16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1943.
Widows’ Pensions Bill 1943.
Maternity Allowance Bill 1943.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill. 1943.
Superannuation Bill 1943.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1943.
Primary ProducersRelief (Superphosphate) Bill 1943.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether there is any foundation for the report nowcurrent, that a considerable number of smallsized engines are lying in stores accumulating dust and cobwebs while awaiting possible future use by the Army authorities? If so, will the honorable gentleman endeavour to arrange to have made available to the dairying industry, for the driving of milking machines, and for other purposes, such engines as are not required in the immediate future by the Army authorities?
– Representations on this matter were made to me two or three months ago by a deputation of manufacturers of milking machines in this country. Members of the deputation referred to the shortage of prime movers.
I have had an investigation made by the Allied Supply Council, in order to obtain a complete survey of the internal combustion engines and small electric motors in the possession of the ordnance supply branch of the Department of the Army. My colleague the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) also has been examining the subject, with a view to determining whether or not a higher priority may be given to the manufacture of these small engines. Only yesterday morning the Allied Supply Council discussed the matter at length. I am hopeful that the manufacture of these engines will be given a higher priority, and that an investigation will be made to determine whether or not a greater number than is necessary has been obtained by the services to cover what is known as war wastage. Every effort will be made to fix definitely the number of engines which the services are likely to need, in order that any engines that may be surplus to those requirements may be made available to the dairying industry, which is so badly in need of them.
Non-combatantsin Uniform- Leave - Income Tax Assessments - Magazine “ Salt “.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he was correctly reported in the Sydney press yesterday as having made slighting references to men in uniform other than those who are engaged in actual combat? If he has been, docs he consider that this gratuitous insult to the large number of returned soldiers of the last war, militiamen and officers who functioned with Militia formations in Australia, and others who volunteered for active service–
– Order ! Questions are intended to elicit information. This question is not of that character.
– Then I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been correctly reported, and whether he considers that such slighting references do justice to the men in the categories that I have mentioned ?
– Last Monday night I addressed the annual conference of the branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in the Albert Hall, Canberra. My audience did not consider that I made any slighting reference to soldiers.
– They were real soldiers.
– Any suggestion that I made a slighting reference to soldiers is utterly uncalled for.
– And despicable, too.
– Were I ever tempted to do so - I am sure that I would sternly resist the temptation - a gathering such as that which I addressed cn Monday night would be the last that I would choose. If it be any satisfaction to the honorable gentleman, I inform him that insofar as I could judge the temper of the meeting, what I said bad the cordial approval of those who attended it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that soldiers who return from New Guinea suffering from malaria are, after treatment, placed in a convalescent home, and when well enough, are sent back to their units in New Guinea without receiving one day’s home leave? Does he not think ,that it would be only just to allow the men home leave, especially those whose homes are in Queensland, not far removed from where they receive treatment? Will the Prime Minister look into the matter with a view to having the procedure altered?
-Routine arrangements in regard to leave are made by the Army according to experience and in pursuance of practice. I should be’ surprised to learn that sick men who come back to Australia from New Guinea are not given some leave, unless it be that the period of leave is included in the. period during which they are deemed to be sick. I shall inquire into the matter, and give the honorable member a more complete reply later
– Is the_ Treasurer aware that assessments for income tax are being sent out to soldiers, and payment of tax demanded in respect of incomes earned by them prior to their going abroad on active service?
– I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances .mentioned by the honorable member, but it is possible that assessments have been sent out to men on active service. The Commissioner of Taxation has given sympathetic consideration to men who; on their enlistment, suffered a reduction of income I shall have the matter raised by the honorable member investigated and will give him a further reply.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Army, I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the- 29th March issue of a magazine called Salt, which is distributed to the troops free at the expense of the Government, in which there is an article said to be written at the request of many men in the services, and headed : “ Why all these parties? What’s their use? How do they work in Australia? “ If so, is he aware that it contains a number of arguments in favour of a national government? If not, will he read the article and decide whether it would not be better for the troops if, in a pamphlet of this sort, which is printed at the public expense, controversial subjects, particularly such absurd proposals as those advanced by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in favour of a national government were not permitted?
– I have not read the issue of Salt to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall consult with the Minister for the Army, under whose authority Salt is printed. In passing, I may say that, in my opinion, it is regrettable that articles on politically controversial subjects should be included in a publication issued by the Government.
– Has the Minister for Air yet received reports concerning the recent tragic air crashes in Brisbane and Melbourne? Does the honorable gentleman consider that they were in any way due to lack of effective maintenance of aircraft?
– The Air Accidents Inspectorate , is conducting an investigation of the recent serious disaster in the Brisbane area. In addition, because of its serious proportions, I have ordered a special court of inquiry to be held. The accident at Melbourne is being investigated by officers of the Civil Aviation Department ; thU is the usual procedure. A report upon it has not yet reached me. This is duo in some measure to the fact that the pilot and co-pilot in charge of the aircraft at the time of the crash were prevented by the serious nature of their injuries from being available for interrogation for some time subsequent to it. I shall be pleased to make the information available to honorable members immediately I receive it.
– In view of the large number of reports appearing in the press in recent weeks of loss of life and service aircraf t, as well as the disaster in Queensland and the mid-air collision reported yesterday, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information to give the House regarding these crashes. As grave public disquiet has been caused by these occurrences, will the Prime Minister consider the appointment of a royal commission to make a proper investigation of the causes of the numerous accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force ?
– Air Force regulations provide for the holding of an inquiry into every accident. A special inquiry has been ordered by the Minister for Air into the accident which occurred to the aeroplane leaving Brisbane a few nights ago and resulted in such regrettable loss of life. Generally speaking, such inquiries are conducted under a great disability. The evidence that might lead to the forming of some conclusion as to the cause of the accident is all too frequently completely destroyed. Thus, many -inquiries are held as a matter of course, but there does not appear to emerge from them any positive guidance as to whether the accident was due to the human factor or to some technical cause.
– What about having an independent judge to weigh the evidence?
– “We have compared the ratio of accidents in Australia with that, in other countries, and we find that our record is as good as that of any other country. That, of course, does not mean that there should not be the most careful supervision. As a matter of fact, there is. I can only hope that the air force authorities and the Civil Aviation Department will exercise the utmost vigilance. No one can help having the greatest sympathy with the victims of these accidents. The honorable member may be assured that whatever measures the Government can devise to make accidents less probable will be taken.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether experience in actual flying plays any part in the training of members of the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force? If not, can he say why some members of this force were in the aeroplane that crashed near Brisbane ?
Mi-. DRAKEFORD.- The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. According to information supplied to me, the women who were unfortunately killed in that accident were returning to Sydney on leave. Transport aeroplanes are used, when the opportunity presents itself, for transporting personnel going on leave.
– Has the Minister for Home Security read an instruction purporting to have been issued by the military authorities, to the effect that all military vehicles travelling within a distance of 10 miles from a coastal area must have their headlights properly masked? If this instruction has been found necessary, was not his department somewhat- premature in permitting the removal of masks from the headlights of civilian motor cars travelling along coastal roads and throwing the beam of their headlights seaward?
– I understand that a general order in connexion with the lighting of vehicles has been issued by the military authorities. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Army. The Department of Home Security has not issued any instructions for the removal of headlights from civilian cars. In a general appreciation of the brown-out conditions two months or so ago, the Chiefs of Staff of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, laid it down that masks might be removed from the headlights of civilian cars on the condition that unmasked lights should not be directed seaward.
– How can that be avoided?
– The honorable gentleman asks how it can be avoided. The position is that the defence authorities have said that it. is dangerous to allow lights to shine out to sea, and if cars cannot be driven without showing their lights out to sea, then the lights must be masked. The administration of this regulation is in the hands of the State authorities. So far as I am concerned, the order has been issued, and if the regulations are broken offenders will be dealt with.
– Was the Minister for War Organization of Industry correctly reported in the press as having stated in the course of an address to members of the Melbourne University Labour Club -
I am a Socialist, and the whole of my experience as head of the Department of War Organization of Industry has been to get nearer to the socialization of industry.
If so, how does he reconcile that statement with the one which he made on the 3rd August last when he -
– The press reports of the meeting which I addressed in Melbourne are as misleading in regard to the nature of my remarks as they are in regard to the reception I had at the hands of the students. With complete disregard of anything other than the mobilization of the resources of this country for war, I have carried out my duties as Minister for War Organization of Industry. In the course of my duties I have from time to time issued orders and regulations, and not one order or regulation issued under my name has ever been challenged in Parliament.
– That does not answer my question.
– I shall continue to carry out my task in the future as I have done in the past - that is, with one purpose only in mind, namely, the mobilization of the resources of this country for the maximum prosecution of the war.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question about the widespread reports of the speech made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) before the Melbourne University Labour Club, in which he declared his devotion to the cause of socialism, and stated that ‘his experience as ministerial head of the Department of War Organization of Industry had brought him nearer to the socialization of industry.
– The reports are inaccurate.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry has not contradicted them, and he has failed to answer a direct question.
– Order !
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he still adheres to his declaration of the 3rd August last that the Minister for War Organization of Industry was not trying to introduce socialization of industry by the back door or any other door?
– I am quite sure that the Minister for War Organization of Industry, because of his ancestry and character, will fearlessly bring in through the front door any fundamental change of policy for which he set out to be responsible.
– He will play round the back door first, though.
– He will neither dance through the tulips nor dodge round corners. The honorable member who asked the question failed, I think, to gather from the previous answer from the Minister for War Organization of Industry that everything that he has done in the gazettal of regulations has been dictated by the economic necessities of war. His actions have not arisen from any political philosophy, but they have not been negated by any political philosophy. I say quite frankly that I myself am not at all anxious to use the war in order to bring in Labour policy. But I am not obliged because there is a war on to do everything that capitalism asks to have done.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for .the Interior, in view of the conflicting proposals put forward recently, some of them involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds of public money, for using the waters of the Snowy River, will the Minister for the Interior consider the introduction of legislation to establish a River Snowy Waters Commission upon the lines of the River Murray “Waters Commission, and on which the Commonwealth Government, the Government of Victoria and the Government New South Wales will have representation, so that plans may be formulated for the best use of the waters of this river in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole?
M.r. LAZZARINI. - I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion before the Minister for the Interior.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, before Parliament goes into recess, make a statement regarding the Government’s intention in respect of the price of butter ? Will he take steps to implement the report of the Dairy Committee which recommended a substantially higher price for butter than that prescribed in the Dairying Industry Assistance Act ? In view of the decline of production owing to the approach of winter, and the need for early action, will the Minister expedite the matter as much as possible?
– I shall give full consideration to the points raised by the honorable member. I shall discuss them with the Prime Minister, and shall supply the honorable member with a reply at an early date.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had brought to his notice the serious complaints in South Australia about the non-payment of the butter subsidy? Is he aware that the dairy-farming community in South Australia is fast arriving at the conclusion that its part in the “ new order “ is to produce goods for either not enough payment or no payment at all?
– I am not aware that any differentiation has been made in the payment of the butter subsidy; and it is news to me that the subsidy has not been paid in South Australia. The money has been made available, and the Government has given definite instructions for its payment. However, I shall investigate the matter.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make available a full list of all convictions for offences committed under prices control and black marketing regulations, “setting out the names of offenders, the particular offences of which they were convicted, and the penalties imposed?
– I think that I can have that done, but some time will be necessary to prepare the information.
Pay of Personnel
– Is it a fact that Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Air Force personnel who served in the Far East command- up to the time of the fall of Singapore are still without a settlement of their back pay, frozen back credits, and unpaid allowances and allotments? Is it also a fact that, in most instances, the Air Force authorities rely on the excuse that the records of the men concerned have been lost, or are missing? If so, will the Minister for Air order an immediate investigation of the matter with a view to action being taken to do justice to the men concerned?
– Until the honorable member asked his question, I had no knowledge of the matters to which he has referred. I shall, however, have an investigation made, and shall endeavour to apply remedies should it be found that the allegations are well founded.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry seen the report in last night’s Sydney Sun that in the last few days hundreds of students have been advised of their rejection from reserved faculties under the restrictive quota system in operation at the Sydney University? If so, what does the Minister propose to do in order to correct the anomalies which exist; and is he yet in a position to answer a question which I asked some days ago concerning the alleged preference to refugees over Australian-born students?
– I have not seen the report in the Sydney Sun to which the honorable member has referred, but I am aware that there have been many press reports in relation to quotas in reserved faculties. That matter was referred to the Universities Commission, which made a complete investigation of the requirements of the various faculties, including medicine. On the data obtained by that body a quota in respect of each faculty was set.
– By the commission?
– Yes. The commission made a complete investigation of the nation’s requirements in respect of each faculty, after which it tendered certain advice to the man-power authorities. On the basis of that information, the man-power authorities fixed the quotas. During the last week-end, I had an opportunity to examine much of the evidence upon which the Universities Commission arrived at the quotas, and I am convinced that, in respect of the Faculty of Medicine, the quota is most generous.
The inclusion of refugees in the quota is a matter for which the university authorities are responsible as they select students within the quota arrived at by the man-power authorities on the advice of the Universities Commission. The Commonwealth Government has no authority to instruct the university authorities to exclude alien or refugee students.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production yet in a position to supply an answer to a question which I asked on Tuesday of last week regarding comments by the Auditor-General that the accounts in respect of air screw annexes are most unsatisfactory ?
– The honorable gentleman’s previous question was referred to the Minister for Aircraft Production, but I have not yet received a reply. As soon as the information comes to hand, I shall forward it to the honorable member.
– On the 12th March, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I asked for information relating to the charges allowed on certain goods imported for Australian manufacturers through the Division of Import Procurement. On that occasion, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs said that he would have inquiries made and would furnish the information later. I now ask the Minister whether he is in a position to supply the information.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply: -
I refer to the statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner on the adjournment on the 12th March, 1943, and to the letter addressed to me by H. V. McKay, Massey Harris Proprietary Limited, on the subject of the high prices charged the company for two comptometers procured under Lend-Lease. I may say at the outset that the Government is not as a general rule prepared to make available detailed particulars relating to LendLease transactions, but the letter referred to has so obviously been written for the express purpose of doing damage to Lend-Lease arrangements and procurement that it has been deemed advisable to furnish the House with full particulars.
In the first place no agency of the Commonwealth Government, including the Division of Import Procurement, has the right to make any approach or inquiry of any manufacturer or supplier of lend-lease goods in the United States. It is not competent for any such agency to make any purchase or endeavour to purchase under Lend-Lease.
The procedure followed is for the Division of Import Procurement to submit a Lend-Lease requisition for the approval of the CommanderinChief and the Lend-Lease Mission. If these approvals are given the requisition goes forward to Washington for the approval of the responsible authorities there. Subsequently the requisition is passed to the particular United States Department charged with the procurement of the commodity concerned. Such procurement department arranges and places the contract with the United States manufacturer or supplier. The contract price is en- tirely a matter between such procurement department and the manufacturer or supplier.
After production and dependent upon shipping opportunity the goods are called forward to port. Financial and shipping documents are obtained and forwarded to Australia by the Director-General, Australian War Supplies Procurement. The financial information and documents are indentical with those supplied by the contracting department of the United States Government.
In the case referred to by the honorable member there ha3 been substantial inflation of cost quite apart from any reasonable increase in cost. Since the production of the two machines purchased by the Massey-Harris Company in October, 1941, there has been a not inconsiderable increase in production costs.
There have also been other increases, some of which have been fairly substantial such as inland freights, ocean freights and war risk insurance.
The greatest single contributing factor towards increased price, however, is the arrangement made by the United States manufacturer whereby the discount previously allowed to the Australian agents, Messrs. Peacock Brothers Proprietary Limited, would not be deducted from the invoice but would be retained by the manufacturer and paid to the account of Peacock Brothers Proprietary Limited in the United States. Previously for these machines a discount of 44 per cent, was allowed off the United States domestic list price. The refusal of the United States company to allow the United States Government selling terms under Lend-Lease equally as good as those allowed to its Australian agents had the effect of not only increasing the basic cost but also the receipts from customs and sales tax and also the charges made for war risk insurance.
The withholding of a substantial discount such as 44 per cent, of the domestic list price in order to favour the interests of a local agent could not otherwise than result in almost doubling the Australian price.
Of the total cost to the company mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner, viz., £550 3s. 4d., the total charge made by the Division of Import Procurement for compiling and processing the requisition, cabling, arranging shipment and paying freight in advance and for forwarding other notifications and information was £6 6s. lOd. (six pounds six shillings and tenpence).
In view of the eminently satisfactory rate of remuneration paid to Peacock Brothers Proprietary Limited by the United States manufacturer, special steps were taken by the Division of Import Procurement to ensure that no further profit or margin was added. Furthermore the company was informed that it would be required to give at its own expense all the usual service to the machine which the company normally rendered.
The letter quoted by the honorable member contains the following statement: - “They (Peacock Brothers Proprietary Limited) were content to add no margin of profit, relying on commission from the manufacturers in the United States of America.”
This statement should now ‘be considered in the light of the fact that Messrs. Peacock Brothers Proprietary Limited have presumably been party to a practice calculated to ensure the highest possible charge to the ultimate purchaser in Australia and the highest margin of profit to themselves. Prima facie it would appear that Lend-Lease transactions have been more profitable to the company than similar pre-Lend-Lease transactions.
In fairness to the United States Government it should be stated that when the full implications of the arrangement become evident the decision was taken not to place any further orders with the United States manu facturer under the Lend-Lease. As far as the Commonwealth Government is aware that position still obtains.
I may add that certain aspects of the case are still engaging the attention of the Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping been drawn to a report in the Brisbane press that the Queensland Minister for Mines had stated that owing to the short supply of copper ore, the State-owned smelters at Chillagoe, Queensland, would have to close? I have received a telegram from Cairns informing me of the contemplated action. I now ask the Minister: (1) Are the smelters at Chillagoe to close down?; (2) Why has the supply of copper ore from the Cloncurry field been reduced ? ; and (3) What steps has the Controller of Mineral Production taken to open up the Chillagoe-Etheridge-Einasleigh fields, which are in close proximity to the smelters, and were prolific producers of copper and other minerals during the last war ?
– The telegram received by the honorable member was handed to the Prime Minister, who made its contents known to me. I have made a preliminary investigation of this matter. The Controller of Minerals Production has advised me that he has no knowledge of the situation referred to in the telegram, and that the Minster of Mines in Queensland has not brought any facts to his notice. The Controller of Minerals Production has also said that there is no intention to close down the Chillagoe smelters in favour of the Mount Isa smelters. It may be that the problem at Chillagoe - if there is one - arises from shortage of man-power and transport facilities. Moreover, the weather in that area has not been good recently. But shortage of man-power is the greatest problem. In the last fortnight we have arranged for the transfer of large numbers of men from Allied Works Council operations in Queensland to the production of minerals at Mount Isa, but, according to advices I have received, there is no intention in any way to subtract from the activity at the Chillagoe smelters or the production of ore in that area. We hope that, with the additional labour which is now available, we shall be able to develop production and smelting of ore, not only at Mount Isa, but also at Chillagoe.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the report that the Australian Wheat-growers Federation in Sydney decided yesterday to ask not less than 4s. a bushel, net at sidings, be paid for all wheat delivered from licensed acreage in the 1942-43 harvest? Has the Minister seen the further criticism by the retiring president of the federation, Mr. Diver, that a method of payment had been devised which divided wheat-growers into two camps by giving advantages to some and causing disadvantages to others? If so, what does the Minister propose to do about the federation’s resolution?
– Did the honorable member read Mr. Watson’s statement to-day?
– I did.
– I did read the report that the Australian Wheat-growers Federation had decided to ask that not less than 4s. a bushel be paid for wheat. That matter will receive consideration. Mr. Diver, as is well known, has always opposed the quota system. He did not voice the opinion of the wheat-growers of Australia, who are overwhelmingly in favour of the quota system.
– Not in Victoria.
– Yes, in Victoria, too.
– In view of the impending departure for fresh woods and pastures green of the Attorney-General, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether Order of the Day No. 12 on the notice-paper - “ Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill 1942 (Attorney-General) - second reading “ is the bill which was considered by the Constitution Convention which “ jumped “ our seats in this building when it met to consider Constitution alteration? What is the present position in regard to Constitution alteration? Dr. EVATT.- Yes, that is the bill, but the Constitution Convention decided on a different scheme. The present position regarding the proposal is that all the States have not finally considered the bill which the convention ‘ drafted. The convention was attended by the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition of the States and by representatives of the Government and the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament. In . New South Wales and Queensland the bill has been passed in the form agreed upon. It has been passed in South Australia in a form which does not include the list of powers agreed upon by the convention.
– The Parliament of South Australia left the title of the bill unaltered!
– It left other things besides the title unaltered, but no one would pretend that what was agreed upon in the Parliament of South Australia was a complete fulfilment of what was agreed upon at the convention. I understand that the bill is still before the Legislative Council in Western Australia. The Parliament of Victoria has passed the bill with the condition that it shall not be assented to until substantially similar bills have been passed by all the States. The Legislative Council of Tasmania rejected the bill. The Premier of Tasmania prorogued Parliament and has called it together again with a view to passing the bill. The view of the Commonwealth Government as to the necessity for the Commonwealth Parliament to obtain the powers set out in the bill has been declared by .the Prime Minister what is to be done will be announced when the bills passed by all the States are considered.
– During the overseas tour of the Attorney-General, which, I trust, will be successful in every way, will the right honorable gentleman make a personal investigation of the operation of production committees in war industries in the United States of America and Great Britain with a view to ascertaining to what degree they have helped to overcome absenteeism in industry, and to eliminate the necessity for prosecutions and other punitive measures against workers.
– I thank the honorable gentleman for his suggestion, and I shall do what is possible in the direction desired.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting, after the words “Part IV. - Assistance and Benefits.”, the words “ Part IVa. - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Repatriation.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - Leave out paragraph (b).
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - After clause 30, insert the following new clause: - “ 30a. Section forty-five aj of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where any applicant for a service pension or a service pensioner, or the husband or wife of an applicant or a service pensioner, possesses property which is subject to any encumbrances and which in the opinion of the Commission cannot be realized except at a considerable loss, the Commission may, in assessing the net capital value of his accumulated property, disregard the value of the interest of that person in the property.’ “.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - After clause 42, insert the following new clause: - “42a. After section fifty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part IV.:- 55a. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth or in any award, order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement, preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been members of the Forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this Act and who are competent for the work required. (2.) All contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services shall be deemed to contain a clause whereby the contractor with the Commonwealth binds himself, under a penalty of Fifty pounds in respect of each breach of the clause, to grant, in engaging employees for the purpose of executing the contract, preference to persons specified in sub-section (1.) of this section. (3.) For the purposes of this section, “authority of the Commonwealth” includes any commission, board or other body created by or under any law of the Commonwealth or Territory of the Commonwealth or which is declared by the Governor-General by Proclamation to be an authority for the purposes of this section.’ “.
– This amendment, if it be accepted, introduces into the repatriation law a provision that preference shall apply to returned soldiers, who are competent for the work required. The proposed new sub-section specifies that this shall be extended to all government contracts, and shallalso cover all the various instrumentalities of the Commonwealth and of the territories of the Commonwealth. The amendment thus brings into a consideration of the benefits provided under the repatriation system to disabled soldiers and their dependants, and dependants of soldiers who have died, what shall be done in respect of the fit men who are qualified for work. This, as I have said, is the first time in the history of this Parliament that such a provision has been included in a repatriation bill.When the bill was being considered in this chamber, a proposal was made that the Government should have power by regulation to deal with the subject of preference to returned soldiers. I then ventured the view that preference was a complex question; that it was quite easy to affirm the principle, but an affirmation that was not followed up by a comprehensive and well considered piece of legislation would not be of great service to the soldiers whom it was sought to benefit. Consequently, this chamber rejected the proposal that there should be included in the Repatriation Bill a provision that preference to returned soldiers should be effected by regulations made by the Governor-General in Council. I took the view of the chamber to be that the broad structure of the repatriation law as it had been evolved during the last war, and as it has existed since the end of that war, should stand. I considered that that view was sound. I knew, of course, that the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had been deliberating upon the preparation of a bill embodying its own views as to how the question of preference should be dealt with by the legislature. That body, no doubt, has certain views to proffer either for the guidance of Parliament, or, certainly, for the information of Parliament. I also considered that no urgency existed at this stage for a decision by Parliament upon the matter; that Parliament would be given a better opportunity to deal with it sensibly and adequately in relation to all the problems involved in the fixation of preference to returned soldiers, and that the present attempt to include in the Repatriation Bill, either in the form contained in the amendment proposed in this chamber, or in any other form, would, if successful, mean that the machinery requisite for the enforcement of preference would, at best, be vague and, probably, not materially effective. However, the bill went to the Senate, and the Senate sent back its requests that changes in the benefits should be agreed upon; and this chamber accepted those requests. In addition, the Senate has proposed amendments to the bill, two of which we have just agreed to. However, the amendment now before us raises the question of whether or not preference shall be given to returned soldiers in the repatriation law. After considering all existing circumstances associated with the matter, and while feeling that the general question of preference should be dealt with not by way of an amendment of a repatriation measure, but in a much more comprehensive measure devised for an entirely different purpose, the Government, none the less, is prepared to accept the amendment in the form in which the Senate has drawn it. At the same time, however, the Government is of opinion that there are two categories serving in the present war whose claims for preference are equal to those who would receive the benefit of preference under the Senate’s amendment. Briefly, the Senate proposes that preference shall be given in the form prescribed in its amendment to all enlisted persons. We accept that; but we believe that as this is the first oppor tunity the Parliament has had to affirm the principle of preference, it is desirable that that affirmation be made in such a way as to include, rather than exclude, those who, at present, are engaged in service to His Majesty the King and to the country in the present war of a nature which entitles them to preference. Therefore, the Government proposes to ask the committee to amend the Senate’s amendment not by striking out anything, but by adding to it a provision which will enable preference in the same form, and for the same reasons to be extended to mariners and members of the crew of a civil aircraft who serve in circumstances which bring them into actual combat with the enemy. Accordingly, I move - 17 at the Senate’s amendment be amended by adding the following words to sub-section (i.) of proposed new section 55a: - “and to persons who are so competent and who have, during prescribed periods .and under prescribed conditions, served, in a ship or as members of the crew of a civil aircraft, in any zone which, in relation to ships or aircraft, as the case may bc, is prescribed as a combat zone for the purposes of this section.”.
– What distinction does the Prime Minister draw between the crew of a civil aircraft operating in a combat zone, and any other civilian who is compelled to work in a combat zone?
– A civil aircraft, carrying military personnel, equipment and supplies, may operate in zones where it encounters anti-aircraft fire, is pursued by enemy planes, or is actually engaged in combat with the enemy. I contend that the crew of that aircraft are doing as much for their country in war-time, and are equally deserving of preference in employment, as anybody else. I make no invidious comparisons. This is total war, different in scale, and certainly different to some degree in character, from the last war. The crew of merchantmen, and of aircraft, which carry essential war equipment and personnel of the armed forces, are exposed to the hazards of the enemy’s opposition. Consequently, they should be eligible to receive repatriation benefits.
Honorable gentlemen opposite can ask me many questions regarding the relative value of the service of one category, compared with that of another class. My reply is that I considered that the proper place in which to deal with the whole subject of preference was in a special bill, which would enable the Parliament to deliberate upon every aspect and every implication involved in the matter, hut the Senate thought differently. The Senate decided to “ tack “ the matter of preference on to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. With a sober realization of the state of the country, the obligations of this Parliament to the electors, and the paramount preoccupation that the Administration should he allowed to give to the conduct of the war, I applied myself during the week-end to discovering a way in which we could accept the proposition that the Senate has “ tacked “ on to the Repatriation Bill, and yet accept it in such a way as would make clear the Government’s genuine desire that Parliament shall pass repatriation legislation with a minimum, of delay so that the benefits which it confers may be given to those persons entitled to them. Therefore, I am anxious to reach a solution of the difficulty between the Senate and the House of Representatives, because many persons who will be eligible to receive repatriation benefits will not be affected by the question of preference. But the Senate has “ tacked “ on to the benefits that the Repatriation Bill will give to soldiers, or to their dependants in distressed circumstances, the matter of preference in employment. Last week I put to the House very cogently and genuinely views which I still believe represent a better way for the Parliament to deal with this problem than the method the Senate has chosen. Whilst I do not abandon those views, I hope that the Parliament as a whole will display a readiness to endeavour to reach an arrangement whereby the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill may be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General for signature without delay, so that the benefits of the legislation, as agreed to by both Houses, can be made available immediately to those entitled to receive them.
– If the case which the Prime Minister makes out is one to justify the granting of preference to the crew of civil aircraft because they face the hazards of a combat zone, will similar reasons be applicable to any civilian who is compelled, by the order of the Government, to work in such zones?
– The honorable gentleman invites me at this juncture to add to the categories that I have already named.
– No, I ask the Prime Minister to draw that distinction for me.
– The honorable member asks me to express an opinion. These comparisons naturally arise when the matter of preference is under consideration. If honorable members were dealing with a bill to grant preference to certain classes, that would be a proper question to address to me. I say frankly that this amendment has been submitted to the committee as a means of resolving what appears to be a difference of opinion between the two chambers, in order that the Repatriation Bill to which the Senate has “ tacked “ this controversial matter may become law. The amendment is controversial, not in respect of principle, but in respect of the categories which shall be covered by the legislation. It is reasonably controversial as regards the manner in which provision shall be made to ensure that preference shall not become an empty gesture on the part of Parliament. I am fortified in the view which I put to this chamber last week by my knowledge that a most comprehensive bill is being drafted by the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for consideration by honorable members. The returned, soldiers’ league has an intimate knowledge of this subject, and feels a responsibility, which is only natural, to its members who are organized for the purpose of promoting the common welfare of those who have served in the armed forces. Now, we are asked to deal with this matter a little prematurely. I am prepared to overcome the present difficulty regarding the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill by accepting the amendment made by the Senate, but I suggest that the Senate might reasonably, in the spirit, and particularly in the circumstances, in which I meet the Parliament to-day, accept as a way out of our difficulty the amendment that I have submitted. I know that various aspects of thi3 problem could be raised. I could well raise them myself. I could question ‘ the completeness of the draft and the workability of the amendment which the Senate has submitted to this chamber. I could also ask whether it is more than a mere placard, because it unfortunately leaves entirely to the employing agent or the employer the discretion of determining whether a man is competent. That may not be a satisfactory way in which to do it, but I have met this problem in the spirit in which I asked honorable members on Friday to give themselves a period of time for quiet deliberation upon it. I am anxious to find a quick way - although it certainly is not the final way - out of the difficulty which has arisen in respect of the law dealing with repatriation. In order to do so, I ask the committee to amend the Senate’s amendment. As that amendment outlines a way in which effect shall be given to preference, it is not unreasonable, at this juncture at any rate, to include in it mariners and members of civil aircraft crews who serve in war zones. I do not know that I have to make out a special case for the mariners, but it must be common knowledge that the Achilles’ heel of the United Nations in this war is shipping. The men who serve on the high seas in ships, carrying materials and equipment from place to place, experience the greatest possible danger, under conditions probably unexampled in the whole story of the sea. They are gallant men, devoted to their work, and too many of them have already paid the price of their devotion. They suffer all kinds of dangers, and their contribution to the total war effort is as invaluable as that of anybody else who could be named. It would be a cardinal mistake on the part of Parliament, now that the matter has been submitted to it, to omit the mariners from its declaration of preference. I say the same about the men who take civil aircraft into danger zones. I again remind the committee that the Government has met the difficulty in a spirit of reasonableness, and has been quite willing to effect a compromise which will overcome the immediate problem. I know the responsibility that devolves upon me to make this Parliament workable. I also realize the duty that is upon me to keep this country as effectively poised for the prosecution of the war as it is possible for one man to do. I invite the committee to accept the amendment, and I shall view with dismay any failure on its part to do so.
.- We all are glad that the Government has accepted the Senate’s amendment. The House has, at various stages of this bill, and of the Commonwealth Public Service Bill, which was recently brought before it, expressed itself clearly and definitely as to preference to returned soldiers. When speaking on the second reading of this bill, I reviewed the history of preference, and pointed out that it was sponsored and introduced by a Labour Government over which I presided, at a time when Labour had an overwhelming majority in both Houses, and when I was personally at the head of a great industrial organization. That preference has, it is true, been confined, owing to the constitutional limitations upon our powers, within a comparatively narrow sphere, but it has been accepted as a guide by outside- employers to such a degree that .the principle of preference to returned soldiers has become an integral part of our national life. When the bill was. before this chamber, I pointed out also that the benefits -which repatriation particularly provided for those returned men who had suffered from the storm and stress of war would not apply to the great majority of the men when they returned from the war, and that we could show our gratitude to them only by ensuring that, in the mad scramble for a livelihood which must inevitably take place when war ceased, they should not be pushed aside by those who had remained behind.
I wish to say something now upon the Prime Minister’s point that we cannot, under cover of this bill, deal with the policy of preference to returned soldiers in its application to the whole industrial sphere. I repeat what I said the other night, that, in my opinion, the legislative powers of this Parliament during the war and for at least twelve months thereafter are adequate to give statutory force to a policy ensuring to returned men preference in employment throughout the whole of the industrial sphere. I shall not labour that argument now beyond saying that, speaking for my friends on this side of the chamber, what we want is a comprehensive measure dealing with preference to soldiers in all its ramifications. The Prime Minister said that at a later stage he would introduce such a measure. Whether he will do so or not, that is what we want, and we shall be satisfied with nothing less. I have said that we welcome the acceptance of the Senate’s amendment by the Government, which, however, has thought fit to attach to its acceptance an amendment to include mariners and the crews of civil aircraft employed in war zones. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that, in this great life-and-death struggle, no body of men stands out more splendidly and gloriously than do the seamen, whose whole lives are passed in flirting with death. Many of them have been torpedoed and rescued, and then have signed on again. No words can express too highly the admiration that we all feel for them, but when the Prime Minister proposes to include them in this act, I say that he does not appreciate the fact that Australian seamen already have an admirable pensions scheme covering the risks and. dangers associated with their work in war-time.
– That has nothing whatever to do with preference in employment.
– I shall show the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) that it has. That, of course, raises the question : What handicap will be imposed upon a seaman when the war finishes ? After all, lie is following his normal avocation; unlike the soldier, he is not cut off from his normal civil life.
– The right honorable member agreed to this principle on Friday last.
– Quite. The point 1 wish to make is that the Repatriation Act. deals with members of the fighting services and that members of the mercantile marine have special provision made for them under their own pensions scheme, which provides against disablement or handicaps suffered as the result of war service.
– If a seaman is physically handicapped as the result of his war service, and has to change his avocation, what chance will he have of obtaining preference in civil employment if specific provision for such preference be not made ?
– If the right honorable gentleman has any doubt on that score, as a matter of urgency he should introduce a special measure to make such provision.
– This amendment makes that provision.
– In my view it does not, and, in any case, I submit that the amendment is quite out of order.- This measure is “ a bill for an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1941 “.
– “ And for other purposes “.
– The original act confines repatriation benefits to members of the fighting forces. I do not suggest for a moment that persons outside the fighting forces are not doing valuable work; they are doing valuable work, and, as the Prime Minister reminded us recently, quite a number of men who are eligible for war service and wish to enlist, are prevented from doing so because they are engaged on essential war work. No provision is made for them in this measure; yet, they are doing their duty, and if they were not we could not carry .on the war. But there is a real difference between the duty that a soldier is called upon to perform, and that which is the responsibility of a civilian. I repeat that this amendment is not in order. This measure relates specifically to the benefits of repatriation provided for in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1940. Surely the Prime Minister will not contend for a moment that this measure differs in character from the original act. Does it extend the scope of the act? I say that it does not. The amending legislation introduced in 1940 by the previous Administration extended repatriation benefits to all members of fighting services engaged in this war ; this bill does not extend repatriation benefits to any one who was not already covered when the right honorable member’s government assumed office.
– When the right honorable member read the long title he omitted to read the concluding words “ and for other purposes “.
– Of course- kindred purposes. The very nature of the word repatriation indicates that it has a definite relation to the fighting services; but now the Government proposes to apply it to civilians as well. If it is to be applied to certain civilians, then why not apply it to the entire community? If it can be applied to crews of civil aircraft then also it could be applied to munition workers and many others. For that reason I contend that the amendment is not in order and that the matter under discussion is not properly before the Chair. [Extension of time granted.] The attitude of the Opposition is first, that we desire the principle of preference to apply generally over the whole industrial sphere; secondly, we desire that, in any case, it shall apply over as wide a sphere as possible, within the admitted and unchallenged jurisdiction of the Commonwealth; and, thirdly, that it shall be confined to members of the fighting forces. That has been the law and the principle followed up to the present day. This is the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to extend the benefits of repatriation to persons outside the fighting forces. I repeat that seamen are covered by their own pensions scheme. A clear distinction is drawn between the mariner and the soldier in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The pension paid to the mariner is based upon his earning capacity in his avocation as a seaman, whereas a pension paid to a soldier has no relation whatever to what he was earning before he enlisted. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill as introduced made it clear that the pension of a Brigadier-General or a Major-General was to be increased only by the same amount as that of an ordinary soldier, although his earning capacity in civil life might be much greater. We agree that the air . crews of civil aircraft go into danger. But that is in the course of their employment, and they are not compelled, as is the man in the fighting services, to remain in the danger zone; on the contrary, it is their business, as it is that of any other civilian, to get out of it as quickly as possible. The_ duty of a soldier, when the hour of danger arrives, is’ to take his place in the forefront of the battle. That is the distinction between a soldier and a civilian. Surely if it is the duty of a soldier to rush to meet the enemy and offer his life in the hour of danger, he is entitled to some consideration other than that which is extended to his fellow citizen who remains sheltered behind the fighting services ! The contention of the Opposition is that provision has already been made for seamen, and that it could be and ought to be made in a separate measure for the crews of civil aircraft.
– Could not the whole matter be dealt with in a separate measure ?
– Oh, yes.
– Well then, why was the amendment tacked on to this measure?
– Because this measure relates to returned soldiers, and employment is of vital importance to the fighting man when he re-enters civil life. It is of no use for the right honorable gentleman to try to sidestep the issue.
– I shall not sidestep it.
– As things stand, unless a man is a unionist he cannot get a job in very many industries. The soldier is away fighting for his country. When he returns to civil life, he is told, “If you want a job, you must join a union “. Even if he joins a union, what chance will he have against those who have remained at home, and in the very nature of things, have won preference for themselves because of their superior skill and workmanship, attained by uninterrupted practice ? While he has been away fighting, they have been working at the bench. So we say that the soldier, by virtue of the service he has given to Australia, is entitled to preference, and that that preference to soldiers shall rank before preference to the unionists who have remained behind.
The amendment made in the Senate is entirely in accord with the principle of repatriation. It provides that the soldier who returns to civil employment shall be given a chance of obtaining “ a place in the sun”. The speech of the right honorable gentleman would lead one to believe that he is making a great concession in accepting a principle that is just and is urgently demanded by the circumstances. The purpose of the Senate’s amendment is to have preference applied as widely as possible; consequently, it covers persons employed by contractors who are carrying out work for the Government. I believe in that. Attempts were made in this chamber to induce the Government to accept the principle, but it declined to do so.
– A regulation obliging contractors to sign that condition has been in operation ever since this Government has been in office.
– Only the other night the right honorable gentleman said to me, “ How am I to enforce it ? “
– In respect of government tenders, yes. The condition was operated by the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, and we continued it.What is wrong with that?
– What is the effect of the Senate’s amendment?
– That is what I want to know.
– If it does not go beyond that to which the right honorable gentleman has agreed, what is he bothering about?
– That is why we have accepted it.
– Something to which the Government itself has agreed has been accepted?
– But the Government now wants to impose the condition that the Senate shall accept something to which it does not agree. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill deals with the fighting forces. The Government is now seeking to extend the benefits of repatriation to classes that are outside those to whom repatriation applies. A clear line of demarcation cannot be drawn between some crews and other crews of civil aircraft, and between some ships and other ships.
– It can.
– The position of a member of the fighting forces is entirely different from that of a civilian. Therefore, we are unable to agree with the right honorable gentleman. Seamen are provided for under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and the crews of civil aircraft could be provided for under other legislation. The right honorable gentleman has the assurance that the Opposition would pass such a measure without debate. Therefore, we cannot agree to the inclusion of those two classes in this measure. I have taken a point of order as to whether the amendment of the Government is in order. The bill is entitled, “ Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill “. The principal act says that it is “ an act to make provision for the repatriation of Australian soldiers, and for other purposes “ ; not for other classes of persons, but for purposes other than repatriation. If preference, or the provision of employment, does not come naturally and properly under repatriation, as the term is ordinarily understood, then “ other purposes “ covers everything that may be done in regard to persons of the classes specified. Section 22 of the principal act states, inter alia - “ Member of the forces “ or “ returned soldier “ means a person who, during the present war, was - (a)a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or employed on a ship of war;
Those are the classes of persons to whom the act applies, and to whom the Opposition considers that this bill shouldbe confined. For that reason, the Opposition cannot accede to the request of the Prime Minister. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act deals only with Australian soldiers. Their repatriation is regarded by the legislature as a matter demanding special provisions. The legislature does not provide by a special act for any class of persons unless there is something about them which singles them out from the rest of the community. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, No. 60 of 1940, deals with seamen as a class, and distinguishes them from the rest of the community. It may be argued that the members of the crew of a civil aircraft are members of the fighting forces. I do not know whether they are, but I do say that seamen are not members of the fighting forces. Therefore, I maintain that the amendment is out of order.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).I remind the committee that it is dealing with “ a bill for an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1941, and for other purposes “. In my opinion, the words “ and for other purposes “ make the amendment under discussion relevant to the bill. I therefore rule that it is in order.
– The amendment being in order, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has now to decide whether he is in favour of extending to members of the merchant navy and members of the crew of a civil aircraft who have gone into combat zones the same preference as he is willing to extend to members of the fighting forces who have gone into combat zones. The distinction as to combat zones is already recognized in the Senate’s amendment. The preference given in the amendment by the Senate does not extend to all members of the defence forces, but only to those who have left Australia and to those in Australia who are fighting or who have fought in combat zones so prescribed.
– They all are members of the fighting forces?
– Yes, but some will get the preference and others will not. The differentiation between them will be determined by the degree to which they will have come into contact with the enemy. The Government claims that the same distinction can be drawn in relation to the members of the merchant navy.
– ‘Who might make only one trip into a combat zone.
– The answer to that remark is that, under the Government’s amendment, the preference is . to be given to -
Persons who are so competent, and who have, during Prescribed periods and under prescribed conditions, served, in a ship or as members of the crew of a civil aircraft, in any zone which, in relation to ships or aircraft, as the case may be, is prescribed as a combat zone for the’ purposes of this section.
Therefore, whether one such trip is to be regarded as service in a combat zone will have to be considered by the Government. Nobody imagines that the Governor-General would proclaim as a combat zone an area which is not a combat zone.
When the Commonwealth Public Service Bill was before honorable members on Friday last, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) logically from his own point of view contended that the scope of that measure should not be extended beyond members of the enlisted forces. Yet he will not give preference to all enlisted men. And the answer to the point that has been raised is contained in the following letter which has been contributed to the public press by Mr. F. W. E. Ford, of the mercantile marine sub-branch of the returned soldiers’ organization : -
The merchant seamen of Australia and the ships they sail through danger-infested seas are as much in the firing line as the strictly combatant forces. Because no casualty list of merchant seamen is issued it is not well known that hundreds of Australian seamen have paid the supreme sacrifice, and a very great number have suffered the horrors caused by collision, fire, and attack by enemy planes, surface vessels, and submarines. . . . We see no reason why they should not be; and the returned soldiers, at the annual congresses of the B.S.L., have consistently advocated that all privileges extended to them should also bo granted to the merchant seamen. It is pleasing to note that Mr. Hughes wishes to include the seamen and those gallant knights of the air, the civil air force, and the members of the A.A.N.S. . . .
The writer was referring to the speech delivered by the right honorable gentleman on the Commonwealth Public Service Bill on Friday last, when he said, not once, but half a dozen times, that members of the merchant navy should receive the benefit of preference in employment.
– Oh, no. Half a dozen is six.
– On Friday the right honorable gentleman was in favour of members of the merchant navy being granted preference.
– That was a different bill.
– Yes, but the same principle was involved. The letter from which I have been quoting concludes -
We ask of Australia justice to the fighting merchantmen and civil air force of stout hearts who bring food to our troops, without which they could not live, the munitions without which they could not fight, the oil that feeds the fires of our Navy and the engines of our Air Force, without which the whole of the fighting forces would be reduced to inactivity.
AH that this bill does is to extend the principle adopted by the Senate to mariners serving in combat zones under conditions as may be prescribed. Those conditions will certainly ensure that they have really gone into combat zones. The principle will also be extended to mem.bers of the crew of a civil aircraft who fulfil a like condition. I submit that the amendment is not only relevant, as you, Mr. Chairman, have ruled, but that it is also reasonable. It seems to have the support of the returned soldiers’ organization, as far as I can gather from the letter that I have read. I contend that the right honorable member for North Sydney favoured this principle on Friday in relation to mariners, but, whatever his view to-day, the committee should accept the amendment as just and reasonable.
. I support the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The most important point taken by him is that the Government now seeks to embody in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act a matter that has nothing to do with the repatriation of Australian soldiers. ‘The only classes of persons to whom that act applies are those specified in the existing legislation on the subject. If the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister say now that these men are entitled to preference, why not include them in the act? They are not game to do that, however. They want to foist on to the Repatriation Commission the job of finding employment for persons not covered by the Repatriation Act. Last week, the Government introduced a Public Service Amending Bill for the purpose of giving preference to members of the services who, it is believed, were entitled to preference. It was entitled to do that. No one denies the value of the work being performed by the seamen, for instance.
– Then why object?
– I object to their inclusion under the Repatriation Act because, properly speaking, they do not come under the control of the Repatriation Department. The Repatriation Act prescribes those for whom the Repatriation Commission is responsible. Today, the point is raised that this amending bill is described as a bill to amend the Repatriation Act, “and for other purposes “. Every body knows that the words “ other purposes “ refer to the finding of employment for ex-service men, the provision of technical education, &c. Now, the Attorney-General employs the subterfuge of attempting to include in the phrase ‘‘other purposes” provision for members of services which the act was not designed to cover. The Repatriation Act covers only men and women enlisted for service overseas, or even in Australia. Those persons offered their service, and as compensation, if one may call it such, for haying done so, Parliament has deaided that they shall receive preference. I do not for one moment agree that any one should he included who is not an enlisted man or woman. I agree with everything the Prime Minister said in regard to seamen and civil pilots, but I do not agree that they should be covered by the Repatriation Act. The AttorneyGeneral, and other members of this Parliament, have had to take the risk of flying overseas in performance of their duties. They went to London, and to other danger zones, but that is not to say that they should be included among those for whom the Repatriation Act provides. The Government has seen fit to accept certain amendments made by the Senate to the Repatriation Bill. I give it full marks for having done so. It should not, however, attempt to make the Repatriation Act cover those with whom the Repatriation Commission will have no power to deal.
– What about the provision to compel government contractors to give preference!
– That is a matter of policy. I agree that it is better to have that provision clearly stated in another measure. If it be necessary to make provision for seamen and civil pilots we should do so in an entirely new bill. I ask the Prime Minister to leave the .Senate’s amendment as it is. Let the Repatriation Commission be responsible only for those for whom the Repatriation Act was drawn. All others should be excluded. The Repatriation Act has to do with members of the fighting services, and nobody else.
. -When the Repatriation Bill was introduced, it was intended to cover such matters as war pensions, the rehabilitation of soldiers in civil life, the making of loans to soldiers, &c. It covered all phases of repatriation except the provision of employment for discharged soldiers. The only way in which it was possible to do that was to introduce some form of preference. Honorable members on this side of the House tried to impress on the Government that no repatriation scheme could do justice to the returned soldier unless it gave him .a. measure of preference. They pointed out that this was not a form of compensation to the soldier; it was a matter of right, because the man who had been taken away from his civil employment, and had served for three or four years in the Army, had necessarily lost his skill and aptitude in the trade or profession which he had followed in civil life. They pointed out that this did not apply to members of other services. It does not, for instance, apply to the mariner, whom the Government proposes to include. The mariner, after his years of service during the war, should be a much better sailor than he was before, and certainly the civil pilot, whom it is also proposed to include, will be a much more skilful pilot after the war than he was before. Therefore, members of the Opposition believed that members of the fighting services should receive preference in employment so that they might re-establish themselves in civil life. The Opposition tried to have that principle recognized in the Repatriation Bill, but the Government would not accept our amendment. The bill then went to the Senate, which amended it in the direction which the Opposition desired. This moved the Government to take action unprecedented in the history of this Parliament. The Government hastily prepared and brought in a bill to give a measure of preference, not only to returned soldiers, but also to a great many others who had never been soldiers. The Government did this, not for the purpose of helping the returned soldiers, but in order to nullify the effect of the amendment moved in this chamber, and subsequently inserted in the bill in the Senate, an amendment designed to give preference to ex-servicemen. Indeed, when the amendment came before this House, so far was any scheme of preference to returned soldiers from the mind of the Government that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) approached the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), and suggested that I should withdraw my amendment, in which event, he said, the proposal would be referred to the proposed Repatriation Committee. No such committee existed at the time. Not until its hand was forced did the Government have in mind any scheme of preference to returned soldiers. It then produced a bill which aimed at the complete destruction of that principle. However, the bill did not completely satisfy the Government, which realized the danger of wiping out completely legislation providing for preference to returned soldiers. Accordingly, it set out to include others in a bill relating to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Government believes that if mariners and civil aviators were included in those to whom preference should be given, it would be difficult to exclude men working in civil construction camps in New Guinea, and that it would then be comparatively easy to include others. For those reasons honorable members on. this side believe that the bill now before the House should be reserved exclusively for exservice.men, and that any scheme for the repatriation of mariners or civil aviators should be embodied in other legislation. No question of urgency arises, because the Government has demonstrated its ability to produce a bill with remarkable speed when it is faced with ‘ a dilemma. Mariners are already protected by the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The right place to insert a provision giving additional privileges to mariners is in that act, not in a measure providing for the repatriation of soldiers. Although it is true that in time of war mariners perform onerous and dangerous duties, they are paid a 50 per cent, war loading, whereas the soldier gets no extra pay because of the dangerous nature of his work. In order to understand the reasons for the Government’s actions I go back to 1930. On the 1st May, 1930, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) relating to preference to returned soldiers the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said -
In view of the distress through widespread unemployment, the question of distribution of labour has given the Government serious concern. The final instructions issued to the department are as follows: -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given - other things being equal - firstly, to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service, who are members of trade unions, and secondly, to members of trade unions.
In other words, the right honorable gentleman excluded returned soldiers who were not members of trade unions. So we see that in 1930 the Labour Government sought to destroy the principle of preference to returned soldiers and to substitute a system of preference to returned soldier unionists, and that in 1942, the present Government sought to introduce compulsory unionism as will be seen by a reference to Mansard. On the 17th September, 1942, in a debate in this House I pointed out that all government contracts for the supply of clothing contained the following clause: -
The contractor shall within seven (7) days from date hereof enter into an agreement with the secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia (or branch in States other than Victoria) in accordance with the outwork provisions of the awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
That meant preference to unionists. As reported in Hansard of th© 17th September, 1942, the present Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said -
All manufacturers of clothing who execute orders for the Commonwealth Government will be compelled to observe award rates and conditions.
There is no ambiguity about that statement. It was used as a basis for the introduction of preference to unionists.
– Did it not apply only to outworkers?
– It did not specifically mention outworkers. On the same day, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) said -
Every war-time measure that has taken away something from the trade union movemen has had the unqualified support of honorable members opposite, but, on the first occasion that a move is made by the Government to give something to the unions in return for their wonderful co-operation in the war effort, all of the anti-Labour reactionary forces in this Parliament unanimously oppose it.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) spoke in a similar strain. I repeat that, in 1930, the Scullin Government sought to give preference to returned soldier unionists, and that the present Government has striven to give preference to unionists over all other sections of the community. In New South Wales a Labour Government recently introduced a bill to provide for compulsory unionism, and although that measure has been shelved, this is a live question in the Labour movement. As I said in my second-reading speech, the principle of preference to returned soldiers may yet be discussed at another Melbourne conference, to which the Prime Minister may have to go cap in hand to obtain permission to introduce legislation to provide for preference to returned soldiers. That principle is entirely contrary to the spirit of the Labour movement. If honorable members opposite believe that trade union membership should be given priority over patriotism, they will refuse to give preference to returned soldiers; if not, they must give preference to soldiers. I remind them, however, that if we lose the war we shall lose all the privileges of trade unionism. The Government sought to ruin, this bill by inserting in it provisions which are entirely contrary to its spirit. As I have said, there is already legislation dealing with mariners.
Not content with having abolished compulsory military training and with having made compulsory unionism a plank of its platform, the Labour party is now seeking to abolish straight-out preference to returned soldiers by amending the Senate’s amendment in order to extend preference to mariners and civil airmen. That is the thin edge of the wedge. Having accomplished that purpose, the Government would not be long in extending preference to members of the Civil Constructional Corps in New Guinea and to all sorts of other people, and the final result would be that preference to returned soldiers would be rendered valueless. The extension of preference to mariners and civil airmen may well become worthy of other measures which could be discussed on their merits. I concede that there are merits, but other factors arise which cannot be ignored in any consideration of claims, for preference for sailors. Sailors receive a war loading. As a matter of fact, those persons who serve on the mud punt which operates 3 miles outside Sydney Heads receive a war loading of 50 per cent. The crews of trawlers receive war loadings of 33-J per cent.
– Does the honorable member think that they should not?
– If it is good enough for sailors to have a war loading because they take risks, it is equally good that the troops who serve in New Guinea he given a war loading. This is a repatriation bill. It applies only to members of the armed forces. In it there is no place for those who are not members of the armed forces. If their case merits consideration, it should be dealt with in ii separate measure. By endeavouring to insert in this legislation preference to other than ex-servicemen, the Government shows that its intention is to abolish the principle of preference to returned soldiers in favour of preference to unionists. I have not the slightest intention of supporting the amendment moved by the Prime Minister. Instead, I intend to support in its original form the amendment made by the Senate. With all the goodwill in the world to mariners, I cannot agree to their being dealt with under this bill. I admit that they are doing good work, but there are things which I cannot reconcile. For instance, I cannot reconcile with the pay of soldiers the fact that the crew of the Matthew Flinders which was taken from Melbourne to Western Australia were given a war loading that resulted in the master being paid £186 for a fortnight’s work.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time, but if no other honorable member wishes to speak he may take his second period now.
– I cannot reconcile the fact that a second cook whose normal wages would be £16 7s. received £65 10s. for a fortnight’s work. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), with withering scorn, drew attention to the anomaly of the assistant cook on a dredge receiving £65 10s. in a fortnight. That represents pay for 22 weeks of a soldier serving in New Guinea. All those factors are relevant to any consideration of the extension of preference to mariners. I impress upon honorable members the fact that, if the Government’s amendment were made, there would be nothing to prevent mariners or civil airmen from qualifying for preference by spending the shortest space of time in a combat area. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is solely for returned soldiers. If the Government considers that mariners and civil airmen are entitled to preference it should do as it did when it brought down the bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act - but I should hope not so quickly - namely, introduce appropriate measures which would be debated on their merits by honorable- members.
.- 1 agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that the amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is wrong in principle, and I appeal to the right honorable gentleman not to persevere with it. Men in the armed forces are entitled to certain privileges to which no one else is entitled. I know that merchant seamen have done a wonderful job of work. A great many of them have been in dangerous places and have endured dreadful conditions for n few hours. Some sailors serving on ships in the Atlantic have had as much service as have most members of the armed forces, but many Australian seamen have never been in a danger zone. Many others have been in a danger zone for only a brief space of time. Merchant seamen are compensated with extra pay for the risks they run. I do not belittle those risks, but it would take an orator greater than Alfred Deakin to convince me that their risks are equal to those which have been taken by our men who have returned from Greece and Crete to go into the awful conditions that operate in New Guinea. The merchant seamen live under better conditions than do the men in the field and they do not incur the same constant risk. Moreover, they are carrying on their normal vocation. They were sailors before the war, and they are still sailors, whereas the men in the armed forces were possibly accountants or farmers. After four or five years away from their civil life, they have lost the opportunity to establish themselves as young men in their professions or trades. The merchant seamen do not lose that opportunity. Of course, they may lose their lives, but so may soldiers. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is for the members of the armed forces alone. I believe that merchant seamen and civil airmen are entitled to some preference and I would certainly do my utmost to ensure their getting it, but they are not entitled to the first preference to which members of the armed forces are entitled. If the principle contained in the Prime Minister’s amendment were accepted, the time would come when the value of preference to the members of the armed forces would be destroyed by preference being extended to all sorts of people. Honorable members will do a great disservice to the members of the armed forces if they agree to the amendment, and, if they do, I hope that the Senate, by refusing to accept the amendment, will ensure that no such disservice shall be done to ex-servicemen.
– I am sorry that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has moved this amendment to the amendment made by the Senate to this bill. The principle of preference to ex-servicemen is precious and sacred to them, and I should not like to see that preference destroyed. Preference was promised to the fighting men after the last war. Although it has not been written into a statute since the outbreak of this war, the people have taken for granted that men who serve the country in the firing line, and give up their ordinary avocations for the duration of their service, shall not be at a disadvantage when they return to take their place in industry beside their fellows who stayed at home. Because they find it difficult to return to civil occupations, they should be enabled to stand alongside their fellow men in employment. That is why we offer them preference in employment. To some degree they must be fitted for the job. That is a part of the contract. But they are not expected to be so efficient as men who stay at home and continue in their ordinary avocations during the war. The Commonwealth can only offer preference in respect of jobs which are filled by public advertisement. Thus, it cannot apply preference throughout the whole of industry. We can only hope that industry will follow the Government’s example and, that, eventually, the principle of preference will operate throughout the community. I sincerely hope that the Parliament will not lose sight of what we are trying to achieve. Should we do so, the subject of preference will become contentious. The Repatriation Bill has been approved by this chamber and the Senate. It has been described as a good bill. The important thing is that the bill should be placed on the statutebook at the earliest possible moment in order to make available to recipients, as quickly as possible, the additional benefits conferred under it. So long as we go on wrangling over this matter those persons will be deprived of those benefits which they sorely need. In answer to a question asked by me the Prime Minister undertook to bring down a comprehensive preference bill as soon as it could be drafted. It was not expected that that bill could be brought down in this sessional period. I know that the Prime Minister has been in conference with the federal executive of the
Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and that the league is making a comprehensive approach to this problem. It is obtaining advice from all its State branches on the matter. I was hoping that Parliament would have the patience to wait for that measure, because preference is not an urgent need. It would not matter if consideration of it were postponed for a month or so in order to permit the Government to study all aspects of the problem. However, although this chamber accepted the Prime Minister’s undertaking, the Senate has refused to do so; and now the Government has agreed to accept the amendment proposed by the Senate. That amendment simply states a principle - that preference shall be given to members of the fighting forces. It does not provide any machinery for giving effect to that principle. No doubt, another bill will be introduced to. provide that machinery. There is nothing wrong in accepting that principle. It is good that it should be written into our repatriation law. Previously, I expressed regret that the Government had not expressed the principle in this bill. The Government could well accept the principle as now stated in the Senate’s amendment, and allow the bill to become law as soon as possible. By so doing, it would not in any way reflect upon those brave men whom it desires to recognize in addition to returned soldiers. Every one admits that members of the merchant marine and members of the crews of civil aircraft are doing sterling work, and are taking risks which, very often, are greater than those taken by members of the fighting forces in combat zones. Those men are running the gauntlet week in and week out in the Atlantic. We know of what our own civil air pilots accomplished in carrying supplies of not only food but also munitions to our troops at Buna. Those men went into combat zones without protection. They are worthy of the highest honour we can pay to them. However. Mr. Chairman, in spite of the fact that you have ruled that the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister is relevant to the Senate’s amendment, I am still of opinion that it will destroy the principle of preference to returned soldiers, which means strictly preference to members of the fighting forces only. That is the preference which the soldiers desire. Members of the merchant marine and members of crews of civil aircraft do not leave their ordinary occupations when they take risks by entering war zones; but the fighting soldier surrenders his civilian life entirely and is engaged in service which does not fit him in any way for civilian avocations. For that reason, it is the duty of the nation to give the soldier preference in employment.
– In many cases a soldier’s job may not be available upon his return.
– That is so. The Government would be well advised to accept the principle of preference which Australians as a whole desire. We want to honour our promise to our fighting men. Therefore, I advise the Government not to force its amendment which, if carried, will only be rejected by the Senate, should the Senate run true to form, and, consequently, the bill will be delayed. On behalf of the beneficiaries under the bill I plead with honorable members to get on with the business, and to stop wrangling over minor points.
.- Quite a furore has been caused by those who contend that the Senate’s amendment will not confer such benefits upon the returned soldiers as many people believe it will. I have no doubt that the Senate realized that its amendment does not mean a great deal when viewed strictly in relation to this measure, and probably that this bill, is not the measure in which to make such a provision. However, the Senate was anxious to ensure that the principle of preference in employment to returned soldiers should be affirmed by the Parliament. For that reason it has proposed this amendment. I do not think that there is. sufficient in it to warrant the attitude which the Government has taken up; at the same time, I do not think that there is sufficient in the Prime Minister’s amendment to justify the exception which some honorable members on this side of the chamber take to it. The Prime Minister’s amendment achieves nothing for the Government, and very little for those whom the amendment is designed to benefit, namely, members of the merchant marine and members of the crews of civil aircraft. Very few seamen actually seek preference of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Commonwealth does not own steamships; and it controls very few avocations in which it could offer employment to seamen. Therefore, its proposal can apply only to those seamen who seek employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Consequently, the Prime Minister’s amendment means very little. I should be very sorry indeed to see the bill held up, and the benefits provided under it deferred for a considerable time because of the friction which has arisen between this chamber and the Senate. Parliament’ must be made reasonably workable. At present, the Government has a small majority in this chamber, whilst the Opposition has a small majority in the Senate. In view of the necessity for making Parliament workable, a compromise should be arranged. If the Government remains adamant and presses the Prime Minister’s amendment, the only course I can adopt as a realist is to agree to it in the expectation that the Prime Minister will honour his promise that in the next session of Parliament a comprehensive bill will be brought down to provide for preference in employment for all persons entitled to such preference by reason of war service. There is room for considerable argument regarding the degree of preference that should be granted to sections other than the armed forces. But no room exists for argument regarding the degree of preference that members of the armed services are entitled to receive. “What the Opposition fears is that the Government may include so many categories that in the final analysis, the preference will be of little value to members of the fighting services. If some degree of preference be granted to practically every member of the community, the principle will be of no value to the soldiers. In opposing the inclusion of the additional categories proposed by the Prime Minister, honorable members on this side of the chamber desire to protect the interests of members of the fighting forces. At this juncture, the
Government should consider the advisability of withdrawing the amendment submitted by the Prime Minister; but if it persists and the amendment is defeated in the Senate, it should accept the situation. The amendment made by the Senate, and the amendment submitted by the right honorable gentleman, are of little real value to the soldiers, and do not warrant serious and protracted consideration. The preference granted in the Senate’s amendment applies only to returned soldiers who seek employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, or in the service of agencies of the Commonwealth. After the war, there may be only 10,000 or 20,000 vacancies in those avenues of employment, but tens of thousands of returned soldiers will be entitled to consideration if they desire to apply for the positions. As a contribution to a system of preference, this amendment is only a “ fleabite “. The Government should introduce a comprehensive bill granting to returned soldiers a real preference in employment, not only in the Commonwealth Public Service, but also in all other avenues which the fighting man considers that he should be entitled to enter. Even if the Government is determined to persist with this amendment in order to “ save its face “, I still hope that the Prime Minister during the next session of the Parliament will introduce legislation embodying a form of preference that will be of real value to returned soldiers.
.- As I intend to vote against the amendment submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), I shall explain the reasons for my attitude. It is important first to study the Senate’s amendment, and then to analyse the degree to which it is affected by the amendment submitted by the Prime Minister. The Senate’s amendment provides that - . . a preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been members of the forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this act and who are competent for the work required.
The amendment submitted by the Prime Minister adds to those words - unci to persons who are so competent and who have, during prescribed periods and under prescribed conditions, served, in a ship or as members of the crew of a civil aircraft, in any zone which, in relation to ships or aircraft, as the case may me, is prescribed as p. combat zone for the purposes of this section.”
The amendment leaves three matters to be prescribed. First, the periods during which the men served; secondly, the conditions under which they served; and, thirdly, the areas in which they served. “When the matter is left so much in the air as that, I am not prepared to accord to those men preference equal to that enjoyed by the soldiers. At the same time, I recognize that they undergo great dangers and are entitled to special consideration.
Honorable members will observe that the Governor-General in Council will ^prescribe the period of service. For aught I know, the .requirement may be that they shall have served for one month, two months or six months in a combat zone. The conditions also are “left entirely in the air. A ship might enter a combat area where no actual fighting is at the time taking place, but where there is always a danger of attack. Should the crew be granted, in these circumstances, preference in employment equal to that of the soldiers? It is idle to ask the committee, in those circumstances, to give to persons following their civil occupations equal preference with soldiers who at all times, and for some time to come, will be obliged to go where they are sent under conditions of great danger and always subject to military discipline.
In short, what we are asked to do is to give equal preference to civilians because they are giving to the community service of outstanding character. “Before we give equal preference to members of the mercantile marine and members of the crew of civil aircraft who have entered combat zones, we must consider other factors, which prove that their service, though outstanding, does not entitle them to equal preference with the men of the fighting forces. “The soldier is completely removed from ;his civilian occupation. So far as we can foretell, the war will continue in this hemisphere for some years. So for an indefinite period, the soldiers will be removed from their civil associations. When they are finally discharged from the army, they will have to be re-absorbed in civil life. That position will not arise with members of the mercantile marine and members of the crew of a civil aircraft entering a combat zone. Despite the risks that they undergo, they are carrying on their normal occupation. The only additional factor compared with their pre-war conditions is that they are subject to special risk.
Another factor, which is most important, is that the soldier is paid a flat rate regardless of whether he is in the danger zone. Members of the mercantile marine and the crew of civil aircraft are paid special rates when they are called upon to undergo special risks. That factor negatives the right of the Government to ask the committee to accept ‘this amendment. The third factor is that members of the mercantile marine and the crew of the civil aircraft, though in a combat zone, are under civil contract. They are not compelled, as a soldier is, to carry on their duties. They are at liberty to leave those duties or refuse to accept the conditions which may carry them into a combat zone. Such liberty is not given to the soldier.
Those factors appeal to me as being three prime reasons why honorable members cannot grant to those two classes, no matter how deserving they may be, equal preference with returned soldiers. But a preference must be granted to them compared with other sections of the community, though it must come after the overriding preference to he accorded to members of the fighting services. For those reasons, I shall vote against the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister.
.- I am glad to find that it is possible for the committee this afternoon to debate the merits of the Senate’s amendment in a calm and rational manner. Towards the end of last week there appeared to be a desire on the part of the Government to invest it with an atmosphere of crisis, and to associate with it the suggestion that this. Parliament had become unworkable, with all the consequences implicit in such a conclusion. It is an anti-climax, although a very proper one, to find that, following week-end reflections, the Government has brought before the committee for consideration in a normal manner and a calm atmosphere an’ addendum to the Senate’s amendment. The question was whether the Government was prepared to accept the introduction of preference into repatriation legislation. Upon reflection, it has decided to do so. The final issue now is whether preference for certain civilians is to be introduced for the first time into that legislation.
– Does the honorable memher call merchant seamen civilians?
– There can be no doubt that they are.
– They take a hell of a risk.
– I agree that they do, “but they are a component of the organization for total war. They take great risks, but other sections of the community are also obliged, in the organisation of the nation for total war, to take great risks. It is completely impossible, in my view, to introduce into the Repatriation Act, at this stage, provision for preference to certain selected civilians, and to stop there. If we did, anomalies would inevitably be pointed out at an early date, and a case would be made for further amendments aimed at recognizing the claims of other civilians whose circumstances could be regarded as comparable with those of merchant seamen and civil pilots. It may, and I have no doubt, would, be argued that merchant seamen who travel in a ship to Darwin have no more right to preference than wharf labourers, some of whom have already “been bombed and killed, or mutilated, while unloading ships at Darwin. I shall not pursue further the vista that is opened up once one begins to associate the claims of civilians in connexion with the war effort with those of soldiers. The only possible clearcut line of demarcation is that between the man who, voluntarily or not, is enlisted to serve in the armed forces for the duration of the war, find another who, whilst playing his part in the organization of the nation for war, does not surrender his civil avocation, or cut himself off from the benefit of civilian rates, penalty rates, or special Arbitration Court rates of pay for dangerous work. The soldier becomes subject to military discipline for the duration of the war. He places himself or is placed in a class apart. He goes into action against the enemy for a period which he has no voice, in determining, and, either continuously or intermittently, remains in contact with the enemy as long as the war lasts, or until he is killed, maimed, or withdrawn by a higher authority. His circumstances can in no respect be compared with those of the civilian, even if the latter flies a civil aircraft into an operational theatre and lands in some jeopardy, discharges his cargo or personnel and flies away again. Indeed, the air raid warden who performs his duties in a bombed city may claim to face equal dangers. I put it to the Government that it would be completely impossible to advance the claims of any civilians pari passu with those of soldiers, and to stop short of giving equal weight to the claim of every civilian whom the circumstances of war place in jeopardy through the action of the enemy. I do not for a moment deny that it is proper for the Government to have regard to the services of civilians, such as merchant seamen. Not one of us has failed to voice his admiration for their services, or to acknowledge the indebtedness of the nation to them, and indeed to many others, lt is proper that the Government should signify its readiness to acknowledge their services in a concrete form, by provisions for compensation, a-nd for pensions to the wounded and to dependants, and even for some measure of preference. But there can be no acknowledgment of their rights as equal to’ those of the man who, as a member of the armed forces, places himself at the disposal of the higher authorities, who are free to put him in combat with the enemy, if necessary, for the duration of the war. He surrenders completely his right to withdraw himself from a position of danger. While serving, he accepts a rate of pay which bears no comparison with the pay of civilians. It is quite proper that we should embody in the repatriation law provision not only for pensions to soldiers and their dependants, and for medical attention to them, but also for this real act of repatriation in the form of a guarantee of the soldier’s subsequent employment. I am only sorry, as I am sure almost all members of this Parliament are, that it is beyond our power, owing to -the limitations placed upon the industrial authority of the Commonwealth, to make that preference extend beyond the Commonwealth Public Service. With all my colleagues on this side of the chamber, I shall be only too willing to accept our responsibility for helping the Government to make appropriate provision in another measure, having regard to the differing circumstances, for civil pilots, merchant seamen, and many other civilians whose cases are not very dissimilar to theirs. I hope that we shall have that opportunity at an early date, but on this occasion, in this bill, there should be no confusion between the claims of the man who serves for the duration of the war, and the claims of him who remains a civilian. The two are not comparable.
.- There is no great difference between the amendment made by the Senate and that which is now proposed by the Government. They have common ground in that they are limited to employment by the Commonwealth or by contractors for the Commonwealth; but, whereas the Senate’s amendment limits opportunities for that employment to men who have been members of the fighting forces and have served outside Australia, or in any area prescribed as a combat zone, the Government’s amendment provides that preference shall be given also to certain airmen and seamen. In my opinion, the difference is not sufficiently substantial to warrant any opposition to the Government’s proposals. I am concerned more with a matter raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and several other members. The honorable member for Wentworth expressed the view that preference to members of the fighting forces was a vital matter because the policy of the Labour party, and of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, was to discriminate against every body else in favour of unionists. That is not true. Apparently, the honorable member misconstrued the clause which he read from Hansard relating to the outwork provisions of the clothing trades award. That clause is -
The contractor shall within seven (7) days from date hereof enter into an agreement with the secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia (or branch in States other than Victoria) in accordance with the outwork provisions of the awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The outwork provisions were inserted in the award by Judge Drake-Brockman in 1939, because, in his view, that was the only means of preventing sweating. Those provisions do not refer to direct employees of manufacturers; they refer to cases in which a manufacturer lets out a part of his contract to individuals who do the work in their own homes. In the judge’s opinion, that practice gave rise to one of the worst forms of sweating, and he believed that the only way to prevent it was to introduce preference to unionists in sub-contracting to these outdoor workers. That is the only provision for preference to unionists in the clothing trades award. Some years ago, Judge Drake-Brockman endeavoured to secure a more extensive form of preference than that authorized under section 40a of the act, but the High Court held his award to be invalid in that respect. The position to-day is that there is preference in government employment to returned soldiers of the last war. There is also a provision in the Commonwealth Arbitration Act that if the Arbitration Court grants preference to unionists, it must not do so to the prejudice of returned soldiers. The effect of that provision is that, notwithstanding any award that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may make granting preference to unionists, which is rare, such provision must not abrogate the rights of returned soldiers.
– Whether they are unionists or not?
– Yes. That very point was dealt with by the High Court in a case the Waterside Workers Federation v. Gilchrist, Watt Sanderson and Company in 34 C.L.R. In that case, the judge attempted to devise two classes of preference: First, to returned soldier unionists, and, secondly, to unionists and returned soldier non-unionists. That is to say, he intended to place the returned soldier non-unionists on the same footing as the unionist and below the soldierunionists. The High Court held that the court could not do anything that would take away the right of a returned soldier non-unionist to be employed on equal terms with a non-soldier unionist. In effect, that meant that nothing could be inserted in an award to coerce or urge a returned soldier to become a unionist as the condition of obtaining employment. The same position has existed under the New South Wales law. In that State there is a Returned Soldiers and Sailors Preference Act 1919, and in the Industrial Arbitration Act there is a provision, the wording of which has been changed from time to time, which enables the court to give preference to unionists. I refer to this matter because the honorable member for Wentworth said that there was a proposal before the New South Wales Parliament at present to empower the Arbitration Court to grant preference to unionists without regard to the rights of returned soldiers.
– I did not say that.
– I am certain that the honorable member did say it.
– I said that a bill had been introduced into the State Parliament providing for compulsory unionism.
– No. It is the Industrial Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 1943 introduced on the 10th March. In effect, it will restore to the original legislation the old provision giving preference to unionists, which has been altered from time to time - usually when a nonLabour Government assumes office, it adds the words “ other things being equal “. It is now proposed to insert the words -
A claim that as between members of any industrial union or unions of employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time preference shall bc given to such member.
Read by itself, that paragraph certainly looks as if it supports the contention of the honorable member for Wentworth, but this matter has been considered fully by the Arbitration Court of New South
Wales, which, in 1935, laid down that an indistinguishable provision must be read as subject to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act. At thattime the wording was as follows: -
The court or a board may on an application or reference to it in that behalf prescribe by award that absolute preference of employment shall be given to the members of the industrial union or unions specified in the award.
That is stronger language than is being proposed now; nevertheless, the Arbitration Court held that that provision was subject to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act, because if the legislature had intended otherwise, it would have said so. The court read a passage from Maxwall’s Interpretation of Statutes, and said -
That passage might have been written specifically with regard to this particular legislation, and applying that principle we are quite satisfied that the provision contained in section 24c, as inserted by the 1926 Amendment Act, was not intended to deal with the special cases which had been provided for by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act.
The principle upon which the court based its finding was this: Where there is a general rule in one act and a special rule in another act, or, in the same act, and it is not specifically provided that the general rule shall override the special rule, the special rule will prevail. Therefore, the special rule provided in the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act prevailed over the general language of the Arbitration Act which, as I have pointed out, was stronger than that now proposed.
– That does not take away from the New South Wales legislature the right to insert a special clause.
– No. I was merely pointing out that the clause which the New South Wales Government now proposes to insert in the Industrial Arbitration Act is similar to, but not so strongly worded as, that which the Arbitration Court held to be always subject to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act.
– Can the honorable member cite any case in which that provision has been enforced?
– Yes, in re Municipal Council of Sydney, general conditions award, reported in volume 34 of the New South “Wales Industrial Arbitration Reports. The heading to the case reads -
No power is conferred on industrial tribunals by the Industrial Arbitration Act, 1912, as amended, to award any preference in employment which conflicts with the provisions of section 3 of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act, 1919.
When awarding preference in terms of the Industrial Arbitration Acts, tribunals should as a matter of practice, specifically prescribe that such preference is subject to the provisions of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Act, 1919.
That is illustrated by what I have read from the decision of the court. The legislation proposed in New South Wales no more intends to. discriminate in favour of non-soldier unionists and against soldiers than does the Commonwealth Arbitration Act - which, as I have said, provides distinctly that, if the Commonwealth Arbitration. Court grants preference to unionists it cannot, by such a grant, prejudice the position of any soldier; that is to say, soldiers, whether unionists or non-unionists, are entitled to be on the same basis as preferred unionists, and cannot be treated any worse. Thus, neither in the New South Wales court nor in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can preference be ordered to the detriment of returned soldiers.
– That is the position in Queensland also.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) informs me that in Queensland, where there is no legislative provision for preference to returned soldiers in relation to the Public Service or to private employment, the Arbitration Court enforces preference to unionists in such a way that it does not prejudice the position of returned soldiers.
I have dealt with the matter in detail, first because the honorable member for Wentworth has done so, and, secondly, because in the public mind a good deal of the case for preference to returned soldiers is based on the assumption that it is the intention of the Labour movement and of existing enactments to discriminate against returned soldiers and in favour of those who are not returned soldiers. That I believe to be not true.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [5.52J - As has been pointed out, the limitation of the preference that is proposed is very great indeed; it is limited to those who have served in the defence forces either overseas or in certain proclaimed areas, and to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, or the service of persons entering into contracts with the Commonwealth. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) pointed out to a meeting of returned soldiers in Canberra last Monday, it is not. proposed that preference shall be given to every person who wears a uniform. That point is debatable. Some of those who wear a uniform, but have not been overseas or in a combat area, will claim that they are as much entitled to preference as anybody else, because they have been prevented from earning high wages in other employment during the war and also from obtaining the technical training that has been given to many of the employees of munitions establishments. However, I am not raising that point. As the Government has agreed that preference shall be given only to men who have been overseas or in certain proclaimed combat areas, the test to be applied really falls under three heads. The first test is the danger which the recipient of preference has had to undergo during the period of the war. That is covered by the reference to overseas service, or service in certain proclaimed areas. The second test is the effect which soldiering has had on a man’s capacity to earn a living in a civil occupation. The soldier is deprived of earning at the rate that would be within his compass were he not a soldier. The third test is the loss of opportunity to obtain a certain degree - in some instances a considerable degree - of technical training during the period of hostilities. This does not apply to the men in certain units of the Army. Soldiering grievously militates against the chance of a man obtaining technical employment of a skilled kind after he leaves the Army. In regard to certain men who are not returned soldiers but have served in com- bat areas, the Government wishes to provide that preference shall apply -
To persons who are so competent and who have, during prescribed periods, and under prescribed conditions, served, in a ship or as members of the crew of a civil aircraft in any zone which, in relation to ships or aircraft, as the case may be, is prescribed as a combat zone.
Nobody would challenge the contention that the men in the mercantile marine, and those who are engaged in civil aviation, undergo dangers equally as great as those to which any soldier, sailor or airman in a combat zone is subjected. But neither of those classes of persons fulfils the three conditions which I have laid down, and which I believe to be essential in the granting of preference to soldiers, to others who have served in the war, and to those who are in the employment of the Commonwealth Government or the government of any allied nation. To my mind those conditions, if applied, would prevent the extension of the principle to either seamen or civil airmen. These men comply with the condition that their employment is dangerous, and takes them into combat zones; but nobody will contend that their service has any effect on their capacity to earn during the period of the war, or that they are prevented from obtaining all the technical knowledge they will need in order to carry on their avocations in the post-war period. I am sure that the Prime Minister will believe me when I say that I would give to seamen and civil airmen everything that I could as a reward for what they are doing in this war. The services of the mercantile marine - Australian, British, Dutch and those of our other Allies - has been absolutely magnificent. Nothing could be more terrifying or horrible than to be in the engine-room of a ship at sea, well below the waterline, not knowing when a torpedo may pierce the hull and blow one to smithereens. Cool and determined courage are needed for such work, which has none of the glamour or glory of actual warfare. But apart from that consideration, the view that I hold is that men who fall within those categories ought not to be provided for in a measure conferring preference on exservicemen. The present war is so entirely different from any other that has preceded it in the history of the human race, because of the tremendous development of aviation, that there are millions of people who whilst not actually engaged in combat, are yet in areas which, may be described as areas in which war operations are occurring. I do not see how we can draw a distinction between merchant seamen and civil aviators, and, for instance, the men working on the railways in Great Britain, or the Frenchmen employed on the railways in northern France who are being blown to pieces by low-flying aircraft. The present struggle may spread to Australia. The Prime Minister will probably agree that only a thin line of warships and aircraft is keeping the Japanese out of this country to-day. For that reason there may be combat areas throughout Australia, and, should that happen, category after category would have to be granted preference. If preference in employment were extended, as it may be in future, to all enlisted Australians, preference to everybody would mean preference to nobody. I recall to your mind, Mr. Chairman, that Rabelais once said that, if there were no fools in the world, all would be doctors. I ask the Government to believe that the Opposition is sincere in its request that the amendment of the Senate be accepted. Later, the Government could introduce a separate measure to provide for the granting of preference in employment to various classes of persons. To grant preference under the present bill to merchant seamen and the crews of civil aircraft would he to make a breach in the wall of repatriation, releasing a trickle .that would eventually become a gushing stream and render the preference valueless.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) contends that in considering the problem of preference regard must be had to categories. “We should remember that many merchant seamen will not be fit to serve on ships after the war. The Commonwealth has its own lighthouse steamers and hundreds of the men are now employed on Commonwealth vessels. Is a returned soldier to be given preference in employment on a Commonwealth lighthouse steamer, as against a merchant sailor who has served for three or four years at sea?
– You would give preference to an ex-naval rating.
– Yes; but under the Senate’s amendment the merchant sailor is not to be considered at all.
– Because this is a repatriation bill.
– I agree that the whole subject of preference is a complete one and calls for calm reflection. It would be of service to the Parliament, in considering this matter, to have before us the considered views of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I know that that organization has prepared a bill which is not entituled a bill to deal with returned soldiers. Its title would surprise some members of this committee, but I do not feel called upon to divulge it.
– “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
– Of course. In view of the experience which the Government has had in this Parliament, I assumed that, in submitting to it a bill dealing with repatriation, it would conform with the wishes of the Parliament if it dealt with repatriation benefits and allowances on the same broad principle as that on which repatriation legislation has been framed from its inception.
– The benefits were always confined to members of the fighting forces.
– But there was no discrimination of any kind with regard to employment. When this Government dealt with the problem of repatriation, it did so on a broad basis, and in the light of the past practice. The Government did not provide for the preferential employment of returned soldiers in framing the hill under discussion. Was that because it was opposed to preference? No; it was because no government had ever previously dealt with the subject of preference in employment in formulating a bill relating to pensions and the like for returned soldiers. The Government conformed to the past practice. Honorable members may say that the Government was not up to date, but the fact remains that the bill had been referred to a special committee of this Parliament, which made no recommendation for incorporating in the measure the machinery required in order to implement preference to returned soldiers.
– The special committee recommended that preference be granted to returned soldiers.
– But it did not say that provision for it should be included in this bill. As a matter of fact, that principle has never previously been incorporated in a repatriation bill. Let us suppose that all of the champions of the returned soldiers are seated on your left, Mr. Chairman. Among them are several former Prime Ministers and other ex-Ministers, and for more than twenty years members of the Opposition have had ample opportunities to introduce amendments of the repatriation laws making such provisions in relation to preferential employment as they thought fit and proper; hut the fact is that they have not thought it proper to bring down such proposals. No government that has been in office since 1918 - not even the Government which brought down the first repatriation bill - thought proper to include any provision whatsoever giving preference to returned soldiers in the matter of employment.
– That is history.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) quoted from such a provision to-day.
– I quoted from a section of the Arbitration Act, not the Repatriation Act.
– I have said that, in my judgment, this is not the appropriate measure in which to provide for preference to returned soldiers. The amendment before the committee is so vague, it provides such indefinite machinery to carry out its ostensible purpose, that it represents merely an expression of the opinion of Parliament. Whatever the bill may contain in regard to preference to returned soldiers it must lead inevitably to further legislation in order to ensure that preference shall become a reality. I said this last week, and I promised to bring down a bill to deal with the matter comprehensively. I did state that, in my opinion, it would be proper, perhaps, to ascertain just what would be the powers of this Parliament after the war. Since then honorable members opposite have argued that Commonwealth powers are absolute. I should like to have that cheeked. It is not improper to have checked a statement made in Parliament, upon whatever authority, before it becomes the foundation upon which legislation is prepared and enacted. The Senate’s amendment is an indication that it believes that returned soldiers should be given preference of employment. I accept that. The Government’s amendment provides that, in addition to returned soldiers, mariners in certain circumstances, and civil pilots in certain circumstances, shall also receive preference. The Opposition case is that mariners, while rendering great service during the war, will, after the war, continue in their vocation.
– They are covered by an act.
– They are not covered by any act which gives them preference.
– They are covered in respect of any disability they suffer.
– But there is nothing about preference in that act.
– One of two things must happen; either they will be able to get on with their work, or they will be disabled. If they are disabled they are covered by the act.
– There is nothing in the law to give a sailor preference in the matter of employment. Therefore, the Government’s amendment to the Senate’s amendment is just as necessary in order to secure preference to mariners as is the Senate’s amendment in order to give preference to returned soldiers.
– The mariners could be covered by another measure.
– I have already suggested that the whole matter of preference should be dealt with in another measure.
– Are not mariners entitled to preference as unionists ?
– The matter of unionism is not involved here. The Government says that mariners should be entitled to preference as persons who have served in theatres of war. I take it that the argument in regard to returned soldiers is that they are entitled to preference because of their war service, regardless of anything else.
– That is so.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- The question before the committee is one of very great importance; it involves the consideration at this stage of the principle upon which preference should be given. That question at once involves the further question as to whom the preference should be given. I had an opportunity to offer my views on this subject when dealing with another measure on Friday last, and I do not want to repeat what I then said; but the debate this afternoon did, I believe, produce two very clear statements as to the true principle. It may be regarded as something in the nature of a strangeconjunction of the planets if I say that the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) were entirely correct. On this occasion, the honorable gentleman and myself are metaphorically, if not actually, on the same side of the House. Subsequently, a very close and impressive analysis of this problem was made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). I summarize my own view by saying that preference is not to be regarded simply as a reward for the undergoing of danger. If the test is whether a man in the course of his war service has incurred very great physical risk, then preference must be given to many thousands of people - perhaps before the war ends to many hundreds of thousands of people - who will have incurred great danger in carrying out their war work. A good deal has been said this afternoon in the course of the debate about the position of the mercantile marine, but we must not confine our attention to the mercantile marine. It may very well be that before the war ends we shall have in Australia thousands of people engaged in civil defence services, such as air raid precautions work, who will carry out their duties in circumstances of very great risk. It may also be that before the war ends thousands of munitions workers, as well as many thousands of workers in production generally, particularly in certain portions of
Australia, will have carried out their work in circumstances of great physical danger. If all are to have preference according to the measure of risk that they have run, preference will be so widespread that it will ultimately mean nothing. I believe what I said a few days ago - and I repeat it now without unduly underlining it - that the moment we go beyond the point of saying that preference is to be given to members of the fighting services, we enter a field the limits of which no man can possibly see.
I want to say something about the position of the merchant seaman. The merchant seaman is a man who, so far in Australia, has from time to time incurred very great physical hazards. Fortunately for us, the war has been sufficiently far away from us to make the incurring of those risks the exception rather than the rule ; but one has only to turn to the experience of the .British merchant sailor around the waters of Great Britain to realize the enormous risks that are run by men who go down to the sea in ships. When the history of the war is written I venture to say that a very high place indeed will be given to the British merchant sailor who has traversed the sea lanes of the north Atlantic, and the North Sea, or has served in the coastal shipping of Great Britain, in the pursuit of his calling. We all admire his work. A man would need to be indifferent to what is going on not to place a high estimate on the work of the merchant marine. But that does not answer the question. As the honorable member for New England pointed out, that is but one of the elements upon which preference is based. The true principle of preference is not one of reward or recognition ; it is one of restoration to a man who in the course of carrying out his war duty has had to abandon his own occupation, and has had to give up for two, three, five, or seven years his chance of acquiring real skill and experience in his own craft. That man comes back at the end of the war and finds himself greatly handicapped. He should be given preference.
– Some men acquire new skill.
– That is so in exceptional cases, but we must deal with men in broad classes. If a man belonging to that broad class is to be given any real help when the war is over he must havesomething in the nature of preference which will in some degree make up tohim for the time and skill that he has lost, and for the experience that he has. failed to gain. That is why the munitions worker, however skilfully he may do his job - and there is no doubt about the magnificent work that is being done by the munitions workers of this country - cannot claim a preference based upon those principles because the war has given to him continuously more skill and more experience, and has made him more employable.
– Many munitions makers wanted to go to the war.
– I agree, but that is not the test. We are not here to discuss, or to evaluate, patriotic instincts or desires of citizens, or groups of citizens. It is not the fault of the munitions worker that he is not pursuing some task in the active fighting services; but we do not give preference because a man has patriotic instincts, rather is it, in my opinion, to make up to him something that he has lost during the war.
– Does the Tight honorable gentleman think that this is the right bill in which to provide for preference?
– If we were given our choice as to the measure in which preference should be provided, I should not select a bill dealing with repatriation ; I should select a bill specifically designed to deal with preference. That is why I took the liberty of moving an amendment to the Public .Service Bill dealing with preference a few days ago. But from the point of the Senate, the position -adopted by that chamber is quite intelligible; honorable senators have said that they must take whatever opportunity presents itself to have this principle established. That is why the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was made the vehicle of an amendment. Indeed, sir, on your ruling earlier this afternoon, this is found to be one which admits within its scope a provision of this kind. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) himself pointed out that the bill is to deal with repatriation and for other purposes. It was because of the expression “ and for other purposes “ that the whole of this debate was ruled to be in order. Therefore, I discuss the matter on its merits. I shall not fall foul of jour ruling, Mr. Chairman.
I shall now say something about the merits of the bill in relation to the mercantile marine. I have already said that as to the quality of their work and the courage required in that work there can bc no argument, but Ave should keep clearly in mind that we are not dealing with a sentimental principle, but with one of restoration to human beings. We should keep .in mind the fact that the nian who goes to sea as a naval rating in a naval vessel is paid the rates which this country thinks suitable for men engaged in one of the fighting services. That pay’ is related to the pay of members of other fighting services. He receives an emolument which is substantially less than that of a merchant sailor at this time. He does his work in circumstances which involve no overtime in the industrial sense, although he works many hours daily, and sometimes works, without intermission, for long periods, whereas the merchant sailor is carrying on his normal avocation. After the war began and some risk was associated with service in Australian waters, the Arbitration Court directed its attention to the wisdom of paying to a man engaged ‘ in the merchant service something extra because of the risk that he ran. The first order of the court was that he should be given a 10 per cent, addition to his total pay because of the war risk. The second thing that happened was that a previous government, of which I was the leader, directed its attention to the question of how far a man engaged in the merchant service should be the recipient .of a pension or of compensation in the event of war injury. In a measure which has already been referred to - the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act - elaborate provision was made for a pension and for compensation. That provision was in addition to that provided by the Seamen’s Compensation Act. In other words, provision was made for the future of an injured merchant sailor on substantially the same basis as would have applied had he been a ‘ soldier entitled to a war pension. Ko far as pensions were concerned, he was provided for. The next thing was that the standard hours of service were reduced to 44 a week. No one imagines that a merchant shipping service can be run on a 44-hour-a-week basis in point of actual work. The result, therefore, is that the provision for a 44-hour week has led to very much more overtime pay than otherwise would have been the case. That, in itself, produced a substantial lift of the merchant seamen’s pay. Subsequently, in April, 1942, the 10 per cent, bonus was increased to 33-^ per cent, on certain conditions. Subsequently, on the 9th July, 1942, the Maritime Industry Commission, which deals with these matters, made a further order which increased the war risk bonus all round the coast to 33-J per cent, and provided that it should become 50 per cent, after an employee had served in any one ship or had been in the service of the same employer for six months. That increase was made retrospective to the beginning of his engagement. ‘ And so we have at the present time the normal rates of pay added to by substantial overtime as the result of the 44-hour week, and further added to by 50 per cent, all round the Australian coast because of war risk. I am not saying that any of these orders is a wrong order - I am all in favour of people being adequately paid at a time like this, particularly when engaged in a risky occupation - but my point is that it is now proposed that when the war is over the merchant sailor, who will have enjoyed the advantage of very much higher rates of pay than men in the Navy for risks which are far more intermittent than those encountered by a naval rating, and who at the end of the war will have a pension comparable with that which the naval rating will enjoy, shall also be given a preference on the same scale and in the same circumstances as a member of the Royal Australian Navy. That seems to me to be entirely unreasonable. If the position is that, because of the risk, the man in the merchant navy should be treated for all purposes as if he were an enlisted member of the Royal Australian Navy, why should he be paid in substance twice what the man in the Royal Australian
Navy is paid? With very great submission, I ask honorable members to realize that people cannot have it both ways in that fashion. If there is to be heavily-loaded payment because of war risk, the man who receives it cannot reasonably come along and say at the same time, “I want to be treated in exactly the same way as if I went to sea in ships on battle exercises whenever I was ordered to go “. Those facts, I submit, are very pertinent, they are highly material. If we do not consider this problem as one which ha3 to be solved by a warm-hearted expression of regard for what people do, but ask ourselves what is the true principle of preference, we come right back to this : if you are to give effective preference to people when this war is .over, you must give it to those who left their jobs to serve their country.
– The right honorable member’s time has expired, but if no other honorable member desires to speak he may have his second period now.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman, but as my time has expired so have my remarks.
.- The Senate’s amendment to the Repatriation Bill is a piece of political windowdressing for election purposes, rather than a move to benefit returned soldiers. Without fear of contradiction, I declare that at least 80 per cent, of the returned soldiers belong to unions and are not concerned in preference outside that which will be given to them as members of their unions. The preference in employment that was given to returned soldiers after the last war was of little value to them, because the country was not concerned about them at all. Many thousands were forced to carry their swags around the country because all that the governments were concerned about was to ensure that the interest on the money that had been borrowed in order to conduct the war was met and that those who, instead of going to fight in that war, had stayed behind to invest in it should be paid. Those of our men who went to that war were willing to lay down their lives for their country - 60,000 of them’ did so - but those who stayed at home were not willing to match those lives with their money. Our men in the forces gave their lives freely, but those who stayed behind and had the money would not give that money freely. Oh, no! They wanted interest, and interest at high rates. They actually “struck” in 1917 until the rate of interest offered was increased. The necessity to meet the interest commitments incurred in prosecuting the last war, rather than providing work for the ex-servicemen, was paramount in the minds of the governments of Australia after the last war, and the preference that was supposed to have been given to returned soldiers was almost worthless. The speeches of Opposition members serve to confirm my opening remark that this is a piece of political window-dressing. They, or men like them in this Parliament and other Australian Parliaments, took the leading part in ensuring, during the depression years, that no matter who else went short, whether he was a jobless exserviceman or a dead soldier’s dependant, the bond-holders should not. This country had to pay its way, they said. In order to ensure that it should, they were prepared, under the Premiers plan, to slash ex-servicemen’s pensions by 10 per cent. That was their proposal, but the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, Sir Gilbert Dyett, and the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, came to an arrangement whereby soldiers’ pensions would not be molested, but that the cut would be made in the pensions of the dependants of ex-servicemen. Yes, the dependants of those who had died in the service of the country could be reduced by 10 per cent, in order that those who preferred to stay behind and invest their money might be paid their interest. The parties in opposition to-day were in opposition then, but the leading part that, they played in the attack on pensions is too well known to need amplification. I willingly admit that only nine honorable members in opposition to-day were in this Parliament then, but it is interesting to note that when the division on the Premiers plan was taken the whole of the then Opposition, which,
I repeat, was composed of men of the same political colour as those occupying the Opposition benches to-day, crossed the floor to vote with what was left of the Government party after eighteen government-benchers, including the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), to whom I give the greatest credit, had crossed the floor to vote against their own Ministers. “Without the support of the Opposition, the Premiers plan could never have been instituted. As Leader of the Opposition, the then honorable member for Kooyong, Mr. Latham, as he then was, and all the rest of the Opposition members, with one exception, the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), who was out of the House and who I do not think would have voted for the Premiers plan - he did not vote for the reduction of pensions, and for that I pay him tribute - crossed the floor to carry that plan. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was not then a member of this Parliament, but he was an influential member of the Parliament of Victoria, which was linked with the Commonwealth Parliament in- cutting pensions and Public Service salaries in order to meet the demands of the bondholders.
– A Labour government was in power in Victoria, too.
– The right honorable member is perfectly correct, but he will admit that, without the support of the then Oppositions, none of the States in which Labour was in power or the Commonwealth could have brought the Premiers plan into operation. Honorable members opposite are posing to-day as the champions of the soldiers, but what they or their kind did in 1931 they would do again in the interests of those whom they serve. There is no need for me to read the division list on the Premiers plan. It is in cold type and any one may read where honorable members stood. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) stood for the Premiers plan. On Friday he stood for the extension of preference to merchant seamen. Today he does not. He swings from one side to the other more quickly than the political pendulum. He knows that that pendulum which swung towards Labour at the last election has not completed its swing and that his political career, along with that of many of his colleagues, is in jeopardy. They are grasping at preference as drowning men grasp at a straw. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) is laughing, but I remind him that the electors have not forgotten that he was one of those who voted to reduce the pensions of the dependants of his dead comrades. He cannot obliterate that mark on his record by supporting to-day this piece of political windowdressing. The time has come for us all to be honest and admit that whatever preference to .returned soldiers or any one else we put in our legislation to-day, will count little and that it will count less when the issue arises as to whether pensions shall be maintained and returned soldiers kept in jobs, or interest shall be paid on money borrowed in order to carry on the war. All the promises that are made to soldiers or to the dependants of those who lay down their lives’ wall be forgotten as they were forgotten in 1931, when interest on money was held to be sacrosanct, more sacred than human life.
I have the greatest admiration for the merchant seamen. I saw a vessel come into Newcastle with its stern blown over the bridge. The bodies of five seamen had to be extricated from their steel shroud with the aid of oxy-acetylene torches. They had been blown in and they had to be blow-lamped out. The Opposition would have us not consider these men as being in the same category as soldiers. Yet the sailor on a merchant vessel takes as much risk as does the soldier. The soldier, for whom I have great respect and for whom I shall seek justice, is, at least, able to see the enemy. Except for his voyage to the place of battle, the soldier is not at sea exposed to the unseen menace of the submarine, but the seamen are at sea all the time and are for ever exposed to peril. Our sailors man the transports that take our troops to the battle zone and our foodships and our munition ships and all the other ships that sail to New Guinea and other battle areas - all easy prey for the lurking Japanese submarines. Honorable members know, and it is time the rest of Australia knew, the casualties that have occurred off our coast as the result of submarine attacks on our merchant navy. Our seamen have paid the supreme sacrifice in conveying the necessary food and equipment for our troops. The members of the merchant navy are as worthy of the same consideration as is given to our soldiers. They should have had that recognition after the last war. They must be given it in this war. Because merchant seamen do not strut, beribboned, in uniform, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) does, in the sanctuary of this Parliament, honorable members should not think that they encounter no .dangers. Many of them’ have lost their lives in the performance of their duties. But the honorable member said that they are not worthy of being granted equal preference with the discharged soldier ! I claim that they merit the same consideration. Although their ships are only lightly armed, they have gone undaunted into action and have even sunk submarines before their own craft foundered. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) declared that the danger which those sailors face is not comparable with that encountered by soldiers.
– That is quite true.
– The merchant seamen are at the ‘ added disadvantage of not knowing when or where a submarine will strike, whereas the soldier always has a fair idea of the position of the enemy. I hope that the country will not be misled by the attitude of the Opposition which is indulging in a campaign of blatant window-dressing for election purposes. I shall support the amendment moved by the Prime Minister, which covers certain persons engaged in civil aviation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. J James) declared that in 1931 certain members of the United Australia party, including myself, were directly responsible for reducing soldiers’ pensions.
– I stated that soldiers’ pensions were reduced as the result of the introduction of the Premiers plan.
– The honorable member singled me out as being personally responsible for the reduction.
– The honorable member for Parkes voted for the reduction.
– The Government of the day, led by the right honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin), was responsible for introducing that legislation.
– This is not a personal explanation. t
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to a personal explanation.
– I shall do so. Unfortunately, the Labour Government in 1931 encountered the depression and decided that governmental expenditure must be reduced by 22£ per cent.
– When will the honorable member begin his personal explanation?
– A former member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) and I suggested to the then Prime Minister that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia should be consulted as to who could best bear the contemplated reduction of pension. “The then Prime Minister, to his credit, discussed the matter with representatives of the returned soldiers’ league before effecting the reductions. I make that explanation in fairness to the federal president of the league, Sir Gilbert Dyett, whose name has been mentioned in the debate this evening. I emphasize that I was not responsible for the reduction of soldiers’ pensions. I am not like the honorable member for Hunter, who always waits to see which way the wind is blowing before he defines his attitude to a proposal.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! If honorable members will not obey the Chair, they will be named.
– Name the honorable member for Parkes first.
– I name the honorable member for Hunter.
Mir. James. - I apologize if I have unwittingly offended the Chair.
– If the Government had possessed the wisdom to do on this occasion what the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) explained was done in 1931, and had obtained the views of ex-soldier members of this chamber or the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Ministers would not be faced with this attempt to amend the Senate’s amendment. When we study the chronology of events during the past few days, we discover that the position is vastly different from what an onlooker would have discerned after listening to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) this afternoon.
– Discharged soldiers are already receiving preference.
– That is precisely the matter to which I desire to refer. When this chamber dealt with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill in committee, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) submitted a certain amendment, which was defeated. Out of that debate arose the proposal now before honorable members; and it is only right that they should take that fact into consideration. Until then, the Government had not uttered a single word to suggest that the matter of preference in employment for discharged soldiers was any nearer to its mind than is the planet Mars to-night. During that debate, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) stated that if the honorable member for Wentworth would withdraw his amendment, the Government would consider drafting a special bill to deal with preference in employment to discharged soldiers. As that was not satisfactory to one or two members on this side of the chamber, the Prime Minister rose in his place, and with all the authority that he naturally commands in this chamber, he gave assurances to us. The records will prove that he said that the Government was drafting such a bill, but that it would not be ready for three months. He named that period.
– That is correct.
– At that time, I was trying to convince some of my friends near me that we should” accept the assurances of the right honorable gentleman. Then the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) rose in his place and achieved what no one else has succeeded in doing. He completely silenced me. But he left me with the distinct impression, and I gave expression to my views later, that there was no doubt regarding what was in the mind of the Government in this matter. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) criticized the attitude of the Opposition as window-dressing for election purposes. Let us see what the Government did. No sooner had this matter been taken up by the Senate than another bill was introduced in this chamber. We are sufficiently wide awake to know that some legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Department worked overtime that night, and used up a great deal of intellectual sweat, to produce, at short notice, and without due consideration, a bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The Government tried to expedite the passage of that measure through this chamber, I believe, in contravention of the Standing Orders last Friday; but because I understood that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) desired to mention a little matter, I did not raise the question of procedure. I contend, notwithstanding your ruling, Mr. Chairman, that this amendment is out of order. I shall read to you, with your permission, the definition which both Houses of this Parliament have already agreed to. Proposed new section 45 at reads -
For the purpose of this Division - “Active Service” means any active service by a member of the Forces–
A “ member of the Forces “ does not include a member of the mercantile marine or a member of the staff of a civil airways company. “ Active Service “ means any active service by a member of the forces -
within Australia, -
Every one of those conditions applies only to the fighting forces of Australia, namely the Navy, the Army, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Nursing Service and other women’s services that have been organized since the outbreak of war. Therefore, I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to reconsider your decision. I submit that this committee is not competent to introduce into this bill any provision relating to the mercantile marine or to civil air services, because any attempt to do so would violate the decision which has already been taken by both Houses of the Parliament. If we require further evidence we can refer to the definition in the original Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
Another amendment of the act was passed in 1940, after the outbreak of this war, but it was confined entirely to members of the fighting services and the nursing services associated with them. Notwithstanding what may be said by honorable members opposite regarding merchant seamen and employees of civil aviation companies, we have no right to try to tack on to this bill a provision that does not belong to it. The Prime Minister was very sensitive on the matter of “ tacks “ this afternoon. One gained the impression that the right honorable gentleman had had close contact with “ tacks “ quite recently, and the wound had not healed; but it is no reason why he should attempt, for the second time, to tack on to a bill a provision that does not belong to it. I do not propose to repeat what the right honorable member for Kooyong stated so clearly regarding the position of merchant seamen, but every honorable member who was in this chamber in 1940 must recognize that the Seamen’s Compensation Act was introduced by a United Australia party government. Furthermore, it was a most important and far-reaching measure, which was submitted by the Menzies Government to the people concerned before it came before Parliament. Notwithstanding the capacity of some of my friends opposite to criticize, not one of them had a suggestion, quite apart from an amendment, to make by way of improvement. Not one of those paid protagonists of the mercantile marine at that time raised the question of preference to seamen or anybody else.
– But did it include preference ?
– It did not. The honorable member, as usual when in conflict with me, is quite right. That is about the only time that he is right. Upon this question the Government would be well advised to go slow. It has already lost a number of tail feathers during this period of the session. On the day on which these sittings opened, I told a certain Minister that if the Government kept Parliament in session for more than a month it would run a grave risk of a dissolution. Ever since the first month, the Government has been progressing from one crisis to another, and from one mud hole to another. Whenever one of these crises has arisen, the Government has come out of it with the loss of one or two more tail feathers, to such an extent that it now resembles a Manx fowl. If it goes on at this rate, it will soon have no tail at all.
– But the rooster still has his spurs.
– I shall never take the honorable member for one, and Icertainly shall never mistake him for a game rooster. This amendment should not be introduced by the Government into the bill. I have the highest regard for the mercantile marine, in view of the job that it is doing in this war. Its members are as necessary to the conduct of operations as are the men on board the ships of war. The men who fly civil aircraft are also doing a most important job. Some of them did excellent work in evacuating people from New Guinea at the time of the Japanese threat to that territory; but, if we accept the principle that because men are engaged in a dangerous occupation^ - for which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has already shown that they are very well paid - they are entitled to preference, how far will it lead us? I’ admit that the members of the mercantile marine are not the highest paid in the community, because the Auditor-General’s report - which the press has been able to see, but of which honorable members have not yet been able to obtain a copy - shows that 17s. 6d. an hour, or £12 10s. a day, is being paid to certain men for performing particular work. That is more than reasonable compensation, which farmers like you and I, Mr. Chairman, cannot afford to pay to anybody. “Whatever may be the ‘ merits of the case for the two sections named by the Prime Minister in his amendment, although they are small sections which, if admitted to this privilege,, would, I frankly admit, not very gravely prejudice the position of the armed forces from the point of view of numbers, they would very gravely prejudice it from the viewpoint of principle. The Government may have a perfectly good case for amending the Seamen’s Compensation Act, or for introducing a special bill to deal with certain persons engaged in civil aviation, but it has no justification whatever for introducing an amendment of this type. It is simply an attempt on the part of the Government to tack something on to an amendment by the Senate, and, in my opinion, to get even with that chamber. I submit to the Government, with great respect, that in the present state of the war it has much more important things to do than to use a whole day of the time of Parliament over a small matter like this. If in the first place the initiative was taken out of the Government’s hands by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), that is the Government’s affair. It is due to the Government’s default, and not to any default on this side of the House. The Government has the initiative. It is the body which prepares the bills, and it has had enough time when Parliament has not been sitting to prepare a dozen bills dealing with preference or anything else. The Government did not do so until the subject became a live political issue, although the Prime Minister from day to day threatened a general election, which he has no earthly intention of ever embarking upon until the Constitution forces him to do so. Only then was the question of .preference introduced into Parliament from the Government side of the House. In view of what the Prime Minister said a few days ago, it is strange that he should now assert that a bill has been drafted and already submitted to the returned soldiers for consideration. If that is the ‘case, he has. no right whatever to press an amendment of this kind at this stage. If he has gone- outside Parliament to submit the case to the Returned Sailors-, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for adjudication, let him accept the Senate’s amendment and get on with the more important job.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The subject before the committee is, of course, the amendment made by the Senate “in the Repatriation Bill. The Prime- Minister (Mr. Curtin) made the position of the Government very clear when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) sought originally to initiate a similar move in this chamber. I think that he put the case rightly when he said that preference to returned soldiers was- not a subject which should be included in a bill dealing with repatriation, but should find its place in a measure which dealt specifically with preference. Personally, I am opposed to the Senate’s amendment in principle in the first place, and secondly because it is just as great a piece of political humbug, as was the preference given to sol’diers after the last war.
– And, that is praising it.
– It is. Since I am of that opinion, I have not much confidence in anything which is built on the Senate’s amendment - even that proposed by the Government. I wish to deal with the subject on the lines followed by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). It. has always been claimed that preference was given to soldiers because of the service they had given to their country, and what they had risked for their country. It therefore comes as a sort of novel theory, expounded by the right honorable member in this chamber a few days ago, and again to-night, when he dismisses entirely the thought that men are given preference after war because of the danger they have faced or the service they have given in the fighting forces., and adds -
What is the true principle upon which preference is given? It is not given because someone has survived or challenged or dared danger, lt is a very meritorious thing for people to undertake great dangers and hazards, but that is not the basis on which ‘ preference is given. Surely the basis on which you give preference to returned soldiers is that something -has been taken out of their lives.
I quote the right honorable gentleman’s own words so that there may be no misapprehension of what he said. We have from him this new suggestion, which apparently has some support on the Opposition side, and which is quite contrary to what everybody has previously thought, that we do not give preference because of the dangers they have braved, or the service they have given to their country, but because something has been taken out of their lives. What is that something? The right honorable gentleman asserts that it is necessary to give them this preference over competitors for work after the war, because during the time that they have spent in the forces something has been taken out of their industrial lives, and they have lost touch with their trades. Upon that basis alone he claims that preference should be given. That may have been an excellent argument after previous wars, but it does not apply with equal force to-day, because the vast expansion of aerial power, and the developments in wireless and in all kinds of mechanical warfare, have made the right honorable gentleman’s claim only partially true. It is true that men will come back from the war with something taken out .of their lives. They could not go away from their ordinary avocations without that happening; but the great bulk of those in the forces who have initiative and intelligence have been placed in such a position that something valuable has actually been put into their lives, in many cases, of infinitely more use to them than what they possessed before they went.
I say this with all due regard to the risks that men take, and I speak only of those who are fortunate enough to come through, because they are the only people with whom we are concerned at the moment. What are the facta? An infinitely larger proportion of the fighting forces tha’n ever .before has been taught trades during the war. Take as an example the enormous development in aviation. Many men have at the Government’s expense, and certainly in the service of the Government, mastered what is to be in the very near future the major means of transportation of passengers, mails, and cargo. I refer to the future possibilities of aviation. These men, giving them every credit for the risks they take in the interim, have learned something. They have mastered a new trade. Again I emphasize that we are concerned at this stage only with those who are fortunate enough to come through. Thousands of them will be able to command a salary which they have never been able to command before. They have certainly not lost anything. They will be better off without the ordinary avocations of life, which are the things with which they have lost touch, because they have learned something else, and something better. Take also the vast development of wireless. Thousands of men will, through their service in this war, become thoroughly skilled not only in the use, but also in the mechanics of wireless, which in their ordinary avocations they would have had no possible chance of learning. They will have at their command something new and infinitely better than most of the trades which, in other circumstances, they could have entered. In mechanized warfare, also, thousands of men are being trained monthly iri such a way as to gain an intensive insight into mechanics. They will become fitters and motor mechanics, having learned their trades in a far better atmosphere than if they were in civilian workshops, where they would not always have first-class machinery at their command. They will have what is even more important to every tradesman with initiative, and that is the opportunity to give full play to their initiative. They will be discharged after the war with something new at their command, and possibly more closely in touch with what they need for success than anybody else will be. It is therefore wrong to assert byandlarge. that all those who re-engage in civil occupations will be in need of preference because they have lost touch with their work. They may have done so to a certain degree, but many thousands of them will be infinitely better off as regards the possibilities of earning a living than they were before. Having disposed of the right honorable member’s theory, let us consider what the soldiers are looking forward to themselves. We know what happened after the last war. After quite a number of years, during which they were completely abandoned to their own resources, governments became interested in them. The form of preference given to them was : Preference to returned soldiers, all other things being equal; but whenever a job was worth while, other things were not equal. When it was a pick-and-shovel job - and during the depression there were 100 men for every pick-and-shovel job available - the cry of preference to returned soldiers was raised; but when an appointment to a job of any consequence was in question, other things were never equal. We find the same kind of humbug in the amendment made by the Senate. Let us see what it says -
Preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth be given to persons who have been members of the Forces and have served outside of Australia-
That is the first form of preference - or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purpose of this Act, and who are competent for the work required.
Who is to decide whether or not a worker is competent? Who made such decisions under previous legislation ? Who decided whether or not other things were equal? The employer, of course; and it will be left to the employer to decide whether or not a discharged soldier is competent. There is nothing in the Senate’s amendment defining a competent man, or setting up an authority which in the event of a dispute as to a man’s competency, would be called upon to give a decision. Therefore, since there is no authority set up to determine these matters, the subsequent paragraph, which prescribes a penalty of £50, is all eyewash. I ask honorable members to remember that this is a totally different war from the last one. At least so far as Australia is concerned, a total war effort is required, and, voluntarily or involuntarily, all sections of the community are making a sacrifice. When the flow of volunteers for the armed forces diminished, compulsion was employed. To-day we have conscription, both for the Army and for essential undertakings. We have industrial conscription; we force people to do our bidding industrially; we have man-power authorities who take men from their ordinary avocations and send them wherever they are required. This is an all-in war effort, and in. endeavouring to achieve that effort the previous Government, which was supported by honorable members opposite, undertook certain obligations to the trade union movement of this country. The present attitude of the Senate, a majority of which consists of supporters of the previous Administration, constitutes a repudiation of those obligations. The previous Administration entered into agreements with the trade unions for the purpose of completely re-organizing the war effort in the factories of Australia, and if no new agreements have been made by the present Administration, at least it has endorsed those made by its predecessor. Over a long period of years, the trade unions of this country built up conditions of labour, customs, and usages, at the cost of many hundreds of thousands of pounds expended in the arbitration courts, and at times by the use of the strike weapon. Those conditions were jealously guarded, but in response to an appeal by the then Government, various trade unions, realizing that there were not sufficient tradesmen to go around, agreed to enter into a pact for the admission of dilutee labour to certain trades. [Extension of time granted.”] In return for the sacrifices that the trade union movement was prepared to make, an agreement was drawn up between the Government and various unions.
– Which unions?
– The Amalgamated Society of Engineers was one, and I believe that the Australian Boilermakers Union was also a party to the dilution scheme. Here is the relevant portion of the agreement -
No recognized tradesman is to be discharged because of a reduction of work in his section whilst any of the added tradesmen are employed within that section, and when skilled labour becomes available the restoration of the pre-agreement practices will be made.
When the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) signed that agreement on behalf of the then Government, he undertook a contractual obligation to the trade union movement that in return for the sacrifice of certain trade union customs, usages and conditions, the Government was prepared to guarantee that when there was no longer a necessity for dilutee labour, it would be dispensed with, leaving only the bonafide trade unionists in the industry.
– They are not all unionists.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knew these trades as I know them, he would realize that 99.99 per cent, of the skilled workmen engaged in them are unionists.
– But the men who are to be discharged are also trade unionists.
– Yes, the dilutees also joined the unions, but it was understood that when the position in a particular shop became such that the services of some workers had to be dispensed with, the dilutees would be the first to go. In the agreement there was no question of any form of preference.
The right honorable member for Kooyong also discussed the merits of the proposal that preference be given to members of the mercantile marine. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that there is no need to deal with preference in this measure at all, but since its inclusion is being insisted upon, let us examine the position of our merchant seamen. Honorable members opposite, during the term of office of the previous Administration, of which they were supporters, and all the time they have been on the Opposition benches have been proclaiming loudly what a wonderful partour merchant seamen are playing in the war and saying how essential is their co-operation in our war effort and so on. They have said the same also of the workers in our war industries; but when it comes to a question of granting some consideration to these people after the war it is a different story. The Opposition now says, “Because you are not to be a member of the fighting forces, you are not entitled to any consideration The men of our mercantile marine are carrying out an essential duty under conditions which few members of the armed forces are called upon to face. They sail their ships in the danger areas, and are subject to all forms of attack. No section of our fighting forces is called upon to carry on with less protection.
– Tell that to the boys in New Guinea.
– I do not think that I can be accused of speaking to the boys in New Guinea, although I have no doubt that if the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) were to speak to them he would say to them as he has said to the boys in the cowsheds in the past, “ We want you to work as hard as possible and as long as possible for as little as possible “.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that he could not find words adequate to praise the work of the merchant seamen, and the right honorable member for Kooyong said that history would record their heroism. History always records heroism, but unfortunately that is of little consolation to our heroes. I remember an old song written about the men who took part in the Crimean War. It applies with equal force to-day, and reads something in this way -
He was one of the Light Brigade,
One of those heroes true,
Wounded at Balaclava,
Fighting as Englishmen do;
He’s now forgotten and left to starve,
Now that his eyes are dim.
That’s what he done for Old England,
And what has Old England done for him?
That is as much as we did for the returned men of the last war. We did nothing but pull their legs with a form of preference under which all other things had to be equal, and of course never were equal. We can theorize as much as we like as to who should be eligible for preference benefits, and how we should tighten up the act, but there is one thing which impresses itself upon my mind, and that is that the men who are fighting in this war are being led to believe that they are fighting to make the world a better world ; that they are fighting for a new social order and a new state of society in which there will be security. Surely if any one is entitled to security it is the man who is fighting and making our security possible. I say to honorable members opposite and to tile Government, that the discharged soldiers of this war, bearing in mind what happened to the returned soldiers of the last war, are not likely to submit to the same humbug as that to which their comrades were submitted 25 years ago. They will be in a position to speak forcibly, because they will not be discharged in dribs and drabs as was the case after the last war; a great majority of them will be in Australia and will still be armed when the war finishes. They will not want preference ; no “ dinkum “ soldier wants preference over his own brother and no soldier’s son wants preference over the son of somebody else who did not have a chance to go to the war. What they will want is some evidence of the new order and the better world about which every body has been talking. They will want the right to work, and not merely the right of preference to pick-and-shovel jobs.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has made it quite clear that he is entirely opposed to preference . to discharged soldiers. The honorable member went to great length to point out that all sections of the community were making an equal sacrifice to-day. I realize that many artisans and tradesmen are making a great sacrifice and performing arduous work, but I ask the honorable member for Dalley can he compare the sacrifice that is .being made by the men who stay at home, however hard they may work, with that of our fighting men who have served in Tobruk, Egypt, Greece and New Guinea, or with that of our prisoners of war? At the present time, there is no equality of sacrifice. Quite apart from the fact that these men are prepared to give their lives, the very conditions under which they live cannot be compared with those of other persons who are not in like circumstances. We cannot compare the lot of the men who are living in the swamps of New Guinea with that of any person ‘in Australia. Indeed, one of the greatest sacrifices of these men is the separation from their loved ones for such a lengthy period. I was greatly surprised to hear the honorable member for Dalley say, in effect, that he is opposed to the principle of preference to discharged soldiers. I should be equally surprised to hear any other .honorable member say so. I regret that the Prime Minister has seen fit to submit an amendment to the amendment of the Senate, which is limited in scope, applying only to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service and under contracts entered into by the Commonwealth, because the result must be to detract from the value of preference to soldiers. If the number of those entitled to preference be enlarged, the difficulty will be to determine where to stop, and to resist pressure from other quarters. The amendment of the Prime Minister is most indefinite, because it provides that service must be for prescribed periods, under prescribed conditions, and in prescribed areas. If the scope of preferences is to be enlarged, a more definite proposal should be submitted. Every member of this Parliament is ‘interested in the welfare of soldiers. All of us agree that the present proposals must be regarded as merely tentative, and that an effort should be made to enlarge their scope and influence. The Commonwealth Government should confer immediately with the State governments, in order to come to some arrangement which will ensure the introduction of a comprehensive scheme of preference to discharged soldiers. I make it clear that I refer not only to the activities of the Commonwealth and State governments, as well as municipal and other semigovernmental bodies,. but also to an arrangement which would make it possible to have preference to soldiers recognized as an established principle. I realize that the Senate could not go further than the proposal it has submitted, because of the constitution 1 limitations that are imposed on tha powers of the Commonwealth. If this is the best that we cai: do, it is a very poor assessment of tl-e nation’s indebtedness to the men who haw fought and died on its behalf. We s’.ould not wait until after the war, but should settle this important matter now, while the people are in the mood and understand the nature of their obligations. Ir. the days to come, preference to soldiers should be regarded by the Commonwealth and State governments, as well as by the people at large, as a national obligation. I urge this, for the reason that the position of the soldier will be much more difficult after this war then it was after the last war. Several honorable members have referred to the fact that a number of the men who are discharged will have been out of touch with their ordinary avocations for some years. The younger men will not have had an opportunity to learn a trade or profession, and they will be at a distinct disadvantage. But there is also another very important factor which did not operate after the last war. On account of the industrial disturbance caused by the war, not through any fault of the Government, many businesses have been closed. After the war, they will not re-open a3 the same businesses, and many men will find that the job which they left is no longer available to them. For that reason, I urge this Government to take an early opportunity to confer with the governments of the States, in order to introduce a comprehensive scheme of preference to discharged soldiers which will be worthy of the purpose for which it is intended.
.- I believe that I am as well informed regarding the outlook of the returned soldier of the last war and the soldiers of this war as those who pose as the almost exclusive friends of these men. I hope that this Parliament, in its wisdom, will agree to a form of preference that will be workable. That, I am frankly willing to concede, will be most difficult to achieve. I trust that very wide publicity will be given to the fact that the measure of preference proposed by the Senate Joes not cover all the members of the aimed forces in Australia; for example, every man in the Royal Australian Air Force, the Citizen Military Forces, or the Navy. It is extremely circumscribed in its application, and is restricted wholly and solely to men who have been in a combat zone. We know that the necessities of the military, naval and air situation are such that men are scattered at every point on the compass around the coast of Australia. Members of the armed forces stationed at Cape Otway, be they members of the Citizen Military Forces or Australian Imperial Force, are not covered by the terms of the Senate’s amendment. They are stationed at Cape Otway, and others are stationed at Geraldton, in Western Australia, not of their own volition, but because of military requirements. That they are not in New Guinea is no fault of theirs. The military situation does not, and may never, necessitate the sending of any of them to a combat zone. Returned soldiers of the last war and this war, as well as the men in the different armed services, when they read Senator Brand’s amendment, will believe that, irrespective of where service has been performed, all are entitled to preference. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I believe that, if publicity be given to this, the existing division of opinion in this Parliament will extend to the armed forces, which of all things is the least desirable. Men who are stationed at Cape Otway, Newcastle, in the northern rivers district, in the Brisbane area, ait Perth, Geraldton, Albany - anywhere one should care to mention - will be exceedingly annoyed at not being allowed to serve in a combat area, and consequently to enjoy any preference that may be granted, under this measure. When this Parliament and the public realize that fact, the less likely will they be to favour the amendment. I am satisfied, from my contact with them, that the returned soldier of the last war and thi3 war is -first, last, and all the time a citizen of this country. He enlists under certain conditions of pay, pensions, food, medical attention, and whatever other conditions there may be. When he has been demobilized he expects to retake his place in the ranks of the citizens of this country, as a citizen, fighting his way in industry and being given employment according to his intelligence and his ability to apply himself to the particular avocation in which he may engage. That is the general feeling in the minds of the men whom I know. This war is entirely different from the last war. Then, a limited number of our citizens, of a certain age and with certain qualifications, enlisted and in due course proceeded overseas, leaving in this country a large number of eligible men who, for various reasons, did not volunteer for service. There was probably a stronger case for preference then than there is now. What is the present case? Service in defence of this country is being performed by the whole of our eligible men between the ages of 18 and 50 years; in fact, the whole of the working population, with the exception of the older men, the youths of 16 and 17 years of age, and the ‘halt, the lame and the blind. The servicemen believe that this measure will give preference to the fit men in the forces. Is it. seriously argued that the fit men in the forces of those ages and degrees of eligibility expect that when they return the private employer or any Government will say, “ We will give you preference in employment over your father or your brother who has been in a reserved occupation, or over your son, who was not of military age during the war period “? To my mind, that is not the attitude of the average returned man. This measure presupposes that there will be unemployment after the war; that a father will have to struggle with his returned soldier son for a job that is offering; that a man who was ineligible during the war will have to struggle with his brother who has returned from the war. Can anybody convince me that the average father or ineligible brother will wrangle and argue before some authority, provision for which has not been made in this bill, as to whether or not he is entitled to and should be given a job for which two men are offering? I cannot believe it. I hope that all this unseemly wrangling about something which, after all, is largely a myth, will cease, and that the right and proper thing will be done. I am satisfied that the matter is surrounded by a good deal of hypocrisy. I read in Tuesday’s Melbourne Age the statement, credited to Senator Brand, that this measure of preference was necessary; that no longer, because of his amendment, did there stand the qualification “other things being equal”. The newspaper did not state that the matter is completely governed by the reservation that a man shall be given a job provided he is competent to perform it. That qualification, in its application, ‘will be just as effective as the old qualification “other things being equal”, which the gallant senator claimed was so iniquitous and had been removed. I have received pathetic letters from hundreds of eligible men pointing out that they are in reserved occupations- and desire to be released from them, so that they may be able to join the fighting forces. The wrangling that is taking place in this chamber is based on false premises. It originated from certain individuals who have endeavoured to place the Government at a disadvantage. All that the genuine soldier expects on returning from the war is a place in industry - a job, or a business, or some competence which will ensure to him freedom from want, which is one of the corner stones of the Atlantic Charter. I hope that the committee will discontinue the unseemly wrangling that has occurred over a matter that has no substance in fact. I agree that we cannot do too much for discharged soldiers, but since the last war anti-Labour governments have been in office for most of the time, and many ex-soldiers have been compelled to carry their swags or accept sustenance. I have frequently had occasion to plead for special relief at Christmas time on behalf of returned soldiers living on the dole at Ballarat. I was told by a former Prime Minister, who was a member of the United Australia party, that the financial situation was such that £1,000,000 could not be spared in order to do justice to that unfortunate section. It is necessary to implement a plan, after this war, so that employment shall be found for all ex-service men.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) seemed to deplore the fact that the Senate has submitted a proposal relating to preference to soldiers, and had tacked it on to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. I submit that, in providing for the repatriation of soldiers and their dependants, it is most appropriate to affirm the principle of preference in employment to members of the fighting forces. The Prime Minister, himself, has, within the last day or two, affirmed that principle. He was forced to tell the wharf labourers in Sydney that vessels which they had refused to unload would be unloaded by members of the fighting forces. I have no doubt that he could find no other body of workers willing to undertake the job, yet those who have enlisted to fight for their country have been called upon to do work at a meagre wage which trade unionists have refused to do at a very high wage. Is that the only sort of preference to be given to members of the fighting forces? Although the Prime Minister said that the principle of preference to soldiers should not be tacked on to a repatriation bill, he has moved an amendment to the .Senate’s proposal relating to certain classes of persons outside the fighting forces. I have nothing to say against the members of the mercantile marine, but they have trade unions to fight their case and to see that they are paid an appropriate wage for the work in which they are engaged. They receive a war loading of 50 per cent., and, because they are paid a wage which will help them to provide for a rainy day, their lot cannot be compared with that of the members of the fighting forces who risk their lives and receive a very small wage. Nor do I detract from the importance of the work of the civil aircraft pilots, but they are highly paid in comparison with the pilots who have been doing wonderful work in the defence of this country. I can think of no good reason why civil aircraft pilots should be granted preference in employment in a bill dealing with the repatriation of ex-service men. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) proved, at least to his own satisfaction, that preference to service men is quite unnecessary, but he also displayed to the committee his profound ignorance of the conditions under which men on active service are fighting. I am afraid that he did not know what he was talking about when he said that the sailors employed in the mercantile marine had to undergo greater hardships and face greater dangers than members of the fighting forces. I remind him of the “ Rat3 of Tobruk “, who for eight months held the fort in North Africa against superior forces. Would he say that they had not experienced such hardship and dangers as those encountered by the man who served in the mercantile marine? Have mot the Australian soldiers in New Guinea fought under the worst conditions known in warfare? Would the honorable member say that those men do not know the meaning of danger and hardship? A line of demarcation must be drawn between members of the fighting services and those engaged in civil occupations. We have drawn that line in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
What the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has said is perfectly true. It is- most difficult to show how preference in employment to members of the fighting services can best be implemented, but this Parliament should give a lead to the public of Australia and affirm that principle. It would then at least set an example to private employers. That is a lead which members of the fighting services expect us to give. We are asked to consider the just claims of men, many of whom have already given three of the best years of their lives to the service of their country, and have received very paltry pay. Whilst they have faced great dangers, the classes referred to in the Government’s amendment, although also engaged in hazardous work, are highly remunerated. I cite the case of a dredge which was taken from Melbourne to Fremantle. The voyage lasted a fortnight, and the average wage paid to each member of the crew was £96, including war loading. That was not the wage given under an award of the Arbitration Court, but it was paid in accordance with a contract entered into between the Government and the men. The trade unions cannot have it both ways. Men who are paid such high wages in war-time cannot expect to be placed on an equal footing with members of the fighting forces who receive only a meagre allowance.
.- The award relating to the workers in the sugar cane-fields in Queensland provides for preference -to returned sailors and soldiers. A reference to the Queensland Industrial Gazette, of the 24th September, 193S, at page 555, shows that the following provisions are included in the award relating to workers in the cane-fields - (.1) No person other than a financial member of the Australian Workers Union shall be employed or continue or be continued in employment as a cane-cutter or farm-hand after the date of this award, provided there are members of this union willing, ready, and competent to perform the work to the satisfaction of the employer.
A similar clause is contained in every industrial award made in Queensland since the last war. In 1922, however, an application was made to the full Bench, of the Arbitration Court for a variation of that award, but the application was refused. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has advanced a strong plea on behalf of soldiers, but if employers generally really desired to give preference to members of the fighting services a great deal less would he heard about the matter. Senator Brand has stressed the injustice of -the previous provision that preference was to be granted to returned men “all things being equal “, yet he was responsible for the proposed new clause in which we find the phrase “ who are competent for the work required “. I cannot imagine any better “ let out “ for an employer than that. Employers, by and large, are not genuinely concerned about the interests of ex-service men. Some of the most dishonest employers prate loudest about what they are willing to do in the interests of returned soldiers and sailors. For many years I was a leading official of the Australian “Workers Union, and I know well the kind of preference in employment which was given to returned soldiers by the employers in the industries mainly carried, on in my electorate. Preference in employment was given to persons who could not speak the English language, whilst returned soldiers walked the roads with swags on their backs lookfor a job. The secretary of the Cairns branch of the soldiers’ organization will support me in that remark.
– Mr. Fallon recruited hundreds of them in the Australian. Workers Union.
– What I am concerned about is that employers gave preference to foreigners. I was brought before the court for refusing to sell trade union tickets to foreigners. Those employers, who refused to give work to returned soldiers in the cane-fields, were members of the party to which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) belongs.
– That is plainly untrue.
– It is positively true. What I have said can be proved from official records. If employers of labour had desired to give preference to returned soldiers they would have done so in all cases, but they did not. When employers engage men for the purpose of making a profit, they are often indifferent to the fact that soldiers who have been injured in warfare are deserving of every consideration. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who served in the last war, has presented an argument to-night which is unanswerable. I say finally that if the employers of labour were anxious to do the right thing by soldiers there would be no need for legislation providing for preference. The word “competent” in the amendment stultifies the provision. No employer will consider a soldier “ competent “ unless it suits him to do so. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who is accused of not being in favour of preference, said on, one occasion that the only preference that soldiers have ever received was on the end of a pick.
.- I stated earlier that I was very much impressed by the appeal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to members of the Opposition to accept the Government’s amendment, but I regret to say that, after listening in to the speeches of some honorable members opposite, notably that of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), I find it impossible to accept the amendment. The honorable member for Dalley, who represents a considerable section of opinion on the other side of the chamber made it quite clear that there was no intention to give real preference to soldiers at any time. The intention is to widen the provision so much that preference would be valueless. The honorable member for Dalley mentioned the Amalgamated Engineers Union and the matter of dilutees. His reference brought to my mind an occasion when there was a strike in a munitions factory in New South Wales by members of the Amalgamated Engineers Union and members of the Small Arms and Explosives Employees Union. They were not striking against their employers because they objected to the conditions of labour or the rates of pay; they were striking against one another. The engineers’ union was insisting that the dilutees should there and then sign an agreement that, when the war was over, they would surrender their jobs to members of the engineers’ union, notwithstanding the fact that the dilutees were themselves unionists of long standing. If that is the attitude of one section of unionists to another, what would be their attitude towards soldier tradesmen, fitters, turners, and the like, who are seek employment after the war? They will stand no chance whatever unless they are given preference by legislation. I appreciate the grave difficulties confronting the Government, and I have been anxious to meet its wishes. I do not believe in hammering home an advantage but, in view of the speeches made by Government supporters to-night, I cannot support an amendment which might have the effect of opening the door so wide that preference will become worthless to soldiers.
.- As I listened to the debate on this subject in the small hours of one morning last week, and again this afternoon, I was reminded of Scott’s lines -
Oh what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive.
The worst form of deception is selfdeception, and honorable members have on two occasions tried to delude themselves that they have been discussing the subject of preference to soldiers. They have been discussing nothing of the sort. They have been discussing a form of preference to a very few members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Common wealth Military Forces, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the various women’s’ auxiliary services. The amendment which the Senate made to the Repatriation Bill does not represent a genuine attempt by the Senate to give preference to soldiers. It is a piece of political chicanery which the Senate thought of for the purpose of placing the Government in a most difficult and even untenable position. The amendment does not provide for absolute preference for all those who serve in the forces for the defence of Australia. It provides a qualified form of preference in that the preference which a soldier is to enjoy should depend, upon his being able to establish the fact that he is competent to perform the work required. Moreover, it relates only to persons employed by the ‘Commonwealth Government, or by Commonwealth instrumentalities or by contractors engaged in the performance of work for the Commonwealth. That is not what people mean when they speak of preference to soldiers. Preference to soldiers means preference to the 800,000 members of the Australian fighting forces. The bill which the Government brought down last week in answer to the Senate’s attempt to stampede the Parliament and the nation on this issue was also limited in that it proposed merely to continue the practice which has existed in regard to preference ever since the last war. The measure of preference given to-day to soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service is very restricted. They may be appointed to the service up to the age of 51 years, but they cannot be promoted unless they can establish to the satisfaction of the permanent head of their department or the Public Service Board that they are more efficient than other applicants. Section 50, sub-section 4, of the Commonwealth Public Service Act states -
In this section “ efficiency “ means special qualifications and aptitude for the discharge of the duty of the office to be filled, together with merit, diligence and good conduct, and in the case of an officer who is a returned soldier, includes such efficiency as, in the opinion of the head of the department or the hoard as the case may he, would have been attained but for his absence on naval or military service.
The fact is that very few discharged soldiers have been given preference in the matter of promotion since preference was first introduced. This is because of the difficulty in establishing that they are more efficient than the other applicants for the position, after due regard has been paid to the obligations imposed on the permanent head and the Publice Service Board by the act. I was for many years in a public service, and I know that a similar preference provision in the State Act simply meant that those returned soldiers whom the permanent .head or the Public Service Board desired to promote received promotion, while those whom it was not desired to promote were not promoted. In other words, there was preference to returned soldiers when that was suitable to Ministers or permanent heads of departments, but there was no preference when it was not suitable. It is no wonder that returned soldiers’ organizations are to-day asking for full preference - a form of preference that will mean something. One would have thought that if this policy of preference had been applied as it was originally intended, most of the highest positions in the public services in Australia would now be occupied by ex-soldiers. The fact is, however, that most of the high positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, and those in (he gift of the Commonwealth Government, are occupied by men who have not been soldiers. There are twenty permanent heads in the Commonwealth Public Service, and only seven of them are ex-soldiers. Is it contended by those who were responsible for the promotions that only seven returned soldiers have the necessary capacity to fill such positions? The fact is, of course, that the soldiers who served in the last war and were promised preference were never able to recover their positions in the Public Service after they returned. Those who did not go to the war secured such an advantage in their Public Service careers, and established such reputations for efficiency that it was impossible subsequently to displace them. The responsibility for ignoring the provision of the Public Service Act in regard to preference, thus making it possible to promote thirteen non-returned soldiers to the highest positions in the Commonwealth
Public Service, does not rest with Labour governments which have been in office for only two short periods since 1916, one for two years and another for about eighteen months. All the appointments to which I have directed attention were made by governments representative of the parties opposite, yet the members of those parties now complain that the present Government is not giving a lead in regard to preference. I remind those honorable members opposite who admit that the Repatriation Bill is not the appropriate measure in which to insert a clause giving preference to soldiers that, since this war commenced, three measures amending the Public Service Act have been passed by this Parliament - No. 72 of 1939, No’ 88 of 1940 and No. 5 of 1941, but in none of them was any mention made of preference to returned soldiers. I point out also that, although honorable members opposite now protest against the inclusion of members of the mercantile marine among those for whom the Repatriation Act is to provide, in the original Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1922, which first established the principle of preference to returned soldiers, there was contained inter alia in the definition of “ returned soldier “ the following : -
Any person who during the war has been employed as a radio telegraphist in the transport service in connexion with any such expeditionary forces, and who while so employed served in the zone of war.
If radio-telegraphists who were employed in transport services could be included in the original act twenty years ago, what objection can there be now to the inclusion of members of the mercantile marine who also are employed on transports, and serve in war zones, or to members of the civil aviation corps who serve in the war zones and perform a service which was not performed in the last war, namely, the carriage of troops into battle zones by air?
In addition to heads of public service departments, other persons have beef appointed to high positions in the Commonwealth. There are, for instance, the judges of the High Court of Australia whose appointments are dependent upon the will of the government of the day. There are six members of the High Court
Bench, of Australia, two of whom were* appointed before the last war. Of the four who have been appointed since that war ended, three were appointed by nonLabour governments and one by a Labour government.
– There have been two appointments by Labour governments.
– I am speaking of present occupants of the Bench. Of the four judges who have been appointed since the last war, only one is a returned soldier, and he appears to have been appointed as an afterthought. I refer to Mr. Justice Williams, who succeeded the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
– What about the Chief Justice ?
– The Chief Justice was a “ glamour boy “ in the last war. He was no more on war service than was the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The Chief Justice put on a naval uniform to go to the Peace Conference as a legal adviser to .Sir Joseph Cook. He went at the suggestion, of the then Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Irvine, who was a former colleague of Sir Joseph Cook. The present Chief Justice of Australia wore a uniform so that he could be photographed at Versailles.
– The honorable member is happy when he is sneering at any one in uniform.
– I ask for the withdrawal of that remark.
– The Chair did not hear the remark complained of.
– The honorable member for Indi said maliciously and unfairly that I am happy only when I am sneering at some one in uniform. I ask for the withdrawal of that remark.
– The remark is not unparliamentary.
– It is untrue. I throw it back in the honorable member’s teeth.
– The honorable member must address the Chair. Moreover, he must not reflect on the judiciary.
– Surely I am entitled to reply to an untrue and unfair remark?
– If the honorable member has been misrepresented, he is entitled to make a personal explanation.
– I now explain to you, sir, that I have never sneered at any one in uniform if he was entitled to wear it.
– I have heard the honorable member misrepresent an air force officer-
– I repeat my observation that various non-Labour governments of this country, which had the opportunity to appoint returned soldiers to high positions failed to do so. I repeat that the only returned soldier member of the High Court Bench who has been appointed since the last war was appointed two years ago. There are numbers of other positions to which I could refer in this connexion. Where it has happened that a returned soldier has been appointed to an important position, he was appointed not because he was a returned soldier, but because it suited some other interests to have him appointed. One such appointment was that of Judge Drake-Brockman to the Arbitration Court, a former president of the Employers Federation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the committee is no longer discussing the principle of preference to soldiers. My impression of the debate_ during the last hour or so is that honorable members are avoiding a discussion of the subject of preference to unionists. The debate has revealed the fear that the preference which the nation owes to its fighting men may endanger something which many honorable members opposite regard as far more precious than preference to soldiers, namely, preference to unionists. I believe in preference to unionists, and shall always do so, but I shall give it second place to preference to the fighting men of the nation. The honorable member for Melbourne spent a good deal of time arguing that because the preference given to returned soldiers after the last war was not as full and effective as he considers it ought to have been - and in that matter I agree with him - we should refrain from granting such preference in the future. I agree that, in some instances, there has been an evasion of the legislation providing for preference to returned soldiers, but that is no reason why we should shirk the issue now, or in the future. Rather is it a reason why we should ensure that no loophole in our preference legislation shall exist in the future.
– Does the Senate’s amendment close any loophole?
– I am in entire agreement with the amendment which has come to us from the Senate, although, like many other honorable members, I should prefer that sio important a matter as preference to members of the fighting services should be dealt with in a separate and comprehensive measure. I am not convinced that the amendment of the Senate is sufficiently comprehensive and detailed, or that it provides the machinery necessary to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers, but I do regard it as an affirmation of a high principle, and as a mandate to the Government to introduce into this Parliament as early as possible complete and effective legislation to implement the principle embodied in the Senate’s amendment. For that reason I am in accord with the Senate’s amendment. I am not completely satisfied with it. I do not pretend that it gives full effect to the principle of preference. But I am not prepared to vote against it. I shall vote for it, because it is a declaration of faith on behalf of the nation, and articulates a policy that must be implemented as soon as. possible. I shall not support the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), because it would extend the principle of preference to spheres which, hitherto, have not been contemplated. I agree with other honorable members on this side that the men to whom preference will be extended under the Prime Minister’s amendment are worthy of the greatest consideration. I hope that that point will be taken into account in the comprehensive measure to be brought down later. However, I cannot concede that those men should enjoy the same degree of preference which must be reserved for ex-servicemen. First-class preference can be given only to the man who ha3 risked his life, and who has, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) said, made a hole in his life, having broken away entirely from his regular avocation, and for his war service deserves from the nation nothing short of complete rehabilitation. I do not accept the view that because we have hitherto failed to give 100 per cent, preference to returned soldiers we should not be so .particular about doing so in the future. Therefore, I support the Senate’s amendment. It is a justification of tEe views held by many honorable members that the nation must now make a declaration of its belief in this matter, and indicate a policy to be put into practical operation. I am not prepared to support the amendment moved by the Prime Minister, because it extends the principle of preference. It is perfectly true that before the war ends the dangers of war may spread very much further than is contemplated, and involve persons in occupations in addition to those mentioned in the Prime Minister’s amendment, and, consequently, many other classes of workers may become equally entitled to preference with members of the mercantile marine and members of the crews of civil aircraft who enter combat zones. Perhaps, already, many more classes could with fairness be granted equal preference on those grounds. Therefore, I believe that for the time being, preference should be enjoyed only by members of the fighting services, and that the comprehensive measure to be introduced later must ensure that justice be done in the proper order of priority to the classes of persons mentioned in the Prime Minister’s amendment.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) described the Senate’s amendment as merely political window-dressing. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) went further, and described it as hypocrisy. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was more moderate. He said that honorable members on this side had, to a certain degree, succeeded in deceiving themselves. Apart from those three charges, this debate has been conducted without undue heat or feeling. There is room for honest difference of opinion with respect to the amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I am opposed to the extension of preference to any persons who are not members of one of the three fighting services. At the same time, I have the utmost admiration for the work that is being done by members of the mercantile marine and members of the crews of civil aircraft who enter combat zones, and for the courage and disregard of danger which they have shown. I have in mind the case of a senior pilot in a commercial air line who tried on several occasions, without success, to join the Royal Australian Air Force Eventually, he was sent on several missions carrying supplies to battle areas in New Guinea. On his return trips he brought back wounded. He ran all the risks involved in such work, and received the very warm thanks of the military authorities for the way in which he performed those duties. However, I do not think that such services, meritorious though they be, entitle those who perform them to be placed on exactly the same basis as soldiers, sailors and members of the Royal Australian Air Force, or even Army nurses. Incidentally, it was quite refreshing to hear the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), whom no honorable member regards on his past utterances as an advocate of women’s rights, remind us of the claims of women in our fighting services. I think that he was the first honorable member to mention that aspect. A broad line of distinction should be maintained between the man who has to break away entirely from his normal civilian life and occupation, as most soldiers, sailors and airmen have been obliged to do, and the man who is able, more or less, to continue his ordinary occupation, even though he must at times face some of the risks incidental to warfare. I say some of the risks because, despite the dangers of the torpedo and the bomb which the seaman constantly bears in mind in traversing certain waters, he does not have to run the risk of contracting malaria, or other tropical diseases, to which the soldier in New Guinea is a prey, or put up with the sandstorms of African deserts. The honorable member for Ballarat urges us to display a greater measure of sympathy for the man who desires to join up, but is not permitted to do so. He is compelled to remain at his work in a munitions factory, although he would like to be in the firing line. I admire that man. He has no reason to reproach himself. He wants to be in the thick of the fighting; but, surely, the fact that he desires to serve as a soldier and is not permitted to do so, does not entitle him to be put exactly on the same footing as the man who actually experiences all the hardships and dangers of modern warfare. The former is able to go home each night, and is able, more or less, to live in safety. Surely, he cannot feel that he is entitled to the same degree of preference as is the man who has borne the hardships of war. We must maintain a clear distinction between those who are actually in the services and those who are not, such as members of the mercantile marine and civil airmen, although the latter may be called upon to face some of the same risks.’ This is the day of priorities. We have priorities in transport and in respect of the supply of certain commodities. Certain classes of people are able to procure certain commodities because they are doing certain work, whilst the others cannot obtain those commodities. I see no reason why the system of priorities should not be applied to some degree to this matter. I should give first preference in employment to those who were members of the fighting services, and second preference to such classes as are mentioned in the Prime Minister’s amendment. Whilst I agree, Mr. Chairman, with your ruling that, from the point of view of procedure, the Prime Minister’s amendment is in order, having regard to the words “ and for other purposes” which are added to the title of the bill, I believe, nevertheless, that it is not strictly related to the bill. The measure should not deal with any person who is not actually a soldier, sailor or airman, or a dependant of such personnel. The members of the mercantile marine and members of crews of civil aircraft who enter combat zones deserve more consideration than John Citizen is entitled to, because the latter is not called upon to face any dangers. Consequently, they should be given preference second in priority, but not equal, to that given to soldiers, sailors and members of the Royal Australian Air Force. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should bring down another bill, supplementary to this measure, to cover all classes of persons who can be regarded as having a claim to second priority in this matter. I shall support the Senate’s amendment, and oppose that moved by ‘the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has said that I should bring down another bill in which I should include the second, third and such other priorities for such other categories as may be decided having regard to their war service. The honorable member must realize that we must bring down a bill to provide the mechanics for carrying out the first priority to the soldiers. As I pointed out last week, and earlier to-day, the Senate’s amendment of the repatriation bill would merely affirm a principle and leave to subsequent deliberation the provision of machinery to carry out that principle. I submit that, if we are merely to affirm a principle, there cannot be any objection to the affirmation of the principle in regard, to sailors and civil airmen who convey fighting requirements to combat zones. That seems to me to justify the amendment of the amendment. I would say as a matter of sheer logic that in a proper parliamentary treatment of the problem the Senate’s amendment ought not to have been made. I dealt with that earlier. If the Senate had not made its amendment the whole of the benefits of this legislation would have been given to those whom it benefits, in that it would now be law. But the Senate desired to affirm the principle of preference to soldiers, and devised for that purpose this amendment as some hallmark of their recognition. I should not like, in affirming that principle, to omit men who it has been said in this chamber do deserve some recognition - that is, the sailors and the men engaged in civil aviation. There are, as the honorable member pointed out, all sorts of possibilities that, as the war spreads, other categories may subsequently be considered to be appropriate to bring into some kind of classification. If I gather the sense of this Parliament, all honorable members profess the greatest admiration for the sailors who serve on the ships that carry the troops and munitions into the danger zones. But honorable members opposite say that this is not the bill in which to deal with them. They are prepared to accept an affirmation of principle of preference to soldiers which, if honorable members will look carefully at the amendment of the Senate, is not an affirmation of absolute preference to soldiers. It does not apply to enlisted soldiers. In fact, as the honorable member, for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, it will create, when the soldiers do understand what this Parliament is attempting to do, a feeling that some of them are included and some are not.
– That is because this repatriation bill does ‘that.
– Of course, that is right. All that goes to show that the right and proper place in which to deal with preference to soldiers - whether preference should be given to this, that or another category - is in a bill drawn for the purpose of not only affirming, but also applying, the principle. I doubt whether any other piece of legislation has contained provision to do certain things without at the same time including machinery whereby those things shall be done. I want to speak very plainly. I say to the committee and the country that I consider that the amendment which has been made in the Senate is a part of a general policy which has been recently applied in the Senate of changing and resisting legislation emerging from the House of Representatives in order that the Opposition, which is not strong enough in this- chamber to defeat the Government, may be supplemented by an Opposition force in another place which may seek to destroy the Government.
– That is an unworthy thing to say, because it is not so.
– I say it, and I take the responsibility for saying it. I say, too, that it is out of that atmosphere that for the first time in the history of this federation a proposal of this kind has been grafted on to a repatriation bill.
– A similar amendment was moved in this chamber.
– It was a vastly different amendment. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) moved an amendment that regulations be framed to provide preference. That left the power with the Executive. This amendment does not provide for that. It specifies the class of soldiers to whom preference shall be given, but it does not provide for a measurement of preference at all satisfactory to the persons whom it is intended to benefit. I say .that quite frankly. I said last week, and I repeat it now, that I am most anxious that the matter of preference to soldiers shall be dealt with by Parliament entirely on its own merits in a way which will admit of no possible doubt, as to the intention of Parliament. As I said then, I should like to consider certain aspects of the situation in order to ascertain whether under the defence powers we can, regardless of what the States may do, pass legislation which would, have the effect of ensuring that the preference principle should apply over the whole field of industry. If it is not applied over the whole field of industry, most certainly the soldiers who believe, because of the altogether misleading way in which the matter has been presented to them, that they will get preference, will find all too often that the field of preference is only one-quarter or one-third of that which they thought had been secured to them. The powers of the Commonwealth are related to that, and that is why I feel that we should deal with preference to soldiers or other categories of persons in a bill which has for its purpose an enactment which will cover that matter.
– If that is the right honorable gentleman’s belief, why in heaven’s name does he seek to amend the Senate’s amendment?
– I sought to do so because I felt that in view of the political situation the immediate passage of the Repatriation Bill could be assured without prejudice.
– And the right honorable gentleman sought to fight the devil with his own fire.
– No, I have not sought to fight the devil with his own fire. I assumed that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) interpreted the situation aright when he said that what was desired was an affirmation of the principle. I considered that, if there was to be an affirmation of principle in respect of soldiers, and no machinery devised to do more than that, having regard to my own state of mind and to that of the Government, it was not unreasonable to give to the men in the mercantile marine and to men flying civil aircraft an affirmation of principle.
– The right honorable gentleman would put them all on the same footing?
– No, that is not proposed. That is why the words “ under conditions to be prescribed “ are contained in the amendment which I have moved.
Last week I said that I would endeavour to meet the situation that the Senate has created. Honorable gentlemen will have to connect what I say to-night with what I said last Friday. I desire this bill to become law so that immediately, the prospective recipients of such benefits as the measure prescribes may have the advantage of it. In my opinion, those benefits are overdue; we ought to grant them.
I do not believe that the Senate’s amendment meets the problem of preference to soldiers; but I have attempted to meet, as I said last Friday, the problem of making this Parliament a workable institution. Even though I considered that the amendment has been inserted in the wrong place, I have tried to accept the proposition whilst at the same time expressing my own view upon the general problem of preference. That is not an unreasonable state of affairs for a Prime Minister to have to face in a Parliament so evenly balanced, in point of party strengths, as is this House and the Senate.
The honorable member for Barker declared that I am trying to fight the Senate with its own fire, but that is wrong. What I have tried to do was to provide a bridge whereby the two Houses could meet on a common plane and pass a bill, without prejudice to the general question of preference to soldiers, in such a form as would be of immediate advantage to those soldiers who are entitled to the benefits of repatriation. I make that statement to the Parliament and to the country now. I have dealt with this matter entirely devoid of any political interest or partisanship. I know that the returned soldiers’ league is preparing what it regards as the measure that will give the kind of preference that it thinks will be workable and fair, but this chamber has attempted prematurely to deal with the problem. It is not capable of dealing with it adequately in this bill. Whilst I have said that the Senate should withdraw its amendment, I am positive that it will not do so. The Government considers that if principles a re merely to be affirmed, the principle of recognition of the soldier ought to be clear and explicit. At the same time, I say that we ought to affirm a principle in respect of the men who” have served in the mercantile marine and in the civil air transport service in military zones. Doubtless, other categories ought to be considered, but I have excluded them from the present affirmation of principle. That can be left to a subsequent time, when other legislation may be introduced. I invite the committee to pass the amendment, not because it will cover the principle of preference to soldiers, or merchant sailors, and the crews of civil air transports in combat zones, but because it indicates that we arc conscious of our obligations to them., and shall take the requisite steps to create the machinery necessary to ensure the granting of preference to them. I confess that it has not been easy for me to bring to bear upon the problem the concentration that it requires. This matter has developed owing to a political situation, and I have attempted to deal with it in order to end that situation, so that this Parliament may be workable and go about the paramount business, namely, the immediate prosecution of the war.
Finally, I knew that a time would come when in all probability, the Government which I led would no longer be able to carry on in a parliament of this description. I knew that inevitably, either at the hands of this Parliament or of the electors, there would he a termination of my Prime Ministership. I do not fear that day, and I shall not do anything to hasten or delay it. I accept the authority of this Parliament and of the people. I have endeavoured to serve this country in a time of extraordinary difficulty, and to make this Parliament workable. To that end I have done no more as Prime Minister than I did as Leader of the Opposition. I have brought to the consideration of this problem an entirely unsullied conscience, feeling that I am doing my duty to the country, and, I believe that I am doing my duty to the soldiers in .dealing with the matter in this manner. Whatever be the outcome, I thank the’ Houses of the Parliament for the high privilege that I have had in being the leader of the country, regardless of whether it has been a difficult time or not. But while I am the leader of the Government I shall not permit myself to be a party to a mere act of what I call flagwagging that can be of no benefit to those for whom the flag is waved. I say to the -soldiers that there can be no effective preference for them except as the result of the introduction into this Parliament of a bill which will comprehensively and adequately secure preference for them. To do it at this stage in this way is merely to tinker with the problem and in my judgment to resort to flagwagging. This is not the right way to do it. .1 have submitted this amendment to the Senate’s amendment in order to overcome a political difficulty in this Parliament, reserving to the occasion when we shall meet again the high duty which we have, to bring down legislation to deal with this matter competently. I could state other reasons, but I shall leave it at that. This Parliament ought either to endeavour to meet the difficulties of the Government, or get another government.
– I deplore to-night, as I deplored last week, the situation that has arisen; but I fail to see that the amendment which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has submitted will overcome the difficulty. I agree with much of what the right honorable gentleman has said. The situation ought never to have arisen, because members on both sides of the chamber fully realize the great work that is being done by our soldiers, and should be mindful of their future welfare after their discharge. In making this amendment the Senate “ rushed the hurdle “. At the same time, I stand wholeheartedly for preference in employment for soldiers, though I do not belittle in the slightest degree the great work that has been done by merchant seamen and the crews of civil transport aircraft in combat zones. However, I am of opinion that placing them on an equal footing with soldiers would not be fair.
Honorable members should realize the attitude of the country towards this debate. We are in the throes of the most terrible Avar in history, and this debate on repatriation matters is proceeding in an intolerable atmosphere. The Prime Minister was right when he said that the principle of preference in employment to returned soldiers should be dealt with in a special bill. It should be considered in a reasonable and non-party spirit. Unless we are prepared to treat the subject in that spirit, we shall not get anywhere. Unquestionably, we are making the soldier a plaything of party politics. With due respect to the Senate, I say that the Prime Minister was justified in describing the amendment as “ flagwagging “. Although I am a member of the Opposition, I can see nothing but flagwagging in the Senate’s amendment. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has accepted that amendment.
The Senate appeared to consider that the time had arrived when it should strike a blow at the Government and it seized this opportunity to do so by extensively amending this bill. The Prime Minister has accepted some of the amendments and it is. only natural that he should like to have one feather left to fly with, instead of having his wings plucked bare of feathers. He has offered a compromise which he believes is acceptable to the Senate. It is not acceptable to me. Whilst I should like to compromise with the right honorable gentleman, I am not prepared to place the merchant seamen on the same footing as the soldier in the matter of granting preference. To-day, an honorable member suggested to me in conversation, that a system of priorities should be applied in this instance, and that the first preference should be given to the soldier and second preference to the merchant seamen and the members of the crew of civil aircraft in operational zones. If that is possible, the compromise would be acceptable to me.
I hope that the Prime Minister and the Senate will be able to compromise on this matter, because the people do not desire an election. If we cannot- get a better issue than this on which to defeat the Government, it is time that members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were bundled holus bolus out of the legislature, and their places filled by new representatives of the people. Unfortunately, party politics are just as alive to-day in this chamber as they were before the outbreak of war. At present our constituents do not think much of the United Australia party, the United Country party or the Labour party, and by our actions we are not improving that opinion. Whichever way honorable members on this side of the committee decide to vote, the Government will have a majority in this chamber, but it will be in a minority in the Senate. I shall not be a party to any move to put the Government out of office in connexion with this dispute. I wipe my hands of it. I am not prepared to go to the country on this issue, which has been raised by the Senate. The country comes before the party.
– What about the soldier ?
– I shall fight for the claims of the soldiers for proper recognition, but this wrangling is no way in which to benefit him. The soldier is big enough to realize that something better than this can be done for him. I say also to the Opposition that the soldier is important enough to be placed ahead of the merchant seamen in the granting of preference. Both sides of the chamber are playing at politics. I am still true to my party; but if the United Australia party goes to the country on this issue I shall riot support it. The country expects better of us than playing the game of politics. A former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was surprised on returning from England about two years ago to find that all parties were playing at what he described as “the diabolical game of politics “.
– It was not his fault then, but whose fault is it now?
– The game of party politics still continues. We should rise above it. I have to vote for the Senate’s amendment, although I contend that it should never have been made in the first place. The amendment submitted by the Prime Minister will destroy the only good feature of the Senate’s amendment.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) based his case for preference in employment to soldiers on the ground that something has been taken out of the soldier’s life by his service in a combat zone. But the right honorable gentleman overlooked the position of youths of eighteen or nineteen years who have been called up for military service but who will not be sent to combat zones until they are twenty years of age. These youths have lost more than anybody else in regard to opportunities for finding their places in society, but under the Senate’s amendment they shall have preference. There is so much weakness in the Senate’s amendment that it is obvious that those who support it are not doing so because they believe it will give preference to soldiers, but because they desire to embarrass and humiliate the Government. Soldiers throughout Australia have been led to believe that the Senate’s amendment will do something that it will not do, namely, give full preference to soldiers everywhere, in all avenues of employment. I have here a telegram from two State councillors of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. It states -
Following sub-branches Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia State Public Service, Fire Brigade, Commonwealth Offices, Postmaster-General, Teachers, Melbourne City Council, Defence Munitions, Commercial Travellers, Tramways, Harbor Trust, Canadians, Flemington and Kensington, strongly support principle full preference returned soldiers and desire its implementation by Com mon wealth Government forthwith stop urge your full co-operation.
Woodford and PLUMMER State Councillors.
The signatories to that telegram indicate that they believe that this Parliament is discussing the question of full preference to all returned soldiers, whereas in fact the Senate’s amendment merely proposes to give preference in the Commonwealth Public Service and in the employ of contractors to the Commonwealth Government. I have seen figures showing that there are about 7,700 returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service out of a total of 25,000 adult males. In addition, there are approximately 11,000 females and male minors. In all the public services throughout Australia, and in all government instrumentalities, probably no more than 60,000 returned soldiers are employed. If we are to employ another 60,000 soldiers of this war, that still leaves 500,000 or 600,000 men in the forces who are not guaranteed preference of any kind, and are not sure of jobs when they return. Our soldiers are not fighting for preference in employment; they are fighting for a new order and in defence of all the people of Australia. It is our duty and our responsibility to see that when they are discharged the question of preference shall not need to arise because there will be jobs for all. There is only one way in which we can ensure that jobs will be available for soldiers and for all other workers in the community after the war, and that is to end this present capitalist system of society, an essential feature of which is a continuous reservoir of unemployed into which men can be put, and from which men can be drawn at the will of those who control the means of production, distribution and. exchange. If we wish to give jobs to our soldiers we must socialize industry, and the means of production, distribution and exchange.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject now before the committee.
– It is useless talking about preference to soldiers unless we prepare for a state of society which will be better than the one which succeeded the last war, because, on that occasion, .preference to returned soldiers meant nothing except pick and shovel jobs. The only time that the issue arose and provoked a crisis of a temporary nature was in 1929 when the late Senator Barnes proposed a policy of preference to returned soldiers in regard to some pick and shovel jobs in the Home Affairs Department or some other department. Then, quite a lot of people became quite excited in regard to preference to returned soldiers. They evinced no concern about the matter when judges were being appointed to the High Court, and when thirteen permanent headships of Commonwealth departments were being given to non-returned soldiers. They think of discharged soldiers only when they want to make a party political issue of preference to them. The protests and posturings witnessed in this chamber, and in another place which is unmentionable, will fail to convince returned soldiers of the last war, and soldiers of this war, that they have anything to hope for from the passage of the amendment that has been sent down to us. I indicated earlier the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act in the matter of promotions. Those provisions are not amended or altered in any way by this proposal of the Senate. In fact, it is intended that the provisions of Division V., section 50, sub-sections 3 and 4, shall be continued. Under them, returned soldiers receive only a conditional grant of preference. I remember that in 1923, when there was a strike of police in Melbourne, the total of 600 strikers included 400 returned soldiers. Subsequently, it was not suggested that those men should be given preference in employment. They did not receive preference when they were first employed in the Victorian police force. It did not suit the capitalist interests in this country to employ them any longer in their former avocation, although what they had struck for was granted to others. It ill befits those honorable members opposite who took no interest in those returned soldiers, to pretend that they have any interest in soldiers of the Second Australian Imperial Force. I remember, also, that in 1928, when there was a strike on the waterfront in
Melbourne, hundreds of returned soldiers lost their jobs, and many never regained them. Volunteers were called for, and most pf those who responded were husky fellows who had been too young to go to the war, with a sprinkling of old returned soldiers. I stood on the Melbourne waterfront with an ex-member for Barrier, Ma M. P. Considine, and watched shipping agents picking up the men. They wanted, not burnt-out returned soldiers, but strong young men - animal strength - to do their work. They were concerned, of course, only with the profit motive. What happened in 19-2S will operate throughout industry after this war if capitalism lasts. ‘ Nothing in the amendment of the Senate or in the amending Commonwealth Public Service Bill introduced by the Government last week proposes to do anything in regard to those discharged from service in this war, who will not seek employment in government instrumentalities, but will return to industry and try to make their life’s work there. The .Senate’s amendment that we are now considering refers to competency. It is very easy for the employer to refuse to recognize competency in an ex-soldier. There is so little to prevent his giving preference to the nonsoldier that the provision in the amendment is no more than a pious hope. I know what Senator Brand said in the Senate, according to the report which appeared in the daily press, when he carried his amendment last week. It was -
The implementing of that policy could be left ‘to the necessary machinery bills at a later date. The preference sought in his motion had been the policy since the last war, but had not always been rigidly adhered to. The words “ all things being equal “ affordeddepartmental heads and contractors for government works a loophole to avoid preference. The words were omitted from his amendment.
The words “ all things being equal “ may have been .omitted from his amendment, but they have not been omitted from the Commonwealth Public Service Act insofar as that act governs employment in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Could, not the Government alter that by regulation ?
– The Government may cover that position by regulations during the war, but such regulations will last only for the term of the war and a period of twelve months thereafter. I am considering not so much the war-time period, or that which immediately follows it, as ten or twenty years hence. In the period immediately after the war, we may not have to consider the matter of preference, because there will be jobs for quite a number of people. I know what happened in the last depression. Returned soldiers in Melbourne were employed on the dole, in beautifying the surroundings of the magnificent shrine erected in St. Kildaroad in memory of those who had fallen. These men had been forgotten by a “ grateful “ country. They were employed, not at award rates, but at dole rates. If they did not work for the dole, they and their dependants were left to starve. That situation might easily arise again, if we do not do something more effective than deal with the matter of preference; if we do not alter fundamentally the system of society in which we live.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) spoke about the big money which certain members of the mercantile marine had made on a particular trip. I do not dispute his statements. That was an exceptional case, and preference to members of the mercantile marine should not be dealt with in_ the light of exceptional cases. Generals, too, are entitled to full preference under the law. Nobody will contend that they do not receive big pay. We are dealing with the matter from the standpoint, not of pay, but of ‘the risks incurred. Many members of the mercantile marine incur greater risks than do generals. Consequently, there is no validity in the argument against the inclusion of those who have been taking foodstuffs and equipment into battle zones, without which it would not have been possible for the soldiers so long and gallantly to have maintained their struggle. The matter of preference to soldiers is like that of preference to unionists, in that it depends upon the premise that there will be times when there will not be jobs for all; consequently, there will be a struggle for those that are offering, and somebody ought to receive preference. It is contended that the soldier ought to be given preference over the nonsoldier for the right to work and live. That has also been the mainspring of the argument for preference to unionists. If there were a state of society in which every body had work, there would be no need to raise the question of preference to either soldiers or unionists. If I may digress briefly–
– The* honorable member is continuously in digression, and is also guilty of considerable repetition.
– If I may digress for a moment, I should like to say that some unions have actually gone to the extreme of closing their books against others securing admission to their ranks in a particular avocation or calling because of the desire to make their preference real and complete. In a proper state of society, that ought not to be necessary. When thi3 war is over, the soldiers will expect that the “ catch-as-catch-can “ method of finding jobs which was known to a previous generation will not be known to the postwar world. I repeat, that we shall have to look to some form of socialization if we are to ensure that every body who has done his duty to this country will be rewarded by it. In the last war, we were told that the soldiers were fighting to make the world safe for democracy. We shall have to see that the world is made safe for democracy on this occasion.
– The honorable member has exhausted his second period.
– An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and an amendment for an amendment, seemed to be the philosophy of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in the first half of the speech that he made this evening. There was no indication in his statement that the amendment before the committee at present had any genesis other than that. His1 attitude was: “ Since the Senate has seen fit to insert an amendment in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, therefore I, as the Minister in nominal charge of this place, must at least vindicate my position by amending what it has sent down “. Yet practically the whole of his speech was devoted to showing that the amendment, if carried, would be futile. This is about the first time I have heard the head of a government say that he was serious in moving an amendment which he believed was futile. I do not know whether the second portion of the speech of the right honorable gentleman was a swan song or a funeral oration, but an obligation rests on his shoulders to clear up the present situation. Whenever he feels annoyed, he should not talk about the necessity for a political clean-up, and say that he does not care whether he remains Prime Minister or not. That is the attitude of a man issuing a challenge to the Parliament. If the right honorable gentleman is not satisfied with the present state of political affairs, he has an easy way out. He may resign from the leadership of the .Government if he wishes to do so. My personal opinion is that if a dissolution is granted before the term of this Parliament expires under the provisions of the Constitution, it ought to be granted to the right honorable gentleman who was in charge of the House when it was elected. It is well known that since the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) retired from the leadership of the Government, two other Prime Ministers have failed to make this House operate smoothly. If it is to go back to its masters as the result of a special dissolution, it ought to do so in charge of the right honorable gentleman who was at the head of the Government when the Parliament first assembled.
– Cannot the honorable member be loyal to his present leader?
– The Minister for Repatriation is out of order.
– The honorable member for Barker is trying to get sweet with the right honorable member for Kooyong.
– The honorable member for Ballarat knows perfectly well that, if a National Government was formed, there is no honorable member whom I would rather have as an assistant minister than he. I repeat, for the information of the Prime Minister, that the present state of affairs must end. He must either accept certain amendments made by the Senate to this bill or take his courage in his hands and retire of his own free will, or ask the Governor-General for a dissolution. Honorable members on the Opposition side are as well aware as is the right honorable gentleman himself of the weight of the burdens resting on his shoulders. The main thing for him to decide is whether his shoulders are strong enough to carry that burden and whether he wishes to carry it.
– He has done a very good job for this country.
– I have said nothing about that matter. I have deliberately remained silent upon it. I put it fairly and squarely to the right honorable gentleman that the obligation rests upon him to cease the kind of talk to which I have referred, or carry on in the circumstances in which he finds himself, and which he knew well to exist before he undertook the responsibility of forming a Ministry. Every honorable member opposite knew that the political life of the Government depended on the votes of two nondescript members who have crossed over from one side of the cham’ber to the other. At that time honorable members opposite were much more concerned about getting into office than securing a majority. They believed in their own hearts that they would be able to “ work “ those two honorable members to their own satisfaction.
– The honorable member knows that to be wrong.
– I rise to order. You were exceedingly strict with me, Mr. Chairman, but you are very lenient with the honorable member for Barker.
– The honorable member should state his point of order without reflecting on the Chair.
– My point of order, Mr. Chairman, is that you have failed to call upon the honorable member for Barker to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– That is not a point of order.
– The Government must decide on the course of action that it will take. It is regrettable that on two or three occasions lately the Prime Minister has issued threats in this chamber.
– Th e honorable member is not in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– The lesson to be learned by the right honorable gentleman is “ Never point a gun unless it is loaded”.
Question put -
That the amendment to the Senate’s amendment (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (TheChairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the news circulating inthe lobbies a few minutes ago is correct, namely, that certain seamen who are to be covered by his amendment have gone on strike in the port ofSydney.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Can the honorable member connect his remarks with the motion before the committee ?
-Yes. The committee has agreed to an amendment providing for preference to members of the mercantile marine. I want to know from the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the report that a strike has been started on a certain ship in Sydney Harbour by members of the mercantile marine in sympathy with members of the Waterside Workers Federation as a protest against the use of soldiers in the loading of ships.
– It is not true.
Senate’s amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 43 -
After section fifty-six of the Principal Act, the following Part is inserted: - “ Part IV a. - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Repatriation.”
Senate’s AmendmentNo. 4. - Leave out the clause.
Motion (by Mr. Frost) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– This amendment proposes to delete from the bill the clause providing for the appointment of a statutory committee on repatriation. This chamber, on division, decided by a large majority to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) for the appointment of such a committee. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) made his first contribution to the debate on the bill at that late stage, and presumably because the amendment was moved by the honorable member for Henty, set out to defeat it. He failed here, but the Senate, apparently taking its lead from him, deleted the provision from the bill, and we are now asked to concur. I regret the action of the Senate because the committee would have been able, in years to come, to present many excellent reports to Parliament on the subject of repatriation. Many questions are bound to arise in connexion with the repatriation of 800,000 members of the armed forces. One reason why Parliament did not amend the Repatriation Act for twenty years is that those honorable members who led this filibustering campaign against the amendment of the’ honorable member for Henty, were more concerned with what they called ministerial responsibility. We had a lot of ministerial responsibility, but no amending repatriation legislation. In the years ahead our repatriation legislation will have to be amended many times, and subsequent governments would be greatly helped by the recommendations of an all-party committee which would be able to deal with the problems arising from time to time more effectively than will be possible by ministers who have to consider them in a partisan atmosphere. It is, of course, possible for the Minister for Repatriation to appoint a committee under the regulations issued under the National Security Act, if the Senate is to have its way and prevent the setting up of a committee by statute. It would be possible by regulation to reestablish the special committee which made such an excellent report on this subject, and I hope that this will be done. I believe that the committee system does help in the work of government. Parliament, having recognized the principle in the case of the broadcasting legislation, should have extended it to cover repatriation also. This is another instance of the will of this chamber being thwarted by the Senate. I regret that the Senate has achieved its purpose. Unfortunately, the issue is not regarded as sufficiently important by the Government to engage in a contest with the Senate, and the proposal, for the time being, goes into the discard. However, I hope that the present Government, or a subsequent one, will appoint a statutory committee to consider matters pertaining to repatriation.
.- I regret that the Senate has seen fit to carry an amendment which, if agreed to, will mean that the proposed statutory committee on repatriation shall not be appointed. My primary object in moving that such a committee be set up was, if possible, to lift the discussion concerning repatriation from the atmosphere of party politics. I considered that the work of the special committee which considered this bill and reported to the Minister was of such outstanding value, and that the contribution of members of the Opposition, particularly during the debates on the bill, were of such value in elucidating various points that arose, that a continuance of that system would have been of undoubted value to the Parliament. I understand, however, that the Government has decided not to contest the Senate’s decision because the Minister believes that the Government can, if it desires, appoint a committee at any time to investigate any problem which may arise. Although I do not propose to oppose the Government should it decide to accept the Senate’s amendment, it is with great regret that I see repatriation back again into what I may call the hurly-burly of party politics. Repatriation is a matter of such personal importance to the men who will receive benefits under the legislation passed by this Parliament that it does not add to the dignity of the Parliament to have it bandied about as it has been to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 49 -
After the Fifth Schedule to the Principal Act the following Schedule is inserted: - “ The Sixth Schedule.
Declaration by Members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Repatriation.”
Senate’s amendment No. 5. - Leave outthe clause.
Motion (by Mr. Frost) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - After clause 1 insert the following new clause: - “ 1a. This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.”
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - After clause 2, insert the following new clause: - “2a. After section eighteen of the Wartime (Company) Tax Assessment Act 1940- 1942. the following section is inserted in Part III.:- 18a. Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph (f) of the definition of “ taxable profit “ in section three of this Act, or in para- graph (v) of sub-section (1.) of section twenty-four of this Act, a company shall not be liable to pay any greater amount of wartime (company) tax than the amount which it would have been liable to pay if -
the interest specified in paragraph (f) of that definition were not deducted but were treated as income other than interest as specified in that paragraph ; and
the capital specified in paragraph (v) of sub-section (1.) of section twentyfour were not deducted in accordance with that section.’ “.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The amendment made to the bill in the Senate has been prompted by the earnest desire on the part of the Government that there shall be no infringement of the Commonwealth’s undertaking to bondholders who converted their loans in 1930. Honorable members will recollect that the amendments to the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act passed by this House were designed to exclude from taxable profit interest from certain Commonwealth loans and, correspondingly, to exclude from capital the. amounts invested in the loans. The interest to be excluded is subject to tax only at the concessional rate of1s. 4d. in the £1 as provided by section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act and section 52b(2) of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. The basis on which assessments have been made up to the present time is to treat the interest as part of the taxable profit and the investments in loans earning the interest as part of the capital employed in gaining the profits of the company. However, one company has succeeded in obtaining from the Taxation Board of Review a decision that the interest is not chargeable with War-time (Company) Tax as that tax is an income tax additional to, or in excess of, the tax permitted bysection 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act and section 52b of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. The effect of the Board’s decision is that, for all practical purposes, the interest is excluded from taxable profit but the amounts invested in the loans are not excluded from the capital employed by the company. This anomaly is being remedied by excluding the interest from taxable profit and excluding the amounts invested in the loans from capital employed. These amendments do not offend against the provisions of section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act or section 52b of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. However, it has been represented to the Government that the exclusion of the interest from taxable profit and the loan investments from capital would result in a greater measure of war-time company tax being payable on other profits of certain companies. That is due to the fact that the interest earned on the Commonwealth loans is at a rate less than the minimum statutory 5 per cent, on capital under the war-time company tax law. As honorable members are aware, war-time company tax does not become payable until the profits exceed 5 per centum of the company’s capital. The amendment inserted in the bill in the Senate operates when the exclusion of the interest from taxable profit and the loan investments from capital employed would result in a greater amount of tax being payable than would be the case if the interest were subject to the full liability for the tax and the loan investments were included in the capital employed. The amendment ensures that the lesser of the two amounts of tax shall be payable. The amendment preserves intact the letter and the spirit of the Common wealth’s undertaking to the bondholders in 1931.
Another amendment made by the Senate is to bring the act into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. This amendment will facilitate the earlier preparation of assessments and the collection of the revenue within this financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is seldom that I speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but I am prompted to do so on this occasion because as we are shortly to go into recess, I have to take advantage of the forms of the House, to draw the attention of the Government and particularly of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr, Scully) to the serious plight of the dairy-farmers of the Commonwealth. My observations on this subject last Thusday night were made at a late hour, when, unfortunately, the Minister was indisposed. I am glad to see him again in his place, I hope, fully restored to good health. On the occasion referred to, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave an assurance that the various points raised would be considered during the recess with a view to prompt action being taken. However, as conditions in the dairying industry are so serious, I intend to take advantage of the present sittings to reiterate my request that immediate action be taken to improve the conditions of those engaged in the industry.
The first essential to an improvement of the situation of the industry is an increase of the price of butter. It is nearly thirteen months since the Price3 Commissioner, Professor Copland, following strong representations by members of the Opposition, and the submission of a detailed case by representatives of the industry, announced a rise of Id. per lb., of the retail price of butter. That this increase was not sufficient to offset the total effect of increased costs of the dairyman was admitted at the time by the Prices Commissioner. The Commissioner said he was satisfied that the total effect of those factors amounted to more than Id. per lb. The Commissioner stated that the permitted rise of price would not completely cover the increase of costs, and reduced returns owing to changes in the industry. With other members of the Opposition representing country electorates, I continued to urge the Government to give further consideration to the claims of the industry.
As the result of those representations, the Government, in July last, appointed a special committee, consisting of practical and experienced men, to report upon matters affecting the dairying industry. That committee, like members of the Opposition, recognized the urgency of the matter and within eleven days submitted an interim report. That report, as I stated in the House last week, recommended that immediate steps foe taken - I emphasize the word “ immediate “ - to secure a minimum return to the dairyfarmer of not less than ls. 5£d. per lb. of commercial butter. It recommended that, to ensure such return, prices on the Commonwealth market be increased by 3 7/8 d per lb. for butter and 2d. per lb. for cheese, and that the export value be increased by 3d. per lb. for butter and 2d. per lb. for cheese. These recommendations were made by men whose knowledge of the requirements of the dairying industry is recognized throughout the Commonwealth.
As will be seen, the committee considered an important feature of the industry to which the Minister himself had directed attention, namely, price. The Minister, in informing the committee that a deputation from the industry had represented that increases be granted, had asked it to furnish its findings and recommendations in that regard. In August last, the committee, having taken evidence in Melbourne and Brisbane, submitted its second report to the Minister. It reiterated the recommendation made in its interim report of the price increases to which I have already referred. It pointed out to the Minister that witnesses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria had confirmed the committee’s views in that they were unanimous and emphatic that an increase of price was the only means of quickly lifting production to desired levels.
Having dealt with the committee’s recommendations in some detail last week, I do not propose to go over them again this evening, but shall pass on to the fifth progress report of the J Joint Committee on Rural Industries submitted to the Government in September last. That committee, of which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is chairman, and which is comprised of members supporting the Government as well as members of the Opposition, also recommended a substantial increase of the price of dairy products. It was unanimous in its view that the dairying industry was not receiving remuneration commensurate with the service it was rendering the nation. It will be seen, therefore, that, at the end of September, the Government had before it three reports - two from the special committee and one from the Joint Committee on Rural Industries - in each of which an increase of the price of butter was recommended. What did the Government do ? It refused to divulge to Parliament, or to the dairyfarmers, the recommendation of the special committee. Instead of doing what the two committees had recommended and what I, with other members of the Opposition had so strongly advocated, the Government, after two to three months’ delay, introduced the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill. That bill, as honorable members are aware, provided for the payment of a subsidy of £2,000,000. The Government made available in the current financial year £1,500,000. Thus the position, bluntly, is that while the special committee recommended an increase of 3$d. per lb., the Government, by its subsidy proposal, granted an increase of about 5/7<i. per lb.
It is clear that the Government in introducing its subsidy plan was actuated solely by party political motives. It had before it the strongest possible evidence of the critical situation in which the dairying industry found itself; yet, for fear that it would bring upon its head the wrath of a great body of its supporters if the retail price of butter were increased, it rejected the only sound method of assisting the industry and handed out a miserable dole. On the one hand, the Government looks to the dairying industry to provide a major share of the commodities with which to feed Australian and Allied fighting forces, and to meet the requirements of Great Britain, and, on the other hand, it deserts those who produce these vital foodstuffs. Its action in handing out this dole instead of granting the increase of price recommended by two committees, including some of its own supporters, was a gross betrayal of the men engaged in one of Australia’s major industries. The Government’s approach to the problem of the dairy-farmer is similar to its approach to the problems of every other rural industry. It is not concerned for the man producing the goods, but for the man upon whom it relies for support. It matters not to the Government if thousands of dairyfarmers throughout Australia are thrown out of production because of its own failure to place the dairying industry on a basis that would enable producers to carry on with a reasonable return for their labours. . All the Government is anxious about is that it should not lose favour with a great body of industrialists by doing something which might affect their cost of living.
There is no need for me to stress the fact that there is no dearth of spending power in Australia to-day; and it would be a very unpatriotic Australian who would object to a small increase of his living costs in order that an important rural industry might be kept in operation. The Opposition was powerless to amend the Government’s subsidy proposal. Without the requisite numbers we could not carry the amendment moved by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) for the withdrawal and redrafting of the bill to provide a more equitable scheme. The amendment was rejected by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The bill was not introduced until the close of a period of the session, and the Minister threatened that if the Opposition wished to obstruct the bill, the Government was prepared to leave things as they were and throw on to the Opposition the responsibility for whatever consequences might ensue. Surely, that is a clear indication that the Government would have been quite happy to have let the whole matter drop and allow the industry to continue in the unsatisfactory condition in which it had been struggling ever since Labour came into power. If further evidence were needed of the way in which the Government had set out deliberately to deceive those engaged in the industry it is to be found in a statement made in the Senate by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane).
– A question of order arises. The Leader of the Opposition is criticizing a previous decision of this House and is proceeding to refer to debates in the Senate in the current session.
– I submit that I am not criticizing a speech made in the Senate. I have not come to that yet.
– The Standing Orders provide that honorable members may not refer to debates made in a current session.
– The dairying industry has received scant consideration from this Government. It has endeavoured, in the face of terrific odds, especially manpower shortages, to carry on- but is rapidly reaching danger point. The subsidy provided by the Government is no solution of the basic problems of the industry. What is needed is an increase of the price of butter and cheese and it is the duty of the Government to take immediate action to see that an increase is granted to enable the producer to remain in operation. Unless this increase is given the Government will .find itself responsible for bringing the dairying industry to a state in which not only will it be impossible to meet the needs of our civilians and the Australian and Allied fighting forces but we will be unable to honour our obligation to the United Kingdom. The cost of production has increased by at least 43 per cent, since the outbreak of war and it is rising daily. If industrialists - waterside workers, munitions workers and coal-miners - find conditions unsatisfactory they resort or threaten to resort to the strike weapon, or go slow, but the dairy-farmers cannot do so. They have been true ‘ to the highest concepts of patriotism and they should not lie imposed upon. The importance of the industry is too well known for me to need to elaborate on it. I am convinced that the industry, because of the Government’s unskilful and unscientific handling of its problems, including an unbalanced manpower policy, will be compelled to reduce output which will lead to the rationing of butter. That conviction is borne out by a conclusion in the special committee’s report that the apportionment of butter production will represent in terms of commercial butter a balance of 162,000 tons as against essential requirements of 195,000 tons, an annual deficiency of 33,000 tons or 16.9 per cent. The dairy-farms form a most important section of the Australian food front.
The dairy-farmers have battled along patiently in the hope that the Government would relieve their position by increasing the price of butter. With the coming of winter cows will be going dry and production will seriously diminish. The butter requirements of the United Kingdom and the services will not be fully met and Australia’s civil population will be faced with inadequate supplies of this essential commodity owing to the Government’s short-sighted policy. A price increase is the only solution. Those engaged in the industry are entitled to demand an increase of the price of dairy products and. it is the duty of the Government to grant it. I ask the Government to treat this matter urgently, not only in the interests of the dairy-farmers, the civil population and the fighting services of this country and it3 Allies, but also to enable us to meet our responsibilities to Great Britain and the rest of the United Nations.
.- I support the very strong appeal made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) that the Government should implement the report of the special committee appointed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to investigate the serious problems of the dairying industry and also the report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, of which I am. chairman. Both reports have strongly recommended a substantial increase of the price of butter. The report of the special committee recommended an increase of between 3d. and 4d. per lb., but the Government provided an increase of about id. per lb. - an utterly inadequate increase and an injustice to the farmers. The dairying industry is doing most important national work under most trying conditions, and I regret the lack of sympathy displayed by the Government in dealing with it. I know of no other industry in Australia whose man-power has been so seriously depleted. In the early days of the war the young men went from the farms voluntarily into the Army in remarkable numbers, but on top of that voluntary enlistment the industry was subjected to call-up after call-up until
May last year when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to whom I give full credit, imposed a blanket exemption. This was on the strong recommendation of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. But the Government delayed taking action until it was too late. All the key men - the men who know how to handle stock and plant, crops for food for winter supplies, and to cope with disease - had gone. The industry is suffering not only from a shortage of labour but also a lack of machinery, such as spare parts for milking machines, and power machines to run the milking machines and the separators, which would to a degree compensate for the loss of labour. I and other honorable members have asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to co-operate with the Minister for Defence in order to ensure that many such machines, which are reported to be in the hands of the Department of the Army and are not being used, shall be made available to the dairying industry. The industry to-day is being carried on by aged men and women and boys and girls. Under such conditions there must soon be a substantial fall of production. Owing to the heavy falls of rain, particularly in December and January, the production of . butter was substantial, but the increased work involved in milking and separating really added to the difficulties and exhaustion of the producers. The increased production in the last few months has been in spite of and not because of governmental action. I fear that with winter will come a substantial decline of the production of butter. Because of man-power shortages and shortage of farm machinery and spare parts, fodder for conservation for winter food supplies is almost non-existent, and consequently supplies of dairy products must fall off in winter months. We are faced with butter rationing. In Sydney milk is being rationed. It was almost unprocurable in Sydney at the week-end. Coffee with milk could not be had. The milk that was available had obviously been watered. The rest of Australia will soon be in a similar position if the dairying industry is not looked after. I support the Leader of the Opposition in his appeal for the implementation of the recommendations contained in these two reports, and I pay tribute to the right honorable gentleman who, despite his many other important duties, and despite the arduous nature of the present sittings during which we have been called upon to consider intricate taxation bills and other involved measures, has lost no opportunity to urge upon the Prime Minister, and upon the Minister for Commerce, the necessity for immediate action to save the dairying industry. Because of the rising costs of production that this important national industry has to meet, and the difficulties of the dairying industry, I strongly support the case that the right honorable gentleman has put forward for an immediate increase of the price of dairy products.
. - I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). The report of the Dairying Committee, which after persistent representations has been made available by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), recommends that three steps be taken to ensure that 1942-43 production shall meet the demand : - First, an increase of the monetary return for dairy products; secondly, declaration of the dairying industry as a protected undertaking; and thirdly, facilitating where possible the voluntary return to the industry of men who already have been called up for training in Militia units. Actually, those three steps resolve themselves into two problems, one of providing an adequate monetary return, and the other of securing sufficient labour to carry on the industry. In connexion with the first problem, the Dairying Committee’s recommendation was that in order to place the industry upon a reasonable basis comparable with that of other industries, present prices should be increased by 3Jd. per lb. However, the Government decided to assist the industry, not by means of an increase of prices, but by means of a subsidy, which it was stated would amount to £2,000,000 a year, or approximately lid. per lb. It will be recalled that instead of £2,000,000, the Government made available for the first year only £1,500,000; that was because it was proposed at that time to start the payments as from the 1st October. That is to say, they were to be made for nine months of the year.
Ifr. Scully. - From when the bill was passed.
– Yes, but the Tariff Board recommended that the subsidy should be payable over the twelve months. The effect was that instead of the subsidy amounting to something more than Id. per lb. as was suggested, it worked out at five-sevenths of Id. for commercial butter.
– In. substance it was the same, because it was made retrospective to the 30th June.
– It amounted to only £1,500,000 for twelve months. If the dairying industry is to be assisted by means of a subsidy only, or, in other words, if it is the policy of the Government to maintain the prices of foodstuffs at present levels and to secure to dairymen and other primary producers, a reasonable return for their products by means of the payment of subsidies, £5,000,000 will be required for the dairying industry alone. I know that there are some people who would regard such expenditure as a .bounty to the dairying industry, but I would rather regard it as a bounty to the consumer for the simple reason that even although such a bounty were paid, the dairymen would be receiving only what they should get and what this expert committee recommended that they should get, whereas the consumer would be getting supplies of butter at substantially less than he would have to pay if prices were fixed solely on the basis of an adequate remuneration to dairymen.
– The honorable member is suggesting that the 3d. per lb. should be paid by the consumer.
– I am suggesting that if the Government is determined to maintain prices at their present level, and to assist the industry by means of a subsidy, that subsidy should be at least £5,000,000.
– In that case, what does the honorable member suggest should be done in regard to the export price?
– I shall deal with that point later. With regard to the problem caused by labour shortage, it is supposed by many that because the industry i3 now a protected undertaking everything is all right; but I point out that there was a substantial depletion of labour before the decision to protect this industry was made. Yesterday an old lady of 82, who came to interview me, informed me that she was the only one left on a dairy farm. She is too old to do the milking and all she can do is allow the cows to run with the calves on them. Her son who used to run the farm for her, joined the militia voluntarily about three years ago, when training was on the basis of three months a year. Subsequently he was called up for full-time service and he has been in camp ever since. He has not been released despite the many applications that have been made to the army authorities. That is merely an instance of what is occurring throughout the dairying industry.
A few moments ago the Minister raised the question of what would happen to the export price if the home consumption price were increased. I suggest that if it were not possible to obtain an increase of the price paid by Great Britain, the Government could put the matter right by means of an increased subsidy.
– We should have to pay a subsidy in respect of the quantity exported to Great Britain?
– Yes; but the Minister does not contemplate that dairymen should produce butter for export to Great Britain at less than what is a reasonable cost of production.
– The honorable member is aware that Great Britain has given a definite refusal.
– I understand that. Nevertheless, I urge the Minister to take action without delay to implement as far as possible the report, either by means of a straight-out increase of price or a substantial increase of the subsidy.
.As a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, I know that the dairying industry is in a most serious position, and that the decline of the supply of dairy produce is causing concern. So many young dairy-farmers enlisted voluntarily shortly after the outbreak of war that the man-power problem in the industry is now acute. Although a blanket exemption from military service was subsequently granted to those engaged in dairying, largely as the result of the recommendations of the joint committee, at appears that the blanket has holes in it, because many young men have since been called up by the Army. I realize that the Army wants their services as soldiers; hut the Army must also have food and, without adequate labour, the dairying industry cannot produce sufficient quantities of butter and cheese to satisfy the requirements, not only of Australian and Allied soldiers, but also of the civil population. I appeal to the Minister to give to the matter his sympathetic consideration. Immediate action is necessary. .
Another problem arises from the fact that the Army has impressed engines required for milking machines, and this fact, in addition to the depleted manpower, is having a serious effect, upon production. If the dairying industry should decline, the supply of pig meats will also be affected.
The Joint Committee on Rural Industries recommended a substantial increase of the price of butter. I have long held that people engaged in the rural industries, especially the dairying industry, should receive for their labours at least the basic wage plus the cost of production of their commodity. I appeal to the Minister to see that they are placed on that basis of remuneration. Some people object to the payment of a subsidy. To me, the method of payment is immaterial so long as it is commensurate with the wages paid to workers in secondary industries. Some time ago, an annual subsidy of £2,000,000 to the dairying industry was approved by Parliament in order to obviate the necessity for increasing the price of butter to consumers. It does not matter to me how the additional assistance is granted, whether by subsidy or by an increased price, but I believe that a return of ls. 6d. should be granted to dairymen for butter-fat. The Minister should also ensure that an adequate supply of fodder is made available to the industry in order to preserve its existence. At present, the Prices Commissioner is conducting an inquiry into the problem of prices, and I hope that his investigations will result in the fixing of a fair figure for dairy products.
– I would be hypocritical if I did not agree, in substance, with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and other honorable members who have referred to the serious position of the dairying industry. However, I remind them that this Government has not overlooked the claims of dairyfarmers for assistance. Only eighteen months ago, the right honorable member for Darling Downs was the leader of a government which was in a position to assist the industry, but it failed to do so.
– Circumstances were entirely different then.
– I know that circumstances were entirely different then. Never in its history had the dairying industry encountered such trying times; never was the industry in such need of direct financial assistance as it was shortly before the Labour Government took office. As a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, I accompanied the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) on a tour of his constituency, and the scenes of destitution, and the starving cattle, were appalling. On all sides, stock was dying, and dairymen were walking off their holdings because they had no stock to milk. Those conditions existed throughout the coastal districts of New South Wales from the northern rivers to the Victorian border. But the previous Government did not provide one penny to assist the industry.
– That is incorrect.
– The price of butter was lower then than it is to-day, hut the previous Government granted no material assistance to the industry.
– The first report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries was submitted three weeks before the Labour Government took office.
– Actions speak louder than words. When I became Minister for Commerce, one of my first acts was to appoint a committee, at the request of Cabinet, to make an investigation of the position. I selected the most competent men in the industry.
– But the Minister disregarded their recommendations.
– I did not disregard their recommendations in toto. Subsequently, the Government granted a subsidy to the industry. A previous Government transferred from the Dairy Industry Equalization Committee to the Prices Commissioner the responsibility for fixing tha price of butter. The Government has facilitated the dairying industry’s approach to the Prices Commissioner for the purpose of submitting its claim for an increase of the price of butter. This Government also subsidized the pig industry throughout the Commonwealth at the rate of 6d. a bushel for feed wheat. Approximately £1,000,000 has already been advanced in order to afford relief in that respect. It has been of considerable benefit also to the dairying industry, which has taken advantage of the price concession in connexion with wheat. Everything possible has’ been done to stabilize the pig industry. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of previous administrations, which were not prepared to subsidize the industry to an amount of even a farthing per lb., and by neglect practically destroyed it.
Because of the increased cost of production, I consider that the Australian dairy-farmer is entitled to receive an increase of the price that is paid for the butter that he exports to the United Kingdom. Representing the Government, I say advisedly that the United Kingdom should defray the amount by which the present contract price falls short of the cost of production. The Government is doing all that lies within its power to help the industry. It is even considering the rationing of supplies for local consumption in order that our obligations to the United Kingdom may be fulfilled. In the circumstances, the Government of the United Kingdom may feel disposed to make its price conform to the cost of production.
The whole matter is being considered by the Prices Commissioner, and I hope that there will shortly be some improvement of the position. Although I cannot influence that officer, I promise the House and the dairying industry that I will use every endeavour to ensure that it shall receive a return which will be at least equal to the cost of production.
Another factor that has been overlooked is the debt burden which has to be borne by the dairying industry throughout Australia. Although it represents two-thirds of the problem that confronts the industry, I have not heard one honorable member opposite refer to it. Go where one will, even up to the Moreton electorate, the position is the same. I have received hundreds of letters complaining of excessive rents and asking for an increased price in order to pay them. The capital value of the land is double its productive value. The whole of the debt structure needs reviewing. As far as possible, the Government has pegged interest rates and rents of holdings, but that is not sufficient. I say advisedly that a conference of the Star-* Governments should be called at the earliest moment to review this most important matter.
– Could not the State Governments make the review now?
– They have the power to make it.
– They have the power, if they would agree to make it. We should impress upon the Governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria the urgency of the matter.
– There has been a Labour Government in Queensland, with a slight break, for 28 years.
– The position in regard to capital values is much better in Queensland than in any other State.
– The honorable gentleman has said that the position is bad in the Moreton electorate.
– In regard to some other conditions. No one knows better than the honorable member for New England that, in regard to capital values, the position is materially better in Queensland than in other States.
– The honorable gentleman has said that it is bad in my electorate. No evidence concerning land values was given in Queensland to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries.
– The committee did not ask for it.
– Then how can the honorable gentleman make the statement he has made in regard to my electorate ?
– I am not tongue-tied when I go to an electorate. I have lived on the land all my life. I question every individual whom I meet, because I realize that capital values of land are the basis of the prosperity or otherwise of any locality. I have said on many occasions that rents and payments under share agreements are altogether too high. Since I have been a Minister I have made a tour of some of the Queensland dairying districts. Deputations from the dairying industry have waited upon me to request an increased price for butter, and I have been informed subsequently that the leaders of them were wealthy land-owners who had share farmers working for them. The manager of a butter factory, referring to one member of a deputation, said to me “ I pay him as his share £200 a month. He is one of the wealthiest men in the district “. Yet that gentleman was foremost in the advocacy of an increased price for butter. My informant told me, “ He exploits the share dairy-farmer “.
– I do not support that.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that many landowners have share farmers working on their behalf, and that the conditions are little better than slavery. If a general attack were made on the debt structure, and capital values throughout the dairying industry were reviewed, the kernel of the trouble would be reached and there might not be the ever present demand for an increased price.
– If the Minister will tackle the problem, I shall help him.
– I am indebted for what has been done, and am sympathetic with the dairymen. A lot of what has been said by honorable members this evening is quite true, but I repeat that the present Government has done more than any of its predecessors on behalf of the primary producer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No.69.
Control of Naval Waters Act- Regulations -Statutory Rules 1943, No. 71.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos.68, 70, 72.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Tottenham, Victoria.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of overseas postal communications.
Evacuation of area.
Prohibited places (2).
Prohibiting work on land (2).
Taking possession of land, &c. (85).
Traffic on roads.
Use of land (9).
National Security (Internment Camp)
Regulations - Rules - Camp ( 4 ) .
National Security (Medical Co-ordination and Equipment) Regulations-Orders -
Control of medical equipment (2).
National Security (Prisoners of War)
Regulations - Order - Prisoners of war camp.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 62, 63,64, 65,66.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No.67.
House adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Land. Matters of Thomas Woods.
Price of Fish.
n-Hughes asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– It is not practicable to state the number of impressed rifles now in store as they are not necessarily segregated from other stocks coming forward from factories or returned for repair from the field depots. Naturally, there must always be a number of rifles undergoing repair due to the wear and tear of war. Certain strategic reserves including impressed rifles are held and for operational reasons it is unwise to indicate the number of rifles so held.
The various units of the Volunteer Defence Corps are being equipped in accordance with their predetermined operational priorities. All impressed rifles are still required for the purpose for which they were impressed.
s asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
All of these quotas are subject to a possible small margin of increase which is not to exceed 7 per cent.
l asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430331_reps_16_174/>.