17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, as the press reports, food control officials have cabled to London and Washington, asking for an increase of at least 50 per cent, in the allocation of superphosphate to Australia? If so, what has been the result of such representations, and what action does the Minister intend to take in order to ensure that supplies of superphosphate will be sufficient to enable food production to be maintained at a satisfactory level?
– I have not been apprised of the result of the cable sent by our food authorities^ but I shall have the matter investigated and supply complete information later.
Lieutenant-Colonel N. L. FleayRelease of Man-power.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether or not an allegedly false claim to the performance of outstanding deeds of bravery in New Guinea was made by a recently decorated officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman L. Fleay, D.S.O.? Is it a fact that LieutenantColonel Fleay was not in either Lae or Salamaua, where he claims to have covered himself with .personal glory? Was the fighting in the campaigns outlined by this officer actually done by members of the 5th Independent Company and others ? Have those men asked for an official inquiry, and given the promise that every soldier associated with the fighting referred to is prepared to state on oath that Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay was not concerned in it., but at ihe time was sitting comfortably and safely at Wau? Do these men include a member of the Parliament of New South Wales who is still on active service? Will the Minister undertake to call for a full inquiry, in order that justice may be done to the officers and men to whom belongs the credit for the brave acts performed in that area?
– I shall have the matter investigated, and supply a full statement to the honorable gentleman.
– I have received from a> soldier a letter containing the following extract : -
My Commanding Officer says he lias no job for me. My present duties over the last 12 months consist nf getting shaving water before breakfast for an officer, and later making his bed and cleaning his shoes. This takes about an hour, after which I am finished for the day. I wash his clothes one day a week. For this the Army pays me £11 4s. a fortnight.
– la he a farmer?
– He is a primary producer. I ask the Minister for the Army whether men of that class are to be released from the Army in order that food production may be maintained.
– If the honorable member will give me that letter I shall have the case looked into immediately.
– The press reports that an Empire Aviation Conference is now sitting in London under the presidency of Lord Beaverbrook. Can the Minister for Air make a statement concerning Australia’s representation, and the matters which the Government aims to have considered in connexion with post-war air transport?
– The names of the Australian representatives at the Empire Aviation Conference have been published in the press; they are the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce and Air Marshal Williams. The conference is exploratory and preparatory. The views of the Australian Government have been forwarded to its representatives, who will report so soon as information can be sent. When the report arrives, I may be able to make a statement to the House.
Engineering Shops in Kalgoorlie.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that engineering firms in Kalgoorlie have been thrown out of production, and others have been threatened with a like fate, because of lack of orders? If so, what steps have been or will be taken to secure the distribution among these firms of a proportion of the contracts that are let, in order to ensure their continuance as essential factors in the manufacture of vital agricultural and mining machinery parts which at present are unprocurable ?
– I am acquainted with the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. They are inevitable, because of the depression of certain programmes previously undertaken by my department in connexion with the manufacture of equipment and munitions, of which the initial requirements have been met and considerable reserves have been established. It is desired that manpower formerly engaged in this production shall be diverted to other work of a higher order of priority. T am anxious to utilize whatever labour if available; but the utmost difficulty is likely to be experienced in making full provision for such works as the honor able member has mentioned, even in connexion with orders that have to be fulfilled for some of the large Government establishments. An order for approximately £1,000,000 worth of agricultural implements may appear large, yet when allocated among the many works that would be likely to participate in that class of production the contribution to each would not be sufficiently great to ensure anything like continuity of their operations. I shall have an investigation made in connexion with the production of mining machinery. I am viewing th-3 matter as sympathetically as possible, and in all earnestness assure the honorable member that I should specially like a constituency so situated geographically as Kalgoorlie is to receive every consideration it is possible to give to it when orders are being placed. However, I want him to realize that I am confronted with tremendous difficulty because my department does not initiate orders but merely fulfils them for other departments; if it does not receive them, it is unable to allocate the work among establishments in country centres. I have to-day made an investigation of the matter, and hope soon to be in a position to give to the honorable member a satisfactory reply in regard to the possibility of work being undertaken in his constituency.
– In view of the inability of country storekeepers to obtain supplies of farm harness, such as horse-collars, trace chains, &c, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping confer with the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Munitions in order to arrange, if possible, for the release of supplies of harness that are either not being used at all, or are in only partial use ? Will he arrange for the distribution of the harness through the ordinary trade channels instead of through the Army Supply Department?
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) raised this matter last week, with particular reference to the supply of horsecollars, and I instigated an investigation. The right honorable member for Cowper has now extended the request. In order to obtain the information which the right honorable member seeks, it will probably be necessary to make a check of the ordnance stores of the Army. I shall be pleased to make the representations which lie has suggested.
– And in regard to horse-shoes also?
– Very well.
– I have received the following telegram : -
Curtailment trains makes it impossible fat stock buyers from metropolis attend sales Forbes, which are amongst biggest in State. Please assist us maintain suitable passenger and stock train services. “Whilst I appreciate that the Production Executive is doing its best, I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it would be possible, in view of the curtailment of country railway services, to make available to stock buyers extra supplies of petrol so that they may attend stock sales in country districts?
– I appreciate the importance of the question raised, and how necessary it is that buyers should be able to attend the stock sales. It will be necessary for me to discuss the matter with the Minister for Transport in order to learn the extent of the curtailment of country railway services. My own opinion is that they should be curtailed as little as possible.
– In view of the curtailment of railway services, due to the shortage of coal, can the Minister for Transport say whether it is proposed to curtail the transport of wool and wheat? If so, will he make a statement regarding the extent of the proposed curtailment ?
– I am at present inquiring how the restrictions will operate, and I hope to make a statement on the subject before the end of the week.
Queensland BOARD of Reference - Statement bv Mr. Wells.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral considered the request of the Queensland district of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation that a full-time chairman be appointed so the Queensland Board or Reference?
– The matter is now receiving ,the attention of a Cabinet committee. I understand that the number of cases with which such a board would be called upon to deal would not be very large. However, the matter is being investigated and I shall supply an answer to the honorable member later.
– ‘Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement by Mr. Wells, president of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, in this morning’s press, that “ he is fed up with the attitude of the Prime Minister “ relative to the coal-mining industry? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether he is satisfied with the attitude of Mr. Wells and of the coalminers generally? If not, when does he propose to take some definite action in this matter?
– I read the statement mentioned by the honorable member. I ain not “ fed up “ with Mr. Wells. As president of the federation, he has done his utmost during the last year or more to encourage coal production, and I am grateful to him for that endeavour. I am not satisfied with the results - that .is all. I do not think that any good purpose would be served by engaging in back-chat with the honorable member on the subject. I hope that the problem of getting coal will be regarded as something more important than merely a means of scoring cheap debating points.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the subsidy of 2d. a gallon to the suppliers of milk to the Melbourne metropolitan area was stopped in August last, and that there is now great dissatisfaction among suppliers regarding the- price? Will he take steps to bring about an increase of price commensurate with the increased costs of production?
– The price of milk in the Melbourne metropolitan area does not come within the scope of my department, but I shall convey the honorable member’s representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and ask that an answer be supplied.
– Repre sentations have been made by the Murgon Shire Council that it is experiencing great difficulty in operating its electric light department, because the cost of crude oil landed at Murgon has increased by more than 100 per cent, since the beginning of the war. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping consider the request of the council that a rebate on the cost of crude oil be provided?
– I should like the honorable member to supply me with all the details of the matter that he can, so that I may go into it fully.
– by leave - Yesterday, in response to a question by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), I intimated that I would make a statement regarding the establishment of clothing factories in country areas. In accordance with the policy of the Government to decentralize industry wherever possible, and in order to take advantage of labour available in country centres, clothing factories have been, or are being, developed in a number of centres as under: -
New South Wales -
Wollongong. - A factory is in operation. It commenced with 20 machines and has now extended to 40 machines, and it is hoped that within the next six months 70 machines will be in operation. The results up to date have been gratifying and the management proposes to establish a permanent industry in the town. In addition, a knitting mill is opening up a branch in this township, and, in addition to producing knitted gar ments will produce other types of clothing.
Goulburn. - A new factory is being arranged and it is hoped will be opened before Christmas with approximately 100 employees.
Junee. - A factory will be opened here in about fourteen days. The firm has taken over certain empty shops, but intends to build a model factory as soon as this can be arranged.
Cootamundra. - A factory will be opened in this town within the next fortnight and boys’ clothing will be manufactured thereat.
Newcastle. - A firm has taken over Robert Reid’s building in this city and has made large extensions to its production. The same company is surveying the possibility of opening a factory in Grafton.
Moss Vale. - Anotherfirm is considering opening a factory here.
Similarly, firms are interested in other centres, including Albury and one of the mountain towns in New South Wales, but finality has not yet been reached in these cases.
Frankston. - A factory is in operation. It opened up with 20 machines and is now working 50.
Wonthaggi. - A factory is in operation and the same firm proposes to extend its operations to Warragul.
Benalla. - A factory is in operation with between 20 and 30 employees, which it is hoped will be increased to 50 or 60 within the next two months.
Sale. - A firm has taken over the local picture theatre and is now arranging to commence operations within the next two or three weeks. The firm has in mind the employment, ultimately, of up to 200 machines.
Ararat. - A factory has been established and extensions are being made.
Eaglehawk. - A factory has been opened up at this town.
Ballarat. - A factory will be opened here within two or three weeks and will operate about 50 machines.
In addition, factories are likely to be opened in the near future at Rushwortb, Colac and Camperdown.
Queensland. - A firm is considering establishing a factory in Toowoomba and the final results should be known in the near future.
South Australia. - Firms are considering establishing factories at Port Pirie and Gawler, but finality has not yet been reached.
Western Australia. - It has not yet been possible to arrange for country factories in this State, but the matter is being pursued.
Tasmania. - In this State the object has been to increase the production of existing factories, and in two cases increases of up to 50 machines have already been arranged. It is anticipated that the increased output from Tasmania will reach an additional 50 per cent, by Christmas.
The foregoing indicates the factories actually operating, those which will be commencing within the immediate future, and other proposals on which definite finality has not yet been reached, although the prospects are that the factories will be established at an early date. In addition, sites are being investigated and the matter is being surveyed in other localities. As finality is reached in these cases the scheme will be extended, consistent with the overall demand. The basis of all arrangements is that an existing metropolitan company with idle machines will transfer them to the country centre with sufficient technical staff to train the country employees;the latter are proving to be most adaptable. Clothing for both defence and civil needs is being produced and the scheme will, when implemented, be an important overall manufacturing entity which will not only bring benefit to the country towns, but will assist in supplying the nation’s needs of vital supplies.
– What inducement has been offered to those firms remissions of taxation or reduced freights?
– In no case have the persons or companies concerned asked for any consideration of that kind. They have volunteered to shift their machines from the metropolitan areas to country centres where labour is available, on the understanding that I shall supplythe raw materials and at the same time give them sufficient orders to make their industry pay.
– Publishing houses are complaining of the difficulty of getting paper for the publication of books. This is resulting in a shortage of handbooks and non-publication of Australian literature. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs satisfied that the distribution of paper is as it should be, or does he consider that the Government is wasteful in producing so many departmental handbooks which we could do without?
– I shall place the honorable member’s question before the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Can the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture give any information regarding the establishment of the tribunal to investigate the allocation ofthe subsidy to dairyfarmers working under sharefarming agreements?
– Regulations are being prepared by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to provide for the establishment of tribunals to deal with share farming agreements under the dairying industry assistance scheme.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald of a statement by the president of the Retail Fruit Shopkeepers Association, Mr. H. Cook, that if fruit and vegetable shopkeepers did not trade on the black market most of them would have to go out of business, and that the inaction and pricefixing methods of the Government fostered black marketing? If so, will the Minister state whether the Government considers that immediate action should be taken to increase the number of inspectors at the Sydney Fruit Markets as well as’ to bring about more effective policing of price control regulations in all States?
– It would help the Government and the country as a whole if these retailers would bring directly to the authorities concrete evidence about alleged black marketing.
– Mr. Cook made his statement to the press.
– And thereby obtained publicity. Many people who make allegations through the press fail, when called upon, to supply evidence which would enable the authorities to take appropriate action. “When I read Mr. Cook’s statement I decided that it was time to say that if there were less publicity and more action, we should be able to deal more effectively with black marketing. Sufficient inspectors to go round all the retail shops in Australia would require a body of men nearly as large as the Army. Businessmen and the community generally have an equal responsibility to help the Government in these matters. If they bring evidence forward the Attorney-General will take the necessary action.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral power, under national security regulations, to compel the president of the association to disclose the source of the information he has ‘given to the press? If not, will the right honorable gentleman have a regulation framed to confer such power upon him?
– No such power is conferred upon the Attorney-General, al though limited power is conferred upon the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army in relation to service matters. The honorable member having brought the matter to the notice of my colleague, an endeavour wall be made to test and, if possible, use for the purpose of a prosecution the information which the president of the association mentioned has given to the press.
– When the Minister for War Organization of Industry is drafting regulations to legalize overcrowding, will he insert a provision that all applications shall be approved by local municipal councils so as to ensure that sufficient bathroom and lavatory accommodation shall be made available in such subdivisions ?
– The matters raised by the honorable member will be taken into consideration before the regulations are finally drafted.
Moreton Central Sugar Mill
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service know that a serious position bas developed at the Moreton Central Sugar Mill because of inability to obtain labour to cut cane, with the result that it is estimated that the harvest in this one instance will be 15,000 tons short this season? In view of the great importance of the sugar industry, will the Minister inform the House why approaches to the army and man-power authorities for labour were practically without result? Not 60 per cent, of the permitted quota of professional cane-cutters were made available during a season of heavily frosted cane, much of which has had to rot in the field because of the shortage of cutters ?
– I am aware of the difficulties associated with the sugar industry as well as other industries.
– This mill?
– Not any particular mill, but the industry generally. We are continually receiving requests for more men in the industry as a whole. The answer is tha: the man-power authorities and other departments are now conferring on this particular matter. Men are being transferred from the Army to civilian activities. I think that something will be said about this matter when the honorable member for Richmond moves the adjournment of the House later in order to discuss food problems.
– Will the Minister for Information inform me on whose authority the publication Digest of Decisions and Announcements is issued? Is not this publication an innovation introduced by the Curtin’ Government? Is it a fact that in the last issue, No. 62, 28 of the 48 pages are devoted to purely political matter, including a verbatim account of the Prime Minister’s policy speech in the recent election campaign? Why has no reference been made to the policy speech of any representative of the Opposition parties?
– The publication is issued under the .authority of the Prime Minister’s Department. The matter raised by the honorable member embodies a series of questions and I am unable, from memory, to reply to them in detail. When I have examined them, I shall provide an answer.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Tasmania a communication stating that parents of soldiers have complained to him that great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining materials for making garments for Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping make available material for this purpose as quickly as possible?
– The practice which the Department of Supply and Shipping has adopted is to make the material available to a central organization, which in turn distributes it to such bodies as the Red Cross Society, and the Australian Comforts Fund and the like. I understand, that the Australian Comforts Fund undertakes that responsibility, and also ensures that .the material is handed to persons who will make up garments for prisoners of war. It may happen that in some instances insufficient quantities are being made available.
– That is so. I have a specific case.
– To the best of our ability, we ensure an equitable distribution of materials, hut I have no doubt that sometimes we fail to meet all requirements. I shall make inquiries for the purpose of ascertaining whether the matter “to which the honorable member has referred -can he adjusted.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz., “ The erection of Arbitration Court Building, Melbourne “.
It is proposed that a new Arbitration Court building shall be erected on a block of land opposite the High Court Building in Law Courts-place, Melbourne. The land was acquired for this purpose in 1939 at a cost of £13,000, but owing to the entry of Japan into the war, the construction of the building was deferred, and temporary expedients have since been resorted to in an endeavour to facilitate the work of the court.
The present Arbitration Court accommodation in Melbourne, for which an annual rental of £1,025 is paid, is most unsatisfactory and has, for many years past, been the subject of adverse comment by the judges of the court and by representatives of industrial organizations and counsel practising in that jurisdiction. The premises are old, dilapidated, and quite unsuitable as a court .building. The existence of an arbitration tribunal has become an essential .part of the organization of the Australian community and there is no doubt that the erection of a permanent building is long overdue.
Plans for a permanent Arbitration Court building were drawn up in 1941 and the estimated cost was £60,000. This amount was provided in the Estimates for 1941-42. The cost at the present time would be somewhat higher. The plans provided for a ground floor, mezzanine floor, and second floor. Three court rooms and four chambers for judges were provided for, but there may be some doubt whether, in the event of wider industrial powers being conferred on the Commonwealth in the future, a building with three court rooms will be adequate. I am inclined to think that there is justification for at least one additional floor to the proposed building in order to provide more conference rooms for arbitration and other purposes and also accommodation for some of the other branches of the Attorney-General’s Department which are now scattered about the city. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed work.
.- I have no objection to the proposed erection of new premises for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne, provided the work is absolutely necessary.
– And provided the building will be used.
– The Government should make it clear that in respect of labour and materials these premises shall not have priority over many more important works that are necessary for carrying on primary and secondary industries. At present, primary producers cannot obtain adequate supplies of labour, and it is practically impossible to carry out extensions of electrical plant and the like, which are required to produce goods indispensable to the maintenance of production. Whilst I am not opposed to the reference of this project to the Public Works Committee, the Government should make it clear that more important works will not be set aside.
– I do not raise any objection to the proposed inquiry into the erection of new premises for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne, but the Government should examine the advisability of erecting new Commonwealth offices in Canberra. Every effort should be made to encourage the development of the National Capital.
– Does the honorable member suggest that witnesses in Arbitration Court proceedings should be brought to Canberra ?
– I see no objection to the proposal. The fact that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) may dislike the prospect of coming to the National Capital when Parliament is not in session is no reason why the development of Canberra should be restricted. I hope that the Public Works Committee will bear in mind the fact that Canberra is the National Capital, and that every effort should be made to concentrate Commonwealth departments here.
Mr. MCEWEN (Indi) [3.10J.- I am astonished to learn that the Commonwealth Government is even contemplating undertaking .a work of such magnitude as the construction of a new Arbitration Court building in Melbourne at a time like this, especially in view of our serious man-power problems and the shortage of supplies of building materials.
– Tie work will not be put in hand at once.
– In due course, however, the report of the committee will be submitted to Parliament and we may take it that if it be favorable efforts will be made to have the work begun immediately. We should bear in mind that many Australian people are to-day unable to obtain permits even to build homes for themselves. Many primary producers cannot obtain permission to build cow sheds or other necessary structures on their farms. For the Civil Constructional Corps the Man Power Directorate has called up many thousands of civilians who sometimes work and sometimes go on strike - thousands of them have been on strike during the last few weeks - and I wish to know whether it is proposed that large numbers of these persons shall be diverted from important war activities to work on this proposed new building. I do not see how it will be practicable to provide workmen from the existing labour pool for an undertaking of this nature, because we need more men than we have available for vital constructional work in relation to national defence. The Arbitration Court has been able to carry on its activities for many years in the building it now occupies, which, though not- at all well suited for the purpose, has nevertheless served all needs. Very few of our people are able, in these days, to follow their normal way of life. Moreover, I envisage a situation at the conclusion of hostilities in which we may be hard put to it to find sufficient public works of an essential character to provide employment for the men who will be demobilized.
– That is the point.
– May we assume from the interjection of the Prime Minister that it is proposed to put the report of the committee on this project on ice until the termination of hostilities? If so, I have nothing to say against the proposal; in fact, I commend it. But the Minister for Home Security gave us no hint that that was intended. If the Prime Minister assures the House that it is not proposed to proceed with the construction of this building until after the conclusion of hostilities I shall say nothing more.
– That is not quite the case.
– Then perhaps I would be in order in moving an amendment to the effect that in the event of a favorable report being obtained from the committee the work shall not be proceeded with until it has been before Parliament again.
– The project will have to be submitted to Parliament again in any case.
– Provision would have to be made on the Works Estimates for the construction of such a building.
– It seems, then, that even if a favorable report be made by the committee the work cannot be put in hand until Parliament has considered the subject again.
) .-This project falls into a natural order of procedure. What the Minister has said about the accommodation at present provided for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is accurate. I do not believe that any one would suggest that the court has reasonable accommodation at present. It has to work under conditions which are totally unsatisfactory.
– And bad for the health of the people involved.
– The building in which the court at present functions is completely unsuitable for the purpose for which it is used. That is generally acknowledged.
– That is also true of other buildings.
– I am aware of that. The Commonwealth Government in association with the State governments lias agreed that steps shall be taken to prepare schedules of public works to be put in hand as soon as men and materials become available for such purposes because they are no longer required for pressing war needs. This motion is an earnest of the good faith of the Commonwealth Government in this connexion. We desire to be in. a position to go ahead with works in certain categories immediately the time is ripe for it. The Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act provides that before a work estimated to cost more than £25,000 can be put in hand it must be reported upon by the Public Works Committee. It may be assumed that the committee will investigate this whole project and report whether the proposal is justifiable, the plans suitable for the proposed purpose, and the estimate of cost realistic. These and other points will he covered in the report which the committee will make to the Parliament. This proposal is in line with many others that have been reported upon by the Public Works Committee in days gone by.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. M:Ewen) asked whether it was proposed to obtain a report on this project and then put it on ice. I do not wish it to be understood that the Government intends to await the cessation of hostilities before putting any public works in hand. Labour, and certain classes of building materials, will probably be available for many kinds of public works before hostilities cease, and although I do not see much prospect of an early commencement of a building of this description, I do not desire honorable members to assume that the report of the committee will be put on ice. The Government intends to obtain reports on various proposed works from the Public Works Committee or from some other appropriate authority. It intends to obtain a reassessment of plans which may have been made years ago. We shall not assume that a report which was accepted as satisfactory, say, five years ago, will be satisfactory now, but we do intend to ensure that the works shall be available for commencement immediately the circumstances are favorable. These works will be considered in some order of priority such as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has suggested. The
Government will have regard to the availability of labour and materials, and the urgent needs of the people in these matters.
This motion has been submitted in order that essential preparatory work shall be done to meet a need which will inevitably arise. It is proper for the Parliament to have regard to the future in this way. Unless preliminary work has been done on building projects and proposed public works generally, employment will not be available for demobilized personnel when it is needed.
.- Although I have a good deal of sympathy with the views of some of my colleagues on this subject, I warmly welcome the step that the Government is taking in order to provide suitable accommodation for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne. Its action in this connexion is wise, for the building at present occupied by the court is, as the Prime Minister has said, most unsuitable for the purpose. It is not only unsuitable; it is, in fact, .a death-trap for persons who are associated either permanently or temporarily with the work of the court. For this reason I am glad that this project is to be referred to the Public “Works Committee. We all recognize the important place which a building programme will have in the period of reconstruction in this country. As I have previously pointed out to the Parliament, the basic industries on which we rely for a building programme have, unfortunately, been allowed so to decline that even should we desire to commence such a programme at a very early date, we should find that we had not the necessary reserves of material and equipment. I hope that, while making a specific inquiry into the erection of a new Arbitration Court building, the Public Works Committee will also examine this rather larger and vital subject, in order to determine whether or not it is advisable for this Government and Parliament to undertake immediately a. programme designed to rehabilitate the industries upon which building construction rests, with the realization that there are no reserves of bricks, timber, roofing tiles, and the various other materials that are needed for the construction of a dwelling or a large public building. If we are to have regard to the post-war period, when it will be necessary to absorb tens of thousands of members of the services who will be seeking employment, then we must commence immediately the rehabilitation of those subsidiary industries upon which a building programme will depend. I hope that this aspect of the general problem, which I regard as of great importance, will not be overlooked by the Public Works Committee.
.- There may be a great deal of merit in the arguments that have been advanced ; but the present is not an opportune time to commit the Government to the proposed expenditure. I realize, of course, that the expenditure will not be incurred immediately and that, at present, merely an inquiry by the Public Works Committee is proposed. On a future occasion, however, we shall be confronted with the fact that the work is to be undertaken - perhaps to the prejudice of more urgent work. I have received many complaints from men discharged from the Australian Imperial Force who have been unable to obtain homes; some of them cannot even secure possession of dwellings that they own, because these have been let to other persons. The provision of housing for the people generally, and for servicemen in particular, is of the greatest urgency. It is argued that the present Arbitration Court building is unsuitable for the purpose for which it is utilized. That applies with equal force to the huts that are occupied by the members of the fighting services. Talk of arbitration having priority has no weight with me. Arbitration is discarded to-day, and. adjustments of wages and the like are decided by outside tribunals. The proposed structure may be in the same category as the League of Nations building at Geneva - an empty tenement. The proposal could well be deferred twelve months or two years. Meanwhile, it would be found that the provision of housing for servicemen, and the production of materials for building construction, should be given much higher priority. For the reasons I have given, I oppose the motion.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to clear up. The right honorable gentleman, said that a question of priority was involved. How can that be, when the committee will have before it only the one proposal? It is of the very essence of priority that the committee should have before it a number of proposals, and be empowered to decide which should be given preference. I put that point to the Prime Minister. During the debate of the last few clays, I have heard a good deal concerning the shortage of housing from gentlemen who sit behind the right honorable gentleman. I shall be interested to see how they vote on this matter
– m reply - The motion merely proposes to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee. Even when that committee has dealt with it, the work cannot be undertaken until the matter has been considered by the Works Priority Committee. That committee, having analysed the position, would decide whether the proposed work should be given a high or a low priority.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mi-. FALSTEIN.- I ask the Minister for Information whether Mr. Brian Penton, editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, was recently fined £20 by the Australian Journalists Association for having deliberately falsified a typewritten statement that had been handed to a representative of that newspaper by the Minister for Transport? Was an appeal to the Federal Council of the Australian Journalists Association dismissed? Will the Minister take steps, under national security regulations, to compel the ‘Sydney Daily Telegraph to publish a true report of the statement handed to its representative?
– I am only vaguely acquainted with the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for Watson. The honorable member has stated a case against a man named Penton. I shall examine the facts. I am not acquainted with the law on the subject. I shall examine that also. If, under the law, I can compel this person to make amends to a very distinguished member of this House, in the person of the Minister for Transport, I shall do so.
– Can the Minister for Information say whether it is a fact that permission was recently given to Mr. Brian Penton to visit England? If so, is it a fact that the object of Mr. Penton’s visit is to purchase rights to syndicated matter which will have the effect of keeping Australian journalists and writers out of employment? If that is true, will the Minister make a statement on the matter?
– I shall have an inquiry made into the matter, and I shall oblige the honorable member by making a statement on it to the House as soon as possible.
Temporary Clerks - Differential Wage Rates
– Can the Minister for the Navy state why temporary clerks in the Department of the Navy who are not unionists receive less pay than those who are? Has the honorable gentleman any statutory or other authority for such differential payments? Does he consider that they are in accord with the principle of equal pay for equal work?
– I am hot aware that there is a difference.
– There is; the rate is 10s. a week less.
– I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will place before me a specific case which I may have properly investigated.
– ‘Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether or not many tons of tanned sheepskins are stacked in stores in Sydney? Are such skins in urgent demand in England? Will the honorable gentleman represent to .the Shipping Controller the need to make available for the export of these skins a portion of the space now devoted to the export of leather?
– I shall make a full investigation, and do everything possible to overcome the anomaly. I shall also a.=k for a report by the Controller of Leather and Footwear.
– In view of the statement by the Treasurer that some form of reconstruction of farm finances was an essential corollary to the operation of a mortgage bank, will he say whether the Rural Reconstruction Committee has yet . submitted any proposals along those lines?
– I hope that the Rural Reconstruction Committee will make available an interim report this year, but I do not know whether it will touch upon the matter mentioned by the honorable member. I know that it will be concerned with the specific matter of soldier land settlement. However, I shall have inquiries made regarding the other subject.
– By an order published in the Commonwealth Gazette, dated the 20th September, 1943, certain powers are delegated to the deputy directors of rationing in the various States, including power to register traders and allot registration numbers and from time to time to reject, cancel or vary the registration of any member. I desire to know whether any one has yet been registered under this order. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say what class of traders it is proposed to cover by the order, and whether the deputy director in each State will have power to cancel registration in the absence of a court order directing him to do so?
– If the order was issued on the 20th September there has not been much time yet to effect registrations. The other points raised by the honorable member are important, and I shall refer them to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– And ask him what justification there -is for delegating this authority?
– I shall do so.
– I have received from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a. definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The inevitable serious decline in the production of vital foodstuffs and other commodities essential to the needs of our military forces, our civilian population, our Allies in this country, and Great Britain, consequent upon the depletion of labour in our rural industries and elsewhere; the failure pf the Government to provide farm machinery, engines, milking machines and other labour-saving plant and equipment to enable farmers to increase production; and the necessity for urgent action to increase supplies of foodstuffs, particularly meat, butter, fruit and vegetables “.
.- I move -
That tho House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I made a similar motion to this on the 10th May last year, when I, together with other honorable members on this side of the House, warned the Government that if it persisted in its “ Maginot Line “ attitude,as I described it. towards food production, the people of Australia, and those overseas who depended upon us for food, were doomed to suffer privation. This Government has never been able to rid itself of the obsession that Australia is a land with bountiful and never-failing supplies of food. It may be that we have sufficient food for our own people, but we now have commitments to the people of Great Britain and of the United States of America. Only a week .ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) told the meat-hungry consumers of Australia that there ‘was no shortage of sheep and cattle. If he wants firsthand information on this subject, I suggest that he stand near any butcher’s shop in any city suburb or town and listen to what the exasperated housewives have to say. He may tell them by way of consolation that there is still plenty of meat, on the hoof, but what the housewives want to know is how they can get some meat on the grill. The acute shortage of fruit and vegetables is reflected in high price’s, which always rise when commodities are in short supply. Beans at the present time are selling at ls. 3d. to 3s. 9d. per lb., tomatoes at ls. 7d. per lb., lettuce at 9d. each, cauliflowers at 3s. to 4s. 6d. each, apples and oranges at 3s. to 5s. a dozen, and bananas at 2s. to 3s. a dozen. Potatoes are, in many places, unprocurable. Most of those essentia] foodstuffs are now beyond the financial reach of many thousands of families. Price fixing is no solution of the -difficulty since it will not bring one extra cabbage or cauliflower on to the market. Indeed, it may actually make the position worse, because many farmers are now producing under conditions of extreme difficulty,- and too much official harassing will tend further to restrict their activities. I propose to cite figures to show that we have failed not only our own people, but also those of the United Kingdom. Moreover, we are in process of letting down the Government of the United States of America, that is important. We have failed because the Government has not realized that food is of the first importance as a munition of war. Without it we can neither work nor fight. Moreover, serious food shortages encourage black marketing and generally tend to lower national morale. In addition, if we fail to meet our commitments to our friends, we shall seriously prejudice their war effort besides damaging our prestige in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. While the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tells us that there is plenty of stock in Australia, beef is already being rationed in Sydney by G6$ per cent., and in Melbourne by 75 per cent. Yet the Minister has the audacity to tell the people of this country that there is no shortage. Additional supplies of mutton on the market are serving for the time being as a substitute for beef; nevertheless, there is an overall reduction of 25 per cent, of supplies of meat in this country to consumers, and neither bacon nor pork is on the market. Australians will accept whatever rationing is necessary in order that we may perform our obligations to our Allies and the fighting services, but we find that, despite rationing in Australia, we are still not sending any appreciable quantity of food abroad.
– That is distinctly incorrect.
– I have figures showing that it is absolutely correct. I challenge the Minister to rebut them if he can and to tell his story to the members of the British Food Mission, who are compelled to send refrigerated ships back empty because there is no cargo for them. Despite rationing, we are still not sending any appreciable quantity of food abroad, and, under present conditions, we are unlikely to do so. The time has therefore arrived when this House, on behalf of the nation, should offer constructive criticism with a view to correcting this deplorable position.
– From what source did the honorable gentleman obtain his information 1
– Eighteen months ago, when I made a similar motion in this House the Minister for War Organization of Industry asked what proof I had that there was any shortage or that there was likely to be a shortage of food in this country. He is still administering the Department of War Organization of Industry, but his interjections prove that he is not fit to do so. The figures tell how we have failed the United Kingdom in respect of . meat and butter. I challenge the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to contradict them. In 1940-41, we exported 61,000 tons of beef. In the last twelve months our exports amounted to only 15,000 tons, practically all of which went to the Middle East and none to the table of the British working man, whose meat ration is ls. worth, about, two chops, a week. In 1940-41, we exported 32,000 tons of pork and bacon. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say how much pork and bacon we are exporting to-day? I shall tell him. Last year, instead of 32,000 tons of pork and bacon, we exported 5,000 tons, practically all of which went to the Middle East and none to the hard-pressed British housewife. The Minister will probably say, as he has said on previous occasions, that the trouble is lack of shipping. My reply to that is that ships are leaving Australia with empty refrigerator space because there is no beef, butter or eggs to send in them. Vessels are carrying wheat - wheat which Great Britain can easily get elsewhere. But it cannot get butter, meat and eggs elsewhere. I invite the Minister to tell that story to the members of the British Food Mission.
– They are quite satisfied with the position.
– They may tell the Minister that, but that is not what they are telling their own people. If the Minister is quite satisfied with the position, he is the only one who is, because nobody else in this country is satisfied.
– The people were satisfied at the general elections.
– The “Sausage King” nearly put the honorable member out.
– I won by 15,000 votes. Eighteen months ago, during the debate on a similar motion, the Minister for Supply and Shipping said - his remarks are recorded in Hansard - that our job was to look after .the people of Australia.
– Is it not?
– Yes, it is; but we also have the obligation to look after the people of Great Britain and the United States of America. In July and August this year, the butter production was the least for many years, being 12,471 tons. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is trying to rebut my statements by interjections, but I suggest that a better opportunity would be when he replies. I am bringing these matters forward seriously, because it must be realized by every one concerned that the food situation is bad. I am endeavouring to offer constructive suggestions as to the remedies that might be applied. First, I have to demonstrate that we have shown and are showing a deficiency of production which somehow must be overcome. The production of butter in July and August this year was lower than it has been for many years. It amounted to 12,471 tons, as against 19,092 tons in July and August last year. It dropped- by 34 per cent, in July and 66 per cent, in August.
– ‘That was because of seasonal conditions.
– The honorable member told me that last year and he can continue saying it.
– It is correct.
– It is only partially correct. Seasonal conditions are partially responsible, but not wholly. In the same two months we consumed in Australia 13,295 tons. We produced only 12,471 tons. In other words, we consumed 824 tons more than we produced.
– ‘How did we manage to do that?
– By dipping into the reserves that should have been sent to Great Britain. Winter production is normally low, but never has it been so low as in this year. Our surplus for export is made -up in the months from September to March, but according to the Minister for the Army only 2,000 men a month are to be released from the Army for industrial purposes. Practically no help will be .afforded to the farmers during the period of the year when it is most needed. If the Government gave only a little study to the production and consumption of butter from the outbreak of war to the present time, it might not be so complacent about the future of the food position, more particularly as it relates to dairy products, about which I know something, for dairying is the principal industry in my constituency. We produced 188,000 tons of butter in the first year of war and consumed 82,000 tons. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to note these figures, not as criticisms but as being of important interest. We produced 188,000 tons and consumed 82,000 tons, leaving a balance of 106,000 tons for export. In the year ended the 30th June last we produced 349,000 tons, but we increased our consumption to 98,000 tons. Whilst production has fallen by 20 per cent., consumption in Australia has increased by 20 per cent., leaving a difference between the two extremes of 40 per cent.
– We are now feeding many more people in Australia than we did a few years ago.
– I am not disputing that fact; but we must increase our production in order to feed the Australian population and the Allied troops here, and supply a reasonable quota to Great Britain. We have solved the problem of feeding our people largely by decreasing supplies normally exported to Great Britain.
– We are starving the British.
– Yes, we are taking butter out of the British larder.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Balaclava is indecent.
– As the honorable member for Balaclava has just returned from Great Britain, he is better qualified to express an opinion than is the well-fed Minister for War Organization of Industry.
– We had 2 oz. of butter a week in England.
– The drift in the dairying industry continues, and it is useless for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to assure the country that the Government has the whole matter well in hand. The truth is that the Government has clone nothing of a substantial and constructive nature to assist farmers to overcome their problems of man-power. Nor do the pronouncements of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde’ lend any encouragement to the idea that remedial action will be taken. The release of 20,000 men from the Army at the rate of 2,000 a month is merely tinkering at the problem. Farming work reaches its peak in the spring and summer, and in those seasons farmers are usually desperately in need of labour. The dairying industry, in particular, utilizes the period September to March to build up reserves for the winter months, and create a surplus for export. Is not the Government acquainted with this fact? Does it not realize that the season is already late spring, or even the beginning of summer ? Yet of the small number of men that the Government proposes to release in dribs and drabs, a big proportion will not return to the farms until the period in which their services would have been most useful has passed. Farmers want labour urgently now.
– Soldiers are also required now.
– Later, I shall tell the Minister where soldiers are not needed. Figures issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician reveal that the total number of male employees in rural industries decreased from approximately 200,000 before the outbreak of war to 120,000 in March, 1943, a loss of 80,000. In addition, farm owners, lessees, and unpaid male relatives working on farms decreased from 300,000 to 240,000, a loss of 60,000. The combined loss of males from farms is 140,000. Although, in the same period, the number of female workers has increased from 20,000 to 60,000, they cannot be expected materially to offset such a loss of males. More alarming still are the figures issued by the Government Statistician in New South Wales in his report dated the 6th August, 1943. He showed that the drift from, the land was continuing and that, in New South Wales alone, the number of permanent male workers on rural holdings had decreased from 105,123 in March, 1942, to 97,903 in March, 1943. Applying the same proportion of loss in the other States, the position is that in the last twelve months, despite exemptions from military call-up of those engaged in rural industry, there has been a drift of 15,000 permanent male employees from the land. In addition, for the year ended March, 1943, almost 5,000 owners, lessees and share-farmers left their holdings either unoccupied or in the care of other persons. Whilst many of them doubtless left for more remunerative employment, others quitted their farms because they found it impossible to carry on through lack of labour. [Extension of time granted.] The release of 20,000 men from the Army at the rate of 2,000 a month will not rectify the position. As I have shown, 140,000 men have already left the land and between 15,000 and 20,000 are still leaving it annually, whilst at the same time demands upon Australia to supply food are greater than they have ever been. A glance at the figures reveals the absurdity of the position, which must become progressively worse. Let us end this policy, in respect of food production, of “ too little, too late”. The short-sighted policy of looking not more than a m’onth or two ahead must be replaced immediately with long-sighted vision. The foundation should immediately be laid to meet our commitments in food for several years of war. We should also be prepared to take our share of the responsibility to feed the starving millions of Europe and Asia for many years after the war. I ask the Government not to treat this problem as one of party politics. The Opposition earnestly desires to assist, but the Food Controller and the Government will achieve nothing unless they make available to the farmers man-power and materials. If this opportunity be not taken, conditions will worsen appreciably during the next twelve months.
– The purpose of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in moving the adjournment of the House is doubtless to embarrass the Government, but, to be perfectly truthful, I thank him for the excellent opportunity he has afforded me to review the position on the food front, to indicate what the Government has done to remove the obstacles to production and restore man-power, and to inform honorable members of what is required of a rural community. Nothing has occurred recently to suggest a serious decline of production since this Government took office, and I emphasize that no government of an Allied country is more alive to its obligations than is the Commonwealth Government. We know what Australia is expected to do. We know the contribution that we not only have to make but have contracted to make to the Allied Nations’ war effort. We know, too, that if we fail, or fall down on any part of our commitments, the rate of the offensive in the Pacific and, to a lesser degree, in Europe, will be slowed up.
The honorable member who submitted this motion is not qualified to make an authoritative statement on the subject.
– The Minister is reading his speech. I rise to order and ask whether the honorable gentleman is entitled to read a prepared speech, for it appears to me that he is doing so.
– The honorable gentleman may be in a position to say whether the Minister is reading or not, but there is a proper way for him to take a. point of order; he should address his question to the Chair For many years, it has been the custom to read speeches in this House and the honorable gentleman himself has taken advantage, of it” on occasions. The Minister is making a reply, but whether he is reading his speech or not I cannot say; he may.be reading lengthy notes or he may be reading a written speech. So far as I can see, the Minister is quite in order.
– I rise to order. You, sir, have referred to the practice of allowing members to read speeches, but that has been when they have been making factual Observations on important statements of government policy. On this occasion, the Minister is replying to a statement that has just been made on a special motion for the adjournment of the House. It would not have been humanly possible for the Minister to prepare a written statement in reply to the observations of the mover.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) read his speech.
– Oh, no.
– I have ruled that the Minister is in order.
– The honorable member for Richmond has intervened at a. time when the Government has just announced that it has arranged for the release of men to return to permanent work on farms, in order to stimulate food production. The honorable- member does not know the facts of the situation. These are known only .to the G°~vernment, which, for security reasons, CannOt make the full facts known. We are on the eve of an appeal to producers to accept the opportunity which, is now offered to them to re-employ labour so as to increase their production in the interests of Australia, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the Allied Nations generally. One might assume from the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond-
– I rise to order. I wish to know whether the Minister is entitled to read his speech.
– I have already ruled that the Minister is in order.
– Then Rafferty is in the chair.
– Order ! I call upon the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to withdraw that remark and apologize.
Mi1. Archie Cameron. - I shall not.
– Then I name the” honorable member for Barker and ask the Deputy Prime Minister to take the appropriate action. .
– You knowperfectly well it is not in order for an honorable member to read his speech.
– No honorable member knows the forms of the House better than does the honorable member for Barker. He is well aware that honorable members must show respect for the rulings of the Chair. I, therefore, ask him to conform to the custom of the House by withdrawing and apologizing.
– The position is-
– Order ! The position is that I have asked the honorable member to withdraw and apologize.
– And I am not going to do so.
– I rise to a point of order. Is not the honorable member for Barker entitled to explain-
– I had hoped that the honorable member for Barker would withdraw and apologize, and not defy the Chair. As he has not bowed to the request from the Chair, I have no alternative but to move -
That the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) be suspended from the service of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Barker thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give me your interpretation of Standing Order No. 256, which reads -
A member shall not read hie speech.
Unless my eyesight has failed me completely, the Minister is reading his speech. As you have said, sir, it has been the custom for many years past for Ministers to read their speeches on occasions, and I agree with that practice when a Minister is making a motion in the House, but I do not concede .that it has been the practice of this House for a Minister, in replying to a motion for the adjournment, to read a speech which has been prepared before he has had the opportunity to hear the mover. With due respect to your ruling, sir, I submit that the House is entitled to be given the views of the Minister himself and of no one else when he is speaking in reply to a. motion of this description.
– I have already ruled that the Minister is in order. I am aware of the provisions of the standing order cited by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and I am also aware that in the past it has been observed more in the breach than in the observance. I take it that the Minister is reading from his notes. I have no evidence that the honorable gentleman is reading a prepared speech. The onus of proving that he is doing so rests on an honorable member who takes the point. I ask the Minister to proceed with his speech.
– The honorable member for Richmond was kind enough yesterday to give the Prime Minister the substance of his motion, and the Prime Minister, asked me to reply on behalf of the Government.
– And some one else was kind enough to provide the Minister with material to do so.
– It might be assumed from the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond that Australia was playing a lone hand in relation to food production, and was not at one with the United Kingdom and the American service authorities. In fact, the position is exactly the opposite. We have a food control organization which is dealing with every phase of the production and distribution of food. In the sphere of agricultural production, our controlling authorities are working in close contact with the State Departments of Agriculture. These authorities are working out plans for an increase of agricultural production to meet constantly increasing demands. “Within the food control organization is a strong and competent division dealing with the technical, managerial and administrative aspects of food manufacture, canning and packing. We have a comprehensive organization for the control of major commodities, as well as a powerful and widespread service supplies organization which is engaged in obtaining all classes of foodstuffs for the service personnel of Australia, the United Kingdom, and our other Allies.
– I ask leave to incorporate the matter in Hansard.
– Order ! If the honorable member interjects, he too will be dealt with.
– Of fundamental importance to success in the organization of food supplies on a huge scale under war conditions is the proper organization of agricultural production. The honorable member’s observations may be regarded as an implied reflection, not only on the Government, but also on the farmers themselves. This is a most unjust reflection upon a body of Australians who have performed magnificent services for their country under tremendous difficulties.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister entitled to read from a statement that was prepared before I had spoken, in reply to what he assumed I would say?
– I listened very carefully to the honorable gentleman. He said quite a lot of things that were written before he mentioned them.
– That is not my point of order.
– I have ruled that the Minister is quite in order.
– My point is that, reading from prepared matter, the Minister has alleged that, in submitting the motion, I made certain statements. His statement must have been prepared before I made my speech. If this practice is to be permitted, the object of parliamentary debate will be defeated.
– The Minister may proceed.
– Strange as it may appear to the honorable gentleman, the farmers of Australia have shown a remarkable understanding of the difficulties with which the Government has been faced in trying to keep them supplied with minimum requirements so as to enable them to maintain production.
When the present Government took office, the effect of the movement of rural man-power had become very pronounced. To-day, it is clear that the greatest loss suffered by the Australian farming community under war conditions has been loss ‘ of man-power ; and the war in the Pacific, and the imminence of invasion, are the keys to the rural man-power situation. This Government had scarcely settled down to its vital war job before the Japanese flood of might was threatening Australia. Sudden enemy victories meant sudden decisions by the Com-‘ monwealth. The previously defined methods of calling up men for the services was followed by the Curtin Government. These circumstances do not call for apology.’ When this country was in dire peril, men flocked to the colours, or were called up, from farm and factory, from town and country. We had to prepare to meet the threat of invasion. It is not an exaggeration to say that the invasion might well have happened had we not been prepared to repel it, well aided and supported as we were by Great Britain and our Allies. Again I affirm that the calling of men to the .colours needs neither defence nor apology. No well-informed Australian, certainly no member of this Parliament, should question this action, taken in the hour of greatest peril in Australia’s history. Similarly, we have no apology to make for having temporarily diverted agricultural implement works and other suitable machinery factories to the production of munitions.
But the complete picture did not come into focus until the first contingent of American troops arrived in this country. Australia’s first commitment to the American forces was sudden and unexpected. We were required to supply 10,000 tons of processed food to the American forces fighting in the Philippines. Australia now has food obligations to every American serviceman in the South- West Pacific, and is also supplementing food supplies in the
South Pacific to the degree that they cannot be met by New Zealand. As I said earlier, no country is more alive to its obligations than is Australia. May I add that Australia has not permitted one Australian or Allied serviceman to go hungry? It has fed them and kept them healthy. It must be realized that when civilian supplies of some foodstuffs have been short the deficiency was the result of food being sent to the men in the front line and the forward areas of battle. The huge job Australia has to do on the food front can readily be realized. The Treasurer, in presenting the budget, made these remarks : -
Despite the fact that 30 per cent, of men formerly working on farms have joined the forces or entered other work, production of some foodstuffs has been maintained at satisfactory levels, and in some cases increased beyond pre-war averages. Having regard to other impediments as well as the general transport and man-power stringency, this has been a great achievement.
Soon after Australia undertook the tremendous task of feeding the American forces in this country and in the other regions of the South-West Pacific, and of victualling the ships - warship and mercantile marine - that berthed in Australian ports, the Government applied a blanket exemption to the call-up of rural man-power. That was almost eighteen months ago.
Obviously, as I have said, it is entirely erroneous to jump to the conclusion that Australia’s production of food as a whole has declined during the war. The extraordinary thing is that, despite the decline of man-power, the loss of fertilizers, and the temporary diversion of agricultural implement factories to the production of munitions, food production has been maintained and, on the whole, increased. The dairying industry alone has lost production. This industry has suffered severely from the loss of man-power and the decline in the supply of fertilizers. It is the industry to which we must now look for the greatest increase of production. But I still maintain that what has been done by the dairy-farmers is remarkable.
The meat industry has an annual production of about 1,000,000 tons of carcass meat of all kinds. This volume of production has been well maintained, and we are now planning for a substantial increase. The Australian civil population is consuming more meat than ever before. We are straining every nerve to maintain the volume of supplies to the United Kingdom, so that the Mother Country may maintain the very meagre ration of ls. 2d. worth of meat a week. In addition to these obligations, we have successfully fed very large numbers of Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as large and growing numbers of Allied forces. The honorable member for Richmond has said that Australia’s beef exports have fallen. That is true, and it is because of the hugely increased demands imposed on our beef resources. He has not said that the increase of our mutton and lamb exports has been two and a half times greater than the reduction of beef exports. Beef exports declined by 9,400 tens. Mutton and lamb exports rose in the same period by 23,000 tons. The total exports have increased similarly. We are exporting both canned and dehydrated meat on a greater scale than ever before. For 1942, the canned meat supplied to Great Britain and the services totalled 60,000 tons. This year the estimate is 78,000 tons, and a much greater increase is planned for next year.
For security reasons, it is not possible to state publicly the sum total of our obligations to the Australian civil population, the United Kingdom civil population, the British War Office and Admiralty, and all the Australian and Allied forces based on this country. The honorable member for Richmond, and honorable members generally, know sufficient about the number of service personnel involved to imbue in them a greater sense of responsibility than he has displayed in his treatment of this subject. I say without fear of contradiction that nothing but commendation is due to those who have been responsible for the production, manufacture and processing of meat, its control and distribution in various forms for numerous essential purposes.
I now make brief mention of vegetable production. We are called upon at the present time to produce almost double the quantities of vegetables which we produced in peace-time. Furthermore, we are called upon to make these vegetables available for service consumption in fresh, canned or dehydrated form, according to the locality in which they are to bc consumed. That explains the reason for the growing mechanization ,of the industry. In spite of the way in which he has dealt with the subject, I believe the honorable member to be a man of normal intelligence, and he must know, as he reads the accounts of the food difficulties of other countries, that Australia may well be proud of its performances.
Let me now examine the charge that the Government has failed to provide for the essential machinery requirements of farmers. Prior to control of farm machinery’ being set up, the supply of necessary equipment was daily shrinking because most manufacturers were engaged in the manufacture of munitions and allied equipment. Earlier this year, a nation-wide survey of machinery stocks and estimated requirements was made by my department to ascertain what steps would need to be taken to supply fully machinery requirements in order to meet food production goals. No fewer than 637 orders for agricultural machinery have since been directed to 160 separate manufacturers through the OrdnanceProduction Director of the Ministry of Munitions. Since the Ministry of Munitions took over the direction of manufacture of farm machines, factories have been geared to their maximum capacity. This will ensure the mechanization of those branches of agriculture which are being relied upon to provide essential foodstuffs. (Extension of time granted.’]
An indication of the tremendous task which faced the Government, and the Ministry of Munitions in particular, may be gauged by the following orders, which constitute only a part of the production programme now being proceeded with -
In all, the staggering total” of 243,044 separate items is covered by manufacturing orders issued by my department.
Since the inception of the control of distribution of certain lines, no fewer than 5,300 purchase permits have been issued by State control authorities covering the delivery of irrigation outfits, cream separators, milking machines, stationary engines, orchard sprays, windmills, tractors, shearing machines and rotary hoes.
Australia has never been a large-scale producer of vegetables, and has relied on back-yard growers and market gardeners for these supplies. Early in the Government’s production .programme, it was realized that if large-scale production was to be achieved it would be necessary to mechanize the vegetable-growing industry, and to import some kinds of farm machinery which had never been manufactured in this country. As a result, garden tractors, bean cutters, multi-row cultivators and seeders, special seed threshers, and other specialized equipment was brought from the United States of America. This was done, with all possible speed, and to-day many thousands of acres are being worked with this machinery. Several large machinery pools have been set up at selected centres, thus enabling growers to avail themselves of the latest kinds of labour-saving implements. The Government of New South Wales has also established a number of co-operative machinery pools, which are assisting in the seeding of large areas to essential crops. Owing to the helpful co-operation of Australian manufacturers, it is hoped that the necessity for importing machines - other than .tractors and cream separators from the United States of America - will diminish. Today, most of the newer types of equipment are being produced in Australia.
As the motion specifically refers to engines, I point out that orders have been placed * with local manufacturers for the production of 5,100 engines of suitable horse-power for the driving of milking machines, shearing machines, spraying outfits, &c. These engines are now coming from the production lines. What is relatively more important is that, during the last three months, 1,200 engines have been released to agriculturists in all States. Local plants are being expanded to meet -orders, but, naturally, this is a slow process, as time is required to “ tool up “ in order to achieve the necessary production. Arrangements have also been made for the manufacture of 2,000 five horse-power rotary hoes, and 250 DH.22 tractors and hoes, and for the provision of spare parts for existing machines. It is expected that all outstanding orders for spare parts for rotary hoes will be supplied by the end of December. This will be achieved without interference with the production schedule for new machines.
Attention has also been given to the need for labour-saving equipment for the potato industry. Prior to the war, mechanical potato-diggers were a rarity in Australia, but, due to the man-power position, and the need to provide for greatly increased areas of potatoes, arrangements have been made for the manufacture of 300 of these machines locally, and the importation of a number from the United States of America under lend-lease.
It is impossible to tell the full story, because there is not sufficient time, but I point to one other important development. Machines and attachments to handle the navy bean, pea and vegetable seed crops have been developed, and proved most satisfactory during the past season. Arrangements have now been made to increase their manufacture, so that the greater part of these crops can be mechanically harvested during the coming season.
Publicity has already been given to the action taken by the Government to secure the return of labour for work on food-producing farms. Apparently the honorable member chooses to ignore or misrepresent that action, and to minimize its importance. The Government gave the most careful consideration to this matter, and took its decisions deliberately, and . in the light of knowledge which only the Government can possess. Does the honorable member for Richmond consider that the Government should withdraw larger numbers of men from the Army and other places than it contemplates doing? If so, how far would he go? Would he imperil’ the effectiveness of the Army as a fighting force? Or would he criticize the action we have taken, no matter what that action was, simply for the sake of criticism and misrepresentation ? I fear that the answer to this last question must be in the affirmative.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister asked whether T would criticize the action of the Government simply for the sake of criticism and misrepresentation, and said that the answer to that question must be in the affirmative. I regard that as offensive.
– I listened very carefully to the speech, and I do not regard anything that was said as offensive.
– I ask that it be read again.
– I was listening attentively to the speech which the Minister was reading, and I have a clear recollection of his saying that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had misrepresented the position to the House. According to the forms of the House that statement ought to be regarded as offensive.
– To say that the h on.orable gentleman misrepresents the position is not, to my way of thinking, offensive. Consequently, I have ruled that he is quite in order.
– The Government has decided to give urgent priority to the food-producing industries in arranging releases of men, and will expedite releases up to a total of 15,000 men for return as permanent labour to the farms. It has decided to increase the size of the Army seasonal workers’ rural pool to 10,000 men; to arrange the transfer of 5,000, and the requisite number of women, for work in food factories; to organize the fuller utilization of prisoners of war and civilian internees for farm work; to secure, if possible, an increase of the number of ships on the coast so as to ease the inland transport problem, thus facilitating the movement of fodders, stock, and human food; and to investigate industrial and employment conditions in food factories, with the object of removing any impediments to their full and continuous operation. This, I submit, is a comprehensive policy which will step up production and enable the farmers to exert every effort to attain the high production goals set for them.
Because the dairying industry has suffered severely from the loss of manpower, and is now called upon to make spectacular advances in production, preference is being given to that industry in the release of labour. “We hope to place back on dairy farms, as quickly as possible, 10,000 or 11,000 nominated men. This preference to the dairying industry for the return of nominated men is also sound from another point of view. The industry is largely a family one, and even employees live on close terms with the farmer and his family. The great need of the industry, therefore, is for the return of men who previously worked on the farms, or whom the farmers know and are prepared to employ. The manpower authorities, and the Departments of Agriculture in all States, have been fully informed as to the procedure to be followed by farmers in applying for the release of nominated men. Releases will be arranged as quickly as the administrative arrangements can be made, subject to the preservation of proper strategical dispositions, and the maintenance of essential technical Army units, and necessary munitions production.
To put it briefly, the necessary policy decisions have been taken to set the course for a great upward movement in dairy production -
First, a large body of nominated labour will be returned for permanent work on farms, and additional seasonal workers will be available.
Second, a big improvement is already under way in regard to the provision of engines, implements, and machinery.
Third, greatly increased supplies of mill offals are available as animal feedstuff s; the labour to be returned to the farms will be able to assist in a large increase of the production of fodder on the farms and this, with the mill offals, will enable farmers to maintain a balanced ration for their milking herds for a full lactation period.
Fourth, everything possible is being done to improve the position in regard to inland transport, so that farmers’ requirements of materials, fodders, &c, can be carried to them without delay.
I think I may say that the Government’s programme for assisting the dairying industry to increase production is comprehensive. The task ahead of the industry is colossal. The demands for all classes of dairy products for citizens of the United Kingdom, for Empire and Allied fighting forces, and for our own people, call for a total milk production of more than 1,300,000,000 gallons throughout Australia. Without the fullest use of all means of increasing production we shall not reach that goal.
I am sure that the dairyfarmers of Australia will continue their heroic efforts, helped and encouraged by full Government co-operation. I now appeal to each dairyfarmer in Australia to do everything he can to step up the production of his herd to a volume equal to his previous record production. If all dairyfarmers got near to that objective, Australia as a whole would reach the very high goal to which I have referred. The paramount importance of securing the production of every gallon of milk that is possible impels me to ask all honorable members representing dairying constituencies to co-operate with me in maintaining the enthusiasm of dairyfarmers and keeping before them the national character of their task. I undertake to keep all interested honorable members fully in touch with the progress of the Government’s efforts, and to inform them of the character of the difficulties which, from time to time, prevent us from meeting all the requirements of the industry in labour, implements, machinery, materials and feedstuffs.
.- In supporting the motion of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I congratulate him on the temperate and moderate way in which he presented the problems of the primary producers to the House. The points he made were unanswered. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), instead of trying to answer the case presented by the honorable member, took what he thought was an opportunity to read to the House a statement of the policy of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The record of that department, ever since this
Government took office, has been one of chaotic handling of food production. The bungling and muddling that have characterized its operations have gone from bad to worse. The Government, the Minister and the department have failed to get to the kernel of the problem. Production seems to be ignored. The policy imposed on the department by the Government is one of seizing the produce of primary producers all over Australia for apportionment between the armed forces and the civil community ; but that is not the way in which the problem should be handled. Production is continuing to decline and, accordingly, there will be no solution unless the farmers are assisted to produce food. They are willing and anxious to do all they can to help to feed Australia, Great Britain, and our Allies in this war and, faced by untold difficulties, they have done a wonderful job of work; but, if they are to improve their output, the things which the farmers are pleading for must be given to them now, not in the dim, distant future. If you, Mr. Speaker, were to look, as I have done, at the correspondence received by myself and other honorable members representing rural constituencies, you would find that the farmers need one hundred and one things, in addition to labour, none of which is forthcoming. A few of the things they want are barbed and plain wire, wire netting, farming machinery and parts, milking machinery and motors, irrigating plant and piping, tires and spare parts. The Minister, in a long list of promises, said something about 5,000, 6,000 or 10,000 milking machines that are coming. Where are they? Not one honorable member on this side knows where they are.
– I have one.
– The honorable gentleman is one of the favoured few. I ask. the Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture how many of these machines are available and when were they first released? Does he know? I do not.
– The honorable member does not know everything.
– I do know that these machines are urgently sought and have not been forthcoming. The Minister would have been better employed in replying to the points made by the honorable member for Richmond than in reading to honorable members promises for the distant future. I contrast the position in Australia to-day with that in Great Britain. Great Britain now produces 70 per cent, more dairy produce than it did in 1938. It is also producing more food of all descriptions, notwithstanding the extraordinary difficulties created by the necessity to use from the limited land available all level, welldrained country for aerodromes and other military, purposes. Fens and bogs which hitherto fed only wild fowl were drained and are now carrying dairy herds in everincreasing numbers. Britain’s achievements are a reflection on the administration in this country. The Minister for Food in the United Kingdom, Lord Woolton, declared that the British farmers, by producing record quantities of food, had saved the country from defeat. Before the war, Great Britain imported annually 8,000,000 tons of fodder for stock, but during the last four years has succeeded in producing sufficient fodder to meet its requirements. Is Australia in a similar position? It is not. And we have no reserves. The Government was warned of this again and again by the Rural Industries- Committee. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been warned of the danger, but the position continues to worsen. Because our primary producers have not been shown reasonable consideration, our production is declining. It i3 useless for the Government to ignore the observations of the honorable member for Richmond by referring to what will happen in the distant future.
Primary producers have been suffering patiently for too long. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour the Curtin Government of the Commonwealth became affected with panic. Regardless of the food position, and the already heavy voluntary enlistments, rural workers were called up for military service, and they are now scattered throughout the country in the forces and in one hundred and one activities. To make up the deficiency in the loss of personnel from, rural industries the Minister for the Army now proposes to release from military service 20,000 men at the rate of 2,000 a month, br.’. i.e. neither the number nor the rate of release will be adequate. Statistics show that persons engaged in rural industries in New South Wales during the twelve months ended March, 1943, declined from 105,123 to 97,903, a loss of 7,220. If that proportion of loss be applied to all States the decrease of permanent rural workers in that period was 20,000. The proposal of the Minister for the Army will only compensate for the annual wastage of permanent workers. The honorable gentleman does not know how to grapple with the problem. Unless experienced men are restored to the primary industries production cannot possibly be increased. Honorable members made many representations to service Ministers for the purpose of securing the release of, perhaps, the only son of aged parents who are trying to carry on the farm in his absence, but almost every application has been rejected.
– That is not correct.
– The man-power authorities and the inspectors have, in many instances, recommended the release of these young men, but the service Minister invariably replies that the application cannot, be granted. The position is most unsatisfactory. On the flimsiest of excuses, some men are released from the Army, but genuine applications for the release of rural workers are not entertained. Because of their inability to obtain assistance, hundreds of primary producers have been forced to leave their holdings. In New South Wales alone, 5,000 farms have gone out of production during the last twelve months. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture referred to the production of fruit and vegetables. Supplies were never scarcer than they are to-day, and the price was never higher. The explanation is lack of man-power to work the properties and shortage of fertilizers and supplies. Even potatoes are unprocurable.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.’
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has criticized my failure to bring about an unqualified restoration of man-power to the primary industries of Australia. Such a statement is extravagant and does a great disservice to Australia by misleading the public, and thus undermining the morale of the people at a time when every one is experiencing hardship and difficulty. To do what the honorable member suggests and what was suggested by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) when he said, “Release 200,000 from the Army “, would so undermine the efficiency of the Australian Army that we would be obliged to pull out of the war. Honorable members cannot expect that primary producers could carry on without labour difficulties any more than could the secondary industries. The Army too must have sufficient man-power to provide the necessary reinforcements for those many divisions of brave men who are fighting in New Guinea and who are falling every day from sickness and wounds. With the prevailing man-power shortage, it is only with great difficulty that reinforcements can be kept up. Honorable members must be realistic. They should not exploit for party political purposes the difficulties of primary producers. Propaganda demanding an unqualified restoration of man-power to primary industries is similar to a speech which I heard from Tokyo. The speaker declared, “ Australian farmers, your Government is letting you down. You are dying on your farms, although the Government could release men to help you “. I did not expect to hear that kind of propaganda in this Parliament.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Moreton are quite oblivious of the demands of the fighting services. I remind them that the Curtin Government grappled with the man-power problem in a comprehensive manner that preceding governments never attempted. For some time a natural drift occurred from the primary industries to- the fighting services and to the munitions factories. The war had been in progress for two years before the Curtin Government took office, and during that period young men from dairy-farms, wheat-farms and the-pa.stora industry enlisted in great numbers in the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Austalian
Air Force, or entered more lucrative employment in munitions establishments. The Menzies and Fadden Governments did nothing to check that unrestricted flow of young men from primary to secondary industries.
– What is the value of post-mortems now?
– These facts should be placed on record to remind honorable gentlemen opposite of their neglect. Realizing the importance of the food front, the Curtin Government, in May, 1942, ordered a “ blanket “ exemption from call-up for military service of employees in essential primary industries. The. Government decided that definite steps had to be taken to safeguard what appears to be almost inevitable in wartime. Some honorable members opposite have criticized me, as Minister for the Army, for having failed to release, thousands of men from the service so that they might return to primary production. A service Minister would be foolish indeed if, haphazardly, and regardless of the advice* of General MacArthur, General Blarney and the chiefs-of-staff on our commitments in the battle areas, he released thousands of troops. We are engaged in a deadly war. For many months it looked as if this country would be overrun by the Japanese at any time. Fortunately, the position has improved. Was it not better for us to keep our men reinforced so that they could fight on the fringe of islands to the north of Australia than to withdraw thousands of men from the Army, thus endangering the safety of Australia and probably forcing us to wage the war on the dairy-farms round Lismore and Murwillumbah, or about Ipswich and in other places in the Moreton electorate? Our gallant men were prepared to fight to the bitter end in New Guinea, and it surely will be agreed that we were in honour bound to keep reinforcements up to them. To suggest that thousands of men can be withdrawn haphazardly from the fighting forces in order to engage in food production is to take an entirely unrealistic view of the position. The honorable member for Moreton said that there was no reason why we should not release many thousands of men from the Army to return to work on the farms. I point out that up to 30,000 men were released temporarily during the last twelve months. At the 6th October, .the number of soldiers on leave from the Army without pay, in order to engage in various occupational pursuits, was 2,774. A large proportion of these men are engaged in primary production. The total number of discharges on occupational grounds for the six months ended the 30th September was 4,041. The total number of discharges for other reasons, such as compassionate grounds, hardship, and medical condition, was 18,426. Thousands of- these men have gone into rural industries. The Curtin Government has also wisely established a mobile force of 5,000 young men under the age of nineteen years which can be moved wherever men are required to assist in primary industries and on the food front generally. That procedure required a great deal of careful organization. I do not suggest that these young men can do the work of experienced adults, but they can render substantial aid on the food front. Only a fool or a knave would say in Parliament or elsewhere that it would be possible for a nation engaged in an all-in war effort to avoid serious man-power difficulties. Our difficulties have been accentuated because the nation had not been geared earlier to an all-in war effort. Because of that fact, Australia drifted to the very edge of the precipice of disaster. It must be agreed that when the Curtin Government called upon the people to do everything necessary to bring the nation up to a maximum war footing they responded magnificently. The diatribe that we have listened to this afternoon to the effect that the Curtin Government has let Australia down received a fitting reply from the people at the recent general elections for the people spoke in unmistakable endorsement of the Curtin Government’s programme.
War Cabinet has just made a comprehensive and exhaustive review of the manpower position. It has taken into account the full nature and extent of our war effort and has agreed to measures which will balance the position, having regard to our man-power needs. It must be agreed that a very difficult problem had to be faced. No easy solution could be found. The people of Great Britain, Canada. the United States of America and New Zealand have experienced similar difficulties. To pull thousands of men out of the fighting services in order to placate people here and there who needed an additional two or twenty men would, undoubtedly, have let down our gallant men of the fighting services, and it would have been a retrograde and dishonorable step. The Commander-in-Chief was present at the discussions of War Cabinet on this subject. The Government, in reaching its decisions, took into account the report of the War Commitments Committee and also the views of the Chief of the General Staff. A considerable amount of time was devoted to the problem. [Extension of time granted.] The War Commitments Committee includes representatives of the fighting services and also the Director-General of Man Power and other officials who are competent to deal with the issues at stake. The Government reviewed all” the needs of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and the strength of the forces to be maintained overseas. It also had regard to munitions production, the works programmes of the Australian services and the American forces, and the Australian food production programme. The report was not hurriedly drafted, and it paid full regard to the views of General Sir Thomas Blarney, Chief of Staff of the Allied Land Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, and also the appropriate authorities of the Navy and the Air Force. Having reviewed the man-power basis of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force it was decided that not more than 20,000 men should be withdrawn from the Army for civil industry over and above normal casualty discharges for the ten months ended October, 1943. The requirements of industry up to June, 1944, are to be provided also by the withdrawal of 20,000 men from the munitions industries, the routine discharge of 30,000 from the services, and the diversion of 30,000 additional women to war production. Routine discharges from the services are expected to total 40,000, of whom it is calculated that 30,000 will be fit for work. The Curtin Government has faced the position with enthusiasm and with a complete know- ledge of the needs of the situation in relation to both the fighting services and the food production front. We also arranged for the employment in suitable areas of all the available Italian prisoners of war in order to assist primary producers. We could not hope to escape man-power difficulties in view of the fact that we are engaged in an all-in war effort. The people of Australia showed by their overwhelming verdict in favour of the Curtin Government that they are not likely to be misled or fooled by party political huckstering of the kind that we have experienced this afternoon.
.- A most terrifying feature of the food position of Australia has been that the Government seemed to be absolutely blind and deaf to the needs of the position. It was entirely complacent and, through various channels, had indicated to the people that in its opinion everything would be all right. But the diatribe of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) this afternoon clearly indicated his intention to try to make political capital out of the position rather than to correct it. Undoubtedly there is a need in Australia for a much more intensive food production programme if we are to provide food for the service personnel of Australia and the Allied Nations and our civilian population during the remainder of the war period, to say nothing of the more urgent need that will arise to feed the starving people of the world immediately the war ceases. Unfortunately in consequence of government policy, food production has declined, and the food consumption has increased, in Australia recently. The miserable attitude of this Government seems to be that everything will be all right so long as we can feed our own people and get other people to fight for us on the battle fronts. Our men, we are told, must not go beyond the area in which they are now engaged. The British people may starve so long as our stomachs are full. Let us examine the figures in relation to Australian production.
– I rise to order. I submit that the statement of the right honorable gentleman - that this Government is starving Great Britain - is offensive, and should he withdrawn.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Mulcahy). - The statement must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the statement; but I shall prove the accuracy of it by the figures that I shall give in relation to the Australian consumption of meat and butter. From 1939-40 to 1942-43 the Australian consumption of meat of all kinds rose from 618,000 tons to 813,000 tons, an increase of just under 200,000 tons. The exports of meat have declined from 310,000 tons to 214,000 tons, the latter figure taking into account all canned meat. The Australian consumption of butter was 3,300,000 boxes in 1939-40, and 3,900,000 boxes- an increase of 600,000 boxes- in 1942-43. The exports of butter declined from 4,367,000 boxes to 2,139,000 boxes. Production declined from 7,600,000 to 6,000,000 boxes. The meat consumption a head in Australia to-day is 4.6 lb., compared with a ration of - lb. in Britain. The reason for the high consumption in Australia, of course, is that money is plentiful and other goods are in short supply. The better nourishment of the people is commendable so long as it is not achieved at the expense of others. The solution of the stark facts that I have related is obvious. The position must be’ courageously faced, and comprehensively handled. The Australian consumption of the goods that Britain badly needs must be eased by a partial substitution of other goods, such as vegetables, which can be quickly produced. The family consumption of potatoes is 4.J lb. in Great Britain, compared with 2 lb. in Australia. The British authorities quite early applied themselves to the task of solving the food problem, and we, in our turn, should deal with it in a comprehensive way by a scheme of rationing and the diversion of consumer taste in the consumption of food. The prices charged should he fair to both the consumer and the producer. I am glad that the Government took steps four or five months ago to fix ceiling prices and to pay subsidies; these gave assistance in the desired direction. The rationing of foodstuffs must not be in the nature of a gesture of despair, to be brought into being only when shortages are acute or prices have soared, but must be well thought out, far-sighted, and comprehensive, in order to make certain that the wisest use shall be made of every commodity produced This would enable us to dispense with the miserable system that has developed in the last few months of compelling the storekeeper and the butcher to ration goods which the Government ought to ration, and leading to discrimination, the poorer customer receiving less favorable treatment than the rich. If there must be rationing of both beef and mutton, every 6 lb. of meat sold to an individual should consist of 1 lb. of beef and 5 lb. of mutton. If that were done, not only in Queensland but also in the southern States, the result would be an approximation to equitable treatment throughout, and we should be able to increase the consignments of goods which Great Britain badly needs. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has pointed out, ships are leaving our shores with their refrigerated space empty.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– It is true. From the outset, the British people applied themselves to the task of increasing the production of vegetables, insisting on its being given the highest priority in respect of man-power and machinery, with the result that the number of farm tractors has been increased from 44,000 to more, than 120,000 in the last three years; whereas Australia, in the last two years, has not been able to obtain spare parts for tractors, let alone new tractors; consequently, we have not been able to double the production of vegetables and other products to replace the commodities that are rationed in England and which we must supply. We must have a comprehensive system of rationing, and a systematic attempt to produce essential foodstuffs in the order of their priority. Mian-power must .be released from the Army and from munitions establishments. Electrical labour-saving devices must be available to every farm that can be supplied from the limited resources at our disposal, in order to ensure that the primary producers will remain on their properties; because the absence of such amenities is one of the causes of the drift of population to which the honorable member for Richmond referred. New farm machinery and spare parts, as well as efficient transport, should be provided. The achievement of these aims would enable us to render greater assistance to Britain. A meat ration of 2 lb. a head would not prove harmful; as a medical man, I affirm that it would be sufficient. If that were imposed the remaining 2$ lb. of existing consumption could be sent overseas, and ships would not leave .this country with their refrigerated space empty, or only partially filled, as it is at present. Man-power is the most important matter of all. No credence can be given to the statements that have been made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). We who are old soldiers know that thousands of members of the services who are in B class .or a lower category are engaged in occupations of minor importance and are ea’ting out their hearts because they are unable to obtain their discharge in order to apply themselves to more important tasks, even in key positions, such as were mentioned to-day by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). What is the position in relation to man-power in the rural industries? [Extension, of time granted.’] The number of men engaged in rural production has declined from 533,000 to 355,000 since the outbreak of war. Almost 170,000 men have left the farms, and it is only playing with the problem to suggest that the position can be remedied by releasing 20,000 over the next ten months, with no more than 2,000 to be released immediately. The ultimate decision as to who shall be withdrawn from the Army for food production should lie with the man-power authorities, not with the Army. The Chiefs of Staff should say, “ We can spare a certain number of men “, whether the number be 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000, but then the agricultural committees, whose members are personally acquainted with the men from their districts, should say which men are to be recalled. Those needed most are the sons of farmers who can be taken straight into the home upon their return, without imposing any extra work or worry upon the housewife, such as would occur if provision had to bc made for a stranger. One man, .who was boarded as “ B2 was not allowed to return to his father’s farm. Instead, another “ B2 “ man, who had never been in the district before, was allotted to the farm. That was altogether wrong. It has been claimed that some men in the Army are indispensable, and therefore cannot be released for food production. I was in the Army when there were terrific casualties, and those who ‘were killed or wounded, or fell sick, had to be replaced, nc matter how indispensable they might have been, or what rank they held. The important thing is that we should haveenough food for ourselves and for Great Britain and the Allied forces, as well as some with which to feed the people of Europe after the war.
If food production is to be increased, it is essential that electric power should be made available on the farms. It has been represented to me that many difficulties in regard to equipment of farms could be overcome if the existing generating plants were linked up so as to make full use of what power is already available.
In addition, the Munitions Department must be made to change its policy. It is of no use telling farmers that they can get machines from the Munitions Department. The simple fact is that the machines ‘cannot be had. For the last nine months the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has been helping me in an attempt to get certain machines, but they have not yet been made available. We have been told that engines for 4,000 milking machines are going to the Army. What the Army wants with them I do not know.
Something must also be done in regard to rural transport. More important than the saving of petrol is the saving of rubber tires and men’s time. Time of key land men is the most valuable thing of all. It is false economy to make men use gas producers on vehicles which can travel at only i mile an hour up the steep hills when, if the vehicle were run on petrol, it could go up the same hills at 20 miles an hour. Now that the TJ-boat menace has been checked, more shipping is available, and we should be able to obtain increased supplies of petrol.
– In my opinion, the Opposition had very little justification for raising this issue at the present time. As a matter of fact, what has been said is no more than a re-hash of what was put before the people only a little while ago, and the people declared with a resounding voice that the policy of the Labour party with regard to food production, as well as in regard to other matters, was the best in the interests of Australia. Members of the Opposition, and particularly members of the Country party, with their myopic vision, can see only one little corner of the economic life of the country. Apparently, they fail altogether to realize that we are engaged in a war which is making tremendous demands on the resources of Australia in respect of both men and materials. They seem to think that men can be released from the Army for food production, irrespective of what might happen to the defence of the country.
– That is not correct. We have pointed cut how men can be released.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr: Corser) even suggested, in a question which he asked the other’ day, that 200,000 men could he released from the Army.
– So they could.
– Such an observation shows that the honorable member has no comprehension whatsoever of the difficulties that confront the Government in providing for the defence of Australia.
– Practically all of Great Britain’s regular military forces have left the country, and the local lads are looking after its defence although working every day.
– I do not propose to be drawn into a comparison between what Australia is doing and what other countries are doing. Any one who is acquainted with the facts knows that Australia can well be proud of the war effort it has made. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has answered very fully those points raised by honorable members opposite which dealt with food production only. .There is a bigger problem involved, but before discussing that I wish to say a word regarding some matters raised by honorable members who have spoken since the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It was suggested by more than one honorable member that Australia was letting Great Britain down in the matter of food supplies. That statement is absolutely without foundation as is shown by the statement by Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food in Great Britain, and reported as follows in the Sydney Daily Mirror of the 12 th August -
In an exclusive interview, the British Minister of Food (Lord Woolton) again emphasized his gratitude for Australia’s help in assisting Britain to cat.
He congratulated Australians on having rationed themselves in many foods, including butter, so that supplies essential for British consumption could come to hand. “ In my opinion,” he said, “ Australia’s attitude in deliberately cutting off her own normal supplies to help Britain was something that only a member of the British Empire could have produced.”
– No butter has been sent to Great Britain for the last three months.
– Cargoes of foodstuffs loaded for the United Kingdom are often diverted to ports in other countries by special direction from the United Kingdom.
– Empty ships are leaving Australian ports.
– They are not.
– They are. I challenge the Minister on that.
– I accept the challenge.
– Order !
– But there is a bigger issue in this motion than the mere question of food production. In effect, the honorable member for Richmond is criticising the whole higher direction of the war effort in Australia. He has criticized the balanced use of man-power. The honorable member has not the slightest idea of whether matters which the Government has decided in relation to the balanced use of man-power are properly decided or not. He is not in possession of any of the facts in relation to them. His criticism might have come properly from a member of the Advisory
War Council who would perhaps he in possession of some of the facts, but not all the facts.
– Why not? Are some of the facts being kept from the Advisory War Council?
– I will not be drawn into a discussion of the functions of the Advisory War Council.
– Are facts withheld from the Advisory War Council?
– Order! If the honorable member for Richmond persists in interjecting, I shall have no hesitation in naming him.
– It is easy for the honorable member for Richmond to say that more man-power should be released for food production. He well knows that I cannot say in this House the numbers of men in the- Navy, Army, and Air Force, and that I cannot say, for instance, how many men are necessary to defend Western Australia against a sporadic raid that -may take place, or how many men are required to protect the north-west coast of Australia. He knows that I am not at liberty to make those statements. But, if the men whom he desires to be released were to be released, they must come from one or the other of those sources. They must come from Western Australia. Does he know how many men are there, or how many men the High Command says we must have there? It is true that Western Australian constituencies are not represented in the Opposition, and it is probably equally true that the Opposition does not care what happens to Western Australia.
– That is why the electors in Western Australia rejected all the Opposition’s nominees.
– Yes. The Government has set up all the necessary machinery to investigate completely the problem of balanced use of labour in Australia during the war period through the War Commitments Committee. On one side of the table in that committee we have the chiefs of the defence services, the Director-General of Munitions, the Director-General of Aircraft Production, and the Director-General of the Allied Works Council, all representing the demand for labour to take part in the direct war effort. On the other side of the table sit the Director-General of my department, representatives who know the food and supply positions, and the Director-General of Labour and National Service, who knows the total supplies of labour available. Each side takes into consideration the points of view expressed across the table by the other side as to exactly what percentage of labour shall be used in the direct war effort and what percentage can be used for production other than in the direct war effort. Honorable gentlemen opposite have very little room to talk on this matter, because, during the last twenty months, whenever I made regulations designed to divert man-power from nonessential industries to the war effort and so ease the strain on rural industries, the Opposition continually expressed criticism of the measures I took.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the honorable member be granted an extension of time.
– Does the Government propose to extend the time allotted for this debate ?
– No! We do not want to talk about these matters; we want to get on with the job.
Motion agreed to.
– Among the measures I brought forward in order to divert manpower to the war effort was concentration of banking into fewer branches. The honorable member for Richmond was one of the first to complain because of that measure.
– The Minister closed banks in one-bank towns.
– The honorable member is making a deliberate misstatement.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask that the accusation of the Minister that I am making a deliberate misstatement be withdrawn, on the grounds that in my electorate the first towns in which banks were closed were Strathmerton-
– Order ! I cannot order a withdrawal by the Minister because of what happened in the honorable member’s electorate. If the honorable member considers that the Minister has been offensive, I can ask him to withdraw, but on no other terms.
– I do consider it offensive for the Minister to say that I made a deliberate misstatement.
– The honorable member for Indi says that the Minister’s remark is offensive to him, and I, therefore, ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the word “ deliberate “ and say that the honorable member is making a misstatement.
– Is that not an evasion of your order, Mr. Speaker?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, should not an honorable member who makes a misstatement also be made to withdraw that statement in deference to yourself, the Minister, andother honorable members of this House?
– The honorable member for Indi is making a misstatement.
– Is that not an evasion of your direction, Mr. Speaker?
– That is no reflection on the honorable member.
– This matter was raised several times, and I made it perfectly clear that I had sent a letter to all banks in Australia saying that it was not my wish that they should close branches in towns where only one bank operated. The banks closed branches in one-bank towns, in spite of my wishes.
– Why did the Minister allow them to do so? He had the power to stop them.
– I have no power to compel banks to remain open in any town of the Commonwealth, even if only one bank operates in that town. If I ‘ took the power to compel a bank to keep a particular branch open, I am sure that the honorable member would be the first to object.
– That is a misstatement.
-Order! I think that the Minister should return to the main question.
– I was pointing out that the Opposition had no room to talk on this issue, because every time I have made a regulation in order to divert labour from non-essential industries into the services to ease the strain on the rural industries, I have met with complete opposition from honorable members on the other side of the House. In relation to the control of building, for example, one of the methods by which man-power is released to further the war effort, I even had one honorable gentleman opposite put up a case that I should make man-power available and issue a permit for the construction of a bowling green pavilion.
– He was a member of the Australian Country party.
– Let him stand up!
– Honorable members opposite have raised this matter for the purpose of embarrassing the Government. As the Minister for the Army pointed out, they are doing a great disservice to the country at this juncture.
– The Government has been making that statement for two years.
– The Government has taken the most expert advice regarding the best use to which it can put the manpower of the country.
– The advice of all the professors in the country.
– The honorable member could do with a little of ‘their advice. ] am sure that if the Government decided to release from the Army a greater number of men than its military advisers had agreed was safe, honorable members opposite would be the first to complain of unwarrantable political interference in military matters. They cannot have it both ways. Australia has a population of only 7,000,000 persons and, consequently, war must place a strain on manpower in all branches of industry. With a full knowledge of the position abroad, I declare that this Government has made a better balanced allocation of its manpower resources than any other country has achieved.
.- After listening to the opinions of an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, purporting to be a reply to the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), but prepared before that speech was delivered, and read by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I am afraid that the author was badly at fault. Obviously, the Government has a very poor case, and the manner in which Ministers are participating in the debate indicates that they are endeavouring to smother the discussion. Already three Ministers have spoken, and each has been granted an extension of time.
– The honorable member may again refer to the matter when the budget debate is resumed.
– The interjection indicates that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) is endeavouring to burk discussion. Some honorable members appear to consider that the war effort begins and ends with the calling of men into camp for the purpose of engaging some of them in military activities. They completely disregard the demands of the food front. The honorable member for Richmond has done a service to the country in bringing this most important matter to the notice of the House. Admittedly, the demands of the fighting forces must be paramount, but no country can wage war successfully without adequate supplies of food. As our population is small, the part that we can play in this struggle is limited.1 I was gratified to read in the Treasurer’s budget speech that ‘the great diversion of working population from civil to war requirements has practically reached its limit. The honorable gentleman stated also that the two main impediments to the expansion of . production are transport and man-power. “Whilst I agree that transport presents a serious problem, man-power is the greater impediment to primary production. To date, the problem has been badly handled. The Government’s scheme is ill-balanced and many instances of actual foolhardiness have been brought to my notice. Because of the acute shortage of man-power, dairy-farmers have been obliged to dispose of a part of their herds.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like you to inform me whether I have the right to reply to the debate.
– The time allowed for the debate is two hours, and that period has now expired
– I rise to order. Stand ing Order No. 261 reads -
A reply shall bo allowed to a member who has made a substantive motion to the House, or moved the second reading of a bill . . .
I submit that, under that standing order, I have the right to reply to the debate.
-The Standing Orders also provide that the time for the debate shall be two hours. If, within that period, the mover has an opportunity to reply, he is entitled to d® so. But that right ceases upon the expira-tion of the period allowed for discussion.
– I rise to order. I should like you to inform me, Mr. Speaker, whether I shall be in order in moving; with the approval of the Government, that the time allowed for the debate be extended.
– Such a motion should have been moved before the expiration of the time allowed for the debate. The honorable member would certainly not be in order in moving that motion now.
– The House is master of its own procedure.
– The House is also bound by the Standing Orders.
– Would I be in order in moving that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the time for the debate ‘being extended?
– Only by leave.
– I ask leave to move the motion without notice.
– Is there any objection ?
Leave not granted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1943.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1-9) 1943.
In- Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 12th October (vide page 376), on motion by Mr. Chifley - that the first item in the Estimates under Division Mo. 1. - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances, £8,380”, be agreed to.
.- Now that the Opposition has recovered from its sudden and dramatic attack of food poisoning, I should like to make a few comments on the budget. That document has already been examined, exhaustively by many honorable members, and obviously its purpose is to “ backtheattack “ to the very limit. Warnings concerning controls of currency have been given, but one matter relating to the inflation spiral should be emphasized. It concerns Mack marketing. The black marketing business is in the news, and has been canvassed in various ways, but to my mind the difficulties have yet to be faced’ in relation to excess spending, and the manner in which underground markets are nourishing. Black marketing should be attacked first upon legal grounds. We can put the legal hooks into blacketeers. Then. we must envelop it with the second arm of the pincers, namely, a propaganda campaign fully to apprise people of the dangers of black marketing. Not for a moment do I consider that the general public is the culprit in black marketing. The members of the public are thrown into this vortex of infamy because those responsible for creating it know that it can crush a government and a’ country more effectively, though insidiously, than can an army. Black market annexes have appeared, and underground industries have been established. In looking for the sources of the supply of black market goods it is regrettable to discover that leakages have occurred in relation to Army supplies. How this has happened I am not yet in a position to say, but I have been informed by reliable authorities that checks that have been made show lamentable deficiencies between the quantities of Army orders received and the quantities of goods distributed or still held in stock. Of course, the soldier in the battle line is not responsible for this, and investigation will be requiredto ascertain who are guilty. Undoubtedly, however, there is a fruitful source of supply for the blacketeer in connexion with the supply of food and equipment to the fighting services, and it should be closely watched. In this propaganda campaign which I have suggested to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and in relation to which he has graciously said that something may be done, there is much room for effective action. The workers have been maligned as being among the principal blacketeers, but, in my opinion, they should be excluded. Black marketing has been engaged in by certain persons of the wealthy and privileged classes who, evenin a time of war, are prepared to take advantage of the screen of safety erected around, them by the workers, while they burrow into the riches of the country, taking money which ought to be devoted to the war effort, and despoiling the country in the hour of its greatest peril. These blacketeers are hard to trace, but one way in which they can be tracked is through their innocuous appeals to people to buy. If we engage in a forthright, effective and honest propaganda, and report even the men who tempt us to buy black market cigarettes we shall do our part in stemming the flood of illegal trading which is preventing the nation from making a 100 per cent, war effort. I emphasize this because of the statement in the budget that everything possible should he done to prevent black marketing.
I have been surprised to hear, m certain quarters, suggestions that sufficient money may not be available ai er the war to meet the needs of the > country, and that there may be a slacken* ig off in the supply of currency after the war because so much money has been spent on the war effort. These sentiments stink of the laisser-faire financial methods which brought about the depression a few years ago. There can be - no question, in my mind, of money being too holy or sacrosanct to be used to honour the promises that have been made during the war. I remind the people who hold oldfashioned ideas about the holines of money, that there is something holier - the promises that have been made to the members of our fighting services. Perhaps it has not been realized that the
Australian casualties in this war, so far, have not been so heavy as those in the last war, and that we shall be required to honour promises to living men, and not to dead heroes. These living men who will return to us will expect us to honour our promises. The men have been promised, rehabilitation after the war, and this will involve a realistic approach to the monetary question. How we deal with this subject will -have a big effect on bringing about the so-called new order. In my view a little too much publicity has been given to the term “ new order “. It does not mean actually a new order; it means, in simple Australian language, a “ fair go “. The discussions about the new order seem to me to be floating into the realms of romance and poetic discussion. “What we should have in mind is a practical plan, not so much for reconstruction as for new construction. We in Australia, thank God, have no ruined cities or devastated countryside to reconstruct, and for this we have to thank the soldiers who marched over the Kokoda Trail and elsewhere. Nevertheless, we shall be required to apply a programme of new construction or, to use a simpler word, progress after the war. We shall need to apply ourselves to a programme foi” the maximum use of the natural resources of this country, and for sensible and progressive development in relation to- better housing, better social services, and better amenities for the people generally. The money that has been found for war expenditure will have to be provided also on the productive side, acting with a boomerang effect, in relation to the 101 aspects of housing, educational development, cultural interests and the like. The nation must consciously go forward and must not go backward. These ideas are not too imaginative for our post-war programmes, and will have to be put into effect constructively after the war. Our activities will be slowed if the barons of money can get the people to believe that there is one recipe in relation to war activity and collective promises for soldiers, and another in relation to the restoration of normal living. We must not allow the privileged class to resume its sway in the days of peace. We must evolve a more flexible framework and ensure that when the war ends the con- servative forces in the community will not be able to rear themselves against the progressive wishes of the general community.
During this debate I have noticed that certain honorable gentlemen opposite, and in particular the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mi-. Fadden), have shown a disposition to sneer at planners as doctrinaires. They apparently think that we should go back to the days of the single-furrow plough, and the stitching of bags of wheat separately; but surely those days have gone for ever. We are entitled to look for a national economy that will lift us above such an outlook. In my opinion our planners have an important part to play, and I am glad that doctors, economists, and research workers trained in Australia are taking an important part in the investigations that are proceeding to ensure that a constructive programme shall be applied after the war. When the activities of the planners and architects are linked with those of the builders, we shall get somewhere, and we should not allow any talk about doctrinaires to discourage us from using our trained workers to the best advantage. What is going on in this country is also going on in Great Britain, and in other countries in relation to post-war planning. In England alone, 120 volumes on reconstruction have already been published, and surely we may expect to garner something from these works and so avoid certain experiences that followed the last war. There is always the danger that the victors in the battle will be a little lazy and somewhat complacent after the conflict, when national safety has been won, and that the vanquished will be specially on the alert looking out for ways and means of overtaking ground that has been lost in the agonizing experiences of defeat. We must attempt to make a fair alinement of both the victors and the vanquished. Many formulae are already in existence. Research workers and scholars are now engaged on an interpretation of the Atlantic Charter. There are many ways in which planners could be and are extremely useful. It is wrong to consider them as merely an obstruction to the practical man. We have had the experience of the capabilities of one practical man who rejoiced in the old English county name of Niemeyer. I need not recite the results of the practical plan that he propounded. 1 am sure that a formula for our future is to be found in the happy co-operation of the planner, the research scholar, the man who will sift causes and present us with an analysis of them, and the practical man who will get on with the job. With due respect to the economists, I consider that, accompanying the new order, there must be not only the formula and the cut-and-dried arguments of the practical man, but also a certain vision. Had there been no vision in the early days of this country, there would have been no Australia. I take honorable members back to the first Australia Day, when Phillip, the founder of this land, said: “I doubt not that one day this will be one of the proudest possessions of Great Britain “. He had not very much on which to base his opinion - a ship filled with convicts, and an unknown continent. After the war, by means of the at present unrevealed possibilities of a nation which- will have freed itself from the treadmills of orthodox finance - which is not capable of any flexibility - if we use the natural energy of Australians and the whole of the developmental thrust forward that a young country possesses, we cannot fail to achieve lasting value as a nation and be of lasting use to the British Empire.
– I should not have spoken in this debate had it not been for the remarks that were made last evening by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). That honorable member painted a very sorry picture. He presented a typical example of the way in which the average person is misled by the restatement of conditions that obtained on the coal-mining fields 30 or 40 years ago. It is high time that that sort of thing was completely “ debunked “. I have no doubt that the pitiful stories which the honorable member for Hunter relates with appropriate emotionalism have a good reception on the coal-fields. We have listened from time to time to a number of windy statements relative to the position in the coal mining industry. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) say that the coal-miners were traitorous and disloyal to the men who are fighting overseas when they withheld coal supplies. The right honorable gentleman has frequently threatened to take such action as would ensure that coal would be won. Regulation after regulation has been drafted and piled one on top of the other, until they numbered nineteen, each designed to win coal, but none so far implemented. The position to-day is identical with what it was when the right honorable gentleman first put pen to paper after he had become Prime Minister. He sent to the coal-fields the then Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who is now Minister for Transport. If he thought that he could induce that honorable gentleman to act in a conciliatory manner, he must have been sorely disappointed, because after the visit the position became infinitely worse than it had been. Many conferences have been called, and each has been abortive. Absolutely nothing effective has been done to win coal. In short, the Government has been prolific in windy words and threats, but beyond that has not taken any action.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I am glad to note signs of activity among honorable members opposite; the probability of somebody taking an active interest in the winning of coal is exhilarating. I am afraid, however, that our previous experience will be repeated, and that we shall have only windy words and a lot of noise. In the light of such a record as this Government has, one cannot wonder that Mr. Wells, the president of the Miners Federation, should have said that he was completely fed up with the attitude of the Prime Minister. Not only Mr. Wells, but also the whole” of the people, are completely “ fed up “ with the attitude of the right honorable gentleman. This morning, the leading article of every newspaper in Australia - the spearhead of public opinion - called upon the Prime Minister for some action. They put the matter right up to him. They said to him, “You have been challenged by the president of the
Miners Federation to make good the words that you uttered when you first became Prime Minister. The people demand it. It is up to you to do something”. So far as I can judge, the public are completely sick and tired of the vacillating attitude of the Government in this matter of great national importance.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The problem of the coalmining industry might have been solved if the Prime Minister and the Government had displayed firmness in the early days of the trouble. Last evening, I listened to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) discussing the subject, but if he succeeded in deluding anybody, it was only himself. When he spoke of the bad conditions associated with the industry, he must have been thinking of 40 or 50 years ago, because what he said had no bearing upon the conditions which obtain at the present time. As a matter of fact, conditions in the coalmining industry compare more than favorably with those in other industries closely associated with the war effort. I should much prefer to work below ground in an air-conditioned, mechanized coalmine and most of them are that now than to work in a steel rolling mill. I should like to remind the honorable member for Hunter, when he tells us his pitiful story of coalminers working under the most appalling conditions, ever subject to the imminent risk of injury or death, that statistics prove beyond doubt that the percentage of fatalities and accidents is much greater in some other industries than it is in the coalmining industry. As a matter of fact, the conditions in metalliferous mines are, in some respects, a good deal worse than those in the coalmining industry, and the percentage of accidents and deaths among metalliferous miners is considerably greater. According to the New South Wales YearBook, the number of coalminers killed in 1938 was eleven and the number injured 65. Among quarrymen and miners other than coalminers, seventeen were killed and 265 injured in the same period. When we consider the proportion of the killed and injured to the numbers engaged, the contrast is even more apparent, as the following table shows: -
The fourteenth annual report of the Workers’ Compensation Commission is an exhaustive document which contains tables showing the number of accidents and fatalities in various industries. For purposes of comparison, I have chosen metals and machinery, construction and mining, and quarrying. The figures for miners and quarrymen include coalminers, who comprise less than half the number. If it were possible to get the figures for the coal miners alone, my argument would be even stronger. The table is as follows : -
Over a period of five years the proportions are shown in the following table:-
Thus, no matter from what angle one views the matter, it is evident that the story of dangerous and injurious working conditions in the coal-mines is an exaggeration of the facts. It is evident that the honorable member for Hunter is living in the past. He has declined to bring his case up to date it may be with the object of continuing the misrepresentation that has wrung from tribunals special consideration for the miners on the strength of pitiful stories told of conditions that obtained in the industry 40 or 50 years ago.
There have been more strikes and unauthorized stoppages in the coalmining industry than in any other industry in Australia. The miners know that industry of all kinds is dependent upon the supply of coal. Before the introduction of oilburning furnaces, the mercantile marine was entirely dependent upon coal. liven to-day, when electricity is the motive power in most industries, coal is needed for the production of electricity. Our transport industry is very largely dependent on coal, particularly the railways. Even the householder is dependent upon it for the supply of gas for domestic purposes. The miners know that when coal is in short supply they can take liberties which would not be tolerated if there were substantial reserves at grass. They know that they can hold the country lo ransom. Honorable members have just seen a film exhibited by the Empire Parliamentary Delegation showing what happened to the cathedral and other buildings at Coventry as the result of enemy air raids, and showing also how firemen and Enemy Raids Precautions workers performed their duties under the “ blitz “. I wonder what those men would think if they realized that the coal-miners in Australia, far from the danger of enemy raids, were jeopardizing our war effort because of fictitious grievances; yet that is what is happening here. I suggest to the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins), and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), in whose electorates most of the coal is mined in New South Wales, that they could not do better than to arrange for the miners to see the film of which I have spoken, so that they might understand what i3 happening elsewhere. Perhaps industrial warfare is all right in peace-time, but it is out of place in time of war. Surely it is not fitting that the country’s war effort should be endangered by a section of the community who fail to realize their responsibility to the country. We are at war, as we have been reminded over and over again. No one suggests that the miners are not loyal, but I should like to know the percentage of miners who have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in this war. I am inclined to think that, because of the communistic tendencies of their leaders, the miners did not enlist in any great numbers before Russia came into the war, and, even now, I do not think that they are pulling their weight so far as enlistments in the fighting services are concerned, again largely because of the communistic tendencies of their leaders. I believe that most miners are loyal, and probably do not want to go on strike. Theirs is rather a collective loyalty than a national loyalty, otherwise we should not have all these stoppages. -The miners have a, traditional loyalty to one another of which they are very proud, and it appears to be based on the communistic doctrine of solidarity. It was born of the unfortunate conditions which prevailed in the mines 40 or more years ago, when every man regarded it as his duty to stand by his brother. The principle is being overworked at the present time. Regardless of whether the reasons for the strike are weak or strong the attitude of the men is “ one out, all out”. From the 1st July to. the 11th October there were 1,075 strikes or stoppages on coal-fields in New South Wales. On the 5th October nine mines were not working for the following reasons: -
Aberdare Extended. - Protest against failure of Central Reference Board to review an award.
Elrington. - Protest against suspension of youth.
Millfield. - Protest against Central Reference Board decision.
Northern Extended. - Demand for gloves for’ all men in the pit.
Lambton B. - Protest against retrenchment of lodge members.
North Wallarah. - Protest against suspension of lodge secretary.
Aberdare. - Protest against Judge DrakeBrockman’s make-up clause in the award.
Hebburn No. 1. - Dispute over underground transport.
Pacific. - Dispute over a decision of the Northern Reference Board.
Lest honorable members’ should think that I have chosen that date other than at random, I cite the 8th October when nine mines were stopped for the following reasons : -
Hebburn No. 2. - Dispute amongst wheelers and clippers.
Elrington. - Dispute over suspension of n boy.
Stanford Main No. 1. - Dispute concerning duties of man on the afternoon shift.
Pelaw Main. - Claim for payment of men who came out early.
Hebburn No. 1. - Dispute re non-payment of wheelers.
North Wallarah. - Protest against suspension of lodge secretary.
Northern Extended. - .Demand for gloves for all men in the pit.
Millfield. - Defiance of the rulings of a compulsory conference.
South Clifton. - Claim for retrospective payment of 2s. for one employee.
No one could fairly claim that among those eighteen reasons for mines being idle there is one that is valid. All those mines were stopped for most trifling reasons, unless the miners are trying, as I suspect they are, to force the Government into nationalization of the coalmining industry. Some sinister things are done in the name of comradeship. Australian men fighting in New Guinea have a better understanding of what comradeship means than the miners appear to have. No one could imagine our soldiers refusing to fight because they had not been given gloves to wear in the jungle, or because one of them had had his trousers stolen ! Yet such trifling circumstances result in curtailed production of coal and slowing of the wheels of industry. This spirit of comradeship which demands a cessation of work by coalminers for the most trivial of reasons requires examination. Stop-work meetings are frequently attended ;by only 10 per cent, of the workers, mainly the most extreme elements in the union; they decide to strike and their decision binds the other 90 per cent. I wonder why the 90 per cent, who profess loyalty do not demonstrate that loyalty by disregarding the communistic minority and continuing to win the coal on which the maintenance of Australia’s war effort depends*. I wonder also whether it is because the Government is jealous of ite hold on the treasury bench that it is frightened to use its authority to compel the coal-miners to continue at work.
– What does the honorable gentleman propose?
– If the honorable member will be patient, I shall soon satisfy his curiosity. Unrest on the coalfields is also attributable to the annual campaigning for office in the miners federation. Mr. Wells made things uncomfortable for Mr. Nelson before he ousted him from the presidency of the federation. Now, other candidates for the presidency are making things equally uncomfortable for Mr. Wells. Union officials in the central office and in the lodges cause agitations so that the rank and file of the miners shall think they are well represented and so that the general public may be fooled into believing that the miners are working in as bad conditions as obtained 40 years ago. But conditions are not bad to-day. Miners are subjected to no more danger of loss of life or limb than are industrial workers above ground. The honorable member for Hunter painted a grim picture of the dangers and the insanitary conditions in which, he would have us believe, miners work. Many industries and trades above ground are much more unwholesome than coal-mining. I cite, for instance, tanneries and the gathering and destruction of garbage. It is about time that the claims that miners were working in unusually hazardous and insanitary conditions were “ debunked “.
The honorable member for Hunter also suggested that it would be wise to draw from the Australian Imperial Force all men with mining experience. I should like to see that done, provided their places in the front line were taken by those employed in the coal-mining industry who shirt, not only the battle for the security of Australia in the war zones, but also work itself upon which the equipping of our forces depends. Honorable members with war experience know that the most salutary punishment for malingering in the last war was to send the malingerer to the front line. He did not malinger for long then. The honorable member had much to say about the skill required to mine coal. The only skill needed is in the use of explosives, but all the other operations can be done by men with reasonable health and strength.
The employment of every man in the mining industry is dependent on the men at the coal face. If the miner at the coal face limits his production, he limits the work of every other man at the mine. The greatest curse of the coal-mining industry to-day is the darg, the introduction of which has reduced the output of coal to an extraordinary degree. Under the darg system miners must fill a certain number of skips in a shift. Miners who fill their darg before the eight-hour shift is over go to the surface. They may leave the face an hour or an hour and a half early, causing discontent among the men who are still working. If the Government made regulations wiping out the darg, the output of coal would be increased by one-eighth, perhaps .by 1,000,000 tons a year. The Minister for National Security smiles as if to say, “ The Government cannot do that “. I agree with him. The Government cannot do anything to the miners, because it has not the courage. Last night the honorable member for Hunter, in speaking about the use of machines in pillars, said in impassioned tones, “ Machinery costs money and human life is cheap “. But what are the facts? Knowing little about coalmining honorable members are apt to give credence to what the honorable member for Hunter, an ex-miner, says about the subject, because they regard him as an authority, whom they do not expect to mislead them. But he did mislead the committee last night, whether through ignorance or intent, I do not know. The coal-mining regulations in New South Wales, as amended in 1941, provide that no colliery-owner may introduce mechanization into his mine for the extraction of pillars without the consent of the Minister. The present Minister is Mr. Baddeley, who represents a northern coal-field constituency in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. From time to time the mine-owners have submitted to Mr. Baddeley, applications for permission to introduce machinery into the pillar workings, and on every occasion he has refused to grant it. The reason is that he knows the introduction of the machinery will reduce the number of miners employed in the workings. The miners themselves, knowing this, have stated openly in their appeals against those applications that the use of automatic loaders is definitely dangerous in pillar workings. That story is entirely different from the one which the honorable member for Hunter told to the House. He asserted that the mine-owners would not introduce machinery because of the cost involved, hut preferred to employ more miners because their lives were cheap. The truth is that Mr. Baddeley has prevented the mine-owners from introducing machinery into pillar workings because the miners complain that it would be dangerous. Honorable members look to the honorable member for Hunter to give to the House facts about the coal-mining industry. We do not expect him to mislead us. In future I shall examine closely any statement that he makes about coal-mining, because I am not prepared to accept his word.
Some miners and their union officials never lose an opportunity to voice their grievances, whether real or fanciful, in an endeavour to win the sympathy and support of the public, and to wring concessions from the various tribunals. I know that it is all a part of the great game to induce the Government to nationalize the coal-mining industry. Those men are endeavouring to create such an impossible situation that the Government will be forced to assume control of the mines. Members of the Labour party seem to be hand in glove with the men and are prepared to allow them to go to extreme lengths before taking action. I warn the Government that if definite steps be not taken in the near future, blood may be shed on the coalfields.’ The Government should take firm action, as other governments have done in the past, and the difficulties associated with the winning of coal would then vanish.
The pleading of these grievances has succeeded in winning for the men concessions from many tribunals. I make special reference to two of them, namely, the Local Reference Board and the Central Reference Board. In my opinion, those tribunals have never done the job for which they were appointed. Members of the Local Reference Board are appointed by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and it is natural that the appointments should be of a political nature. The chairman of the Local Reference Board in the northern coalfields area is Mr. Connell, who has been actively associated with Labour politics for many years. How is it possible to get an unbiased opinion from him? Earlier in my speech I referred to an incident that occurred at the Wallarah coal-mine, resulting in the suspension of the secretary. The story will interest honorable members, because it sheds light upon the functioning of the Local Reference Board. On the 23rd September, at 7 o’clock, the secretary of the miners’ lodge spoke to the mine manager in his office. On behalf of the lodge, he made certain demands. When the manager refused to accede to them, the secretary assaulted him. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. Anyone should be ableto go into a manager’s office and, if he refuses to grant an extra concession, punch him on the nose. That conduct is all right among comrades and friends. But the manager has some responsibilities and he discharged the secretary of the lodge. His action caused a consternation in the lodge. At Swansea on the following day, the president and the secretary of the lodge both “ took a crack “ at the mine manager and undermanager. The next morning the manager, exercising his right discharged the president of the lodge and lodged an information against the two men for assault.. Immediately the North Wallarah lodge met the chairman of the Local Reference Board. Mr. Connell was advised that information had been lodged with regard to this assault and that as the matter was sub judice, he was not competent to deal with it. If he had done so, he would have been liable to be cited for contempt of court. The Local Reference Board then went into conference in camera, and finally announced that as it had no evidence regarding the assault upon the manager outside the confines of the pit, it would suspend the secretary but would insist upon the reinstatement of the president. Of course, only hearsay evidence was heard. That case supports my contention that the local reference board will never express an unbiased opinion. I venture to say that 75 per cent, of the cases which the hoard has decided, reflect the partisan spirit of this chairman.
– What is the honorable member’s suggestion?
– The honorable member for Watson was a little hasty on another occasion, and his lack of caution landed him in a nasty position requiring a good deal of explanation. Therefore, I advise him to remain silent.
The Central Reference Board is presided over by a judge, with the result that decisions reflect the impartiality of the tribunal. The “catch” lies in the difficulty in bringing cases before the board. An application must be made to the Minister, who is sympathetic, of course, to the demands of. the miners. He knows that he appointed a local reference board to do the job. Therefore, a case is seldom referred to the Central Reference Board. Of the local reference board, a shrewd observer said that it is “ a tribunal where justice is dispensed with “. That sums up very pithily the opinion of those who watch the decisions of that body. I believe that theseboards are purely an incentive to the miners tovoice petty grievances and complaints, so that they may be able to win concessions from men who were appointed to look after the miners’ interests. If my assumption be correct, is it any wonder that more than 1,100 stoppages have occurred this year? [Extension of time granted.] The point which perplexes most people is that special consideration has been given to the coal miners by theappointment of the local and central reference boards to deal exclusively with their complaints. No other industry enjoys that privilege. When the miners are given the advantage of these tribunals, why is it withheld from every other industry ? The natural corollary to the appointment of similar tribunals for each industry would be the abandonment of the Arbitration Court. So long as a local miner is appointed through his political affiliations to a board which will give way on every point taken by the miners disputes will occur in the industry. The only way in which to return to normality is to dispose of the reference boards. The Arbitration Court should examine the complaints of miners under the same terms and conditions as those which govern the hearing of applications from every other industry. The miners should not be singled out for special privileges.
That is not the whole story. The Government has appointed a number of Commonwealth officers to visit the coal fields for the purpose of investigating the causes of strikes. These men are public servants. They are not practical miners, and have no knowledge of the industry. Their duty is to enforce the regulations that have been drafted by the Government. Obviously they are taking no action whatever against the miners, who have on countless occasions violated the regulations sufficiently to warrant legal proceedings being launched against them.
The officers are, however, subjecting mine-owners and managers to Gestapo tactic”, and pin-pricking investigations; they a ra seeking to get convictions so that the Government may be able to justify the actions .of the striking miners. If the Government desires to secure peace on the coal-fields by that method, it should scrap all its regulations and give the men an “ open go “. These Gestapo officers are hounding down the mine-owners and mine managers. Of course conditions on the coal-fields are approaching a state of anarchy, which is likely to have serious repercussions upon our war effort and may well lead to bloodshed.
I shall now compare the quantity of coal that is being won to-day with the output in earlier years. From time to time I have addressed to the Prime Minister, questions’ relating to the production of coal, and the right honorable gentleman’s answer has always been couched in exactly the same terms. He points out that more coal has been won this year than in any other year. The fact is that m 1942 the output of 12,280,770 tons was a record. But as far back as 1924, the production was 11,618,216 tons.
– How many miners were engaged in 1924?
– The records show that 22,000 miners were employed.
– That is incorrect. The number was 24,000.
– I have obtained my information from the Commonwealth Year-Booh. The output in 1924 exceeded by approximately 2,000,000 tons the quantity produced in 1938. It was nearly 500,000 tons more than that of 1939, 2,000,000 tons more than that of 1940, only 150,000 tons less than the total of 1941, and only 650,000 tons less than the record total of 1942.
– How many men were engaged in the industry in .those years?
– I shall deal with that point presently. There was no appreciable increase of the production of coal in the years following 1939 until 1942. Let us now look at the sixmonthly totals with the object of estimating this year’s production. For the six months ended the 31st December, 1942, the total production was 400,000 tons less than for the first six months of that year. In the first six months of .this year, the total was S00,000 tons less than for the corresponding period of last year. Lt will be seen, therefore, that we are producing a diminishing quantity of coal, and it is likely that our total production this year will be less than that of 3924, although in this year our production should be at its peak, because more transport than ever before is required to move troops and foodstuffs.
– Will the honorable member deal with the number of men engaged in the industry in the different years ?
– No one knows better than the honorable member for Hunter that all sorts of factors enter into a discussion of that subject, including the application of mechanical means to coal production. The production of coal per employee in this industry is the important thing, and our aim must be to keep that figure as high as possible. We must keep down the overhead to the minimum, so that workers do not unnecessarily handle the coal that is won at the face. The daily output in 1937-3S was between 13.5 and 12.6 tons per miner, whereas the daily output per employee varied from 4.53 to 3.9 tons. The figures gradually fell, and the daily output per employee in 1942-43 varied between 3.63 and 2.99 tons. Those figures show beyond doubt that we are producing less coal per employee at a time when we are in greatest need of coal.
Something drastic -must be done to meet this position, and I propose to offer my solutions of the problem. Only by drastic action shall we .be able to obtain sufficient coal to maintain our war effort. If we do not maintain our coal production, our war effort will decline; if our war effort declines, the sacrifices of thousands of our lads in New Guinea may have been in vain,, and we may find ourselves once more facing the threat of invasion. I suggest that the Government should scrap all the war-time regulations that have been issued for the control of this industry. In any case, the regulations are not being applied. The Government has not implemented its own proposals, and I do not think that it intends to do so. If it repealed all the existing regulations, a new and effective control could lie set up. In view of the fact that wages and conditions and industrial practices Iia ve been pegged in many industries, I suggest that they should be pegged in the coal-mining industry. All the local- reference boards and also the Central Reference Board should be scrapped, and all claims pending before the Industrial Court should be withdrawn. If these steps were taken, the industry would he put back to where it was before these troubles began, and the ground would be cleared for the setting up of a new and more effective authority. I would also provide that all men who absented themselves from their employment should forfeit the right to return to their jobs. That is what applies in other industries. If a man walks out of his employment in any other war industry, he automatically forfeits his right to re-employment. The application of that policy would soon bring the miners to their senses.
– But it would not increase coal production.
– I would not permit the man-power authorities to allow miners who left their jobs to return to this industry. That would soon prevent malingerers from continuing their objectionable practices. Malingerers should be sent to the front line of battle. The application of that policy might cause a reduction of coal production for a while, but eventually would increase it. During the regime of the Menzies Government, certain action was taken during a coal strike which had a most salutary effect. The Menzies Government allowed free men to be employed in the mines. It took steps to provide accommodation for these free miners, and in several ways encouraged them to take up coal-mining. The result was that the regular coal-miners soon returned to their employment. If this Government would take similar action, and permit coal-miners who left their employment to be replaced by free miners, it would soon see an improvement in our coal production figures. The sons of coal-miners consider that they have a heritage in the coal-mines, and they expect to follow their fathers in this employment; but, if, by striking, the fathers surrendered their right to work in the mines, we should soon see a different attitude adopted in the industry. The employment of free miners would be most beneficial in my opinion. I would deal with the funds of the coal-miners as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) dealt with the engineers years ago. I would freeze their bank credits and would prevent them using IOU’s for the purchase of commodities. I do not believe that under such conditions the miners would enter upon strikes in their present light-hearted fashion.
– The honorable member 13 not offering any solutions to the problem.
– The adoption of the proposals that I have made might result in a temporary reduction of the output of coal, but the miners would soon realize how much they had to lose and would resume work. [Further extension of time granted.’] I do not believethat the coal-miners are such skilled workers as the honorable member for Hunter would lead us to believe. In my opinion that honorable gentleman has misled the House in this regard, and he has also misstated the position regarding the introduction of machinery on the coal-fields. The Minister for Mines in New South’ “Wales (Mr. Baddeley) has issued regulations which provide that machinery may not be used under certain conditions. The skill claimed for the coal-miners is not real skill. Though the adoption of my proposals might lead to a reduced output for two or three weeks, I believe that the employment of so-called unskilled men would quickly result in an increased output of coal. If we find men engaged in sabotaging our war industries, we know what to do with them - to authorize the ‘Commonwealth police, the Security Service, and Army Intelligence to take action in regard to them. There is only one thing to do with men who sabotage industry in war-time and that is to stand them up against a wall and shoot them. That drastic practice is followed in other countries, and I consider that it is fitting that industrial saboteurs in war-time should be called upon to pay the supreme penalty. The activities of some of these men goes close to sabotage. I have not mentioned to honorable members some of the really absurd reasons why the c>oal-miners have gone out on strike, but when we consider that men have struck because they have had to walk to the face, or because their trousers have not been in a condition that pleased them, or because their socks, pushed right into the .toe of their boots, are too damp to wear, I think it is time for drastic action to be taken. For the reasons I have given, I would not hesitate to apply the measures that I have outlined. I ‘believe that although this might cause dislocation for a short period it, would ultimately bring about a coal production which would be adequate for Australia’s war industries.
.- The budget debate gives honorable members an opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government matters of importance to their constituents, but after listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), I question the wisdom of the latitude which honorable members enjoy in this connexion. The honorable gentlemen has occupied the whole of his time in condemning the coal-miners of New South Wales. He did not say a single word in commendation of the tens of thousands of men and women in this country who are working ten and twelve hours a day for seven days a week in order to speed up production for war purposes. His speech was full of inaccuracies, and could have been made only by one who had had no contact with the industry and had not studied the position. One of his assertions was that the health conditions of the underground-miners are as favorable as those of men” employed on the surface. Such an obvious misstatement would not be accepted by a schoolchild, because it would know from what it had been taught that the conditions of coal and metalliferous mine employment have been responsible for the early destruction of the lives of a large section of the community. Yet the honorable member would have us believe that the health conditions in the coal mines are so good as to constitute an inducement to people to engage in the industry. He does not let a day pass without raising some matter that is not in any way helpful, but, on the contrary, is critical and condemnatory of the coal-miners, whether they are right or wrong. He has mentioned boards of reference. There is not an industrial award in existence in the Commonwealth, either State or Federal, which does not make provision for boards of reference for the purpose of dealing with disputes before they result in a cessation of work. The honorable member alleged that political appointments are made to such boards by Labour governments, in order that decisions may be given that will be in favour of the miners. I invite him to consider the appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman, who was at one time an industrial advocate for the Employers Federation in the Arbitration ‘Court. The miners have every right to challenge the decisions of this gentleman.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is attacking a member of the judiciary. Is that permissible under the Standing Orders?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The honorable member did not attack Judge Drake-Brockman, but merely drew a comparison.
– I ask the honorable member for Wentworth why the Government of New South Wales has provided legislatively for the retirement of coalminers at the age of 60 years, when the recognized age of retirement is 65 years in industries that are conducted above ground? I have not had practical experience of the coal-mining industry, nor has the honorable member, but I have been associated, from the age of fourteen years, with gold-miners. Sanatorium.* and cemeteries are filled with men no older than 30 years, whose health had been destroyed by the condition? under which they were employed. It pains honorable members on this side who have such experience and knowledge to hear the honorable gentleman, with a cynical smile on his face, condemn what a practical miner said in this chamber last night, and assert that the conditions of the coal-miners are so favorable as to constitute an invitation to men to engage in the industry. However, the honorable member is not regarded seriously in this chamber; therefore, I shall not take further notice of him. As a member of the Government party in this Parliament, I am as much disturbed as any man about the stoppages that have occurred in the coal-mining industry, and am prepared to give of my best in order to determine the reasons for the irritation that leads to stoppages. Unlike the honorable member for Wentworth, I do not place the whole of the responsibility on the workers. I have had a bitter experience of industrial disputes. My relations with some employers have been . excellent, but I have found that others have not been prepared to allow the men to work contentedly, and on many occasions have been responsible for stoppages by the use of irritating and insulting tactics. The fight of the miners for freedom in this country dates back to the Eureka Stockade. Those who, without knowledge and experience, always place the whole of the blame on the workers, are not acting in the be3t interests of this country. I contrast the attack on the miners by the honorable member for Wentworth with the speech of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to which we listened yesterday. The right honorable gentleman dealt in a national spirit with the operation of the existing principles of taxation, and the application of the monetary system during the last war period. Members of the Government party who were associated .with the trade union movement in the depression years have a vivid recollection of the bitter experiences of those days. I hope that honorable members on both sides will heed the warning of the right honorable member that the people of Australia will not again tolerate the degrading conditions to which the mass of the people were subjected during that wretched period. That whatever may be “physically possible is also financially possible, has been proved in the raising of finance for the conduct of the war. I appeal to all to endeavour to secure the wholehearted co-operation of the coal-miners, and not to hurl insults at them day after day in this Parliament.
The Government has proclaimed its adherence to a policy of decentralization. Until the hinterland has been provided with the facilities that it needs for its development, Australia will not have sufficient population. I warn the Government that it will be confronted with every obstacle that can be placed in its way in attempting to implement a policy of decentralization. I have lived in the back country of Western Australia for many years, and know that the State Government has done its best to assist the hinterland. At Geraldton, £1,000,000 was expended in the provision of harbour facilities for the accommodation of overseas shipping. Influential interests proclaimed that no ship would enter that port. They were then, and are still, able to exercise control, and will fight to the last ditch to ensure that primary production of any value shall be entrained to Fremantle, where they have the handling facilities to deal with it. Geraldton is a ghost harbour. Until primary industries are able to provide an opportunity for the establishment of secondary industries, Australia will not have a population of any magnitude, nor will the hinterland of this continent be developed. The base metals industry of Western Australia made appeal after appeal to previous governments, but received no consideration. Under the present Administration it has received a lift, and is developing throughout Western Australia. I believe that it has a great future in that State.
Meat rationing cannot be properly instituted and controlled in Western Australia because of the shortness of the seasons. When the winter feed has gone, the sheep-grower has not the facilities that would enable him to hold sheep on the hoof. If he is not able to dispose of his surplus stock during the favorable season, it is likely to be left on his hands when feed is short. I believe that many regulations are drafted by those who have an eastern States complex. No consideration is given to the large, dry areas in which the season is short, I have already made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the subject, and I hope that meat rationing will be abandoned, at least so far as Western Australia is concerned. Without being parochial I am, I think, justified in pointing out that Western. Australia has received scant consideration from successive Commonwealth governments. Apparently, the people of the west are so far away on the western side of the Nullabor Plains that they do not count. It was announced to-day that 24 new clothing factories were being established in various parts of the Commonwealth, but not one is being provided in Western Australia. These matters have a bearing upon the efforts of the Government to obtain greater constitutional powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. For my part, I hope that the States will agree to make this a truly national parliament with power to develop Australia as it should be developed. I could give valuable information regarding developmental and water conservation schemes in the area extending from Esperance in the south-east to Wyndham in the far north. The water is there, and only needs to be impounded. I hope that the Government’s post-war plans will envisage, not only the capital cities, but also the large outlying, areas of Australia.
.- During this debate, many aspects of the budget have been discussed, but the two main subjects have been taxation and the coalmining industry. I propose to address myself to something entirely different. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his budget speech, said that the immediate danger to this country was passed, but that victory was still to be won. ‘Nothing but our utmost efforts, he said, will suffice. I need hardly say that I entirely agree with that statement, and honorable members on this side of the House will insist on a maximum war effort. We shall give 100 per cent, support to the Government in the vigorous prosecution of the war until complete victory is gained, and we shall subordinate all other considerations to that one great purpose.
We Britishers are a peace-loving people. We are prepared to go to almost any length to preserve the peace of the world, but this policy as practised in the past has been proved to be wrong. We are to-day paying very dearly for the mistaken policy of appeasement and complacency. Historians tell us that the British Empire has been threatened four times in fo.ur successive centuries - first by Philip II. of Spain, then by Louis IV. of France, then by Napoleon, then by the German Kaiser and now by Hitler in the same century. Hitler occupied the Rhineland in 1936, Mussolini con quered Abyssinia, Germany absorbed Austria and Czechoslovakia, and Japan began to realize its territorial ambitions. It took a severe sh’ock to awaken us from our comfortable illusions of peace. It was not until Germany invaded Poland that we awakened, to a real recognition of the danger which threatened us from the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. For a world war in which we would have to fight for the preservation of our national heritage, our democratic institutions and our standard of life, we were entirely unprepared. No good purpose would be served by conducting post-mortems, or trying to place the blame upon any particular party for our unpreparedness. While the democracies were wrapt in complacency, other countries were arming. Disarmament is an admirable thing provided other countries practise it also, but for the British Commonwealth of Nations to disarm while other countries are -arming to the teeth and their war factories are working overtime, would be nothing less than suicidal. In the past, Britain’s command of the seas has always enabled us to emerge victorious. By virtue of its command of the sea Britain was saved from invasion, but it should now be evident to every one that the development of aircraft has entirely altered the situation, and Britain can no longer depend exclusively upon its naval strength. Never again must the Empire be caught unprepared. When this war broke out, the United Nations were quite unprepared for the terrific onslaught of the enemy who during the first few months advanced on all fronts. We were compelled to fight a holding war. When war first broke out, I said that Great Britain would be compelled to muddle along holding the enemy as best it could, until we organized ourselves for the conflict. That was done, but at what terrific cost! Thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of pounds worth of damage has been done, to say nothing of the misery that has been brought to thousands of homes. Why did this happen? Simply because we failed to take heed of what was going on. We failed to prepare for the war which all the world’s thinkers knew was approaching. In future, our motto must be, “ In preparedness lies our safety “.
The budget contains nothing to which exception can be taken. It is largely a statistical document, an historical review. It might be compared to the tail-light on a vehicle - it sheds some light on the track over which we have travelled. For the most part, it is couched in general terms; one might say that it is a thing of ambiguous generalities. It is remarkable, not for what it contains, but for what it omits. I was pleased to hear the statement of the Treasurer in regard to man-power. As I said earlier to-day, some people seem to think that the war effort begins and ends with drafting men into camp, without paying any heed to the food front. Of course, the actual fighting forces are paramount, but the production of food is also essential to the successful prosecution of the war. The Treasurer admitted in his budget speech that the diversion of the working population from civil to military occupations had reached its limit, and that the impediment to further production was lack of man-power. With that I agree. The man-power position now and in the past has been handled clumsily. The whole scheme has been ill balanced. There are instances of foolhardiness on the part of government departments and, indeed, of the Government itself. Because of the acute shortage of man-power, many dairymen have been obliged to dispose of all or a part of their herds, or to put the calves on to them, or to fatten their cows for beef. Consequently, the production of butter and milk has been reduced. Pig producers have been obliged to sell their breeding sows because they cannot get labour to help them on the farms. Consequently, there is a shortage of pig meats. It is impossible to buy potatoes in Sydney and Melbourne, and even in Canberra; yet there are hundreds of tons of potatoes in the ground in Tasmania, but there is no labour to dig them. At the same time, the potato-growers are unable to fulfil their contracts for next season. Men are being called up by the Army unjustifiably, while farms are going back to a state of nature, and food is becoming scarce. In Tasmania, the representative of the Potato Marketing Board urged the farmers to apply for the release of employees to dig potatoes and to prepare the ground for next, season’s priority crops of flax, blue peas, &c, but the applications were refused by the military authorities. There have been instances in which one government instrumentality has urged greater production,, while another has put all sorts of obstacles in the way. There should be more collaboration between government departments. The man-power problem is undoubtedly a difficult one; but because of lack of organization there is an acute shortage of man-power in rural districts while men in military camps are bored stiff because they have not enough to do to occupy their time. In this regard the attitude of the Government is foolish and incomprehensible. Soldiers in the British Army do not idle away their time in camp - they go put into the fields to help with the harvest. I have here a picture from a London paper, the Daily Sketch, showing British soldiers on a Surrey farm helping with harvesting operations in that busy corner of England. If that co-operation is available in Great Britain, why not in Australia? In Great Britain, too, 6,000,000 additional acres have been put under the plough since war began. That should be the policy of this country. But instead, all sorts of obstacles- are placed in the way of maintaining food production. I shall cite some of the obstacles raised by the military authorities. I had placed before me recently the case of a Tasmanian who combined pork-breeding with dairying, and who, because his application for the release of his son from camp was refused, was compelled to sell his breeding sows and reduce his dairy herd, not having the labour with which to continue to produce two of the foodstuffs most sorely needed by the United Nations. A young farmer with a wife and three children went overseas with the Australian Imperial Force in the first transport to leave Australia and has served in many theatres of war. His wife courageously carried on his farm for four years, but she has now reached the end of her tether and must leave the property which will go out of production, solely because the Army says, “ No, you cannot have your husband back. The Army still wants him, although he has served faithfully for four years “. An elderly couple whose only son is in the
Army .were forced by the indifferent health of the husband to leave farming for commerce. They asked for the release of their son to aid them because of the aggravated ill health of his father, but the Army said, “ No “, and they are being forced out of business. I am certain that it is not the policy of the Government that people should be forced out of business and out of production because of the attitude of the Army authorities, but that is what is happening. The irony of this case is that this lad is of no use to the Army. I have known him as a sufferer from tinea of the feet since birth. He is in and out of hospital. He was found unconscious in camp and taken to hospital only the other day. Yet the Army says, “We will keep this man, although he is not Al “. Another man farming 500 acres, who was aged only 61 when the war broke out, allowed his three sons to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. All have seen service abroad. Now 65, the farmer is in ill health and is asking for the release of just one son to enable him* to keep his farm in production. But no! The Army keeps him ! Another man, on his return from the Middle East, contracted malaria in New Guinea. Since his return to Australia he has been in hospital about as much as he has been out. A Tasmanian farm of 2,000 acres is not in full production because the Army refuses to release this man. A 75- year-old and crippled father and a 65- year-old mother have no labour with which to conduct their farm, although their only son is wasting his time in camp. Some area officers resent members of Parliament making representations for the release of men. One of them recently told a man of my acquaintance that if he asked a member of Parliament to make representations to the Minister or to any one else for the release of his son, he could not expect any consideration from him. That attitude is certainly not helpful, and I ask the Minister for the Army to ensure that there shall be no repetition of it. Stability of production of primary products is most essential to the war effort, and I hope that the Government will do much more than it has done to ensure it. I also trust that the Minister for the Army will be able, in spite of the calls on his time, to give some personal attention to the serious shortage of labour on the food front to-day.
It is impossible to foretell exactly what the conditions will be after the war, but we do know that we shall be confronted with grave and formidable problems. In present circumstances, all we can do is generalize, leaving the specific problems to be worked out as they occur; but it is certain that when we have won, the United Nations must make provision to control the Axis countries until they have adopted a system of government at our bidding and to our liking and are willing to live at peace with their neighbours. The forces of evil in the Axis countries, which visited this fearful conflict on the peace-loving peoples of the world, must never be allowed to rear their ugly heads again. The end of the war may throw the whole of the existing order into the melting-pot. The monetary system may come under scrutiny; certainly the tariff system will. An important aspect of the post-war world for Australia to watch will be the development of Great Britain as a market for Australian primary products. We must keep in mind the possible effects of the Atlantic Charter on the markets in Great Britain for Australian primary products. In the past, the primary producers of this country have had a raw deal, compared “ with those engaged in secondary industries. The latter have received all sorts of protection and security - quite rightly, I admit - but the farmers have not shared in that good fortune, for with every concession to the secondary industries the costs of production in rural industries have risen. The prices of almost everything the farmers need in their industry have gone sky-high without any compensating increase of the prices of their products. The primary producers are entitled to a wage at least equal to the wages paid in secondary industries and to the same standards of living and comfort as are enjoyed by city dwellers. In order that the earnings and the living standards of the primary producers might be raised, it will be necessary, I think, to extend the principle of guaranteed prices on a basis similar to that in operation in Great Britain and the United States of America. I intend later to develop the subject of guaranteed prices. Meanwhile, I wish to point out that many countries have adopted the system of economic nationalism under which imports are exchanged for exports. It is utterly impossible for all countries to export and none to import. I suggest that all the nations must get together and try to evolve some system of reciprocal trade in a spirit of give and take. We cannot expect to take all and give nothing.
We have a country of 3,000,000 square miles enclosed in a coast-line of more than 12,000 miles and a population of only 7,000,000. I agree with the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and other speakers that the Australian baby is our best immigrant, and that we must make every endeavour to raise the birth-rate. Nevertheless, the post-war period will provide a splendid opportunity to encourage the right stock to migrate to this country. We shall be able, as it were, to hand-pick immigrants. The Australian people are almost entirely sprung from British stock - I understand that we are 98 per cent. British - and if we continue to encourage the development of our population on that basis we shall be in a better position in the future than we were when this war broke out to defend ourselves against aggression. Whatever happens, we must learn to defend ourselves, and the only way in which we can do that is by having within this land a greater number of people to feed. It would be much better for us to have population to eat our surplus foodstuffs in the years that follow the war than to seek ships to carry that surplus to the world’s markets thousands of miles overseas, to be sold at world parity prices which do not pay the Australian producer. We should reverse our procedure and bring people to the food instead of taking food to the people. Australia will become a formidable power in the Pacific if we develop it as we should by encouraging a higher birth-rate and attracting as immigrants the best stock available overseas. As an inducement .to people from overseas to come, here, we must, at the very least, ensure that they shall receive social ser- vices no less than are offered by the countries from which they come.
I now come to post-war aviation. Lord Bennett said recently in the House of Lords -
A well-equipped efficient Empire air transport system is essential if the integrity of the Empire is to be maintained.
I entirely agree. It is pleasing to note that during recent discussions on postwar civil aviation Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt agreed on the principle of freedom of the air. After the war, there will be thousands of airmen set loose and thousands of aircraft available. Air transport will be the modern means of travel. People will be able to fly the Pacific from Australia to the United States of America in three days instead of voyaging by sea for three weeks and from Australia to the United Kingdom in five or six days instead of five or six weeks by sea. Thousands of people will be wanting to travel quickly by air. The country with the most up-to-date air transport system will secure the major part of the world’s trade, because commercial competition between the countries will be intensely keen. I suggest, therefore, that .the Government must give this matter immediate consideration. I was glad to read that invitations are being extended to the governments of the British Dominions to attend a conference on post-war aviation. An exploratory conference is being held at this moment in London.
I was gratified to learn that the Government had appointed a Rural Reconstruction Commission, and I hope that its report will be expedited and action taken to place primary industries on a more stable basis than they are to-day. In order to see primary industry in its true perspective under war conditions, I point out that conditions controlling primary production are very different from those governing other industries, more particularly as they affect prices and costs, which are the two vital factors in any industry.
In industries other than primary production, prices and costs are in general practice correlated so that the cost will be covered by selling prices. Even wages are correlated, to a great degree, with the cost of living. For instance, a manufacturer can take a quantity of raw material, the exact price of which he knows, and estimate accurately the number of articles that he can produce from it and the labour required in manufacturing them. After adding overhead expenses he can accurately-estimate the cost of producing the article. He will also have a fair idea of the price for which the article can be sold. If the selling price is not sufficient to cover the cost of production he will, if he is a sensible man, decide not to manufacture the article and turn his attention to something else.
But the primary producer has to employ his raw materials in the shape of land, seed and fertilizers, carry out the necessary labour operations, and then wait for six months before he can know the yield that he will obtain from the harvest. Although he can accurately estimate the cost of the raw material and labour per acre before he begins his operations, he cannot calculate the cost of production until he has harvested the crop and knows the yield. The position is similar regarding selling prices. Whereas the prices of manufactured articles are fairly stable and likely to vary little during the period of production, the price of agricultural produce fluctuates violently over short periods. It is impossible to predict what the price will be six or twelve months hence, when the crop is ready for market. Therefore, the producer is never able to control production costs or selling prices. Production costs are controlled by the yield per acre, which controls the total quantity available. This, in turn, controls the selling price.
Of course, prices can be controlled by arbitrary methods, but neither boards nor individuals can fix the cost of production. The figure may rise or fall in sympathy with prices generally, and may. even be reduced by increased efficiency, but the deciding factor always is the yield per acre, which is dependent to a large degree upon seasonal conditions.
I now desire to refer to efficiency in connexion with primary production. According to a statement by Dr. A. E. V. Richardson, an officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, 12,000 fewer persons were directly employed in primary production in 1938 than in 1911.
In spite of that decrease, Australia was producing three times as much wheat, four and a half times as much butter, four times as many pigs, and a great deal more wool and fruit. These facts are supported by the Commonwealth YearBooh, which shows that the value of primary production for the same period has increased by nearly 100 per cent. The inference to be drawn is that the primary producer has been able, by increased efficiency, to meet higher costs of production during the last 30 years. The conditions which I have outlined lead one to the inevitable conclusion that all primary production is a gamble. The man who depends upon a single commodity such as wheat, wool or fruit, hopes for the occasional year of bumper returns to carry him over lean years. The man engaged in mixed farming counts UP,01 obtaining sufficiently high returns from one or two products to compensate for losses on other products.
There is no need for me to stress the fact that no industry can carry on when costs exceed returns. If some definite action be not taken by the Government for the purpose of adjusting farm prices to the cost of production as is done in other industries, the position of many producers will become increasingly desperate and will inevitably terminate in disaster for the farmer. No one will deny that the maintenance of a healthy primary industry is essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth. Even though production in some directions may have to be curtailed for the duration of the war, every care must be exercised to ensure that the potential capacity of primary industries shall not be impaired.
The production of food is just as essential to the conduct of the war as is the production of fighting equipment. The war has dislocated primary industries, and created many burdens for producers. The Government has the responsibility of seeing that primary industries, when suffering from those conditions, shall be treated with the same consideration as the manufacturing industries.
I come now to the subject of price fixation. Under normal conditions, or what is sometimes called the “ law of supply and demand “, costs and prices may be averaged by the producer as a guide. Over a period of years, costs and prices will adjust themselves approximately to the average. If in any particular season crops are below the average costs will rise in inverse ratio to the yield. If crop failures are general, a scarcity will prevail and prices will rise, thus tending to balance costs. When prices are arbitrarily fixed, this sympathetic rise to compensate for the increased cost is prevented. Assuming that the price has been fixed in relation to the average cost, the return will be insufficient to cover the actual cost. Therefore, any attempt to fix the selling prices of primary products upon the basis of the average cost of production, must inevitably penalize the grower, unless a fair margin be allowed to cover fluctuating yields, and a minimum price is guaranteed in a season of glut. I recognize that some control of the prices of exportable products must be exercised in war-time, as a necessary part of contracts, or in the interests of the industry itself. Although these are sometimes the minimum prices, provision should be made in justice to the producer to meet increasing costs. The simplest method of doing this, in respect of contract prices, is periodically to adjust the price; but as only a small percentage of the total production is sold in this manner, some other method will have to be found for its general application. I am indebted to the secretary of the Tasmanian producers’ organization for some of the particulars concerning primary production that I have given to the committee.
In 1922, the United States of America introduced legislation designed to raise the farm income in the interests of the nation. More comprehensive legislation was introduced in 1935 for the purpose of ensuring remunerative prices for all farm products. In 1930, Great Britain placed on the statute-book an act to provide remunerative prices for some farm products, and by 1938 all its farm products were included in the scheme. Years ago those two countries realized the necessity in the national interest for placing agriculture on a better basis. They emancipated their farmers from their parlous position. Australian agriculture is in the same parlous position as were the primary industries of the United
States of America and Great Britain. Those countries have demonstrated the way in which to remedy the position, and it is high time that Australia followed their example.
.- As a new member of the House of Representatives I have ‘ listened with great interest to the many speeches that have been delivered on the budget. At times, I wondered whether I was sitting in this chamber, or whether I was viewing farms, orchards, peanut farms, coalmines, and sugar-cane plantations, and making several trips around the world. Occasionally, however, a reference to the budget reminded me that I was still in Canberra.
Some honorable members opposite have emphasized the necessity for obtaining an “ all-in “ war effort, and claimed that every one is expected to make sacrifices in order to ensure that the war shall be brought to a successful conclusion. The Opposition has complained that rates of income tax payable by persons in the lower income groups are too lenient. They also lament that this section of the community is not purchasing as many war savings certificates or subscribing to the Liberty Loan, as it should do. I remind them, that the lower income groups are doing the hard work in addition to the fighting. Does the Opposition expect them to pay for the war as well? Obviously, their limited means will not enable them to contribute on a grand scale to public loans. We cannot get blood from a stone ; and we cannot expect to obtain large subscriptions to public loans from persons in receipt of small incomes. I reside in a locality where the majority of the people earn only small wages, and I know that they have a struggle to make ends meet. But honorable members opposite have accused’ them of depositing £100,000,000 per annum in the Commonwealth Savings Bank. That statement cannot be correct because they are not earning sufficient money to enable them to save such a vast sum.
Some honorable members have suggested that every person in receipt of income should make a direct contribution to a social security scheme. People receiving low incomes have no social security, and, therefore, they are unable to contribute to any scheme. The attacks on the low-paid workers are quite unjustified. At the earliest possible moment, the Government should raise the level of exemption for the purpose of relieving the poorer section of the obligation to pay income tax. A person receiving £150 or £200 a year definitely cannot afford, under existing conditions, to pay income tax. He has a sufficiently hard struggle as things are.
I have heard it suggested frequently that the workers engaged in this all-in war effort arc not pulling their weight in this, that, or the other industry. The coal-miners, in particular, have been attacked in this connexion. I have not had any experience of the coal-mining industry, but from what I have heard in this debate, and from my general knowledge, I realize that the coal-miners have to work under most difficult conditions. They may be at fault occasionally, but the fact remains that they are at present producing more coal annually, in the aggregate, than was produced before the war. The problem of regulating the coalmining industry is extremely difficult, and it is not being eased in any way by the vicious attacks that are being made on the miners. Prosecutions in the courts, the gaoling of coal-miners for misdemeanours, or the implication contained in the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that in certain circumstances men should be stood against the wall and shot, will fail to bring peace to this industry. The difficulties must be considered very carefully. We shall get nowhere by issuing threats. In my opinion the Government is dealing with the situation wisely. I believe that it is making a praiseworthy effort to secure a maximum output of coal. In the circumstances sniping at the coal-miners is to be deplored. If honorable members opposite desire peace in this industry they should assist the Government to deal with the difficulties in a conciliatory way.
I wish to say a word about the Army and the food front. Not long ago on the hustings of this country and by means of the radio and press Opposition members and their supporters were urging the conscription of the manhood of Australia for the purpose of organizing one army which could be used for service in any part of the world. In season and out of season honorable members opposite urged that the successful prosecution of the war made conscription essential. The Labour party has always opposed that policy, and has contended that our first duty was to provide for the defence of Australia. In order to resist invasion of this country it was necessary to mobilize the largest possible navy, army and air force. The ‘ Labour Government has achieved this end, but honorable gentlemen opposite are now telling us that we have too many people in the various fighting services. They desire that men and women shall be released for work on the food front. One honorable gentleman opposite suggested that as many as 200,000 individuals be released from the services for work in primary industries. This plea has a hypocritical sound when we remember how anxious honorable members opposite were a few short months ago to conscript the manhood of the country for service overseas. If their policy had been adopted it would have been impossible to mobilize a sufficiently large army within Australia for our own defence. The Government is taking a realistic view of the situation in provid- ing that 20,000 members of the armed forces shall be gradually released for work on the food front and another 20,000 individuals diverted from the manufacture of munitions to other essential work. The Government’s policy provides for a careful balance of armed forces and civilian services. Now honorable members are saying that insufficient numbers of men and women are ‘being released, and that those who are being released are being put to work either in the wrong place or in the wrong industry. The fact is that there is no pleasing them. The Government may be trusted to use our man-power and resources to the best possible advantage. Its policy undoubtedly has the approval of the great majority of the people of this country.
It is gratifying that preparations are being made to ensure that employment shall be available for people when the Avar ends. We do not desire a repetition of our experiences after the last war. The problem of rehabilitation that faced us on that occasion was small relative to that which, will face us after the armistice on this occasion. I suppose we shall have to provide for three times as many people this time as were provided for at the end of the last war. It will be no easy task to transfer hundreds of thousands of our men and women from war services to civilian occupations, but the Government may bc trusted to do the work to the satisfaction of the general community. In order to cope with the problem satisfactorily Parliament will need to have full control of the financial resources of the country. It has been said on many occasions that those “who control the finances of a country really govern it. In a democracy such as we have in Australia it is proper that the Parliament elected by the whole of the adult population should control finance. I hope that action will be taken at an early date to make the Commonwealth Bank a true people’s bank. If that is clone the Government will be in a better position to rehabilitate the country after the war. “We should not be dependent upon the whims of private financiers for money for post-war reconstruction. The financial manipulation that followed the last war brought us to a condition of national depression such as was never previously known. It was deplorable that in a country that was producing more food than the people could eat, manufacturing more clothing than the people could wear, and building more homes than the people could occupy, there were starving people dressed in ragged clothing walking our streets because they had been turned out of hovels which they could not afford to rent. This Parliament should take .ill necessary steps to prevent the return of such conditions.
In relation to social services there is urgent. need for the introduction, at an early date, of measures to ensure that medical benefits and unemployment insurance shall be available to the whole community. More favorable consideration should also be given to the circumstances of our invalid and old-age pensioners. This Government has been more generous to pensioners than has any of its predecessors, but the present pen- sion of 26s. 6d. a week is insufficient to allow the old pioneers of this country, of whom we have heard a good deal in the course of this debate, to live in reasonable comfort. The amount of income which pensioners may earn apart from their pension .is now 12s. 6d. a week; that is too little. I hope that the Government will increase the pension and also increase the amount of income which pensioners may earn without endangering their pensions. We have declared in this country that all workers shall have a living wage. The basic rate at the moment is about £5 a week. I consider that people who qualify for the old-age pension on reaching the prescribed age should be assured of an income at least equal to the basic wage. I ‘believe that the men and women who have served their country well are entitled to some measure of peace, security and comfort in their declining years. If the Government could see its way to increase not only the old-age pension but also permissible earnings of .pensioners so as to bring the total income up to the amount of the basic wage, it would not do for lb eni more than they are entitled to receive, nor would it place an undue strain on other sections of the community.
.- I shall confine my remarks to two subjects, the first of which is civil aviation in the post-war period. On my return to Australia I said something on this subject, and to-night I wish to add to what I then said. I wonder if the full import of to-day’s conference on Empire communications, which is being held in Britain, is realized by the Government. It is vital to the Empire that aviation be fostered, and now is the time to plan for the post-war period. Distances are, in effect, being shortened as communications improve, and as that contraction takes place so the bonds that bind the Empire are contracted and strengthened. Now is the time to plan for the future. The authorities in the United States of America are active in this regard, and Britain . also is discussing post-war aviation. A new era is dawning, and unless we in this country seize the opportunity we shall drift into an isolation greater than that which existed before the war. We owe an obligation to the splendid, air crews which fly in different parts of the world; we must see that after the war those men have an opportunity to continue in aviation, either in the services or in a civil capacity. The manufacture of aircraft in this country can expand, as the motor car and other secondary industries did in many countries after the war of 1914-1S, and absorb labour. That war accelerated aircraft design and engine construction. When it began aeroplanes flew only for short, distances; failures were frequent, and flights were slow and of short duration. Now it is commonplace to cross great oceans in modern bombers. We in this country know little of the development of glider aircraft in Great Britain. I referred to this matter in previous years when the paltry sum of £300 lias placed on the Estimates to assist gliding, because I was one of a band of enthusiasts who desired to foster that activity in this country.- The world has learned a good deal about gliding from Germany. There was a time when gliding was a hobby, or a recreation; now its utility is proved. Honorable members know that Britain used gliders to take troops to Sicily. In modern warfare, gliders are used, also, to transport both service personnel and equipment. Recently, a large glider was towed across the Atlantic, thereby proving that gliders can be used on long-distance operations. It needs no imagination to visualize, in post-war services, gliders being towed long distances, and being cast, off at various places as the journey proceeds. The day is not far distant when huge aircraft, carrying enormous loads, will be flying in the sub-stratosphere at greater speeds. The United States of America is alive to the position, and already is seeking bases along aviation routes for postwar use. There must be friendly cooperation and rivalry between the British Empire and the United States of America. So far, Britain has been busy in manufacturing service types of aircraft because it could not afford to build aeroplanes for civil use. Bombers were necessary because of the heavy losses of that type of aircraft, as many as 30 bombers being lost in one night’s operations. Britain is alive to the position and is able to build any type of aircraft. The honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Guy) mentioned Lord Bennett. I have conferred with him on a number of occasions, and I know that he entertains great hopes of an expansion of air transport routes all over the world, centring on Canada.
– Does the honorable member think that the development and construction of civil aircraft in Britain can equal that of the United States of America?
– Yes. The United Kingdom can change over readily from the manufacture of service aircraft to civil machines. As I have said, Britain’s policy has been to build the aeroplane around the bomb; that is why British bombers are so effective. Because the United States of America had the advantage of entering the Avar later than Britain did, that country has been able to design and manufacture bombers of a type suitable for the carriage of passengers. The success which has attended the Spitfire, Beaufighter and Typhoon types of British aircraft shows that British machines are leaders in their classes. I refer to this subject to-night because Britain needs the assistance of the Dominions. I am glad that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) is in the chamber, and I .believe that he will cooperate with Britain in this matter, to the great benefit of Australia. I hope that he will seek the opinions of people who have a knowledge of aviation matters. There Was a time when Australia could boast that it had longer air service routes than were operated in any other part of the Empire, but later other countries took the lead from us as aircraft endurance grew. It may be well to set up an empire board to control empire aviation, and for Australia to he represented thereon. I ask the Minister to bear this suggestion in mind. There may be also an international board, on which the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Russia, would be represented. There is no doubt that aviation will develop, and I am anxious that Australia shall play its part in that development. Both Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt have made it clear that they stand for the freedom of the skies. They ask for our co-opera tion, and will welcome any assistance that we can render.
As I do not believe in urging the Government to do something without offer- . ing constructive ideas, I shall put forward a practical suggestion for the consideration of the Government. In 1937 I crossed the Tasman Sea and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government discussed, among other things, aviation matters with the Government of New Zealand. I suggested then the creation of a controlling body on which the Governments of the two Dominions should have a controlling interest by holding a majority of the shares. To some honorable members that may sound like socialism, but, in my opinion, aviation is an instrumentality which should be under government control and should embody the best elements of government and private management. No honorable member would suggest that the postoffice or the fighting forces should be under private control; yet there is danger that a service which, attracts our bestyoung men may in the years after the war become a private monopoly by getting into the hands of vested interests whose concern will, naturally, be to make profits and not to run with nominal fares. I suggest that aviation should be in the control of a body similar to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which the Government holds a majority of the shares. It may be desirable in order to preserve Australia’s interest that the Government should hold 51 per cent, of the shares of any company or corporation established to conduct civil aviation after the war.
The second subject to which I shall refer is the more controversial one of supplies to the United Kingdom. All honorable members will agree that Australia must do its utmost in regard to aviation, but, because the facts are not sufficiently well known, we are not doing our best in the supply of foodstuffs to Britain. W’hen the war struck, Britain was not prepared. For a time it fought, alone against great odds. To-day Britain and its Allies have the initiative and are winning victories on every front. Concurrently with the development of the fighting machine, Bri- tain engaged in food production on a comprehensive basis in order to feed its people. Before the war only one-fourth of the foodstuffs consumed by the British people was produced locally, but during the war there has been an enormously increased production. Nevertheless it has been found necessary to ration vigorously the distribution of food to the people. Honorable members may not know that fruit has almost entirely disappeared from British homes. All the oranges which enter Britain are set aside for children under six years of age. The story of the child who was offered a banana by Queen Elizabeth and cried when told to eat it is probably well known to honorable members; the child had not previously seen a banana. When I was in Britain I saw shrivelled lemons sold at auction for many pounds in aid of the “ wings for victory “ fund. Many sweets and dried fruits are things of the past there, whereas in this country we still have abundance. We sometimes hear complaints that in Australia each person is allowed only 8 oz. of butter a week, but in Britain the butter ration is only 2 oz. a week. Before the war Britain relied largely on Denmark, Holland and Scandinavia for its supplies of butter, but when that source of supply was cut off through the action of Germany, Britain’s sources of supply were practically restricted to Australia and New Zealand. With the outbreak of war, we visualised a state of affairs in which Australia would be glutted with products which could not be exported because the British fleet might not be able to ensure its safe delivery to the Old Country. Britain contracted to take for the duration of the war all our wool as well as large quantities of foodstuffs. Australian wool still goes to Britain in large quantities - of course we cannot use all of it - but not sufficient butter is sent. To-day the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) referred to the statement of Lord Woolton that the British authorities were pleased with what Australia had done to supply foodstuffs to the Old Country. Of course they were pleased; but, after all, that was a general statement which did not relate to any specific commodity. Although every one in the country had food, the quantity allowed by the ration was not anything like what it .is in Australia, and even soap and hath water were rationed. The welfare of children has been the first concern of the British authorities, but, despite the severe rationing, the health of the nation has been preserved because the ration book has been scientifically worked out. Food has been taken from one section of the people and given to another section because only in that way could the nation carry on. Unless we send to Britain larger supplies of butter we shall harm the people who are bearing the brunt of the war. It is true that members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Navy have borne their share of the war risks, but large numbers of Australia’s fighting forces are not doing anything worthwhile. I believe that if we were to ask Britain for a division, or even a brigade or a regiment of fighting men, the assistance asked for would willingly be provided. In this connexion I suggest that it would have a good effect if some British troops were brought to Australia so that we could show our appreciation of what Britain has done, and is doing.
– How does the honorable gentleman know that that has not been considered?
– I suggested it to certain Cabinet Ministers abroad, as well as in Australia. I hope that my suggestion has borne fruit.
– It is very easy to suggest something which the honorable member may know that the Government had decided upon but could not allow to bo made known.
– I am glad that the thoughts of the honorable gentleman are flowing in that direction. I made the suggestion to a British Cabinet Minister eighteen months ago. If the Minister for War Organization of Industry .thought of it first, he can have all the credit. It would be good to have British troops in Australia so that they might see the abundance that we have of things of which they are deprived in their own country and share, too, the welcome we have accorded our Allies. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) came to Australia from. Great Britain. If he visited his native land now, he would see a changed country, which has tightened its belt and has really rationed itself. I invite him to pay heed to these figures : In the first year of the war, Australia sent to Britain 90,000 tons of butter. Last year, it sent 54,000 tons, and none since June. Why the decline? Our consumption has increased by 20 per cent. Each Australian still has an allowance of butter four times as much as the British ration. Britons are allowed weekly -) lb. of meat, compared with our 4-i lb. each. There is ample scope for rationing if we really want to help them. I know that there are difficulties in relation to supply. Many more men than are necessary have been called up for the ‘Citizen Military Forces or are being used in other capacities, and some of them will have to be released so that they may again engage in agricultural pursuits. We can do much better than we are doing. Ships are plying between the two countries, and are taking our troops overseas. Refrigerated space is sometimes vacant. Wool and steel are exported. The butter and meat shipments should be maintained to the maximum. Cannot the Government do better than has been done? I am not speaking merely for the sake of “ throwing bricks “ ; I am painting a picture of the position at the head-quarters of our Empire, the home of British people of whom we are proud to be descendants. They arc not complaining. They do not boast of their deeds. They have been underrated by the world, including their Allies. They have actually been criticized in this country by members of the present Government, yet they have never retaliated in kind, but have always taken the view that this is a great dominion, a child of the Mother Country. We can do a great deal by helping our kinsmen when, they are having such difficult times. I confess that when I read in the British press that Australia could not supply . its butter quota, and in the same column that New Zealand could, I did not feel proud of my native land. I did not then know the reason. The explanation of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) was that the cowa were not giving as much milk as they had given formerly, or something of the kind. That did notcarry any weight against the newspaper headlines that Australia had not reached its quota and New Zealand had. It would not be a very great sacrifice if we were to ration ourselves a little and fulfil our quota for the benefit of’ the headquarters of our Empire, which is bearing the brunt of the war to-day; with due deference to our Allies, the United Kingdom is doing more than any other country. Whatever may he done, should be done promptly if we are to preserve our self-respect.
.- That the Government has been able to place before the committee a budget of such huge proportions, without being impelled further to disturb the economic basis of industry by imposing additional taxation, is a tribute to the sound principles upon which it has undertaken the mobilization of Australia for total war. It is imperative to curtail spending power during a time of war. The proposal of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to draw off in loans all the available surplus is the best’ guarantee that could be given against further substantial increases of the cost of living. It is easy, when one is not sitting at the Treasury, to criticize any budget, whether it be a war-time or a peace-time budget. It is the responsibility of the Treasury, and finally of the Government, to ensure an even balance, so that the burden will be shared without causing industrial chaos on the one hand or inflation of the cost of living on the other hand. The present budget, like that which preceded it, achieves this objective.
As a new member, I was particularly gratified that the Treasurer should have directed special attention to the matter of post-Avar reconstruction. We all know that the war is still a long way from being won. None of us is in a position to know what the conditions will be in . Australia or anywhere else when the war is over. That is why it is so essential that, side by side with the prosecution of the war to our fullest capacity, we should at least be preparing machinery to take care of the problems of peace-time which war will create. It is easy to say that postwar organization is loose, and that its objectives are vague. I direct attention to the views held by the Tariff Board, one Australian authority that is independent of politics, which should be in a position to have a proper appreciation of the difficulties of post-war planning. In its annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1943, the board revealed that it had submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) a number of preliminary surveys covering -the problems of specific industries in the post-war period. It may, therefore, be assumed that the board has made extensive inquiry into the problems with, which industry will be confronted when readjusting itself after the existing production loses its urgency. As the result of its inquiries, the board has apparently reached a definite conclusion in relation to the difficulty of detailed planning at the present stage. The following appears on page 6 of its report : -
Obviously, comprehensive post-war planning for secondary industries cannot be achieved until post-war conditions have become more clearly defined.
Not only in the Commonwealth but also in the wider international sphere, much can be done in” making preparations for the time when it will be possible to achieve complete co-ordinated planning and to formulate and put into operation a scheme for its implementation. Those circumstances must apply now to every phase of our preparations for post-war readjustment; to the investigations that are being conducted by the Rural Reconstruction Committee, and to a lesser degree to the activities of the Commonwealth Housing Commission. Reports received from abroad indicate that in Britain, the United States of America, Canada and other countries, there is equal realization of the fact that the actual shape of post-war planning cannot be determined until the actual shape of the post-war world begins to be revealed. That does not mean that nothing can be done now towards readjusting the national economy swiftly and smoothly at the conclusion of hostilities. In this connexion, the Government deserves the confidence and gratitude of the Australian people, particularly the personnel of our fighting services and the thousands of essential war workers who will look for an immediate solution of their employment problems when the war is over. The Government was not content to adopt the policy outlined by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) when he attended the Constitution Convention last year. The attitude of the right honorable gentleman at the convention was that the constitutional basis of post-war planning and preparation should be left until the termination of the war. That was a policy of defeatism which could only have led to chaos. The Government, with clear foresight and a sense of its responsibility to post-war society, has already set at work a number of planning agencies for the purposes of investigation and survey under the direction of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley). At this stage, nobody can expect those agencies to reach final .and unchangeable opinions. The best that th<=y can do is to accumulate evidence of the probable conditions, and, according to the evidence, make recommendations for the provision of machinery to take control of the various problems that will have to be solved for the large communities in country districts. Members of this Parliament have complained without avail of the over-development of our capital cities and the consequent underdevelopment of the rural portions of Australia. A war was needed to make us realize how utterly unbalanced that development had been during a few generations. In determining the lines of its policy of post-war development, the Government has done more to restore the position than was done by any government that preceded it. “When this Administration assumed office in October, 1941, 25 government munitions factories were in operation or had been authorized ; thirteen were in capital cities, and twelve in country districts. Less than two years later, 24 new factories were in operation, all of them outside the metropolitan area, raising the total number in the country to 3G. This of itself has laid the basis of the post-war transfer of much of our manufacturing capacity into areas with substantial cities as their centres in which employment will be provided, thus making possible the rapid development of country districts. The Government has already given evidence ‘ that its policy in this regard is deliberate. I hope that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will give to this phase of post-war development the attention which, in the opinion of the Government, is warranted. The Treasurer has referred to the recent, establishment of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The necessity for such an institution has been felt for many years by our primary producers, and I am glad to be associated with the Government that has translated that ideal of the rural industries into reality. When one recalls the difficulties which confronted our primary industries during the depression, and realizes that an institution of this kind could have averted the tragedy which befell them as the result of the drop of international price levels, one can truly say that this Government has at long last laid the basis of sound finance for rural industry. I believe that the Mortgage Bank Department will play a vital part in the rehabilitation of our primary industries, and that it will ultimately become one of the most important agencies in post-war reconstruction. I advise the Government to watch its development, particularly in its earlier stages, in order to ensure that it will render service to the community.
In conclusion, I submit that no room exists for party politics in the nation’s war effort. I congratulate the Curtin Government upon the degree of national unity and the war effort which it has been able to achieve mainly because of the soundness of its policies and administration.
– ii7, reply - I propose to reply to several points that have been raised during the debate. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that the estimate of expenditure for war purposes represented a lesser war effort than that represented by our war expenditure last year. I point out to him that the Estimates do not cover our total war expenditure. A portion of war expenditure provided in previous votes was in respect of capital disbursements, and, naturally, that class of expenditure progressively declines as the work proceeds. Secondly, the cost of Australia’s commitments under lend-lease does not appear in the Estimates. For instance, the cost of such items as aeroplanes and tanks would normally appear on the expenditure side of the budget, but at present these items are not shown as a debit. However, our expenditure under lend-lease has been tremendous, and as it is not disclosed, the Estimates do not represent our total war effort. I say without ‘hesitation that our war effort for this year in respect not only of manpower in the fighting services and war production, but also of production of war materials, will bc far greater than our war effort in any previous year.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was dealing with, uniform taxation he proposed that a committee bc appointed to examine various proposals, particularly the pay-as-you-earn system. He expressed the opinion that the people of Australia would desire to continue uniform taxation after the war. Of course, that legislation provides that uniform taxation shall continue only for the duration of the war and one financial year thereafter. Therefore, we cannot assume that uniform taxation will be continued ; and any decision by Parliament to institute the pay-as-you-earn system must be dependent upon the attitude of the States, which have accepted uniform taxation subject to a time limit. Any decision by this Parliament which would alter that position without the consent of the States would be repudiated by the States. The Leader of the Opposition expressed the hope that uniform taxation would be continued. I believe that as time goes on we must revise the amounts of compensation now paid to the States under the Income Tax Reimbursement Act, because there can be no doubt that the financial position of the States will change, in some cases for the better, and in others, perhaps, for the worse. The Income Tax Reimbursement Act provides that a State may apply to the Treasurer for extra payment, whereupon the Treasurer refers such claims to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. At this juncture, I pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the excellence of its latest report. I commend that report to honorable members, particularly those who have just been elected to Parliament, and have not yet made themselves conversant with the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States.
The honorable member for Warringah suggested that the rate of income tax payable by single people and married couples without children should be increased. The Taxation Department never fails to examine proposals of that kind. It has already studied the suggestions made by the honorable member, and its investigations show that in order to derive an amount of £8,000,000 a very heavy rate of tax would have to be levied on those classes of persons. At the same time, however, we know that many single persons and married couples with no children contribute towards the support of parents and relatives. Therefore, I am sure that any increase of tax upon such classes of persons - something in the nature of- what is usually described as a bachelor tax - would cause great hardship, unless very flexible concessions were allowed in respect of their dependants. In view of the limited amount of revenue which can be obtained from that source even by a heavy rate of tax, the honorable member’s proposal does not commend itself to me.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) suggested a special tax on travellers by land, sea and air. I confess that I have not yet examined that proposal, but I shall do so. I also understood him to suggest that the excise duty on tobacco should be increased.
– I did not say tobacco; T said the excise duty on liquor.
– At any rate, because of the fact that tobacco is one of the items included in “C” series cost of living index, any increase of duty on it would be rather detrimental. The honorable (member must realize that the present excise duty on liquor is very substantial.. With regard to his suggestion that the entertainments tax be increased, including that on racing, honorable members realize that when the entertainment tax was revised on a uniform basis with provision for the payment of compensation to the States, the rate of tax fixed was very high. In some cases it was made so high that it accounts for from 33 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the actual receipts in respect of certain classes of entertainment. Here, I am reminded of the story that recently when two prominent boxers had concluded their bout, and were informed of their share of the proceeds, the referee declared that it would have been more appropriate had he crowned the Taxation Commissioner, because the latter received more from the proceeds than the winner of the contest!
When any proposal is made to extend the income tax field we must always bear in mind its administrative practicability. Since the Curtin Government assumed office, the number of taxpayers has increased from 800,000 to 2,000,000. That development should give to honorable members some idea of the tremendous strain that has now been thrown upon the department. Therefore, we must examine any proposal to increase the field of taxation on the basis of the physical capacity of the department to do more than it is now doing. Many of the officers taken over by the Commonwealth from the State Taxation Departments had not had holidays for a period of two years. I pay a tribute to the work being performed by the officers of the Taxation Department. Sometimes it is suggested that officers of the Treasury and Taxation Departments try to influence the Minister, but that has never been my experience, and, so far as I know, it has never been the experience of any of my predecessors. The primary motive of public servants in all departments is to carry out the tasks set them by the government of the day. At this juncture, I pay a meed of praise to them; many of them toil conscientiously night and day without receiving a word of thanks.
I now propose to touch briefly upon a number of points raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). He said that more attention was being given to the reduction of arrears of taxes owing to the States than to the collection of arrears owing to the Commonwealth. The fact of the matter is that no State income tax was levied in the year 1942-43, and during that period there was, naturally, a steady writing-off of arrears.
On the other hand, Commonwealth taxation increased greatly. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that when we show arrears as at the 30th June, it happens in many cases that, though the assessment has been sent out, the tax is not actually payable on that date.
The Leader of the Australian Country party and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to tho subject of post-war reconstruction. I do not propose to go into the question of which department should be associated with this undertaking, nor the capacity of any particular Minister to handle it. In the early stages, there was good reason for associating it with the Treasury, because the Treasurer, whoever he may be, is in close contact with the State governments in his capacity as chairman of the Loan Council. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether the Government was planning reconstruction on the basis of existing Commonwealth powers, or on the basis of the powers which it hopes the Commonwealth will obtain. It is not for me to say what the Government’s policy is in this regard. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has announced the general intentions of the Government in regard to additional Commonwealth powers, but those powers have still to be obtained. The Prime Minister stated quite frankly that it would be impossible to put into effect a proper policy of post-war reconstruction unless greater powers were given to the Commonwealth Parliament. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke of civil aviation. That is a matter regarding which the people were asked to confer a power upon the Commonwealth Parliament, but they refused. I remind the Leader of the Australian Country party that while the Government is seeking additional powers for this Parliament, it must, in the meantime, be prepared to make the best use it can of the means at its disposal, of which one of the most important is co-operation with the States. Arising out of discussions at the last Premiers Conference and meeting of the Loan Council, a National Works Council has been set up. It is quite evident that the Commonwealth has neither the data nor the staff to prepare plans for great public works. The States have the staffs, and are also in possession of much data regarding projected works. In the early stages the States can, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, plan a series of public works. I hope that we shall not need to embark on those works immediately after the war. It is possible that the real test of our handling of post-war reconstruction will not come until two or three years after the conclusion of the war. At first, there will be a great accumulation of work waiting to be done, including the building of many houses. Perhaps even before the war is over something will have to be done in this direction, subject, of course, to the availability of man-power and materials.
– There is a shortage of 250,000 houses.
– There has always been a shortage, but the cessation of building during the war has aggravated the situation. Moreover, because of improved economic conditions, and because of circumstances arising out of the war, the number of marriages has increased. I think there were 80,000 marriages in Australia last year, and this has naturally increased the demand for houses. After the war, provision will have to be made for the absorption of discharged servicemen into civil life. Many of them will be unfit to pursue their ordinary avocations. Others ‘will have lost the opportunity to be trained either for a profession or a trade. Those who left civil occupations not requiring any particular training will have to be found occupations, and it may be necessary to help them to establish businesses of one sort or another. The realistic approach to post-war planning is to do as much as possible with our present limited Commonwealth powers; then, if the people confer additional powers upon the Commonwealth Parliament, we can expand our programme accordingly. Even if this Parliament were armed with the widest possible power, I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Government would still co-operate with the State governments as much as possible.
I congratulate the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) upon the temperate and tolerant speech which he delivered last night. Members of the
Labour party are not so stupid as to think that we in Australia can develop a watertight economy without regard to what is going on in other countries. There must be international co-operation as well as internal planning. Trade with other countries is just as important to us as it is to them.
Certain immediate problems are associated with post-war reconstruction. In the matter of national works, a programme to cover a period of twelve months or two years could be prepared at an early date. A housing programme to be put into effect immediately after the war could be got ready in a reasonable time. The Government has been investigating the problems associated with our secondary industries, which have an important bearing upon our attitude towards international trade. We have to consider what we propose to make in order to utilize the engineering and general productive capacity of the country, which has been expanded more during the period of the war than would have happened in a normal period of fifteen years. Rural reconstruction involves such works as the extension of electric power services, and water conservation. Those developments are necessary if production is to extend into the drier areas which, while fertile enough, have an uncertain rainfall. The provision of amenities in country areas is more calculated than anything else to promote contentment among country people.
I regret that the Leader of the Australian Country party evinced a disposition to sneer at people who possess academic qualifications. I am one of those who lacked the opportunity to obtain the education which some other members of this House have enjoyed, and perhaps for that reason I have always held the belief that there is need to provide facilities for enabling talented young people to train themselves properly so that we may get the best out of them. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to back the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in I113 scheme to subsidize university students whose parents are in poor financial circumstances. The scheme might with advantage be extended. Unfortunately, there is in existence no scheme to carry the promising children of poor parents through the period between the attainment of the intermediate certificate and the attainment of the leaving certificate.’ I should like every boy and girl of ability to have the opportunity to get the leaving certificate and go on to the university. As I have said, it does not become the Leader of the Australian Country party to sneer at a man because he happens to hold the degree of Doctor of Economics. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) upon having, when he was Prime Minister, appointed a university professor to the position of secretary of the Department of Supply. Another was appointed Prices Commissioner, and still another become secretary to the Department of La’bour. There was no occasion for the Leader of the Australian Country party to criticize those appointments simply because the men are university graduates. I repudiate ‘ the practice of sneering at a man who has taken the opportunity to train his mind and gain an academic degree. Eather, his trained mind should make him of greater use to the community. The Leader of the Australian Country party spoke as if he rather preferred practical people. Some of these are earnest and sincere, and perhaps capable, but they have their shortcomings. Apparently the idea of many people is that a practical man is one who has made a lot of money, and that the piling up of a bank roll is the criterion of success. I should be much more inclined to lean to men who have educated themselves, and trained their minds to deal with current problems, and who are capable and adaptable, than to a man who may pile up money by building or renting houses, or, perhaps, engaging in black marketing and other forms of profiteering.
I should Have liked, had time permitted, to deal at some length with the important issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition, particularly in regard to the future of the States under the system of uniform taxation. On that subject I can only repeat what I said before the right honorable member entered the chamber, that much consideration has still to be given to the effects of that reform. It cannot be taken for granted that the law as it now stands will be permanent. I hope and believe that it will be, but the relationships of the Commonwealth and the States must become the subject of review in a much broader way than has yet been the case. Three States have applied to the Commonwealth from year to year for grants to help their finances, but if uniform taxation is to continue it is quite clear, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that the whole plan of compensation will have to be reviewed in the light of the needs of all the States.
I have not gone at great length into the details of the budget, because after all it amounts to little more than a financial statement. There are not many striking notes in it, except the comments regarding the magnitude of our war effort, which makes previous budget totals seem almost incredibly small. Several honorable members have stressed the necessity for examining expenditure very closely. Every Treasurer has found how difficult it is to reduce expenditure, although it is always easy to increase it. Most Treasurers . find every man’s hand against them, including even the hand’s of their colleagues in the Cabinet. I hope that I shall not be remiss in seeing that expenditure not essential to the war effort or to the economic interests of the country is kept as low as possible. I think that my own colleagues will admit that I have never ceased to impress upon them the necessity for keeping a close watch and supervision over all the expenditure of their departments.
The budget this year becomes largely a statement of expenditure and income, particularly in view of the fact that a great amount of money is to be raised by loan. I was asked how much we expected to raise by that means in this financial year. We may be too optimistic, but we hope to raise up to £300,000,000 from the public. That leaves a great proportion to be filled in even then by the use of treasury-bills, or what is commonly called central bank credit. No nation is conducting this war without using bank credit, hut I repeat that in the circumstances in which we are now working as a country, only the absolute minimum of it will be used by us. If honorable members read the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems they will 6ee there stated very simply that bank credit is the sort of thing that you ought to use only until all the people of your own country are employed, and all the resources which they are physically capable of utilizing are being used, and that when that point has been reached any further bank credit poured into the community does tend to create inflation.
After the war there will be a great banking up of savings bank deposits, deferred pay coming to the members of the services, increased current accounts in the banks, considerable sums in the hands of the public in the form of notes, either hoarded or carried in the pockets of people who like to have a lot of ready money or do not want to bank it - whatever the reason, vast sums will be banked up and, with a short supply of goods, inflation can very easily be caused, unless greatly increased powers are given to this Parliament to control prices. The period following the end of the war will be the most dangerous. I agree that the pressure on the controls of all those things which may tend to create inflation is very great. That is inevitable. We have missed no opportunity to create controls in regard to investments and in other directions, in order to keep down the cost of living. I dealt in my budget speech with the policy of subsidies. I do not think that the cost of living increases in this country have been at all excessive in the circumstances. I only hope that we shall be able to keep them where they are, if not to reduce them to some degree. I admit that subsidies are being used. Great Britain is using them to the amount of nearly £200,000,000. On that note I finish by saying, as Treasurer and speaking on behalf of the Government, that the Government is fully alive to all the dangers associated with the excessive use of bank credit. Nothing that I can say here can be clearer, to those who want to study it, than the statement on the subject in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. We are completely alive to all the difficulties not only in carrying on the war but also in the days which will follow the war. I refer of course only to the difficulties in our own internal affairs. I could talk for hours about the great issues which are likely to affect us internationally, but shall refrain from doing so.
Fi rs t item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded -
Remainder of proposed vote - The Parliament, £172,500 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £970,600.
– I direct attention to Division 16, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I listened with great interest to what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had to say about the value and importance of trained minds in Australia. I need hardly say that I entirely agree with everything he said on that subject. Directing my eye to the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which is, I suppose, the greatest collection of trained minds in this country, I read once more with great disturbance of mind the details of the salaries and allowances paid. I learn that in that great scientific body we have 440 research officers, who appear, according to my arithmetic, to receive £500 each, eighteen clerks, averaging £350 a year each; and 48 labourers, who receive an average of £275 a year each. These figures suggest very strongly that, according to our estimate of value, to be a research officer in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is worth £3 a week more than to be a clerk, and £4 10s. a week more than to be a labourer. These research officers are presumably graduates of science, and probably many of them are men who have graduated with honours. They add to that qualification a bent or flair for research work, which means that they are people who are out of the common, because if a man is to be a competent research officer he must have not only high technical qualifications but also that willingness and keenness of mind which will enable him to produce results. I do not speak as one familiar with the scientific work of this body, except in a very general way, but I have from time to time encountered research chemists, for example, in the service of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who had devoted themselves for years to work of profound importance to Australia, affecting the wool industry or problems of other primary production - work which, expressed in terms of money, might ultimately be worth many millions of pounds to Australia. I do not feel very proud of the standard of remuneration that we have set up, because in several particular cases that came before me, where the work being done by the officer was of the first magnitude, a simple inquiry indicated that he was being paid a salary of £500 a year - less than is being paid to thousands of people in Australia for work that involves no real skill, and certainly does not call for any of those trained attributes to which the Treasurer has referred. I therefore take the opportunity of suggesting to the Treasurer and the Government that another look might be taken at the way in which people of scientific training and qualifications are being paid in our service. I believe that the responsibilities of government will grow. I do not believe for one moment in this doctrine which some people hug to their bosoms that when the war is over activities of the Government will fade away and become almost non-existent. As problems increase in complexity, the activities of government will increase, and more and more the Government will need to be able to recruit the best brains it can find ; and, if it is to recruit the best scientific brains of young men and women, it must be prepared to give to them some remuneration which will at least compare with what they might earn very reasonably if they devoted themselves to outside work. I hope that that will be looked into, because I am one of those who believe that one of the greatest pieces of constructive work in Australia in my lifetime has been done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research I have the profoundest admiration for the Chief Executive Officer. He is one of the great scientists of Australia, and has one of the finest brains in this country, the products of Which are put out very quietly. Under him he has gathered a magnificent team of assistants. I should like to know that, for the work they are doing for Australia, we are prepared to make them some proper recompense.
.- I was interested to hear what was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) about the salaries of the men of great scientific ability working for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but I wonder why the right honorable gentleman has chosen this moment to make such a plea. The right honorable gentleman and I came into this Parliament in 1934.
– It seems longer.
– It may, but that is the time we have travelled together. Unlike the right honorable gentleman, I have been sitting on a back bench the whole time. He has been there some of the time, but most of the time he has been in the Ministry.
– And I did nothing about the salaries of these scientists. Is that the honorable gentleman’s point? If it is, I admit it. I did nothing about it, and I am ashamed. I am now encouraging the Government to do something about it. I know that it would take the honorable member three-quarters of an hour to work up to that.
– Now that I have that confession from the right honorable gentleman, I wonder why at this stage, when there has been a change of government, his mind has become so impressed with the smallness of the salaries of scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– I must be thinking of the next general elections.
– Staggering changes take place in the minds of honorable members when “they move from the treasury bench to the opposition benches. In opposition they find that men and women for whom they did nothing while they were in office are underpaid.
– I was not thinking of the honorable member, but of officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– Some people are underpaid and some are overpaid; perhaps some honorable members of this Parliament come within the second category, but at the moment we are dealing with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is tragic that men who give excellent service to the country without complaining about the poorness of their salaries are overlooked by the nation. They are blameworthy themselves, because they have no organization to speak for them. It is a truism that organized people can gain greater recognition of their services than can those who remain unorganized, and, without protest, accept what is given to them. No wonder they are overlooked! The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done wonderful work over a long period of years, but, perhaps, it is doing the best work of its career nowadays because of the demands that war has made on scientists. Too much cannot be said in praise of this body, which works for the good of this country without seeking the limelight, and receives very little praise even from members of Parliament, who should know what valuable services it renders. Not long ago, the righthonorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) spoke in high praise of the work done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in eradicating prickly pear, but that is only one of the council’s remarkable achievements.
The Estimates contain an item of £14.360 for fisheries investigation this year, as compared with £14,303 last year. Valuable work has been done by the research officers in the fisheries division. I think that the time has come when the Commonwealth Parliament should be voting money for the commercial exploitation of Australian fisheries. On a previous occasion I tried to persuade a Ministry, of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member, to develop our fisheries commercially, but in those days there was no money to spare for that or foi’ many other projects, by the development of which Australia would have profited. The then Treasurer contended that the duty of the Government in respect of fisheries ended with investigation, and that exploitation of the fisheries was a matter for private enterprise. That attitude has resulted in the wanton waste by the Commonwealth Government of tremendous quantities of fish that should be as valuable as sheep to this country. Our fish resources are virtually unexplored as well as unexploited; but 1 hope that the time will come soon when the Commonwealth Parliament will set aside money not on 13 for the investigation, but also for the commercial development of fishing.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has dealt with a particular aspect of a general problem which I desire to discuss. That is the problem of the recruitment and pay of members of our Public Service generally. I cannot remember any instances in my eight years in the Commonwealth Parliament of a detailed discussion of the make up, method of recruitment, or terms and conditions of our Public Service. In view of the importance of that body of men and women in the development of our great Commonwealth, we should from time to time examine the conditions under which they are engaged. We should also examine the efficiency of the Service as a whole. I entirely endorse what the Leader of the Opposition said in regard to the particular aspect to which he referred. I had the privilege of acting in two ministries as Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Not only do I endorse what the Leader of the Opposition said about the value of the work done by that organization, but also I share his view as to the inadequacy of the payment which skilled officers of the council receive for their services. I consider that one can take the matter further than that. I propose to set before the committee some facts which I believe will make honorable members appreciate the importance of the fact that this Parliament should know the conditions under which the Public Service functions. I think we all share the view that we have ahead of us for a long time, probably for all time, a high measure of control by the Government over our lives as private individuals and as productive citizens in the Commonwealth economy. That being the case, we should take adequate steps to ensure that the men who are placed in charge of important departments of state and the men under them who carry on important activities of state, shall be in the first instance, of the best type and have the best training available to us in the Commonwealth, and, secondly, that they shall receive a reward commensurate with the services they render to the State. At present, as the result of a great spread of Government activity during the war years we have had considerable recruitment to the Commonwealth Public Service. The latest figures I have been able to obtain are contained in the report of the Public Service Commissioner for 1941. That report showed that the total number of permanent employees in the Commonwealth Service was then 36,000. Since the outbreak of war, the following departments have been added to the Commonwealth administration : - Information, Munitions, Labour and National Service, Home Security, Aircraft Production, War Organization of Industry, and Supply and Shipping. In addition, the departments of Defence, the Navy, the Army and Air have been considerably enlarged. So we have seen in the war years a vast expansion of the activities carried on by the Commonwealth. Most honorable members will be surprised to hear, as I was, that of those 36,000 permanent employees, 27,000 are in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Consequently, excluding the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, in the entire administrative field of the Public Service, including both the older departments and the new war-time departments, there are apparently not many more than 9,000 permanent officers. That being the case, again we have very good reason for ensuring that the men whom we recruit to the Public Service shall be the best available. To that end salaries and conditions of employment in the Public Service should be such that it would compare favorably with outside industries as an avenue of employment. My attention was first drawn to this problem when I had the ministerial responsibility of assisting in the staffing of three new departments - the Department of Supply and Development, in association with Mr.
Sitting suspended from 11.53 p.m. to
Thursday14, October 1943
– For fisheries investigations this year, the Government has provided the sum of £14,360 or approximately the same amount as that which was expended last year. Whilst I am gratified that this money has again been placed on the Estimates, I consider that we are not making a sufficiently vigorous attack on the problem of fisheries investigation in Australia. I have profound regard for the ability of Dr. Harold Thompson, the Director of this branch, and I read with great interest the bulletins that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research issues from time to time on this subject.
Honorable members should be given, on the presentation of these Estimates, an explanation as to how the money is being expended. Although Australia’s coastal waters are teeming with pelagic and demersal fish, very little progress is being made in the development of this industry having regard to the time over which those investigations have been conducted. I realize that research of this character occupies not hours but years, but the results which we appear to be deriving commercially from the expenditure of this money are not adequate. If the Government had provided this year £114,000 for fisheries investigation, I should still support it, because this branch of activity deserves every encouragement. When supplies of beef, pork, bacon and other foodstuffs are curtailed, every effort should be made to supplement them with a valuable food such as fish. Some time ago, I perused a report which indicated that before the outbreak of war Australia imported annually £3,000,000 worth of fish. At the present time, the public is unable to purchase imported fish either smoked or in tins, and very little fresh fish is available in the shops.
My only purpose in speaking on this item is to obtain information as to the manner in which the money is being expended and what hasbeen accomplished. Any observations which I have made, are not for the purpose of challenging the efficiency, competency or enthusiasm of the officers in charge of this branch.
– Last year, the Division of Fisheries carried out a comprehensive survey of the fishing industry for the man-power authorities with a view to obtaining the maximum output with the personnel and gear available. One officer has been detailed to encourage fishing activities in the front line areas in the tropics. A proposal to establish a whaling industry has been investigated and will be given effect. Progress is being made with the commercial production of agar-agar from seaweed, and the shark industry, producing oil rich in vitamins, is being expanded.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £173,200.
.This year, the Government has provided the sum of £25,000 for the Australian Legation in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I should like the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to inform me whether the Government proposes to appoint in the near future a successor to our former Minister to Russia, the Honorable W. J. Slater.
– An appointment will be made, probably next week.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £1,938,900. :Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) [12.32 a.m.]. - In a speech yesterday, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred to banking control regulations promulgated by the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). He said -
In this war banking control regulations have been issued by the present Treasurer which specify that all the increased funds of the private banks must be deposited in the Commonwealth Bank at a rate of interest which merely covers administrative costs, only threequarters of 1 per cent.
As the right honorable gentleman stated that this practice was introduced by the Curtin Government, I desire to direct his attention to the budget that I introduced in 1941, which contained par ticular reference to the control of the funds of the trading banks. I stated -
The banks have important functions in the community, particularly in time of war. However well they discharge their functions, there is a real danger that under certain conditions they may make excessive profits out of war finance; and that danger must be guarded against. The deposits of the trading banks have increased by £40,000,000 since the outbreak of war, and I have heard it suggested that these additional funds which they have to invest are a result of Government expenditure and should be lent to the Government at nominal rates of- interest. But the increase in deposits is only in line with the increase in employment and production. Bank deposits must be expected to rise with productive activity which is measured roughly by total employment. Employment in Australia has increased by about 15 per cent, since the outbreak of war and bank deposits have increased by 14 per cent. There is then no evidence of excess deposits. The deposits of the banks up to .the present should not be treated otherwise than in time of peace.
Nevertheless, there is a possible danger for the future. Our finance in the next few months will require a good deal of temporary accommodation and a necessary precautionary measure will be to remove any danger of secondary expansion by the trading banks, and so guard against any excess banking profits. I have given a good deal of consideration to the question of the best method of doing so. My conclusion is that the most effective measure is to require the banks to keep in a special deposit account with the Commonwealth Bank any increase in their funds due to war finance. As a further check on the efficacy of this arrangement, the banks should furnish a certificate from the Commissioner of Taxation (who has access to all the facts) showing the relation of their profits (before the payment of federal taxation) to their profits before the war. This method will, in addition, contribute to the stability of .the financial system generally, in that it would supply, a check if such is required to any tendency to over-trade on the part of the banks.
This measure of control is a variation of the method proposed by the Banking Commission, by which the Commonwealth Bank could require the hanks to keep with it deposits equal to any prescribed percentage of their liabilities to the public. I am satisfied that under war conditions the variation I propose will be .practically more effective and immediate in its action than the commission’s recommendation.
Mr. RYAN (Flinders) [12.38 a.m.J We are financing the war by means of taxation, loans and bank credit, but there i3 also a fourth item which has not been mentioned in the budget. I refer to capital assets. As a result of the incidence of taxation, capital assets have greatly depreciated, and, as the war continues, they will depreciate even more than they have already. My remarks apply in the first instance to the assets of the primary producers, but they are equally applicable to business undertakings. In normal times, capital assets can be maintained by annual expenditure on maintenance, but under war conditions the owner of the assets has not the labour, money or material with which to carry out the necessary maintenance. Under war conditions it is impossible for a primary producer to maintain his buildings, water supply, plant and other fixed assets as he would in times of peace. As he reduces his expenditure on maintenance, his revenue is increased, and on his increased income he pays heavy income tax. The war may continue for several years. When peace comes, labour and materials for maintenance purposes will, no doubt,, be available, but the owner may have no money with which to restore his assets to a good workable condition. Therefore, some provision should be made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), so that at the end of the war the owners of properties might be able to obtain a refund of money paid in order that maintenance work might be done. I believe that some provision of this nature has been made in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Such action would not only help the owners at a time when they will need money for maintenance pur poses, but will also put their farms or other properties into a condition in which they could be used to their full capacity. In the first instance, provision should be made for a return to the owners at the end of the war of the difference between the average annual cost of maintenance up to, say, 1940 and the amount expended in any years since; that money to be deducted from the income tax of the owner. An alternative to that plan would be to charge tax on the actual difference between the two sums to which I have referred, the money to be held in a suspense account, or as a post-war credit, and refunded to the owner at the end of the war. I ask the Treasurer to give close consideration to this matter.
– I had’ intended to speak on lines similar to those followed by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who has expressed my views completely. Primary producers who have discussed this matter with me are concerned about the fact that their holdings generally are deteriorating on account of the prevalence of undergrowth and various pests. Owing to the shortage of materials and, particularly, man-power, producers find it impossible to maintain, their holdings in the condition in which they should be kept. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to give consideration to the action taken in this matter in other parts of the world, and to investigate the possibility of an allowance being made in income tax for maintenance work until conditions become normal. Similarly those engaged in secondary industries should have the benefit of a fund with which to restore to a good condition plants which have been operated day and night in order to assist the war effort by providing a maximum output. A satisfactory post-war reconstruction scheme would be impracticable unless the machinery used in secondary industries was maintained in a good working condition.
.I wish briefly to endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). The subject to which they have referred will assume increasing importance if war conditions continue much longer. They have dealt with the problem from the point of view of the primary industries, but it has already received some attention from the Treasury in respect of secondary industries engaged primarily on war work. The danger in the early post-war period will lie partly in the inability of certain young and growing companies to retain what our American friends picturesquely call “ seed capital “. Under existing conditions many young companies are unable to accumulate “seed capital” for later expansion purposes.
– Difficulties are also felt by older companies.
– That may be so, but the problem is serious in relation to young and growing companies which, because of the war, have not been able to accumulate capital for later developmental activities. In the United States of America a special reconstruction finance corporation was established in the years following the depression, and we may find it necessary to take similar action.
. -This subject had been brought to my personal notice previously by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) particularly in relation to primary industries. The position in that regard is that remissions or rebates granted at a later date when taxation may not be as heavy as it is now would not be so valuable to the companies as would immediate rebates at present rates. The Treasury has given some attention to this subject particularly in relation to machinery in certain secondary industries engaged on war work in respect of which more substantial allowances have been permitted to cover depression. ‘ I have not given the matter much consideration from the point of view of primary industries but I assure honorable members that I shall do so.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Attorney - General’s Department, £311,500- agreed to.
Department ov the Interior.
Proposed vote, £559,100.
.Provision is made under Division No. 45 “ Maintenance and Rent “ for the follow ing amounts to be disbursed for rents on buildings occupied by the departments named : -
That is a large sum for the Government to be expending in rents in one financial year. I realize that under war conditions it has become essential for the Commonwealth to occupy many more buildings than it would be necessary to use under normal conditions, but we should take stock of the position and endeavour to formulate a policy which, in due course, will ensure that the Government will be in occupation of buildings which it “owns. My mind goes back to the days when Mr. King O’Malley applied a policy of purchasing buildings for occupation by Commonwealth departments. His foresight in that connexion has saved the Commonwealth Government large amounts each year and I regret that the policy has not been applied consistently over the years. As part of our post-war planning we should be preparing to build permanent offices for Government departments. We should keep in mind also the desirability of transferring the central staffs of as many departments as possible to Canberra. Such transfers have not been made as rapidly as could have been desired, and in the post-war years we ought to speed up the transfer of all central administrations to the national capital. Such departmental services as need to remain in the different States should be housed in buildings owned by the Government.
I hope that some day the Parliament will think more seriously about this important matter. Canberra should be the head-quarters of all Commonwealth departments. The concentration of departments here would save the time of Ministers and would also relieve the strain on the transport system of the Commonwealth.
.I invite the attention of the Treasurer to thb proposed vote of £86,400 for “ Motor vehicles - purchase, upkeep and hire, including use of private vehicles for departmental purposes “. The expenditure for 1942-43 under this item was £S3,345 although only £31,200 was voted. An increase of more than £50,000 on a vote of £31,200 is rather sensational. I am sure that there is an explanation and I should he glad to hear it.
– I shall deal first with the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The vote of £86,400 covers payment for the use of hired cars, including motor cars attached to the transport services of Canberra, and payment to officers for the use of private cars engaged on official visits. Provision is also made for the purchase of oil, petrol and other requisites of official motor cars attached to the Allied Works Council in which there has been greatly increased activity. No provision is made to cover the wages of drivers. Some of the excess expenditure over the sum voted for 1942-43 was due to the purchase of additional motor vehicles to ensure the proper supervision of defence works. The amount for this year covers the higher cost of fuel, lubricants, and spare parts, as well as the replacement of some vehicles which have lost their economic value. Another important factor is the cost of installing producergas units on motor vehicles. Provision is made for the purchase of some new motor cars and trucks for branches of the Allied Works Council in the several States.
– Is the additional £50,000 entirely due to the expansion of the Allied Works Council activities?
– No. The decision to instal producer-gas units accounts for a considerable sum. Moreover, tyres and other equipment required for motor vehicles now cost much more than formerly.
In reply to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) I have to say that included in the amount payable for rents of buildings is the sum payable in respect of buildings taken over from the States under the uniform taxation legislation passed by this Parliament. Previously, the States were responsible for a considerable portion of the rent, but under the new arrangement a greater proportion of the cost is paid by the Commonwealth.
.- In connexion with Division No. 42 I draw attention to the conditions under which the staffs of divisional returning officers of the Electoral Branch are working. This branch has been entrusted with certain work connected with the civilian registration, with the result that the increased staff has taxed the accommodation to the utmost. In many instances, lighting arrangements and provision for sanitation are inadequate, especially when it is remembered that the public attend at these offices more than they did previously. I draw attention to this matter in the hope that better accommodation may be provided. Although some of the persons concerned are only temporary employees who will be engaged only while the war lasts, they are working under conditions which the Commonwealth Government as an employer should not allow.
I, too, have been impressed with the work performed by divisional returning officers, particularly since the war began. There is scarcely an industry in this country in which the employees have not been given a war loading as an addition to their ordinary rates of pay, but these officers have, so far as I am aware, not received any additional remuneration although it is generally recognized that they have performed their many arduous duties in a highly satisfactory manner. In my opinion these officers and staff should be granted a substantial war loading to supplement their salaries. In my electorate improved accommodation for divisional returning officers was provided some years ago, but the great increases of staff consequent upon the additional duties carried out by the Electoral Branch have resulted in as many as from six to ten officers being huddled together in a small room. In time of war it is necessary to put up with makeshifts, but it is a shame that such conditions should exist in government offices. It is amazing that the work is done so efficiently. I suggest that the appropriate officers should consider these matters and arrange for an increase of pay,allowances, and improved office accommodation and submit a report to the Parliament.
– I support the views expressed by the honorable members for Henty (Mr. Coles) and Moreton (Mr. Francis) in regard to the work that is done by electoral officers, who have had a tremendous additional strain imposed upon them. I shall discuss with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) the subjects of accommodation and increased remuneration for the additional work that is being performed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence and War (1939-43) Services. (Including Department of Defence; Department of the Navy; Department of the Army ; Department of Air ; Department of Munitions; Department of Aircraft Production; Reciprocal LendLease to United States Forces; Department of Supply and Shipping; Department of Home Security; and Other War Services; Other Administrations - Recoverable Expenditure: Details not disclosed for security reasons.)
Proposed vote, £139,646,000.
Department of Defence and Department of the Navy - agreed to.
Department of the Army -
– I have had correspondence with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) relative to the removal of the barbed wire, supported by huge iron stakes driven into the sand, from the surfing beaches in Sydney. These defences were installed at the outbreak of war. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has given the assurance that Australia is no longer in danger of invasion. The surfing season, during which the beaches will be used by hundreds of thousands of people, is rapidly approaching. The Army authorities, although having virtually consented to the removal, have not made available for that purpose a sum of money or the necessary labour.
Loss of life may be caused if the removal be not effected. Some time ago, I approached the Minister on behalf of the surf beaches of the eastern suburbs of Sydney. His attention was drawn to the fact that whereas the Army had given the municipalities permission to remove the barbed wire from the beaches, it would not provide the necessary money or labour for that purpose. At Bondi beach, two long arms of concrete were destroyed, and the entrance tunnels from the bathing sheds were blocked, gun emplacementsbeing built alongside them. I understand that there is insistence upon at least one strand of barbed wire being retained for purely psychological reasons, and that permission to remove the structure that blocks the tunnel entrance to the bathing sheds has been refused. A tremendous volume of stagnant water has accumulated, making the conditions unhygienic. The municipalities have no means of improving the position. The health authorities have condemned the existing conditions, and have asked that the matter be remedied. I have requested the Minister to provide the municipalities with finance to enable them to employ the necessary labour, or to have the removal effected by bodies of Army men. The honorable gentleman should consider the safety of the hundreds of thousands of persons who will use the beaches in the surfing season not only the civilian population, but also members of the services, who use the beaches extensively. It would be fitting if he were to provide funds or working parties for the removal of the barbed wire and the barricades in front of the tunnels, in order that these may again be used for the purpose for which they were designed. The municipalities would not make this request if there were any possibility of invasion, or the barricades were needed for defence purposes. The Army has stressed that they are no longer necessary. If that be so, the Minister ought to take such action as will enable the beaches to be placed in a proper condition.
– The request of the honorable member is reasonable. In view of the present strategic position, and the comparative security against the possibility of invasion, the barbed-wire entanglements on the beaches might be removed. I recently took the matter up with the Commander-in-Chief, but have not yet received his report. The honorable member correctly stated the position when he said that the Army now believes that it is no longer necessary to have these barbed-wire entanglements on the beaches. I hope to be able to advise the honorable member upon that matter within the next few days.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to the failure of his department to pay compensation to owners of small boats which were taken over at -the beginning of last vear, when the danger of invasion was imminent. Only within the last few days I received a letter upon this subject from a man who operated a fleet of small boats for hire in the Port Stephens area, north of Newcastle. He earned a livelihood by hiring the boats to week-enders. Those boats were seized by the Army, and towed to a part of the estuary, where they were considered to be out of reach of the enemy. They were returned to the owner in a damaged condition, with the result that he was obliged to incur certain expenditure to repair them. A small amount of compensation has been paid to him in respect of the repairs, but no compensation whatever has been made in respect of the loss of the man’s business during the time when the boats were under the control of the Army authorities. In Tonking’s case the High Court ruled that the Government must pay “just” compensation when it takes over the property of individuals; but in a later decision, the Court went further and ruled that compensation must be paid in respect of the loss of business resulting from the seizure of property. I now ask the Minister for the Army whether provision is made in these Estimates for compensation in respect of loss of business in cases of the kind I have mentioned, and also full compensation of the cost of repairing damage to property. In this case, the individual has been practically ruined.
Mr. CLARK (Darling) [1.17 a.m.).I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to the failure of the Hirings Administration to pay compensation in respect of land which, in some cases, was resumed nearly a year ago. I refer particularly to a case upon which I have had correspondence with the Minister, and which he informed me only within the last month was in hand. I refer to a property at Narromine which was resumed for the purpose of constructing an aerodrome, strips of land being taken from several adjoining properties. One of those owners, a Mr. Moss, has informed me that it is over twelve months since his land was resumed. He was promised that an inspection wouldbe made, and I understand that an inspector of the Hirings Administrationvisited Narromine without making such an inspection. I now urge the Minister to see that the Hirings Administration deals promptly with cases of this kind.
– From memory, I cannot say whether an amount is provided in the Estimates in respect of compensation payable in the case mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). All of the boats which were seized on the recommendation of the Department of the Navy in the circumstances outlined by the honorable member were returned to their owner? through the State Government. The General Officer Commanding the Eastern Defence, Major-General Winter, took over quite a large numberof boats when it was thought that the Japanese were likely to invade Australia, because it was considered that the invaders would use such craft as they did when they invaded Malaya, Singapore, and other places in the Far East. . That was a wise precaution, but, happily, subsequent events proved such action to be unnecessary. All of us sympathize with the owners of these boats, particularly those who used them to earn a livelihood, and incurred financial loss as the result of their seizure by the authorities.’ I assure the honorable member that I shall give full consideration to his representations.
– I shall give full details of particular cases to the Minister.
– With respect to the settlement of claims by the Hirings Administration, I point out that many properties were taken over by other services. In the case mentioned by the honorable member for Darling (Mr.’ Clark), the property at Narromine was taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force.
– But the Hirings Administration is handling the matter.
– In many cases, months elapsed after properties were taken over before the Hirings Administration was asked to settle claims. Naturally, that caused considerable delay in making settlements. Following the entry of Japan into the war, thousands of such claims were made, and considerable congestion was caused in the Hirings Administration, particularly in Sydney and Brisbane. Following an investigation by Mr. Justice O’Brien, of the .Supreme Court of . Victoria, the Hirings Administration was completely re-organized. His Honour laid down a scheme for that purpose, and, subsequently, a new committee and a new Director of Hirings was appointed. I am now assured that outstanding claims are being rapidly finalized. However, I shall look into the case mentioned by the honorable member.
Department of Air -
– I take this opportunity to give to honorable members some facts relating to the part which the Royal Australian Air Force has played in the war against Axis powers; and, in order to do so, I propose to review what has taken place since the war began.
– Is it not desirable that the Minister should make so important a statement at a more appropriate time.
– I suggest that the Minister should make his statement by leave to-morrow. I have some idea of its contents. It recites a record of which Australia can very well be proud, and it should be made at a more appropriate time.
– The submission of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is worthy of consideration, but opportunities to make a statement of this kind do not occur very often, and it may be that when leave is sought to make it honorable members may be anxious to discuss matters that more particularly concern them. However, if it is understood that I shall be given leave at a later stage to make the statement I shall not proceed with it now.
Department of Munitions -
, - I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) the application for certain materials by the builder engaged to effect repairs to a private hospital in my electorate. Six months ago, the Department of War Organization of Industry approved the plans for the work, and ever since then the builder has been trying unsuccessfully to obtain supplies of corrugated cement sheets or corrugated iron, guttering, down piping, hardwood posts and fibro sheet lining. This hospital has 30 beds, and part of the building, including the operating theatre, has been condemned as unsafe and unfit for use. Honorable members are aware of the demand for beds in public hospitals. They know that it is almost impossible for a sick person to get a bed without waiting for a long time. Moreover, because of the shortage of doctors and nurses, it is not practicable for sick persons to be treated at home’. The private hospital of which I speak is a recognized institution which caters for residents in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I have been in communication with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) on the subject, and the following letter was sent by Mr. Lucas, Deputy Controller of Materials Supply, to the builder who has the contract for effecting repairs to the hospital : -
With reference to representations made by you to the Honorable E. J. Harrison, M.P., and further to a telephone discussion with yon regarding a quantity of corrugated asbestos cement sheets required for re-roofing the verandah of Westhaven Private Hospital. I wish .to advise that, owing to heavy Defence demands for this material, I am unable to give any indication as to the likely delivery date. As already indicated, both corrugated asbestos cement and corrugated iron are in extremely short supply and if at all possible consideration should be given to the use of tiles. If tiles are not practicable, terne-coated sheets could be used, these being painted to render them weatherproof. Early delivery of the iron could not, of course, be anticipated and, therefore, I strongly recommend the substitution of tiles.
Even if the builder were able to obtain tiles he would still need guttering, fibro sheets, down piping and 5-in. by 5-in. hardwood posts. I put it to the Minister that something should be done to make available the .small quantity of material needed to put the hospital into a state of repair. It is not right that the work should be held up for six months when, apparently, there is material available for buildings at present under construction iri” the State capitals, and even here in Canberra. Some of that material should be diverted to this work which is of greater importance.
.One of the traditional functions of Parliament is to keep a close watch on public expenditure, but this becomes impossible when items of war expenditure are, for reasons of security, lumped together. However, there is in the minds of the public a feeling that some of the service departments, particularly the Department of Munitions, are not getting the best value for the money expended. We all realize that, under war-time conditions, money will not be spent as prudently on the services as in time of peace. Requirements change from day to day, and it is necessary to change over from one form of production to another. Blue prints must be altered in order to get the best in the way of armaments and equipment. I grant all that to the Minister. I shall not at this late hour go into the instances which have come to my notice, an no doubt they have come to the notice of other honorable members, of allegations that idle time and insufficiency of suitable work occur in some munitions factories. The Minister made a public s Lb tern en t a few days ago, following some sensational allegations which appeared in the Melbourne press in relation to a factory at Maribyrnong, and which I would be inclined to dismiss but for the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, other instances have come to the notice of honorable members. Will the Minister state whether it is the practice to permit the War Expenditure Committee to examine individual activities in his department, as it is in some other departments, or is his department protected by national security considerations from such inquiries? I should also like information in relation to the tank programme. Even if the Minister cannot, for obvious reasons, go into a great deal of detail in this matter, the committee is surely entitled to some information in regard to a project which I understand was originally estimated to cost, in the aggregate, about £30,000,000, but which on my latest information has now been abandoned by the Government.
The statement made a few days ago, I believe by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), that we had very heavy reserves of munitions in some directions, making possible the release of a considerable number of men who had previously been engaged in the production of munitions, was very welcome, because we felt on hearing it that we should be able to secure a pool of labour which could be diverted to some more urgent necessities, particularly in rural production, but I must confess to some astonishment at being told by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) yesterday that the rate of release of these men is to be only in the neighbourhood of 2,500 a month for the next eight months.
– I did not give that figure.
– The estimate of the rate of release of men from the Army was 2,000 a month, given by the Minister for the Army, spread over the ‘next ten months, and I then asked the Minister for Munitions as to the release of the 20,000 men who, we had been given to understood, were to be released’ also. The Minister informed me that it was to be effected in the period between now and the end of June, 1944.
– That is right.
– That is a period of at least eight months. If in that period 20,000 men were to be released, I took it to mean an average release of 2,500 men a month.
– It may not work out in that way at all.
– If it is a fact, as the Prime Minister indicated, that we have substantial reserves of some importantlines of munitions, I hope that a greatly accelerated rate of release will be possible in the remaining months of this year and the early months of next year. These are matters upon which the Minister can enlighten the committee, and in respect of which we would welcome information.
I am not aware of the gross number of males employed in munitions production at the present time, but it would be interesting to know what proportion of the total is represented by the 20,000 who are to be released. We hope that a very considerable proportion can now be released for other essential purposes connected with the war effort, because we regarded the 20,000 mentioned to be the first to be released, and not the number to be spread over the next ten or twelve months.
– I should like information from the Minister regarding the munitions works at Rocklea. I took special interest in the establishment . and development and prevailed on Senator McBride, the then Minister for Munitions, to come to Queensland and examine a number of sites for the erection of a factory for making munitions. Rocklea was ultimately selected, and works costing over £1,000,000 have been erected there. They are about the only munitions works in the State. But now the general manager has been farewelled and has returned to the south, and the works are to be closed down. It is very difficult to find transport to-day, and it seems supremely foolish, unless there is some special reason with which I am not familiar, to’ haul the small arms and munitions required by the overwhelming number of our fighting forces in Queensland, all the way up from the south, when we already have a munitions works in the State. Why are these works being closed? I understand that they are to be used for other purposes, but why cannot the other activities he housed in special buildings? Who advised the closing of munitions works of this kind, when we have in North Queensland so many troops who will want the goods which were produced there? Commodities of all kinds - galvanized iron, wire, wire netting, and the like - are required in Queensland, but the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) cannot provide the means of carrying them there. If he allowed these works to remain open,, he would not bungle up the whole of his transport system by carrying from the south the shells and munitions which could he made in the north. There may be some security reason why the Minister cannot help it, but on the surface the whole thing looks hopelessly foolish.
– I point out to the Minister of Munitions (Mr. Makin) the difficulties which occur through the lack of coordination between his department and that of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). They are particularly noticeable in relation to galvanized iron and troughing, also parts for windmills and irrigation plants. There seems to be the greatest possible difficulty in getting any of these things released through the Department of Munitions. This is a very serious matter to those engaged in primary production. In the case of spraying plants for use in orchards, apparently the pumps and spraying machinery are able to be released through the Department of Munitions or the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but no provision is made for releasing the complete plant with the small engine. Surely after all the requests that have been forwarded to the Department of Munitions in the last few months, it should be possible to produce more of the small petrol engines than at present. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture told us to-day that about 2,400 of them had ‘been released or would be released in the next few months, but the plain fact of the matter is that they are not released, the spraying cannot be done in the orchards, and the pests are getting completely out of hand. Regarding parts for windmills, the instance I gave recently of a man with 1,000 head of cattle being unable to fatten them during an acute shortage of beef owing to his inability to obtain troughing for watering the cattle ought to be sufficient to indicate that there is not the proper coordination between the two departments which the Production Executive was created to bring about. A forecast should be made “ twelve months ahead “ of the requirements of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture on behalf of the primary producers in order that the steps necessary to meet these might be taken. Agricultural machinery should have equal priority with munitions, because, if the Army and the people generally cannot be fed, the Army cannot function. Early in the war against Japan, when sea communication with Darwin was cut, the size of the forces at Darwin was limited by the quantity of food that could be sent to Darwin over the north-south railway and along the switch road from Mount Isa. It is, therefore, of prime importance to supply the machinery needs of primary industries, otherwise the morale of the nation will be endangered through the failure of the food front. I ask the Minister to give this matter more attention than he appears to have done up to the present.
– To answer in full some of the points raised by honorable members would involve me in trouble with the censor, but I shall try to supply to honorable members all the information I can within the limits of security. In answer to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), I may say that no man is more anxious than I to meet the needs of hospitals, but the honorable gentleman will realize that the materials which he says are needed to repair the institution he mentioned are in extremely short supply, and that whatever is available must be held to meet the more urgent demands of the armed services. It is impossible to meet the demands of the services for many articles, and, at the same time, to meet the claims of civilians, urgent as those claims may be. Order of priority guides me in determining what shall be done. If the institution mentioned has been given a high order of priority, there is a possibility of the materials . being made available. I shall ascertain whether they can be.
– The Department of War Organization of Industry approved the work in April.
– Yes; six months has elapsed since the plans were approved, and perhaps the position will have eased sufficiently to allow further consideration to be given to the supply of the material. I shall personally investigate the matter in the hope that I shall be able to help the institution.
I assure the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that every aspect of the administration of the Department of Munitions and of the workings of the factory system under the control of that department are open to investigation by the War Expenditure Committee. I know of no barrier that would prevent that committee from making a full and free investigation. Much of the criticism of the munitions organization is ill informed. The munitions organizations of Great Britain and the United States of America have to contend with similarly ill-founded public statements made by people who desire to prejudice the positions of those charged with the management and supervision of munitions factories. I had occasion recently to indicate how ill informed was certain information made public in a police court. A man alleged that for nine months in which he had been employed by the Munitions Department all he did was to carry an oil-can around, and that the women employees had so little to do that they were able to gather together and discuss topics dear to their sex. All I can say is that the records of the department show that the man was employed by the department for six months, not nine months, and that he was on sick leave for six weeks. Then he produced a doctor’s certificate stating that he was capable of doing only the lightest work and that he had been under medical treatment for three months. He eventually obtained his release from the department on the production of a further doctor’s certificate. Had that man been willing, he could have performed a service on behalf of the nation even with an oil-can by lubricating the machines. I am convinced that that man made his allegations for the sole purpose of trying to justify certain misdemeanours committed by his son. Some sort of defence had to be established, and possibly the only way in which he could itv to excuse the boy was by malting unfounded allegations that the employees at the factory were idle. On the question of women. being idle, as alleged by him, I point out to honorable members tha t during the period when we were forcing up the rates of production in our principal factories, particularly the Small Arms Ammunition Factory at Footscray, there was considerable absenteeism among the women owing to the long hours they worked and the consequent fatigue. “We had to have a reserve of 30 or 40 women to fill absent places caused by women being away from the job in order that the whole line of production might be maintained. Had that action not been taken, we should not have had the splendid reserves of munitions of all types which exist in this country to-day. Unfortunately, the real explanation of matters such as this is seldom brought to the notice of the public, and a false impression is liable to be created. It is regrettable, indeed, that people who have no real knowledge of the subjects which they are discussing, are able to create wrong impressions in the minds of the general public, and to do great harm to our war effort. That is only one instance of the lack of proper understanding which only too often is found in quarters from which criticism of the Munitions Department emanates. I can say honestly that whenever criticism of my department has been offered I have examined the charges thoroughly, and in a great majority of instances I have been able to provide a completely satisfactory answer. If honorable members know of any specific instances of what they consider to be faulty administration, I shall be only too pleased to have them examined thoroughly.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the production of tanks in Australia. In that regard I am in a somewhat difficult position, because for security reasons, I cannot make as full a statement as might be desired. However, I can assure the honorable member that it is the view of my department that those individuals who were charged with the responsibility of organizing the production of tanks in this country, did a remarkably good job. One week-end journal which I read recently gave an exaggerated figure of the cost of producing tanks in this country. In certain aspects of tank production, Australia has led the United Nations, and we have had the satisfaction of seeing improvements originated by Australian engineers, adopted a3 standard practice by tank manufacturers in the other Allied countries. However, acting upon the advice of the Defence Committee, and with the approval of the Higher Command, the Government has decided to adopt a standard Vehicle which at present is being produced in an Allied country, and which is regarded as eminently suitable for conditions of warfare in this theatre. The importation of these units will enable man-power which otherwise would be engaged upon the production of tanks in this country, to be employed on other high priority work. If the honorable member for Fawkner wishes to have a more detailed statement on this matter I shall be only too pleased to give it to him confidentially.
Man-power releases within the next three or four months will probably exceed the figure mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner, but that does not mean that there will be a steady and continuous release of say 2,000 employees a month. It may mean that 5,000 men or even more, will be diverted as quickly as possible to essential production. However, that is a matter entirely within the province of the man-power authorities.
In regard to the munitions establishment in the northern State, for security reasons 1 am unable to give the committee a complete answer to the queries raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), but I can state that owing to the splendid reserves of certain types of munitions that have been built up in this country, several plants, including the factory ‘ mentioned, are to be switched to the manufacture of more pressing requirements in our northern areas. Maintenance establishments are required urgently to service the large numbers of aircraft that are coming to this country, and rather than embark upon the erection of new buildings, it was considered expedient in the interests of public economy to utilize existing premises and the labour available there for that work. That action has been taken where plants will render a better service by undertaking this new work, rather than continuing the production of munitions of which we have already substantial reserves.
– How does the Minister explain the fact that the plant in question is the only one in the northern areas that is being used for the purpose mentioned. Will not considerable haulage from the southern States be involved.
– It is true that materials required for the servicing of aircraft at these works will have to be brought from the southern States, but that would still have been the case had new buildings been erected. The Government has been advised by those who are in a position to know future requirements that the factory should be used for the purpose that I have mentioned.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) complained of a lack of organization between the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Munitions Department in regard to the release of certain materials required for primary production. I assure the honorable member that there is no lack of coordination between these two departments. If there be a shortage of certain equipment which is held by the Munitions Department, I invite the honorable member to supply me with specific instances so that I can have inquiries made.
– Various materials are unobtainable.
– A few days ago, the honorable member complained to me regarding the difficulty of obtaining supplies of a certain article, and I indicated to him that they were available. When the honorable member makes a complaint, I should like him to cite a specific instance.
– I have done so.
– If the honorable member has good faith in the matter, and I believe that he has-
– I have prayed, but still supplies cannot be obtained.
– If the honorable member will cite specific instances, I shall endeavour to give him a satisfactory reason for the lack of supply, or remedy the omission. I am only too willing to help an honorable member to obtain the best results by having materials distributed to the places where they are urgently needed.
.- I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether matters relating to lend-lease expenditure may be investigated by the War Expenditure Committee?
– Matters relating to buildings or even supplies could, I consider, be investigated by the committee. If a matter is being handled entirely by a Commonwealth department, I see no reason why it should not be examined.
Department op Aircraft Production, and Reciprocal Lend-Lease to United States Forces - Agreed to. Department of Supply and Shipping -
– I should like an assurance from the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) that unsatisfactory conditions which have obtained regarding supplies of materials for the construction of small wooden ships have been remedied, and that the conflict which seemed to exist between the authority that let contracts and the Controller of Timber has been overcome. Some time ago, builders of small wooden ships had difficulty in obtaining supplies of timber. I shall cite a specific case, although for obvious reasons I shall withhold the name of the firm. The company received a contract for the construction of small wooden vessels. It had a supply of keels made from spotted gum, which it had obtained by its own efforts. When the Controller of Timber discovered that the keels were in the possession of the company, he made a searching inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining how the firm had secured them. Then he. “sealed” the keels, and would not permit them to be used by the firm, because it would necessitate a slight alteration of the depth of the keel in order to adapt it to the specifications of the vessel contained in the contract. The company was obliged to wait a considerable time before the keels were made available t,o it. All the while, workmen were standing idly by. Subsequently when one keel was sent forward, a small supply of timber was made available to keep the men occupied for a few days.
Then they became idle again. They could not toe “ stood off “, because their services would be lost to the firm. All the time, the company was operating on the “ costplus “ basis. Costs were mounting, but the men were idle, despite the fact that ships were urgently required.
I also understand that the Controller of Timber has a special way of distributing supplies. At a port on the South Coast that I shall not name, contracts were Jet for the construction of small wooden ships. The timber could have been obtained without difficulty in the immediate vicinity, as ample supplies of spotted gum were available. Instead of allowing the shipbuilders to use that timber, the Controller of Timber gave instructions for the necessary supplies to be sent from Sydney. In transit, this timber passed two sawmills. This unnecessary transport of materials has occurred in other industries, and particularly in the transport of primary products. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is aware of instances of goods being carried beyond their destination, and having to be sent back by rail. Where huge quantities of timber of large dimensions can easily be obtained from the immediate vicinity, it is not common sense to bring supplies from distant parts.
– Is that situation prevailing now?
– I have received no information about it since I advised the firm to make representations to the proper authorities. I hope that the Minister will exert every effort in future to prevent this wasteful use of transport.
– The Government proposes to expend this year the sum of £250,000 to establish the aluminium industry in Australia. As honorable members are aware, I have been keenly interested in the expansion and development of this industry, and particularly in the exploitation of the bauxite deposits at Tambourine Mountain. I should like the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to inform me how the money will be expended, and whether the deposits at Tambourine Mountain will be worked.
– The Controller of Timber, who comes under the direction of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), controls supplies of timber and its distribution in Australia. The position to which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred, probably existed. A lot of these things occurred in the past, and we must be sure that they do not happen again. So far as I am able, I shall ensure that transport facilities are not used unnecessarily to convey supplies, in this instance of timber, to various parte of the country.
The provision of £250,000 for the development of the aluminium industry is the result of the plans that will be given effect during this financial year. No specific plans have actually been agreed upon, but as I informed the honorable member a fortnight ago, in reply to a question, the Government proposes to introduce a bill for the purpose of setting up an authority to establish the aluminium industry in this country.
– When will the bill be presented ?
– Probably next February. The object of the bill will be to set up the authority, and that authority will then proceed to work out the details of the expenditure proposed under this item, but the present vote will not be sufficient to meet the whole of the cost of the scheme. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) referred to the deposits of bauxite in his electorate. It is true that they are supposed to be the best in Australia, according to tests that have been made. The authority proposed to be set up will have power to examine all of the deposits in Australia in the light of their quality, the quantity available and the locality in which the smeltery for production of aluminium will be erected. It might he more profitable to use bauxite deposits situated close to the smeltery than those at aconsiderable distance from it.
Department of Home Security -
– I draw attention to the chaotic conditions that have arisen in Sydney because of a difference of opinion between the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) and the Minister for National Emergency Services in
New South Wales. Between the upper and nether 1 millstones, householders and shopowners in Sydney have been ground to fine powder. Immediately after they had received a request from the State Minister to remove the material erected to conform with the black-out conditions, the Minister for Home Security countermanded the order, thus causing confusion in the minds of the people. They wish to know who has the final voice in the matter. They have been informed by the State Minister that shop fronts and private dwellings may be cleared of the limber and other material with which (hey have been protected, and that black-out hoods may be removed from motor cars. From whom are the people to take directions, and when will normal conditions be restored %
– As I understand the position, no direction was issued by the Minister for National Emergency Services in New South Wales. He merely gave permission for the removal of the timber placed in front of shop windows and of black-out material hung in the windows of private dwellings. The Minister for Home Security has announced that, in the opinion of the chiefs of staffs of the fighting services, it would be dangerous to remove that material at present. Another factor is that the man-power authorities do not feel disposed at present to make available the labour that would be required for the work. The decision, therefore, stands.
Other Wak Services -
– I draw attention to the proposed expenditure of £100,000 in connexion with item 12, Division 156 - “District War Agricultural Committees - Administration “. The vote for that work last year amounted to only £4,000. Those committees were appointed mainly on the recommendation of the Rural Industries Commission, and their activities were to be of an honorary character. Experienced farmers and graziers were to co-operate with departmental officials in giving, advice on agricultural matters and making recommendations as to which farmers should receive commodities such as spare parts for machinery, wire netting, petrol and seeds, and have manpower made available to them. Hitherto this work has been carried out on an honorary basis, but now we are informed that £100,000 is required for the purpose. Does the Government propose to employ trade union “ bosses “ to control activities which have been conducted in the past on an honorary basis ?
.I should not mind whether the Government expended £100,000 or £150,000 on the district war agricultural committees if efficiency were obtained, but the results so far achieved have been most unsatisfactory. A request may be made for hay wire, and whether the decision rests with the Minister for Munitions or not, the fact remains that months pass and the applicant receives no reply. Finally, the wire comes to hand after his hay has been cut. I wish to cut some hay later in the year, and I put in an application seven weeks ago ; but I have heard nothing about it. Thousands of farmers are in the same position. I hope that these committees will show a greater degree of efficiency in the near future.
– I take a different line from the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in regard to the war agricultural committees. I do not know whether £100,000 is the amount that should be expended on these committees, but if they are given more financial support by the Government I consider that they will be able to do much better work. The committees could serve an excellent purpose, but, as I pointed out earlier to-day, they should be given more power. Chairmen of these committees whom I have met inform me that they can act only in an advisory capacity. The committees could do a great deal of useful work in relation to man-power and decentralization if they were relieved of the necessity to refer so many matters to Canberra or Sydney. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) concerning the unsatisfactory treatment of correspondence. These committees are expected to act in association with the National Service Officers in country districts, but although they may make recommendations on man-power needs, the National Service Officers are not under any obligation to take notice of the recommendations. The system, in this regard, needs tightening up. The committees should certainly be provided with more clerical assistance than they are getting at present. In some cases committees have the assistance of the clerks of the Pastures Protection Boards, but as those officers are usually snowed under with correspondence, they cannot give much help. If the expenditure of £100,000 will make them more efficient, and if the Government will give them more power, .the position should improve.
. -The amount of £100,000 referred to by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), is being provided to re-imburse State Departments of Agriculture for expenses incurred in relation to war agricultural committees. This work is being carried on by the State Departments of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture acting in collaboration. An allowance is made to the district committees to cover secretarial work.
– How much is voted to each committee?
– The amount varies with different committees. So far permanent secretaries are being provided only for district committees, and these are doing an excellent job throughout the country.
– ‘Can they be given more power ?
– The power is conferred upon them by the State Departments of Agriculture and, as the honorable member has said, the committees work in collaboration with the National Service Officers. They make recommendations on applications for the release, of men for work in primary industries, and deal with the problems of seasonal activities. They also consider applications for extra fuel allowances. Their powers are being extended gradually, and the Government hopes that a most efficient body of workers will be developed, who will provide a satisfactory liaison between Commonwealth and State authorities.
– From where are the secretaries being drawn?
– In some instances the clerks of the Pastures Protection Boards are drawn into service, but the most satisfactory help available is accepted. Some district committees have salaried officers, but the local committees do their work on the basis of prescribed fees and allowances.
.I wish to refer briefly to four items, and I should like to know whether I may devote twenty minutes to each of them.
– The honorable member will be entitled to only one period of twenty minutes if all the items to which he refers are included in the one vote.
– The first to which I direct attention has relation to the provision of medical services for men discharged from the forces. I have already brought this subject to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), but so far his replies have not been helpful. I hold that a man who is discharged from the fighting services on medical grounds is entitled to medical treatment until he is completely rehabilitated, but only about 25 per cent, so discharged are deemed by the Repatriation Commission to be entitled to some medical treatment. Surely an obligation rests on the Government to ensure that all discharged men shall be provided with medical services until their health is completely restored. That policy should be applied on humanitarian grounds alone. But there are, in addition, sound reasons of national policy. Much subsequent invalidity leading to claims against the Government for pensions and treatment could be avoided by remedial treatment now. As the Minister has not given an encouraging reply to my previous representations, I ask for an undertaking that he will investigate this matter during the recess and, if necessary, discuss it with his colleague the Minister for Health and Social Services (.Senator Fraser) . It should be possible to arrange to have these cases dealt with by the Department of Health should the Repatriation Department not be the appropriate authority to deal with them.
The vote for “ Temporary and casual employees “ in the Department of Labour and National Service last year was £152,500, whilst the amount expended was £157,572. This year the amount asked for is £291,750. It is possible that additional men are required to deal with discharged servicemen, but I do not know whether that is the reason for the increase. Specially trained men should be entrusted with the duty of placing servicemen in civil occupations, because some of the applicants may be affected in physical health or in mental stability as the result of their war service. The men appointed to deal with them should have some training in vocational guidance, and also should have had some psychiatric experiance. The committee is entitled to know why the vote has been almost doubled.
I seek similar information in regard to the item “ Temporary and casual employees “ in the Department of “War Organization of Industry, the vote for which is to be increased from £69,930 last year to £135,800 for 1943-44. In the absence of details it is difficult to appreciate the necessity for that increase. The sum of £28,000 is being budgeted for in respect of the item “ Conservation of Commodities - Educational Campaigns - Department of War Organization of Industry “. Although certain commodities, such as rubber and petrol, are in short supply, it should not be necessary to expend £28,000 on any educational campaign aimed at their conservation. Public statements by Ministers from time to time should be sufficient. I regard the proposal as an extravagance.
The total vote proposed for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is £85,000. In view of the range, variety and scope of the problems which are arising, some of them urgent, the administration of this department should be the sole responsibility of one of the most capable Ministers in the Cabinet. Whilst not in any way criticizing the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), of whose capacity I have always shown a proper appreciation, I believe that because of the many important duties which fall to him as Treasurer he cannot give proper attention to this important new department. The proposed vote appears to be disproportionate to the big job which lies ahead of this department.
– But for the lateness of the hour, I should divide the committee on the item “Other War Services”. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should supply greater detail of the proposed expenditure than is contained in the Estimates. The proposed vote for “ Other War Services “ is £63,165,000 whereas the expenditure under that heading last year was only £28,112,002. No details of this huge amount are given.
Under Division 151 the amount set down for “ Salaries and Allowances “ in the Division of Import Procurement is £1,025,000. The expenditure last year was £675,150. The figures show a considerable increase over last year’s expenditure at a time when the Government is imposing taxes practically to the limit of a great many people’s capacity to pay, and is also urging citizens to invest in a huge war loan. I have little doubt that much of the proposed expenditure could be saved, but, in the absence of particulars, it is difficult to indicate specific ways in which that could be done. In connexion with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction also, I submit that we shall neglect our duty if we vote the substantial sum set out in the Estimates without having presented to us some particulars of the plan to be followed. Not only is there no indication of what the department proposes to do with the money voted, but also there are no details of the methods proposed to be adopted to raise the money. The Government and the Commonwealth Bank Board are in conflict. Dr. Coombs, who is a member of the board and has subscribed to its cautious policy, is also the administrative officer who is responsible for the carrying out of post-war reconstruction. I have the greatest respect for his capability and conscientiousness ; but he cannot apply two conflicting doctrines - the apparently haphazard and cheap money method which the Government envisages in connexion with postwar reconstruction, and the cautious policy laid down by the board of which he is a member.
Another fundamental necessity in relation to post-war reconstruction, concerning which the country should be informed, is that of constitutional powers.
Under what power is the Department of Post-war Reconstruction formulating its plans - the power exercisable under the existing Constitution, the enlarged constitutional authority that the Government hopes to obtain as the result of a referendum of the people, or such additional powers as may accrue to the Commonwealth under an arrangement with the States? That fundamental issue should be cleared up immediately. Postwar reconstruction in relation to rural industries will concern those industries for perhaps half a century. “We who represent the people who are dependent upon rural industries are entitled to know exactly the powers which the Government expects to exercise. It is necessary not only to increase the population of Australia, but also to spread it scientifically and economically. We do not want a repetition of the experience of the preponderant power residing in the capital cities dictating fiscal policy. The policy of Australia has been one of suction - drawing the population from the rural industries and other wealthproducing activities of the countryside into the cities, which have become overpopulated. Australia needs not only a larger population, but also a more equal distribution of population. The statistics definitely prove that the countryside has been starved even in regard to population. The Treasurer, who is also Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, should produce a definite plan embodying the two fundamental principles with which I have dealt. Were it not for the conditions under which we are considering the Estimates, I should divide the committee as a matter of principle. A definite principle is involved, and the Treasurer must inform the country as to what the policy of the Government is to be. There is a very important aspect upon which I shall touch lightly, without going into technical details. The Government, whether it likes it or not, is pledged to the socialization of industry. Whether or not that is to be achieved, is a matter for the Government itself to determine. Approximately £150,000,000 of Commonwealth money is invested in secondary war industries, and the Commonwealth is the direct employer of approximately 110,000 persons. What does the Government envisage in connexion with the diversion of that capital and those employees upon the cessation of hostilities? Does -it intend to continue the activities and usurp the functions of private industry, or to hand them over to private industry? We are entitled to know what the Government has in mind in regard to the policy that is to be pursued in relation to both primary and secondary industries. As the estimated cost of salaries of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has increased from £7,337 to £43,000, we should be advised of what plans have been formulated, what activities have been carried on, and what policy has been pursued, in laying the foundations of reconstruction. The most important aspect, which has been treated lightly by the Government, is the indispensable necessity to define the power that is to be constitutionally exercised. Is the federal authority to exercise supreme power, or to work in conjunction with the States? If the latter, in what way is the power to be apportioned? Post-war reconstruction cannot be planned until the powers and constitutional authority of this Parliament have been defined.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to give the assurance that members of the fighting forces who are discharged on medical grounds will receive medical attention until they have been restored to employment and will be entitled to medical benefits upon any recurrence of the disease or disability on account of which they were discharged. I urge the Minister to investigate the position of men who receive a service pension. It is an old story so far as soldiers from the last war are concerned, but it is cropping up again in respect of soldiers who serve in this war. The Minister should revise the scale of pensions payable to these men. The service pension is paid to men who have seen active service. It is payable at any age provided the applicant is unable to work owing to a disability which need not be attributable to war service. Recently, I introduced to the
Minister a deputation of representatives of the men. I thought that the deputation put up a logical case, but its representations did not produce any results. We need to revise completely this phase of repatriation administration and to infuse a new spirit into our dealings with these men. Already, 66 men who have been discharged from service in this war, are receiving service pensions. Those men have served their country; and for that reason they are unable to earn a living. Although they are granted a service pension, they are reduced to penury. Their health has .broken down as the result of service in the defence of this country. The old arrangement appears to me to be very peculiar. Under it a service pensioner was really granted an old-age pension at the age of 60 instead of 65. It was a sop to his pride. What
Ave call a service pension is virtually an old-age, or invalid, -pension. That is all we give to the service pensioner - a sop to his pride. It is not a worthy reward to a’ man who becomes burnt out as the result of Avar sendee. I again ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to the position of these men. Another point is that men who receive a service pension at a comparatively early age may, at certain periods, he able to earn some money. In such cases they should ‘be allowed to earn a little more than the additional margin of 12s. prescribed in respect of old-age pensioners without sacrificing their pension.’ It would be of no disadvantage to the country to allow them to earn up to the basic wage without sacrificing their pension. I commend those suggestions to the Minister.
.The increase of the vote for the Department of Transport from £58,000 to £90,000 is sensational. Perhaps, it can be related to the appointment of the new Minister. It is noteworthy that the volume of transport facilities is diminishing. If the vote for the department were determined in proportion to the transport facilities available it would be considerably reduced, because daily, our position in that respect is getting worse. I do not lay the blame for that condition of affairs at the door of the department. The lack of adequate transport facilities is also the responsibility of the Department of Supply and Shipping, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which are supposed to take an eager interest in the welfare of the man on the land. I commend three points to the Ministers in charge of these three departments: First, all of us realize that rationalization of transport is necessary to-day in’ view of the shortage of manpower and material. At the same time, conditions brought about in the name of rationalization have in some instances resulted in a greater demand being made upon the time and finances of farmers. Where previously one carrier served an area with one vehicle, many trucks are now being used to carry the same quantity of produce from the same area to metropolitan markets. For example, one truck used ‘to pick up the produce from many farms, particularly eggs, and convey them to the Melbourne market. By order of the Department of Transport, the proprietor had to discontinue that service. The result was that each of those farmers was obliged to use his own vehicle, in some cases horse-drawn, to convey his produce to market, and as he did so twice a week. no saving of labour was effected under the department’s ruling. Surely that cannot be described as rationalization or economy. Further, the effect of the 20-mile restriction on motor vehicles has resulted in throwing many vehicles out of commission, mainly because of the way in which that ruling is interpreted by the department. Tomorrow, the Minister for Transport will find in his mail a petition which I posted to him to-day. It is signed by twenty farmers, who for many years past have been served by a carrier named Williamson, who conveyed their produce to a depot in Melbourne. The department has ordered that that service be discontinued. When a similar order was issued eighteen months ago, the then Minister for Transport granted my very sensible request to allow the service to continue. That case is typical of many which I could cite. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to the applications which I, and many other honorable members, have placed before him on this matter. My third point concerns the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) rather than the
Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Primary producers in areas adjacent to Melbourne who once used their own trucks to convey their produce, such as vegetables, eggs, and, principally, apples and pears, to the Melbourne market, are now unable to continue to do so because of petrol restrictions, and the shortage of tyres and spare parts. Consequently, they experience great difficulty in getting their produce to market. At the same time, they see large buses running through their area, as well as many private cars being driven on purely weekend joy rides. Naturally, they resent, such a position. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to allow extra petrol to be supplied to these producers in order to enable them to market their produce, particularly next season when apples and peai-3 will be produced in increased quantities. Otherwise, these producers will be placed in serious financial difficulty, if they are not actually ruined.
– I desire to refer to three matters, the first having to do with the Department of Repatriation. I ask that favorable consideration be given to the request of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) that soldiers should receive medical attention from the department for at least twelve months after their discharge. After the last war, many years elapsed before tubercular soldiers obtained their just dues from the Government. In many cases a condition which was the direct result of war service did not manifest itself until long afterwards. ‘ Medical science does not yet know what may be the aftermath of tropical diseases, and it is therefore desirable that discharged men be under medical supervision for at least twelve months. This is desirable in the interests of the general health of the community, as well as the health of the soldiers themselves. If the Repatriation Department does not undertake the work, it is possible that other medical services in the community will have to do so. Obviously, the department is the proper authority.
The second matter concerns the war photographers employed by the Department of Information. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to consider the inauguration of a system of repatriation benefits for these men should they suffer injury while engaged upon Government work. They are doing a job which is equal to that performed by war photographers anywhere in the world. They are constantly up at the front line, they have been bombed, and their instruments have been smashed. We know that in some war theatres there have been many fatalities among war photographers. I contend that while they are serving in forward areas they should be given at least the same repatriation benefits as the soldiers. They run all the risks which the soldiers run, but while they have to share with the soldiers the dangers of the front line they are not able to hit back. There should be some uniformity in the giving of public credit to these photographers for their work. Some of them are given much publicity by the distributors who exhibit the films they make, whilst other photographers who do work just as good receive no mention at all. Either every man should be given credit for his work, or none of them should. There is a strong case for increasing the allowance, which war photographers receive while on active service. In this respect, the Australian war photographers are at a great disadvantage compared with those in the service of other countries. In fact, they receive only shillings where the others receive pounds. This has already’ resulted in the loss of one man whose case has received considerable publicity. I do not defend his action, but I do urge that the allowances payable to photographers be placed on the same scale as those of the photographers attached to other armed forces. Our men live in the same places and work under the same conditions, and they are entitled to the same allowances. It must also be remembered that, although they are serving in the forward areas, they do not receive any benefit in the way of tax remissions such as soldiers do.
I desire to refer now to post-war reconstruction. I support the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) when he said that, in other circumstances, he would feel bound to divide the committee on this matter. I recognize that the Government cannot draw up details of plans while the powers of Parliament in regard to some matters are not yet denned, but there is provision on the Estimates for post-war reconstruction. Because no plan has yet been submitted, I feel justified in making a suggestion. We have heard much of the need for decentralization, and for transferring surplus population from the cities to the country. I suggest that the Government should, when considering schemes for decentralization, seek the co-operation of municipal and shire councils. Members of local government bodies may have limited powers, but they have had vast experience of their own districts, they know the value of regulations and how to administer them, and are quite fit to be entrusted with additional powers by the Government when it is considering post-war reconstruction. I refer more particularly to the need for housing. We hoar from time to time that the Government has in contemplation a comprehensive housing scheme and intends to concentrate on it in the post-war reconstruction era. This is an excellent opportunity for the Minister to use to their full capacity the municipal and shire councils of the Commonwealth. They have already been given certain rights with regard to buildings and homes by the State governments, but those governments have tied the powers up so securely with red tape that the local councils cannot use them effectively, and cannot obtain any scheme which is likely to be satisfactory. The Minister, when he brings forward his new housing proposition, should consider giving fuller powers to local councils, so that they may take full control over the areas to be built on. We in the Commonwealth Parliament have a very conservative appreciation of the work done by local councils. If the Minister arranges to meet them in conference, he will appreciate the great job of work they are doing, and be able to use their services to the best advantage in connexion with housing.
– Hear, hear! I am a local councillor myself.
– The Minister no doubt appreciates the fact that I am giving full credit to these men for the great work they do. If they are used to a greater extent by the Government in post-war reconstruction, much more effective decentralization will be obtained throughout Australia. We should retain the power in Canberra, but distribute the benefits of the scheme as widely as possible. The Treasurer, of course, would have tq make available a certain sum of money to reimburse the councils for the work they do.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has brought under my notice on several occasions the necessity for giving medical treatment to soldiers for twelve months after their discharge. This proposal was discussed when the bill was last before the chamber, but for several reasons the Government did not adopt it. The department is looking into it now. If we do anything, why limit the period to twelve months ?
– Until they are equipped to go back into civil life.
– They are supposed to be that when they leave the Army. The honorable member said that only 25 per cent, of them received medical treatment after their discharge. I have tried, through my department, to find out if that figure is correct, but I could not obtain the information, because a great number are discharged from the Army as medically unfit after being only a few days in it and do not suffer from disabilities due to their enlistment. They do not come to the Repatriation Department at all. We do know that a much larger percentage than the figure the honorable member gives of those who apply to us are accepted for pensions. If they are eligible for pensions, they all come under our medical system when discharged from the Army. The department is inquiring whether discharged soldiers should receive the extra medical treatment asked for, but this will be a matter of policy for the Government to decide. If it is done, it may be done through the Repatriation Department, or through some other department, and provision may be made either in the bill dealing with social welfare or in the bill dealing with medical services. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knows that we are treating soldiers for war disabilities, but if we treated every one who was discharged and needed medical treat- ment we should not have enough hospitals to accommodate them.
– They have to be treated somewhere now.
– As I told the honorable member for Fawkner, many soldiers who are discharged as medically unfit have no war disabilities. They may have pre-war disabilities, but we could not possibly take them all in.
– I shall tell the Minister at another time about a case of which I know.
– I have investigated many cases which I should have liked to relieve. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) spoke about service pensioners. I agree that something should be done to allow them to earn a little more.
– And give them £2 a week.
– When I became Minister the rate of pension was fixed. Then the service pensioners asked to be put on the same scale as the invalid and old-age pensioners under the means test. I managed to have that incorporated in the act, and also to raise the pension rates for their wives and children, so that their conditions have been made much better. The department will inquire into the possibility of allowing them to earn more than they have been enrning.
– Will the Minister look into the question of establishing a different basis, with a higher rate of pension, for service pensioners?
– That matter will also be gone into, because the amount which they receive at present is very small.
– The criticism of the Department of Transport by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) shows that he is typical of a number of other honorable members who, while urging an all-in war effort, want it to be on the basis of “ business as usual “. The honorable member made loose statements that the department was costing more but was providing less transport, when, as a matter of fact, the small increase of expenditure this year has been caused by a slight increase of the number of the staff necessary to cope with the increasing amount of work that has to be done. The honorable member tried to belittle the efforts of the transport workers and the transport systems throughout the Cor>.monwealth, and indicated that transport facilities were less than those previously provided. The following figures will indicate to honorable members that his argument was not based on facts. For instance, the Australian railways have carried 40,972,605 tons of goods in the last twelve months, compared with 32,456,273 tons in the year ended the 30th June, 1939. This is an increase of more than 8,000,000 tons, or 26 per cent. In the same period passengers increased from 384,692,000 to 517,148,000, which represents the very considerable increase of 34 per cent. The increase of railway gross ton mileage since the outbreak of war has been 45 per cent. An outstanding example of increased traffic handled by a proportionately smaller staff is provided by Australia’s tramways and Omnibus systems, which, with only a 5 per cent, increase of staff, have carried 53 per cent, more passengers. Similarly, the Australian railways have handled a 26 per cent, increase of goods and a 24 per cent, increase of passengers with only a 16 per cent, increase of staff. I place those figures on record to show to the honorable member, who is prone to be critical of the efforts of Australian workers, that the transport workers have in the circumstances done a wonderful job of work for this country. I agree that the restrictions imposed on both travel and the carriage of goods must cause hardship to certain sections of the community, hut those restrictions were imposed by the Commonwealth authorities, not because they desired to do it, but because in the circumstances they had no choice. The curtailment of shipping, which in prewar days carried a great deal of the interstate cargoes, has cast additional burdens on the railways. The Commonwealth authorities would he able to do much more than they have done if they had complete power to control the transport systems of the Commonwealth, but, generally, the activities of the department have been of benefit to the country and have assisted materially in enabling us to present an excellent record of carrying passengers and goods. The restrictions are tied up in fuel supply and cannot be relaxed yet. The Commonwealth Government will be happy to relax them when it can.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the increased salaries payable in respect of the Department of Labour and National Service.
– And the Department of War Organization of Industry.
– Of the increase of £140,000 for salaries payable in respect of the Department of Labour and National Service, £90,000 is accounted for by additional staff, £10,000 by costofliving increases, and £40,000 by the fact that salaries will have to be paid for a full year to persons who were employed for only a part of last year. The additional provision is largely associated with the appointment of welfare officers and canteen managerial staffs which have been established in the department. I understand that was the plan of the department when the ‘honorable member administered it.
Increased salary payments in the Department of War Organization of Industry are largely accounted for by additional staff appointments and incre-. ments, as well as by the fact that some salaries will be payable for a whole year whereas last year the officers concerned were paid for only a part of the year. The activities of the Department of War Organization of Industry have been extended over fresh wide fields of investigation owing to war exigencies.
Apparently, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was not present earlier when I dealt with the matter of post-war reconstruction. I then explained that post-war planning was being done on a basis which would enable the plans to be suitable for use whether the Commonwealth were given wider powers or whether it would have to continue to use the imperfect instrument of agreement with the States.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to the part, that local authorities should play in post-war reconstruction. I readily appreciate what those authorities can do, because I still have the distinction of being a shire councillor. I recently addressed a con ference of the shires on that very subject and emphasized the great part that local authorities will be able to play in reconstruction; but I pointed out that they would have to drop many of their parochial ideas and combine in regional councils, or some sort of regional bodies, so that their activities could be spread over a wider field.
– The photographers employed by the Department of Information who go into the battle zones and take either the still photographs which appear in the press of this country and other countries or produce the splendid films which we see in the theatres of Australia depicting the work of the Australian fighting forces well deserve the tributes which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) paid to them. Those men risk their lives equally with, and in some circumstances more than, the soldiers who are enlisted in the forces. Some of them have been attacked by enemy aircraft and have returned to base in their aircraft with photographs which have been of great benefit to the Australian people in maintaining morale, as well as in showing just what difficulties the men in our forces encounter. I believe that some consideration will have to be given to the extension to those men of repatriation and other benefits, which will show that this country has appreciated the great work that they have done. What the honorable gentleman had to say about their qualities is also true. There are probably no better photographers anywhere, at any rate in the South-West Pacific, than those employed by the Department of Information. The honorable member’s point about advertising the work of particular photographers is a moot one. Generally, I agree that either all should be credited for the work they do or credit should be given to none. It is true that no photographer makes his film from beginning to end, and it is equally true that some films shown by the department contain shots taken over a period of only about twenty seconds. So it would not always be possible for the department to give credit to the man or men who photograph a particular scene depicted in a film even if it wished to do so. There is a danger that one particular photographer may become glamorized, and that that will have an adverse effect upon other men who are doing just as important work and with equal success. Generally speaking, the Department of Information films do not name the photographer responsible for them., and I think that in future that policy will be followed even more closely.
With regard to the allowances paid to men who work in competition with photographers of other Allied countries, it is not always possible for the Department of Information to pay exactly the same allowance. In any case, it is only in certain fields of activity that the work of photographers of different countries overlaps. Much of the work of the Department of Information is done in areas served exclusively by our own forces. It seems, therefore, that the question of allowances relates more to occasions when photographers of different nations meet in the capital cities, than when they are in battle areas. The matter of taxation remissions is more a matter for the Treasurer than for any other Minister. Probably there is a good case for some consideration to be given to the men owing to the precarious nature of their work. Obviously their pay is not earned so easily as is that of more fortunate individuals who stay far from the battle lines. This is not the time when full consideration can be given to all the submissions that have been made, but the honorable member for Wentworth has stated his case so temperately and with such persuasive force that I have not the slightest doubt that he will achieve at least some success in his representations.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
States Giants Bill 1943.
Loan Bill (No. 3) 1943.
The following papers were pre- sen ted: -
National Security Act -
National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations - Order - Egg Industry (No. 8).
National Security (Meat Industry Control ) Regulations - Order - Meat (Return) (No. 7).
Sugar Agreement - Twelfth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee foryear ended 31st August, 1943.
House adjourned at 3.40 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian Army : Travelling Facilities for Nurses.
y. - On the 7th October the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the following question, upon notice -
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a paragraph in this morning’s newspapers that bullocks ave being driven from Queeusland to other States and that the price paid for them is from £1 to £2 a head greater than the price previously paid? Will he say whether, in view of the fixing of a price ceiling several months ago, this is not a definite case of black marketing?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that maximum wholesale and retail prices have been fixed for meat, and that these determine the prices of live-stock on the hoof. Butchers who pay more for live-stock than costs upon which their pegged prices are based must absorb the increase and cannot obtain relief by charging higher prices. The circumstances contain no evidence of black marketing.
Production of Hay in Tasmania.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
X, Can he give any information to the House concerning the oaten hay .position in Tasmania ?
Xs it a fact that there is an estimated shortage below Tasmania’s normal requirements of at least 10,000 tons, and, consequently, grain will have to be shipped from the mainland to maintain milk and meat supplies for that State next winter?
Is it a fact that this position is largely due to .the reason that it is uneconomical for the farmers to harvest such crops without a minimum price being fixed in the early part of the season, and to the fear that the Prices Commissioner will fix a maximum winter price as has been done twice in the last three years to the detriment of the farmer?
Is it also a fact that the enormous increase in the cost of production, including tb rate of wages to be paid and fixed by the harvesting award, has been a contributing cause? fi. Will he confer with his colleagues with a view to action being taken to grant assistance to those farmers to enable them to meet the extra costs involved?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Before Parliament rises, will he make a statement to the House setting out what action, if any, has been taken concerning the highly unsatisfactory state of affairs as regards lax accounting, excessive payments in cost-plus contracts, and defective supervision in certain service departments, to which the Auditor-General directed attention in the last report submitted to this House?
– The question as to whether a statement on the subject can be made before Parliament rises is being looked into.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– Tick eradication in the Clarence River District is a matter that falls within the province of the State, and the prosecutions referred to were State prosecutions. I am accordingly not in a position to furnish the information asked for by the right honorable member, but I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) as to whether any representations should be made to the State authorities on the lines indicated by the right honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19431013_reps_17_176/>.