16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation any knowledge of the statement recently made in the House of Commons by a blinded ex-soldier, that Australia had set a lead in the allowances it gave to wives and children, whether a man was married before or after being disabled ? If not, will the honorable gentleman obtain the statement from the official report of the debates in the House of Commons, and circulate it among honorable members opposite)
– I had noticed in the press the report of what Sir Ian Fraser, an ex-soldier blinded in the last war, and now a member of the House of Commons, had said in regard to pensions payable in Australia and in Great Britain. The press report reads -
This soldier and his bride - and whatever children they may have - must live on a pension of £1 17s. 6d. a week (plus 18s. for an attendant’s allowance), for the pension granted is that for a single man.
I understand that there is no pension for a wife. In Australia, a Winded soldier with a wife and three children receives the following payments weekly : -
– Making, in this Parliament, an attempt to score off the British Parliament, is a new practice.
– In answer to the honorable member for Bass, I was merely comparing war pensions payable in Australia and Great Britain. This blinded ex-soldier quoted Australia in the. House of Commons. He said -
Australia had set a lead with allowances for wives and children, no matter when a man married - before or after being disabled.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior lay on the table of the House, or have placed in the Parliamentary Library, all the papers in connexion with the land matters of Thomas Woods, of Tharwa, in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I shall place the question before the Minister for the Interior.
– On the 16th Feb ruary, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether it is a fact that the accounts branch of the Allied Works Council has paid out to dependants of Commonwealth Construction Corps workers about £6,000 which should not be paid, and that there has been considerable confusion in rectifying the error? If so, can he say whether lack of efficient labour is hampering the branch so much that its work is about three months in arrear, and what the Government intends to do in the matter?
The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
It is not a fact that the accounts branch of the Allied Works Council has overpaid dependants of Civil Constructional Corps personnel the sum of £6,000. Certain initial difficulties arose in the earlystagesof the organization of the Civil Constructional Corps. Some allotments were not paid promptly, and other allotment payments were not promptly stopped when they should have been. These difficulties, which were due mainly to the impossibility of obtaining an adequate and efficient staff quickly, and to delays to mail services from outlying centres, hare since been surmounted. The allotment position generally is now under control.
Mr.LAZZARINI. - On the 23rd March the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.Calwell) referred to the work being done at the memorial to the late King George V. in front of Parliament House. This work consists of a small strip of concrete paving from the road to the approach to the monument. A part of this paving is a portion of the
footpath which must eventually be constructed right along the front of the area. During wet weather, the approach to the monument becomes muddy, and the existing high step to the granite paving of the memorial was dangerous. The technical committee that was appointed to advise on the memorial asked that, when men and materials became available, the short length of paving should be constructed. Approval for this work was given last October, but until recently it had not been found, possible to allot men to it.
– Apparently, the honorable member does not want an answer to his question. Of the hundreds of men employed by the Department of the Interior in normal times, only those who are essential for maintenance and defence works have been retained; the large majority have been called up. “With the exception of a few key men, the majority of the nien retained . are those who have been rejected for military service or are not eligible for call-up. Cement for the work was obtained from the department’s stocks in Canberra; although, of course, it is not manufactured locally. Gravel and sand are obtained locally, from the department’s pits. The men employed on this work consist of a ganger and five workmen, who are a regular paving- gang in the employ of the department. The ganger has been discharged from the Army as medically unfit, one labourer is 58 years of age and has only one eye, one is 53 years of age, one is 55 years of age and is a returned, soldier from the last war, one is 37 years of age and is medically unfit, and the remaining man is 36 years of age ; he is in military class 4, which has not yet been called up. The estimated cost of the work is £70. It is almost completed.
Mir. RANKIN.- I ask the Prime
Minister whether the Central “Wool Committee has been consulted in any manner, through either its chairman or its members, on the subject of country wool appraisement centres? If not, as this body is acting as the agent of the British Government in the handling and purchase of wool, will the right honorable gentle man take an early opportunity to arrange a consultation with the committee in order to ascertain its views on the matter?
– I do not know whether the committee, as such, has been consulted, but I have had consultations with the chairman of it, Mr. Justice Owen, on the general question. His views have been taken into account in the formulation of plans for decentralization, just as other interested parties would be consulted when considering the treatment of any other commodities as a part of a general policy for the developoment of industries and avocations in country places. Plans for decentralization in regard to wool are necessarily different from those which apply to decentralization generally. Expert advice was taken regarding the most suitable sites for appraisement centres, having regard to the Government’s general policy. Priorities have been arranged regarding the order in which the centres will be established, and a limit has been imposed upon the number of centres. The policy of the present Government in this regard is identical with that of the previous Government, which made of Albany a wool appraisement centre, notwithstanding the views of the Central “Wool Committee.
Stoppages of Work - Alleged Removal of Timbering
– Oan the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that sixteen mines in northern New South “Wales are idle to-day, involving the loss of approximately 20,000 tons of coal? Having regard to the approach of the parliamentary recess, when honorable members will be unable to ventilate information regarding stoppages, will the Prime Minister consider making a statement regarding the situation in the coal industry, indicating what positive action, if any, the Government intends to take to ensure that the mines shall be worked, and to prevent frivolous stoppages?
– I have been gravely disquieted all this week at the state of affairs in the coal -mining industry. I have given to the matter my best attention, having regard to the many other matters of importance which have pressed upon me. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to devote my attention without interruption, to the task of dealing with this problem, and a number of others also. The honorable member cannot feel anything in regard to the loss to the country of coal supplies due to stoppages, which I consider ought not to occur, that I do not feel myself. I point out that on the day before yesterday the President of the United States of America had to intervene to deal with a threatened general strike in the coal mines of that country.
– America is not threatened with invasion.
– I know that. I have not instanced what is occurring there as any palliation of what is occurring in Australia. I cited it merely as an indication that certain problems seem to be common to both countries. I hope that the men will go back to work. I hope also that, if they do not, the requisite steps can be taken to carry on production. I point out to the honorable member and to the country that coal-mining is an avocation which depends on a knowledge of the industry in order that those who work in it may produce coal.
– Free labour is not obtainable.
– That is so, and it would not be effective if it were obtained. The Government is gravely concerned over this matter, and I hope that honorable members will assist it to obtain an opportunity to concentrate upon the problem.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Crown Law authorities have evidence that, in December, the under-manager of a large mine on the South Coast of New South Wales walked into the working place of a miner, who happened to be president of the local lodge, and deliberately pulled out three or four props of timber that had been installed, as required by law, for the protection of the workers and the safety of the mine? As prosecutions have been launched against many individual miners, will action be taken against this manager? As a campaign of irritation has obviously been inspired in certain quarters in order to create discontent among the miners, will the
Prime Minister, during the. recess, appoint a special committee of inquiry or parliamentary delegation to visit the coal-fields for the purpose of investigating the causes of trouble and recommending a satisfactory solution?
– I am not aware whether certain timbering in the mine, which was erected for safety reasons, was removed or otherwise interfered with. Were such a case to occur, I should expect a prosecution to. be initiated against, the offender. But if I were asked to authorize the institution of proceedings, I should first make certain that the act described by the honorable member took place. I shall ascertain, if the honorable member has been correctly informed, why the prosecution has not been launched.
– Has the Minister for Transport read a statement in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald by the New South Wales Railway Commissioner, Mr. Harrigan, that many trains in New South Wales are running with empty carriages, and that many seats are also vacant, due to the operation of the priority system of travel in a manner not conducive to the best organization of the transport services? Has he also noted the published opinion of Mr. Hartigan that people living in Armidale, and in areas north of that town, ought to be permitted without undue hindrance to travel to Brisbane, and other points in southern Queensland? Will he give particular consideration to the claims of residents of border towns, such as Glen Innes and Tenterfield, for the right to travel into Queensland without restriction?
– I have seen the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald purporting to come from the New South Wales Railways Commissioner, Mr. Hartigan. Indeed, I read it very carefully. Mr. Hartigan is the only Railways Commissioner in Australia who has been opposed to the system of priorities for travel ever since it was brought in, and this is not the first time that he has made statements to the press on the subject. I have called for a full report on the matter. The honorable member, in asking his question, ascribed to Mr. Hartigan the statement that on some trains whole carriages were running empty. As a matter of fact, the statement was that one or two berths were empty in certain carriages. As I said yesterday, that might be true upon occasions. It cannot be avoided ; frequently it is due to cancellations. I have asked officers of my department to investigate the statement in order to find out whether or not it is true. As for the second part of the honorable member’s question, I shall go into the matter. Only a fortnight ago, the matter of border stations was fully investigated by all the Railways Commissioners in conference, Mr. Hartigan being present. If the honorable member’s suggestion can be given effect, it will receive my earnest consideration.
– Can the Minister for
War Organization of Industry say why an Australian youth with a leaving pass of two A’s and several B’s was refused enrolment in the faculty of medicine at the University of Sydney, when, according to a statement by a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, refugees have been admitted? Seeing that the medical faculty of the Sydney University benefits largely from donations by Australians, will the Minister issue instructions that preference be given to Australian-born youths in the matter of enrolment?
– The Universities Commission was set up by the Government to advise the man-power authorities regarding the number of students who should be admitted to the various faculties, including the faculty of medicine. The selection of students within the quota is a matter entirely for the university itself, and I have no power to interfere.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether any headway has been made in the direction of setting up production committees in munitions factories in accordance with the policy laid down by the War Cabinet ?
– I have taken the requisite steps to have these production committees set up. The basis on which they will operate has already been agreed upon between the Department of Munitions and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the executive of which is consulting the unions concerned as to their representatives. When the unions have nominated their representatives, I shall ask the managements of the various workshops to nominate theirs. The committees will then be established.
– by leave - Several important questions relating to the food position have been raised by honorable members over the past three weeks, notably by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). A statement has already been made in both Houses of Parliament on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), concerning the Government’s policy with regard to control of the prices of primary products. I propose now to deal with other principal phases of the problem.
With increased demands on the one hand, and difficulties of transport and labour power on the other, it is inevitable that some shortages of food should arise. The principal commodities in which shortages are likely to occur are meat, milk, vegetables, fruit, canned goods, jam, rice, dried fruits, and fish. Tea and sugar are already rationed, and the ration is regarded as being fairly satisfactory. There are no serious complaints concerning the rationed goods. Owing to bad weather last year, a. shortage of butter was threatened, and there may be a shortage in the future for the same reason, if the exports to Britain are maintained. There was a seasonal shortage of eggs about this time last year or a little later, and this may occur again in a mild form.
The reasons for shortage may be summarized as follows: -
In some cases the proportion required by the Supply Department is very high. Thus it will require 25 per cent. of the orange crop, 50 per cent. of the lemons, and the whole of the grapefruit. In many cases it has necessarily taken over large quantities of foodstuffs normally made available to civilians, without any complementary action being taken to increase supplies. This arises especially with commodities such as tree fruits, the production of which cannot be expanded without a long period of preparation.
Since the Japanese war commenced, the Government has endeavoured to build up reserves for the armed forces, and to maintain supplies to the civilian population . Now that the full impact of the Japanese war upon Australia’s food resources is being felt, the situation calls for the development of a comprehensive policy. This policy should be based upon the following conditions: -
These are the essential conditions of a sound food policy in war time. Much has already been done to meet these conditions.
In the first place, Australia has, in general, maintained exports of essential foods to Britain. We shall continue to do so, consistent with our own essential needs and the availability of transport.
Secondly, the rationing of sugar and tea has already been developed, and the Rationing Commission is available for carrying out the necessary control of consumption of other essential foods. No new authority is required to deal with this position. The Rationing Commission, through the Food Council, is in close contact with other government authorities controlling industries producing essential foods, and as and when required it will be available to put into operation plans that will ensure the more equitable distribution of essential food stuffs.
In the third place, there is the important problem of stimulating production. The principal field in which this is now required is the production of vegetables. The Government is planning an active campaign for the expansion of vegetable production. This campaign will be based upon the following central features : -
These plans should be the responsibility of the Director-General of Agriculture who was recently appointed, and has been allotted the task of stimulating the production of vegetables. For all other major commodities, such as meat, wheat, butter, potatoes, authorities already exist who are working actively on behalf of the Government in handling the problems of the industry concerned.
In the fourth place, it is inescapable that resources of transport and labour for food production will not be as freely available during the war as during peace time. That is a fact which cannot be lightly passed by as some critics seem to imagine. The Government has emphasized on many occasions the need for austere living standards if the country’s war commitments are to be met. Shortages of commodities must be expected in war-time. Provided these shortages do not impair the health of the people or create inequities in distribution, they are in fact an essential condition of a total war effort.
It has been argued that a food ministry is necessary if effective measures are to be taken to maintain essential supplies of food-stuffs during the war. The problems of food control in Australia are essentially different ,from those in England, where a food ministry exists. Australia is an exporting country and normally it is faced with the task of finding markets. This is primarily a responsibility of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It is equally the responsibility of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to stimulate -production now in the different circumstances imposed by the war. On the other hand, it is the function of the Supply Department, in co-operation with the service departments, to arrange the supply of essentia] foods for the armed forces. ‘Co-ordination of the activities of these departments has been arranged through the Australian Food Council, presided over by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. All the authorities concerned with food are represented on the council, including Man Power. The council is in a position, after a survey of the situation, to direct that action be taken to remedy any defects in the existing administrations. A Ministry of Food would have to work tb rough authorities now handling the problems. It would, in fact, be a coordinating ministry, and there is already in existence, through the Australian Food Council, an effective co-ordinating agency. At its last meeting, for example, the Food Council .directed that action be taken by the departments concerned to deal imemdiately with certain problems still awaiting decision in connexion with the dairying industry. It directed that citrus fruits should 1138 made available to consumers, such as children and expectant mothers, especially in need of fruit juice. It directed that the examination of the demands for meat for export, service and civilian needs in relation to available supplies should be completed immediately. It directed that more vigorous measures should be taken to expand vegetable production.
I am satisfied that these measures will be adequate to meet the situation, and that the mechanical device of appointing a Food Ministry will not in itself solve any of the real .problems. By its protection of primary industries for man-power purposes, its rapidly expanding system of guaranteed prices, its subsidy on fertilizer, its arrangements for supplies of essential machinery to be increased, and its control of consumption through rationing, the ‘Government has already gone far to adjust the whole food position to the realities of the war situation. A Ministry of Food cannot by some legerdemain make available to the people of Australia food supplies in the abundance of pre-war times. I should be false to my trust if I held out such hopes. We have to develop an austerity food plan, and this requires dual action. On the side of production, we have to look upon the output of some foods as being not less important than the output of munitions. The Government intends to supplement existing production by organizing, where necessary, the direct production of vegetables and other essential foods just as it has organized the production of munitions through munitions annexes, or aerodromes and other essential works through the Allied “Works Council.
On the side of consumption, it will he necessary to arrange for the equitable distribution among the civilian population of the available supplies of food in which shortages may exist on account of war conditions. It may even be necessary to face the problem of rationing on a wider scale than has hitherto been thought necessary in Australia. To suggest that such rationing implies defective organization of food supplies by the Government is to ignore the circumstances of war. There is undoubtedly a great waste of food in Australia. Compared with other countries, the consumption of food is very high. This, of course, is not a bad thing in itself, but it is no disgrace to any country to have to ration food in order to pursue a total war effort and to feed its own armed forces and those of its allies fighting in or near its own territory.
All the machinery exists for carrying out this vigorous and forward policy, and the Food Council is being directed and given the necessary powers to ensure that action on the lines I have suggested is being taken.
Steps are being taken to establish a food directorate as an executive body of the Australian Food Council, and to arrange for a clearer definition of responsibilities ‘between the Department of Supply and Shipping on the one hand, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture on the other. Though there is a Ministry of Food in England, the responsibility for developing local production of food products rests with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The same situation arises here and no increase of food supplies will be made available by the mere fact of altering the title of an existing ministry. The Government is satisfied that the machinery now at its disposal can be and is being used for the development of food production on lines that will meet with general approval.
– According to this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times, a special section of the Civil Constructional Corps will be formed for the purpose of increasing our production of minerals required in the manufacture of arms and munitions. Will the Prime Minister, with a view to increasing our food production, consider the advisability of applying this principle to rural industries by the formation of labour units or “ shock “ workers, who .could be rapidly moved from place to place to harvest seasonal crops which may deteriorate quickly unless they are garnered without delay? I refer particularly to the estimated loss of 12,000 tons of potatoes in the Guyra district as the result of failure to provide the requisite labour to dig the crop.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request; but I am sure that he knows that a particular occurrence in a particular district will probably have a particular explanation.
– Has the Minister for Health read the statement made by Dr. L. W. Nott, superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital, that the Government should appoint a central controlling authority to co-ordinate the work of the medical section of the services, the Commonwealth Department of Health, the State Health Departments, and the medical profession generally, to combat the serious spread of venereal disease, especially among members of the forces? As the incidence of venereal disease has increased alarmingly, will the Prime Minister give to the House an assurance that this suggestion will be taken into consideration by the Government? If it is not acceptable to Cabinet, will the Government formulate plans for the purpose of controlling this social danger before it gets out of hand?
– Commonwealth and State authorities are already taking joint action to deal with the problem. This morning, I approved a proposal to zone certain isolated parts of Queensland for the purpose of facilitating action.
– Will the Minister submit a report to the House at a later date?
– Questions have been asked in the House recently by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) regarding the shortage of horse-shoes. Yesterday I promised that I would confer with my colleague, the Minister for Munitions, as his department controls the supply of steel, which is the critical factor in the making of horse-shoes. The facts of this matter are as follows : -
When, in November, I issued an order regulating the manufacture of horseshoes, my intention was to help relieve the serious shortage of horse-shoes which had already developed. Unfulfilled orders for essential civil purposes were accumulating with the manufacturers week by week. The regulation of the sizes and weights of horse-shoes was designed primarily not to release man-power or steel, but to enable the production of horse-shoes to be increased with the existing resources of the industry. In this object it was successful, and the manufacturers have stated that if rationalization had not taken place the shortage of horse-shoes must have become even more serious. I can assure honorable members that the order made full provision for the manufacture of all the sizes and weights of horse-shoes needed in all circumstances. If some manufacturers are concentrating on particular sizes and not supplying the full range of shoes in proper proportion, this is action for which they are wholly responsible, and which they could have taken if the controlling order had never been issued. If honorable members will provide me with concrete examples of this alleged practice, I shall have the matter investigated. I realize that we have still to reckon with an acute shortage of horseshoes, and the House will appreciate the difficulty of providing full supplies of steel for all urgent demands. I understand that one reason for recent difficulties has been the acquisition for military purposes of stocks of manufactured horse shoes. However, I am glad to be able to say that the Minister for Munitions has now arranged for the release of considerable quantities of horse-shoe steel for civilian purposes. The additional steel, which is being released immediately, will enable some thousands more sets of shoes to be produced every week, and is expected to relieve the present shortage.
Several weeks ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs for certain information relating to the manufacture and distribution of intoxicating liquors in Australia. I have not yet received it. Will the Minister supply it to me before the House rises ?
– I shall see that the information is obtained immediately.
– by leave - Yesterday a matter that affects me personally was referred to in a question that was asked of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. It referred to an alleged abuse of ministerial motor cars. The question was originally raised some weeks ago by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey). Yesterday the Minister denied the statements. I was, therefore, amazed to find that, in the Canberra Times this morning, the charge was fastened on to me. The newspaper accused me of having been responsible for the abuse of ministerial cars onthe occasion referred to. The statement is not only untrue, but is a malicious attempt to undermine and weaken the confidence which has been manifested in the administration of my department. So far as it refers to me, it is a plain unvarnished lie. Undoubtedly it indicates a warped and twisted mind, and a complete lack of responsibility and regard for the truth in any shape or form. The plain fact of the matter is that on the occasion in question a ministerial car provided for my department was going to Sydney, and it was used. In the statement I am accused of having used four Government cars to go to Sydney on that occasion. I wish to dissociate entirely from this statement the gentlemen in the press gallery of this Parliament. This is the second occasion on which the editor of the Canberra Times has made false statements concerning me. On the former occasion he had to retract, but apparently he has no regard for the truth, and is ever ready to publish these false statements, and he must know how damaging they can be. Certain things that are going on in our midst to-day are below the level of common decency. I have to administer a department which is concerned with the use of petrol and tyres, and has to deal with other problems relating to transport. As a result of that, it will be appreciated that this sort of thing has a bad effect. It is shattering confidence in the work of the department which I administer. The only redress, of course, is to compel this editor to prove the statements. I shall take those steps, but compensation in the terms of any claim that may be lodged is not of much value. Men who are responsible for these things should be put in a place where they can never write them again. That is how I feel. All of us, no matter what place we have to occupy, may make mistakes, and may do things the reasons for which other people may not know; but for the things that we do we must always be ready to take the full responsibility. This particular statement in regard to me is an infamous lie, and it has been repeated in this newspaper this morning. I say to the House, and to all who may be interested, that we must do something to make it certain that this sort of thing must stop somewhere, particularly as the problems of the administration of a war department are so very great to-day, that all such attacks have an undermining effect upon the work we have to do. I am glad to be able to dissociate the gentlemen of the press gallery in this House from this statement. My relations with them have been happy, and, so far as my department is concerned, the press has reported fairly and honestly matters in which it is concerned; but for the editor of this local paper, apparently no depth is too low. I shall have to do the best I can to deal with this matter in another way.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I understand that my name has been mentioned-
– Has the honorable gentleman been misrepresented?
– The honorable gentleman’s name was not mentioned.
– My name was mentioned yesterday. I was not in the chamber, but I understand that the Minister referred to the statement that I made. I wish to say most emphatically that the quotation I made in the House was taken from the CanberraTimes. A reference to Hansard will substantiate that. It will show that the name of the Minister for Supply and Shipping was never mentioned by me. The newspaper report referred to goods and chattels. I did not say anything of that kind. The statement that I made was quoted from the press. The Minister’s name was not mentioned.
– On to-day’s notice- paper there is a notice of motion by the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) dealing with the recommendations made by the Dairying Committee of Inquiry. The honorable memberis not here to submit his motion. I ask the Prime Minister to give some consideration to it.
– I shall do so.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether certain resolutions reached at the 59th Convention of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia regarding the meat industry have been forwarded to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? Will the Minister make a statement on the subject before Parliament rises?
– No doubt the resolutions have been forwarded to the Minister. I shall make inquiries as to whether a statement can be made on the subject as requested by the honorable member.
Proprietors of One-man Businesses.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether or not there has been a reversal of his decision that proprietors of one-man businesses shall not be called up? That has been the practice; yet, examples have been given to me of such persona having been called up, and I should like the Minister to clarify the position.
– The decision has not been varied, and I do not know of any instance in which the practice has not been followed. If the honorable member will bring to my notice the cases he has mentioned, I shall inquire into them.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1941.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– I understood last Friday that it would not be ready for three months.
– This bill relates only to the application of the principle of preference to returned soldiers to employment within the Commonwealth Public Service. I must state at once that it is a completely inadequate treatment of the total problem of how preference is to be given to returned soldiers because of the services they have rendered -to this country during the. war.
– If it is completely inadequate, why bring it before the House?
– That is the kind of retort which I would expect from the honorable gentleman, who will never be satisfied with anything that is done. In view of what had been said, I decided that a bill should be brought down within the limits of the .present authority of the Commonwealth Parliament. I have done this because, for all practical purposes, the authority of the ‘Commonwealth in respect of preference is limited to its own employees.
– In other words, the right honorable gentleman has the decision of George McLeay in front of him.
– I have brought down the bill, also, because it was said in the Senate that legislation dealing with this subject had been drafted when the present Government came into office. I have no knowledge of such legislation; I have not been able to obtain knowledge of it; and I do not know who prepared the draft, or what became of it.
– Was the right honorable gentleman advised that the .powers of the Commonwealth in respect of employment and unemployment are strictly confined within the enumerations of section 51?
– I am advised that there can be no question whatever as to the Commonwealth Parliament having the power to determine the conditions of appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service. In that respect, no question arises as to whether or not any act which this Parliament might ,pass in respect of preference would be valid. With respect to industry in general, I have to say that the existing powers will continue only during the operation of the National Security Act, and that will not cover the period during which the real problem of employment and unemployment in relation to returned soldiers will arise.
– Why does the right honorable gentleman say that the power will be limited to the period of the war and twelve months thereafter ?
– That will not cover the period during which acute difficulty will be experienced by returned soldiers in obtaining employment. Preference will be regarded as a condition of employment during a period when there will be more workers seeking jobs than jobs requiring workers. That time cannot arrive until the war has benn won. Therefore, the only point that appears to us to be immediately involved is as to what shall he the law of the Commonwealth in relation to employment within the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Has the right honorable gentleman definite legal advice to that effect?
– Our advice has been based on the uncertainty of what the powers of this Parliament are, in view of the attempts that have been made to have them increased. Last week, I made a firm and clear offer to this Parliament. I believe that the undertaking of any man who was Prime Minister of this country to bring down a bill dealing with this matter would be accepted, or he would be told that he should bring down the bill immediately. Neither of those declarations was made; consequently, I presumed that this House did not entertain much regard for my bona fides in the matter. Therefore, I decided that, as there could be no argument whatever regarding the powers of this Parliament in relation to the employees of the Commonwealth, I should bring down at least this instalment of the law relating to the employment of returned soldiers within the service of the Commonwealth. I acknowledge that this is only a partial treatment of a problem which ought to be dealt with in totality at a later period, when the problem can be viewed more decisively and clearly.
The existing act provides for preference in permanent appointment and for temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, for returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war. The definition of “ returned soldier “ applied to any person who enlisted and served in the war with a satisfactory record in any expeditionary force. It also included persons born in Australia, or resident in Australia within six months prior to enlistment, who served with any expeditionary force raised in the United Kingdom or in any British dominion. The definition does not cover members of the mercantile marine, or those who served in the Militia Forces. It did, however, cover those who, having enlisted in an expeditionary force, may have been discharged almost immediately as medically unfit, or for other cause, without serving other than in camp. The Government has given much consideration to the matter of preference to those who have served in the present war. It thinks that no precise definition can be reached which would avoid some anomalies. Among others, four broad definitions have been very fully examined : -
The Government finally came to the conclusion that preference should be accorded to all those who served in the forces outside Australia, and to those who served in Australia in actual combat against the enemy, or in such areas as are declared to be combat areas, or in circumstances which the Governor-General determines should be deemed to be actual combat with the enemy, or service fairly analogous thereto.
Provision has also been made to cover members of the Royal Australian Air Force who made operational flights to sea, Australian mariners serving in danger zones to be prescribed, and other persons whose service has, for example, necessitated their employment in an area which may be declared bv proclamation to be a combat area for the purpose of preference. This latter could cover, for example, any group of the members of the Civil Constructional Corps who have had to serve in a combat area or danger zone. This would be subject to conditions to be laid down. The same applies to pilots and crews of civil aircraft who are directed to combat areas or to whom combat may come.
There is one aspect in which the extent of preference differs from that accorded after the last war. Tor approximately fourteen years after the last war, practically all new appointments as clerks were of returned soldiers, many of whom were men of middle age or later, and there was a cessation of recruitment of youths. The Government has accepted recommendations from three departmental committees which have reported on the question of preference, to the effect that provision should be made to ensure that there should not be a total cessation of recruitment of youths to positions as clerks as was the case after the last war. The first committee, consisting of the Public Service Commissioner, Mr. F. G. Thorpe, the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, the Director-General of Post and Telegraphs, Mr. D. McVey, and the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Mr. J. A. Carrodus, reporting in 1940, said - . . it is essential for the maintenance of efficiency that there should be a continuous flow of well-educated youths into the clerical sections, and that the standard of education considered necessary should apply to all appointees. The increased scope of Public Service activities, and their growing importance in the economic and social life of the community emphasize the need for maintaining the highest practicable educational level of the staffs from which future occupants of responsible positions may be drawn. for approximately fourteen years after the war, practically all clerical positions available for new appointees were absorbed by returned soldiers and there was almosta complete cessation of appointments of youths during that time. The effects of the nonappointment of young men are now being severely felt in the Service, where there is a serious dearth of trained personnel of from 25 to 40 years, and with from about ten to twenty years’ service, suitable for promotion to responsible positions. Just what proportion of positions should be reserved for returned soldiers has given the committee much concern and, after long consideration and discussion with many administrative officers, the committee has decided to recommend that of the vacancies for clerks requiring to be filled by appointments from without the Service, 50 per cent. be reserved for returned soldiers and 50 per cent. be filled in the normal way. . .
The views of the 1940 committee were supported by the committees reporting in 1941 and 1943. The members of the committees are experienced officers, and provision has been made in the bill to give effect to their recommendations.
The extent of preference provided under the bill is -
Full preference (present practice).
For Permanent Appointment.
Fourth Division positions -
For positions to be filled by appointment from outside the Service - Full preference (present practice).
For positions normally filled by advancement of young officers who must be provided for (positions such as postman, mail officer, lineman, mechanic) - Continuation of practice followed since 1926 (50 per cent. of vacancies to be reserved for returned soldiers). This will involve a restriction of present numbers in recruitment and advancement of young officers.
Third Division positions -
For professional and technical positions to be filled by appointment from outside the Service - Full preference (present practice).
For positions of clerk - Fifty per cent. of appointments to be returned soldiers and 50 per cent. available for youths.
Age limits - Present maximum age, 50 years, to stand.
Medical examination - Present relaxation in favour of returned soldiers to continue.
Eligibility for re-appointment of dismissed officer who subsequently enlists - Present provision, providing for this to stand.
Period during which preference shall apply - No limitation.
Discrimination between returned soldiers of the 1914-18 and present war - No distinction to be made in application of preference.
A precis of the reports of the three committees is as follows : - 1940 Committee.
Same preference as 1914-18 war, that is, to all persons enlisting in the forces for service anywhere abroad or at home. There was a proviso that if the theatre of war extended to Australia the matter would need reconsideration. 1941 Committee.
Preference to extend to all members of the forces who served with satisfactory record abroad or in any theatre of war and to include members of the Australian mercantile marine, Australians serving in the British and Dominions’ forces, Australians serving in the British and Dominions’ mercantile marine in war zones. Considered no justification for preference to non-combatant auxiliary services, rejected volunteers, munitions workers, persons in reserved occupations. Whole question of preference to be reconsidered if Australia became a theatre of war. 1.943 Committee.
Preference to apply to any member of the forces, including women’s auxiliary forces, serving outside Australia; and member of the 1’oyal Australian Air Force making operational flights to sea subsequent to the 7th December, 1941 ; members of the Australian mercantile marine serving in danger zones; any .person born in Australia or resident there within six months of enlistment in the forces of the United Kingdom or any British dominion who served outside the United Kingdom or the dominion in which ho enlisted. Thu committee invited special attention to the claims of those serving in Darwin subsequent to the 19th February, 1942, and to all members of air crews.
We have adapted the general principle of preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service to the circumstances of this war, which is a vastly different one from the war of 1914-18. It will be remembered that, in the last war, the only persons who could claim preference were those who had voluntarily enlisted for service overseas, and there was no bar to the enlistment of any person. In the present war, the service of a soldier is not measured by the degree of his readiness to volunteer. The Australian Imperial Force is composed of volunteers, but many citizens have been called up compulsorily for service in the fighting forces, and they fight side by side with volunteers in defence of the country. Obviously, the unit in which a man serves should not govern the responsibility which the Government and the country owe to him for his service. The only factor should be that he has engaged in resisting the enemies of the Commonwealth. We have also to bear in mind that there are thousands of persons in Australia who, if allowed their own free will, would have become members of the fighting forces. They are debarred because of specialized- skill in some direction or other from enlisting voluntarily or from being called up compulsorily.
– That applied in the last war.
– I do not think so.
– Not to the same extent as in this war, but it still applied.
– To nothing like the same extent ! Then there are others who have been called up for service indispensable to the safety of the country and vitally related to the efficiency of the fighting forces. They have been despatched to areas which are either in fact combat areas, or are likely to become combat areas as the war progresses. Those persons, although they have not been given a rifle in the defence of the country, are being given some other tool or instrument, the use of which is requisite to the safety of the country. They are engaged in the construction and repair of aerodromes, and they are in places which the enemy is assailing. The work that these men do is work which no body of men, looking at the matter soberly, can regard as being outside the definition of service in the defence of Australia, involving risk to life and limb.
– - -They are better paid than the soldiers are.
– That may be the case, but I am not sure that they are better paid. Having regard to the repatriation benefits which1 are given to soldiers, but not to civilian workers, and to the risks that the latter run, I confess that, in my judgment, it would be far better for them to be on a different basis in respect of the calculation of their wages.
– They would not accept it-
– No. They prefer the other. But it is useless to say that they get more pay, for in the long run they may get far less. May I glance at the problem in it3 wider aspects, for I consider that the House, but for certain circumstances, would have preferred to look at the matter of preference as a whole at a time when it could more clearly see the full extent of the powers which the Commonwealth Parliament may have over industry. The fact is that in the period in which employment in the -private industries will be a matter of great importance to the soldiers, that is, when the number of jobs offering will be fewer than the number of persons offering, the preferential principle must be practised by an employer person in deciding whether he will employ A or B, unionists or returned soldiers. As things stand, that matter ceases to be real now, for the fact is that every person, regardless of whether he is a unionist or has served in the forces, must be employed. This country cannot afford to allow him to remain idle. Therefore, if he controls plant or has nothing to offer but his labour, every man must be, and is being, directed to some useful work. In the present circumstances, the matter of preference does not arise as a real problem. I hoped that we should be able to deal with this matter comprehensively. I should have liked the opportunity to bring to bear upon this matter considered judgment in the light of the real implications of the problem ; but that is not the case, and, therefore, I concluded that the matter of preference in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service could be decided now.
– What about Commonmonwealth contracts carried out by private persons?
– We have to force people to take contracts. We cannot lay down conditions as to whom they shall employ.
– But the Government does.
– We do nothing of the kind.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping admitted It.
– The honorable member knows very well that, as between two tenderers, one who will employ unionists and the other who will not employ unionists, the opportunity does not exist for the Government to discriminate, because it must use both tenderers in order to get the work done.
– What about ‘ the clothing contracts?
– What I have said is the fact.
– The Government is the only employer, the only authority that can let contracts, and therefore it can lay down conditions.
– That is right. The Government oan lay down conditions; but suppose that the tenderer said that he would not accept the conditions?
– The Government would know what to do with him.
– What could it do with him?
– Cut him out.
– But it cannot cut him out. The fact of the matter is that all the talk about preference to unionists and preference to soldiers at this juncture is utterly unreal, because the number of persons a vailable to do work is not equal to the work that has to be done.
– That is quite right.
– When I take into consideration the remarks I made in the House yesterday about the war in the Pacific lasting longer on any analysis that I can make than the Avar in Europe, I realize that it is unreal for Parliament to contemplate that there will be, at any rate, within the next two years, any opportunity for the Government or anybody else to discriminate as to who shall be employed and who shall be left unemployed.
– Then why introduce this bill.
– Because I undertook to do so when the committee was considering an amendment of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. Honorable members divided the House notwithstanding that undertaking.
– With very good reasons.
– With very good reason! I do not think so. Furthermore, I am faced with the knowledge that the Senate has inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill a clause relating to preference to returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service. Why did preference have to be dragged into that other bill?
– For the very good reason that it was necessary for that bill to cover preference as it covered other matters.
– Why has the repatriation legislation not covered preference to returned soldiers for the last 25 years ?
– We have not been at war for 25 years.
– The honorable member can pass or not pass this bill as he wills. I have only to say that this bill is a fulfilment of my undertaking, which was given in pursuance of Government policy, that we should deal with this matter. (Suspicions have been raised as to whether we intended to deal with it at all.
– ‘Can the right honorable gentleman tell me whether this bill extends to the clerical staff of the Allied Works Council?
– Not unless they are members of the Commonwealth Public Service. That matter will be definitely looked at. There are one or two clauses in the bill which deal with matters outside the question of preference to which we think it is appropriate that we should attend now.
Clause 3 provides for the reappointment, within a limited period after an election, and the preservation of accumulated rights of Commonwealth officers who resign from the Public Service in order to contest Commonwealth or State elections, and are not elected. The purpose is to avoid the loss, which would otherwise occur, of the benefits derived by such officers from varying lengths of service. Similar provision has been made regarding superannuation rights in such cases. With the object of making this provision apply in the case of two officers who resigned to contest the last elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is proposed that the new section shall be deemed to have come into operation on the 21st September, 1940. The position, briefly, is that Commonwealth employees, in order to contest seats in this Parliament, have to resign from the Public Service. If they are defeated they seek reinstatement. That can be given to them, hut they lose the benefits of continuity of service. I am sure that the Parliament will see no reason why, in the exercise of his legitimate rights of citizenship, a public servant should suffer some impairment of the continuing period of his employment.
Clause 4 provides that the service of certain ex-officers of the Federal Capital
Commission, who had previous State service and who were later appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service when the Federal Capital Commission ceased to function, shall be reckoned for the purposes of the Commonwealth Public Service Act as continuous service in a permanent capacity in the Commonwealth service. All the officers concerned were permanent officers of a State prior to their appointment with the Federal Capital Commission, and their service with State governments, the Federal Capital Commission and the Commonwealth Government has been continuous. In somewhat similar circumstances, the Commonwealth Public Service Act was amended in 1937 to provide for the reckoning of prior service of certain officers with the Development and Migration Commission, who had continuous service with a State government, the commission and the Commonwealth Public Service. The Government is of opinion that the circumstances surrounding the cases of the ex-officers of the Federal Capital Commission are on all fours with those of the ex-officers of the Development and Migration Commission, except that in the Development and Migration Act 1926 provision was made for the preservation of the existing and accruing rights of Commonwealth and State public servants appointed to the staff of that commission. No such provision was contained in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924.
Whilst, section 46 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act provides that any person having at any time retired from any salaried office may be re-appointed by the Public Service Board if he is not more than 50 years of age, the board has no power, in the case of an officer who has been dismissed in conformity with the provisions of the act, to reverse its decision of dismissal. The Government desires to rectify this omission, with a view to covering the case of an officer who may be dismissed from the service under the provisions of section 62 of the act following his conviction by a court for a criminal offence, but whose conviction subsequently may be quashed or nullified, and whose release from custody may be ordered by the court. It seems reasonable that, in such circumstances, the officer should be reinstated in the service with all his existing rights. The provision is made in clause 5.
– The Public Service Board will be permitted to appoint to 50 per cent, of the vacancies occurring in the Public Service, youths under the age of eighteen years at the end of the war, or persons who were rejected for military service because of physical unfitness. Why is the distinction made between a person rejected because of physical unfitness, and a person who is not permitted to serve in the forces because he is in a -reserved occupation ?
– -That matter can be dealt with in committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
The following bill was returned from the Senate with requests and amendments : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1943.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1943.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1943.
Widows’ Pensions Bill 1943.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
Debate resumed from the 11th February, (vide page 555) upon motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Financial Statement by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P. “
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) described the financial statement which he delivered to the House on the 11th February, as a brief outline of the financial proposals which he intended to submit to the Parliament during the session. The statement reads more like a policy speech, deliberately intended to beguile the electors. Many of the Treasurer’s proposals have been examined in detail by the Opposition during the debates on the specific bills presented to this House. However, it is appropriate at this stage to deal with the broad issues involved. The major part of the Treasurer’s statement is devoted to a nebulous “national welfare scheme “ to be brought into full operation after the war. This scheme is linked up with increased taxation intended, in part, to finance it. If the funds are to be used for war purposes during the war, the straight-forward course is to raise the money directly for war purposes, and to tell the public that that is the purpose for which the money is being obtained. If some of the funds are to be used for social services, the Treasurer should finance them by the same direct means. If the money to finance the extra social services will have to be found by the public after the war, there is no sound financial reason for opening an account which will have no credit balance to it. A final criticism of this bookkeeping stratagem is that there are many social services, running into millions of pounds, which the public owes to a long line of nonLabour governments. These are in fact contributing even now to national welfare. They are to remain a charge on the Consolidated Revenue. But because this Government proposes additions to them, mainly in the dim and distant future, it is claiming the credit now for a national welfare scheme and the creation of a national welfare fund, empty though it be of funds. There is no reason, other than political tactics, for thus drawing a line between the social services already being provided, and those that are proposed but will not be provided for a long time. One can only conclude that the National Welfare Fund is intended to make the public think that this Government is conferring benefits of a specific and unique character on the people, when it is in fact not doing so. Coming in an election year, this proposal can be ‘ described as little better than blatant electioneering propaganda. Every body who has any capacity for discernment and for analysis will realize that the Government has introduced >the proposal to camouflage it3 surrender to the need to tax incomes in the lower range. The Treasurer seriously under-estimated the requirements of war finance last September, when his budget was presented. He admits now that war expenditure in the current year will require at least an extra £100,000,000, or 22 per cent, more than he anticipated. The total is now estimated at £540,000,000, comprising £460,000,000 in Australia and £80,000,000 overseas. It is said that we shall be able to find the overseas expenditure of £80,000,000 from our own balance of payments, but will need to raise more by a special arrangement, in effect, an overdraft, from the Bank of England. The estimate of £540,000,000 which may quite possibly be exceeded - I have little doubt that it will be exceeded - will, however, represent home-provided resources. In relation to a national income of, say, £1,000,000,000, it represents the high proportion of 54 per cent. Thus it appears that Australia is very near to full mobilization, and is making an effort not far short of that of England or Germany, provided the Commonwealth Government is getting full value for the money it is receiving and expending.
The Treasurer claims that the “ intensification of effort is reflected in the rapidly increasing war expenditure “. To a large degree that is true; but the increasing war expenditure is undoubtedly partly attributable to waste, extravagance and inefficiency. There are grave doubts as to the efficiency of governmental expenditure. For a complete war effort, and in fairness to taxpayers, the best possible use must be made of the resources and man-power compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth, by the State governments and by. government instrumentalities. State governments are reported to be spending from revenue over £20,000,000 a year more than before the war. Furthermore, some State governments are showing surpluses, due largely to increased Commonwealth expenditure. I refer particularly to the increased expenditure on transport which benefits the State railway .systems. Men, services and goods are being handled to-day on the. railways by State instrumentalities to the great advantage of the States. It is difficult to imagine that anything like £20,000,000 a year is being spent by the States on the war effort. Yet this additional expenditure can be justified on no other ground. Moreover, treasury-bills outstanding at the end of January this year on behalf of the State governments amounted to £45,700,000. This is a legacy of the depression, and the debt has never been funded. It is imperative, therefore, that, the States should use a portion of their buoyant revenues to repay this debt, and relieve the strain on Commonwealth finance due to the unprecedented increase of treasury-bills to which I shall refer later. I bring this subject to the notice of the Treasurer in good conscience, for undoubtedly action is required in connexion with it, having regard to the methods of finance which the Commonwealth is using.
With regard to the Commonwealth Government, itself, evidence on all sides points to the conclusion that money and man-power are being wasted to a substantial degree, in the huge and complex administrative machinery which has come into being, largely under the authority of the flood of National Security regulations poured out by the present Government. Moreover, man-power and resources are being wasted in private business in an endeavour to cope with the requirements of these onerous and numerous regulations. Dozens of boards have sprung up, and with them have come into being co-ordinators, directors, deputy directors, and their staffs. The many controls, such as those in relation to rationing and limitations of investment, have introduced inspectors and investigators, whose functions overlap in many cases. It is admitted that the war machine had to be built as quickly as possible without a nice regard for complete efficiency. The war machine has now been built, and the time has come for a survey to remove its superfluities. All war experience indicates that waste, extravagance and inefficiencies occur, but every possible step should be taken to limit such undesirable accompaniments to the conflict. Avoidable work and expenditure, in view of the alarming shortage of man-power, is a dangerous inroad on our -potential war effort, and must he ruthlessly curtailed, even though it involves the dissolution of committees, boards or directorates, the personnel of which could be used more efficiently in other directions. If waste be eliminated, a greater war effort does not necessarily involve higher expenditure.
An examination of the AuditorGeneral’s report, whilst revealing appalling instances of waste and extravagance, indicates that many more instances would have come to light except for the extraordinary laxity in the accounting systems of a number of departments. Far too many instances of irregularities and of excessive expenditure have been revealed and the position should be rectified immediately. The ineffectiveness of internal checks of Army accounts is stated to be such that irregular payments of a recurring nature can attain considerable proportions before the errors are revealed. Unfortunately the instances referred to in the Auditor-General’s report are remote from the time of the tabling of the report, so we have little opportunity to deal effectively with the position. In respect of the Defence Clothing Material Trust Account, which records transactions relating to the purchase and issue of materials, the profit or loss has not been ascertained, nor has the value of stock on hand been checked with the control account, since the 30th June, 1939. Apart from very limited supervisory checks, Royal Australian Air Force unit accounts, in many cases, have not been departmentally checked since their inception.
The Auditor-General states that advances to the Manufacture of Munitions Trust Account appear to be abnormal. As expenditure under several headings is not ascertainable, it is not practicable, according to the Auditor-General, to make a conclusive analysis of the finances of the account. These advances amount to the large sum of £44,700,000, of which all but £1,800,000 has been spent, yet the Parliament and the people of this country are to be given no explanation of the method of expenditure of this huge sum, because it is not ascertainable.
The accounts maintained by the airscrew annexe of the Department of Aircraft Production have been described by the Auditor-General as “most unsatisfactory and inaccurate, indicating a lack of supervision and control “.
Where particulars have been available, the Auditor-General has given instances of what he has called “ extraordinary expenditure “. These are -
Members of the Government party, when in opposition, consistently criticized the cost-plus system, and stated that it would be discontinued immediately if they had the power to make a determination with respect to it. Yet, according to the Auditor-General’s report, not only has the system been allowed to continue, but in addition, there has been aggravation of the conditions under it, at the expense of the national resources at a time when the Commonwealth is exerting every effort to finance the war.
Any Australian worthy of the name will deny himself the material things of life in order to further the war effort. If waste and extravagance in the expenditure of public moneys are allowed to continue, much of our sacrifice will be in vain. The war effort falls short because public money is frittered away needlessly, and man-power, of which we are in such desperate need, is wasted.
It is obvious that the full story cannot be told because a complete audit cannot be made of various departmental and trust accounts. Such a state of affairs under present conditions, must not be tolerated. There must be an immediate adjustment in the interests of the taxpayers, the nation, and those who are asked to contribute to loans for the proper financing of the war. The people, through the Parliament, are entitled to demand that every public servant shall render a full account of his stewardship. Otherwise, the obvious inference is that the Government has something to hide with regard to its expenditure of public funds. I sympathize with the Treasurer ; he has to depend upon others for the proper utilization of moneys for which he is responsible.
The matter of financial policy generally is relegated to the end of the Treasurer’s statement. He admits the presence of inflation when he draws attention to the existence of the problem of excess spending power in the hands of the public, and its dangers, namely, (a) that, if unrestrained, it would compete against the Government for man-power and materials, and (b) that it may force a continuous rise of prices. There are also the post-war dangers ; (a) of uncontrolled inflation, if controls are removed; and (b) the undue prolongation of war-time controls.
The Treasurer has stated that the Government has increased taxation very substantially. In 1940-41, he said it was £125,000,000. In the current year, the estimate is approximately £225,000,000; whilst his proposals provide for a further £40,000,000 next year. These figures are not proof of the increase of taxation. In 1940-41 the national income would probably have been less than £900,000,000, whilst in the current year it would probably be in excess of £1,000,000,000. The figures relating to the increased yield of taxation, therefore, show that only the increase of the national income has been collected. Certainly the Government has collected higher and oppressive taxation from the middle and higher income groups; but it has heretofore left the lower income groups with perhaps more net income than they had previously. There will be a flood of purchasing power, with disastrous consequences to the people in the post-war period.
The Treasurer has further stated that the yield from the proposed uniform tax on individuals will be in excess of what would be obtained if the United Kingdom rates were imposed in Australia, and is roughly equal to what would be collected under the combined rates of the United Kingdom for income tax and post-war credits. There is no means of checking the accuracy of this statement. It is, however, one thing to say, as the Treasurer does, that the yield is the same, but quite a different thing to say that the rates are the same. Even under the proposed increased rates, persons on incomes up to £1,500 will be more lightly taxed here than in England; but over that figure they will be much more highly taxed, and will not have the benefit of post-war credits.
The Treasurer next refers topublic loan raisings. But on this thorny subject he is much more cautious than he was in his September budget statement. In September, he said, “ Last year we doubled the receipts from public loans and got £120,000,000. If we double them again we shall get £240,000,000, which will take us a long way on our journey “. In this year, only £83,000,000 has been raised towards the £240,000,000 he expected to raise by next June. Thus we now find him harking hack to a comparison between the loan raisings in 1941-42 and 1940-41, with the weak explanation that “ it is difficult to estimate what further sum will be raised between now and the end of the financial year “.
Absolutely no reference is made to the yield of war saving certificates and national savings bonds. The estimate that £60,000,000 would be raised by this means in the current year, according to the Treasurer’s statement in September last, was equivalent to the “ British rate of contributions to small savings, and with our higher wages should be capable of accomplishment”. Yet on present indications, he will indeed be fortunate if he raises as much as £10,000,000 by this means in the current year, just one-sixth of his estimate.
Supposing a further £100,000,000 is raised by loans before next June, which is doubtful in view of the confusion into which the public has been thrown by the new tax proposals, the position will be approximately as follows : -
In other words, by June a further £190,000,000 odd of treasury-bills will have been discounted by the Commonwealth Bank, in the current year, making the total unfunded debt on account of the Commonwealth around about £300,000,000 as compared with £1,750,000 on the 30th June, 1941. The remarkable increase of treasury-bills, especially this year, shows only too well that the Government is drifting rapidly towards inflation. At the 28th December, 1942, treasury-bills outstanding on behalf of the Commonwealth and States, amounted to £230,220,000. By the 1st February, 1943, they had risen to £2-58,420,000, an increase of over £2S,000,000 in the month. On- the 1st M,arch the total was £292,620,000, a monthly rise of over £34,000.000, whilst on the 22nd March, they had topped the £300,000,000 mark. The exact figure is £306,120,000.
The Treasurer knows this, so he falls back on an argument that the significance of the treasury-bill issue may be exaggerated unless the effect of the Government’s control of banking is fully understood. It is significant that banking was just as severely controlled last September when the Treasurer warned us against inflation. He mentions the fact that the banks have not been allowed to subscribe to loans, and that their excess investible funds have been immobilized. The arrangement for preventing credit expansion, through treasury-bill issues resulting in a secondary expansion of credit, was originally a voluntary arrangement between the banks and the previous Government. Admittedly, a secondary expansion of credit is prevented by this means. Yet it is no safeguard against a primary expansion of credit, which ha3 an inflationary effect under present conditions.
This primary expansion of credit is represented by the hank deposits and notes and coin placed at the disposal of the public by means of the Government spending the money it borrows from the central bank against treasury-bills. Immobilization of the resources of the banks places no control over what the public does with this extra money. The whole purpose of the special war-time deposits will be defeated, if an unduly large primary expansion is permitted. By the end of June, primary expansion through treasury-bills will have reached the dangerous figure of £300,000,000 or more. The Treasurer speciously argues that if banks had been allowed to subscribe to war loans “ we might well have had something like £100,000,000 of loans from the banks in place of a like amount of the present treasury-bill issue “. There is no basis for fixing on this figure, other than guess work.
The Treasurer claims that a considerable part of these banking loans would have represented genuine savings by the public, or banking funds set free by restriction of civil industry. This is incorrect. Between September, 1930, and December, 1942, trading bank advances fell by only £51,400,000, but this decline has been largely offset by an increase of £37,600,000 in Government securities acquired before the operation of the arrangement made by my Government. At the same time treasury-bills held by the trading banks have increased by £44,600,000.
It is quite clear, therefore, that a further £100,000,000 of Government securities bought by the banks would not have been offset by banking funds set free by civil industry. Consequently, the Treasurer is in error in saying that “the volume of treasury-bills cannot therefore be taken as measuring inflationary forces “. The sole basis of his argument is that the present inflationary situation might have been worse, without the special war-time deposits of the banks. This is small comfort to us when we realize that the purchasing power of our £5 note has dwindled to about £4, and is still decreasing.
The Treasurer says that, “ The importance of direct controls cannot be overemphasized. They are essential to neutralize the excess spending power “. Here is a clear and definite admission that the neglect of the financial problem has necessitated more direct controls than otherwise would be needed. Price control also is referred to. The Treasurer fairly claims that the rise of prices has been partly due to rising import and export prices, indirect taxation and decline of production efficiency. But a good deal has been due to excess spending. The Treasurer is partly in error in claiming that prices have risen in Australia in about the same degree as in most other allied countries. The latest figures available to me show that, compared with pre-war prices, the cost of living has increased in New Zealand by 14 per cent, up to October, 1942; in the United Kingdom by 29 per cent, up to September, 1942; in the United States of America by 19 per cent, up to October, 1942 ; in South Africa by 19 per cent, up to July, 1942; and in Australia by 23 per cent, up to December, 1942. This shows that price increases in Australia have been exceeded since the war in only one allied country - namely, the United Kingdom, where special factors, not applicable to Australia, have operated. Since Labour came into office in October, 1941, English prices have remained very steady, whilst in Australia there has been an increase equivalent to the whole of the increase between the beginning of the war and October, 1941. Compared with New Zealand, the Australian figures are much less satisfactory.
As excess spending power accumulates, price control will become more active and positive, the Treasurer claims. Again, there is an acknowledgment that, to offset the neglect of the financial problem, direct controls have had to be extended. “ The Government has also supported price control by the rationing of tea and sugar “.
The Treasurer claims that “ rigid controls over production and distribution “ and price control and rationing have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to spend their net income after paying taxation. He refers to the “unspendable margin.” which can find no outlet other than in contributions to war loans or in idle bank deposits or holdings of notes. It is incorrect to assume that the margin of income, after payment of taxes and subscriptions to loans, is unspendable. [Extension of time granted.] We can see the pressure to buy unrationed goods, the over-crowded trains at weekends, the large picture-show audiences, the rising totalizator receipts. The fact is that the notes and bank deposits which are steadily expanding as the treasury-bill issue rises, are not stationary and unspendable as the Treasurer supposes. They are “ on the wing “ and the velocity of circulation is high. In any case, idle bank deposits and holdings of notes do not help the Treasury to pay the financial price of the war. The Treasurer admitted this very definitely in his September budget when he said -
But whatever direct controls are established for this purpose the excess spending power must be transferred to the Government to pay the fighting forces and for the labour and materials used in producing munitions and war supplies. This is the financial price which must be paid. Whilst relying to a large extent on the voluntary efforts of the people, the Government is resolved that its payments will not be evaded.
These are strong words, but they have not been accompanied by resolute action. The Government has gone no further than to urge people to subscribe to the various forms of borrowing for war purposes. After an extensive campaign, with lavish advertisements appealing to the patriotism of every Australian, only about 15 per cent, of those in receipt of incomes could be persuaded to contribute to the Austerity Loan. No less than 72 per cent, of the total amount subscribed was contributed in sums of over £500. These subscribers are not those on whom income tax falls lightly, nor are they the persons whose incomes have shown the greatest proportionate expansion because of the war. The most important and disquieting fact is that 85 per cent, of people in receipt of incomes did not bother to become subscribers. The only conclusion is that more than eight persons out of every ten, or the overwhelming majority of those receiving incomes, are determined to take as much as possible of the nation’s limited and dwindling resources for themselves, irrespective of what happens to the war effort. These results are a damning indictment of the Government, which has pledged its adherence to the voluntary system.
The failure of its voluntary loans policy has driven the Government to the dangerous alternative of credit expansion or inflation. Credit expansion is a crude and unjust substitute for taxation and borrowing, which ultimately lead to the avoidance of the civilian use of real resources. It is from these real resources alone that armed strength can be produced. The Government is attempting to acquire them by the expedient of credit expansion, yet it has not been very successful in preventing the private citizen from demanding them for himself. . The result is competition between the Government, with newly-created money, and the private citizen, with excess spending power which he has refused to give up voluntarily, to acquire the use of the same resources. We have the sorry spectacle of a gigantic auction sale, with the Government trying to outbid the private citizen for the resources which are desperately needed for war. The results are that prices sky-rocket, the cost of living bcomes higher and higher, and the Government must create more and more new money. The Treasurer has not said one word about assistance to the primary industries, which comprise, in the final analysis, the foundations of the real wealth of this country. War conditions, unsympathetic man-power policy, and returns less than the actual cost of production have caused havoc in most of the primary industries. Their rehabilitation, both as a war-time necessity and as an essential in post-war conditions, is a problem of first priority, which should have received the Treasurer’s consideration in a statement of this nature.
The refusal to hold out any promise of an amelioration of the conditions prevailing in the primary industries indicates only too clearly that in its financial policy the Government has deliberately chosen the line of least political resistance. Its post-war policy lays too much stress upon improved methods of distributing production more equitably, whilst ignoring the fundamental necessity of planning for expanding and increasing production. It has placed the political considerations of its supporters first in the financial policy which has been pursued over the past eighteen months. The Labour Government has failed to give a courageous lead to the nation in its financial measures. Its members are the elected trustees of the people of Australia. In my opinion, they have failed faithfully to execute that trust. At a later stage my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who, by virtue of his recent visit to the United Kingdom and the United States of America, has had considerable experience with the manner in which both Great Britain and the United States of America have dealt with the food problem in all its aspects, intends to move an amendment to the motion for the printing of the financial statement. This proposed amendment will suggest methods whereby further inflation can be prevented by stabilization, control and rationing in accordance with methods which have proved successful in the countries which he visited.
.- I propose to take advantage of this debate to raise a matter not connected with the subject-matter of the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). A great deal has been said, inside and outside this chamber, about the effect of disputes in the coal-mining industry on not only the output of coal in Australia but also the feelings of people in countries which are allied with us. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in his speech ma<ie a great point about the resentment that would be felt by people in allied countries against the. Commonwealth Government because it was impotent or unwilling to put down coal strikes. They, on his hypothesis, are not affected by such strikes, but, in fact, all the allied countries are afflicted with the same problem and with the same difficulty in dealing with it. The problem is not easy. It is very easy to say that men may be forced to work. Men may be compelled to work, but they cannot be compelled to maintain production. There is always the problem of the withholding of production and the diminution of output, and the unscrupulous may even sabotage works . by destruction or by impairing machining necessary to production. The Government cannot compel production by recourse to legislation. Economic Problems of War, published in 1942, is an American collection of essays on war production. It is very instructive, because it compares the production of coal in Germany and Great Britain during the last war. Honorable members will recall the bitter criticism that was levelled against coalminers in Great Britain for the repeated strikes. The essay states -
The output per shift in the German coalmines fell about 30 per cent, between 1015 and ISIS. A similar comparison of the British mines in the same period was less striking.
That is a very important fact. With all the repressive power possessed by the German Government and, no doubt, exerted over the workers, it was unable to prevent the output of coal from falling by 30 per cent, during those three years of the war. That decline of production was substantially greater than that which occurred in Great Britain, where coal strikes were not infrequent.
I have taken some trouble to make a comparison of the position in the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand. To-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) referred to troubles in the American coal-mines and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. ‘ Archie Cameron) not unreasonably commented that Aim erica was not exposed to invasion. Whatever may be said about the United States of America or Canada in that regard cannot be said of Great Britain or New Zealand. Their position is still as dangerous and precarious as our own. In fact, New Zealand’s position is in no way distinguishable from our own. In January, a great strike, which lasted for 24 days, occurred in the anthracite, or hard coal, mines in Pennsylvania. About 15,000 men went on strike, against the advice of their union. As a matter of fact, they were striking against a practice which the employees had adopted, in conjunction with the union officials, of collecting union dues from their wages against their will. The important fact is that they went on strike against the advice of the union and of delegates’ meetings, and the threat that the Army would be used against them. After investigating the circumstances, the National Labour Relations Board directed the men, under threats of penalty, to return to work. Those threats had no effect. Then the President himself intervened and, although he half -persuaded, half -commanded the men to return to the, mines, not all of them obeyed. It was not until nearly three weeks had elapsed that 2,000 of the men returned to work. While they were on strike, they took a secret ballot for the purpose of deciding whether they would resume production, and the decision of the secret ballot was adverse to their return to work. If honorable members wish to pursue these facts, they will find them in the American newspapers of last January. A valuable summary of the story of the strike was published in the New York Times on the 14th January. The strike was illegal, but that fact did not deter the- men.
Although some of the provincial legislatures may have acted differently, the Dominion of Canada has never made strikes illegal. But the dominion has an important industrial law which has been adopted by most of the provinces. Passed in 1906, it was held by the Privy Council in 1931 to be unconstitutional. But so valuable had been the act that the parliaments of the dominion and of the provinces concurred in re-enacting it under their joint powers. Although the act does not declare strikes illegal, it provides that no strike or lock-out shall be commenced until 30 days’ notice of the intention to commence it has been given. Within those 30 days a government board investigates the matter. Employers and employees are represented on that body, and the result of the inquiry is published. The idea is that public opinion will then operate upon both parties. That act has had a great measure of success. Notwithstanding that, strikes have occurred in the coal-mining industry of Canada, though they have always been fewer than the strikes in the Australian industry. The Canadian Labour Gazette discloses- that in May, 1942, six strikes occurred, affecting 1,718 men. In June, there were no strikes. In July, eight strikes occurred, affecting 4,633 men. Ten strikes were reported in August, involving 7,152 men, but only one strike occurred in September, affecting 61 men. In October, there were seven strikes, involving 3,290 men. The coal-mining industry of Canada is not so important as is the coal-mining industry of Australia, but that record may be regarded as a tribute to the efficacy of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act of Canada. The fact that fewer, strikes have occurred in war-time in the dominion, compared with Australia, is largely due to the approach of the Canadian Executive and the Canadian Legislature to the problem.
Last year, a strike occurred at the coalmine in Betteshanger, in Kent. From this village, the rumble of German guns in France can be heard. The strike, which lasted for nineteen days, arose from a reduction of the miners’ pay for piece-work. Against the advice of their union, the men laid down their tools. At a secret ballot, the miners voted for the continuance of the strike, although it was illegal. Three of the leaders were sent to gaol, and summonses were pending against 28 other individuals who had taken part in the stoppage. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) advocates, as a solution of the problem of strikes in industry in war-time, the formation of a national government with the determination and capacity to enforce the law without fear of the electoral consequences. In Great Britain, the National Government intervened in the strike, and, after nineteen days, the Minister for Mines was able to effect a settlement. The management was obliged to yield all along the line. On some of the points, the management gave way fairly generously, but on other points, it was forced to give way. The management* abandoned .the prosecution of the 28 men, agreed to the release of the. three men who had been imprisoned, and consented to pay the men their wages for the time that they had been on strike, and to increase the rates for shift-work.
I have a book entitled People in Production, which is a report prepared by Mass-observation for the Advertising Service Guild. What I have said is largely a summary of what appears on pages 337-41. In New Zealand there was a coal strike in the Huntly district which involved 1,300 men who struck (because of what they regarded as a reduction of wages. The Government of New
Zealand has promulgated some vigorous anti-strike regulations, and the union leaders there talked to the men on strike in the way that the coal-miners have been talked to in Australia. Mr. Semple’s language, in addressing the men, was reminiscent of certain remarks that have been made on this side of the chamber. He said -
The strikers had ignored the facts, violated every principle of unionism, ignored the request of their own organization - the Mineworkers Federation - as well as the appeal of the Federation of Labour. By doing .this they had placed themselves outside the pale of unionism, played into the hands of the Japanese, and treated the Government’s appeal to reason with contempt … I am convinced in my own mind, knowing the miners of this country as I do, that they will not condone this stoppage of war production. Many of them have sons fighting overseas. It is the work of a handful of wreckers who are the enemies of this country and who are playing the game of the enemy.
Nevertheless, the men remained on strike for about three weeks. In New Zealand there is a domestic cabinet, consisting of Labour members only, which deals with domestic affairs, and also a War Cabinet, including a minority of representatives of the Opposition, which deals with the war. It was immediately said, “ This is a subject for us to ‘ wheel up ‘ to the War Cabinet “. That was done. Two Opposition members of the War Cabinet, Mr. Coates and Mr. Hamilton, were not in favour of enforcing the law and they supported the attitude of the Labour Ministers. They said, “ We want coal, and it is of no use for us to put 1,300 men in gaol”. At that time 192 men had been prosecuted, and 186 of them had been ordered terms of imprisonment. Yet the strike continued. The War Cabinet decided to establish public control of the mines in the Waikato district. A board was appointed consisting of the Minister for Mines, as chairman, and four representatives each of the employers and the employees. The representatives were not selected by the employers and employees; the parties were invited to submit a panel of names and the Government made the choice. Subsequently, Mr. Holland, the Leader of the Opposition, and Mr. Forbes, a former Prime Minister of the dominion resigned from the War Cabinet, and later Mr. Holland submitted a motion of want of confidence in the Government. The debate thereon is recorded in New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, No. 5, covering the period the 14th October to the 19th October, 1942. Some members of the Opposition sided with the Government and took the stand that the essential thing at that time was the production of coal, not the imprisonment of 1,300 coal-miners. The motion was defeated. I make these remarks to dispel the impression popularly held that Australia is an oasis of strikes in a world of industrial peace. The fact is that both Great Britain and New Zealand have Strike problems. I could give other instances of strikes in each country, but I have referred to the position in the coalmining industry because this is a vital industry.
The experience of countries which have passed anti-strike legislation is that it has not been effective in preventing Strikes. Anti-strike legislation was on the statute-book of New South Wales for many years, but it has been repealed, except to this degree, that strikes are illegal unless a secret ballot has been taken. The Government of Queensland attempted to make strikes illegal years ago, but the law of that State to-day is similar to the law of New South Wales. The Commonwealth Parliament repealed its anti-strike legislation in 1930 and New Zealand has also repealed its antistrike legislation. The workers of Great Britain have always resisted anti-strike legislation, even when it was proposed to them in the guise of conciliation and arbitration. The workers of the United States of America have acted similarly.
Clearly, there is something wrong in the coal-mining industry, but the trouble will not be remedied or removed by threats. At the moment I shall not discuss ways and means of removing it except to say that the method which this Government is adopting will not achieve the desired end. A government is foolish to make threats unless it has the courage to give effect to its threats. I do not believe that under a democracy, with the party system in operation, any government would have the courage to give effect to its threats. As long ago as 1909, when Mr. Charles Gregory Wade was Premier of New South Wales, a coal strike occurred which was tre- mendously unpopular. The Wade Government took a strong stand, but the people of Sydney, and of the State generally, were affronted by the imprisonment, in irons, of the leaders of the coalminers. The result was that at the next election the Labour party, which had never previously held office in New South Wales, was returned to power and the Wade Government was defeated. I do not believe that, under the party system of government, any government would be able to repress strikes by threats of imprisonment. I do not believe that any government would have the courage to give effect to such threats. A government which is not prepared to give effect to its threats should not make threats. A different approach to this problem is needed.
I do not desire to make a long speech to-day, nor do I wish to bring into my speech any matter that is extraneous to the achievement of my real object, which is to show that the problem that besets Australia is not different from the problem of other countries. We shall not solve this problem by establishing a national government. That has been done in Great Britain, but it has not stopped strikes. It has also been done in New Zealand, but it has not stopped strikes. The problem will not be solved by making provision for the holding of secret ballots. That method has also been tried in Great Britain and New Zealand without success. The problem will not be solved by issuing regulations against striking or, by imprisoning men who will not remain at work.
– Has the honorable gentleman any constructive suggestions?
– I cannot offer the Government any suggestion which will ensure industrial peace in the coalmining districts. This industry ‘ has a long history and a peculiar psychology. It is an industry in which class war is the rule. The first big strikes in Australia occurred in the coal-mining industry. In this industry, if the employers are resting from the attack the employees will attack; and, if the employees are resting’ from the attack they know very well that the employers will shortly make an attack. If one side is quiescent, the other side will be preparing for the assault. The frontiers arc always patrolled on each side. That state of affairs can operate in a large-scale industry, but it is not likely to be so apparent in small-scale industries. Moreover, piece-work conditions apply in the coal-mining industry and the coal-miners know that if the coal be not gotten to-day, it can be gotten to-morrow. One of the discreditable features of the coal strikes is that the leaders of the coal-miners, who are not able to control the members of their organizations, tell the men that they are doing wrong in striking. That cannot be said of any other industry. A parallel case would be: Ministers occupying the front Government bench and their supporters occupying the Opposition benches. Men who constantly say that their constituents are doing wrong, yet cannot persuade them to do right, should give to them the alternative of accepting either the advice or the resignation of their officials. The men in the coalmining industry have come to distrust advice that is given to them by officials. In the light of the revelations that were made in this House not so long ago, one can understand that tendency.
– Those revelations had a damaging effect.
– A very damaging effect, indeed. Neither I nor any other honorable member can submit a proposal that would ensure peace in the industry. I am certain that peace cannot bo produced by the means that have so far been adopted. If the Government continues to threaten that it will introduce more vigorous legislation against all coal-miners, it cannot allow the matter to rest there but must enforce the threat. I do not believe that it is possible in a democratic country, governed on the party system, to enforce the threat; nor would it be long possible to enforce it under a national government.
.- Before Parliament goes into recess, as it will within a day or so, I wish to place on record my protest against the complete failure of the Government, during this sessional period, to deal with the drift that is occurring in the financial position. I do not propose to repeat the figures that have been given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) this afternoon, or to add to his masterly analysis of the financial position; they are on record, and speak for themselves. The right honorable gentleman placed on the Government full responsibility for a financial position that is unprecedented in the history of this country, and for inactivity in dealing with it. This sessional period has been devoted very largely to finance, although certain major legislation, of a non-financial character has also been dealt with. It has followed the financial sittings of September and October, 1942, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has taken the opportunity to bring his financial statements up to date. The. honorable gentleman was obliged to tell the House that since he presented his last financial statement the expenditure had increased at the rate of £100,000,000 per annum, and that the forecasts which he made last September had proved quite unreliable. He has brought to this House only one proposal as a contribution towards the relief of the position - a taxation measure which, as from the 1st April next, will result in the collection of an additional £40,000,000 per annum. On the other hand, he has been obliged to announce an increased rate of expenditure, which he did not forecast last September, which will aggregate £100,000,000 per annum. From the trend of expenditure and the widening gap between it and revenue, it is quite evident that, in the financial year which commences on the 1st July next, Australia will face a much more difficultsituation than that which now confronts it. One could have expected that a government which realized the responsibilities of the present situation, and was confronted with an ever-increasing rate of expenditure, would have brought to this House constructive proposals indicating that at least it was grappling with the position and had it properly in hand. But the Government has failed completely to give to the nation any indication that it has in view proposals which would help Australia over the balance of the year 1943. This House may not meet for a considerable time for the purpose of considering finance. I do not prophesy when it may meet; within a month or two it may have to consider matters relating to the war.
But one is justified in assuming that it will not again meet for some months, for the purpose of considering finance. In the situation that already exists, if there he a drift for a period of months similar to that which has occurred during the last few months, it may prove catastrophic to Australia. The Treasurer has been silent ; he has not offered any solution, or given any indication of how he intends to deal with the situation. The responsibility rests with the Government, and it must carry the full burden of whatever -state of affairs may arise in the future. I shall give only a few figures, because the Leader of the Opposition has dealt in detail with the finances, and has constructively handled the statements of accounts. I prepared my figures a few weeks ago. They bring the position up to the 28th February last, which is a comparatively recent date. Since the 1st December, 1941, when Japan- entered the war, the treasury-bill issue has been increased by £193,000,000, and the notes in circulation by £43,000,000. The total issue of new money, through the medium of the discount of treasury-bills and notes in circulation, has been £237,400,000. I am aware that not all that new money remains in circulation, and that some of it has been returned to the resources of the Government or the Central Bank. And so I deducted the increase of savings bank deposits in that period, namely, £61,000,000. I also deducted the amount of the deposits made by trading banks with the Central Bank - another £71,000,000, making a total of £132,000,000. Thus, the net increase of the amount of new money issued over a period of fifteen months is nearly £106,000,000. Having regard to the estimated expenditure for the remainder of the financial year, it is evident that the issue of new money will amount to £150,000,000 before the 30th June next. At that point, the Treasury will begin a new financial year. It will start again on another hectic period such as the one that is now drawing to a close, with expenditure still increasing. I have no criticism to offer regarding expenditure which is necessary for the war effort, but I cannot escape the feeling that the Government has lost control over the details of expenditure. It has failed to set up administrative machinery for the effective control of the expenditure of the many millions of pounds that are being poured out. The Government must accept the responsibility for its failure in this regard. It is evident that the position will not improve during the coming financial year ; rather will it become worse. It is vitally necessary that the Government should now organize methods of administration to keep check on the money that must, of necessity, be expended in the future. The situation has developed in a way which the Government did not imagine possible in September last. If it could not foresee what was likely to arise during the present financial year, it will be in no better position to foresee what may develop during the coming year. One reason why the Government is losing control of expenditure is that costs are rising all the time. The ever rising spiral of costs is reflected in Government expenditure on materials necessary for the prosecution of the war. Everything needed for the troops, and by the fighting services generally, bears the increased cost, and that will continue for so long as the Government fails to control the net issue of new money in circulation. Shortly after the present Government assumed office, I remarked to the Treasurer that it had been a feature of Labour in office during the last fifteen years that it had fallen down in finance, both in the Commonwealth and the State spheres, and I expressed the hope that the present Government would be an exception. It is well known that I have a high personal regard for the Treasurer. However, this Government is going the same way as other Labour governments have gone during the last fifteen years. Honorable members may ask what courses are open to the Government? What can it do to improve the position? The responsibility in that respect rests on the Government. It should offer constructive suggestions to Parliament.
The Government has not shown any indication that it is prepared to control rising expenditure by State Governments, and that is a serious matter. State Governments are a part of the legislative and administrative machinery of Australia, just as is the Commonwealth Government. Nevertheless, expenditure by State Governments is increasing by millions of pounds, and, as far as I know, no effort is being made by the Commonwealth Government to prevent it. If there are constitutional difficulties in the way, let the Government say so. At the very least, the Government can make a public protest against increased expenditure by the States. It can demand that expenditure be reduced, so that the money may he available for expenditure by the central Government on the war effort.
Sometime last year, a regulation was gazetted providing that, for the purposes of the Commonwealth Land Tax, land valuations should be pegged at the figure at which they stood on the 30th June, 1939. It was explained that this would prevent values from rising, and would also save man-power in making valuations. Some protests regarding minor aspects of the regulation were made from this side of the House, but eventually it came into operation. In New South Wales, however, the same procedure has not been followed. There, the administration carries on just as if the Commonwealth had not asked that land values be pegged. Yesterday, there was sent to me a set of notices which indicated that the Valuer-General is continuing to re-value land, and shire councils are striking rates based upon increased values. Thus, money which should be coming to the Commonwealth Government for war purposes will have to be paid to shire councils which do not need it. Their obligations have not increased ; rather should they have been reduced. This experience is probably fairly general throughout New South Wales and throughout other States as well. It is a clear indication of the lack of any serious attempt by the Commonwealth Government to regulate finance except in regard to its own immediate affairs. There has been no serious effort to deal with finances outside the control of the Commonwealth Treasury. Several times in recent months, I have asked the Treasurer to take steps to prevent the Government of New South Wales from imposing a new land tax in that State. Why it should need to impose a land tax passes my comprehension, because the interim accounts of the State show that it has a surplus of some millions of pounds. The new tax will take from people money that they would otherwise be able to subscribe to Commonwealth loans. I wonder whether it is because Labour is in power in New South Wales that the Commonwealth Government is allowing it to go ahead with a policy which is a contradiction of the policy laid down by this Parliament and this Government. The Government should use all its powers to insist that it shall be the agent through which State finances shall pass. I have heard of no attempt to compel statutory bodies to economize. If we lack the constitutional power to do so, we should be told.
– I think that under our defence powers we could impose restrictions upon statutory bodies. The relationship between what they are doing and the war effort is very obvious.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman. Our war powers are so wide that I find it difficult to imagine that it is impossible to prevent statutory bodies from expending their revenues, except in conformity with the general financial policy of the nation. Time and time again I have unavailingly urged upon the Government the necessity to impose a system of post-war credits or compulsory loans, not only on individuals, but also on public and private companies. I know also that many public and private companies are holding large sums in reserve against taxes which will be paid next financial year or the year after, because they cannot get their assessments of tax on undistributed profits. Because the Taxation Department is unable to find time to issue assessments, hundreds of thousands of pounds, perhaps millions of pounds, which, this Government badly needs, is held up. Meanwhile, central bank credit is being used to finance the nation to such a degree that we are in danger of serious inflation. The Commonwealth Government is the only authority with responsibility, and it must accept that responsibility. Let it produce plans that are more constructive than the mere levying of taxes and the raising of revenue. Originality is needed. The Government should get away from the stereotyped methods of balancing cashbooks and show the country that it can make a serious attempt to deal with the problems that confront it. Otherwise, we shall reach a deplorable situation. If there were any hope of an improvement next financial year, I should not mind letting things continue as they are now; but no one could even suggest that there will be anything other than a further deterioration after the 1st July next. Our expenditure must rise as this war progresses. We have pyramided expenditure. New organizations have been set up. I do not criticize those organizations or question the need for them. But I do remind the Treasurer of the remarks of the Auditor-General. Individual economies may not seem great, but when the instances of needless expenditure are multiplied, one can see how serious might be the ultimate effect on the finances. It is the Government’s responsibility to take steps to ensure that all expenditure shall be supervised. It must find men with the knowledge and experience to be able to ensure that money shall be properly expended. I have said these things because the session is drawing to a close. We have been here for nine weeks; but we have not heard one suggestion about finance from the Government except the proposal to impose £40,000,000 of new income tax annually. That is all right, so fa)- as it goes. We had a disagreement a.s to the method and the machinery, but we did not disagree on the principle. But, beyond that, the Government has done nothing to face a financial situation unprecedented in the history of this country.
.- In his financial statement, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) envisaged, amongst other things, the National Welfare Fund, which I am pleased to say has now become law, despite the attempts that were made to frustrate it.
-wei,!.. - It had a narrow escape.
– Yes. The Opposition seemed to desire to bring down the Government and send it to the country on that issue. Now that the scheme has’ become law, it is incumbent upon us to consider how it will be carried out and the benefits that will be introduced from time to time. The Treasurer has forecast unemployment insurance as one benefit. That will apply mostly to the post-war period. But that is treating effects, and ignoring causes. I hope that we shall grapple with the problem of preventing unemployment. We must evolve a method by which industry will be able to change over from war-time to peace-time production. I know that the workers and managers in many munitions industries are seriously concerned about the fact that no plan has been brought into operation or forecast to provide for an immediate change-over from wa.–time conditions to peace-time conditions. If the war were to end suddenly there would be chaos in industry. When the members of the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force marched down Martin-place, Sydney, before embarkation, they were a very earnest lot of men who desired to clean up the mess overseas that remained after the last war. They have trusted us to ensure that the internal mess in Australia will be tidied, and that after victory, the country will be placed on. a different basis from that which was established after the last war. In its plan for post-war reconstruction, the Government should give early consideration to the problem of reconverting industries from war-time to peace-time production. Rather than provide funds for unemployment benefits, the Government should adopt a slogan, “jobs for all “. Instead of men walking the streets in search of work, positions should be waiting for them. For workers in industry, social security should be provided.
The Treasurer should introduce a superannuation scheme for industries generally. In this matter, he should study the example of New Zealand. Many industries are well able to make financial provision for employees on reaching the age of retirement. One honorable member opposite declared that the profits, which industry is now making, are too small to permit of the establishment of such a scheme. I have taken, at random, statistics that bear out the truth of my contention. For example, Carreras Limited, cigarette manufacturers, of Melbourne, has the following financial record, despite the war and increased taxation: -
Although Carreras Limited paid those large dividends, its reserves increased from £98,229 in 1939 to £155,097 in 1942. Its reserves in 19i3’2, in the depth of the depression, were £37,242. That business is becoming more and more solid and stabilized, and obviously some of its reserves could be applied to the financing of a superannuation fund for its employees.
Broken Hill South Limited, of which Sir Colin Fraser is the chairman, is also in a happy position, as the following table indicates: -
Its reserves increased from £2,071,400 in 1938 to £2,6S8,879 in 1942, despite the fact that it paid those substantial dividends and increased war-time taxation.
The South British Insurance Company paid the following dividends: -
Its reserves were increased from £2,723,974 in 1939 by “ unexplained additions” amounting to £532,000, making a total of £3,256,711. Last year, the reserve was £3,956,492.
I obtained the following information regarding Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, of which Sir Ernest Fisk is chairman: -
In the period .1939-42 its reserves increased from £316,418 to £424,568. Felt and Textiles of Australia, of which Sir Walter Massy-Greene is chairman, paid a dividend of 6 per cent, on preference shares in 1939, and 10 per cent, on ordinary shares. In each year of the war, it has paid a dividend of 10 per cent., and despite war-time taxation its reserves have increased from £3,505 in 1939 to £232,459 last year.
– And members of the Opposition talk of equality of sacrifice !
– Their attitude is incomprehensible. Carlton and United Breweries Limited, of which Sir Stephen Morell is chairman, paid in 1939 a dividend of 12$ per cent., and has continued to pay that rate in succeeding years on a paid-up capital of nearly £3,000,000, whilst its reserves increased from £810,424 in 1938 to £1,180,174 last year.
Tooth and Company Limited paid dividends of 12 per cent, in each year from 1939 to 1942, and its reserves increased from £1,344,982 to £1,556,999. The Herald and Weekly Times, of which Sir Keith Murdoch is chairman and managing editor, does not appear to have been affected by the war. Its employees will be interested to learn that this company is well able to make provision for members of its staff on their retirement. In 1939 the company paid a dividend of 6^ per cent, on ‘preference shares and 14 per cent, on ordinary shares. In succeeding years, it has continued to pay a dividend of 14 per cent., and its reserves increased from £250,293 to £295,414. Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited paid in 1939 a dividend of 15 per cent., in 1940 a dividend of 14 per cent., and in 1942 a dividend of 9 per cent. At the same time, its reserves increased from £661,000 to £740,000.
Last year the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited paid a dividend of 6J per cent, on share capital, the . greater part of which had already been “ watered “, whilst its reserves and undistributed profits rose to £4,286,000. That is conclusive evidence that these big companies have made continuous and increasing profits during the war and are in an excellent position to provide superannuation benefits for their employees. Whilst it is contended that some of the shareholders have to pay income tax on their dividends, that money i3 unearned increment. If it is good enough for companies to pay high dividends to those who receive the unearned increment, it is good enough for the companies to make provision for the workers in industry. The Treasurer, in order to make the national welfare scheme worth while to the people, should compel the companies to pay a portion of their surplus profits into the fund so that workers on their retirement may receive some measure of social security.
Unfortunately, I have to admit from my own observations that criticism of war expenditure, waste and inefficiency is often justified. While I have been a member of this House, the greater part of our time has been occupied in deciding how money shall be raised, and how much we shall raise. Apparently it is nobody’s business to find out how the money is being spent. We might apply to the situation the old saying, “ Everybody’s business is nobody’s business “. It is extraordinary that no authority has been appointed to keep a continuous check upon war expenditure. Reports made by the Auditor-General on the subject, covering the period of each financial year, are not of much use, because they come before us after the damage has been done. We should not be content to lock the stable door after the horse has gone. There is merit in the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) that the Public Accounts Committee should be revived. An authority directly answerable to Parliament should be charged with responsibility in this matter. I understand that Mr. E. V. Nixon, of Melbourne, is required to approve of a good deal of the war expenditure before commitments are made; and I have been told that he is a most competent gentleman. He was associated with very many big business concerns prior to the Avar. I do not know if he is still connected with them.
– He is; he is making the’ best of all possible worlds.
– It is clear that he cannot cope with the work. I consider that the Joint Committee on War Ex penditure, or the Public Accounts Committee, should be required to function in this regard. More authority could be given also to the Boards of Area Management. I was a member of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure for only a few weeks, until other duties made it impossible to continue the work, but even in the short while that I was associated with the committee it made submissions to the Government which caused one big enterprise to refund £100,000 and another to refund £48,000 to the Government. Since that time the committee has also proved ito be a valuable watch dog. In relation to certain Army stores at one centre it was able to save the country about £500,000. Unfortunately, the Joint Committee on War Expenditure is not able to give consistent attention to its investigations, for its activities are interrupted by the sittings of the Parliament. The members also have duties to discharge to their constituents. While I was assisting a Minister, I found it impossible to attend the meetings of the committee. Yet, it is essential that such a body shall devote unremitting attention to this important subject.
Certain of our war industries are not being operated on a proper basis. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, for example, which has large aircraft works at Lidcombe, New South Wales, on which the Government has expended about £3,000,000 in plant, stock and working costs, is operating under an unsatisfactory arrangement. No agreement has yet been completed in relation to the Lidcombe works, although they have been in operation for more than two years. If such a thins; occurred in private industry, and the company ever had to appear before the Bankruptcy Court some caustic comments would be made. It is essential that enterprises operating under government authority and expending public funds shall be subject to prescribed conditions and shall keep proper records. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and it seems as though the Government has not been able to reach an agreement in connexion with it.
– Is not that due to red tape and bureaucratic methods?
– I do not know. I have been trying for two years to discover why an agreement has not been made, and all I have been told is that an agreement is being negotiated. The situation is entirely unsatisfactory, and if the management of that concern will not agree to reasonable conditions, the Government should take over the plant and operate it .on its own conditions.
– At least for the duration of the war.
– Yes, and for longer, in my view. I do not desire to see such industries closed down after the war.
Lend-lease arrangements should also be inquired into by a properly constituted authority. When I was inspecting a factory in my district some little time ago, the manager pointed to a secondhand lathe lying in the corner with a heap of junk that had been imported from the United States of America under lend-lease arrangements. He told me the price of the lathe was £750, although it is not worth £100. Many lathes as good as that one are being manufactured in this country for half the price asked for it. We are not in a position to dictate terms in relation to lend-lease, but it must be remembered that we may be required, after the war, to pay in cash or kind for the goods we receive. The Public Accounts Committee would be an appropriate body to deal with this subject.
Many of our war factories are being worked on an unsatisfactory basis. Waste and inefficiency are the order of the day in some factories and the workers are becoming fretful. They are required to “ stand by “ so frequently that they consider that they are being paid what amounts to “appearance money”. The lack of co-ordination is bewildering to them, but there is nothing that they can do about it.
– Do they attend work every day?
– Yes, but they frequently have to stand about with nothing to do. I consider that a director of production should be appointed in accordance with the practice in the United
Kingdom and the United States of America. In that way we should be able to ensure proper, co-ordination of productive operations. The Minister for Lands in the Labour Government of New South Wales, Mr. Tully, had something to say on this subject recently as the following newspaper report indicates : -
” War factories at three country centres were practically at a standstill last week “, the Minister for Lands, Mr. Tully, said last night. “ At one factory, the rate of production was extremely disappointing and employment was at a minimum “, he added. “ Something appears to be wrong with the management of munitions works “, said Mr. Tully. “ At one factory, employing 130’ men, there was no reason why 700 to 800 men should not be employed. This factory has an excellent plant and is capable of a large output. The works were erected about a year ago. The federal authorities should explain why so few men are employed and why the works are not going ahead.” Mr. Tully said he had protested to munitions officials in Sydney to put the work into full production, but so far had received no satisfactory reply to his request.
The Minister for Munitions, in reply, pointed out that his department was dependent upon orders and priorities from other departments. There would seem to be a bottleneck there. At about the time when this Government assumed office, the Clyde Engineering Works in my electorate had to close down a portion of its plant for three months, although it had been making trench mortars, which are a vital need of our fighting services. When it had completed an order for approximately 1,500, an order for a further quantity was not given by the Army authorities to the Department of Munitions. Some of its employees went to other establishments, and others had to be kept employed on odd jobs. Members of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure will recall that I accompanied them on an inspection of the plant. Finally, further orders were given. Any one associated with industry knows that plant cannot remain idle awaiting orders from service departments. This firm was producing 100 trench mortars a week. When it had to make a fresh start later, several months elapsed before it had worked up to its previous output. The manager of another works informed me, when I telephoned him. in order to learn the reason for the dismissal of certain employees whose engagement I had been instrumental in securing, that it “could not operate fully because of lack of orders. It is a large concern. Shortly after the NewYear, it put off 250 men and women because it was awaiting orders from Melbourne. There must be a bottleneck in Melbourne, in connexion with the granting of orders. Apart from the effect on our war effort, the practice is uneconomic. I communicated with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Munitions by urgent telegram, and the following reply was sent by the Minister for Munitions through the Prime Minister : -
I desire to refer to the telegram dated 7th January, which you received from Mr. Charles Morgan, M.P., in which he draws attention to several industries in Sydney said to have insufficient war requirement orders to enable their capacity to be fully utilized. As Mr. Morgan has not specified any organizations, detailed inquiries cannot be made. However, as clearly indicated in your press statement published on the 18th inst., the stage has been reached where the success achieved in our production programme, combined with importations from abroad, and the fact that the munitions consumption has not reached the quantity anticipated, has brought about a position where demands are not being submitted on the scale of two years ago.
As you are aware, my department is dependent upon the Fighting Services for orders, and we can place only sufficient work to cover their requirements. When the quantity of any particular item, as prescribed by the appropriate authority, has been produced, this departmenthas no authority to place further orders, merely for the sake of keeping the workshop or factory in work. Every endeavour is made to change over to the production of other requirements, but, if this is not practicable, the labour involved must be absorbed in some other national activity.
That would be sound reasoning if the Army did not need to place further orders. Apparently, some of the service departments, not having an understanding of the conditions of industry, obtain their requirements in lots, and expect the establishments to be kept going in the meantime. The same thing happened at the Clyde Engineering “Works, after it had made a number of collapsible boats.
– The work was held up. The department called for tenders, although only the Clyde Engineering
Works and General Motors-Holdens were making the boats. I understand that these two concerns are now fulfilling requirements. Meanwhile, production ceased for three months, the plant of the Clyde Engineering Works lay idle, and its employees had to be engaged on whatever other work could be found for them. This is an illustration of lack of coordination. I urge the Prime Minister to consider the setting up of a board of production, or the appointment of a director, to co-ordinate production, in order that manufacturing concerns may be kept working to their full productive capacity. I cannot conceive why we should not emulate the example of the United States of America. Who can say what our requirements of any item are likely to be? It would he better to have a surplus than to be caught with too little in the event of an invasion. Even if our own requirements were met, surely, subject to shipping arrangements, further quantities could be produced for our Allies, particularly China and India !
There is no doubt that there is something radically wrong with certain industries, particularly the coal-mining industry. One cannot shut one’s eyes to what is happening. The position cannot be met merely by prosecuting the workers. I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). Sentencing workers to imprisonment will not promote production. We have to get down to the root cause of the trouble, and endeavour to devise constructive means to cope with the situation. On the one hand, the workers accuse the owners and managers of disruptive tactics, and on the other hand they are themselves accused of adopting “go-slow” methods. The subject has been dealt with in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, as follows : -
Foundry Slackers Loaf on Jobs.
Managers of. some Sydney foundries and factories said yesterday that go-slow tactics are drugging production of essential war materials.
Production rate has dropped by half in places.
Report Man-power Interference.
Employers have given up trying to discipline slackers. They have found if they sack a man a work stoppage results, or they are ordered to reinstate the man by man-power authorities.
The unions, they say, discipline not the slacker but the conscientious or industrious worker who tries to give a greater output.
The rate of production is determined by the men themselves and none dares to exceed it, even where he could double the output.
That is what the owners say. Let us now consider the views of the men. The Ironworker for January, 1943, published the following: -
MANAGER’S ATTITUDE LEADS TO STRIKE.
Friction over conditions and management dilatoriness in improving them led to two stoppages, and is causing threats of disputes in another.
For some time now the unions and their members have experienced considerable difficulty in dealing with the management of Purcell Engineering Co., Auburn.
Many promises have been made to improve the existing washing and locker accommodation, but nothing of practical value has as yet been done.
Consequently, the men decided that the company should be given . 28 days’ notice to fulfil their promises to provide washing facilities.
When the 28 days had expired, officers of the Ironworkers and Moulders’ Union, and representatives from the men approached the management seeking an amicable settlement. The manager was not prepared to assist to overcome the problem and the men ceased work.
After a two days’ stoppage, negotiations took place with people associated with the Factory Welfare Board, and some satisfaction was obtained.
On this basis, the men held a mass meeting and decided to return to work. The employees presented themselves for work on Monday, December 21, but the company said the men could not start because the company had undertaken some overhaul work which prevented the plant from operating.
Union opinion is that this was a deliberate attempt by the company to foment further trouble. Consequently,’ arrangements were made for the men to obtain man-power clearances and take positions elsewhere.
During the past few months, Port Kembla ironworkers’ officials have been endeavouring to secure decent ventilation, washing, dressing and drinking facilities for members at Metal Manufacturers.
Delegates in the various departments have made representations to this company from time to time with very little success.
Organized deputations, led by the branch assistant secretary, have only been able to get one small result in the rolling mill, where a locker and bathroom has been erected.
The trade unions on the South Coast were able to persuade the New South Wales Factory Welfare Board to pay a visit to the various works in the district.
The company was apparently able to put over a good tale, as the board spent little time on inspection, and then informed our union that it was satisfied that the company was doing everything to rectify the position.
Since the visit by the board, disputes have broken out at these works, chiefly over ventilation and washing facilities.
Members have been very patient in waiting for this company to do something, but that patience is wearing thin.
The branch has officially warned the company of this, and copies of correspondence have been forwarded to Mr. Hamilton Knight, New South Wales State Minister for Labour, and also to the Factory Welfare Board.
Another conference has been held with Metal Manufacturers on the bonus question. The company agreed to supply the union with a schedule of the proposed new scale of payments. Delegates from each department will be called in to discuss the new scale of bonus.
On Friday,18th December, employees of the 7 to 3 shift at Emmco Company (Sydney) were unable to continue work owing to the unbearable heat brought about by the lack of ventilation.
They were forced to walk out into the yard to get fresh air.
This action developed into a cessation of work of all employees in the Emmco annexe, involving about600 members for a period of two days.
Officers of the union interviewed the manager. After a conference, they succeeded in getting an assurance that the ventilation would receive immediate attention, and that three fans would be installed pending the architect drawing up a plan for an efficient ventilating system.
The workers, after having been given this assurance, decided to return to work.
Union officers advised against a complete stoppage, believing that the demand for improved ventilation was so just that it could be obtained by other means.
I know of instances in which the management has been quite sympathetic to the men and has gone ahead with plans, but has been held up because of lack of approval. One company applied for permission to purchase a block of land, but approval of the purchase was held up because another department reported that the proposal was quite unnecessary. Yet the company had assured the men that certain facilities and amenities would be provided for their benefit, in order that efficiency might be improved and production increased. That indicates that there is something radically wrong with present methods. Some authority, such as a Director-General of Production, should be appointed to deal effectively and permanently with the causes of industrial trouble. At the present time, each department works independently, and very little is accomplished. The appointment of production committees would do much to prevent stoppages, and to deal with the problem of absenteeism. Arbitration courts deal only with effects; the committees which I propose would be able to deal with causes. The effectiveness of production committees has been amply demonstrated in Great Britain and the United States of America. In the latter country they have been operating in some factories for years, and have done much to promote harmony and efficiency. I quote the following extract from an article which appears in the January number of a journal called The International Labour Review: -
The full co-operation of labour andmanage- ment is now recognized in democratic countries as an essential factor in the successful application of the war production programme. Machinery has therefore been developed, not only on the national, regional, and local basis, but more particularly within individual establishments, the primary object being to provide management and labour with an opportunity to discuss on equal terms the ways by which to increase production and to reduce labour requirements to a minimum. But the mere establishment of this kind of machinery is not enough to ensure effective results. Successful operation will depend, in the first place, on the existence of satisfactory industrial relations within the establishment, so that the joint committees in the individual shops may centre their efforts on the problems of production and labour supply; and,’ secondly, on the way in which the committees are set up, on the definition of their functions, and on their composition and methods of work. The following article, which has been prepared as part of’ the documentation to be discussed at the Seventh of the Canada-United States Tripartite Meetings, held under the auspices of the International Labour Office to discuss labour supply policy, outlines the object, methods, and results of the drive undertaken in the United States for the establishment of labour-management production committees in war factories.
The War Production Drive in American industry, as Chairman Donald M. Nelson of the War Production Board said when he launched the drive, is a plan to bring our war factories to their greatest productivity by bringing labour and management together voluntarily on joint committees. Its objective is to increase production by enlisting the best efforts of every man and woman in the plant.. It is not a plan to give labour control of management, nor a plan to give management control of labour.
The beneficial work of these committees was witnessed by Mr. Lloyd Ross on his. recent visit to the United States of America, and, in the Standard of the 25th February, the following interview with Mr. Ross was published : -
Dr. Lloyd Ross, State Secretary of the Australian Railways Union, when interviewed on his return from an inspection of American Mid-West war plants, said - “ I am tremendously impressed by what I have seen. Records everywhere are being broken. These Americans are miraculous. Employers and employees are co-operating fully. “ Technical and human problems are finding a common solution of a common war effort.”
Dr. Lloyd Ross, accompanied by Mr. Haakon Lie, Secretary of the Norwegian Labour Federation, visited Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Cleveland; they inspected plants turning out planes, tools, engines, shells and jeeps; met civic leaders, trade union officials and representative workers; and addressed the Minnesota Legislature.
Dr. Lloyd Ross said ; “ We are able, from many different glimpses, to form an overall picture of America at war.”
When asked for a list of high spots, Ross cited the Detroit Packard Plant Labour and Management Committee which “ is establishing new relations in industry “. He lauded the suggestion of campaigns for “drawing upon the reservoir of employee’s ideas “, thereby saving thousands of valuable manhours in speeding up production and creating closer labour and management relationship.
Describing his visit to the White Motor Company, at Cleveland, Ross said- “ The best illustration of spirit pervading White’s industry is the fact that both management and labour is prepared to discuss the difficulties and differences in front of a stranger. It was not, they said, that no differences arise, but that they were confident they could be settled in such a way that the general harmony was strengthened as a result of meeting difficulties in a common discussion.”
Ross found American unions everywhere “ co-operating fully in the war effort “.
He said that conveyor line is still the key to understanding American engineering success. “ It was amazing to stand midst the conveyor lines, which, in one factory, was sending along gigantic bombers, in another, very fine detailed intricate plane parts “.
He concluded - “ No one could visit these factories without feeling very confident that the weapons turned out by American labour are a perfect output of men and women performing Industrial miracles because they believe enthusiastically in the case for which they are working and fighting.
That is an example which might well be followed in Australia. I was glad to learn that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) proposes to appoint production committees in munitions factories here. The spirit of our workers is good; it is only necessary to provide facilities to enable them to co-operate with the management and with the Government in the prosecution of the war.
I know that the Prime Minister has been very busy, but I hope that, during the forthcoming parliamentary recess, he will find time to visit some of our munitions factories. He will be agreeably surprised at what is being done, and at the spirit of the workers. He will be enthusiastically welcomed by them, and his presence will be an encouragement to them, just as the visits of Mr. Churchill inspire and encourage the workers of Great Britain. Instead of prosecuting the workers for minor breaches of regulations, let us consider how we can bring the workers and the management together in harmony. Let us not encourage the spirit of disruption, now being whipped up in some quarters, perhaps for political purposes. A3 the Sydney Morning Herald stated recently -
We of the Allied Nations cannot afford controversies of the kind now going on. We have no strength to spare for internal dissension. Every ounce of it is needed for the grim struggles ahead.
Iam afraid that some people have become complacent because we have had a few victories, but they cannot rest on their oars. That warning must not go unheeded. We have grim struggles ahead. I hope that dissension will be dissipated and that we shall all unite in the war effort.
Debate (on motion by Sir Earle Page) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.7 to 8 p.m.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Section forty-five au of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) all the words up to and including the words “this Part” . . .
Senate’s request No. 1. - Insert the following paragraphs after proposed new sub-section
” (ab) by inserting in sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of the proviso to that sub-section, before the word default’, the word ‘serious’; (ac) by inserting in sub-paragraph (iii) of that paragraph, before the word breach’, the word ‘serious’;”.
Section proposed to he amended -
Section 45 AU. - (1.) Upon the incapacity or death - the Commonwealth shall…be liable to pay . . . pensions . . .
Provided that - (a.) the incapacity or death of the member -
is not due to the default or wilful act of the member;
does not arise from, or from any occurrence happening during the commission of, any breach of discipline by the member;
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This requested amendment is in accordance with the decision of the Government to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). It provides that there shall be a liability to pay a pension in certain circumstances, such as where incapacity or death is due to the default of the member, or arose from breaches of discipline. The words “ default “ and “ breach “ will not be qualified by the insertion before each of them of the word “ serious “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 45 -
The First Schedule to the Principal Act is repealed and the following Schedule inserted in its stead: -
“THE FIRST SCHEDULE.
General Pensions Rates.
Senate’s request No. 2. - Insert at the end ofthe proposed new First Schedule the following paragraph: - “The rate of pension (if any) which would, apart from this provision, be payable to the widow of a member of the Forces, who dies while serving as such, and her children until the expiration of the period of six months next succeeding the date on which the widow was first notified of the death of the member shallbe increased to such extent as will ensure the payment of a pension in respect of herself and her children at an aggregate rate equivalent to the aggregate rate of payments which would have been made to her, by way of allotment and dependants allowance, during that period of six months if” the mem; ber had not died, but not exceeding the aggregate rate of such payments by way of allotment at the standard rate, applying in respect of the member, and dependants allowance or, if there is no such standard rate, not exceeding such rate as is prescribed.”.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The proposed new paragraph will give effect to a decision of the Government regarding the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). It provides that payments to the widow and children during the period of six months following the notification of the death of her husband while on service shall not be less than the aggregate allotment specified as the standard allotment in her case, plus dependants’ allowances inrespect of herself and her children. The present practice is that the service department concerned continues the payment of the allotment and dependants’ allowances for a period of from one month to two months, in order to enable the claim for the pension to be completed. The pension is then paid at the rate prescribed by the act. In future, for a period of six months, the rate of pension will be not less than the aggregate standard allotment plus the dependants’ allowances of the widow and children.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s request No. 3. - At the end of clause 45 add the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the second paragraph of the footnote to the First Schedule inserted in the Principal Act by this Act shall come into operation on and from the day on which this Act receives theRoyal Assent and shall extend to thecase of any member of the Forces of whoso death the widow was first notified within six months prior to that day but increased pension in accordance with that paragraph shall be payable Only in respect of the period subsequent to that day.”.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This requested amendment specifies that this provision shall operate from the date on which this legislation receives the Royal Assent, and shall apply to cases where the notification of death has occurred within six months prior to the date of the operation of the paragraph. This is the most equitable way in which to bring the new policy into operation. Where notification was given, say, three months ago, a pension at the increased rate will be payable for three months subsequent to the date of assent. But where the notification was given four months ago, the increased rate will be payable for two months after the date of assent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions . reported ; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
Debate resumed(vide page 2405).
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “and that it be an instruction to the Government to add to their financial proposals the methods which have proved successful in Britain in preventing further inflation by -
stabilizing prices effectively, and wages in accordance with prices;
controlling prices of foods and all essential goods so that stabilized wages could always buy a substantially equal amount of these goods ;
rationing foods and essential goods in Short supply after the fullest utilization of all possible means of preserving perishable goods to prevent wastage of seasonal surpluses; and
guaranteeing a remunerative return for his product to the producer and thereby assuring maximum supplies of essential commodities at continuously stable and reasonable prices for the consumer.”.
Last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) declared that he considered that the war would certainly be protracted. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, has stated that people would be very optimistic to expect a final decision in the Pacific war in less than three or four years. Australians must display the maximum endurance in order to keep the enemy at bay during those years. In the circumstances, the Parliament of the Commonwealth must do everything in its power to maintain the morale of the fighting forces and of the civil population. Speaking on methods to prevent inflation, and to stabilize food prices, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, declared eighteen months ago that, in making war, no weapon is more powerful than peace of mind. A factor essential to the peace of mind and the maintenance of the morale of the people of Australia at the present time is a stabilized food policy. Every wife and mother, ‘and every soldier, should be able to feel confident that regular supplies of food will be available to the public at reasonable prices, and that the purchasing power of wages will remain constant. If that can be done, we shall reduce to a marked degree the worries of our people and help morale. Those anxieties are already sufficiently serious without our adding to them unnecessarily by a policy that ca,n lead only to uncertainty regarding the maintenance of food-supplies. Domestic worries in war-time and anxieties resulting from the dislocation of businesses, and heavy taxes, are most disturbing; but, in addition to them, a constant state of tension exists in every home that has sent a husband or a son to combat areas. Action taken in England, New Zealand and Canada to stabilize prices, and to give a sense of domestic certainty, rests in the final analysis upon food control. ‘ Tha amendment which I have submitted is based on the British method of dealing with the problem. If given effect, the new policy will be similar to that which operates in Great Britain and Canada. First, the policy guarantees the maintenance of adequate supplies of food by the payment of remunerative prices to the producer. Secondly, it ensures reasonable prices and regular supplies to the consumer. Thirdly, it stabilizes retail prices. In Australia wages are directly governed by price levels. If the prices of the necessaries of life can be kept constant, the purchasing power of money will not be diminished. Fourthly, the facts that wages are kept constant, and prices are kept uniform, mean that we shall go a long way towards checking inflation. If we can carry out such a scheme, the purchasing power of the £1 to-day will be the same a year hence. That has been proved definitely in Great Britain. After the outbreak of war, the prices index figure increased considerably, because Great Britain imported 50 per cent, of its food requirements and the prices of the necessaries of life were affected by increased shipping freights and costs of production. For the last two years, however, the retail prices index figure has remained constant at 129. The present plan of the Commonwealth Government to control food prices is not based upon any of those essential premises to which I have referred. It does not guarantee regular supplies and reasonable prices, nor stabilize the retail prices index figure. The excuses advanced by the Prime Minister for his policy of laisser-faire cannot be supported by any theory of economics. There has been what may be described as a spasmodic stab at parts of the problem. My surgical experience taught me that if an operation were conducted in that way instead of comprehensively and completely, the patient would be practically certain to die. The plan I suggest has been operated in England since the beginning of the war three and a half years ago. It was drawn up as the result of the experience gained in the last war, and was ready to be put into instant effect before the war began. It has been continually improved ever since. .So successful has it been, even though Britain has to import 50 per cent, of its total food consumption, that Mr. Churchill said in the speech that was broadcast at the ‘beginning of this week that the British Government and people were determined to continue this policy of stabilized food prices for four years after the termination of the war, as an essential part of the reconstruction plan. Those of us who were in public life just after the termination of the last war can remember the terrible deprivation in Australia and practically all other countries because, almost immediately after the initial depression, there was a period of inflation which left ruin in its train. The adoption of the policy that I am advocating would be one way of making certain that such a catastrophe will not again occur in this country, either during the war or subsequently.
The farmers of Great Britain assured me during my visit to that country that for at least 100 years they had not been so satisfied as they are now. The consumers also are satisfied, because they know exactly what their money will buy, and realize that where shortages exist equal sacrifices must be made by all, whatever may be their class. The only distinction is in favour of small children, expectant mothers, and men and women who have to work hard for long periods, for whom special provision is made in order to ensure to them something above the average. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said to-day that a parallel cannot be drawn between our position and that of Great Britain. A system of unified food control should be. very much easier to operate in Australia, because it is much more selfcontained. Britain is dependent upon imports for at least 50 per cent. of its total food consumption, whereas Australia is dependent upon not more than probably five per cent. or six per cent., tea and coffee being possibly the only commodities that we need to purchase from other countries. Everyone knows that it is much easier to control the prices of what one grows than of what one has to import. As the Prime Minister declines to entertain a comparison with Great Britain, let us make one with New Zealand, which is on all fours with Australia. The operation of the system should be more difficult in New Zealand than in Australia, because of its relatively small population, its much greater imports of manufactured goods and greater percentage of exports to production. Yet New Zealand has been forced to adopt a policy identical with that which is in operation in Great Britain, and the results achieved have been similar, the increase of prices having been only about one-half of the increase in Australia. Although its exports of foodstuffs are large, and it is thus more dependent on prices fixed under contracts for supplies, New Zealand is so satisfied with the results achieved that last December Mr. Fraser, the Prime Minister, enlarged the scope of the scheme so as to include the whole range of new foods in the war-time prices index in order to make certain that the prices charged over the whole cost of living would be absolutely fair. Even vegetables and fruit, the prices of which are so variable inpeace-time, and on that account would be automatically excluded in such circumstances, were embodied in the scheme. The exact proposal in New Zealand is well worth stating. Thegeneral principles of stabilization are as follows : -
That policy has been followed in Great Britain, under the system of industrial conscription for universal national service. By reason of the equalization of transport costs, if 10,000 operatives are sent from Bradford to Bristol or any other part of England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, they pay exactly the same for their food as they would pay if they were working at the point of production. The last general principle in New Zealand is as follows : -
The Prime Minister of New Zealand has said that national security plans would be endangered in the Dominion if inflation began for if it were unchecked it would cause the value of the £1 to be lowered. Thus the whole system might be destroyed, not by any body politically opposed to it, but by the force of inflation which the war expenditure would bring into being.
Let us now consider the position in Canada, which in population and production is midway between’ Australia and Great Britain, and, in common with this country, exports a large proportion of its primary production, in addition to having .many, more secondary industries than we have established. That dominion began, as Australia did, to stagger along under a spasmodic system, putting a price cover on this and that, and rationing first one thing and then another. It was found that such a partial plan led to anomalies, injustices and difficulties of all sorts. When the price of a particular article was fixed, and the whole range of essential goods was not dealt with, the costs of the articles not embraced spilled over into those that were. The result was that costs rose and the people on wages and fixed salaries and those produeing exports were being ground between the two millstones. In October. 3941, the Government determined to bring into existence a general scheme akin to that adopted in Great Britain and New Zealand, which is what I am advocating for Australia. Since that time, the retail price index has ranged between 115 and 117. Canada has found it necessary to handle the problem as a whole, not in separate compartments. The Prime Minister has suggested that a piecemeal approach would be successful in Australia, and that he would continue to allow control to be divided among a number of departments. In Canada, the unified control headquarters is organized in four main divisions, namely, prices and supply, distribution and rationing, industrial, and research. One must make certain that similar action is taken in Australia, because the advantages of the stability of the general price level are significant and unquestionable. First, it imparts much greater satisfaction to the ordinary consumer, and therefore ‘builds up morale. That is the point with which I began. Secondly, it puts a stop to the continual readjustment of wages to the cost of living, and thereby stabilizes the cost of both public and private enterprise. ‘Constantly rising wages costs do damage to all budgets, particularly those of State governments, the revenues of which are now more or less pegged by the operation of the uniform tax law. Ir. the third place, it reduces the net costs of the Government’s war effort, even though subsidies have to be paid in order to keep prices at a reasonable level. If prices were adjusted instead of subsidies being paid, the final cost to the consumer, including the Government, would be very much greater than the original cost of the subsidies. Lastly, it effectively does away with the fear of inflation, and thereby makes the Government’s financial policy more secure and renders unnecessary special action against inflation by investors, business men and others. It is important to do the whole job, and not to proceed piecemeal. Many of the things begun in this country, not by the present Government, but by other governments which preceded it, although intended to be good, and may be in a particular instance, damaged some industries very greatly. Canada frankly claims that its scheme will succeed because it has adopted complete measures and has deliberately rejected partial plans. An overall price ceiling is as simple to administer as any partial plan, and is- much more clearly understood by the people. Under a partial plan, some costs rise, the levels of profit vary in different industries, and there is pressure of -added costs even in the industries on behalf of which stability has been developed. Stability is important to the primary (producer, because nearly all of his products are seasonal and the prices that he receives are subject to violent fluctuations. Giving to him merely a maximum price would not be of any use. What he wants is a guaranteed minimum, below which the price of his products will not drop. If he can obtain that, he will be able to plan in regard to his costs and his production.
– Lf he obtains that, he will have to produce what he is told to produce.
– That is so. If we have to fight the war for another three, four or five years, the sooner every one does what he is instructed to do by the best men in the country, the better. There is insistence on that in relation to general industry.
– It was not done in connexion with vegetable production.
– I shall disclose the fallacy of the Government’s plan in that connexion. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has stated quite definitely the troubles he has experienced; they were inseparable from the policy that is being followed at the present time. The Minister is not to blame. The programme has become entangled in a vicious circle. Under price control, with an overall price ceiling, the Government would have an opportunity to place primary production upon a more stable basis than it has hitherto occupied. Guaranteed minimum and maximum prices for all the principal primary products would protect the producer against disastrous losses, and safeguard the consumer against very high prices. It would also give greater stability to the general price structure, because it would limit the influence that varying prices of primary products could have upon the cost of living, and costs generally. I wish to contrast that plan with what is being done in Australia. Our system here has, like Topsy, “ just growed “. In reading the Prime Minister’s statement, one is impressed by the lack of emphasis on civilian needs. That is largely due to the practice which was followed in regard to this matter before the war. Civilian food consumption was then the concern of State governments, whilst the Federal Governments concerned itself with exports, and when the war broke out it was difficult to get the problem handled rightly. In England, however, special emphasis is laid on the need to preserve civilian morale, and especially to ensure that there shall be an abundant supply of milk for mothers and children, and of oranges for children below the age of six years. Steps were taken to ensure an adequate supply of vegetables, which enter so largely into the diet of wage earners, at a reasonable price. Although there are 3,500,000 men in the forces in Great Britain, and a great many others engaged in war industries, the quantity of vegetables grown has been doubled. The Government set out to ensure that no one should go hungry under the system of food rationing, although he might not be able to get the kind of food to which he was accustomed.
The Prime Minister was’ also vague regarding the methods to be employed to stimulate food production. The only effective way to do it is to ensure to the growers a remunerative price for their products. The Prime Minister suggested that there would be an extension of the contract system for the production of vegetables. . The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has admitted that some of the contract growers failed to supply the vegetables which they had contracted to supply. Why was that? Obviously, because they could get a better price on the open market. The first step should be to pay a price that’ will encourage people to produce vegetables. In England, the price paid to the growers of vegetables is such as to enable those on third-class land to carry on at a profit, thus ensuring that every one who possesses farming equipment will put it to the best use. It is stupid to try to force down the contract price for vegetables to the lowest figure possible. Such a policy tends to limit the quantity produced, and also to encourage evasion of the terms of the contract. I do not defend such evasion, but it must be pointed out that, in many instances, growers were unable to get seed unless they signed a contract. Therefore, they signed up so as to be able to carry on.
– That was dishonest.
– Some of them were forced to sell outside the terms of their contracts in order to get enough money to pay for the labour they had employed. Instances have been cited in this House of growers who had to wait for six months for payment, although their contract said that they would be paid within a fortnight of the delivery of the vegetables. The only effective way to stimulate production is to pay a remunerative price. The butter subsidy was said to be intended to enable farmers to pay proper wages to their employees, but the full amount recommended has never been paid. I am in favour of paying fail’ wages, and I believe that the Government which is now the biggest employer in the country, and also the largest buyer of goods, should not fix so low a price for what it buys that the producer cannot continue production. The difficulty .experienced by the Minister for Supply and Shipping in obtaining delivery of vegetables grown under contract was really due to the fact that a remunerative price was not guaranteed. The Government need have no fears. If any one makes too large a profit, the taxation rates have been so adjusted that the excess will come back to the Government in any case. The Prime Minister referred to the possibility of fixing a minimum price for primary products in Government contracts but that is not quite satisfactory either, because market prices have, for the most part, been above the fixed minimum price, and those who have produced surpluses have been prevented from participating in the guaranteed price beyond the contract quantity. There should be a guaranteed price for butter, as there is for wool. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) smiles, because he knows that there has been a guaranteed price for sugar for many years. It was fixed by an agreement entered into by the Government of which I was a member. I wish that similar agreements could be made in respect of other primary products.
It has been suggested that steps should be taken to stimulate home gardening, but last year, people who wished to grow vegetables could not get seeds. The Prime Minister said that if the appeal to the public to produce more vegetables from their gardens did not meet with success, the Government might have to embark upon its own scheme for growing vegetables in Queensland. We have seen the attempts of previous governments to enter the field of primary production, and I am convinced that there is no salvation in that direction.
The Prime Minister said that other major primary products did not require Government attention, but could be left to organizations of producers to look after. The, butter producers have, for the last nine months, been trying to get the Government to accept the recommendation of a special committee that the price of butter should be increased by 4d. per lb. in order to cover the increased cost of production, but up to the present the price has been increased by only #d. per lb. The Meat Board, which had rendered yeoman service ever since the outbreak of the war, was “ sacked “ a few months ago without any reason being given. It is evident, therefore, that we cannot depend upon producers’ organizations to see us through our difficulty. The Government must ensure a payable price to the growers, and also sufficient manpower and equipment to enable them to carry on.
The Prime Minister stated that shortages were inevitable in war-time, but in Great Britain there is no shortage of the essential things, such as milk and vegetables. The Government takes care that supplies of those commodities are forthcoming, even if there is a shortage in other directions. The same policy should be applied here, but it can be done only if there is in control a ministry of food. The Prime Minister pins his faith to the Australian Pood Council, but. I am convinced, after many years of experience as a member of governments, that, the only way one can make certain of results is to place the responsibility on one Minister - especially one with plenty of driving force and initiative. The Food Council, even though composed of eminent departmental men, cannot do this work. [Extension of time granted.] There should be a Minister in charge of all activities associated with food production, some one who can translate decisions into immediate action. The Prime Minister says that the Food Council is a co-ordinating agency, but I desire the appointment of a co-ordinating principal who will make certain that the work is done. That is what the Minister for Food does in Great Britain. He co-ordinates the efforts of the various organizations concerned with the production and distribution of food. He works out the quantities which must be imported, and then directs the Minister for Agriculture to ensure the production of such commodities as are not imported. He works out prices, and decides whether children shall be supplied with milk at 2d. a pint, which i« less than the cost of production. Speaking of the Australian Food Council, the Prime Minister said that,’ at its last meeting, the council directed that action be taken by the departments concerned to deal immediately with certain problems still awaiting decision in connexion with the dairying industry. As a matter of fact, those problems have been awaiting attention for the last nine months and action has at last been taken after public pressure. The council ha3 no executive authority to direct any one or any department to deal with any problem.” The Prime Minister went on to say that the council had directed that citrus fruits should be made available to consumers such as children and expectant mothers especially in need . of fruit juice. Have any mothers or children had any oranges? It had directed, he said that the examination of the demands for meat for export, and for the services and civilian population, should be completed immediately. It had also directed that more vigorous measures should be taken to expand vegetable production. Although the Food Council has been in existence for a year, not until now has it taken steps to have an examination of the food position made, and more vigorous measures adopted to extend vegetable production.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is nine months wrong. These matters must be dealt with on a seasonal basis. Honorable members opposite may laugh at what I am saying, but 1 point out that, when I left this country in 1941, action had been taken to ensure that adequate storage would be provided in country centres throughout the Commonwealth for butter, meat, &c, and the canning industry had been put on a sound basis. That was accomplished because there was one Minister controlling the whole problem. Despite the fact that I am only a private member, men who had contracts from the Food Council have come to me and asked me to do something to assist them to obtain, machinery and equipment necessary to do the work that they had undertaken. I admit that the Minister for Supply, and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) is always willing to hear representations upon matters of this kind, whether they con cern his department or not; but I contend that, in order to have effective administration, it is necessary that food control shall be placed in the hands of a single Minister. I have been in this Parliament for 25 years, and during that time I have held many offices,- including that of Prime Minister, but I do not know yet to whom to go in connexion with many of these matters. For the past nine months I have been asking the Prime Minister which of eight or nine Ministers is to do the job, but I still do hot know. What chance has a dairy-farmer who wants, say, a milking machine, of obtaining any satisfaction unless he can go to a Minister and say, “ You are the Minister in charge of this matter; what are you going to do about it?” The responsibility for food production should rest upon one Minister, whose task would be to establish priorities. So far, the Food Council has not been able to get past the stage of deliberations ; what we require is ministerial and executive action, and a co-ordinated policy that will stop this continual rise of the cost of living, and the consequent wage increases, which form a vicious, inflationary cycle. Prices should be stabilized so that the people of this country will know that the necessaries of life that can be bought with’ £1 to-day can be bought for £1 next year and the year after. Economic stability is necessary in this country in order that the people may be better able to bear the many strains placed upon them by the war.
.- I have listened with interest to the speech delivered by the .right honorable member for Cowper (‘Sir Earle Page). The right honorable member said that he saw me smile at one stage of his remarks; but I could not help it. He has been in this Parliament .for 25 years, and allegedly has been doing everything in his power to improve the lot of primary producers, yet they are still hard up or broke. As usual, . the right honorable member indulged in fairy tales, and all that was missing was the record, “It’sa sin to tell a lie “. He endeavoured to mislead the people of this country, as he usually does, by making certain, statements in regard to food control in Great
Britain. He claimed that in that country control, of food was in the hands of one man; but that is not so. Food control in Great Britain is divided into two parts; importation, distribution and rationing are in the hands of the British Minister for Food, Lord Woolton, whilst the production of food is administered by the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Hudson. Furthermore, there is a separate controller of food production for Scotland, who, in the final resort, is responsible to the Minister for Agriculture. For information which apparently the right honorable member did not glean while he was overseas, I suggest that he should examine the report of the International Labour Office, published in 1942 and entitled “ Food Control in Britain “
– - Lord Woolton runs the whole show. He has been decorated by the King for his work.
– I think that the right honorable member will find that in Great Britain food is controlled in the way I have outlined. He also said that the food position in Great Britain was splendid, and he mentioned oranges, which, he said, were in plentiful supply. However, I read in the Sydney press a couple of days ago about a British Minister who, upon his arrival in America, had a drink of orange juice, and said it was the first orange drink he had had for six months. The right honorable member raises the same old cry again and again, “ Why has the Government not done this and not done that ? “ To-night he said that people were interviewing him as a private member, and asking that this be done and that be done; but I point out that, although he has represented a primary producing’ constituency in this Parliament for 25 years, during which time he has held many portfolios, including that of Minister for Commerce, his accomplishments on behalf of the man on the land have been very insignificant indeed. I venture to suggest that, had he remained on this side of the chamber, he would still be doing nothing but telling the same old bedtime story. It is interesting to note that, while he was Minister for Commerce, the price of wheat was ls. 1Od. a bushel, and prices for other primary products were correspondingly low. Also, it was he who was responsible for selling the Commonwealth line of steamers at. half what he himself admitted to be their value, and even then the gentleman who bought them did not pay for them.
– The first fact that strikes one upon an examination of this statement is that in the first six of its nine pages no mention is made of the war. In effect, the theme of the document is social benefits for the people of Australia, and national welfare generally. It is an isolationist document, dealing mainly with Australia’s internal affairs, and it omits to point out that whatever social ‘advancement we may achieve internally will be of no avail if our external position is not made secure, not only- now, but also, in the post-war period. Two important points with regard to our post-war international relationships are these: First, we must remember that, in respect of population, we are a small nation, set in an ocean bordered by countries which contain approximately half of the population of the world. If we are to maintain our position, we must look forward to making agreements with greater and more powerful nations than ourselves. Secondly, to a large degree we in this country shall be dependent in the future, as we have been in the past, upon export markets in which we can dispose of our surplus primary products, and such goods as we are able to export from our secondary industries. If we are to accept the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the Mutual Aid Agreement - the entire tone of the Government’s statements during the past few weeks has been that we shall quite rightly accept these principles - we must accept also the obligations associated with those principles, and be prepared to lower our tariff barriers to permit the goods of other nations to be brought into this country in exchange for the goods that we export. I do not suggest that the secondary industries of Australia must be wrecked ; but we must realize that in the future there must be a fairer and freer trade, between countries than there has been in the past. If we are to preserve our position in the world of the future, we must endeavour to arrive at an agreement with other nations to pass legislation implementing the principles propounded in the Atlantic Charter, and particularly in article 7 of the Mutual Aid Agreement, which states -
In the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under the Act of Congress of the 11th March, 1941, the terms and conditions thereof shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries, but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and the betterment of world-wide economic relations. To that end they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion, by appropriate international and domestic measures, of production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods, which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers: and, in general, to the attainment ofall the economic objectives set forth in the joint declaration made on the 12th August, 1941, by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
At an early convenient date, conversations shall be begun between the two Governments with a view to determining, in the light of governing economic conditions, the best means of attaining the above-stated objectives by their own agreed action and of seeking the agreed action of other like-minded governments.
I submit that it should be the duty of theGovernment of this country, in collaboration with the governments of the other dominions, to take these questions up at once with the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, and that, as each point is agreed upon, the governments concerned should pass legislation to implement it, because unless these matters be clinched prior to the cessation of hostilities, there will be very little chance of giving reasonable consideration to either the letter or the spirit of the Atlantic Charter in a post-war world in which there will be an international struggle for world markets, and in which power groups, pressure groups, and vested interests, both capital and labour, will be fighting to preserve what they believe to be the national rights of their countries. For that reason, I impress upon the Government the necessity to commence discussions at the earliest possible moment. I point out that so far neither the Atlantic Charter nor the Mutual Aid Agreement is binding upon the governments of the countries that are . parties to them. The Atlantic Charter is merely a statement of aims and objects, signed by the President of the United States of America, Mr. Roosevelt, and by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill; it has never been discussed by the Parliament of either country. Too many people, not only in this Parliament, but throughout the world, remember with disappointment the disillusionment which was caused after the last war, when the Congress of the United States of America repudiated the League of Nations and practically strangled it at birth. It is probable that to a large degree that action was responsible for all the international discord and wars that have occurred since that time. Article VIII. of the Mutual Aid’ Agreement provides -
This agreement shall take effect as from this day’s date. It shall continue in force until a date to be agreed upon by the two governments.
That agreement may be cancelled at any time by the two governments, but it could be made binding by the Parliaments.
Now is the time to plan how world trade shall be conducted after the war. It is the responsibility of this Government to make its contribution towards freeing trade so that the fear of war and hunger may be dispelled’ forever from the mind of man. The shackles that have been imposed on international trade by tariff barriers ever since the last war very likely led to this war. There will be perpetual fear of war unless men are allowed to live without fear of hunger. The presentation of unco-ordinated plans at a suddenly summoned peace conference could only result in disaster and a repetition of the disillusionment that followed the Peace Conference of 1919. The fight for international markets must no longer continue to breed discontent and rivalry between nations. The Mansion House speech of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, in which he said that he would not he the liquidator of the British Empire was seized upon by the isolationists of the United States of America, who declared that the Grown Colonies of England should not be preserved for British trade. Some said that they should not remain possessions of the Empire. Others declared that it was no longer the task of the United States of America to pull Britain’s chestnuts out of the fire. But, if the Mutual Aid Agreement, especially article VII., is carried out in letter and spirit, all nation? will have free access to the Crown Colonies. There will be free access to all countries. The rubber and the tin of Malaya and the products of the Netherlands East Indies will be available to all. There will, however, be an obligation on all those who trade in those areas to share in their protection and in the burden of government. If the Dominions wish to have access to the Crown Colonies and to India they must be prepared to share the obligations associated with that access. It is useless for people to complain that Britain is trying to preserve to itself the trade of India and is trying to prevent Australia from intruding. Australian merchants trading in India have complained bitterly that they are not allowed to ship goods from. Australia to India whilst there is a free importation of goods from Argentina and South Africa, but there is no reason why Great Britain should be particularly anxious to allow the Dominions to share in that trade unless they are prepared to contribute their share of men, money and material to the defence of the Empire. The democratic countries must take up what Kipling called the “ white man’s burden “, and share the obligations of defence and development of the countries whose peoples are less developed mentally than are the peoples of the white race.
Another thing that we should raise in discussions with countries of like minds is that weak nations like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the East Indies, the South American republics, and the small countries of Europe, when they have been freed from oppression, should be protected against aggression. Such a matter needs discussion and settlement before the peace conference takes place. The matter should be settled by binding acts of Parliament in the various countries concerned. The Government says that now is the time to prepare for social security.
– Hear, hear!
– I agree, but it is equally essential that we should plan external security in advance.
The financial statement echoes the declaration which most honorable members’ have repeatedly made that this country must have more people. Australia could be in the new world a vacuum to be filled from the congested areas of the old, but that also requires immediate planning by the parliaments of all the countries concerned. How can that be brought about? Unfortunately, the United States of America and Great Britain still retain a certain amount of suspicion of each other, but neither country has any suspicion of the British Dominions. The initiative - the vital spark - must come from the Parliaments of the Dominions, and not from the Parliaments of the older countries. We are more likely to achieve agreement on basic economic problems now than in the burly burly of a peace conference when the world will be wartorn and weary. There is no quarrel between political parties in this country on the necessity for a largely increased population if. we are ever to achieve security. But has the Government any views with regard to immigration ? What is it doing to plan immigration after the war? What types of migrants should be brought here. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) asked how people would be fed if our export trade collapsed and our secondary industries were forced to close down because of a flood of manufactured goods from other countries. I do not believe that that will happen. But the best way to develop local factories and primary production would be to have far more factories and operatives here and to convert the now undeveloped land into rich land that would support a population large enough to enable us to resist aggression. After the war the people in the European countries that have been bombed will not wish to be bombed again, and I think that many of them will move to safer areas. This Government might well take up with the governments of the
United States of America, Great Britain, and the smaller States of Europe, which are now operating in Great Britain, the transferring of whole factories and their operatives to Australia to develop industries here. They could then send their goods into the markets of the east and save the long sea carriage from Europe. That would raise a lot of the burden from the markets of Great Britain. A few days ago, Mr. Churchill said that agriculture in Great Britain should never be allowed to fall again into the position it occupied before the war. Great Britain would be able to put its goods into the markets of countries such as Argentina and other South American republics, and we should absorb our own primary production and manufacture goods not only for Australia, but also for India and other countries on this side of the world. I believe we could get a certain number of migrants to develop the primary industries in order to supply the cities - the decentralized cities - of Australia from the “ dust bowl “ and contiguous areas of the United States of America. I understand that there are in those areas some 200,000 or 300,000 farmers who would possibly be attracted to settle in this country.
In every country of Europe, particularly Spain, which suffered so severely from civil war, there are immature children, the legacies of war, suffering want. The Government might’ ascertain whether it would be possible to bring those orphans to Australia so that they might be reared as good Australians. There is no trouble, if you get them young enough, to raise children as natives of the country that rears them regardless of their original nationality. The Vatican could supply figures with regard to the orphans that Europe might send to this country. Those children would fill the very great gap which has occurred in our birth-rate since 1930. The number of live births in 1930 was 128,399. The number fell in 1931 to 118,509, and in the next three years it dropped from 110,933 in 1932 to 109,475 in 3934. In 1935 the number of births rose to 1.11.325, in 1936 it increased to JJ 6,073, and in 1937 the total was 319.131. During the next ten or fifteen years, when many elderly people will die or be pensioned off, Australia will be sadly in need of young people to take their places, and I strongly recommend that orphan children from the continent of Europe and from Great Britain should be brought to this country. They could be educated and trained so that they would be able to fill the gaps in our population, and help us to solve the many problems that are bound to arise, after the war. The Government should deal with its external problems as vigorously as it proposes to cope with the internal problems. We must increase our population and build up a balanced economy. No matter what benefits we may make available to the people or what provision be made for internal security, such advances will be of no value unless the external position of this country is safeguarded by means of international agreements among the nations that are parties to the Atlantic Charter.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has moved an amendment to the motion before the House, dealt at some length with the food problem, and asked a. number of questions as to the authority possessed by the Australian Food Council. He wished to know whether its functions are sufficiently far-reaching to enable it to cope with the food problem in Australia. 1 intend to indicate to honorable members the duties which the council is called upon to discharge and the degree to which it has organized food supplies in this country. It may be said without hesitation that the food position is as favorable in Australia as in any other country. Whatever may be the shortcomings in certain directions, nobody in this country has actually gone hungry since the war began. It is satisfactory to know that members of the fighting forces, whether Australian or Americans, both in Australia and in the islands adjacent to it, have been supplied with sufficient food since the commencement of operations. What has been done so far reflects credit upon those who have been. responsible for meeting those requirements. No matter what organization we may establish to deal with problems arising out of the war there will always be room for improvement. No organization can be regarded as perfect, -because, as the war proceeds, and as heavy inroads are made upon our resources, fresh difficulties arise. “We cannot expect the position to remain static. “Whilst the criticism offered by the right honorable member for Cowper must be taken into consideration, I do not intend to allow it to pass without pointing out that good work has been accomplished.
– - Does the Minister accept the amendment?
– No. The Australian Food Council was appointed to coordinate the activities of a number of departments that are associated with the food problem in all. its ramifications. When the Supply Department was set up, its main duty was to provide for the needs of the fighting forces. It was called upon to organize the markets in such a way that whatever commodities the forces required would be purchased and made available to them. The work of the Department of Commerce, over which the right honorable member for Cowper presided for many years, related more particularly to agricultural production. The work of that department was to co-ordinate the activities of the State Departments of Agriculture. The Department of Commerce was formerly concerned chiefly with the needs of Australia’s export trade. Prior to the war the food needs in Australia were readily met, but during the war the position has undergone a. great change. Associated with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is a number of boards, which the right honorable gentleman established, such as those dealing with potatoes, eggs, dairy produce, &c. From time to time interstate agricultural conferences are held. There are State agricultural committees, and there is the Australian Agricultural Council, which meets periodically and- is attended by the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States, as well as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In the course of time, these bodies have gathered authority and have accumulated a wide knowledge of the agricultural resources and capacity of the Commonwealth. Australia is large in area, though its population is small.
Its transport facilities are limited, and we have found it necessary to utilize to the full the experience and resources of the State Departments of Agriculture. In the midst of a war we cannot brush aside the State authorities. The difficulty of providing the necessary food supplies is increasing’ day by day.
– It is desirable to work in co-operation with the States.
– It is essential to do so.
– Everybody, I think, agrees with that, including the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The right honorable gentleman seemed to contend that if a ministry of food, with an overriding authority were set up the whole problem would be solved, but I do not believe that the difficulty could be overcome so easily as that. That proposal may appeal to some honorable members, and may be patterned on the policy adopted in Great Britain; but a scheme which suits Great Britain may not he applicable to Australia, as the circumstances may not be similar in each case. It is essential to have complete cooperation in this matter between the Commonwealth and the States in order to solve our food production problems. One of the complaints constantly being made by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, is that there is insufficient co-operation between the Commonwealth and State authorities. He contends that the less governments interfere in industry the better, and that, the Commonwealth Government’s action in connexion with the meat industry will tend to create chaos. He claimed that if the industry were allowed to manage its own affairs the demands of Australia would be met, whereas government interference with this and other industries was not producing the best results. Therefore, we have a direct conflict of opinion between the right honorable member for Cowper and the Premier of Victoria. Personally, T disagree with the Premier of Victoria. I consider that the Commonwealth must give directions with regard to the control of the meat industry and that it must see that those directions are obeyed.
I was pointing out that the Department of Supply and Shipping is entrusted with the duty of ensuring that the needs of the fighting forces are met, and that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has to do with primary production. The latter department has always had the responsibility of providing for civilian requirements. When thepresent Government took office, I observed that those two departments were operating separately, and I found that it wa.< necessary to bring them together, i considered that their work could best be co-ordinated through the agency of th, Australian Food Council. The Government could indicate to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture the extent of the requirements of the fighting forces. I considered that it was also necessary that representatives of the fighting forces should be made members of the Council, so that they would be aware of the requirements of the civil population. If a shortage of civilian supplies of meat or potatoes or other vegetables, occurred, steps could be taken, possibly to reduce the ration of those goods for the troops. Action of that kind has been taken from time to time through the Australian Food Council. The Government considers that it would be unwise to reduce the powers and functions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture as it is now constituted, or to interfere with the authority which the States exercise through their Departments of Agriculture. It was thought, however, that the proper way to coordinate those activities was through the Australian Food Council. The one weakness of that body may be its lack of statutory authority. I wish to be frank in this matter, and sometimes I consider that there is a weakness in that respect. Honorable members who have occupied ministerial positions realize tha.t every department is jealous of its own authority. It has often been said that Ministers merely echo the views of the heads of their departments, and I am not unmindful of the fact that all Ministers from time to’ time need the guidance of those officials. No Minister can claim- to have an encyclopaedic knowledge with regard to all of the problems that arise in the administration of his department. It would be impossible for any Minister to know all about any department which he may control. As Minister for Supply and Shipping, I do my best to keep in touch with all of its activities, but although I work many hours each day and give close attention to my work, I confess that I do not know the details of the various matters that have to be attended to. It was thought that the work of the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture and Supply and Shipping should be coordinated, through the Australian Food Council, with the work of the Army, the man-power, rationing, and price-fixing authorities, the British Food Mission, and the representatives of the American fighting forces, and that when the council had arrived at a decision it could direct e’ach of those bodies to do what should be done. The right honorable member for Cowper desired to know particulars of some directions which were given last Tuesday. Let us consider the position in regard to butter. The matter of supplies of dairy produce was brought forward by a representative, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and was discussed al length by the Australian Food Council. During the discussion it was said that the problems of the dairying industry were chiefly lack of man-power, lack of fertilizer, lack of machinery, and the killing of dairy stock. Each of those aspects of the dairying industry is important. I asked if an adjustment of prices would overcome the other factors which are responsible for a shortage of dairy produce, and was told that, regardless of the price paid to the dairy-farmer for his products, unless sufficient manpower, fertilizer, and machinery, such as milking machines, prime movers, and rubber were made available, and the killing of dairy stock were prevented, the problem would not be solved, even though a higher price were given for the butter.
– All those factors are complementary
– That is so. There has been an examination of prices. The industry recommended -that the price of butter should be increased by 3$d. per pound, but that proposal was not accepted by the Government. Instead, it granted a subsidy of £2,000,000 to the industry. The Australian Food Council was informed that the Prices Commissioner had been directed to make a further investigation of the price. The determina tion, of price is governed largely by the wages paid in the industry. We were told that the drift from dairy farms to munitions factories was so great that unless a wage rate were struck for the dairying ‘industry which would compare with the rates of pay obtainable in other industries, it would be impossible to retain sufficient man-power to enable the industry to continue production on a satisfactory basis. The Australian Food Council therefore directed that steps be taken by the Prices Commissioner to make the necessary adjustments, and the Attorney-General’s Department was directed to complete the wage determination without delay. What more could a Ministry of Food have done? It could not, have fixed an award. All that Would have been possible to it would have been to set the same machinery in motion. I agree that a Ministry of Food could have been entrusted with the fixing of prices, but a previous Administration had already appointed a Prices Commissioner and delegated to him certain powers. That officer is in a position akin to that of the Commissioner of Taxation in that lit’ has access to confidential records and documents which are not available even to the Minister. A Ministry of Food could not have done more than direct the Prices Commissioner to carry out the job.
Again, in regard to fertilizers, ‘ what more could a Ministry of Food do than has been done? In this chamber last night there was a most informative discussion on fertilizers. The shortage of fertilizers is most serious. Instead of a normal supply of about 1,000,000 tons of phosphatic rock per annum, the available supply is about 480,000 tons per annum. A Ministry of Food could not do more than we did last night, namely, undertake to ascertain what prospects there are for developing our own deposits of phosphatic rock, and whether larger supplies could be obtained from Red Sea ports or elsewhere. All that work has been done by the Australian Food Council.
What more could a Ministry of Food do than has been done in regard to the supply of machinery? This problem is associated with the manufacture of munitions; the same raw materials are required for each. As chairman of the council, I directed that steps be taken to compile an inventory of such articles as prime movers in the control of the Army, and that the Department of Munitions be directed to give a higher priority to supplies required by the dairying industry.
Another matter dealt with was the killing of dairy stock. That is a difficult problem. I do not know that we can go to every dairying property and direct its owner as to what he must do. I suppose that some control at abattoirs could be instituted.
– It is ‘ a tragedy that dairy stock has to be killed.
– I agree. It was thought by some that it would be wise to appeal, over the air and by other’ means, to dairy producers to maintain their dairy herds, but what would be the good of such an appeal unless there was some indication that it would be worth while for the farmers to heed it?
– The shortage of labour is an important factor in that connexion.
– That is so. I realize that in this matter the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is reasonable, as indeed are most honorable members who are interested in the dairying industry. I know that the labour shortage is most acute. That problem would be no less serious if another Government were in office. On the one hand, there is an insistent demand from the Army authorities for more and more men to make up for the losses caused by malaria, and other causes; on the other hand, there is a demand for ‘more men to maintain production in various directions. We are trying to maintain a balance between these conflicting interests. We may, perhaps, have reached the stage at which we shall have to say to the Army that we cannot supply any more men.
– There must be a limit somewhere.
– That is so. We may have to come to some such decision. If so, the Government must accept the responsibility of having commanders say that divisions are going into action below strength. These are not easy problems to solve. The Government has discussed the dairying industry with . the man-power authorities. No Ministry of Food could deal with these matters without having regard to the requirements of men for the Army and the Munitions Departments. We may have to say to the man-power authorities that they must refrain from calling up more men from agricultural industries. In some instances nien have been recalled from the army to work on farms. These things are being done through the Australian Food Council. . Could they be done any more effectively through a Ministry of Food? It may be that the existing council should have power to enforce its decisions on the man-power authorities and on the Department of Munitions and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture ; but in exercising such powers it. would have to regard the obligations of those departments in other directions. I repeat that it is not a simple matter to solve these problems. Constant attention to various aspects is necessary. I pay a tribute to the Controller of Foodstuffs. He is worthy of it.
– Is not his title “ Controller of Defence Foodstuffs “ ?
– Yes ; but under the Australian Food Council he has been directed to deal with civilian foodstuffs also. Mr. Davis, the officer in question, came to us from a State department in New South Wales. He is a capable man, and has earned the high esteem of all who have been associated with him. The representatives of the American Government in Australia regard him as one of the best men with whom they have come in contact, in either the United States of America or Australia. What I have said indicates clearly that the Government has not neglected these matters.
Some time ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) appointed Mr. Bulcock as DirectorGeneral of Agriculture. Mr. Bulcock, who works in close association with
Mr. Davis, occupies the position of chairman of the executive of the Australian Food Council. At any meeting of the council dozens of problems which need immediate attention are likely to arise. If it is a question affecting many phases of production, it is referred to either the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or the Minister for Supply and Shipping for his approval. When the council meets, representatives of various organizations are present. Even the service canteens are represented. Indeed, the demands of the canteens for food supplies are growing to such dimensions that I am inclined to think that some restriction will have to be made there. There is also a. growing number of canteens attached to munitions annexes. Twelve months ago, the United Kingdom was able to obtain large quantities of cheese from sources other than Australia, and, consequently, did not press us to fulfil orders that had previously been given. To-day, however, the United Kingdom is urging us to fulfil its orders for butter and .cheese, and we are doing our best to comply with its demands, because the war is won not only on the battlefield but also on the home-front. Therefore, we must do everything in our power to ensure that supplies of butter and cheese to the United Kingdom shall be maintained.
The price factor has also received consideration. The price which is now being paid by the United Kingdom for Australian butter, is less than the cost of production. The Food Council has discussed this matter with the representative of the British Ministry of Food, Mr. Bankes Amery. The Commonwealth Government was prepared to supply Great Britain with butter even if it had to subsidize the dairy-farmers in order to make up the difference between the purchase price and the cost of production. The representative of the British Government indicated that the United Kingdom was always prepared to take cost of production into account and, presumably, a satisfactory arrangement will be reached.
The subject of meat has been discussed at some length. The right honorable member for Cowper asked me to inform him whom the Commonwealth Government directed to handle the matter. Cabinet naturally vested the responsibility in the appropriate department, namely, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Regulations governing the Meat Industry Commission were disallowed recently by the Senate, and that action upset many of the plans that the commission had drawn up for controlling prices. During the last two weeks, the administration of the industry has been thrown into confusion, but neither the commission nor the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is responsible for that.
– Why did not the Government make use of the Meat Export Board, which is already in existence, rather than appoint a new commission?
Mir. BEASLEY. - The- Meat Export Board, as its name suggests, deals with problems of export, which are vastly different from problems of domestic supply. The Commonwealth Government has embarked upon a big scheme for canning meat for the fighting forces, and large quantities of meat must be obtained for that purpose. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) might claim that the Meat Export Board possesses a wide knowledge of the domestic position, and I am not competent to argue the question, because I had no part in appointing the Meat Industry Commission. Nevertheless, the commission concentrates upon problems of domestic supply. The price on the hook has been determined, but supplies are not forthcoming at that price. A tendency to inflate prices is evident. Obviously, supplies of mutton are plentiful in the Commonwealth, because there ure 130,000,000 sheep in this country. The same difficulty arises with beef. Whilst there is no shortage of beef on the hoof, it is another matter to obtain adequate supplies on the hook.
– Sometimes the condition of the beef on the hoof is too poor to warrant’ it going on to the hook.
– That is true. Large quantities of beef are available in the Kimberleys, but the problem of getting it to the abattoirs or the canneries is tremendous. Last year, the Food Council drove 7,000 head of cattle from Central Australia to Queensland for slaughter, but lost 2,000 head on the way. It i3 a big job to drove a mob such a great distance. After the Japanese air raids had interfered with the production of meat at Broome and Wyndham, we shipped cattle from the north-west of Western Australia to Fremantle, but that is no longer possible. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture makes an urgent request for ships to bring beef from the north to the south of the State, but ships are also required to transport war materials to Port Moresby and Milne Bay. I have to decide which need is more urgent. Naturally, the transport of war materials to the operational zones must take precedence, and vessels that normally operated on the Western Australian coast have been transferred to other duties. Consequently, a shortage1’ of beef occurred in Western Australia, and we were compelled to augment the supply with beef from the eastern States. Fortunately, Western Australia has plenty of mutton. The question now arises as to whether the Government should take the power to direct beef and mutton to the canneries and dehydration plants. I say frankly that the Government may, in the near future, he obliged to take that action, although I know that I shall he immediately accused of interfering with the rights of pastoralists to dispose of their stock as they choose. It is not an easy matter to direct beef and mutton to the canneries or dehydrators
– The stock has to be in satisfactory condition.
– Apart from that problem, what authority is to say that 500 head shall be taken from this herd and 300 head from that herd? (Extension of time granted.] I hope that honorable members will not think that I am magnifying our difficulties; I dislike talking about them. But it is fitting that some of our problems should be made known, so that honorable members may have a better appreciation of them. These problems would confront any government in war-time.
The maintenance of adequate supplies of vegetables has been discussed by the Food Council. The Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, is responsible for the production side. The procedure is for the Food Council to direct the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to take all possible steps to increase the production of vegetables. When a shortage of vegetable seeds occurred some time ago, the Pood Council despatched to the United States of America an expert associated with the American Army, and a Mr. Douglas, who had been seconded to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture from the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales. They purchased and shipped large quantities of vegetable seeds that Australia urgently needed and ordered agricultural machinery required for vegetable production. Some of that machinery has already arrived. The examples’ which I have cited should satisfy honorable members that the food position is being closely watched at all times by the Food Council. A Ministry of Food could do no more than what is being done by the existing organization.
Contracts have been let for the supply of vegetables. When the contracts were entered into, the whole matter was discussed by the Department of Supply and Shipping with representatives of the vegetable-growers, and generally prices have been mutually agreed upon. When difficulties arise, the explanation is that the price agreed upon six months ago is lower than that offering on the open market to-day. We have always to meet constantly changing seasonal conditions. One State might experience drought conditions, whilst another might enjoy a good season. Plans which may be laid down in advance for a production goal by a certain date might be upset by seasonal conditions, over which man can exercise no control. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is of opinion that home gardening has slackened. This view was verified after consultation with seed merchants. The sale of seed has declined. The reason can be understood. Last, year, the Government encouraged people to grow potatoes in their gardens. Later, a glut occurred, and the homegardener argued thus : “ I can buy potatoes so cheaply now, that I wonder why I ever bothered to grow them “’. So gluts and shortages constantly occur, despite all the planning that we do. Perhaps if we were living in a totalitarian country, the discipline that the Government exercised would be more strict than that imposed by a democratic government, and we could direct people to grow vegetables. But it is better for surplus food to rot, than to have inadequate supplies. The Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, has been instructed to encourage the home-gardener to increase his production of vegetables. At present, Mr. Bulcock is inspecting areas in Queensland that the Commonwealth Government might take over for the production of vegetables for the Army.
– Will the necessary labour to grow the vegetables be obtained from the Army?
– It will probably be obtained from the Army, or we shall employ alien labour. We shall squeeze the necessary man-power from somewhere. Within the next few days, an important job will be completed in Queensland by the Allied Works Council, and I hope that 300 aliens will be released from it to engage in metal production at Mount Isa. In all these jobs, we work to a razor edge. As soon as one project is completed, the men who were employed on it are rapidly transferred to a new job. We must not throw up our hands in despair. We must plug along, and maintain production.
The Food Council has obtained from the United States’ of America the services of four experts in dehydration, who have a wider knowledge of the subject than we have. They have been most helpful, and a dehydration scheme, under the guidance of Mr. Menzies, an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, is progressing in most places satisfactorily.. In other places, the progress is not so satisfactory, and I commented strongly when I found that dehydration plants in Tasmania were not developing at the rate which I desired. The Food Council is constantly watching these developments, but it can only bring to the notice of departments or boards the necessity for stepping up production.
As honorable members are aware, supplies of rice are no longer available to the civil population. The entire crop is reserved for the troops, and we are endeavouring to create a store from which to feed the native population in our territories. At Leeton, an additional 5,000 acres will be sown under an arrangement with the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Commission and the Government of New South Wales’. An advance has been made for that work which is being done by the Food Council. A shipment of 11,000 tons of rice from the United States of America, which was made available to us like a bolt from the blue, was diverted to the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. In that way the demand on our local production was relieved. Knowledge of that shipment came to the Food Council through the Government’s representative in Washington. The council also deals with specifications of foods and food analysis. It is now setting up a laboratory to handle this aspect of the canning business. Honorable members will agree that this work is most important, and must be watched very closely. It is easy to visualize the serious results which would follow the tainting of food made available to forward areas. Due largely to the help which we have received from the American experts now in this country, we have fared very well in dealing with this matter. The Food Council also supervises the distribution of supplies of chocolate. It has allocated supplies to towns in the north of Queensland, where it has been found that members of the forces, . although able to obtain ample supplies of chocolate at military canteens, very often buy up supplies in towns, with the result that the civilian population is deprived of normal requirements. Shortages of that- kind naturally cause bad feeling on the part of civilians. Much diplomacy must be exercised in handling problems of this kind in consultation with representatives of another government. .The same observations apply to the maintenance of milk supplies. The impact of the war on Queensland has been most severe. I repeat that up to date the Food Council has been able to deal successfully with these problems as they arise. In some instances it has drawn from the emergency supplies established in country towns shortly after the outbreak of war to meet the possibility of mass evacuations from the capital cities. The council has been pumping these supplies into towns where shortages have occurred. At one town, it was able by this means to come to the rescue of the Allied Works Council when normal food supplies for employees did not arrive on schedule. These emergency supplies were established by a previous government, and the Food Council has utilized them when the necessity has arisen. The subject of the supply of phosphates was discussed last night. The Food Council intends to approach the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to see whether the munitions programme cannot be recast in order to liberate more phosphates for the production of foodstuffs. The council has also discussed the progress of shipments of sodium phosphate from Canada.
My review of the operations of the Food Council at this juncture has, necessarily, been sketchy. I did not intend to go into the matter in detail. However, I have given an outline of the council’s work. To date, it has held the fort. Grounds for criticism and complaints may still exist; but I put it to honorable members that should we have the good fortune to continue as successfully as we have done up to date, the people of Australia will be the’ luckiest in the world. I do not say that in order to build up the case which I have tried to make, but when we realize the. conditions existing in other countries we must regard ourselves as being very fortunate indeed. In the United States of America the food problem is causing grave concern. The people of that country are noted for their efficiency as organizers. We are proud of the work which they have done to help the Allied war effort. However, we also can say that we have done pretty well. The United Kingdom also has done a marvellous job in meeting the demands of its large population. It is faced with a serious problem in tilling every available inch of soil for the production of food. That problem i3 daily becoming more intense. All of us are aware of the menace of the U-boat. Russia has drawn substantial supplies of food from the United States of America. Indeed, honorable members would be surprised to know exactly the amount of help that country has been able to render to Russia in this respect. In addition, further demands are being made on the food supplies of Allied countries in connexion with the campaign in North Africa.
Bearing all these facts in mind, the food position is not bad. I do not object to criticism of the way in which the Government is handling this problem. Indeed, criticism very often convinces Ministers, good though they may think their administration is, that more can be clone. It is on that principle that I accept all that has been said to-night by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and other honorable members. The Government feels that it has a firm grip of this problem. Our organization may not be perfect, but we are determined to fight on, because we know that we are working in the right direction, and are winning the war on all fronts, including the food front.
.- The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) made some interesting observations concerning the problem of the settlement of disputes in the coal-mining industry. He emphasized two points: first, that strikes in this industry are not peculiar to Australia, but occur in all coal-producing countries; and, secondly, experience shows that it is. practically impossible to settle strikes by mass suppression of the miners. It is true that strikes are common to the industry in every country in which it is carried on. Nevertheless, it is clear that during recent years, strikes have been more prevalent in the industry in this country than elsewhere. In confirmation of that statement I shall quote the relevant figures for Australia and Great Britain. These show that in 1932 the number of persons employed in the coalmining industry in New South Wales was 14,275, and the number of working days lost due to disputes was 82,560, or an average loss of 5.S days for each employee. In 3937, two years before the outbreak of the war, 14,9S1 men were employed in the industry in that State, and tha number of days lost was 304,163, or an average of 20.3 days for each man. In 1938 15,S15 men were 1 employed and the number of days lost was 714,342, including a general strike which lasted six weeks, or an average loss of 45.2 days for each man. In 1939 - the first year of the war - 16,581 men were employed and 380,367 days were lost, an average of 22.9 days a man. In 1940, the number of employees was 17,351, and 962,801 days were lost, including those lost in a period of ten weeks during which there was a general strike, an average of 55.5 days a man. In 1941, the last year for which I have a record, approximately 17,500 men were employed, and the number of working days lost was 404,520, an average of 23:2 days a man.
Let us compare those figures with similar statistics relating to the coal-mining, industry in Great Britain during the five years from 1937 to 1941. The difference is enormous. In 1937, the number of employees was 777,000, and the number of working days lost was 1,496,000, an average of 1.92 an employee. In 193S, the number of men employed was 7S2,000, and the number of working days lost was 697,000, an average of .S9. In 1939, the number of employees was S00,000, and the number of working days lost was 565,000, an average of .71. In 1940, the number of employees was 750,000, and the number of working days lost was 506,000, an average of .68. In 1941, the number of employees was the same, and the number of working days lost was 334,000, an average of .44. Those figures are illuminating. In this country, after the commencement of the war, the average number of working days lost increased more or less progressively, with the exception of the year 1939; whereas, in Great Britain, the average number of working days lost was reduced. In other words, the coal-miners of Great Britain settled down to work and carried on in much better fashion than did the Australian coal-miners. The second point is, that the Australian figures from 1932 to .1941 show that there were practically no strikes in the years of the depression, but they increased as the demand for coal grew; in other words, it would appear that strikes were called for the definite purpose of attaining welldefined ends as the demand for coal became greater.
– Is not that natural? The more independent men become, the more they assert themselves.
– That is perfectly true. It would apply naturally to days of peace; but surely it is wrong that it should apply to days of war !
I now turn to a set of figures which relate to absenteeism in the same industry. This is one of the big troubles with which we have to deal. In July of last year, the Aberdare Central colliery employed 170 men. On Monday, the 30th July, absenteeism totalled 15 per cent; on Tuesday, the 14th July, it was 13 per cent.; on Wednesday, the 15th July,, it was 18 per cent.; on Thursday, the 16th July, there was a strike, and all the men were absent from work; and on Friday, the 17th July, the absenteeism amounted to 25 per cent. In addition to the 43 miners who were absent on the” Friday, 35 miners, together with eleven other employees, left the mine at 11 a.m. The statement is often made by those who are interested in coal-mining, that absenteeism is very largely due to the fact that the miners are overworked. This record shows that that cannot be the cause; because, on the day following a strike, when no work was done, 25 per cent, of the men were still absent. A high percentage of absenteeism quite clearly is due to high wages. In this particular colliery, the wages are higher than in the majority of collieries in that area. The average earnings of the contract workers are about £2 17s. a shift, which is the highest in any mine in Australia. There WOuld thus seem to be some relation between the two sets of figures.
A good deal has been said about the conditions under which the miners work. I do not propose to deal with that aspect in any detail; but I do say that the conditions in the coal-mines of Australia are as good as, and, in most cases, are probably better than, in any other country, particularly Great Britain and the United States of America. Therefore, there would seem to he no real reason for strikes on account of bad conditions. A comparison of the number of strikes among coal-miners and metalliferous miners furnishes a most striking contrast. In 1939, the number of men employed in mining generally in Australia was 66,000, of whom 23,000 were employed in coal-mines and 43,000 in metalliferous mines. In that year, 291,067 man-shifts were lost in the coalmines; whereas in the metalliferous mines, in which the conditions are far worse, the rates of pay are lower, and the miners suffer more from sickness, only 3,805 days were lost. This shows quite definitely that the general psychological situation and set-up among coalminers are far different than among other miners, despite the worse conditions under which the latter have to work.
A great deal could be said about the history of miners. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has pointed out, the present set-up and the attitude of the miners generally, have evolved from the history of the industry. What applies in other countries applies also in “this country. A very large percentage of our miners are descendants of coal-mining families in Great Britain; coal-mining has been the family industry for generations. When the men came to Australia, they settled down in the coal-mining districts. Coal-miners are even now recruited largely from the Scotch, the Welsh, and Lancashire “ Geordies “. The English tradition has been transplanted to Australia, and is even stronger here than it is in the Home Country. This has a profound effect on the general attitude of the miner towards the industry, and his outlook towards direct action by means of the strike weapon. It is quite clear that the coal-mining industry, as a whole, has to- be treated differently from any other industry. This must be understood by any body undertaking to deal with it. How -it should be dealt with is difficult to determine, in view; of the fact that the conditions are dissimilar in different mines throughout the country. In .the heavy industries, or the textile industry, if an award is made governing the conditions in one industry, it becomes applicable, with minor differences, to all the other industries. But no two coal-mines are the same; there are 101 differences. This fact contributes very largely to the difficulty of making a uniform award covering every mine. The whole problem, therefore, from that point of view becomes extremely difficult, and in that respect, I agree with the honorable member for Bourke. I come now to what that honorable member said with regard to the difficulty of dealing with the coal-miners in the mass, and taking mass action against them. I have had a good deal of personal experience of dealing with, strikes affecting large bodies of men. My experience goes back to the days when I held the position of Commissioner in the German city of Cologne in 1920. We had there a very large industrial community, which was much affected by inflation, very restless, and very given to strikes. After a short time, it became quite impossible for the occupying forces to divest themselves of the responsibility of dealing with these strikes, because they affected not only the forces, but the whole of the life of the civil population, for which in the last resort the forces were responsible. It therefore became necessary to impose laws dealing with strikes. The honorable member for Bourke referred to a law passed in Canada to ensure a delay of three weeks, during which time arbitration had to be invoked in -an attempt to settle the difficulty, before a strike was allowed. At my suggestion, this system was applied to Cologne over the whole range of the district’s industries. A law was promulgated that no strike should take place in any industry unless the dispute had first been brought before an Arbitration Court, which consisted of a British officer as judge, with two assessors representing the employers and two representing the employees. The court gave an award, and, if either side objected to the award being enforced, it had the right, after a period of three weeks, to strike. We found in practice that practically no strikes occurred, but when we came to deal with the coalminers - because there were some coalmines in that area - the law which worked very well in industry generally did not have very good effects. Eventually, we were obliged on several occasions to take mass action against the coalminers. On those occasions, although we had a large number of British bayonets at our command, and there was no possibility of interference by the civil population, we found that we could not imprison 20,000 or 30.000 people, and all that we could do was to take charge of the union leaders. Even then we could not stop the strikes. It seems quite clear from the experience which I had there, together with the experience that other countries have had, that no mass repression can in the end be of very much avail. The question then arises as to what action we are to take to deal with the trouble in this country. Although a great deal could be said on the subject, I do not propose to say it now, but there are two points which I desire to emphasize to the Government. The first is that whatever action the Government decides to take in regard to strikes in the coal-mines should be carried through with complete firmness. The fault of all governments in this country, whatever their political colour, in dealing with the coal-miners has been that they have continually backed down from what they said they were going to do. This has only made the miners feel that, after all, if they only held on long enough they would succeed in the end. Iri many cases, penalties have been inflicted in the shape of fines upon the unions, but the large majority of fines remain unpaid. Whatever action is taken in the way of arrests must also be carried through with complete .firmness. Coal production is one of the most difficult problems that we have to deal with. The coal industry is like dynamite - if it is handled in the wrong way it will go up in smoke. It calls, therefore, not only for firmness, but also for careful handling by the Government. The main consideration is that the ‘Government should exercise control, not on the miners in the mass, but on individuals, whether they are union secretaries or rank-and-file offenders against the law. If prompt action is taken against those directly responsible, it will be possible to exercise some control over the industry, but a mass-repression policy will never have good effects. It is time that the present state of affairs was brought to an end. It is intolerable in these days, when the country requires coal, that it should be blackmailed - for that is what it really amounts to - by a small section of the population, which at the most totals only from 17,000 to 20,000 men. There are other problems which, upon’ another occasion, I should like to discuss in detail, but the main thing to remember now is that action should be taken as regards the individual, and carried through firmly, with no vacillation whatever.
– I support the views expressed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in relation to the food situation, and the steps which are necessary to control and rectify it. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) tonight described the intricate difficulties which arise in the administration of food supplies, and touched upon many phases of the problem. There is on this side of the Souse the greatest appreciation of those difficulties, and a desire on the part of members of the Opposition, and particularly of the right honorable member for Cowper, with his wealth of administrative experience, his intimate knowledge of rural industries, and what he learned in his recent long sojourn in Great Britain, where he studied these problems very intimately, to assist the Minister and the Government out of their difficulties. There has, however, not been the response to the proffered assistance that we might have expected. In some respects it has been approached from what might be considered a party angle, when no party benefit or interest ought to be considered or intended. I can. claim to have been very consistent in urging the Government to take definite and concrete action to rectify what I considered twelve months ago to be a rapidly developing deficiency of food supplies. On the 7th May, last year, I moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing the possibility of a serious decline in the quantities of foodstuffs being produced in Australia, and available to our civil and military population, affecting also as it did our ability to discharge our obligation to export as much as possible to the United Kingdom. Upon that occasion, nearly twelve months ago, a Minister of no less seniority and responsibility than the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) challenged my statement that a food shortage was developing, and asked me what proof I had that a shortage of foodstuffs was likely in. Australia. Present experience indicates that there is such a shortage. Any housewife can testify to that without consulting a statistician, an economist, or a government official, who would probably attempt to assure her that there was no such thing as a food shortage.
The rising prices of all classes of food prove that there is a very definite shortage, because prices- do not rise to any substantial extent unless the demand is greater than the supply. I listened with interest to the statement of the Minister for Supply and Shipping in defence of the Government’s action, or in-‘ action, regarding the control of food production. The Minister stated that the Australian Food Council was the best organization that the Government could devise to deal with the problem. He said that the council directed this person to do that, and the other person to do something else. It issued a direction to the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture to increase production, and it directed some one else to make agricultural machinery available. In short, it seems to issue orders to every on«, but the Minister did not disclose thatthere was any executive officer associated with the Food Council whose duty it was to see that the directions were obeyed. The council is composed of representatives of a number of Government authorities, but it is one of those bodies that has neither a soul to condemn nor a body to kick. There is merit in the suggestion of the right honorable member far Cowper that control of food production and distribution should be handed over to a single Minister, whose duty it would be to ensure that sufficient food was produced, under fair conditions to the producers, to enable us to supply the military forces, the civilian population, the requirements of our Allies, and the needs of Great Britain, insofar as shipping space is available.
As one who represents a farming district, I desire to refer to the producing end of the food supply problem. Nearly twelve months ‘ ago the Government, realizing the seriousness of the situation in regard to the production of butter, set up a committee to inquire into the problem. This committee recommended that the price of butter be increased 3 Jd. per lb., and that sufficient man-power be released from the Army to enable production to be maintained. Although those recommendations were made nine months ago, all that has so far come out of them is an increase of the price of butter by ‘/-,&. per lb. The only way in which production can be increased is by the labour of men. It cannot be done by setting up committees or appointing food councils. A good deal has been said about the shortage of potatoes. During the week-end, I visited a farm only a few miles from Canberra where five acres of potatoes are rotting iii the ground because the farmer cannot get labour to dig them. He issued an appeal for volunteer labour, and only two persons turned up. The Minister for Supply and Shipping may confirm this by visiting the farm himself. It is only just on the outskirts of the city. I do not suggest that the Government is responsible for all the difficulties arising out of the shortage of man-power, but if it appreciates the seriousness of the situation it should take immediate action. As I have said, the dairy committee recommended twelve months ago that men be released from the Army. If extra labour is to be provided for rural districts it must come from somewhere else. There is no reservoir of labour available in the country. Indeed, the only source, of supply now is the Army, and the only men willing to go back to the dairy farms are the sons of farmers. No one else is prepared to take on this job, involving as it does working on seven days a week the whole year round. An effort should be made to induce the Army authorities to co-operate more effectively in the attempt to increase food production. At the present time, as the Minister pointed out, the Army dictates where men shall go, but the time has now arrived when the Government should tell the Army that if the forces are to be supplied, a certain minimum of labour must be available. If too’ many men are called up, there must be a shortage of food, and food is of even greater importance to an army than munitions of war. T represent a dairying district, and on hundreds of farms from which the sons have been called up or have enlisted old people are trying to carry on under the greatest difficulty. In a great many instances it is becoming physically impossible for them to continue. Every week I receive dozens of letters from aged people of this kind telling me that, unless they are given some relief, or their sons are released from the forces, they will have to throw up the struggle.
Should the war last another three or four years, as it might do, the old people who are carrying on the dairying industry to-day will be wrecked physically, while their sons, who could be better employed at home, are in the Army. I do not suggest for one moment that the demands of the Army should be neglected ; they have to be met if we are to defend this country adequately, but surely a balance could be struck between the needs of the services and of essential industries. It is not possible to train men in the dairying industry in weeks or months; it takes years. The fellow who has been brought up on the land- is the one who should be taken out of the Army and put back into his job, if he is willing to go. If there is no shortage of foodstuffs, then there is no argument to support the release of men from the fighting forces, but, if, on the other hand, a serious crisis is developing in food production and is being intensified every week and every month, it is up to us to examine the whole question now, so that an estimate may be made of the position that will obtain in a year or two years should the present drift continue. Almost every day I receive letters from the Department of the Army informing me, . with great regret, that the application for the release of this man or that man cannot be granted, despite the fact that the man-power officers in the districts concerned, have guaranteed the bona fides of the application. This is a question which must be determined at the earliest possible moment by the Government, “War Cabinet, or the Australian Advisory War Council. The first stop should be the establishment of priorities. How long can we continue under a system which permits the Army to call up whatever men it wants, regardless of the effect of such action upon the production of food and material supplies upon which the Army depends?
– The Army now only takes men whom the man-power authorities’ say are available for the Army and are not required in essential industries.
– The point which I wish to stress is that a large number of men went into the services from the dairying industry prior to the granting of a blanket exemption in May of last year, and it is to these men in particular that I refer. The Dairying Industry Committee reported to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that, in the year 1941-42, an estimated total of 40,000 men left the dairy-farms to join the armed forces, or to undertake work in munitions or other industries. It was due to that serious drift that the Government applied the blanket exemption, but it was applied too late for a large number of people, with the result that some farmers whose sons were not in the classes called up still have two or three helpers on their properties, whereas others whose sons were called up have been left to carry on the best they can.
– Production for the year ending 1942 was higher than for the year ending December, 1941.
– There has been a progressive decline in butter production during the last two years, the drop in the first year being 15 per cent., and in the second, 20 per cent. To the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who seeks to prove that there is no shortage of foodstuffs by quoting figures compiled by some statistician, politician or economist, I say : “ Tell your” story, not to the marines, but to the housewives of Ballarat.” The Minister for Supply and Shipping will not obtain his requirements of foodstuffs merely by conferring with the Food Council, or relying upon the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock; he will obtain them; and the housewives and the men in our fighting forces will obtain them, only by the application of manpower and muscle to the land. Neither discussions of the type indulged in by the Food Council, nor the appointment of 50 Mr. Bulcocks will achieve anything unless the man-power pro’blem in primary industries is tackled. So far, it has been ignored completely. Nothing has been done since the blanket exemption was imposed in May of last year. I am confident that if the Army authorities were informed of the serious situation which exists in the farming districts, and were shown the state of the farms in some of those districts, or had access to my pile of correspondence on the subject, they would have a better appreciation of the danger which confronts this country, and, in their own interests, would be prepared to make men available. If that is not done, there will be a shortage of foodstuffs in our armed forces, in the civil population, or in the supplies to Great Britain which we are under obligation to maintain. I am tired of raising this matter so frequently during the last twelve months, while the Government remains inactive. To-night, we had the sorry spectacle of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who is reported to be one of the advisers of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, heckling the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who delivered a most constructive speech. Untimely laughter from honorable memburs opposite greeted many of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, despite the fact that the question of maintaining food supplies to this nation in war-time is one of the utmost importance. The suggestions made by the right honorable member for Cowper should be treated as seriously by all government supporters as they were by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). As a practical farmer, I know that committees will not solve our food problem. That problem must be solved in conjunction with the Department of the Army by the return to the land of experienced men. Land Army girls and former shopkeepers without experience of farming will not solve the farmers’ problems. The maintenance of food supplies is vital to the Army, and it is therefore the Army’s responsibility to take the steps necessary to ensure that maintenance.
I protest against the non-fulfilment of the recommendations of the committee which was set up by the Government to report on the deficiencies of the dairying industry. That committee recommended that dairy-farmers be given an increase of 3-Jd. per lb. of butter ; they were given a paltry 5/7d. per lb., showing the Government’s lack of appreciation of the position of the industry. The right honorable member for Cowper said that something ought to be done to meet the position of farmers to whom it was not worth while to market their produce owing to the low prices offered. In fixing prices regard must be paid to the C03t of production - the cost of ploughing, harrowing, fertilizing, harvesting, bagging, and marketing - not in one year, but over a number of years. A farmer may go to all the expense of sowing a crop only to lose it all as the result of flood, fire, drought, or frost. One must average the good years with the bad in calculating what should be paid. There is much merit in the suggestion of the right honorable member forCowper that farmers be guaranteed a minimum price. I agree with the Minister for Supply and Shipping that it would be good business for the Government to pay for an excess of food rather than not have it produced. A farmer constituent of mine has sent to me a cheque for 2s. 2d. - the proceeds of the sale in the Sydney market about Christmas time of two bags of beans, about twelve bushels - which he has suggested I should donate to the Treasurer. His letter says -
This is the last lot of beans that I am going to grow in response to any appeals which may be made to the farmers to assist in the solution of the vegetable shortage.
When a farmer receives such a small return as that for his labour it is no wonder that he has that re-action. The farmers ought to be guaranteed a price that will at least cover the cost of production, but that minimum should not be the maximum. They shouldhave the benefit of any better prices ruling in the markets. The suggestions of the right honorable member for Cowper contain three points : first, maintenance of adequate food supplies; secondly, the return to the farmer of a fair price for his produce, and, thirdly, the suppression of the inflationary tendencies and the stabilization of food and living costs. Those three objectives moist be achieved if we are to play our full part in this war. I hope that the right honorable” gentleman’s suggestions will be accepted immediately by the Government. I am confident that it will not be long before the Government will be compelled to accept them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Conelan) adjourned.
Man-power Requirements - Farmers’ Remuneration - Production Costs.
– I move -
That this House is of opinion that -
the stability and productiveness of the primary industries are essential to the nation’s war effort;
those who engage in these industries are entitled to just treatment as citizens, including a fair wage, based on Australian standards and comparable with that prevailing in secondary industry, to employees, and a fair price to employers;
it is unjust to establish any scheme for the fixation of wages in primary industries which does not provide for impartial and full investigation of the facts, and a due consideration of the economics of the industries concerned ; and
the time is overdue for the complete consideration by the Government of the position of the primary industries from the point of view of manpower requirements, prices, and costs; having in mind that ultimate soundness can be achieved only by fair prices, adequate wages, proper living conditions and improvement generally in the amenities of country life.
I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by the Government at this late hour to submit this motion, which I have had on the notice-paper for some time. It covers a wide field, and I regret that I shall have to make a demand on the patience of honorable members in dealing with this important subject at some length. I am actuated solely by a desire to obtain fair and just treatment for the rural industries of this country. Our primary industries have long been recognized as the backbone of the nation and the foundation of Australia’s economic security. Notwithstanding the remarkable transformation in our industrial life that bus taken place since the outbreak of war, the fact remains that our primary industries are of paramount importance in the prosecution of the war. Consequently, the stability and productiveness of the primary industries are essential to the nation’s war effort. The importance of our primary industries cannot be over emphasized. Unfortunately, since the present Government has been in office, the tendency has been to relegate our rural industries to a place of secondary importance. The industrial worker has been the major concern of the present Administration, with the result that primary industries have been adversely affected.
At the outset, I propose to illustrate with facts and figures the importance of our primary industries. I shall make some comparisons in an endeavour to show the trend in rural production since the outbreak of war and in some instances, in the preceding year. I shall consider, first, the pastoral industry.
Australia’s live-stock at the end of December, 1939, consisted of 119,000,000 sheep, 13,000,000 cattle, and 1,600,000 horses. The latest figures available to me give the totals as 125,500,000 sheep, 13,700,000 cattle, and 1,600,000 horses. Taking into account the size of flocks and the quantity of wool produced, Australia occupies a leading position amongst the world’s sheep-raising countries. With one-sixth of the world’s sheep, Australia produces one-quarter of the world’s supply of wool. One-half of the fine quality merino wool is produced in this country.
The important place which Australia occupies among the world’s principal sheep and wool producing countries is shown by the figures for 1938-39, which indicate that Australia, with 111,100,000 sheep, produced 984,000,000 pounds of greasy wool. The figures for other countries were -
The importance of wool in maintaining a sound economic structure must not be overlooked. In the years preceding the present war the sale of our wool clip at a satisfactory figure was an important factor in our national life.
According to the Commonwealth YearBook, in the ten years ended 1938-39, the price of greasy wool in the selling centres of Australia averaged 11. 5d. per lb. This figure is evidence of the heavy drop in the price of wool which began in 1929-30 and continued during the three succeeding years. Prices rose remarkably in 1933-34, averaging 15.84d. per lb. compared with 8.72d. per lb. for the previous year. Prices declined and rose, and in 1938-39 again receded. Since the outbreak of war the price of wool has been governed by the contract with the United Kingdom Government. The price originally fixed under that contract was 13.4375d. per lb. and in July, 1942, the price was raised to15.45d. per lb. If further proof be needed of the importance of the wool industry, so far as the national income is concerned, it is to be found in the ‘Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. These show that the gross value of the Australian wool clip for 1939-40 was £61,700,000, compared with £42,000,000 realized during 1938-39 under open market conditions.
These values may be compared with £81,400,000 in 1924-25 when the record price was realized and £34,800,000 in the depression year of 1930-31. The Statistician estimates the value of the clip for 1940- 41 at £63,300,000, whilst a preliminary estimate of the value of the 1941- 42 clip is £63,000,000.
In addition to providing enormous national wealth from wool, Australia’s sheep flocks provide mutton and lambs, which occupy an important place amongst the nation’s primary products. In 1939, for instance, more than 19,000,000 sheep, including lambs, were slaughtered, whilst the production of mutton and lamb in 1938-39 exceeded 717,000,000 lb., of which more than 527,000,000 lb. was consumed locally, the balance being available for export. In 1940-41 and 1941-42, the number slaughtered approximated 22,000,000 head. Between 1929 and the outbreak of the present war, the export trade in frozen muttonand lamb developed considerably. Exports in 1939-40 consisted mainly of lamb, the value being £5,300,000, whilst mutton exports were valued at £728,000. As with beef, Australia’s principal customer was the United Kingdom.
The Statistician’s figures indicate also the importance of the cattle industry to Australia. Approximately 3,300,000 head of cattle, including calves, are slaughtered annually. Of Australia’s beef production in 1938-39, about 77 per cent. was absorbed locally, the remaining 23 per cent. being exported as frozen, chilled, or canned beef. The value of exports of frozen beef in 1939-40 exceeded £4,800,000, and in 1940-41, £3,700,000.
I shall refer next to the dairying industry, which expanded greatly in the decade preceding the war. At this stage, I shall confine myself to quoting the Statistician’s figures relating to this industry, and shall reserve my observations on the question of assistance until later in my speech. In order that the House may appreciate the magnitude of this industry, I mention that in 1940-41 - the latest year for which figures are available - dairy herds in Australia numbered 3,407,170 cattle, with a butter production of more than 432,000,000 lb. The value of machinery employed on dairy farms was £6,400,000. Further evidence of the importance of this industry may be gauged from the fact that in 1939-40, 121,358 males and 27,540 females were engaged in it, compared with 119,407 males and 27,400 females in the preceding year. Taking into account the production of milk in 1940-41, the equivalent of 432,000,000 lb. of butter and 60,000,000 lb. of cheese was produced, the net value of dairy products, as valued at the farm, being £35,800,000. The extent of Australia’s export trade in butter and cheese is apparent from the fact that in 1937-38, ‘ butter to the value of £10,700,000 was exported ; in 1938-39, the value of the butter . exported was £12,800,000; in 1939-40, £15,800,000, and £12,000,000 in 1940-41. Cheese exports were valued at £845.130 in 193.7-38, £1,074,000 in 1938-39, £1,400,000 in 1939-40, and £1,500,000 in 1940-41. In addition, concentrated preserved milk to the value of £1,126,000 was exported in 1939-40. The bulk of these exports went to the United Kingdom.
In order to emphasize the paramount importance of our rural industries, I turn now to agricultural production. Here, again, I shall use the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. In 1940-41, the net value of all agricultural production in Australia was- £41,400,000 compared with £60,100,000 in 1939-40, and £41,700,000 in 393S-39. The net value of agricultural production per head of mean population was £5 18s. 2d. in 1940-41’ compared with £8 lis. lOd. in 1939-40. These figures include the value of production of wheat, hay, sugar-cane, maize, oats, rice, tobacco, cotton and fruit. Naturally, wheat production represented the major item in the total production value. In 1940-41, more than 12,600,000 acres in Australia was sown with wheat, whilst the production was estimated at about 82,200,000 bushels, or an average yield of 6.50 bushels to the acre. This indicates the severity of the conditions under which the crop was grown. It was the first time since 1919 that the total harvest for Australia dropped below 100,000,000 bushels. Statistics just made available to me indicate that the production in 1941-42 was 166,000,000 bushels, and in 1942-43, 152,000,000 bushels. I have quoted these figures to support the view expressed in the opening paragraph of my motion that the stability and productiveness of the primary industries are essential to the nation’s war effort.
In dealing with a matter of such importance as this, and in inviting Parliament to take a certain course of action It is only fair that I should indicate some of the lines along which the governments which preceeded the present Ministry acted. This is necessary because of the tendency in some quarters to convey the impression that the present Government has been the saviours of the rural industries of Australia. The facts, as I shall proceed to show, are that the reverse is the case, and that the Curtin Government is largely to blame for the unfortunate position in which rural producers find themselves to-day. Succeeding non-Labour governments had the interests of the primary producers at heart. The Government led by the late Mr. Lyons provided temporary measures to tide producers over immediate difficulties, and permanent measures of stabilization, based upon commodity organization of industries and the co-operation of governments. The Lyons Government established the Australian Agricultural Council. It allocated £12,000,000 to the States for farmers’ debt adjustment. The fertilizer subsidy was initiated by that Government. Its proudest achievement in the interests of any primary industry was the result of its negotiations to place the meat industry on a sound footing, as a result of which the industry made a direct gain of £14,000,000 and vital marketing principles of the utmost importance to all primary industries were established. The Australian Meat Board was also established by that Government. Substantial assistance was given to the apple and pear industry, the citrus industry, the dairying, dried- vine fruits, wool and other industries. These were but a few of the achievements of the Lyons Government which, between the years 1931-1932 and 1936-1937 gave financial assistance exceeding £21,000,000 to primary producers. Succeeding governments continued to assist primary industries by substantial grants of financial aid. f
As the House is aware, Australia, in the years preceding the outbreak of war, had extensive overseas markets for its major primary products. Governments then in power had succeeded in expanding those markets and were constantly exploring the possibilities of opening up new markets for those products. When war broke out in September, 1939, the whole situation in regard to our export markets changed. Important markets were closed to us, and the Menzies Government was faced, with the task of making immediate plans for the orderly marketing of our primary products. Fortunately for Australia, the system of statutory marketing boards for meat, dairy produce and fruits, brought into existence in the pre-war years, facilitated that Government’s marketing plan. Furthermore, the experience gained in marketing control, enabled it to proceed with the establishment of the Central Wool Committee, the Australian Wheat Board, and similar organizations. The war-time agricultural policy laid down by the then government aimed at giving Great Britain the maximum aid in vital foodstuffs, and the safeguarding of the productive capacity of our primary industries by providing guarantees of security and stability. In short, the war-time policy involved planned production and marketing for most of our primary products. The speed with which that Government acted and the results it obtained artshown by the fact that within two months of the outbreak of war, the Menzies Government was able to announce details of contracts embracing the sale to the United Kingdom of our major primary products. The actual value of contracts from the outbreak of war to June, 1940, was £98,800,000. Of that amount, sales of wool totalled £60,000,000, butter £14,000,000, meat £12,500,000, whilst the balance represented sales of cheese, eggs, sugar, canned and dried fruits, and metals.
Other important considerations associated with the war-time marketing plans were: First, sales on such a scale made “it possible to maintain Australia’s economic life on an even footing. Had these sales not been effected, the living conditions not only of the rural producer but also of the city-dweller would have been seriously affected. Secondly, the prices received were fair and reasonable. Naturally, Australia did not seek to profiteer at the expense of the United Kingdom. Thirdly, the Government in office in September, 1939, took the natural view that it was the responsibility of Australia to come to the aid of Great Britain by providing foodstuffs and raw materials. Fourthly, had it not been for the British navy and mercantile marine, it is doubtful whether one shipment of Australian foodstuffs would have reached its destination overseas. This would have meant disaster for a great number of our primary producers. These war-time contracts were renewed, whilst a number pf commodities were also made the subject of bulk contracts with the United Kingdom Government at various periods after the outbreak of war. These included sheepskins, apples and pears, fruit pulp, jam, egg pulp, vegetable seed and dried milk.
A war-time plan governing the wheat industry was also brought into operation. It provided for the payment of a guaranteed, price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. ports, for bagged wheat, for a marketed crop of 140,000,000 bushels.
What I have quoted to the House represents the actual achievements of the governments which preceded the present Administration. These facts are irrefutable evidence of the sympathetic manner in which the nonLabour governments’ grappled with the problems of the man on the land. What is more, they show that, understanding the difficulties of the rural producer which had been accentuated by the war, the Menzies and Fadden governments took positive action. Ours was a record not of airy promises of something to come, but of sound administration and real aid to primary producers. Thus it will be seen that when the present Government took office, it had a solid foundation upon which to build its plans to aid the primary producers.
What happened? Apparently, adopting the attitude that anything which previous governments had done to help the primary producer was not right, this Government set about meddling with the carefully laid plans of men whose knowledge of the rural industries enabled them to evolve a sound policy. Within a few days of taking office, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) declared that existing marketing machinery would be completely overhauled to ensure that the smaller producers and consumers were adequately represented. What the Minister really meant was that the overhaul would ensure that the trade unions and supporters of the Government were adequately represented.. Two months later, the Prime Minister mentioned that the review of the position of primary industries would fit in with the general review of the whole economic situation. Last August, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture announced that steps were being taken to organize rural production, and the man-power required to obtain it. As the months passed, the position of our rural industries deteriorated to such a degree that it became evident that if any review had been made or organization attempted, the primary producers, instead of finding their conditions improved were placed in an infinitely worse position.
To support that contention, I propose to refer to the position of those engaged in the pastoral industry. Unfortunately, the absence of detailed financial returns makes it impossible for me to give to the House an accurate survey of the incidence of production costs on the pastoral industry. However, increases of the cost of shearing labour - are worth noting, as they represent a cost that is still actually incurred. The cost of shearing labour before the war was, in the case of shearers, 35s. 6d. a 100 and in the case of shed-hands, £6 a week. At present, the figures are 40s. 3d. a 100 and £7 ls. 6d. a week respectively being increases of 13 and 17 per cent. Average wool prices were 9.75d. a lb. in 1934-35; 14.01d. in 1935-36: 16.48d. in 1936-37; 12.51d. in 1937-38; and. 10.39d. in 1938-39, on the open market.
– The Leader of the Opposition opposed the opening of nego-
Mr. Fadden. tiations with the British Government for the purpose of obtaining an increase.
– Replying to the honorable member recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that he considered that the price of wool was satisfactory, and that Great Britain had enough worries without our adding to them.
Lj; has frequently been suggested that the great majority of wool-growers own large flocks and sell substantial quantities of wool. Actually, data provided by the National Council of Wool-selling Brokers show that 93 per cent, of the total wool-growers of Australia who market their clips through Australian sales had less than 100 bales each and this wool amounted to more than 50 per cent, of the total sales within the Commonwealth. Under the British woolpurchase scheme, in the 1939-40 season, the owner of 100 bales received for his wool an average amount of £1,795 16s. 8d. I should mention that 100 bales of wool may be taken to represent the shearing of between 3,000 and 4,000 sheep. Taking into account expenses of production and marketing, his net average return was £576 13s. 4d. From this, he had to pay the cost of management, interest and income tax, as well as undertaking capitalexpenditure for developmental purposes. Adjusting this argument to the 15 per cent, increase of wool prices which came into effect on the 1st July, the grower producing 100 hales would have a net average return of £846. The average net return from wool and other activities of this particular class of grower is estimated at £1,128 to-day and £768 prior to the granting of the 15 per cent, increase. As most primary producers are financed by loans and bank overdrafts upon which interest has to be paid, the aggregate amount available to wool-growers as a return upon their own invested capital must be very small, even if the estimated cost of production can he, to some extent, reduced. Approximately 50 per cent, of our wool clip is produced by owners of more than 100 bales. Their capital investment is necessarily greater, and their net return can probably be considered reasonably relative to the return from smaller clips.
In reply to my case on behalf of those engaged in the’ wool industry, it may be suggested, on behalf of the Government, that statistics reveal record production and sheep numbers. My submission is that the upward trend is due to fortuitous seasonal conditions, to the subdivision of properties, to pastoral improvement - now curtailed by limitation of supplies of superphosphate - and to improvements generally. Unfortunately, the latter are now in jeopardy because of lack of manpower and materials.
Whilst statistics of the permanent manpower position on stations are not available, it is believed that the reduction is about 50 per cent. Station properties have lost so many permanent” hands that maintenance work cannot be carried out.
Another matter which is exercising the minds of those engaged in the pastoral industry is that of depreciation. The claims of certain industrial .interests that special depreciation should be allowed for taxation purposes in respect of plant which will have to be scrapped after the war or of plant subject to a high degree of depreciation as a result of continuous running have been recognized. Although, normally, the Department of Munitions does not allow, as an element of cost, depreciation exceeding the rates allowed for federal income tax purposes, an increased allowance for depreciation may be approved where excessive wear-and-tear occurs on plant used to full capacity, or by unskilled, labour. If it is approved, depreciation is allowed accordingly for taxation purposes on the same basis as that approved by the Department of Munitions. In a like manner, where contractors for the Department of Supply and Shipping, working on a cost-plus basis, are permitted to include, as an element of cost, depreciation in excess of scheduled rates, the same rates are allowed for taxation, purposes.
Recently, the Graziers’ Vigilance Committee asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to allow some counterpart of this allowance in rural activity. The Treasurer was asked to arrange some allowance for ordinary depreciation, and also for the excessive cost of overtaking the neglect enforced by war-time circumstances. If some arrangement of this kind be not made, rural industry will be taxed upon a fictitious profit and left with a load of depreciation when the war is over without any reserves to meet it. I am informed that the Treasurer has replied that while he appreciates the fact that primary producers are at present paying tax on amounts which, but for the exigencies of war, would ordinarily be expended in maintenance, introduction of allowances in the manner advocated would have a most disturbing effect on the basic principles of income tax. The proposal, he stated, amounted to the establishment of a tax-free reservation of profits to meet post-war expenses in connexion with pastoral properties and it would be a very radical departure in income tax law, virtually enabling the taxpayer to arrange from year to year the amount of tax he would pay or whether he would pay any tax at all. The Treasurer’s view is that a special concession of the nature sought could not be granted to the pastoral industry, and refused to the general body of taxpayers, and that the Government could not entertain the proposal because of its very serious effect on revenue urgently required to meet war-time commitments. The Graziers’ Vigilance Committee did not suggest that taxpayers should evade taxes. It is difficult to agree with the Treasurer’s contention that the request has equal application to every industry, both primary and secondary. It applies in the main to primary industries where the position is that, owing to the shortage of labour, properties are deteriorating to an alarming degree through lack of attention and maintenance, whereas in the secondary industries the deterioration in the main is in consequence of excessive use, and adequate compensation has been made for that kind of deterioration. If the grazier is not to be allowed a deduction for normal upkeep, he will be paying increased taxes by reason of this fact, and, after the war, he will have no reserve funds to meet the heavy expense that must be incurred to bring the land back to full production. Briefly, the position facing the pastoral industry to-day is one of rapid depreciation of capital assets due to inability to perform maintenance aud improvement work. If this be carried too far, the result will be a marked decline, both in quantity and quality, of pastoral production. A falling off of quality of wool production will greatly intensify the problem of recuperation after the war in view of the position facing the industry abroad. Recovery of lost markets will present great difficulties because of the enormous development of substitutes and their increasing efficiency; and because they have become the subject of consumer habit. The task of the wool industry will be to overcome the habits of impoverished consumers who become satisfied with the inferior article available in sufficient quantity and at low prices.
The problems of the wheat industry have occupied the attention of successive governments for many years past. This industry has been the subject of investigations and of numerous debates in this House. I shall confine myself to some general observations on the position of the industry to-day, and will leave it to honorable members who have a first-hand knowledge of the industry to place the case for it before the House in detail. As I stated earlier the wheat stabilization scheme introduced when my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce provided for the payment of 3s. lOd. f.o.b. for 140,000,000 bushels of wheat. When my Government went out of office the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) gave an undertaking that the previous Government’s contract would be honoured. However, the Minister has failed to carry out his promise. Here is the position regarding the No. 5 pool, as I see it. A payment of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. was guaranteed by the Menzies Government for 140,000,000 bushels. A total of 153,000,000 bushels was delivered, yet farmers have received an average of only 2s. 4id. a bushel at country sidings, which is equal to 3s. 3d. f.o.b. on 153,000,000 bushels, or £1,300,000 less than the guarantee for the 140,000,000 bushels. If this amount, plus 2s. a bushel advance on the 13,000,000 bushels excess wheat, were paid to the farmers, they would now receive £2,600,000 to help them to meet their commitments. Wheat-growers are also gravely concerned at the failure of .he Government to carry out its promise )f 4s. a bushel cash on delivery at country sidings for the first 3,000 bushels in the No. 6 pool, that is the 1942-43 crop,” and 2s. a bushel on the excess of that crop. They are equally concerned at the whittling down of the guarantee by the exclu- sion of many partners, sons and landowners when the promise was that every licensed wheat-grower would be fully eligible. Recently, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated that he was conferring with the Treasurer concerning the payment of a further advance on the No. 5 pool; but, so far as I am aware, nothing has happened. The position is viewed very seriously by the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association, which decided recently to urge the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, if necessary, to take legal action to compel the Government to pay growers what is due to them on the 13,000,000 bushels, of excess wheat in the No. 5 pool. In respect of the No. 6 pool the Government promised the growers that it would pay 4s. a bushel at sidings for the first 3,000 bushels delivered to a licensed receiver. The Minister stated that the object of the Government was to safeguard the small grower in a period of emergency and to ensure that men raising families on small farms would be enabled to carry on. Provision was also made for an advance payment of 2s. a bushel, bagged basis, at sidings for wheat in excess of 3,000 bushels. In this connexion, tragic muddle and delay has taken place. Instead of every licensed grower being entitled to a quota and thus securing the Minister’s promised £600, the proposal was whittled down by being applied only to bagged wheat, with 2d. a bushel less for bulk wheat - or a decrease of £25 on the quota. Although the budget estimate of cost was based upon every licensed grower who produced under 3,000 bushels getting his whole delivery in at the quota price of 4s. a bushel, and every licensed grower who delivered over 3,000 bushels producing a full 4s. quota, the scheme has now been whittled down, and land-owners with share-farmers are getting a part quota only. The effect of this will be that the share-farmer will be put off. Partners, though . having separate properties and sons with their own crops, are being excluded. This is an absolute betrayal of the growers. As the result of the scheme, farmers will receive millions of pounds less for their crop than for the wheat they delivered in the previous season. Had a uniform increase of price covering the increase of production costs been paid over the whole crop from the licensed areas, farmers would have been much better off.
Early this month, when questioned by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said he was alarmed to find that 6,000 claims for wheat quota payments in New South Wales alone were still outstanding. Even admitting the existence of man-power difficulties in handling such claims, the Minister’s own admission indicates a lack of direction on the part of the Government so far as the payment to wheat-growers of their just dues is concerned. The farmers of New South Wales recently protested vigorously against the delay in payment for wheat delivered this season. They claimed that many growers who delivered their wheat as far back as November and December had not then received any payment, although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated on a number of occasions that the wheat scheme provided for payments to growers, cash on delivery.
A3 was the case when the Labour party was previously in office, the history of this Government so far as the wheat industry is concerned is one of broken promises. Instead of endeavouring to assist the wheat-grower to meet his many difficulties which have been accentuated by the present Government’s actions it has inflicted even more severe hardships upon this important section of primary producers. The introduction of the harvesting award, providing wage rates above production costs, and with complete disregard for what the farmer himself receives, has added still further to the wheatgrowers’ difficulties. This, combined with previous experience of the rural award in New South Wales, made it practically impossible to employ labour on farms. The rural award did not make one extra man available for work on farms, though it made it compulsory to pay employees a wage which bore no comparison with the return received by the farmer. This award was not asked for by the Wheatgrowers Federation. That body merely agreed to provide representation on any wages tribunal if the Government was determined to set up such an authority. The Government’s action was apparently the thin edge of the wedge to introduce a general rural award, notwithstanding that a previous New South Wales award had resulted in a 30 per cent, reduction of rural employment. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has dealt with that matter.
If the wheat-growing industry is to avoid being driven into a condition of absolute chaos by the Government’s unsympathetic treatment and its unnecessary and unjustifiable interference with wheat-growers’ organizations, the Government must take immediate steps to review the whole of its past actions and do something towards placing the industry on a sound footing. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries might be invited to examine the position in this industry, just as it has examined the position in other rural industries, and make recommendations on the subject. If this proposal is not acceptable to the Government, it might consider appointing a special committee of practical and experienced men from the industry similar to that which recently investigated the dairying industry.
In meeting the war-time requirements of the fighting forces as well as those of the civilian population, the dairying industry is especially important. Dairy farmers throughout the Commonwealth have been treated very shabbily, indeed, by the Government. As I mentioned earlier, the contracts arranged by the Menzies Government with the United Kingdom Government for the purchase of primary products included substantial contracts for the purchase of dairy products. Taking into account the position created by the war, the dairying industry received immediate and sympathetic consideration from the government that preceded the present Ministry when the war-time marketing plans were brought into being. As the war progressed, it became apparent that this industry, in common with certain other primary industries, was experiencing difficulties in regard to both export trade and internal organization and operation. Shipping difficulties had compelled the government of the United Kingdom to take action which established the need for the drastic reorganization of our export industries. These included the dairying industry. The budget which I introduced in September, 1941, provided for substantial expenditure on the extension of cold storage and the re-equipment of factories to change over from the production of butter to that of cheese. Three months earlier, the Government of which I was a member, appointed the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), in ,orde!r to gain first-hand knowledge of the troubles of the rural producer and to recommend remedial measures. The committee, in its report to Parliament three weeks before my Government went out of office, dealt with the shortage of labour and the effect of petrol rationing upon rural industries. From this it will be seen that the Government in power prior -to October, 1941, had the interests of the dairying industry at heart, and was anxious to do everything possible to help it to meet the many problems that confronted it. Then, in November, 1941, following a conference with representatives of the industry, members “of the Opposition met the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland. It was pointed out at the time that a comprehensive survey had indicated that butter was being sold at 1.65d. per lb. below the cost of production, but as a contribution to the war effort, the industry had asked for an increase of only Id. per lb. The industry’s request had been refused, and the object of the conference in November, 1941, was to ascertain the reasons for the refusal of the Prices Commissioner to grant the increase. Later that month, the Commissioner intimated that he proposed to review the position six months later, but the Prime Minister requested the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to arrange for the review to take place in three months. As a result of the support given, by the Opposition, to the claim of the industry, the Prices Commissioner, in March of last year, announced an increase of the retail price of butter of Id. per lb. He stated that that figure showed that costs on the farm and in butter factories were still increasing. He also said that the dairy farmer’s claim for some adjustment on his net income on account of increased living costs could not be ignored in a country in which the average wage earner had the benefit of the automatic flr. Fadde ii.. adjustment of his basic wage to changes of the cost of living. He admitted that the permitted increase of price would not cover the full effects of increased costs and reduced returns on account of changes in industry.
The Joint Committee on Rural Industries reported in September last that the evidence which had been placed before it was unanimous in stating that the position of the dairying industry was becoming acute ; it was suffering severely from scarcity of labour, and was so depleted of man-power that production was seriously threatened ; the industry was also suffering from adverse seasonal conditions.
The committee reported that the manpower difficulty would not end with the exemption of farm labour from military service. The conditions in the dairying industry must be made more attractive, in order to retain on the farm even the sons and daughters df the farmer at an age when they would be inclined to seek employment elsewhere. The committee - consisting of members from both sides of the House - was emphatic that the industry was not receiving remuneration commensurate with the service it was rendering to the nation. It was, therefore, unanimously of the opinion that a substantial increase of the price of dairy products was essential.
Concerned at the man-power position in the dairying industry, the Opposition in the early months of last year, pressed the Government to take some action. As a result, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture announced on the 1st July last, that a committee had been appointed to inquire into certain aspects of the industry. This committee, consisting of men with a thorough knowledge of the industry, was asked to investigate the shortage of man-power, the depletion of dairy herds, the slaughter and disposal of young dairy stock, the provision of fodder in dairying districts, ani the position of dairymen in financial difficulties, and also to report regarding returns to dairymen and the wages paid to dairy employees.
This special committee submitted an interim report to the Government in July, and, although when it was appointed, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stressed th« urgency of the matter, repeated requests by the Opposition, up to the end of Sep”tember, for the tabling of the report, met with replies that departmental Cabinet sub-committees, were dealing with it, or that it was awaiting submission to Cabinet.
In view of the Government’s subsequent action, I consider it. appropriate that I should refer in some detail to this interim report. [Extension of time granted]. The committee recommended that immediate steps be taken to secure a minimum return to the farmer of ls. 5-^d. per lb. for commercial butter, and that in order to ensure such action, prices on the Commonwealth market be increased by 3$d. per lb. for butter, and 2d. per lb. for cheese, the export value to be increased by 3d. per lb. for butter, and 2d. per lb. for cheese. The committee suggested that, in the event of that recommendation being approved, steps be taken to ensure that a due proportion of the price increase be returned to those actually engaged in dairy production. The committee was strongly of the opinion that it would not be equitable to freeze dairy-farm labour at existing unremunerative wage levels. It considered that very few men would return voluntarily to the industry unless wages were placed on a basis comparable with those offering for unskilled manual workers in other industries. The committee reviewed the data upon which the industry based its case with the Prices Commissioner for a price increase on the local market, and satisfied itself that the cost of production of butter established by such data, namely ls. 4.65d. per lb. for commercial butter served as a reliable basis upon which to frame a recommendation for the betterment of the monetary return to the dairyfarmer. It concluded, that in view of the recent downward- trend of interest rates, interest might be assessed at 4 per cent. ; this would involve a reduction of the cost from ls. 4.65d. to ls. 4d. per lb., which might be taken as a new working basis in order to establish the return considered necessary both to restore production to necessary levels and to ensure a satisfactory return to the farmer. It pointed out that, since these costs had been determined; the basie wage had increased materially, and that this increase, applied- to the basic figure, together with an allowance of £1 a week to provide the farmer himself with some additional recompense for the extra hours worked and the responsibility undertaken, would involve an addition of 10 per cent., bringing the basic figure to approximately ls. 5£d. per lb. for commercial butter. This, it considered, was the minimum return necessary to achieve the object of arresting the decline of production. It believed that that average return might best be secured by increasing the local wholesale price of bulk butter by 3$d. per lb., and the export price by 3d. per lb. Such an increase of the local price would, it stated, represent a retail price of 2s. per lb. for pat butter in the principal Australian centres of distribution.
In its second report, submitted in August last, the committee stated that an examination of further evidence had confirmed its recommendation concerning the increase of price. It recommended that, after the lapse of a year, under the improved conditions which would follow the adoption of the increased price, the whole field of costs within the industry should be re-surveyed by a competent governmental authority, with a view to the re-establishment of a basic figure that would ensure a fair return to the dairy-farmer. It will be seen that the committee was definitely in favour of an increase of the price of butter. It is not surprising, therefore, that the continued request of members of the Opposition that the Government should make the report available - even after the Dairying Industry -Assistance Bill had been introduced - should be met with a refusal. The report, made available only a few weeks ago, will give to the dairy-farmer a proper appreciation of how paltry is the assistance which the Government has decided to give to him in the face of recommendations by men who are competent to assess the needs of the dairying industry.
The Dairying Industry Assistance Bill, introduced in October, provided for the payment of a subsidy of up to £2,000,000, and the taking of necessary measures, through the Arbitration Court, for the determination of wage standards and living conditions for workers- in the industry. It is significant that the Government did not introduce the measure until the closing days of the sessional period in October last. Certain members of the Opposition have been subjected to considerable criticism because of their attitude to an Opposition amendment which provided that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted in order to provide a more equitable scheme which would reasonably relate the price received by the primary producer to his cost of production. With several members of the Opposition, I supported that amendment; but the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in making clear that it was not acceptable to the Government, declared that, if the Opposition wished to obstruct the passage of the bill, the Government was prepared to leave matters as they stood and to throw on the Opposition the responsibility for whatever consequences might ensue.
The Opposition did not have a sufficient number of votes to carry the amendment and, in the face of the very definite threat by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the bill was agreed to. Would not dairy-farmers have condemned us had we obstructed the granting of the small measure of relief which Labour was prepared to give to them? We had either to accept half a loaf for the dairymen or they would have had no bread. The Opposition is not satisfied with the subsidy scheme and I have condemned it publicly on a number of occasions. We are determined to continue our fight for more equitable treatment for the dairy-farmer and, in doing so, ask for his co-operation so that an unanswerable case might he submitted to the Government. The attitude of the dairying industry throughout Australia might, I consider, be summed up in the words of the Victorian Dairymen’s Association, as late as the end of January. That association declared that the dairying industry, because of constant interference and lack of understanding, was in a state of disquiet and unrest hitherto unknown. The association stated further that, contrary to the advice of every responsible leader of the industry, the Government brought down its so-called Dairying Industry Assistance Bill, introducing the principle of a subsidy instead of a straight-out price increase. This, the association stated, placed producers in the bitterly resented position of political bondage, and created by the provisions of the act a state of muddle and discontent which was very seriously jeopardizing the assistance of a great industry.
It is clear that the Government, and not the Opposition, is, to a great degree, responsible for the deplorable condition in which the dairying industry to-day finds itself. It has treated in a completely inadequate fashion the extremely serious and urgent problems of this industry. Labour stands condemned for its unrealistic approach to the problems of the dairying industry and for the dole it handed out in the form of the subsidy provided for in the Dairying Industry Assistance Act.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Opposition feels that it must place the case of the dairying industry before the Government as emphatically as it possibly can. The Government has an opportunity to remedy the effects of its neglect, not only in the interests of the dairy-farmer and in consonance with the figures presented by an expert committee on the subject, but also- to preserve the economic stability of Australia itself. I could deal with many other aspects embodied in the motion, but, as the hour is late, I shall refrain. I thank the House for listening patiently to what I have had to say. I am sure that honorable members recognize the importance of the motion, and realize that the man on the land is entitled, in the interests of the nation, to better treatment than he has received at the hands of the Government. We must recognize that the rural industries of Australia are of paramount importance, not only as contributors to the war effort, and as constituting the food army which is part and parcel of that effort, hut also as a basis upon which sound economic reconstruction must take place after the war. The man-power position has been very seriously bungled, and the effects of that bungling have not been grappled with or attacked as they should be. The rural man-power situation has been allowed to drift into a condition which threatens the existence of some of our major primary industries. In short, the interests of the man on the land have been seriously and sadly neglected by the Government.
He is entitled to fair compensation for his services, proper conditions of life, and a measurable proportion of all the amenities that can be made available under modern conditions and which are enjoyed by city dwellers. The primary producer constitutes the backbone of the community, and consequently I submit the motion with sincerity and enthusiasm on behalf of rural industries with which are linked the economic and financial welfare of theCommonwealth of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Baker) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Superannuation Bill 1943.
Maternity Allowance Bill 1943.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1943.
Primary Producers Relief (Superphosphate) Bill 1943.
” Radio Times “ - Treloar Grenade Thrower.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.CALWELL (Melbourne) [11.55]. - I bring to the notice of the Government a matter which I consider of urgent public importance, and of very considerable gravity. In the city of Melbourne a newspaper is published under the title of Radio Times. It is a weekly publication, which for some time has been engaged in the despicable practice of stirring up sectarian strife in the community. Only a week or two ago, as the chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, I presented to the House a report of the committee. This journal saw fit to reprint an article which was published in Sydney in a very unsavoury journal known as the Daily Telegraph. That particular newspaper made sneering comments upon the work of the committee and its recommendations. Radio Times, in addition to doing that, which was bad enough, and which I suppose we must suffer in days when we talk so much about the freedom of the press, published a grossly and particularly vicious sectarian attack upon myself and other people who are members of the Labour party. I feel that I should draw the attention of the House to this matter, because the publication of these articles must have a damaging effect upon the morale of the nation. They must be written with subversive intent by people who are extremely anxious to destroy that amity and national unity which is essential to our continued existence and which has been maintained, very fortunately, since the war broke out, in every State of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, I suppose that there was never less sectarian feeling or bigotry in the community than there is to-day, and has been since the war started. There is greater mutual tolerance than at any other time, possibly, in our history, and it is most regrettable that anybody should seek to disturb that excellent and desirable state of affairs. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) will dosomething by means of regulation under the National Security Act to deal with trouble-mongers who wantonly and maliciously plan to set one section of the community against another, or individuals against others, because of matters of religious disputation. “When I made inquiries about this paper, I found that it is particularly unsavory from many points of view. The owner of the publication is a man named H. Drysdale Bett, who lives at 501 St. Kilda-road, Melbourne. He controls three companies; first, Radioprogram Proprietary Limited, which has 842 shares, of which Bett owns 829, secondly, Radio City Proprietary Limited, a company with eleven shares, of which Bett owns ten, and, thirdly, Radio Times Company Proprietary Limited, with five shares, of which Bett owns four.Radioprogram Proprietary Limited owes about £800 to Radio City Proprietary Limited which, in turn, very strangely enough, owes the Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited, a purely mutual society, £27,500. It is a most extraordinary state of affairs that our laws should permit the people controlling such a mutual society to invest the money of policy-holders in what could easily be a very doubtful commercial venture. It is true, however, that the Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited loaned that sum to Radio City Proprietary Limited, but the same Radio City Proprietary Limited also owes Rolf e Brothers, tea merchants, £2,348. In all, the indebtedness of Radio City Proprietary Limited is thus about £30,000. It was because of the financial difficulties of Radio Times Proprietary Limited that a change of policy occurred in the newspaper some few months ago. Previously it was a radio journal. It had its own fights and difficulties with other radio journals, and lived precariously. At the time when it changed its policy, its financial burdens were considerably eased. Simultaneously, it began to publish sectarian and communist articles written by somebody who thought that the best way to help our enemies was to start a sectarian crusade against certain leaders of the Labour party, and to boost, as far as it could, the Communist party in Australia. I have never fallen into the grave error of confusing the valour of the Russian armies with the lack of valour of the Communists in this country. I have a great admiration for the Russian Army, but I have no time for Communists who wish to push other people into a second front in Europe and want every body to he conscripted in Australia but themselves. The publication of these articles began, as I say, a few months ago and I think that some persons interested in propagating certain ideas came to the financial rescue of the journal. According to one rumour, £5,000 was paid back to the life assurance society which had advanced money to the journal. There is another rumour that the interest owing on the money has been guaranteed by persons who have contracted to supply an article each week on the page to which I take objection. Radioprogram Proprietary Limited, which now poses as a champion of liberty, and a defender of working class principles, has a particularly rotten industrial record. It has been convicted several times for underpaying employees and for otherwise breaking industrial awards. The following is its record of convictions over recent years: - 6th February, 1939. - Fined £2, with £2 3s. 7d. costs, for employing a boy in factory during prohibited hours. 4th March, 1940.- .Fined £1.5, with £3 16s. 6d. costs, and ordered to pay arrears of £14 15s. 8d. to a man named Houston fur underpayment of wages. 4th March, 1940.- A case brought by F. J. Chambers for underpayment of wages was ad- journed to 7th March, 1940 and then withdrawn on the payment of £50 arrears.
December, 1940. - A case brought by McKenzie for underpayment of wages resulted in a fine of £50 with £3 18s. lOd. costs.
Bett’s only other claim -to fame was that he stood as an independent at the last elections for the division of Kooyong, and appropriately lost his deposit. 1 have no regard for the politics of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), but he certainly conferred a benefit on Australia when he was the cause of a creature like Bett paying £25 to the public exchequer. ‘ I hope the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will take up this matter with his colleague, the Attorney-General. Nothing could be more calculated to serve the interests of our enemies than action likely to divide the people on matters which should be sacred to each individual. If the Japanese were paying thousands of pounds to fifth-column agents in this country to hinder the war effort, they could not spend the money better than in having articles of this kind published. I include these filthy sectarian articles with all other enemy propaganda, the purpose of which is to divide the nation.
– Yes, they are the same people.
– I brought the matter up in Parliament about three years ago.
– What is the name of the publication ?
– The Radio Times. The censorship should be used to prevent people of this sort from giving vent to their demoniacal hatred by inflaming the public mind at a time like this.
.On the 15th March I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) a question in connexion with a grenade thrower invented by Mr. Treloar. I understand that the censor gave a good deal of thought to the matter next day. I regret that he did not approach me, because I was particularly careful not to mention the propellent used in the thrower, and I asked the Minister not to disclose it, either. However, I appreciate that the reply read by the Minister was prepared for him by the Army Inventions Directorate, and it did disclose the nature of the propellent. Any chance which the invention had of being accepted was probably destroyed by the statement that it took four men working in relays for half an hour to pump air into the cylinders to a pressure of 200 lb. Any one who has had any experience of pumping up a motor tyre knows that this statement was absurd. Moreover, most of the heavy trucks now have air pumps built into them. This gun was first brought to the attention of the Army on the 13th June of last year, and a demonstration was given in Perth. The authorities in “Western Australia were so pleased with it that they had blue prints made and sent to the Army Inventions Directorate. However, the invention was rejected in a communication of about six lines, with the comment that the principle of using compressed air for projection was already known, and it was not considered that the idea was practicable. The members of the directorate in Melbourne did not see the weapon. After some further improvements had been effected, a second demonstration was given. .”When I returned to “Western Australia, I made arrangements for a further demonstration of the weapon in Perth. That demonstration was witnessed by leading military authorities including senior officers of the Western Command, and Senator Collett, who was a colonel in the last war. Senator Collett commented very favorably upon the result of the demonstration, and I have great respect for his opinion. He subsequently approached Army Head-quarters in Perth, and it is remarkable that within five or six days of action being taken by members of Parliament, a telegram was sent from Army Head-quarters in Melbourne asking that the Treloar grenade thrower be sent to that city for inspection by the Army Inventions Directorate. The weapon was crated and delivered on the 10th November. On the 18th December, I asked the Minister for the Army if he would expedite the trial of the weapon which already had been held up for a considerable time, and the Minister agreed to do so. On the 2nd February, Senator Collett wrote again in connexion with this matter, and I think that it was as the result of that letter that tests were made in Melbourne on the 16th February. The inventor had been persevering from the 13th June in an endeavour to have the weapon tested, but it was not until members of Parliament intervened that anything was done.
– A similar idea’ was conceived by a man living at St. Kilda, Victoria.
-WICK.- I do not dispute that. What I do dispute is the result of the trial made in Melbourne. I am prepared to bring the weapon to Canberra and to demonstrate it myself in order to prove that it is capable of projecting a bomb at least twice as far as the longest distance achieved by the allegedly qualified men who carried out the test in Melbourne. The report upon the result of the Melbourne demonstration was that twelve rounds were fired at a range varying from 180 yards to 300 yards, which was very much less than the range of standard mortars. That report would lead one to believe that 300 yards was the maximum range of this weapon, but that is not so. At the demonstration in Perth fourteen or sixteen bombs were thrown, the last six being projected over ,a distance of 600 yards. Finally a bomb was projected over the water for a distance of probably 800 yards. It is definitely claimed .and can be proved, that the Treloar mortar will project bombs for at least 600 yards. In the first instance it was wrong to bring the mortar from Perth without also bringing its inventor so that he would have an opportunity to demonstrate it to tie responsible authorities. Quite a number of Treloar mortal’s are being used by the Volunteer Defence Corps in Western Australia, and thank God there are some men in that State who know how to handle them effectively. Even if the use of compressed air in bomb throwers was known to the Army Inventions Directorate, there are many ways in which that form, of propulsion may be utilized. For instance, one method is to use a chambered barrel with, of course, smaller calibre grenades. Such a weapon was demonstrated at Perth by Mr. Treloar, but it was not brought to the eastern States. No satisfactory explanation has been given of why the trial in Melbourne was delayed from November until the middle of February. I sincerely trust that when Parliament reassembles I shall have an opportunity to demonstrate a Treloar mortar to members of this Parliament. I have complete faith in it and I believe that military authorities in Western Australia were impressed. In Volunteer Defence Corps work, particularly in night operations it has definite advantages as the motivating force being compressed air, no flash is visible at night. Although Mr. Treloar has been treated courteously by the Department of the Army, he has had very little encouragement; and it is unfortunate that the news of the rejection of the invention by the Army Inventions Directorate should have been conveyed to him by a member of Parliament, rather than by the Army authorities.
– in reply - The views expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in regard to articles published in the Radio Times will be brought to the notice of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
With regard to representations made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) in relation to the Treloar grenade thrower, all I can say at this stage is that his comments will be brought to the notice of the Army Inventions Directorate. Shortly after I became Minister for the Army, I found that there was no organization in existence in the Army to give full and proper consideration to the many inventions of enterprising scientists and engineers throughout Australia who set themselves out to improve the weapons of war. The Army Inventions Directorate was set up at Army head-quarters, Melbourne. It includes some of the leading engineers and scientists in Australia. Their duty is to give full and sympathetic consideration to all inventions brought before them. It is my aim to encourage inventors, because the war may be shortened considerably if some one can invent some weapon or weapons more effective than those now in use.
– The directorate needs stirring up by having a bomb or two dropped on it.
– I have found that very few whose inventions have been rejected have been satisfied with the decision of the directorate. Some hundreds of inventions have been brought before it and I am informed that the overwhelming majority of them have been found to be unsuitable, but invariably in the opinion of the disappointed inventor the directorate requires an immediate overhaul. I replied recently to a question asked by the honorable member. Evidently that reply will not satisfy the inventor.
– It is I who am dissatisfied. I do not know the attitude of Mr. Treloar. I know the capabilities of the weapon. The reply I received was ridiculous.
– I cannot express an opinion upon the weapon because I do not possess the necessary expert knowledge, but some of the outstanding engineers of Australia are on the directorate. The Master-General of Ordnance is represented by an engineer who has had a distinguished career in this war in the Middle East, and is an expert on weapons of all kinds. He expresses the opinions of the CommanderinChief and the Master-General of Ordnance as to the suitability of new weapons submitted. I am prepared to place before the directorate the opinions expressed by the honorable member, and to ensure that the application made by Mr. Treloar for recognition of his invention shall be reconsidered, if the representations made on his behalf contain any additional facts which have not yet been considered by the directorate. I hope to be able to make a further reply to the honorable member within the next week or so.
Question resolved’ in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Tamworth, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition ) Regulations - Order - Nonapplication of certain regulations.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of canned fruits.
Prohibiting work on land (3).
Taking possession of land, &c. (27).
Use of land (12).
National Security (Land Transport)
Regulations - Order - Victoria (No. 11).
House adjourned at 12.24 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice : -
Is it a fact, as the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in Queensland, Mr. Walsh, has stated, that 11,300 men and women will be needed by the end of June for essential war work in that State, and that, if sufficient volunteers do not come forward, “ direction “ will have to be applied? If so, in view of the vagueness of Mr. Walsh’s reported appeal, will the Minister consider issuing a full list of all unessential occupations from which war workers will he recruited after June if sufficient volunteers do not come forward?
– In reply to the honorable member I have now obtained the following report from the Director-General of Man Power : -
It is a fact that the Deputy Director-General of Man Power recently stated that if sufficient volunteers did not come forward it would be necessary to direct to war work men and women engaged in unessential work.
The question whether any worker should be transferred to war work or more important work than he or she is now performing, is only determinable by applying individually to the circumstances of each person’s case a test of essentiality of his present employment. This involves relating the work being performed by the worker to the nature of the business in which he is engaged or the goods or services he is producing and a weighing of the relative importance in the general war effort of the Commonwealth of that business, &c., against that of other enterprises. In other words, every case must be looked at to see whether the advantages of the transfer of the worker to another employment will in the national interest clearly outweigh the disadvantages of the removal.
Thus, while it may be said generally that persons employed in the personal and domestic service, retail and wholesale, commerce and finance, and entertainment, sport and recreation groups are employed in relatively unessential occupations, and that these fields will contribute a large proportion especially of their female employees (the males having already been largely called up) for diversion to war work, after the process of extraction has proceeded a certain distance the retention of the remaining workers will be vital if the particular enterprise is to survive or render the service to the community considered desirable.
Similarly a worker who may be prevented from enlisting whether in the armed forces or the women’sauxiliaries on account of his importance as a productive unit, or because he is a worker with a special qualification or of skill in short supply, may nevertheless be required to transfer from one civil employment to another which is for the time being of greater importance.
Phosphate Deposits at Mansfield.
y. - During the debate on the motion for the adjournment on the 12th March, 1943, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) raised the question of the development of phosphate deposits at Mansfield, Victoria, and urged that I have them examined without delay. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that these deposits are being closely investigated by the British Phosphate Commission, which already has arranged for a sample of 100 tons to be brought to Melbourne for experimental purposes. If the deposits are found to be worthy of development the work will be undertaken by the commission.
l asked the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question, upon notice: -
Is the Minister aware that there is a serious shortage of milk, amounting to 15,000 gallons daily, in the city of Sydney, and that it is intended to introduce rationing next week? In view of the fact that milk is a basic food, particularly for children, will the Minister take steps to have more men released from the Army to work in the dairying industry so that the shortage of milk may be made up? Has he seen the statement of his DirectorGeneral, as published in this morning’s newspapers, that, since the Man Power Regulations have been in operation there has been no shortage of labour in rural industries? Does that statement apply to the dairying industry?
– In reply to the honorable member I have now obtained the following report from the Director-General of Man Power : -
The immediate cause of the milk shortage in Sydney is due to the serious shortage of rain during the past summer months on the coast of New South Wales, especially around Sydney. This dry period has come on top of an unprecedented drought lasting for more than six years, which partially broke last spring.
It is true that there are now less persons engaged in the dairying industry than there were before the war. Even before the war a drift had commenced to secondary industrial employment because, of the depressed condition of the dairying industry due to economic and other factors. This was accelerated on the outbreak of war and in subsequent months prior to the establishment of the man-power directorate due to enlistments and further movements on account of the attraction of higher wages and better amenities provided by city life.
On the 6th April, 1942, after consultation wi’th the industry, a special scale of manpower provision to meet the needs of dairyfarms, butter factories, &.c., was introduced by the Director-General of Man Power.
From the 7th May last year an embargo was placed on the call-up of nien engaged in the dairying industry in common with workers engaged full-time in rural industries. In addition, labour control has been exercised for some considerable time past to obviate any further drift to the city.
Nevertheless as the following table, propared by the Milk Board of New South Wales, shows, notwithstanding man-power and transport difficulties and the incidence of drought conditions, the amount of milk supplied to the Sydney area is this year much greater than for the corresponding period last year: -
Further, according to the Milk Board, this year there has been an abnormal demand for milk far exceeding last year’s figures. Moreover, milk ‘ supplies were rationed in Sydney last year from the 15th January until the latter part of February.
I nui advised that the Milk Board has taken sundry measures to increase Sydney’s milk supplies. Under existing conditions, as the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, the requirements of the armed forces for men do not permit ‘of any general policy of taking men from the Army and returning them to rural or other employment.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It appears that the ease against Cooley arose out of an investigation by the Internal Audit Department, Civil Constructional Corps, of Cooley’s administration of the catering and canteen section of the Civil Constructional Corps camp at Ringwood. The auditor reported that Cooley’s accounts were generally most unsatisfactory, and, further, that it was being freely talked about in the camp, that there was illicit trafficking by Cooley in Army stores and hams. A Supply inspector wa.s immediately despatched to Ringwood on the 2nd December to investigate matters further. Cooley was relieved of his position, pending the result of the investigation. The inspector confirmed that Cooley’s accounts were not in order and that he had been selling hams to the men in the camp. It was later ascertained that Cooley had sold seventeen hams to men in the camp and three to the licensee of a local hotel. When questioned by the police, Cooley said that he had purchased the hams for 10s. each from another member of the forces.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service the following questions, upon notice: -
With reference to figures quoted by the Minister in this House on the 12th March relating to working days lost through industrial stoppages, will he, before Parliament rises, furnish a statement giving -
the source of the information on which he based the figures of working days lost in 1039, 1941, and 1942; and
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - (a) Sources of information were as follows: - ( i ) Great Britain - Ministry of Labour Gazette; (ii) United States of America - MOnthly habour Review of Bureau of habour Statistics; (iii) Australia - Commonwealth Statistician, supplemented ,by records of the Department of Labour and National Service in respect of the most recent months. In the case of New South Wales, these are provided
by the State Department of Labour and Industry, and in Tasmania by the Industrial Registrar. No figures for recent months are yet available for Queensland, where disputes have in any case been of little importance; ( fi ) The statistics of disputes are analysed quarterly by the Commonwealth Statistician, and the full analysis is shown in the attached tables, giving the number, of (A) disputes, (B) , work-peoPle involved, and (C) days lost in each industrial group. Considerable work is involved in breaking these figures into separate months, and a portion into separate weeks. The Commonwealth Statistician has been asked to take out the information in respect of each week of thu Fadden Government, but this is not yet available. Figures for the separate months of the Curtin Government have not been taken out in view of the work involved, ami because the quarterly figures appear to give a sufficiently detailed picture until the monthly departmental records commenced in October, 1942. They can be supplied if necessary, however.
Throughout it has been the practice to include only new disputes in figures for the number of disputes and work-people involved. Days lost are generally entered in whichever period they are lost, so that there are cases of no strike being listed and yet some days lost being recorded.
Australian Army : Leave ; Compensation for Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps; Soldiers in Labour Day Procession.
Mr.Conelan asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Isit a fact that, on the 17 th September last, the Minister assured the House, in reply to a question by the honorable member for
Griffith (Mr. Conelan), that all accumulated and current leave due to members of the forces would be granted (Hansard, page 495)?
Is it a fact that, in spite of this assurance, a subsequent routine order issued on the 11th November, 1942 (No. A. 559) limited the leave for the year ended the 30th June, 1942, to sixteen days from tropical and remote localities and twelve days from otherareas?
Is it a fact that the effect of this routine order was to take away in many eases as much as one-third of the leave to which men arc entitled!
If the facts are as stated, will he hare another routine order issued to carry out his assurance and his intention disclosed in his reply to the honorable member for Griffith?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
On the 24th March, and again yesterday, Senator Wilson stated that the Senate had been advised that militiamen had been granted 23 days’ leave, whereas, owing to the exigencies of the service, members of the Australian Imperial Force could only have 21 days.
I desire to inform the honorable senator that the position regarding leave for the Australian Military Forces is, briefly, as follows: -
On the 17th March, 1943, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the delay which had taken place in dealing with claims for compensation for members of the “Volunteer Defence Corps who had been injured and for the widow and family of the member who had been killed as a result of the bomb explosion during training exercises in Queensland.
I now desire to advise the honorable member that, as a result of his representations, directions were issued to the military authorities in New South Wales and Queensland to despatch an officer to tha’ locality to obtain claims for compensation from the members concerned, and from the. widow of the member who had been killed so that they could be dealt- with and finalized. I am now advised that a cheque has been posted to-day to Mrs. Crannery widow of the member who was killed, being payment at £2 2s. a week from the date of his death to the 18th March. I am informed that claims from injured personnel will reach the District Finance Officer, Brisbane, to-morrow, the 26th March, and settlement will be effected immediately they are received.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me whether soldiers in uniform could march in the Labour Day procession. I now desire to advise the honorable member that permission cannot be given to soldiers in uniform to march in the Labour Day procession, even though it be their day off duty. This is in accordance with the invariable rule observed in the Army, and applies to applications from both employers and employees’ organizations as well as party political organizations of all kinds. Permission is only granted in connexion with religious or funeral services or religious charity gatherings.
Medical Students and Services.
d.- On 17th March, 1943, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked me the following question, without notice: -
In view of the Government’s desire to improve the health standards of the community in both the war period and the postwar years, I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to ascertain whether sufficient doctors arc now in civil practice to provide an adequate medical service for the people? What numbers of patients can each doctor be expected, reasonably, to serve in his locality? Are the plans for the education of medical students adequate, in the Minister’s opinion?
Those portions of the honorable member’s question having reference to whether sufficient doctors are now in civil practice to provide an adequate medical service for the people, and what numbers of patients each doctor can reasonably be expected to service in his locality, are matters for the Central Medical Coordination Committee, and I have referred them to my colleague, the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway). As to the remainder of the question, concerning the adequacy of the plans for the training of medical students, the number of students in medical faculties has shown striking increase since 1937 and particularly in 1941 and 1942. Compared with an average intake for the years 1933-37 inclusive of 292, there were 492 first-year students in 1941, and 462 in 1942. Irrespective of the quota for 1943, it can be anticipated that the output of medical graduates for the next four years will be at least50 per cent. greater than in the years 1935-39 inclusive. Indeed, with the acceleration of courses the output of graduates in 1941 and 1942 was over 100 per cent. greater than the average for the years 1935-39. Under the quota for 1943, as many students may be admitted as in any year from 1933 to 1940 inclusive. Having regard to the higher academic standard of the students admitted, thanks to the Government’s subsidy scheme which enables poor students to afford the medical course, it is expected that wastage will be much less, and that a considerably larger proportion of students will complete the course in the minimum period of time, whereas previously less than 60 per cent. of students did so. It is considered that the plans for the education of medical students are, under present circumstances, the best that can be provided.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430325_reps_16_174/>.