denunciation of that commission, is all very illuminating. Their conception of principle ia certainly a new version.
That letter definitely shows the official attitude. The wheat-growers’ organization realized that the Government had done only what the representatives of the farmers had asked it to do, namely, appoint a tribunal representing all parties, with an impartial chairman.
– What did the Wheatgrowers Federation decide?
– The Wheat-growers Federation was never consulted in the matter. A further communication from the secretary of the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales, Mr. Hazelton, states: -
Eleven wheat-growers’ organizations participated in the election of our two members to join the tribunal and all knew the conditions under which the tribunal was to be set up. Under such circumstances every intelligent member participated and every organization implicated was in duty bound to accept and abide by decisions made.
He adds that certain individuals have been attempting to make political capital out of the award of the commission, and says -
Time would not permit the matter being referred to the Arbitration Court. National
Security regulations had to be invoked, and this was acceptable to all organizations. Nothing was mentioned about the sin of by-passing the Arbitration Court “ or “ starchamber tactics “ when the tribunal was set up. These constituted afterthought inventions to try and discredit both the tribunal and the Federal Government.
I cannot understand how any honorable member can complain about the way in which the National Security Regulations have been used in this connexion. A definite request was made by the organizations interested in this industry for steps to be taken to meet the situation that had arisen. I do not wish to repeat figures which have been quoted already to show that higher rates than those provided in the award were offered in newspaper advertisements.
– But not on an eighthour day basis.
– Surely the “daylight to dark “ and “ sleep on the wheat bags “ conditions have gone for ever from the wheat-growing industry. “ A reasonable wage for a reasonable day’s work” is the principle by which we should stand. The Government’s action was taken at the request of the organizations concerned.
– That is not correct.
– Moreover, the organizations selected their own representatives to deal with this subject. We all must admit the necessity to provide reasonable conditions in the wheat-growing industry. Employment is offering in all industries at present at substantial rates of pay; therefore, the rates of pay for farm work must necessarily be increased beyond those offering in pre-war days. I have no doubt that the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission gave consideration to all the relevant factors in this industry before it made its award. Obviously, men will not work on a farm for £2 a week when they can get up to £6 a week, or more, for work in other industries. It is vital that sufficient labour shall be provided for farming operations. The issue cannot be left to the employers and the employees; national interests have to be considered. As the Government 13 guaranteeing a fair price to the farmers, it is only reasonable that steps shall be taken to ensure that a fair price shall be paid to farm workers for their labour. I was present at a very largely attended meeting a few weeks ago, at which it was stated by representative farmers that the return of £600 which the farmer received under the Government’s scheme, on the basis of a 3,000-bushel crop, was substantial and satisfactory. It must be borne in mind that wages do not constitute the heaviest charges which the farmers have to meet. Perhaps their greatest difficulties occur in consequence of high land values and high interest rates. If the Opposition would assist the Government to effect a reduction of interest rates they would do good service to the farming industry. The Government has to ensure not only that the farmers shall have a reasonable market for their products, but also that the farm workers shall receive a reasonable wage for their service. .We must do everything we can .to ensure a reasonable standard of living for people who reside in country districts. Unless fair wages be paid to people employed in primary industries, it will be impossible for them to buy wheat, meat and wool. It is a sound economic proposition that the position of both the farmers and the employees on the farms shall be stabilized. The purpose of the Government’s policy is to achieve that desirable end.
.- I support the motion, and commend the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) for having moved it. That the regulations which he has criticized were most ill advised is quite apparent from the weak defence of them by Government supporters. Obviously the regulations were promulgated with little or no consideration for the primary industries.
– They constitute an abuse of the National Security Act.
– I agree with the honorable member. A grave injustice has been imposed on the farmers, also, by extending the provisions of the wheat harvest employment award to other cereal crops. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) conveniently forgot to tell us the nature of the emergency which, in the view of the Government, made it necessary to extend the conditions of this award to oat, barley and rye crops and the cutting of certain other crops. Regulation 3, issued under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 471, provides -
It will be observed that only the wheatgrowing industry is involved; but, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has clearly shown, the Government has widely extended the scope of the award by the regulations issued under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 487. The growers of oats, barley and rye are not in as good a position as the growers of wheat to meet the conditions of this award, and, in fact, they have been brought within the terms of the award without rhyme or reason, without their knowledge, without representation, and without the financial assistance which has been provided for the wheat industry.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) stated that the commission had been established at the request of the farmers’ organizations. Even if that be true in relation to the wheatgrowers, it is definitely untrue in relation to the growers of oats and barley.
– It is not true of even the wheat-growers.
– The conference held on the 6th October, 1942, to which reference is made in the regulations, consisted entirely of persons interested in the wheat industry, and the Government was not entitled to extend the operations of the award which resulted from a decision of that conference to farmers who were entirely unrepresented, at it. Under existing conditions it is absolutely impossible for the growers of oats and barley to meet the conditions of the award. To enable them to do so it would be necessary to provide them with an adequate bounty.
The method of determining wages and conditions of work by .regulations rather than by the accepted, method of arbitration will land Australia in a sorry plight, because it must inevitably result in a lessening of the production of essential commodities and a serious food shortage in this country. It is interesting to note that at the recent Constitution Convention held, in Canberra, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated that it was not the intention of the Government to fix wages by regulation. Notwithstanding that declaration, the wheat harvesting employment award has been extended to other than wheat-farmers without consultation with them. Consequently, the Prime Minister’s declaration has been flouted. Under the provisions of this fi ward stack-builders and thatchers must be paid 3s. 3d. an hour, which for a 4S-hour week equals £7 16s. In addition, board and lodging must be provided, ‘or £1 6s. 6d. a week paid in lieu thereof, making a total of £9 2s. 6d. a week of 48 hours. Drivers of binders, headers and harvesters, or contractors on the same basis, must, be paid £7 18s. 6d. a week, and. ordinary labourers £6 14s. 6d. a week. Provision is also made for the payment of overtime when the hours exceed 4S a week at one and a half times the ordinary rate. Certain holidays must also be paid for, though no work whatever is done on those days. The enforcement of such conditions upon the primary industries without some compensating action on the part of the Government must inevitably result in a decrease of production at a time when the Government is appealing for an increase of it.Farmers cannot be expected to grow crops that will not return them at least the cost of production.
The adverse effects of this award are already observable. Production is actually being reduced. Some farmers are not growing certain commodities, and production generally is being reduced to a volume within the capacity of the farmers’ own families. Many members of farming families are already in the Australian Imperial Force, and others have been called up for military duty. This, in itself, has limited production to a marked degree. We cannot assume that the farmers will be able to pay thewages stipulated in this award; we must,, in fact, assure that provision will be made to enable them to meet the increased costs involved. The preservation of our primary industries is of paramount importance to Australia. If they slump our whole economic structure must collapse, for rural production is the backbone of Australian economy. We must stabilize the finances of theprimary producers. Their income must be increased to enable them to meet the ever-increasing costs of production, which are now assuming, alarming proportions. Under present conditions there is every incentive for the rural population to drift to the cities, where living conditions are much better than they are in country districts, and where the amenities of the city and of city life are strong attractions. If this state of affairs is to be allowed to continue, the production of essential foodstuffs must decline,” with disastrous results to the whole community.
I wish to make it clear, however, that I support the principle of the payment of fair wages to all rural workers, though I am definitely of the opinion that to attempt to enforce a high wage upon primary industries without making a corresponding adjustment of the prices of farm products must be disastrous alike to ‘our farmers and to our national production programme. The Government has started at the wrong end. If it adjusted the prices of farm products first, and thus enabled the farmers to pay such wages as are stipulated in this award, we should not hear the complaints that are commonly heard to-day.
I hope that the motion will be carried, and that the commission will pass out of existence. Such an award can be sustained only after the Government has been courageous enough to ensure that the income of farmers shall be increased sufficiently to enable them to meet such increased costs.
Debate (on motion by Mr. BREEN ) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I have received the following letter from a resident of Canberra : -
I am writingasking you if you could do something to have the high rent of this fourroomed house reduced. I am paying £4 per week to the Government. Although I have tried all avenues to have it reduced, I have been unsuccessful.I feel that with your help something might be done, as the officials responsible would notbe embarrassed should the Government give the necessary sanction.
Trusting to hear from you in the near future,
I met this gentleman last week-end. In conversation, he mentiond that he was renting a four-roomed house of which he had been in occupation for some considerable time - if my memory serves me rightly, for two years.
– It is an unfurnished private house. I paid a visit to it. I understand that the tenant conducts a hire-car business. He has accommodation for one car in the garage, and other cars have to be kept standing outside. The house consists of four small rooms, and is badly in need of repair. I was shown receipts for the payment of a rent of £4 a week. Mr. Neeld informed me that his wife is in employment so that she may help to pay the rent. He also said that he had approached the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), Mr. C. S. Daley and others who, in his opinion, were able to use influence, but had been ignored. He knows that he cannot get another house if he vacates this.
On many occasions I have referredin this chamber to the housing accommodation in Canberra. The cost of building is far too high, and apparently the rents are disgracefully excessive. Members of the Government have at all times advocated fair rents. I cannot see any fairness in charging a working man £4 a week and telling him that unless he pays it he has to vacate the premises. This house is worth 25s. or 27s. a week. . I have a number of bigger and better houses, containing more conveniences, that are let for 22s. 6d. a week.
On a number of occasions I have referred to trust houses in Adelaide containing four rooms and conveniences, exactly the same as I saw last week-end, which are let for 12s. 6d. a week.
– They are much dearer now than they were previously.
– I would not make that statement unless I was quite sure of its correctness. Houses of four rooms are let for 12s. 6d. a week, and houses of five rooms for 14s. 6d. a week.
– What I said was that houses now being built are much more expensive.
– The house in Adelaide let for 12s. 6d. a week is worth more than the house in Canberra let for £4 a week. Two years ago 200 houses were to be built in Canberra. I believe that I then gave notice of my intention to move the adjournment of the House to discuss the cost of building and the rents charged. I was taken to north Ainslie by the architect and valuer. The foundations of a number of houses had been laid. I was told that if I did not make a disturbance I would be given a verbal guarantee that these semi-detached pairs would not cost more than £1,100 a pair and that the rent would not exceed £1 a week. Yet the cost was from £1,200 to £1,500 a pair. The house to which I am now referring is an old one; it has been built for some considerable time. I have visited other houses, for which the tenants are paying £2 and £2 5s. a week. Why has this man been singled out and charged £4 a week? I ask that the matter be taken up seriously, and that justice be done to him. He has been penalized. If he has been paying £4 a week for two years, a refund of at least £2 a week for the whole of the period should be made to him. I shall not let the matter rest until action has been taken to redress the wrong that has been done.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me on the 4th February last what arrangements had been made for the harvesting of the winegrape crop this year. I wish to inform the honorable member that this matter has received the special attention of the District “War Agricultural Committees operating under my department. These committees surveyed the labour requirements for the grape harvest and the sources of labour available for meeting them. It was found that, thanks to the co-operation of all concerned, sufficient labour for getting the harvest under way could be recruited from within the grapegrowing districts and from relatively nearby mixed farms. This force is being augmented from labour recruited from the earlier maturing fruit-growing districts and from substantial numbers of internees released by the authorities for this purpose. Besides playing an important part in seeking out and organizing labour, the “War Agricultural Committees have arranged for its accommodation, including, where necessary, the provision of tents, palliasses and cooking utensils. It is confidently expected that the arrangements mentioned will enable the wine-grape harvest to be completed satisfactorily.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) directed to me a question relating to the employment of youths under the age of eighteen. I should like to inform the honorable member and the House that the direction of boys under eighteen years of age to work away from home was made without my knowledge or approval under regulation 15 of the original Man Power Regulations, which provided for the direction of unemployed persons to employment. Some days ago, the honorable member for Melbourne brought to my notice that boys under eighteen were being directed to work under this regulation. The information came to me as a surprise and a disappointment because, when the original regulations were under discussion, I had orally advised the Director-General of Man Power that this power was not to be exercised until I had been consulted. Apparently the Director-General was under a misapprehension as to my wishes. Immediately I was advised by the honorable member for Melbourne that boys were being directed to work, I took the matter up with the Director-‘General and the Deputy Director-‘General of Man Power in Victoria. The latter informed me that he was being pressed by the .Supply Department, which was emphasizing the urgent need to secure labour to remove the fruit and tomato crops in the Shepparton and Mildura districts of Victoria. I was told that this work would be of five or six weeks’ duration. I was also informed by him that schoolmasters had been asked to furnish particulars about boys who would not be resuming their school studies during this academic year and who would thus be available for employment. These boys were advised to register at their National Service Office, and subsequently they received a direction to proceed to work in the districts mentioned, along with a rail warrant to travel to those districts. In some cases a few boys of fifteen years were directed to pear-picking jobs away from home. I arranged a discussion with the Director-General of Man Power, and he agreed with me that boys of such tender years should not be compulsorily taken away from their homes. Consequently I have directed that boys under eighteen should not be sent to work which will require their living away from home except with their parents’ consent. In cases where boys under eighteen had already been sent to work requiring them to live away from home prior to my becoming aware of the position, I have directed the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in Victoria to communicate with the parents in each case and, if the parents do not approve of a boy remaining to complete the work on which he is now engaged, arrangements are to bc made for his immediate return to hi? home. I have expressed my strong disapproval of the powers of direction being used in the manner indicated by the honorable member for Melbourne, and I feel sure that the steps I have taken will prevent a recurrence of this practice.
– I pointed out last night to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) the inadequacy of Statutory Rule No. 14, issued this year, relating to apple and pear growers, and the injustice that it has caused to certain classes of our people. He told me that he had decided to amend the regulations in order to extend the period within which claims for additional compensation could be made by apple and pear growers, and that statement appeared in the press to-day. I urge the Minister to see that any, amendment which he makes of the regulations is drastic. The whole principle on which they are based seems to me to be entirely wrong, because they deprive citizens of their elementary and general rights to claim compensation from the Government in respect of losses suffered by them through governmental action. Instead of the department acting on the principle that all apple and pear growers who suffer loss should have the right to go to the Government and claim compensation, their rights have been restricted very definitely by the regulations now in force, and particularly by the operation of certain time limits which have been laid down in them. For instance, regulation 4 provides that the Commonwealth shall not be bound to pay compensation in respect of any apples and pears acquired under these regulations unless certain conditions be complied with. This cuts out of the operation of the compensation scheme a very large number of growers who by reason of ignorance, or because they thought they would put in. their claims at a later date, have not lodged claims. They will not be able to claim compensation at all unless the statutory rule be amended.
– We shall make a most liberal extension of the time within which they can make application. There will be no difficulty about that.
– Emphasis should be placed on the right of every citizen to claim compensation, and to have his claim received and dealt with. The whole plan should be turned round. It should be based, not on the restrictive view which the Government has so far adopted, but on the general right of citizens to claim compensation. In the drawing up of amended regulations I ask that particular regard be paid to the claims of the growers of unwanted varieties of apples and pears. After reading the statutory rule, I do not know how they stand, and growers themselves are not clear on the point. I urge the Minister, when he is redrafting the regulations, to give full weight to the claims of these classes. They have suffered in the past very severely and unduly owing to the operation of the apple and pear scheme, and very definite consideration should be given to their claims. They should be specifically taken care of, either directly or by leaving the door wide open for them to come in. I am aware of the necessity, which the Minister pointed out to me, for the Government to take every care that no undue inroads are made on government funds by extravagant or untenable claims. I realize that there will always be danger in that direction, and that there will be great administrative difficulties if a large number of claims are suddenly presented and have to be dealt with by the existing staff. At the same time, whilst those considerations are taken into full account, every care should be taken that proper weight is given to the rights of ordinary citizens, with a view to seeing that they obtain complete justice.
.- I do not think that the comparison made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) between houses in Adelaide and Canberra was altogether fair.
– Has the honorable member seen the houses I mentioned?
– I have made a close study of housing in Australia during the last couple of years. I have seen the houses that have been erected in Adelaide, and my attention has been directed to their good points by those who were responsible for the building of them. There is no doubt that they are serving a very useful purpose, but I should not like to see them adopted as a standard type for Australia. The rooms are too small, and they have other disadvantages. I have also inspected the homes built during the last few years in Canberra. I have noted their good points, and have inquired into their cost. I agree that the homes in Canberra have been fairly costly to build, but I have yet to learn how costs can be reduced. On the subject of rent, I point out to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) that, if this man of whom he speaks has been paying £4 a week rent for the last two years, an injustice has been done, because the matter should have been adjusted long ago - before this Government came into office.
Twice during the last fortnight I have sought permission to examine the papers regarding the granting of an increased price for firewood sold in the city of Launceston. Yesterday, I was handed an answer to my question on the subject. The Prices Commissioner has refused to make the papers available, and therefore any criticism which I make can be based only upon such knowledge as I possess. The reasons which actuated the Prices Commissioner in granting the increase are not known to me. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) advised me that he has consulted the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, who informs him that in no circumstances can the file be made available for inspection, because it contains information of a highly confidential nature. Regulation 11 of the National Security (Prices) Regulations prohibits the direct or indirect communication of facts revealed in the course of an official inquiry. The reply then goes on to set out the prices charged for firewood in Launceston as at the 31st August, 1939, and those charged at the present time. In 1939, the price was 20s. a ton. That price was increased, first to 33s., and later to 38s., for 60 cubic feet, which represents an increase of almost 18s. a ton since August, 1939. I do not know what evidence was placed before the Commissioner to justify the increase except that it is stated in the reply that the increases have been mainly due to production and distributing costs, which have increased substantially since the outbreak of war, particularly as regards wages earned by wood-cutters. When I am told that, owing to increased costs, an increase of price, from £1 to 38s. a ton is justified, my reply is that I should like to see the evidence. It will take a lot to convince me that wages and transportation costs have increased by nearly 100 per cent, since 1939. I am not satisfied that the increased price of firewood is justified, and I repeat my request to the Minister that I be allowed to examine the file. If that cannot be granted - and I see no reason why it should not - then the Prices Commissioner should be required to make out a better case than he has presented so far. I know, of course, that costs have increased. For instance, the cost of living has increased by about 20 per cent., perhaps more in some instances, but the wages of woodcutters and the cost of distributing wood have certainly not increased by 75 per cent. I want to know who is getting a rake-off, because I am satisfied that there is something wrong. I do not suggest that the Prices Commissioner or his agents have done anything improper, but I believe that they did not make a sufficiently close examination of the case before granting the increases. It may be that the quantity of wood supplied now for 38s. is a little more than that, previously supplied for 20s., because it is stated that the approximate weight of 60 cubic feet of wood is 22 cwt., the actual weight varying with different kinds of wood. If that is the case, it would have been much better to have granted the price increase on a tonnage basis. I am not satisfied with the reply that I have received to my inquiries ; I am not satisfied that the investigations made by the Prices Commissioner were sufficiently comprehensive or conclusive to enable him to approve of the increase from 20s. a ton to 38s. a ton over a period of two years, merely on the grounds of increased production and distribution costs. I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) to bring this matter before the appropriate Minister, so that it may be further examined. Over the years the Prices Commissioner has done an excellent job under extremely difficult conditions, and this is the only case that has come under my notice in which price increases are not, in my view, justified. The effect of the increases will not be felt so much by those fortunate individuals who can afford to pay the higher rates, to use other forms of heating such as gas or electricity, or to purchase their supplies of firewood by the ton, as by the less fortunate members of the community who will be forced to pay exactly double the former prices for firewood in £-ton and bag lots. I hope that my remarks will be brought to the notice of the Prices Commissioner, and that he will review the matter, or at least supply some more substantial information to justify his action.
. - I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) the case of a soldier in my electorate whose treatment by the military authorities has been nothing short of outrageous. I shall not mention the soldier’s name, as he is a mental case; but at the conclusion of my remarks I shall hand to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) a copy of a letter that I have received from the Minister for the Army, in which the soldier’s name and number appear. I shall give the House a brief outline of the facts of the case, and then I shall read the letter that I have received from, the Minister for the Army, which will bear out the facts that I shall place before honorable members, and prove conclusively that the mental disorder of this soldier was known to the military authorities some time before any hospital treatment was given. Early last year this man enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was 38 years of age, and had always been a pound, normal, intelligent individual. He was in excellent physical condition, and passed, the medical examination without any difficulty. Some months later, however, he showed signs of mental disorder. On the 17th June, 1942, he was given leave to go to his home, and was told to report to the area doctor. He returned to camp on the 20th June. Not long after that, his mental disorder was again noticed, and once more he was sent home on leave. The first point that I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister is that, if this soldier was showing signs of mental derangement, he should not have been sent home, but should have been given treatment at once. However, he returned to his home again on the 28 th June, and during his stay his sister and other relatives noticed his mental state and communicated with the authorities. A doctor was sent out to examine him, and, after seeing his condition, told him that he must go to a mental hospital. The soldier refused to do that. It must be clearly understood that he was not normal, and that therefore his refusal was not extraordinary. The doctor then commanded him, as a superior military officer, to leave the home, and again the soldier refused. That night, four military policemen arrived to take the soldier away, although, as I have said, he was on leave and had a leave pass. Strange to say, they arrived not to take him to a mental home or to a hospital, but to Russellstreet, where he was to be locked up in gaol. However, seeing the condition of the soldier, and ascertaining that he had a genuine leave pass, the military policemen refused to take him away. He was admitted to the Australian General Hospital on the 9th July, suffering from fairly .acute mental derangement. On the 11th July, he was transferred to Royal Park, where he lost certain valuables, including some money. It may be that the soldier himself wa3 responsible for the loss of these valuables, and for the tearing up of certain documents which were in his possession, but the point is: Surely .a person admitted in such a state would have his belongings checked, and. would not be left in possession of important documents which would be in danger of being destroyed ! The excuse given by the Minister for the Army for not making good to the soldier the money which he lost is that the man must have destroyed or lost it. The answer to to that is that the patient ought not to have been in a position to destroy oi lose valuables. One would think that one of the first precautions taken with a mentally deranged patient would be to remove and store in a safe place all his personal effects. This man was discharged from the Army on the 25th July, and the discharge took effect on the 27th July. Owing to his condition, of course, he could not leave hospital. He was put in hospital by the Army authorities and discharged from the Army while there. He stayed in hospital for a considerable time, and when he was fit enough to leave his relatives were billed with the cost of his treatment from the time of his discharge from the Army to the time he was allowed to go home. It is extraordinary that the military authorities are able to place a soldier in hospital, discharge him while he is there, and then declare that the cost of his treatment is not its responsibility. When this man returned home he was in fair shape. After a little while he was called up by the Army for another medical examination for the Militia and then he was called up by the man-power authorities for yet another examination. A job was supposed to be found for him in the country, but when he was taken there no job was available for him. All this muddling retarded him, and to-day he is a sad source of trouble to his sister, who is charged with his care. All these facts were placed before the Minister for the Army, from whom I received the following reply, which is worthy of being recorded in Hansard: -
Investigation reveals that this former soldier was admitted to 115th Australian General Hospital on the 0th July, 1:142, in an acute state of mental disorder. His condition became rapidly worse and it was not possible to continue nursing him at this hospital with less-affected patients, whom he was disturbing. He was certified apparently insane and transferred, on the 11th July, to Boya! Park Receiving Home.
I am advised that his condition, prior to admission to hospital, was an acute one, rapidly developing, although when leave was granted on the 29th June, 1942, the trouble, it. is pointed out, could easily have been in its early stages. On arrival at home he seemingly appeared to his relatives to be quite mental. He might not, however, have mentioned his delusions or acted strangely to other persons. The action of the doctor, in ordering the patient’s arrest, was, in the circumstances, correct. A person in an acute mental condition should bo restrained, both for his own and other’s safety, and the patient was obviously held in protective custody.
I am further advised that the mental breakdown of this former member of the forces was due, in the considered opinion of medical authorities, to constitutional causes and was undoubtedly not due to, nor aggravated by, military service. In this connexion, my attention has been directed to the fact that Mr. - had been enlisted for training only five months previously and that mental diseases of the nature concerned are not produced by such causes.
How on earth can the Minister say that. This then perfectly sane, normal and intelligent man, was passed physically fit and taken into the Army. What happened subsequently we do not know, except that he was attacked by an acute mental disorder. The military authorities say, “We wash our hands of it, we are not the cause of this trouble “. That is a principle which cannot be accepted. If a man enlists and is accepted as medically fit the Government has a definite responsibility to him. The Minister’s letter continues -
Regarding personal effects, which it was claimed by your correspondent were missing, special investigation was made by a legal officer, but no trace whatsoever of the articles could be found. Presumably, the patient must have mislaid or destroyed them.
repeat that, in view of his mental con ditions, his personal effects should have been checked and placed .beyond his reach. The letter continues -
Discharge from the Army of this former soldier was authorized on the 25th July, 1942, while at Royal Park Receiving Home, and took eff-ct on 27th July, 1942. Regarding your correspondent’s statement that a sum of money had to be paid for hospital treatment, this obviously refers to payment for treatment at Royal Park Receiving Home after his discharge from the Army on the 27th July, 1942.
In other words, the military place him in a receiving home and shortly afterwards discharge him from the Army. Then it says to his family, “ You pay the expenses “. That is outrageous ! I hope that the Minister for the Army, perhaps in consultation with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), will give careful attention to this matter, and that it will not meet with the same fate as overtakes many matters raised by honorable members and be forgotten. I expect to hear, within a very short space of time, more about this matter from the Minister, and I hope that he will have something much more satisfactory to tell me than is contained in the foregoing letter. This man’s sister is not in the financial circumstances which would enable her to look after him, and I claim that, without subjecting him to all the worry of further medical examinations, which would undoubtedly impede his recovery, the Government should decide to pay him a pension until he has been restored to full health. I could cite other instances of soldiers, discharged from the Army as mentally unsound, being given a pension of £2 2s. a week without being subjected to medical examination. As the Minister states, the medical history of this man is known. In the interests of humanity and justice, he should be given a pension which may enable him to make a full recovery.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), who is Opposition Whip, commented this morning on the absence of certain honorable members from the division which was taken last night. I should like to give my version of what took place. The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) asked me last Friday whether I could arrange for him to be paired with an honorable member from South Australia who, he anticipated, would support the amendment of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). That honorable member. said that he desired to have his vote recorded. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) who, as honorable members are aware, has been granted leave of absence for two months owing to ill health, has been an anti-conscriptionist all his life. He wished to be paired in support of the bill. That was also the wish of the honorable member for Darwin, if it was possible. I have been most scrupulous about honouring the pair arranged for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) since this Government has been in office. For sixteen months he has always been granted a pair, even on the occasion when the granting of it caused equal voting in this chamber, and when you, Mr. Speaker, decided to give a casting vote against the Government. Early this morning I informed the press that the only member entitled to a pair was the honorable member for Balaclava. I was not approached by the Whips on the opposite side as to how that honorable member desired to vote. Those who know him are aware that he has always been an ardent conscriptionist. He needs no smoke-screen behind which to hide. If the Opposition does not wish to have his vote recorded, for the simple reason that it could not ascertain his views, that should be the procedure adopted in future, although the Opposition will probably desire to have his vote cast against the Government when another opportunity arises to equalize the voting.
– Has not an arrangement been made with the honorable member to grant him a pair while overseas?
– Yes, but I have been taken to task because I paired him with the right honorable member for Yarra this morning.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) the fact that an inordinately long delay occurs in the conveyance of mail matter to members of the fighting forces in northern Queensland. I refer particularly to mail despatched from Canberra. The wives of soldiers serving in the Volunteer Defence Corps in the far north of Queensland have drawn my attention to the fact that five weeks are occupied in the transmission of letters from Canberra. The husbands of these women have excellent records of service in the last war, and they are now giving fulltime service in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Not only does the transmission of letters from Canberra to northern Queensland occupy about five weeks, but a similar period elapses in the despatch of letters from northern Queensland to Canberra. This causes undue hardship and anxiety on the part of the wives of these soldiers, who may be subjected to attacks from the air or may contract tropical and other diseases. I ask that this matter be investigated immediately. I do not know whether the fault lies with the Postal Department or the military authorities. There must be bad organization or negligence on somebody’s part. If the letters reached their destination even two and a half weeks after being posted, the time occupied in their transmission would be too long. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to treat the matter as urgent, and, if possible, furnish ari explanation to the House on the next day of meeting.
.- I should like to know from the Government why very little press publicity is given to the deeds of the American troops at Guadalcanal and of the American and Australian troops in Papua and New Guinea. On almost any day, one notices that about six columns are devoted by the daily newspapers to news from the Russian front and about four columns to news from the North African front, as compared with half a column dealing with the heroic struggle of the Australian and American troops in the Pacific theatre of wai1. Another extraordinary fact is that much of the news concerning the deeds of the Australian forces and of our Allies in the South-west- Pacific Area comes from Washington and London. I can understand why some of the communiques from Admiral Nimitz are issued from Washington, but there seems to be no particularly sound reason why the Australian press should not be keen to publish as much information as possible in order that the Australian public may be informed regarding the achievements, in the face of extreme hardships, in the most difficult fighting area in the world, of those who are nearest and dearest to them. The Australian newspapers not only publish communiques issued by tho warring nations, but they also overwork the cable service by obtaining information from commentators, military experts, special correspondents and others, whose information is’ of doubtful value, and much of which is purely speculative. Strangely enough, the newspapers show little desire to obtain the fullest information concerning the men whose bodies stand between us and disaster, not many hundreds of miles from Canberra. The custom in peace-time was to publish a certain volume of news from European capitals, and there has been a lack of appreciation on the part of newspaper editors of the changed conditions in which we find ourselves to-day. If the people knew more of the deeds of our soldiers, they would probably have a keener realization of the general war situation in the South-west Pacific Area. When I ask the Government to approach the newspaper proprietors for the purpose of securing the publication of more news of happenings in the south-western Pacific theatre of war, I urge also that the work of Australians, wherever performed in this war, shall be duly chronicled for the information of .the Australian public. Australians are fighting on fourteen or fifteen fronts and it is desirable that the Australian people should know as much as can be told to them about the deeds of our brave young men.
This morning, I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to introduce legislation governing the activities of companies, and he replied that the matter was under consideration. I should like to place on record some of my views regarding the activities of companies, because for too long a particular kind of company - the proprietary limited company - has been allowed to commit roguery upon the Australian public and State Parliaments have taken no action effectively to restrain them. Proprietary limited companies are those companies in which the liability of a shareholder is limited to the extent of his holding. Whilst that may seem to be desirable, there are grave disadvantages from the point of view of the public. The proprietary limited company has all the advantages of a public company, a partnership or private ownership of a business, with none of the disabilities.
– It is subject to company tax, but a partnership is not.
– That disability is not a great one. Most proprietary limited companies are formed by persons who make themselves directors, issue to themselves fully paid up shares and then proceed to unload the rest of the shares on to the public. If the companies fail, the creditors are left lamenting to “ carry the baby”, and the directors escape all further liability.
– Private companies in Victoria laid the foundation of its commercial and industrial prosperity.
– Private companies in Victoria evaded taxation for a long period, and helped to maintain that conservatism which has retarded the progress “of the State. Since federation, New South Wales has made far greater progress than has Victoria. The private form of company is the method by which rogues and. vagabonds have robbed the credulous members of the public of large sums of money. In New South Wales special legislation had to be passed for the purpose of restraining the activities of the McArthur gang. Similar action was taken in Victoria.
– They were not proprietary companies.
– Of course they were, and their depredations were so extensive that they almost secured control of one insurance company. They owned a wireless station in New South Wales, but the licence was cancelled and re-issued by the government of the day to the Country party. I do not object to that. But it would be impossible for people of the McArthur type to act as they did if there were no proprietary limited- companies. It is a fact that all the advantage is on the side of the people who form the companies; there is no corresponding advantage to the community. Every proprietary limited company should he made to publish its balance-sheets. At the moment, the balance-sheets are not published. We also have a system of holding companies such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Myer Emporium Limited, and others. They consist of small family groups who form proprietary limited companies and dominate the whole of the activities of the public companies. They do not, of course, disclose their profits. If the Attorney-General introduces legislation to control companies, I ask that the Income Tax Act shall be amended at the same time so that the Commissioner of Taxation may, in his annual report to Parliament, publish the names of persons who pay taxes exceeding £500 a year, in order that the people may know who is robbing them. I suggest that not only the amount of tax but also the net income upon which the tax is based should be published. At present, the Commissioner of Taxation publishes the names of persons on whom penalties have been imposed. I see no reason why he should not also publish the names of those who pay tax in excess of a certain amount.
Other things could be said about proprietary limited companies and about company law in general, We have undoubtedly suffered in Australia through the lack of uniform company legislation. The Attorney-General told me last year that in his opinion the Commonwealth always did possess power to pass uniform company legislation. This morning, he said that he preferred to wait until all the State Parliaments pass the Commonwealth Powers Bill so that the matter may be placed beyond doubt. When that occurs, company legislation may be introduced into this Parliament. Some years ago, the Parliament of Victoria passed a comprehensive measure dealing with companies, but it was rather conservatively based, because it slavishly followed British company legislation. No one will say that British company legislation is marked by progressive tendencies or possesses radical traits. At any rate, the general public must be protected from company “ sharks “ and from those who are accepted as ordinary, decent people but whose commercial morality is, like that of almost all those engaged in commerce, not of a very high order. It is almost impossible for a man to be honest in commercial life. If he tries to be, he will not get business. In order to survive he has to do the things which most of his fellows do. Often, the average employer desires to treat his employees fairly, but when he is faced with unfair competition, he has, in order to continue to be an employer, to do some of the things which he would never do otherwise, and so it is with company activities generally;
– The various matters which honorable members have raised will be brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned and answers will be supplied to honorable members as soon as possible.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security ( General ) Regulations - Order - Requisitioning of spare parts.
Taxation - Twenty-third Report of Commissioner, dated 1st November, 1942, together with Statistical Appendices.
House adjourned al 4.53 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
I have examined the position, and am advised that the publication of this map was not a. breach of censorship. In. anticipation of an announcement which it was known I intended to make on the following day, the relevant censorship instruction was relaxed. This left the Daily Telegraph free to publish the map, which was not submitted to censorship.
On the 28th January, the honorable member for Melbourne referred to the publication in a Sydney morning newspaper of figures relating to allied shipping losses last year, and asked whether information of that kind was of any use except to the enemy. It is the policy of publicity censorship to limit informa tion regarding shipping losses to what is announced by the appropriate authorities. When, however, information of this kind has been announced and published abroad and cabled to this country, itwould serve no useful purpose to prohibit republication in the Australian press.
Another matter mentioned by the honorable member in the course of the same speech related to the publication of a report from a war correspondent describing a battle in New Guinea for possession of a Japanese food dump. I desire to say that this report had been passed by the field censor in New Guinea, and by the joint censorship at Allied Head-quarters. The military censors apparently did not consider that the report in any way contravened security. In regard to the construction placed upon the article that Australian troops were obliged to fight for Japanese rice dumps, in order to obtain food, it will be recalled that “ the four days “ battle along the Soputa trail, New Guinea, was part of the successful offensive which resulted in the capture of the whole of the northern coast of Papua. During this fighting it became evident that the enemy was experiencing acute supply difficulties, and accordingly vigorous efforts to deny existing food dumps to the enemy were made.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430212_reps_16_173/>.