17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hob. 3. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
– Accompanied by honorable members, I waited this day upon “His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the AddressinReply to His. Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament, which was agreed to by the House on the 29th September. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply :-
I desire to thank you for the AddressinReply which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to. convey to His Most Gracious Majesty the King the message of loyalty from the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia to which the Address gives expression.
– Has the Minister for Air any information ‘which he can give concerning the discussions that have taken place at the Empire Aviation Conference in London? If the honorable gentleman has not yet had a report, can he say whether ox not the statement that has appeared in sections of the press, to the effect that Britain will support President Roosevelt’s contention that air routes which can be operated at a profit should be in the hands of private companies, is likely to have the support of the Australian Government?
– A report has not yet come to hand from the Empire Aviation Conference, which, so far as Australia is concerned, is preliminary and preparatory in nature and has an exploratory objective.
It is hoped that one outcome of the discussion will be a large measure of international collaboration. Australia is anxious to contribute to an understanding between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The matter is linked with international security, the respective dominions having areas or zones in which they are vitally interested, and in which the special needs of those participating in the conference will require consideration. It is believed that the conference will consider the establishment of an international authority over air transport. The Commonwealth should have control of internal services and those that are in territories adjacent to Australia. No information is to hand indicating that Britain favours lines that are being operated at a profit remaining in the hands of private enterprise. The Government intends to maintain full control of the air transport services.
Attack on Rabaul.
– by leave - It is with pleasure that I inform the House that the communique issued to-day by General Douglas MacArthur’s head-quarters contains the following: -
Rabaul: - The enemy lias sustained a disastrous defeat from air attack at Rabaul. With complete secrecy the muss of our Air Force was concentrated and launched against his air and naval forces there, using fields made possible by our occupation late in June of the island groups north of New Guinea. Recently we crushed the right wing of his air command at Wewak, this time our objective was his left wing at Rabaul. The division of his air forces into two great groups based upon Wewak and Rabaul has made it possible to use our main mass against first one flank and then the other, thus acquiring in each case superiority of force at the point of combat and destroying his force in detail. The surprise at Rabaul was as complete as at Wewak. Mustering every appropriate plane available, we struck at mid-day. The enemy was caught completely unaware with hia planes, both bombers and fighters, on the ground. While our medium bombers raked the aerodromes, our heavy echelon swept shipping in the harbour. Both were covered by our fighters. A total of 330 tons of bombs were dropped and 250,000 rounds of ammunition fired. Our low-flying medium bombers striking at Vunakanau, Rapopo and Tobera aerodromes, destroyed 100 enemy aircraft caught on the ground, and severely damaged 51 others. So complete was the surprise that the enemy could put .but 40 fighters in the air to defend, 26 of these were shot down in combat. In all 177 aeroplanes or approximately CO per cent, of the enemy’s accumulated air strength at this base were lost to him in this attack. Operations, buildings, radio installations, and many fuel and ammunition dumps were demolished or heavily damaged, anti-aircraft positions were silenced and a motor transport pool was wrecked. Fires raged throughout the areas. In the assault on the enemy’s shipping, our heavy bombers with 1,000 pound bombs sank or destroyed three destroyers, two merchant ships of 5,800 tons each and one of 7,000 tons, 43 sea-going cargo vessels ranging from 100 to 500 tons, and 70 harbour craft. In addition they hit and severely damaged a submarine and its 5,000-ton tender, a 6,800-ton destroyer tender, and a 7,000-ton cargo ship. On shore two wharfs and a warehouse were destroyed, waterfront installations wrecked and many fires started. Five of our planes are missing and others were damaged. This operation, including the first phase at Wewak, gives us definite mastery in the air over the Solomons Sea and adjacent waters and thereby threatens the enemy’s whole perimeter of defence.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
P ro duction - Labour Troubles - Conservation op Coal - Reduction of Railway Services.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement published in the press this morning that the Government party had considered in caucus the nationalization of the coal-mining industry ? As the people of Australia are as vitally interested in this matter as are members of the caucus, will the right honorable gentleman state whether or not it is the intention of the Government to nationalize this industry? If so, can. .this, be regarded as the first step in the implementation of the Labour party’s policy of socialization ?
– by leave - The Government lias decided on measures for the conservation and production of coal, having regard to the present coa] shortage and the fact that current, stocks are inadequate to meet an emergency. Coal production over the last five years was as follows: -
Production up to the 18th September of this year was obtained from the States as follows :-
The possible output to the 18th September, 1943, was 12,747,937 tons, so that the loss for the year thus far has been 2,501,702 tons. The causes of loss of production to the 18th September. 1943, were-
An analysis of production results shows that in 1939, 13,400,000 tons was produced. The general strike of 1940 caused a shrinkage to 11,700,000 tons, which rose in 1941 to 14,100,000 tons, and in 1942 to 14,900,999 tons. In none of those years was there 100 per cent, production. A certain amount of absenteeism was inevitable, and there were stoppages due to disputes which, in the main, were relevant to what can- be described as legitimate industrial dissatisfaction.
This year, it was hoped that a proper appreciation of the country’s need for coa] would result in more than 15,000,000 tons being produced. That is not to say that there would not be . stoppages, or that stoppages, to a certain degree, are wholly avoidable; but the results so far have shown that, at best, a little more than 12,500,000 tons can be expected by (ho end of the year. We are 2,500,000 tons short of what was expected by the Government when the coal code was introduced. It is the opinion of the Government that the difference is not due to normal absenteeism, or to stoppages having, from the standpoint of the miners, the usual features of justification. For example, last Tuesday, a mine stopped work because the Compensation Commission in New South Wales decided that a claim was not justified for full compensation on the ground that the applicant was not totally incapacitated. Although the mining company which owned the mine where the applicant had worked had no jurisdiction under New South Wales law regarding the rate of compensation, the miners did not work. Further, there have been numerous instances this year of stoppages, although neither a protest nor a claim had been made to the mine management.
Nobody ever presumed that in the coal industry there would be no stoppages whatever. But, having regard to the industrial and conciliation machinery established, it was believed that the only stoppages which could occur were those caused by intolerable grievances incapable of rectification by the appropriate tribunal. There have been too many instances where stoppages have occurred because the decision of the local reference board or the central reference board - as the case may be - was not acceptable to the men. Therefore, the loss of production in the present year, compared with last year, is not due to new grounds, or to industrial conditions, or to the failure of the appropriate conciliation machinery, but to causes which were not present to anything like the same degree in any previous year.
As a result of inquiries which I have had made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of minority malcontents and irresponsibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production.
In the main, the irresponsibles comprise youths of military age and men engaged in other occupations as well as mining - taxi drivers, starting-price hookmakers, billiard-room proprietors, dog trainers, and the like. These men have engaged as miners in order to obtain protection. Generally, they readily agree to strike, sometimes themselves openly addressing the men, or making the first move from the mine, thus bringing on a general exodus because of the miners’ traditional policy of “ one out, all out “. The malcontents and irresponsibles are indicated by bad attendance records. It is the opinion of the Government that they should be weeded out of the industry. They have a record of chronic absenteeism, and their removal from the industry would leave no reasonable grounds for complaint on the grounds of victimization. I am directing 1’Iiat experienced officers shall make a thorough investigation at each colliery with a view to identifying this element individually and recommending its exclusion from the industry. This action should have the support of federation officers, lodge officers, and reputable members of the rank and file, who have voiced strong antagonism to these irresponsibles.
The Government has considered many proposals for increasing production, including those of the Coal and. Shale Employees Federation. As the first phase, to be followed by other decisions which will be formulated by the sub-committee of Cabinet, action will be taken to give effect to the following: -
Prosecutions will bc applied in every case of a mine-worker absenting himself from work without lawful excuse and, similarly, prosecutions will be launched against any person connected with the mine management who is responsible for a breach of existing regulations.
Mechanization of mines to be proceeded with as rapidly as the procurement of equipment will permit.
Provision of additional labour from personnel at present in the services, or in other industries, the number to approximate 600.
The working of a second shift in mines on the South Maitland coalfields.
The question of holidays during the Christmas-New Year period will he reconsidered in the light of results achieved in the immediate ‘future.
The conference with the. mining union? hold on the 5th October, 1943, will be resumed to deal with the matters not considered at the previous meeting, so as to assist in the prompt settlement of disputes and grievances.
The sub-committee of Cabinet will review, with representatives of the unions and with representatives of the owners, as early as can be arranged, the machinery for making the coal code effective in the light of the experience gained from its operation up to date.
Mr. R. James, M.P., will be appointed as liaison officer between the unions and myself to ensureprompt consideration of matters calling for my intervention.
Turning to the conservation of coal, the position is that for the half-year ended the 30th June, 1943, consumption of black coal was about 7,250,000 tons. This is expected to rise during the JulyDecember period to 7,550,000 tons, making a total consumption for the year of 14,800,000 tons. ‘ The Government has decided that a target saving of 40,000 tons a week is necessary to build up stocks at a satisfactory r-ate. This will bo achieved from the following sources: -
It is hoped that, after a period, the fuel economy campaign to be conducted by the Coal Commission will make good the deficiency of 9,000 tons a week. Details of the measures to be taken are as follows : -
Railways will be cut by 25 per cent, to provide a saving of 12,500 tons of New South Wales coal. Compared with normal consumption, New South Wales will be reduced by S,000 tons, or 26 1 per cent., Victoria by 2,400 tons, or 26$ per cent., South Australia by 1,600 tons, or 26jj- per cent., Western Australia by 250 tons, or 25 per cent., and Tasmania by 250 tons, or 25 per cent. Because of the heavy demands which essential transport is making on Queensland railways, no reduction of rail transport will be made in (hat State.
The State governments will be informed of the cuts on coal supplies to the railways, and will he asked to indicate as early as possible the arrangements they can introduce in their services at the end of a week.
A sub-committee, representing the Land Transport Board, the Commonwealth Coal Commission, and the Department of War Organization of Industry, will review the re-arrangement of transport services proposed by the States to ensure that they are consistent with other aspects of national policy. The subcommittee will discuss with the State railways authorities problems associated with the substitution of firewood for coal, in view of the acute firewood position.
Coal supplies to industrial users will be cut immediately by 12£ per cent, to provide a saving of approximately 12,500 tons of coal a week.
The Department of War Organization of Industry will advise on the essentiality of different industries so that a cut of more than 12 per cent, can be made on the less essential.
A sub-committee, consisting of representatives of the Coal Commission and the Department of War Organization of Industry, will consider the effects on essentia’] production of coal restrictions, will deal with appeals by industrial consumers, and will make recommendations if cun heavier than 12£ .per cent, are decided upon for any industry.
The Controller of Electricity Supply will consider further restrictions on the use of electricity for external lighting, with the object of saving 1,000 tons of coal a week.
A technical committee will be appointed to advise on the best methods of restricting the use of gas and electricity so as to effect a saving of 5,000 tons a week.
The policy of the Coal Commission in undertaking special measures for fuel economy, including the setting up of fuel watchers in industry, will he pursued with the utmost vigour as a matter of great urgency.
A most energetic .publicity campaign will be undertaken by the Department of Information to convince the public of the necessity for fuel economy, and advice will bc given by a sub-committee representing the Coal Commission and the Department of War Organization of Industry.
Immediate attention will be given to the matter of restricting the use of coke.
The Fuel Co-ordination Committee will meet as a standing committee to review results of the action taken to restrict fuel consumption, and will report regularly to the Production Executive.
No plans could be devised to produce ‘ immediately sufficient coal to avert the necessity for these measures of conservation. I am hopeful that the conservation measures will be temporary. I appeal to those engaged in coal production to realize that with them lies the best answer to the problem of the country; that is, by the production of more coal, the civil and military services requisite under war conditions can best be provided. I do not desire to traverse anything that has gone before, but I say to the coal-miners and to the coal managements that between _ them they have in their keeping the resources to make this nation capable of waging the war with greater vigour than will be the case if the coal supplies cannot be maintained. With regard to any plans which people may have for increasing coal production, whatever their nature, or whoever makes them, the sub-committee of Cabinet will give to such proposals the fullest consideration. I have no desire in this matter to do more than enable this country to wage the war. 1 have no political platform to espouse and no political philosophy to negate. All I wish to do is to indicate that every suggestion of means to accomplish in this country what appears to be extraordinarily difficult to accomplish in any other country will be investigated. If it has any merit at all, we shall carry it out.
– What is the right honorable gentleman’s policy regarding nationalization of the coal-mining industry ?
– The answer I gave the other day covers that question. I have only this to add: the miners include members of the Australian public who have worked hard for this country, animated by ‘the highest patriotic motives.
They make their contribution to the wai and to the struggle of the country. I said tobe other day that I did not believe that the miners would let the country down. I still hold that view. I believe that with the co-operation of the managements and the assistance of all parties this problem can be solved, but it does involve immediate savings and it does make necessary immediate stepping up of production. I ask that those who have to make sacrifices in consumption will do so cheerfully, but, if it be the last word T utter, I say that the production of coal is the very core of the economic strength of this country to wage the war, and I say to all associated with coal production, “ For God’s sake forget the past ! Realize the present and do the utmost you can to assist the nation “.
– by leave - I had intended, following an anticipated statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), to make a statement outlining the view of the Opposition and putting forward certain positive proposals for dealing with this very grave problem. Having regard to the statement just made by the Prime Minister, I do not propose to read that which I had prepared. A great deal, if not all, of the ground in it has been covered by what has been said by the Prime Minister, and I see no advantage to be gained by giving even the appearance of controversy about the measures that have been outlined. The public of Australia, it is quite true, will have to submit - and, I think, will do with good grace - to the restrictions that have been outlined in the latter part of the Prime Minister’s statement. Most of us have the feeling that this extraordinarily grave problem has drifted for a long time; at the same time I agree that there is no advantage to be gained by recriminations about the past. It has struck me for a long time that the coal-mining industry in Australia is unduly cursed by the past. We must look forward, and, looking forward, I say that the Opposition will watch with great interest and anxiety the working out of the proposed measures indicated in the Prime Minister’s statement. They seem to us to be good and proper measures - discipline, mechanization and the various steps indicated to increase production. Provided those measures are as vigorously pursued as they have been clearly stated, great improvement of the coal position should result. I should like, however, to say to the Prime Minister that should these proposals for any reasons fail in their purpose - I sincerely hope that they will not - it is very desirable that this House should have the opportunity to discuss the whole matter’ so that there might be a pooling of ideas on this problem. No doubt the Prime Minister will have in mind that, if the critical condition of the coal-mining industry should continue, honorable members should have the opportunity, even though Parliament may have adjourned, to reassemble and discuss the whole matter.
- by leave - I concur in the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) about the grave condition of the country as the result of dislocation of the coal-mining industry. Like the Leader of the Opposition I realize that this is not the time for post-mortems or recriminations, but I cannot refrain from saying that we find ourselves in this plight because the Government allowed the coal-mining industry to drift for far too long. The circumstances which have forced the rationing measures announced by the Prime Minister did not arise overnight. The decline of production and the increase of consumption have been accumulating over many months, and I am compelled to state that the Government is to be condemned for having so long delayed the measures which the Prime Minister has now announced. No country in peacetime can continue its national economy without adequate supplies of the vital commodity of coal, but in war-time coal shortages are tragic. On behalf of the Australian Country party, I assure the Prime Minister of our whole-hearted cooperation in carrying out the programme he has outlined. We desire to gain no political advantage by exploiting this national problem, and any assistance that we are able to render to the Government will be in discharge of our trusteeship to the nation in war-time. But I join with the Leader of the Opposition in stating that if the proposals which the Prime Minister has just read for increasing production are not satisfactorily and expeditiously implemented he should immediately summon the Parliament.
– The Prime Minister has stated that he is concerned more with increasing the production of coal than with political considerations. Willthe Government consider the advisability of utilizing the services of private members during the recess to act as a parliamentary committee or delegation to the coalfields for the purpose of investigating the problems of the industry? Will the Prime Minister make it an all-party committee in order to enable honorable members opposite to see for themselves the conditions in the industry?
CALL-up of Staffs.
– In order to enable roads to be maintained in at least their present condition, will the Minister for Labour and National Service issue a direction that no additional man-power shall be diverted from the road maintenance staffs of local government bodies to the Civil Constructional Corps?
– Whilst I shall certainly consider the matter, I do not expect to be able to accede to the honorable member’s request. The maintenance of roads and paths and the trimming of trees will have to wait while more important and essential work has to be done for the prosecution of the war.
Air-mail. Letters to Japan - Italian Subjects.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider restoring to the next of kin of prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, the privilege of sending messages to them by air? In the past, these messages have reached their destination and there is a definite demand for the restoration of the privilege under strict supervision.
– The Government is now considering the matter.
– Now that the Italian Government has declared war on Germany, will the Attorney-General inform me whether interned Italian subjects and prisoners of war in Australia willbe released so that they may be employed in the rural industries, in view of the acute shortage of man-power and the necessity for increasing the production of food ?
– I shall consider the matter and make a statement to the House to-morrow. But the declaration to which the honorable member referred will not automatically result in the consequences that he apparently expects.
Motions (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That the number of members appointed to serve on the Standing Orders Committee be increased to eight and that Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Beasley. Mr. Fadden. Mr. Makin and Sir EarlePage he members of that committee; three to form a quorum.
Mr. Coles. Mr. Hutchinson, Dame Enid Lyons and Mr. Williams be members of theLibrary Committee; three to form a quorum.
Mr. Francis, Mr. Holt. Mr. Mulcahy, and Mr. Watkins be members of the House Committee; three to form a quorum.
Printing Co mmittee.
Fraser. Mr. Haylen, Mr. Martens, Mr. McDonald, and Mr.Ryan be members of the Printing Committee: three to form a quorum, with power to confer with a similar committee of the Senate.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942. the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting: - Mr. Bowden, Mr. Bryson. Mr. Chambers,Mr. Francis. Mr. Guy, and Mr. Watkins.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
– Farmers in the Waroona district of Western Australia are ploughing in their cabbage crops and are not harvesting swede turnips because of the low market prices for those vegetables. For example, 5ewt. of cabbages consigned to the market returned to the growers payment at the rate of1d. per 28 lb., and that “remuneration” makes no allowance for the cost of hags. Of three consignments of swede turnips sent to the market, the first returned to the grower 1d. per 6 lb., the second1d. per 15 lb., and the third 7d. for 127 lb. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia of Western Australia has carried the following motion : -
– Order! The honorable member is giving information, not seeking it. I ask him to state his question.
– I have been giving my reasons for asking the question. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the advisability of appointing a board to control the cost of production and distribution of vegetables in Western Australia, the board to comprise a representative of the growers, a representative of the consumers, and a chairman appointed by the Government?
– I shall give consideration to the subject and reply to the question later.
– As the Treasurer has recently made arrangements for all. subscribers to the Fourth Liberty Loan to be given a metal badge, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will consider making arrangements to resume the granting of metal badges to men who volunteer for active service but are rejected on medical grounds?
– I shall consider the honorable gentleman’s representations.
Release of Men fob Am Crews - War Record.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will consider releasing young men from his department who possess the necessary qualifications for enlistment in air crews in the Royal Australian Air Force? Will he also confer with other Ministers with the object of getting them to take similar action? The places of men so released could be taken by ineligible and older men and girls. Many of the young men to whom I have referred are anxious to serve in air crews.
– I shall give my personal attention to the subject and inform the honorable member as early as possible of my decision.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether he will now make the statement concerning the part taken by the Royal Australian Air Force in the war against the Axis which he had intended to make during the discussion of the Estimates in the early hours of this morning? The statement merits the full attendance of members now in the chamber.
– by leave - I gladly take this opportunity to give honorable members a few facts relating to the part which the Royal Australian Air Force has played in the war against the Axis powers. The Royal Australian Air Force first went into action in February, 1940, when the No. 10 Sunderland Squadron based in the United Kingdom made its first operational flight over the Atlantic. Since then our aircraft have gone out daily to engage the enemy. The participation of the Royal Australian Air Force was at first confined to Australia, and Great Britain. As the Empire Air Training Scheme has developed, men of the Australian air force have extended their operations to every theatre of war, as is evidenced by the fact that our air crews engaged on all fronts overseas, excluding the South-West Pacific Area, now number more than 15,000.
I shall deal first with the Australian theatre. When the war broke out in September, 1939, general reconnaissance bomber squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force began protective patrols of the sea-lanes around Australia in co-operation with the naval forces, and they have escorted every convoy which has ‘ sailed around the Australian coast and into the Indian Ocean as far as the range of our aircraft permits. These patrols, in co-operation with naval forces, have ensured safety to our convoys and reduced shipping losses to a minimum. Some idea of the extent of this war-time activity of our air force may be gained from the fact that coastal reconnaissance squadrons in Australian waters have flown 33,000,000 miles, and have sunk a number of submarines, and probably sunk others.
In 1941, when Japan entered the war, Royal Australian Air Force squadrons were stationed in Malaya, Amboina, Timor, New Britain, and Port Moresby, and at operational bases on the Australian mainland. In the early operations in the northern theatre Royal Australian Air Force squadrons delayed the advance of the Japanese and gained time for preparations for the resistance of their penetration farther south to Australia itself. They were greatly outnumbered by the enemy and their aircraft were inferior in performance to the Japanese machines. Despite these disadvantages they continued to fight the enemy at every opportunity. ‘Squadrons whose aerodromes had been captured in Malaya gave battle from aerodromes in Sumatra and later in Java; those at Ambon and Timor renewed the fight from Darwin, and those from New Britain fought on from Port Moresby. Ever since, these and new squadrons have been hitting out daily to the limit of their range and to the maximum of their striking power.
Some idea of the magnitude of the contribution of Royal Australian Air Force squadrons in the operations in
Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies may be gained from the pause they imposed on the Japanese southward drive, caused by aircraft shot down, and ships and barges sunk. It is estimated that the Royal Australian Air Force killed 15,000 Japanese soldiers at Kota Bharu and at Palembang. A 10;000-ton motor vessel was hit twice and a 4,000-ton motor vessel was sunk, while direct hits and near misses were scored on a 5,000-ton motor vessel. An 8,000-ton or 10,000-ton motor vessel and twenty troop-carrying barges were sunk, and some destroyers were damaged.
On the 19th February, 1942, the Japanese delivered a surprise attack in the Darwin area which was, in force, comparable with that used in the successful attack made earlier on Pearl Harbour. Our air resources then available at Darwin were small, but they have been enlarged and air supremacy in the Darwin area has now been established. Our bombers are striking successfully by day and night at the Japanese bases confronting Darwin from Java in the west, to the Celebes in the north and Dutch New Guinea, and the islands south of Dutch New Guinea, in the east. In these achievements the Royal Australian Air Force has been assisted by splendid squadrons of the Royal Air Force and of the American and Dutch air forces. Damage caused by Japanese aircraft over a long period has been small, and no attempt has been made by the enemy to land on Australian soil.
With the growing strength of the Royal Australian Air Force, and of our gallant American allies, air mastery over the entire New Guinea and New Britain area has been achieved. Enemy losses of aircraft have reached a huge total. The Australian squadrons contributed largely to the brilliant, success of the combined land, sea and air operations which resulted in the capture of Lae, Salamaua and Finschhafen. Main targets in recent operations in the northeastern area have been Finschhafen, Cape Hoskins, Gasmata and other widely dispersed coastal areas of New Britain and New Guinea. Royal Australian Air Force Vengeances took part for the first time in the north-eastern area during the Allied air activities at Finschhafen.
Beaufighters carried out many barge sweeps along the coast of New Britain and attacked shipping and anti-aircraft positions at Cape Hoskins. Beauforts, Bostons and Kittyhawks attacked Gasmata, and the new Boomerang fighter has done invaluable work in connexion with Army co-operation during the recent advances in New Guinea. Recently in the north-western area, Royal Australian Air Force Catalinas have attacked Ambon, Halong, Namlea, Salaru and Pomelsa in the Celebes, causing fires and explosions. Beaufighters have attacked Selaru and Taberfane. Hudsons have also successfully attacked Taberfane, Langgoer and Doelah, Namlea, Halong and Kendari. In the ten combats they have had, the Spitfires in the northwestern area have shot down 70 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed twenty more, and damaged about 50 others. Since Japan’s entry into the war, the Royal Australian Air Force has flown more than 325,000,000 miles in operations and training in the South- West Pacific Area, and its aircraft have spent almost 3,000,000 hours in the air.
I turn now to Royal Australian Air Force operations in the United Kingdom. Honorable members will be interested to know that sixteen Australian squadrons formed under the Empire Air Training Scheme, and two permanent force squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force, are operating in overseas theatres of war, about half of them being in the United Kingdom and the remainder in the Middle East. Considerable numbers of Australian air crew are also serving in all types of Royal Air Force squadrons, such as Lancasters, Halifaxes Stirlings, Wellingtons, Hampdens, Blenheims, Venturas, Mosquitoes, Typhoons, Whirlwinds, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Beaufighters and Hudsons in bombing reconnaissance, fighting and intrusion operations. Royal Australian Air Force squadrons at present serving in the United Kingdom have flown more than S,000,000 operational hours, made 9,254 sorties over Axis targets, and destroyed 25 ships, probably destroyed eleven and damaged 37 others. They have also accounted for substantial numbers of enemy aircraft. To give some indication of the magnitude of Royal Australian Air Force operations overwas, I point out that one bomber squadron new 4.18,000 operational miles in a month, making 270 sorties, dropping over 2,500,000 lb. of bombs, and losing only two aircraft. The famous No. 10 Squadron, first dominion squadron to go into action, has sunk nine U-boats, and probably sunk many others, and has flown 2,000,000 miles, ‘involving 20,000 hours of operational flying. Its younger sister, the Anzac Squadron, provided the Sunderland which single-handed shot clown four Ju88’s, and damaged the remaining four in an epic battle in the Bay of Biscay recently. Two of our bomber squadrons hold the group record for the largest number of aircraft sent on a single mission. During the last week in September, the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force squadrons in the United Kingdom included the following important operations: - 2’3rd September. - Royal Australian Air Force bombers in Hanover raid, 2,358 tons dropped ; 3S Royal Australian Air Force aircraft took part; two missing. Spitfires escorted Typhoons over Holland. Mosquitoes routed pack of. Ju88’s over the Bay of Biscay. No. 455 Squadron completed 1,000,000th mile in operations. 24th September. - Royal Australian Air Force bombers in Mannheim raid ; 1,861 tons dropped ; 35 Royal Australian Air Force aircrafttook part; three missing. Royal Australian Air Force fighters among escort for Mitchells and Typhoons . in attacks on airfields in northern France; 21 shot down by whole of escorting force. 26th September. - Royal Australian Air Force Sunderland fought six Ju88’s in the Bay of Biscay. 27th September. - Royal Australian Air Force fighters among escort for Marauders attacking airfields in France; fourteen kills in all. Lancasters over Hanover; 2,198 tons dropped; 35 Royal Australian Air Force aircraft took part; one missing. 29th September. - 33 Royal Australian Air Force bombers over Bochum in a total of 352 bombers ; 1,318 tons dropped. 1st October. - Royal Australian Air Force fighters in escorts and sweeps. Mosquitoes attacked French targets. Spitfires over Northern France. Thirty-five
Royal Australian Air Force bombers over Hagen; 1,104 tons dropped. These particulars, which have not previously been furnished, give some idea of the extent of the participation of the Royal Australian Air Force in air operations overseas.
In the Middle East, Royal Australian Air Force squadrons have flown 29,000 hours in operations against German, Italian and Vichy French forces. As an instance of the outstanding work that is being performed by those units, I mention that in one year one bomber squadron engaged in 286 operations, including submarine strikes, anti-shipping patrols, and bombing raids on port targets. Nearly 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped and 4,000 lb. of mines were sown. One flight detached for duty at Malta made 311 sorties in 2,055 flying hours in the first three months of this year, dropping 40,000 lb. of bombs against Axis ships. Another squadron, in a year, completed 1,100 sorties in 7,000 flying hours. No. 3 Kittyhawk Squadron has shot down approximately 220 enemy aircraft. Aircraft of other types flown by Australians in the Middle East -include Liberators, Marylands and Walrus Amphibians. Since the over-water operations from North Africa, Australian squadrons have been operating without a break. and No. 3 Squadron was the first Allied squadron to operate from -a base on the Italian mainland. Royal Australian Air Force fighter-bombers supported the Fifth Army at its landing at Salerno, and also acted as escort for medium bombers. Thirty-eight sorties were made in one week by Australian veterans of the North African and Sicilian campaigns who are serving with a Royal Air Force squadron. Since the campaign began, Royal Australian Air Force Kittyhawks have continually bombed and strafed shipping aud other targets in and near Italy, and have been in close support of the land forces. Australian bombers have also been hammering at the enemy at strategic points.
I have other details of operations in the last eight days in the zone in the immediate vicinity of Australia, but do not. intend to give them. Some of the particulars may have been included in the communiques that have been published in the press. They show that the Royal Australian Air Force is participating, with great credit to Australia, in every major operation.
Australian airmen and officers have won 809 decorations for valour and devotion to duty. These include 2 Victoria Crosses, 7 George Medals, 25 Distinguished Service Orders, 393 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 27 Distinquished Flying Crosses and Bars, 5 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, and 236 Distinguished Flying Medals. Ten others have been commended, 226 have been mentioned in despatches, and18 have received foreign awards, making a grand total of 1,063 decorations and awards.
The casualties - this is the sad part - total 7,021, of whom 3,483 are dead or presumed dead, 1,377 are missing, 512 are prisoners of war, and 1,649 are wounded or injurcd.-
I cannot conclude without expressing the greatest admiration of the outstanding services that have been rendered by these splendid officers and airmen of theRoyal Australian Air Force, who have won not only glory and honour for themselves but also the Empire’s deepest gratitude for and ‘praise of their truly magnificent work in the cause of freedom. Many tributes have been paid to Australian air crews by high officers of. the fighting forces and by leading public men in the political and. diplomatic world. They may well be summed up by the praise of the former CommanderinChief, Allied Air Forces in the South-West Pacific, Lieutenant-General George H. Brett, who said, “ The exploits of young Australians in this and the northern hemisphere will endure through history as epics of courage, fire, and determination “, and that of the British Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, who said, “ These magnificent crews, well trained and dauntless in battle, are an inspiration to us all”. .
Honorable members will agree that the Royal Australian Air Force, in common with the other Australian services, has won for this country a glorious record of service in the cause of the British people, and, indeed, the people of the civilized world. It will live in history as an outstanding example of the complete devotion of the people of British origin to the cause of liberty and freedom, for which no sacrifice is too great.
– by leave - Before discussing certain important aspects of Australia’s international relations, I shall refer shortly to some of the results of the mission to Britain and the United States of America with whichI was entrusted.
The Prime Minister reported to the last Parliament that the main task committed to the mission had been fulfilled. After lengthy discussions. President Roosevelt directed that, as a special contribution to Australia, a very substantial number of additional combat aircraft - over and above those already allocated to the South- West Pacific Area - should be assigned to the use of the Royal Australian Air Force during 1943 and 1944. This decision of the President followed upon a special meeting of the Pacific War Council at Washington, where my request was supported not only by Mr. Churchill, but also by the Prime Minister of Canada. Subsequently, I attended special conferences with Mr. Churchill and the President, and the final decision was as stated. The decision is already being implemented in relation to 1943 deliveries, and 1944” deliveries will be finally settled in November. I should add that both the President and Mr. Churchill indicated their special desire to provide for the Royal Australian Air Force additional striking power in the South-West Pacific theatre of war, where, for the past 22 months, Australia’s main war effort has necessarily been concentrated. The contribution to the Royal Australian Air Force is over and above all pre-existing commitments.
I can now announce to the House that Mr. Churchill also, after consultation with myself, directed the provision from Britain for Australia of additional Spitfire fighter aircraft fully tropicalized and of the latest type. These machines will be manned by British personnel.
This British gift follows the precedent established by the British Prime Minis.ter during my mission of last year. In sending this reinforcement, for which In.’ has been suitably thanked by our Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill informed inc that the contribution could he regarded as a further earnest of his determination to bring about the downfall of Japan at the earliest possible moment. ‘ lt is only a small instalment,” he said, “of what will ultimately he forthcorning from Britain for the purposes of crushing Japan.”
I have dealt with these matters at the outset because of the wishes expressed by honorable members and because, treating the war aspect of that mission as predominant, I regarded them as constituting our main achievement. The House will understand that these very satisfactory results involved lengthy preliminary discussions with service authorities, both British and American. The allocations for the South- West Pacific Area had been completed before I left Australia, and this further increased our difficulties. We made every effort, both in the United States of America and Britain, to explain the great triumphs achieved in the New Guinea campaign, and to make ir clear that, on land, the main burden had rested on our Australian forces. Always paying tribute, as one was bound to do, to the achievements of the .United States of America Air Force in Australia and of the United States of America Navy in Pacific areas, the mission sought to bring home to all “concerned the debt owed by all the United Nations to the victorious armies in the New Guinea campaign, recently described by a very distinguished writer as involving “ the toughest fighting in the world “.
Without wearying the House with detailed quotation, I am satisfied that the effort made in the Pacific by Australia has come to be far better understood in Britain, the United States of America and Canada. Stating this as a fact, one must also pay tribute to the massive, ‘and indeed, the matchless war effort of the people of Britain. In Britain, Australia has a very special but effective representation in thousands of men of the Royal Australian Air Force, whether comprised in Royal Australian Air Force formations or, as is more usually the case, in Royal Air Force squadrons. Every one speaks in the highest terms of the magnificent conduct and gallantry of these men, who, fighting from Britain or from Africa, are also fighting for Australia. In the great air offensives undertaken both from Britain and throughout the Mediterranean, a considerable proportion of the air crews are drawn from Australia and the other dominions. The truth is that, owing to the development of the Empire Air Training Scheme, the Royal Air Force is not only a British force but also a great Empire Air Force. Wherever the Royal Air Force is operating, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians are to be found in the crews.
The mission also assisted a number of Commonwealth war departments in obtaining or expediting supplies of equipment of a special character. A special effort was made in relation to shipping, and, as one result, a mission representing the British Shipping Ministry and the United States of America War Shipping Administration recently arrived in Australia to consult with my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), as to the solution of some of our shipping problems. I could deal at considerable length with many minor aspects of the work of the mission, but at this stage it will he of more value to embark upon a more general discussion of international affairs.
For a long time past tho cardinal principle of Australia’s foreign policy has necessarily been to take every diplomatic or political step calculated to end hostilities so decisively that the establishment of the post-war world order will not involve any bargaining or compromise with our enemies. That over-riding principle has been observed by Australia from the very outbreak of the war with Germany. From time to time Nazi aggression had made itself evident long before 1939; but in 1939 it was plain to all that Germany v/as attempting to dominate by force not only Europe but the whole world. This necessarily resulted in Australia’s making common cause with Britain and the British Commonwealth. Until Japan became our enemy, Australian forces were engaged in distant theatres of war. But wherever the Australians fought - .and riley have fought in nearly every theatre of war and on nearly every front - they have been fighting, not only for the security of Australia, but also for the preservation of the democratic way of life, which is the characteristic of the British Commonwealth of Nations; not only for that, but also for a world order which should make future aggression practically impossible, and should assure to our peoples a realization of the objectives set forth by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt in the Atlantic Charter in 1941.
Therefore, it may be said that the broad objective of Australia’s foreign policy is to do our utmost to obtain world conditions in which we may secure peace, national development and prosperity for our people in accordance with our ideals of a democratic way of life. Recognizing this, we also recognize that our own security, our national development and our prosperity are impossible of achievement unless we are ready to collaborate with other peace-loving nations so that, in the words of the Atlantic Charter, “all the men in all the lands shall live out their lives in freedom from fear and want “.
Machinery of Wab-time Co-operation
The means of achieving our objectives in foreign policy vary from time to time and from place to place. I shall now shortly refer to certain aspects of the special machinery of war-time cooperation which we have taken a part in designing. In our view, some machinery for political and military co-operation, especially in the Pacific, had to be set up early in 1942. At that time Australia and New Zealand took a lead towards the establishment of the Pacific War Council at Washington. This body was set up in March, 1942, during my mission of that year. Our main objective was to bring into existence a body at which
Australia could meet in council, and on equal terms, representatives of all those countries which were concerned in prosecuting the war against Japan. This objective has been obtained. The council is not an executive but an advisory authority. It advises the President and, to some extent, the British Prime Minister on many aspects of the war against Japan. On several occasions the council has proved a valuable aid to Australia.
In London, too, Australia’s accredited representative has, as a result of a special arrangement, been permitted the privilege of “sitting in” with the British War Cabinet. No other dominion has similar representation. Strictly speaking, our representative is not a member of the British War Cabinet. Here, too, a new procedure had to be improvised, but, as in the case of the Pacific War Council, 1. can state from personal knowledge that Australia has obtained considerable benefits from the special arrangement.
Of course, there are important authorities on which Australia is not represented. For instance, Australia is not a member of the Munitions Assignments Boards, which take their general directives as to strategic requirements from the Combined United States - United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff Committee. Neither is Australia represented on that committee. Of course, we have representatives on the diplomatic, political and service sides, whose duty it is to submit our point of view to those bodies. Nonetheless, any claims made by Australia in relation to aircraft, shipping, army or naval strength are dealt with by such bodies in a way that places us in the role of a petitioner. Having regard to the war effort of Australia, I think it would have been more satisfactory for Australia to have been granted directrepresentation. This ‘ was not found possible.
What has been found possible is this: All the United Kingdom-United States of America machinery to which I have referred is subject to the supreme control of two leaders - Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. They have not regarded themselves as being necessarily bound by the opinions of any such committees, boards or authorities. They have been ready to review and revise estimates and prior rulings. They have come to regard the “ beat Hitler first “ slogan, not as a magic solvent of every difficulty, but merely as a general guide to action. They have - as I have already shown in the case of my own two missions abroad - always been ready to recognize the tremendous danger of Japanese political as well as military infiltration into territories captured and temporarily occupied, it is as a result of the leadership of These two great men that the evergrowing needs of the war against Japan arc not only being appreciated to a far greater extent but are being met to, a far greater extent than ever before. The improvement in the Pacific supply position since I left here in March of last year is very great indeed. Not that we can ever rest satisfied until the enemy is finally overthrown.
Our Interest in Europe.
Like the first world’ war, the second world war has emphasized an important element in Australian foreign policy. Australia cannot safely limit its interests even to the gigantic area of the Pacific. Twice Australia has taken a prominent part in a world war that commenced because of European questions. With Britain vitally involved, so at once were we. Our concern with Europe cannot be limited to the waging of wars. We must have some say in taking steps to prevent wars and in changing the conditions which are likely to cause wars. In short, we cannot contract out of Europe.
The reason is plain. The centre of the British Commonwealth and Empire is in Europe. From Europe have come all our immigrants. In peace time much of our trade was with Europe. Our culture is European. European colonies . are our neighbours in the Pacific, and one of the three great powers of Continental Europe, the Soviet Union, is also a world power and will he a great force in the Pacific of to-morrow. Therefore the peace, order and good government of Europe are vital to us. We are greatly concerned in the European settlement of the future.
Some publicists have suggested that the right to take part in the post-war European settlement should he limited to those nations who are prepared to “ police “ the European settlement - whatever that may mean. My answer to that is: “Australia has done its fair share in putting out the fire which was kindled in Europe and spread through the whole world. Our right to take a full and active part in the planning of the peace - not merely to be heard - should be assured to us as a result of what Australians have clone towards winning the war “. One sometimes wishes that a just calculus could be devised whereby those nations desirous of taking part in the settlement of the post-war order should be given a voice or a vote strictly commensurate with the value of their contributions towards the final victory.
Australia’s right to take part in all aspects of the post-war settlement being undoubted, the question is - what general views should we favour? I must say that I regard every clause of the Atlantic Charter .as of importance. Australia should fight hard to see that its principles shall be carried into practical effect to the greatest possible extent. If this be done, other Nazi and Fascist governments will not be permitted to substitute themselves for the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler. In his very recent message to congress President Roosevelt said -
Wo shall not be able to claim that we have gained total victory in thi3 war if any vestige of fascism in any of its malignant forms is permitted to survive in the world…..
Here is a further assurance to the peoples of the world that, in the post-war settlement, Nazi and Fascist governments will not again be permitted to sow the seeds of future world war.
These objectives, which are expressed in the Atlantic Charter, will never he lost sight of despite the temporary confusion sometimes created by a particular military situation. That is one general answer to those who have expressed anxiety over our dealings with Badoglio Such dealings, for military purposes only, involve no acceptance whatever of Badoglio’s views as to the future government of Italy.
Again it was found desirable to recognize the French National Committee of Liberation as having the de facto right to act for France wherever possible so that the armed force of Frenchmen should be used to strike a blow for the common cause and for the early liberation of a great country and a great people. These military arrangements involve no final decision as to the political policy to be pursued within France after victory is won. Everybody in his senses knows that the political future of France will be settled in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of France.
In all these apparent difficulties or complications the Atlantic Charter provides us with a sure and certain guide to future policy.
Here I may interpolate that Australia, took part in the recent recognition of the French National Committee of Liberation, the recognition being expressed in terms which evidenced the great debt owed to the Free French forces brought into existence at a time when the fate of New Caledonia hung in the balance, when its defence, of such crucial importance to us, lay exclusively in the hands of a small but very determined body .of French colonists and a gallant band of Australian soldiers.
Applying the Atlantic Charter.
I therefore emphasize that Australia has a real concern in the ultimate European settlement, that the broad principles of such settlement are already indicated in the Atlantic Charter, and that special arrangements made as a result of the military exigencies do not and cannot prejudice any final settlement. I think it. is our duty to contribute at all times towards the practical achievement of the positive objectives stated by the Allied leaders in their declarations. True, the Atlantic Charter is not a treaty. It is something greater. It is a noble expression of our objectives. Most remarkable of all, it was made when the United States of America was not even in a state of war with any of the Axis powers.
As I have indicated to this House on previous occasions, the objectives of the Charter, including freedom from fear as well as freedom from want, are as applicable to the Pacific as to Europe. But unless we do our utmost to see them translated into actuality in Europe we shall have little hope of doing so in the Pacific.
There i3 one aspect of the post-war settlement which is worthy of special consideration. It concerns our attitude towards the League of Nations. In my opinion, nothing has been more unfair or more superficial than the stream of criticism to the effect that the League of Nations failed because it did not prevent the outbreak of the present war. Some critics spaak of the doctrine of collective security as though it was something outside the purview of the League. But the theory of collective security .was contained in the Covenant of the League. The League Covenant clearly provided for the use of force by members of the League against States breaking their international obligations under the Covenant. The criticism that the decisions of the League were not effectively enforced is really a criticism of some of the governments operating within the framework of the League.” I agree entirely with what Mr. Churchill has said -
It was not a case of the League of Nations failing the governments of the world hut the governments of the world failing the League.
Some important nations refused to become members. Others, like Japan, refused to remain members of the League while at the same time retaining vital Pacific islands which it held solely as mandatory for the League.
To say that the present war was caused by the breakdown of the League is just as absurd as to say during a period of lawlessness in any community that the lawlessness has been caused by the existence of the criminal law. In some respects, notably the International Labour Organization and the Permanent Mandates Commission, the League’s experiments were for a time crowned with great success. That period ended when certain nations with impunity committed acts of aggression in open defiance of the Covenant. From the time when Japan was guilty of serious acts of aggression against China, i.e.. from 1930 and 1931 onwards, a deterioration commenced. Even the conventions of the International Labour Organization commenced to lose their previous persuasive force and the Japanese who, unfortunately for the world, had become mandatories of three vital strategic groups of islands in the Pacific, began to treat the lawful investigations of the Permanent Mandates Commission with something like contempt and to construct naval bases contrary to the express terms of the mandates.
As I have said, all this illustrates not the fact that such an association of nations cannot keep the peace of the world in accordance with agreed rules, but merely the fact that the noblest of organizations and partnerships may become discredited if its members or partners are not resolute to support it.
The “Big Three”.
As against the conception of a strengthened League or Association of Nations, there has recently emerged the notion of a post-war settlement carried into effect exclusively as a result of a treaty of alliance between the three great military powers, namely, Britain, or the British Commonwealth, the United. States of America and the Soviet Union, to which “big three” may subsequently be added China. It is contended by those advocating such an alliance, and rejecting a wider association, that, in the former case, decisions can be more speedily reached and more effectively enforced. It may, however, be possible to combine thetwo concepts, which do not seem to me to he in necessary conflict. The experience of the League of Nations shows the necessity for clarification and amendment of some of the important provisions, after which the leadership of the League would naturally be assumed by the three great powers I have mentioned. On the other hand, it would be extremely unfortunate if the smaller nations of the world were not brought within the framework of an organized family of nations determined to give effect to the declared objectives of the United Nations. Australia has retained full membership of the League, and is still paying the annual subsidy required by the rules.
In one of his speeches, Mr. Churchill indicated that he favoured the establishment, within the framework of a world organization, of a system of subordinate regional councils. Such reference to zones brings me to another vital part of our foreign relationships. While Australia’s interest in the future of Europe is undoubted, it is obvious that our predominant interest must lie in the Pacific regions. Australia has a. leading part to play in those regions. During the war we have rightly insisted on the importance of the Pacific as a theatre of war. I am certain that, when the verdict of history is given, this insistence, although at times criticized, will be found to have been justified. In whatever claims this country has made in relation to the prosecution of the war against Japan, we have been animated by not merely a resolution to defend Australia and its territories, but also a determination to maintain the prestige of the British Commonwealth in areas where Japanese military occupation and political infiltration have subjected the United Nations to tremendous risks.
Whilst, therefore, we arc firmly of opinion that the time has passed /when cither the peace or prosperity of mankind can be regarded as divisible, and one continent or one nation can be treated in isolation from another, we also feel that, because of our special geographical position, and our growing responsibility and power, we can, and should, make a very special contribution towards the establishment and maintenance of the peace settlement in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Following out Mr. Churchill’s conception, it will be found that our regional approach will not be an isolationist approach. On the contrary, it. can, and should, ensure that the post-war Pacific settlement will be practical and effective in operation, provided due regard is paid to those with special experience of the problems of the Pacific.
I therefore proceed to refer to some of these problems of the Pacific with which Australia will be concerned.
As the result of the war, Australia must show a particular interest in the welfare and system of control of those islands and territories which lie close to our shores. From the point of view of defence, of trade and of transport, most of them can fairly be described as coming within an extended Australian zone. It is certain that we shall be able to find common ground for collaboration so as to bring about greater security and mutual benefits in the post-war world.
If we look at the matter from the Australian point of view, the position can be illustrated by the Solomon Islands. Before the war these islands were undefended and not fully developed. When war broke out the Solomons actually became a menace to Australia, and there was lack of adequate contact between the Australian and British administrations even in relation to defence. We have a definite interest in seeing that, after the war, these islands should maintain sufficient bases, and be developed along lines that will make them not a liability but an asset in the defence of the South- West and South Pacific. With the rapid development of aviation their landing grounds will become of importance in transport services to and from Australia. We have a considerable interest in watching the use to which they are put.
Before the war, Australia was the largest supplier of imports to the Solomons and the largest market for its products. Further, the Commonwealth Government subsidized regular shipping services to provide communications for both the Solomons and the New Hebrides. We are bound to maintain and improve our relationships with the islands, thus contributing materially to mutual security and prosperity.
The New Hebrides group is administered jointly by Great Britain and Prance. Before the war, these islands, like the Solomons, were a defence liability because of their lack of development. The system of condominium or joint control was considered in many quarters as not conducive to the progress of the group. These islands, where the population is comparatively small and is reported to be declining, and where the native way of living has1 been seriously disturbed by the war, present a serious problem in reconstruction. Their future is a matter which concerns Australia in particular and the South-West Pacific region as a whole.
New Caledonia, the mineral and agricultural resources of which are of importance, is only a few hours flying time from Australia. In peace-time, Australia supplied it with foodstuffs, manufactures, and coke and coal for its important nickel refineries. After the fall of Prance and the severing of normal trade between the colony and the mother country, the Australian Government rendered economic assistance by keeping the nickel industry working and facilitating the purchase by the colony of necessary commodities from overseas. We assisted in marketing the colony’s products. We also co-operated with the local administration in the improvement of the island’s defences and - as I have, already pointed out - long before the arrival of American forces in the South Pacific, we sent Australian troops to join the Fighting French in ‘ guarding against invasion by the Japanese. Since then, New Caledonian nickel and chrome has become a particularly valuable asset in the Allied war effort. These resources and its strategic position make New Caledonia au important place in the future security of the South-West Pacific. It is of vital concern to Australia. We envisage the restoration of full French sovereignty. We also regard’ it as essential that, in relation to defence, air transport and trade, there should be a very close and intimate relationship between Australia and New Caledonia.
Timor, part of which is Portuguese and part Dutch, was of importance to the overseas air service between Australia and Europe. The island, in enemy hands, is a constant threat to Australia. If properly placed within the zone of Australian security, it would become a bastion of our defence. In Portuguese Timor we appointed a special Australian representative in 1941. We also took .all practical steps to assist its people against the aggressor. In December, 1941, when Portuguese Timor was practically defenceless and the Japanese invasion of this neutral territory was imminent, Australian troops were landed in the colony solely to assist the Portuguese and to forestall the Japanese. The epic stand of our troops in the Timor hills will always be a source of legitimate pride to all Australians.
Before the war, Australian contacts with the Netherlands Indies were becoming increasingly close. We provided a market for their products valued at about £7,600,000 sterling a year, with a reciprocal trade of about £1,250,000. The contact of peacetime has become much closer in the common perils of war. Dutch and Australians have fought side by side in the defence both of Dutch territory and of Australia, and Australia has become a base from which the Dutch colonies will finally be regained.
All these adjacent islands, together with Australia and New Zealand, form a great zone of mutual interest. It would be blindness not to recognize their complementary relationship. As in the case of New Caledonia, we visualize the restoration of the former sovereignty. Here again it will be essential that the islands should be grouped in the same defence zone as Australia and that special efforts within the zone shall he made in relation to air transport and economic betterment.
In the midst of this Pacific zone lie our own Australian territory of Papua and also the mandated territory of New Guinea placed by the League of Nations under Australian control. The war has completely justified the foresight of the Queensland Government, which, with the support of other Australian colonies, demanded the British annexation of Papua in 1888. It has also justified the attitude taken by Mr. W. M. Hughes at the Versailles Conference- when he insisted upon the former German territories south of the equator being placed under the administration of Australia as a mandatory. Unfortunately the Japanese were allowed to obtain control of the former German island groups north of the equator, and for that the United Nations are paying and will pay a heavy price.
In its administration of its own territory and the mandated territory the Australian Commonwealth has attempted to live up to the principle of trusteeship for the natives. I think that our record will stand comparison with that of any other colonial administration. After the war we shall of course continue our administration of New Guinea and Papua and contribute to the general welfare of the whole region, while faithfully discharging our duties to the native popu- lation and to the people of Australia. I visualize New Guinea, both Australian and Dutch, as an integral part of the Pacific zone with which Australia will be vitally interested in collaboration with Britain and New Zealand on the one hand and the Dutch, French and Portuguese on the other.
The Commonwealth Government is convinced that, in order to prevent future aggression, measures should be concerted for the permanent defence of this area as one of the zones of security within the international system that must be created. Realizing that satisfactory economic relations and a planned development will greatly strengthen mutual defence and help to secure the general welfare of the peoples of this region, the Commonwealth Government contemplates a general understanding covering commercial matters, transport, and general reconstruction in the post-war world.
In this regard, we have a special concern in the welfare of the native peoples of the whole of the South-East Asian and South-West Pacific region. We recognize that the future of native races is a subject of legitimate international interest, and are ready to collaborate to ensure the welfare of colonial peoples and their steady advancement economically, socially, and politically. For our own part, in New Guinea and Papua, we are determined to maintain and improve the standard of native welfare. The Department of External Territories is handling matters relating to the resumption of civil administration and the planning of rehabilitation in our re-occupied territories. In this work there will he close collaboration with the Departments of External Affairs and the Army, and with other interested Australian authorities.
Relations with Pacific . States.
The handling of the problems of security, post-war development, and native welfare, which I have outlined, calls for courage and vision. It requires us to make an intelligent anticipation of events and to make preparations to meet them.
As a further contribution towards a better understanding of common problems and points of view, I propose to take steps to obtain a frank exchange of views between accredited representatives of the various governments interested in the South-West Pacific. We already have established a representative organization dealing with political warfare against our Japanese enemy in the Pacific. The work of this organization has been of great value to the United Nations, and it wellillustrates the possibility of closer collaboration in the task of Pacific reconstruction.
The relationship between New Zealand and the Commonwealth, which is of great importance, was recently made closer by the appointment to Canberra of a dis.tinguished New Zealander as High Commissioner for New Zealand. The Australian Government will, at an early date, make the reciprocal appointment to Wellington. As members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as the two largest European communities in the Western Pacific, Australia and New Zealand arc destined to discharge heavy responsibilities in that area. To-day their joint power is very great. It should remain commensurate with their new responsibilities. I regard permanent collaboration between Australia and New Zealand as pivotal to a sound post-war Pacific policy.
Other authorities concerned in what I have called the Australian defence zone ure the British Colonial Administration, the Netherlands and Portuguese Governments, and the French National Committee of Liberation. Before the war, France was one of the major colonial powers in the Pacific islands and, in welcoming the formation of a unified French authority, the Australian Government looks forward to renewed interest by the committee in Pacific affairs and to our continued collaboration with the local French administration in New Caledonia.
As well as our immediate neighbours, there are other’ powers in North and South America, and on the Asiatic mainland, concerned in the future of the Pacific. Our great’ ally, the United States of America, is playing, and is destined to play, a major part. On many
Pacific battle-fields Americans and Australians have borne the brunt of the fighting against Japan. It is certain, that in the Pacific our collaboration with the United States will be extremely close. Similarly the Dominions of Canada and Australia have many common interests, both as fellow members of the British Commonwealth and as “ small nations “. We believe that the external policy of each of these two dominions can often reinforce that of the other.
Owing to various war-time causes, our relations with the rising countries of South America, similar to ourselves in age, in potentiality and in their economic relation to the great world centres of population, have not been so close as we would have wished. There are a number of difficulties to overcome, but I hope that early opportunity will be found for extending our overseas representation in that direction.
Our relations with China have developed in carrying out the common tasks of war, and the exchange of Ministers between Chungking and Canberra has contributed to mutual understanding. Close co-operation with China will be essentia] in bringing about the stability and the peaceful development of SouthEast Asia and of the Pacific.
The Soviet Union, though in the past two years its whole energies have been engaged in its titanic struggle in Europe which has gained the admiration of the free world, is also destined to play an important part in the affairs of the East. We believe that the exchange of representatives between Moscow and Canberra is already showing good results and preparing the way for the fuller development of our interests when peace returns.
In conducting our relations with other countries, one of the leading problems is to develop appropriate means of consultation and the effective communication of our views. Broadly speaking, there are two means open for expression of the Australian Government’s views on international affairs. One is by consultation within the British Commonwealth with a view to joint action. The other is by the exercise, where that is thought appropriate, of Australia’s distinct international status. Both these means of expression have 10 be used to ensure that reasonable Australian requirements are satisfied.
There is, undoubtedly, a considerable degree of communication between Canberra and London. The Government has always made it clear to the United Kingdom that it desires the fullest information on important pending political or diplomatic steps. Information is readily forthcoming and, as a general rule, there is an opportunity for us to express our views in advance of decisions taken. We have, for example, been fully informed of the discussions and negotiations relating to the surrender of Italy, the Badoglio Government’s becoming a co-belligerent, the formation of a Mediterranean commission, and also as to the arrangements and proposals to be discussed at the Three-Power meeting in Moscow.
In addition to communication and exchange of views by cablegram, we have the opportunity of instructing our accredited representative to have our view considered and, if possible, accepted by the appropriate authority in Britain. But it is necessary to analyse the matter a little further. The British Government places a certain proposal before each of the self-governing dominions. Each dominion then expresses its opinion and forwards it, through the Dominions Office, to the appropriate Ministry in London, or, if need be, to the Cabinet. On occasions, the dominions are bound to differ amongst themselves. In the result, the final action has often to he taken by the British Government on its exclusive responsibility. There is an easily understood tendency towards acquiescence or conformity. General consultation of the dominions on a political level is usually out of the question, especially in the emergency of war, when time presses and great decisions may have to be taken with despatch.
I mention these difficulties, not to complain, but to describe the background against which the question of closer consultation will have to be considered. Our membership of the British Commonwealth, the maintenance of the strong ties of loyalty with the throne, and the affection that unites us with our British kin are fundamental in our external policy. It is because of those basic tenets that we place so much emphasis on the necessity for improving the machinery for consultation. The Australian Prime Minister has recently opened up the question and his positive suggestion disclosed a possible solution of what is at times a very real difficulty.
I have already referred to the general question of international machinery for obtaining security and for carrying into effect .the provisions of the post-war settlement. I shall now refer to certain specific international arrangements and transactions either made or at present in the making. With most of this my recent mission was in some way concerned ; indeed, it was to take part in the preliminary discussions that Dr. Coombs, Director of Post-war Reconstruction, was included as a member of the mission.
I shall refer, first, to the United Nations’ Conference on Food and Agriculture, which was held in the United States of America in May and June last. At that conference were assembled technical experts in nutrition, agriculture and economics from each of the United and associated Nations. Their purpose was to lay down for the consideration of their governments a basis for national and international policy in relation to food and agriculture. The conference was remarkable for a. high degree of unanimity as to the broad lines of action to be followed.
The conference was also of importance as it was the first occasion on which common action on a specific post-war economic problem was taken by the United Nations. It was of particular importance to Australia, first, because it represented a continuation of the work done by Australian representatives in the pre-war period in seeking the development of agriculture along lines which would at once promote sound nutrition and prosperous and stable agriculture; and, secondly, because it was the first step to implement the policy which this
Governmenthas advocated of common national and international action to improve the living standards of the people of the world.
The Government examined the recommendations put forward by the conference and was satisfied that if they were adopted generally an improvement should be effected throughout the world in the levels of nutrition, the efficiency of agriculture, and the standards of living of rural producers. The Government, therefore, welcomed the report of the conference, and proposes to implement its recommendations insofar as they are applicable to Australia.
A detailed report on the Food Conference by Dr. Coombs, who was the leader of the Australian delegation, is attached to this statement, together with the official text of the Final Act of the conference.
One subject of informal and exploratory discussion was international monetary policy. In this, too, Dr. Coombs figured. The period between the two Great Wars was characterized by fluctuating exchange rates and other exchange difficulties. These made it expedient for nations to introduce special restrictions upon their trading relations. It is the hope of the authors of plans which have recently been advanced that violent fluctuations in exchange may be avoidedby the provision of suitable international machinery. The United Kingdom’s proposal is that of a clearing union; the United States of America’s proposal is that of providing a stabilization fund. It is obvious that these proposals cannot in themselves solve basic international economic problems. In discussing them in a purely informal way, the Australian mission always insisted that it was dangerous and erroneous to embark upon separate solutions of such problems when all have to be viewed in the light of the overriding postulate of full employment and improving standards.
Each of these two currency stabilization plans is in the process of careful examination by the Australian Government.
The work of the mission also comprised informal talks in London on civil aviation. At the present time, a further informal exchange of views is taking place in London between representatives of all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Naturally, we are anxious to contribute towards a common understanding of this problem between the members of the British Commonwealth, and at the same time are desirous of achieving a wider international agreement, for the problem of post-war civil aviation cannot be dissociated from the problem of international security.
I have already referred to what I have called the extended Australian defence zone. In order to discharge its proper measure of responsibility in such zone, it, is plain that Australia must be armed with the necessary air resources, civil as well as military. Further, because of Australia’s political and geographical position, close to large non-European populations, and because of the crucial importance of aviation to our defence and the development of the continent, it must be an objective of the Australian Government to ensure that the production of aircraft in Australia, and the supply of all the raw materials used in the construction of aircraft, will be adequate to our needs. A very practical aspect of the post-war civil aviation problem for Australia will be the provision of adequate opportunities for Australian airmen who have seen service in the present war to take a full part in the active operation and management of overseas as well as domestic airways.
While in the United States of America, members of the mission took part in conversations relating to the proposed relief and rehabilitation agreement. Last July, the text of a draft agreement for this purpose was published, and the Prime Minister then publicly announced that the Australian Government welcomed the proposal and would do its share to assist in supplying relief to those peoples who were in need. This first text has since been revised in the light of comments and criticisms made upon it by various governments, including .the Australian Government. The main obligation which the agreement casts upon signatories is to contribute towards “ tho relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations, through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services “.
I should feel far happier if Australia were a permanent member of the Central
Committee of the new organization, which is to comprise representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, and China. At the same time, the Central Committee is ultimately subordinate to the council, which is composed of all signatories. Australia cannot refuse the duty of active collaboration with such a body, especially ns this country has always been to the fore in similar measures of relief when ever disasters have caused famine or want in other countries. We have, therefore, informed the Government of the United States of America that we shall sign the agreement and will be represented at the first meeting of the council oil the 10th November next in the United States of America.
L am attaching to this statement a copy of the revised text of the draft agreement for the United Nations’ Relief
Hid Rehabilitation Administration.
Before closing the reference to my mission, I feel impelled to pay a special tribute to the late Sir Kingsley Wood, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer during both my visits to Britain. He was a great friend of Australia and of the Empire. During last year it was he who very quickly determined that an increase of the purchase price payable for Australian wool was justified. This year, with equal despatch, he made a decision which meant in effect a contribution of about £7,000,000 towards the meeting of Australian payments for war supplies. In conveying this decision to me, he wrote: “I am willing on behalf of the Government to help Australia :in the present circumstances as a contribution to the common war effort and in recognition of the splendid share Australia has had in that effort “. This generous contribution was greatly valued by the Australian Government because of the spirit in which it was made. I feel Sir Kingsley Wood’s- death as a deep personal loss.
Prisoners in Japanese Hands.
The Government has been faced with very great difficulties in its attempts to secure proper treatment from Japan in accordance with the International Convention governing the treatment of internees and prisoners of war in its hands. There have been long and unexplained delays on the part of the Japanese Government in supplying the list of names. It was clearly bound under the convention to do 30 immediately.- It appears that, although information has been made available regarding prisoner of war and internment camps in Japan proper and also in Korea, Formosa, Japanese occupied China, and Hong Kong, representatives of the Swiss Government, which is our protecting power, and delegates of the International Red Cross Committee, have not yet been permitted to visit camps in other places where a great number of Australian prisoners of war are still confined. The Japanese. Government’s continued refusal of permission on the ground of military security seems to be a mere pretext.
Nor has Japan agreed to facilitate the regular despatch of relief supplies and parcels to Allied prisoners of war in its hands. Despite reiterated statements to the effect that the principles of the Prisoners of War Convention would be observed, and despite the fact that .Japan is a party to the Geneva Red Cross Convention, that country has so far defaulted in the carrying out of the international obligations therein subscribed to.
The Australian Government on its side has carefully observed the provisions of these international conventions, and has always been prepared to carry .out the repatriation contemplated by them. We have facilitated visits to prisoners of war in internment camps by all authorized officials of the .Swiss Government and by the International Red Cross delegate. We have promulgated regulations and orders based strictly on the Prisoners of War Convention. Protecting power representatives and the International Red Cross delegate are given every opportunity to converse with prisoners of war and internees. Al] complaints and requests are carefully investigated and, where necessary, remedial action is taken promptly.-
In the hope that Japan will at last recognize its grave responsibility for its international default, the Australian Government is continuing to do everything in its power to alleviate the present position, and to allay the anxiety of the relatives of the captives.
Prom the foregoing summary it will be plain that the field of Australian external affairs has extended and is extending very rapidly. In the modern world, international relations cover nearly all aspects of human endeavour - political, economic and social. To-day, the business of diplomacy includes matters of finance, of trade, of communications, and of labour relations, as well as questions of high political policy. Besides the actual practice of diplomacy, a modern foreign office has to be capable of taking part in the study of many technical questions affecting international relations, and has to co-ordinate the results of that study. As more and more questions of post-war international reorganization arise, the demands on the Department of External Affairs are correspondingly increased, and the need for specially trained staff will increase even further.
The difficulties confronting this department are great. Some of its special needs will have to be met by special appointments. However, as a general measure for developing an Australian external affairs service, a system of recruitment of diplomatic staff cadets was introduced by me about a year ago. In the first batch nine young men, all of whom had seen active combatant service in the present war; and three young women were selected. After completing the year’s training they are now receiving at the University of -Sydney, those who prove themselves suitable will be given a probationary appointment in the department.
It is proposed to appoint twelve morecadets under a similar system this year, and applications will shortly be called by public advertisement.
Some public criticism has been directed against the particular university course which these cadets are going through. In one or two respects the criticism appears justified. Up till recently the plan was in the experimental stage and, in the light of the experience being acquired, t am considering the adoption of a more comprehensive plan of selection and training. I am certain that the House will agree that by adopting the new system an important step forward was taken by Australia. A start has been made in recruiting an enlarged and more efficient external affairs service. I have enough confidence in the youth of Australia to believe that we can raise a first-class corps of trained Australian diplomats capable and eager to serve their country, and always mindful of its interests wherever in the world they may be posted.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture - held at Hot Springs, Virginia, U.S.A. - May- June, 1943 - Report of Australian Delegation and the text of the Final Act of the Conference.
United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration - Draft Agreement of 20th September, 1943. and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
– by leave - On the 24th September, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) addressed a question to me, as Minister representing the Postmaster-General, suggesting that consideration should be given to the advisability of broadcasting debates of this Parliament at specified hours. I have brought the honorable member’s question to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, who has furnished the following comments : -
The proposal is one which has been carefully examined on a number of occasions, but it has been considered impracticable so far to undertake regular broadcasts of this character. Some of theparliamentary material available would necessarily be of a routine nature, and it would frequently be very difficult to estimate more than a short time in advance when debates on matters of national importance would be held. There are also many technical problems involved in making satisfactory arrangements for broadcasting debates to which so many speakers would contribute in an order which could not be determined beforehand. These technical problems would probably be accentuated by the difficulty of obtaining adequate equipment at the present time. The security aspect must also he considered. Medium-wave transmissions can be heard in a number of areas outside Australia, and in order to prevent any leakage of information that might be useful to the enemy, all talks and other spoken material included in the programmes, with the exception of church services, must be prepared in script form and submitted for censorship in the first instance. Matters mentioned in parliamentary debates, although quite proper for publication in Australia, might be unsuitable for reception outside the Commonwealth. I have an open mind on the proposal and would, in normal times, be prepared to give even more exhaustive consideration to the suggestion. At present, however, it is considered that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of carrying out the proposal.
WAYS AND MEANS (Grievance Day).
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 13th October (vide page 511).
Remainder of proposed vote - Other Administrations : Recoverable Expenditure - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £361,100.
.- There is no doubt that the war has altered our whole conception of civil aviation. It is only five or six years ago that the crossing of the Pacific by aircraft wits an epoch-making event. Indeed, the first clipper to make the crossing was afterwards lost in tragic circumstances. To-day, however, bombers are flying the Pacific in two to three days, and flights from London to Australia are regularly made in four days. After the war Australia will, for the first time, be in comparatively close touch with the rest of the world, and particularly with the other great English-speaking nations. Therefore, it behoves us to give immediate consideration to three aspects of the matter: first, international relationships as affected by aviation ; secondly, interempire relationships; and, thirdly, the development of aviation within Australia. It is only reasonable that the Government should afford some indication of its attitude to these matters, especially in view of the fact that at the present time a meeting is being held in London to discuss post-war civil aviation. Moreover, the representatives of other countries have recently been making statements on the subject, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that they have been “flying kites “. It should be made plain that we intend to ask for, and insist upon, reciprocal treatment in regard to any concession which we may make to other countries in the matter of landing facilities. It would be unfair were we to make facilities available to other countries and then be denied similar facilities in those countries for our own aircraft. It is important that, after the war, we should be able to use to the fullest extent the skill and daring of our flying men who have done such wonderful work during the war. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) made a statement to-day thatfilled us all with pride in our airmen. Unfortunately, their energies have, during the war, been directed to destructive purposes. After the war they should be afforded the opportunity to work in the interests of peace.
The question will also arise as to the continued production of aircraft in Australia after the war. For many years we lagged behind the manufacturing countries in the production of motor cars. We have found in the manufacture of aircraft an industry which is likely to develop as rapidly as did the motor vehicle industry. Owing to the vast distances of this country, the aircraft industry may prove to be more reproductive than even the motor vehicle industry will be when we are able after -the war to go ahead with our plans to build an Australian motor vehicle. We must allow nothing to cause us to lose the opportunity to develop the aircraft industry.
The necessity for unanimity among members of the British Commonwealth of Nations on the development of an Empire civil aviation policy is paramount, because we are much more likely to be able to seek and receive reciprocal treatment from other countries if we negotiate as a unit rather than as individual members of the Empire. I would therefore welcome from the Minister for Civil Aviation a statement as to the progress which has been made at the conference now being held in London on the subject of co-operation in civil aviation. I regard it as imperative that we should maintain unbroken contact with Great Britain on civil aviation matters. Great Britain should know our plans and we should know its plans. We should continually consult with each other in order that neither country shall take steps which the other will rue and from which the Empire as a whole will suffer. If permanent exchange of information and views can be established between our Department of Civil Aviation and its counterpart in Great Britain it will be of great value to the Prime Minister or whichever Minister represents Australia at the Empire conference on communications because he will be well armed with all the information that he will need if Australia’s views are to be successfully put before that conference and acted upon.
The Commonwealth Government should also seriously concern itself with planning for the post-war development of internal air services. War operations have forced discontinuance of civil aviation services to the smaller centres of the Commonwealth, but before the war we were developing a. system whereby nien in country centres were able, by using air transport, to save time which is as valuable to them as it is to those who dwell in the capital cities. We should now plan the establishment throughout the settled areas of the Commonwealth of airports no more than 50 miles apart and spacious enough to enable the operation of the largest aircraft. Before the war the rural air services were so popular that, the small aircraft with which they were operated could not accommodate all those who desired to travel by air in order to accomplish in an hour or two journeys which occupy anything from sixteen to twenty hours by train. I hope that the Minister will direct his officers to plan so that, when the war ends and men, money and materials become available, these aerodromes may be established at the earliest possible moment. If we fail to develop our internal air services by the means I have suggested, we shall fall a long way behind, the rest of the civilized world. Facilities for air travel within Australia may be the determining factor in attracting to this country both men and money with which to populate the land and develop its resources.
I commend to the Minister’s attention the necessity to establish in Australia bases similar to the La Guardia Airport in New York and the airport at Singapore, from which both flying-boats and land planes can operate. The need to develop such combined land and sea airports is great, because people who choose to save time by flying to and from Australia will resent the time wasted in travelling between terminals. They will want to disembark from one aircraft and almost immediately reembark in the other. Recently, I pointed out to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) that we had lost at least £250,000 as the result of our not having such a combined base on the Clarence River, the nearest point to the Pacific Coast of the United States of America. Transport planes and human lives are endangered by the absence of such a base. I know of no better means of employing demobilized members of the forces than in using them to provide the amenities which will improve our international communications and revolutionize travel.
.- Before the war air transport was not sufficiently used in Australia to enable this country to be developed as it should have been, but the war has taught us that places which we used to class as remote are within easy reach. Aircraft have conquered distance. It now rests with us to apply what we have learned in order that our country shall achieve its proper status. The country must be studded with airports and landing grounds and a net-work of air-lines covering every settled section must be brought rapidly into being. I know that the Government plans an immediate expansion of civil aviation after the war, with trunk services between the larger centres of population and feeder services for intermediate centres, but I think that it should go more closely into the proposal and prepare plans for the establishment of aerodromes in all country towns of any importance at all. After the war there will be not only trained pilots but also trained engineers for maintenance and construction of aircraft and their services should be fully used. The aircraft industry and air transport will provide great avenues of employment. If preparations are not fully made many districts justly entitled to receive benefit will be overlooked.. It is not sufficient to link up at 300-mile intervals. A more extensive scheme covering all country towns is needed, for it is my opinion that so great has been the development of air transport as the result of the war that people will look to it henceforth as the only worthwhile means, and railway passenger services will be used progressively less. Goods may be carried extensively by air, and all persons desirous of moving as quickly as possible from place to place, which is characteristic of this generation, will avail themselves of air travel. Therefore, plans should be prepared now for the construction of aerodromes to enable us to “ cash in “ on the post-war development of air transport in Australia.
– More generous assistance than that which has been given in the past, should be granted to country shires and municipalities for the purpose of enabling them to develop a network of aerodromes throughout Australia. Like the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), I consider that the development of civil aviation in the post-war era in Australia will be spectacular. One advantage is that it will improve living conditions in country areas, because it will provide “rapid means for people in districts not served by railways, to proceed from the hot, arid inland to the more temperate climate of the coastal regions. Even at the present time, the department should give more consideration to the construction of aerodromes in the country. In the electoral division of New England, there is an aerodrome at Armidale that is not being used for military purposes, but on two occasions in recent months, it has saved the lives of the occupants of aircraft. One machine, which carried Allied officers, became lost in the darkness, but managed to make a safe landing on this airfield. The other aeroplane was an Australian machine. Although the local municipality has approached the Department of Civil Aviation, and I have made representations to the Minister, to provide even temporary lighting facilities at the aerodrome, the requests have been refused. More sympathy should be shown by the department in such cases.
Honorable members have not been informed whether the department is conducting research into the possible postwar development of civil aviation, and particularly into the use of types of aircraft different from those now in service. The department should closely study “ overseas developments in this sphere, and prepare plans to eonvert combat aircraft to commercial use. I read in an American journal that the Sikorsky helicopter may he massproduced at an estimated cost of £450. If that forecast should prove to be correct, the helicopter will become a serious competitor with the motor car.
– That figure . is ridiculous.
– In 1900, every one would have condemned as ridiculous a prophecy that Henry Ford would produce the T model motor car only fourteen years later at. such a low price. Throughout the history of the world, conservative elements have always derided new developments. I believe that the Minister will live to see the massproduction of Sikorsky helicopters at low cost. They may. replace the motor car as the family unit of aerial transport, and journeys by devious routes over bumpy roads will belong to the past.
Another matter to which I draw attention is the development of cargo planes for the movement of goods over great distances in this continent. Recently, a cargo plane was towed by another plane across the Atlantic Ocean. This development makes me wonder whether the time will not come when the tropical produce of northern Australia will be quickly conveyed to the southern States, and even supplies of beef may be moved by air from the Northern Territory to the southern States. The department must devise plans for converting, after the war, large military planes to commercial use. The Commonwealth has an expanding aircraft industry which may be capable of massproducing helicopters and small aircraft. Indeed, that work could be undertaken now, even though we are still at war. The three points which I make are, first, the necessity for proper planning for all the necessary cross-country aerodromes; secondly, the preparation of plans for the development of airlines, not only between the capital cities of the Commonwealth, but also to enable people in country towns to be adequately served by this rapid means of transport; and, thirdly,- an investigation of means for utilizing the aircraft industry of Australia in the post-war period to supply the local demand for smaller types of aircraft for cross-country services and private use.
.- Even while the country is .at war, the Department of Civil Aviation should plan for the extension of internal aerial services in the immediate post-war era. Australia will have large numbers of airmen and aircraft, and the capacity to manufacture its own machines. In the early post-war years, civil aviation will be developed rapidly, and the conversion from war-time to peace-time activities will call for careful planning. At present it may seem unreasonable to think of tho helicopter being used in the ways suggested by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but I recollect that the writings of Jules Verne many years ago predicted that aeroplanes would land on suburban residential lots and take off from them in the simplest possible way. Those ideas were regarded as the vapourings of a fertile imagination, but many of the flights of fancy of Jules Verne have been realized, and it is quite likely that the helicopter will come into general use. I trust that in considering the development of civil aviation the Government will have in mind constantly the insular position of Tasmania. Had the war not broken out, flying-boats would, by now, have been operating between Sydney and Hobart, and I believe that a. similar service, with a base on the Tamar, near Launceston, would also have been under consideration. A good aerodrome should be established as soon as possible, close to Launceston so that larger types of aircraft may be used in the early post-war years. Even before the war, scallops were transported by aircraft from Hobart to Sydney in a single day, and they arrived in good condition. There is no reason why other perishable foodstuffs which are obtainable in large quantities in Tasmania should not also be transported by aircraft to the mainland regularly after .the war. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will direct his -officers to make careful investigations of this subject, and to pay full regard to the needs of Tasmania.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER, (Wide Bay) both passengers and goods will be developed after this war as rapidly at motor transport was developed after the last war. The country which is able to convert its war-time aircraft to civil purposes quickly after the armistice will be in a very good position to take the leadership in the new order. At present, the attention of British aircraft manufacturers is being devoted chiefly to the construction of bombers, and most of the big transport aeroplanes are being manufactured in the United States of America, but I was glad to notice during my recent visit overseas that British manufacturers were not losing sight of the need to develop the manufacture of transport aeroplanes. After the war many of the big bombers equipped with Rolls Royce engines will, undoubtedly, be converted quickly into passenger and transport aeroplanes. Such aircraft could he employed to transport fruit, fish, milk foods, and other perishable products, as well as precious stones and other goods which are not bulky to handle. Passenger services will also be developed in a manner perhaps beyond our present imagination. I am glad that in Australia valuable airfields are being developed which will be available for civil use after the armistice. The airship Bristol on which we left London on our recent travels will probably be insignificant in size compared with machines that will be available after the war; yet that aircraft carried 64 passengers, a crew of 11 and 25 tons of petrol for its use in addition to general cargo. Australia is admirably suited for air transportation services, and I hope that the day is not far distant when we shall be able to employ modern aircraft to send our perishable products, such as fruit, dairy produce and meats, not only to the more remote parts of this great continent, but also to overseas countries. We should have in mind also the provision of airfields from which smaller aeroplanes could operate as feeders for the mammoth aircraft that will be using our larger airports. Feeder services of this kind would he invaluable. We shall need to develop air transport also in order that the services of skilled Australian pilots and air crews generally may not be lost to the country. I sincerely trust that in any overseas con- ferences that may be held to consider this subject the Australian view will be firmly and fully expressed. We all hope that the air will be free for use by the aircraft of all nations after the war, and it is essential that the British and Australian outlook on these subjects shall be expressed clearly. The expert officers of the Department of Civil Aviation should be directed by the Minister to give early consideration to all the factors that may have to be taken into account in the early post-war years in relation to Australian and overseas aerial services. The Minister must realize that a new sub-department within his department could immediately investigate what is being done in other parts of the world, and what could be done, so that we shall not take second place to other great nations in the use of air transport.
– I takeadvantage of this debate to refer to a phase of civil aviation which has a strong relationship to the decentralization of population, industry, and political control. The development of civil aviation in the post-war period, and even at the present time, can assist materially in carrying into effect a policy that is canvassed by all political parties. The importance of it was revealed in silhouette during the period when Australia discovered deficiencies in its economic structure which, unless rectified, would quickly render it unable to repel an attack upon its shores. Sea transport has largely been responsible for the concentration of big populations at a few points on our coastline, to the prejudice of a properlybalanced distribution of population over a large area of the continent. The dependence of this country for many years upon the exports of primary products through only two or three ports for the balancing of its budget, has had a detrimental effect on our economy. At the most, there are three points from which exports may be made - one in Western Australia, one at the Port of Melbourne, and one at Sydney. The produce of the whole of the continent has been channelled through those three exits for marketing overseas. This has resulted in the concentration of hig populations at those three points, to the exclusion of a balanced distribution. With the development of aviation, the construction of immense aerodromes could be undertaken at points in the interior where foodstuffs are produced. This would have the effect of spreading the population over the country as a whole, instead of its being concentrated at two or three points. Tocumwal, in New South Wales, which has the biggest aerodrome in Australia, and is situated in, perhaps, the most productive area of New South Wales and Victoria, could be utilized for the despatch of meat, milk and other foods to the coast for export to the Orient. There is no reason why the big terminal points at Sydney, Melbourne, and perhaps Bunbury in Western Australia, should be the only embarkation points for the export of our primary produce. Such points could be in close proximity to those places in which primary industry is carried on most efficiently and economically. Our uneconomic transport system is one reason why we have experienced difficulty in competing on the markets of the world with countries that produce surpluses of food. Often, our produce has first to be carried in transport waggons to rail terminals, and then has to travel long distances to the coast. The change from one transport system to another is costly, and has militated against the economic handling of our produce. Other countries producing a surplus of foods have been enabled by their superior business and transport methods to outbid us on the markets o’f the world, despite the fact that, in our irrigation centres, if not elsewhere, we have been able to produce at a rauch cheaper rate. I suggest to the Minister for Air that the exploitation of ‘aerodromes, and the large transport machines which now carry immense pay loads - if war materials and other agencies of destruction may be so described - should be carefully considered, with a view to implementing a policy designed to decentralize population and industry in this country.
– I have been very much interested in the points that have been raised by honorable members. There is no more absorbing topic than the development of civil aviation. I give to each honorable member who has spoken on the subject, and to the committee as a whole, the assurance that all developments are being closely watched. Some of the suggestions have only a local application, lt is not generally known, nor is it likely to be until the war ends, that constant study is being devoted to the conversion of bomber planes for passenger use. A passenger replica of the largest plane at present being manufactured in Great Britain, and probably one of the most valuable for war purposes, is already in operation. Whether or not. it will be economic to operate planes of that type in a scattered country like Australia, is a matter that has yet to be determined. Many of the planes that have a vast-carrying capacity for war purposes would prove absolutely unsuitable for passengercarrying purposes. It is well that we should face up to that fact. The matter is not merely one of conversion. We have to determine whether or not economic use can be made of the planes of various types that have been developed so rapidly during the war period. Yesterday, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who, of course, has been associated with aviation for many years, and takes a very keen interest in it, made several suggestions, and he was followed to-day by other honorable members. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) appeared to think, when I smiled at his suggestion that helicopters might be manufactured for £450, that I had not much imagination. I assure him that I have a conviction that there will be greater development in civil aviation in the near future than in almost any other form of transport. The rapidity with which engine types are changed and new kinds of aeroplanes designed makes it difficult to keep abreast of what is going on. The Department of Civil Aviation has prepared a draft of a plan which I have here before me. Those honorable members who represent large country constituencies would be interested to know that this plan, which is accompanied by a map showing proposed routes,’ provides that the greatest flying time between any two towns in Australia shall be no more than twenty-four hours. The greatest distance is between Perth and
Townsville, and the time-table provides that this shall be covered in 23$ hours. Practically all the large towns in Australia are linked up in the scheme. For instance, the time-table provides for the distance between Sydney and Brisbane to be covered in 3£ hours, between Sydney and Rockhampton in hours, between Sydney and Townsville in 1 hours and between Sydney and Kalgoorlie in 125 hours.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) argued that we ought to have more aerodromes in Australia. I remind him that, as a result of the war, aerodromes have been established in numerous places where, in ordinary times, it would have been very difficult for any Government to have provided them, because it is unlikely that Parliament would have agreed to supply the necessary money. After the war, those aerodromes will be of immense value for civil aviation purposes. Mention was made by the right honorable member for Cowper of the fact that several aeroplanes have been lost in his electorate. I know the circumstances in which they were lost, and I am convinced that even if there had been aerodromes every 50 miles they would not have been saved.
– Some of them could have been.
– I do not agree. One of the five aeroplanes did reach Evans Head, and landed safely. The others were deserted. As a matter of fact, the aeroplanes left their starting point too late in the day, and no provision was made to meet the contingency of head-winds. It was a case of bad navigation. It would almost be necessary to have movable aerodromes in order to provide against all contingencies. Of course, I agree that aerodromes should he so spaced as to give pilots a reasonable chance to make a safe landing in the event of trouble developing. The honorable member for New England stressed the need for providing properly lighted aerodromes in his electorate. Practically every municipality in Australia has asked the Government to provide an aerodrome, but the Government expects the municipalities to do something for themselves. A large flying school has been established at Cootamundra, and one of the reasons which induced the Government to choose that place was that a very fine aerodrome was already established there. It was not wholly .suitable for Air Force purposes, but the foundations were there, and it was easily developed.
– Is the Civil Aviation Department willing to advise municipalities which are prepared to undertake the building of aerodromes?
– Certainly. The plan of which I have spoken provides for the establishment of aerodromes at distances ranging from 150 miles to 300 miles apart. The idea is that when passengers are landed at the larger aerodromes, they will be picked up by smaller aeroplanes and conveyed to their destinations. However, honorable members will understand that we cannot, embark upon schemes of that kind until after the war. One honorable member referred to the construction of a large aerodrome at Tocumwal. That was a big undertaking, admittedly, but other aerodromes equally as large have been constructed. The map which accompanies this plan shows that routed have been planned extending all over Australia. No doubt the plan will he modified and improved in the future. Any nation which neglects air transport in the future is doomed to lag behind other countries. Due to its favourable terrain and its exceptional climatic conditions, Australia probably offers greater opportunities for aviation development than almost any other country. Even at the present time Australia is making more use of the civil aeroplanes in its possession than is any other British dominion. “With fewer aeroplanes than Canada, we are covering a greater mileage and carrying more freight. Despite the fact that carrying capacity was reduced by 30 per cent, and fewer aircraft were operating, the latest available figures reveal that civil aviation in Australia carried last year SS per cent, more passengers, 309 per’ cent, more freight, and 1,319 per cent, more mails than during the halfyear ended June, 1939. Australian civil air crews who braved substantial risks in flying unarmed aircraft with superb skill in combat areas, were a substantial factor in defeating Japanese plans to invade Australia. Those men went in with civil aeroplanes to small aerodromes and helped to bring out, not hundreds, but thousands of wounded men who could not have been succoured in any other way. They had no means of defending themselves, but they took I he risk and brought the wounded out. T am proud to be associated with men who rendered such magnificent service. They had not the glamour of service uniforms, though they have now been added to the reserve and have a status with which they arc satisfied. To achieve the greatly increased traffic in passengers, freights and mails, every available aircraft has flown the maximum possible hours with capacity loads and maintained all the principal route services, except for periods when the machines have been engaged wholly on military duties. Operating in New Guinea combat zones for eight days, civil transport aircraft carried 1,318 troops and 109,269 lb. of military stores.
A building programme costing £2,363,000 up to July of this year compared with £986,000”at July, 1939, has permitted considerable expansion of Australia’s civil aviation. Although many civil aerodromes have been taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force since the outbreak of war, the Department of Civil Aviation controlled 16,900 acres of aerodromes at July of this year, an increase of 6,100 acres’ since July, 1939. There has also been, an increase of more than 3,000,000 square yards of paved runways on civil aerodromes since the war began.
Australian airline companies also operate American aircraft solely for military transport purposes. During the first half of 1943, these aircraft flew 1,006,457 miles, carrying 10,967 passengers and 3,261,325 lb. of freight. Those arc just a few figures, but a fascinating story could be told. I appreciate the deep interest of honorable gentlemen in this subject. I can imagine no more fruitful field for development after the war than civil aviation.
– What is the position of Qantas-Empire Airways in regard to flyingboats and aerodromes? What provi sion is being made by the department for extension pf its operations?
– The Royal Australian Air Force did have the use for a period of a number of flying boats of the Qantas-Empire Airways, but they have been returned to the company to allow it to carry on the coastal flying-boat service and the service to Darwin which were frequently interrupted, and sometimes suspended.
– What about the flyingboats that were lost? What steps are being taken to replace them?
– They cannot be replaced at present. Unfortunately, Great Britain has not been able to devote its’ manufacturing capacity to the manufacture of transport aircraft, and, therefore, is behind in. the race; but it is endeavouring to make up the leeway. The British Empire, however, has in various parts of the world bases which give it at least a geographical advantage over other countries. The conference now in progress in London has under consideration the development of those bases. Honorable members will readily realize, I think, that without endeavouring to antagonize any other nation, Empire countries must try to find a common point of view. We do not. desire to see developed a spirit of bitter competition in air transport which might lead to another war, but that does not mean that we shall forfeit our birth-right. Although we shall not deny to other nations air access to this country, we have rights which We propose to keep and use to ensure that the interests of Australia and our cousins within the British Empire shall not be overlooked. We have armed our representatives at the London conference with information, which, I think, will enable them to play their part properly. Earlier to-day, in answer to a question, I pointed out that that conference was merely a preliminary, exploratory conference. Until we receive the reports as to what has been done in bringing various views into line, we should not disclose and are not likely to disclose our intentions. My main reason for rising was to assure honorable gentlemen that every phase of civil aviation as it affects Australia is being closely watched.
Another matter which requires a few words from me is the use that will be made after the war of the men who are serving in the Air Force. Honorable members would be surprised if I told them how many planes are now carrying on a splendid civil aviation service in Australia. It is not far short of the number operating in Canada. But we still have a long way to go before we fully develop our civil aviation. The war has brought about the training of a fine body of men in flying and allied activities - as fine a body of men as one would see anywhere - and they are gaining valuable experience in operating planes of all the latest types. They will provide the pool from which we shall draw the skilled staff that will man our expanded civil air services.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) visualized the helicopter as the common method of travel from place to. place after the war. I believe that there is a great field for that kind of aircraft. I recently witnessed at the Department of Air a remarkably thrilling film showing what the helicopter can do, but even with methods of mass production, I cannot yet visualize the day when the price of helicopters will be as low as the honorable member for New England so readily visualizes. The cheapest type of aeroplane costs about £1,500, and carries only two people. It may be that the cost will be considerably reduced by mass production. On good authority I also believe that the use of the helicopter will be confined to short distances, and that it will not be very useful over long distances.
One point for study is what will be the relationship of air transport to other forms of transport. Shall we be able to afford to scrap existing forms of transport which have cost us vast sums of money? Notwithstanding the existence of fine interstate railway services, the coming generations will travel by air, because they will be reared in what may be described as the “air age”, hut whatever we do, must be done with due regard to economy. Otherwise there would be many critics in this chamber. That does not suggest, I hope, that the Government uses no vision or imagination regarding future developments.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) mentioned the possible use of parts of Tasmania as flying-boat bases, t inform the honorable member that flying-boats may not be used nearly so much as land planes in the future. Land planes have a very wide range. The American senators who visited the Commonwealth recently flew in a big aircraft a distance of 3,000 miles across the ocean in one hop from land base to land base. If planes be developed on that scale, the use of flying-boats will not be nearly so necessary in transocean flights. Whilst I do not venture to prophesy, because changes may yet occur that will alter the whole scene. it seems to me that land planes rather than flying-boats will be the common means of travel in future. Envisaged in this plan is the division of places like Tasmania, where distances between the main towns are comparatively short, in such a way that planes may operate from a central aerodrome to outlying places.
One danger, against which we must guard, is that of producing too many different types of aircraft. They all require special spare parts and different types of tools for maintenance. If manufacturers be allowed to construct any type of plane that they please, the costs will be tremendous. Therefore, standard types of planes, some for carrying heavy loads and others for carrying smaller loads, should be decided upon. The manufacture of as many types of aircraft as of motor cars must be avoided.
– Does the Minister intend to apply that statement to the motor car industry after the war ?
– That will not be a function of my department.
– The Minister is opening up a very interesting line of argument.
– There is good reason to give the matter weighty consideration. I hope that aeroplane services will he controlled completely by the Government of the day, so that we shall not indiscriminately establish all sorts of taxi services which will have no real value. Development must be on a properly planned basis, and that planning has already been undertaken. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will be gratified to learn that the matters which he raised have been closely studied and weighed. Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, will be in a position to play its part in developing planned aerial services that will be beneficial to the people of not only the Commonwealth but also the British Empire. There should be no rivalry amongst the United Nations to control transport, which is the lifeblood of every nation. This afternoon, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) dealt with that subject at some length. Provided we are given the encouragement and support of this Parliament, the people will be well satisfied with the efforts of the Government.
.- I was greatly disappointed to hear the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) state that the Department of Civil Aviation plans to provide a network of aerodromes in which each airfield will be set on a radius of 150 miles - that is airfields will be 300 miles from each other. I beg him to direct his officers to reconsider the plan. If a country resident is obliged to drive a distance of 150 miles in order to reach the nearest aerodrome, the journey will occupy four or five hours and he will lose much valuable time. This plan shows discrimination against country centres. An aircraft can fly from Brisbane to Melbourne, a distance of 1,300 miles, in the same time that it would take the country dweller to drive from his property to the nearest aerodrome. In my opinion, a plan that does not provide for a network of aerodromes, each within 50 miles of the other, on the coast of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria at least, will not meet the needs of the people. Many important towns are situated in those areas and require a proper aerial service.
European countries and the United States of America do not hesitate to build a network of aerodromes, each of which is much closer to the other than 150 miles. Rotterdam and Amsterdam, which are less than 50 miles apart, have two of the best airports in the world. The whole purpose of their schemes in Australia must be to suit the convenience of country residents, who are entitled to more consideration than they have been given in the past. Until the Government realizes that, this country will never be properly settled and developed. The Minister declared that the plan must be on an economic basis. If previous governments had adopted that attitude, aerial services would not have been established in Australia. For many years, the Commonwealth Government has heavily subsidized the air services between the capital cities, in addition to country services. That money was well spent. Many things do not yield an immediate return, but that does not alter the fact that they are of extraordinary value in the development of a country. The plans drawn up by the department should have regard to the fact that if Australia is to be held by the white race it must have a population of 20,000,000 to 30,000,000. Local government bodies are anxious to assist the Department of Civil Aviation to provide a network of suitable aerodromes. Most country towns have an airfield, although the majority of them are probably too small for the largest planes to use, but the department should assure municipalities and shires of its eagerness to assist them with advice and finance to enlarge those airfields for the purpose of providing in the post-war period an efficient service for the people. The discrimination between the large capital cities and the smaller country towns must cease. Since improved types of aircraft have been placed on the service, the course followed on the flight from Sydney to Brisbane has changed appreciably during the last six. years. At first, the plane pursued a course along the coast, because there were landing fields at Kempsey, Coffs Harbour and Evans Head, and the pilot would be within a reasonable distance of a field if he were o’bliged to make a forced landing. As one who has on several occasions made forced landings, I like to see a close network of aerodromes. Now, the plane from Sydney to Brisbane flies 50 or 00 miles west of Grafton and Casino over most difficult and rugged country, and the nearest grounds large enough for it to land are 60 miles farther away at Coffs Harbour or Evans Head. That does not seem to me to be right. People would have more sense of security in air travel if they knew that adequate landing grounds were available within reasonable distances of the main aerodromes. The radius of 150 miles suggested by the Minister might be satisfactory in tho sparsely settled areas of this country, but a radius of 50 miles at the lowest should be adopted, as the general rule, in the settled areas. I have flown across the world several times, and I remember that on one trip from the United States of America the pilot was instructed to strike the coast at Broken Bay and to proceed to Rose Bay. He had made the trip about twenty times, but when we were approaching the Australian coast, he asked me whether I thought that a certain spot was Broken Bay. I said that I thought it was the mouth of the Manning River, about 100 miles north of Broken Bay; that judgment proved correct. The American navigators depend a great deal more on observation and radio beam than do the Australian navigators. The Australians rely chiefly on their instruments and probably that will always be their training. But wc should do everything possible to exclude the possibility of accidents in air travel. Accidents with Air Force aircraft are bad enough in all conscience, and in war operations great risks have to be taken; but accidents with civil aircraft, which in many instances may involve the loss of 20 or 30 lives, should be guarded against in every possible way. Every accident of that, kind is a serious deterrent to air travel. I hope the Minister will regard the comments I have made as constructive criticism the aim of which is to achieve’ the best possible results in air transport.
.- I. did not hear the whole of the speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), but I understand that he said the policy of the Government would be to develop landing grounds in populated areas within radii of from 150 to 300 miles. T urge that, in our post-war planning for civil aviation, provision should be made for landing grounds at much more frequent intervals. We need landing grounds as close as possible to inhabited areas. At an early date the Government should make some declarations of policy in relation to civil aviation for the guidance of the community in general, and to assist in the development of a national programme. We should be informed, for example, whether the provision of landing grounds is still to be regarded as the responsibility of municipalities, as has been the case hitherto, or whether the Government intends to provide subsidiary landing grounds throughout the country. We should also be informed whether municipalities will be given subventions in order to acquire land and prepare areas for landing grounds if that work is to remain their responsibility. Many important country municipalities are becoming increasingly air-minded, but in some areas topographical circumstances, and also the close settlement of the country, are serious obstacles to the provision of landing grounds. We should be told whether discriminating assistance will he given to municipalities in this matter. Expert advice should be made available to municipal authorities also in relation to the area required for landing grounds and the preparatory work that would be necessary. I have in mind the circumstances of the important town of Shepparton, Victoria. That area is closely settled and the land is intersected hy irrigation and drainage channels. It would be costly to obtain a suitably large area there for an aerodrome. Difficulties might also be experienced at Wangaratta. The local government authorities in such areas should be informed whether they may expect financial assistance from, the Commonwealth if it is to remain their responsibility to provide landing grounds. In order to arrange for the rapid demobilization of our armed forces after the armistice, the Government should have works of this description in mind, and a declaration of policy on the subject, and any advisory services that it -may be able to provide for municipalities, will be most helpful. I urge the Minister to discuss this subject, not only with the officers of his department, but also with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– The plan, that I outlined to honorable members has not yet been adopted, and the general lines of it have certainly not been rigidly fixed. The general proposals were forwarded to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley) for consideration. We cannot do more than plan at present, for manpower and materials are not available to undertake work of this description at present. In reply to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I wish to make it clear that although the Government has not fixed a basis for the establishment of landing grounds it considers that the development of landing grounds within radii of from 150 to 200 miles would be reasonable. Variations from it would be made when the need arose. I visualize a service such as the well-patronized Butler service, which operated between Sydney and Bega, landing at several towns along the route.
– That man ought to be afforded facilities to enable him to give a better service. He is a very competent pilot. He has flown round the world, and has done a lot for Australian aviation.
– He renders a useful service. I believe that he is still operating, although on a reduced schedule because of the shortage of machines. The suggestions of the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Indi will b.e taken into consideration when the plan is being finally developed. I realize the value of the statement of the honorable member for Indi that municipalities ought to be given some idea pf what may be expected of them, because land close, to towns is valuable and may be needed for another purpose. Quite recently, T visited in his electorate a town that is only 25 miles from another town at which there is an Air Force aerodrome. I pointed out to those who made representations to me that it would be difficult to justify the establishment of two aerodromes in such close proximity, because of the considerable cost involved. Thu local residents want a service that will enable passengers to be carried bv air instead of having to rely upon road and rail transport. I assure honorable members that their suggestions will be considered by the Director-General of Aviation and myself. I am glad that some have been made which may prove helpful to a final solution.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and ‘Customs.
Proposed vote, £705,000.
.- One of the unsatisfactory administrative arrangements of the present Government is that the portfolio of Trade and Customs is held by a Minister who sits in the Senate. This department so closely affects members of the House of Representatives that the Minister should be a member of this branch of the legislature.
On the 20th September, under the National Security (Rationing) Regulations, an instrument of delegation was issued, which conferred rather sweeping powers on the Deputy Directors of Rationing in the different States. Although all the powers conferred are important, the specific power to which I now refer is contained in clause 5 of the instrument of delegation. This gives to the deputy directors the power to register traders, to allot registration numbers, and from time to time to cancel, revoke, vary or amend the registration of any trader for the purposes of any order made under the said regulations. It is possible, in fact probable, that the Rationing Commission has not in mind the sweeping exercise of power which that would suggest. A Government officer, who is not directly responsible to a Minister as are departmental officers, and certainly is not responsible to this Parliament, has been given the widest and most stringent power not only to register sections of traders or, for that matter, all traders, but. also to cancel, revoke, vary or amend the registration for reasons which may seem proper to him. That is a very wide discretion for a member of the bureaucracy to have. The committee should take note of such a delegation of power. It is not the kind of power which we. with our responsibilities under a democratic system of government, should lightly entrust to officers who will be able to exercise it without any direction from a court of law, but simply at their own discretion. A trader, because of an offence which to some persons may appear trivial but by the officer may be regarded as serious, may be deprived of all opportunity to conduct his business. The Parliament should insist upon some limitation of this power, if it were to be exorcised in pursuance of an order from a court which had investigated a charge of black marketing or some other offence against the rationing regulations, my objection would largely disappear; but I can see no such safeguard in the regulations. The power is exercisable at the will of the deputy director. The Rationing Commission probably does not intend that the power shall be used as I fear that it may be. The chairman of the commission, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) should give an explanation of the way in which it is proposed that the regulation shall operate. Perhaps he will state the class of traders it is proposed to register in this way, and the type of offence that would have to be committed before the deputy director would consider it his duty to exercise the power conferred upon him.
.- The registration of traders under the rationing regulations is purely for the - convenience of traders in the manufacturing or wholesale group, in order to permit the transfer of goods without the passing of coupons under the quotation of their registration. It is necessary that deputy directors should have the power to cancel registration, because manufacturers sometimes vary their usual trading habits and trade in goods of different kinds. Goods of various classes are, under rationing, in different categories. Registrations permit traders to trade on permit by quoting their registered number in particular classes of goods only, without the passage of coupons. Penal application of the power is not intended, and it has no connexion with black marketing.
– It is not to be punitive?
– Not in any sense. It is purely for the convenience of traders engaged in the transfer of goods under permit. The transfer of goods under registered number is similar to the transfer of goods under the Sales Tax Act. We are adhering to the principles of that act in connexion with transfers under the rationing regulations.
– That explanation is’ satisfactory to me.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a serious injustice at present being suffered by a large body of workers in my electorate, namely, those employed in the railway workshops at North Ipswich. I have received a protest from the combined railway unions at North Ipswich against the inadequacy of the tobacco ration made available to the men, compared with what is obtainable by other workers. There are employed at the workshops about 3,300 men, most of whom are engaged directly in war activities. Their work also includes the repair, overhaul and maintenance of rolling-stock, as well as the construction of engines, trucks, carriages, &c. The railway systems all over Australia have been heavily taxed during the period of the war, but nowhere has the strain been so great as in Queensland. As honorable members know, very large numbers of servicemen are in Queensland, and the demands upon the Queensland railway service are very heavy at all hours of the day and night. The strain upon railway workers during the last four years has been tremendous, and it is unreasonable to annoy and irritate these men and expect them to carry on with enthusiasm if they are denied even the comfort of tobacco. It is estimated that, out of a total of 3,300 men employed at the workshops, no fewer than 2,000 use tobacco. Three shifts are worked, so that the men start and finish work at odd hours, which makes it, impossible for most, of them to buy tobacco in the city. Arrangements have been made for them to obtain tobacco at the railway diningrooms at the works, but their ration has been fixed at 2 oz. each a month.
That is utterly unreasonable. No matter how limited are tobacco supplies in Australia, it, should be possible to give them more than 2 oz. a month. I recognize that men in the fighting services are entitled to their tobacco, but those in the industrial army are also entitled to consideration. Men working in Walker’s Foundry at Maryborough, at the munitions factory at Rocklea, at the Archerfield aerodrome, and at Evans Deakin Limited, are allowed a ration of 2 oz. a week, but the railway workers at North Ipswich receive only one-quarter of that, namely, 2 oz. a month. True, those engaged in the places I have enumerated are employed on war work, but so also are the railway workshop employees. They work many hours overtime each week, and are entitled to the same treatment as the others. I hope that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Reasley), who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs in this House, will make strong representations to him on the subject. My association with the Minister for Supply and Shipping has convinced me that he, like myself, has the interests of the workers at heart, and he must recognize that these men are suffering an injustice. I enter an emphatic protest on their behalf, and I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the allowance of tobacco will be increased to at least 2 oz. a week. We know that there is a good deal of industrial unrest in various parts of Australia, and we have recently been discussing the large number of stoppages which have occurred on the coal-fields in New South Wales. Workers in the railway workshops at North Ipswich have remained continuously on the job for the last four years. There have been no strikes and no hold-ups; they have conscientiously applied themselves to their important, war and transport work. Surely they are entitled to fair treatment in respect of tobacco supplies. This harsh and ill-considered administrative act of the department should not be tolerated. It constitutes a serious annoyance, and I appeal to the Minister to have it rectified. If there should be any official doubt that increased supplies of tobacco would not get to the right persons, the department should send a repre sentative to discuss the matter with the combined unions concerned, and arrange a proper method of distribution. I have visited the workshops, and I know the energy and devotion which the men are putting into their work. I ask that fair play be accorded them, and that their tobacco ration be increased to at least, 2 oz. a week.
– 1 agree that the railway workers have rendered a great service to the country since the beginning of the war, both on the running side and in the workshops. They have worked hard and long, and have answered every demand made of them. 1 should be loath, as I know the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) would wish to be, to treat them unfairly in the matter of the distribution of tobacco. Unfortunately, a large part of our tobacco supplies must be obtained from overseas, and the quantity we receive is determined largely by the strength of the case we are able to make out. There is a disposition on the part of those who supply the tobacco to specify that it shall be made available only to members of the fighting services. It may be argued that tobacco is being obtained bv a great many people who might well do without it. Being a non-smoker, perhaps I am not qualified to offer an opinion on the subject,. but I know that those who are accustomed to the use of tobacco feel a great need of it. If the situation is as the honorable member says - and I have no doubt that it is, because his submissions are always based on facts - I shall see whether it is possible to have more tobacco made available to the men.
– Does the Minister understand that other workers are receiving a ration of 2 oz. a week, while these men are receiving only 2 oz. a month?
– The honorable member suggests that there is unfair discrimination. It seems to me that there is, and I shall do my best, to have the situation rectified.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole - Department of Health. £154,100, agreed to.
Department of Commerce anu Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £330,000.
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [8.12J.- J. was very disappointed this afternoon, at the brief reference in the statement of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to the International Food Conference recently hold in the United States of America. The Minister said that certain annexures would be made available later. I ii.-k that they be made available before the present sittings conclude to-morrow. The only reports which we have received of proceedings at the conference are somewhat disturbing. The following comment was supplied to the Primary Producer by the Honorable T. H. Bath : -
The views of the Canadian and Australian delegates were- very much opposed to each other. The Canadian delegate supported the British plan for reserve food stocks, and opposed protective tariffs, urging that these should be abandoned. He urged that uneconomic production (an outcome of nationalistic isolation) should be eliminated, marketing and transport costs cheapened, and that surpluses adequate for world-wide standards of nutrition be distributed internationally.
The Australian representative’s attitude was contrary to that of Canada. He was opposed to international co-operative action and enid that each nation should act separately. No mention is made in the reports of his attitude on protective tariffs other than a statement that countries should make their own effort* to improve the standards of their people.
What disturbs me is the statement that the Australian representative is reported to have been opposed to international cooperation, believing that each nation should act separately. I was under the impression that last year the present Government signed an international wheat agreement providing for co-operation in regard to the production and marketing of wheat. I am convinced that the post-war world will be filled with trouble and chaos, unless international co-operation is achieved in regard to both primary and secondary production. There must be some organization to ensure that what is produced can be consumed. This is necessary if we are to avoid a depression similar to that of 1930, which was essentially due to the low prices obtaining for primary products.
We should make certain that chore shall he a continuous increase of food production in Australia, particularly of commodities urgently needed, not only by ourselves, hut also by the British people and members of the. Allied forces. These commodities are, for the most part, produced in densely-settled areas where the farms are small, and where the maximum use must be made of man-power in order to obtain maximum production. The only way in which we can obtain quick results is to arrange for the immediate release of as many mcn as the Army and the Munitions Department arc prepared to make available. It is also necessary to arrange for the mechanization of food production, and the provision of cheap electricity.
The agricultural committees which Iia ve been created in Australia on the model of those Which have operated so successfully in Great Britain should not go out of existence when the war ends, but should become an integral part of our permanent agricultural system. They would provide a community service of extraordinary value to the primary industries of Australia. They will be especially valuable, of course, while the war lasts, because they will be the means of helping farmers to solve many of their current, problems, especially those relating to the provision of labour and mechanical equipment. Before these committees can be expected to achieve the ends for which they have been set up, however, the areas which they control must be reduced.
– Hear, hear !
– At the outset 37 committees were established in New South Wales. I understand that the number has now been increased, but the areas are still too large. One committee, with one agricultural instructor, is charged with looking after an area of 8,000 square miles. To be successful, these committees must operate in areas sufficiently small to enable the members to have personal acquaintance with the farmers with whom and the farms with which they will deal, so that they may be able sympathetically to approach the farmers’ problems with full knowledge of their complexity. It is also essential that the recommendations of the agricultural committees should be carried out. The committees’ function should be executive rather than advisory. A policy is foolish which provides that expert committees consisting of qualified farmers, managers of the butter factories and agricultural instructors, shall be entitled only to make recommendations which may be turned down by some one sitting in an office, hundreds of miles away, who has no knowledge of the situation, merely because he does not like the terms in which they are written. I welcome the increased provision in the estimates to meet the expenses of these committees. Hitherto, the Government has been cheeseparing. One man of my acquaintance, an executive officer on a committee responsible for an. area of 8,000 square miles, was receiving only i’2 a week against expenses when I last saw him. In order to emphasize the need to reduce the areas which committees have under their charge, I cite the fact that in Great Britain there are 4,000 agricultural committees covering an area about one-sixth that of New South Wales.
The most important work the committees can do at present on behalf of the farmers is assist them in obtaining the release of men from the Army and the munitions industry. In this connexion, it is important that the farmers who. apply for labour should receive the services of members of their families or relatives rather than those of some strangers. The son or nephew of a farmer would be of much greater value to him than would be a man who had never before worked on the property. The former would be able to fit easily into the family life and help’ about the house, whereas a stranger could not. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should fight to the death to ensure that final decision as to who shall be sent to each farm should rest with his department. Determination of the number of men who shall be released from the Army for agricultural work must be the responsibility of the Army, but the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, together with the man-power authorities, should determine who shall make up that number.. My final word on the subject of agricultural committees is that my long experience of local government has shown me that if local authorities have ample powers and confidence placed in them they will do valuable work, but that if they are at all hampered valuable men drop out. We must, therefore, ensure the success of the agricultural committees by clothing them with adequate powers.
There seems to be a bottleneck in the munitions department. Prime movers of milking machines that cannot be operated with electricity have been promised to dairy-farmers, but all efforts in the last twelve months to o’btain them have been fruitless. On the- instructions of the Commonwealth Food Controller, 4,000 extra milking machines were distributed to dairy-farmers in New South Wales and a similar number in Queensland, but they were without prime movers. A committee has been set up, consisting of representatives of the Department of War Organization of Industry, the Division of Import Procurement, the Department of Munitions, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Prices Commission, and the Treasury, to deal with, the matter, but so far there has been no result. The machines have been built and the only conclusion I can reach is that they have been secreted somewhere, and will not turn up until after the war. If that happens we shall be doubly unfortunate, because we shall have lost the benefit of the machines now when they are most needed, and, after the wai”, the distribution of the machines will prevent the employment of men on the manufacture of others which would by then be needed as. replacements. Every nook and cranny where the machines might be should be searched until they have been located, because 1 am certain that they have been manufactured. The next important matter requiring prompt attention is the provision of pumping and reticulation equipment for farms producing eggs, butter, pork, bacon and vegetables. Electric ‘ motors also are required for milking machines, separators and irrigation pumps in areas where electric power is available.
During the war, it is impossible to obtain new generating machines. There- fore, we must make the fullest possible use of existing plants by linking up power stations. The north coast of New South Wales produces more butter and pork than any other district in the Commonwealth, but more could be produced if there were electrical energy available north and south of the Waterburn power station. The output of that station is already fully taken up, and every week orders for power with which to operate important plants, such as sawmills and irrigation installations, have to be turned down. If the Brisbane, Nymboida and Newcastle power-houses were linked, all the difficulties would be ended. Main power lines run north from Newcastle and south from Brisbane, and it would only require the junction of those lines to enable the three powerhouses to be joined in the one circuit. The work, which could be done in four or five months, would be a national undertaking. What applies to the north applies equally to the south. The Yallourn, Burrinjuck, Hume and Wyangala power stations should also be joined in the one circuit. We should have interstate free trade in electricity. I ask the Minister to use his influence with the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), as the Minister responsible, to direct that my suggestion be carried out. I believe that electrical undertakings should be under Commonwealth control. This war provides a splendid opportunity for the people to be taught ‘the wisdom of transferring control of this utility to the Commonwealth. To-day 350,000 hands work in rural industries, compared with 533,000 before the war, and yet they are expected to produce as much as was produced previously. They can do so only if they are given the wherewithal.
– There are several important matters that should be considered by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). I do not know just how “ Agriculture “ came to be tagged on to the honorable gentleman’s title, because, according to the Constitution, the Commonwealth Government has no powers in relation to agriculture. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made several remarks with which I agree emphatically. In regard to man-power, I have said in this chamber time and again that I am a con.scriptionist, and I am because I believe that in time of war the whole manpower of the country should be available to the authorities. To-day we have a very confusing state of affairs in primary industry. A couple of man-power officers from the city who know as much about agriculture as I know about the nether regions came to my electorate. If man-power is to be handled effectively, it stands to reason that the people who are sent out to the big country centres to do that job must understand the problems. In some cases that have como to my notice, one would think that these gentlemen were sent there rather to see that the problem would never be solved. The Commonwealth Government should make a proper survey of the man-power available in the country areas. Repeatedly I have received complaints that whereas all the sons of one farmer are serving in the forces, no one has been called up for military service on the adjoining property. Although I have often referred cases of this kind to the Minister, I have never been given a satisfactory explanation of this anomaly. It appears that in the agricultural districts at any rate, in the calling up of men for the armed forces, “ kissing goes by favour “. That is the only way in which I can explain it. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture cannot entirely shed itself of the responsibility for these occurrences. The position must be clarified. Another problem is created by demands for and promises of, the release of men from the Army. I have been one of the rather stern ones who has not worried the Minister for the Army in this matter. I have taken the hard line, and informed my constituents that releases could not be granted. But the ground is cut from under the feet of honorable members like myself by the statements of Ministers, responsible or irresponsible, about impending releases. When that happens, the only course open to me is to send the requests to the Minister for the Army. I say, with very great respect, that it takes a long while to get a decision on an application. The Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for the Army acknowledge the receipt of the correspondence promptly, but they are not responsible for making the decision. In some instances, I have never received an acknowledgment. These problems of man-power must be tackled in a more realistic and practical fashion than the Government has so far attempted. I intend to go rather deeply into this matter this evening, because there is a feeling among honorable members, quite wrongly, that this House should adjourn to-morrow, and that when it does adjourn, it will not meet until the New Year.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the question before the Chair.
– This matter is most important to me because if the House were to meet next week, 1 should have another opportunity to raise these matters.
– I ask the honorable member to avail himself of this opportunity to do so.
– Unfortunately, the opportunity is somewhat brief. The Government should examine other matters affecting the agricultural industry. I have received a good deal of correspondence from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia, regarding the distribution of superphosphate. This is another instance of the game of “passing the buck”, and the old buck must be getting pretty tired of being thrown from one government to another. I have forwarded to Commonwealth and State Ministers a considerable volume of correspondence from various farmers, lt appears that somebody made a decision regarding the distribution of superphosphate. That decision was not announced, but it seems that if an applicant for superphosphate declared that the purpose for which he required it was to produce lucerne, he could “ write his own ticket “. A number of farmers did, in fact, write their own tickets and got 10 or 12 tons of the fertilizer, whilst their less fortunate neighbours, who were not aware of the announcement, were allotted only 1 ton or 2 tons. If the Government has a policy for the distribution of superphosphate, or if the Australian Agricultural Council laid down a policy, the facts should be published in the press for the information of every producer. The gentlemen who have a better way of finding out things than their neighbours should not be able to “ cash in on the ground floor “. I have very good reason to believe that some farmers obtained superphosphate ostensibly for- the production of lucerne in country where lucerne could not possibly be grown. This matter also should be examined.
Superphosphate has also given rise to a dreadful state of affairs on the border between Victoria and South Australia. I thought that when a certain referendum was lost a few years ago, the problem of border barriers would disappear; but today we find that if one of my constituents has been in the habit of purchasing superphosphate from a manufacturer in Geelong, because he happened to be a shareholder, he is now told that he cannot be allotted a quota. I have brought these matters to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the State Minister for Agriculture in South Australia. Producers at Bordertown, and on the border between South Australia and Victoria, are told that they will not be given supplies of superphosphate because they are in “no man’s land “. Is Australia divided into six watertight compartments for the purpose of interstate trade?
– Has not that position been rectified?
– I thought that it had.
– I say emphatically that it has not. Some farmers in my electorate are receiving only 20 per cent, of their normal quota of superphosphate, simply because they happen to be shareholders in a cooperative concern in Victoria, and were in the habit of obtaining their supplies of fertilizer from that State.
The interstate boundary also affects the transport of live-stock. No doubt, the Minister has heard of these oases. Should it matter to the Government whether a man sends his cattle or sheep to Melbourne or Adelaide? If we fight this war hampered by State boundaries, retribution must overtake us.
I do not blame the Government for the plight of the farmers. I know that war imposes many severe stresses and -strains upon industry. But a silly position is developing in regard to agricultural machinery. I have been informed that Australia this year is importing potato-digging machines from the United States of America. An engineering establishment in my electorate, which formerly made potato-digging machines, is not allowed the material or labour to continue the manufacture of these implements. Therefore, the machines have to be brought from the United States of America under lend-lease arrangements.
– What is that company manufacturing now?
– It has submitted to the Government an application for work. If it be allotted labour and materials, it will be able to manufacture agricultural implements. Any man with one eye can see in Australia thousands of men who are not gainfully employed, and not all of them are in civilian clothes. We must examine the matter closely in order to get a proper appreciation of the position. The same thing applies, in a growing degree of intensity, to the supply of such vital things as wire, piping and netting for farms. These materials are wearing out, and itdoes not require a very long period of waiting for supplies for repairs to become rather large. When applications have been made recently for wire and netting, only 20 per cent: of the quantities required have been supplied. Whilst heavy demands are being made on our iron and steel industries for other purposes, some one in authority, after four years of war, should be figuring out not what we shall do after the war, but what we can do now to direct man-power and materials for the purpose of satisfying urgent needs. Unless these requirements are satisfied and we evolve a practical plan for the production of food, a lot of the “hooey” now being talked about the post-war period will lead us into a very false and foolish paradise of our own making.
.- Most of the rice grown in Australia is produced in the irrigation areas of New South Wales, but recently an effort has been made to grow the cereal in. Queensland. The experience was not a very happy one because the first harvest of 150 tons had to be fed to the pigs. The reason was that the grower was not permitted to market the rice because it had not been produced under the supervision of the Rice Board in New South Wales.
The crop was grown in the Southport district by Mr. H. G. R. Swan. For the past five years he has been endeavouring to grow rice at Merrimac, a low, wet district that previously was regarded as being rather unsuitable for agricultural pursuits. Mr. Swan expended over £800 in trying to perfect his organization. As honorable members are aware, rice is a difficult cereal to grow. Mr. Swan was refused permission to purchase seed, and when he protested against his treatment, he received from the Department of Agriculture the following letter, dated the 23rd September: -
The manager of the Bice Marketing Board at Leeton lias declined to make rice seed available because of an understanding between the States whereby it was not desirable to encourage the growing of rice in the other States.
– Was the letter from the Department of Agriculture, Queensland?
– I do not know. But whoever lays down that policy in wartime is acting in a most ridiculous manner. The entire rice crop of Australia is reserved for the armed forces and the coloured people in New Guinea. No supplies are made available to the civil population. Rice is a valuable food,, and the country urgently needs increased supplies. At ‘a time when we are complaining of shortages of foodstuffs, the fact that 150 tons of rice had to be fed to pigs represents the height of bureaucratic folly. Mr. Swan should be encouraged to grow this cereal because apparently by excellent organization on his property, he has been able to overcome the labour problem. I ask the Minister to ensure that he shall be allowed to market his product.
– I appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to pay heed to the requests that are being made to him to do something to help the primary producers of Australia, who are in a desperate position. The dairy-farmers, fruit-growers and cattlemen, in particular, are at their wit’s end to know how to carry on their operations without tuc release of necessary labour from the Army. The summer months will add to the difficulties of the dairyfarmers, and unless they can get some additional help, they will be unable to produce sufficient for our own use, let alone any additional supplies for export to the Allied Nations. Applications for the release of men that were made to the appropriate authorities two months ago still remain unanswered. I know of a dairy-farmer who has been postponing from day to day his entry into hospital for a major surgical operation in the hope that his son will be released from the Army to return to the farm. Many other dairy-farmers are in a somewhat similar plight. Only yesterday I brought to the notice of the Government the circumstances under which 1S,000 tons of sugar cane had been lost because a certain mill had not been able to obtain more than 60 per cent, of permitted canecutters. Large quantities of frost-bitten sugar cane have been left to rot, because man-power was not available to deal with it. I was informed to-day that the Stanley Co-operative Dairy Association at Woodford will be quite unable to maintain its operations unless at least two more men are made available to it. This subject is of major importance to the nation. I believe that every honorable member desires that the fair thing shall he done for primary producers, and it will be generally agreed that additional man-power is essential if production is to bc maintained at anything like a reasonable volume. The primary producers are not applying for their sons to be released merely to get them out of the fighting services; they are doing so because they cannot carry on their properties any longer without additional help. Many properties are being overrun with pests, and essential maintenance operations are being held up because men are not available to do the necessary work. We know very well, also, that cows have been sent to the slaughter-houses and that foodstuffs have been left to rot in the fields, because of the shortage of man-power. It has been stated quite clearly in the speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament, and also in recent speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and in the budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), that Australia is not now threatened by invasion. Surely, in such circumstances we may discontinue some of the emergency measures that were taken when invasion was imminent. Inadequate help is seriously limiting food production in all country districts. We know, too, that milking machines have been rendered idle because rubber parts are not available, tractors are not working because broken parts cannot be replaced.
Food production in Great Britain has been doubled since the outbreak of the war,, notwithstanding that the people of that country lived for a couple of years at least under the dire threat of invasion; yet in Australia, a primary producing country, where there was no such threat for a considerable time after the outbreak of the war and where the threat which did arise has been removed, food production has been reduced. If Australia is to fulfil its obligations to the Allied Nations in relation to food supplies for themselves and the conquered countries, .more men must be released for farm work. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has told us that 2,000 men are to be released for farm work every month, but that concession will not average much more than 30 persons for each electorate. I asked recently whether the Government would consider releasing from the Militia 200,000 men for farm- ing and industry. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) seemed to think that I was unreasonable. I assure him that I was serious and that. I regard the release of that number of men as necessary, if the needs of the situation are to be met. The Army to-day is top-heavy. Great Britain is being defended to-day by 4,000,000 men of the Home Guard. All are in employment in industry and on the land. They are trained men and can be called upon in an emergency. If Britain can he so defended, surely Australia could be defended ‘by members of the Militia who Iia ve already received training in all necessary defence activities, and the Volunteer Defence Corps. I suggest that everything possible should be done to reduce the dislocation that is so manifest in the lives of our people through the introduction of emergency measures. There is no need for us to retain the severe control measures that were applied in the days immediately following Japan’s entry into the war. Many ageing primary producers and others, who could carry on their operations reasonably three years ago are now suffering from increasing physical disabilities due to strain. Moreover, daylight saving has added to their troubles. Some people do not realize that primary producers have to organize their activities, so that they will take no risk of missing train connexions and transport vehicles which take their milk and cream to factories and other perishable commodities to market.
I urge the Minister to consider the submissions that are being made to him in this connexion. We can well understand that the Chiefs of Staff of the various services desire to maintain the forces under their command at the greatest possible numerical strength, but the Parliament and the Government have responsibilities in relation to the community generally. We should not risk ruining our agricultural industries. By preserving them as Canada is doing we can help the war effort. Common-sense decisions are necessary in these days, and T repeat that if Great Britain, which is only 22 miles from enemy-occupied territory, can be defended by Home Guards who follow their ordinary avocations in the day-time, Australia could be defended by men released from the Militia who also could do industrial and agricultural work in the day-time and defence training at night. Instead, we are still ordering labour out of the depleted businesses of the people. I impress upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the imperative need to take immediate action to maintain operations «n a scale which will ensure not only the production of sufficient food for the Australian public, but also an exportable surplus for the Allied Nations.
[8.58 J. - For some months the Department oi’ Commerce and Agriculture has been spending public funds waging an intensive campaign urging the people of Australia to grow more vegetables. Radio talks, press advertisements and colourful posters have called upon farmers, householders and school-children to grow their own cabbages, beetroot, parsnips, swede turnips and other vegetables as a war necessity to alleviate the short supply for civilians. The Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock. according to a Courier-Mail report dated the 16th September, 1943, stated, in a national broadcast -
The cabbage must emerge from obscurity, the carrot must become a national emblem, and other vegetables must be elevated to their proper place in our food structure. Military enterprise cannot be sustained without food. We need food, food and more food. Each garden, each householder, can supply a trickle of fond, which, in the total, will build up into n groat quantity.
This costly campaign has undoubtedly been undertaken because, belatedly, the Government has been forced to recognize the importance of the food front. As usual, the primary producers, the real backbone of this nation, endeavoured to step up the production of vegetables. They were handicapped by a shortsighted and unbalanced man-power policy, and by lack of consideration in one hundred other ways. Nevertheless, they produced the cabbages, swede turnips and other vegetables, according to the exhortation of the agricultural experts. What was the result? I quote the following paragraph from the Courier-Mail of the 20th September, 1943, when the propaganda to “ Start Digging Now “ was in full blast: -
Supplies of vegetables were too heavy for the limited demand at the wholesale fruit and vegetables market in Brisbane on Saturday. Agents say that cabbages, parsnips, turnips and beetroot will be dumped.
The Queensland Producer, on the 22nd September last, told the same story. It reported -
Swede turnips were in heavy supply at the Roma-street (Brisbane) produce auction sales to-day. Several hundred bags arrived, causing values to slump. Sales showed a decline of £2 10s. per ton on yesterday’s top price. Most lines wore passed in.
The public is urged to invest its savings in war loans ; yet money is being expended most lavishly in an endeavour to increase vegetable production, and at the same time the mismanagement associated with distribution has been so great that produce taken to the market has had to be dumped, causing a dead loss to the producer and severe detriment to the war effort and the food position generally.
– That happened quite often on previous occasions.
– It happened in my electorate only recently. First-class cabbages are fed to dairy cattle, because, if sent to the market, they would not return the cost of railage and handling. Swede turnips have been ploughed into the ground again this year as they were last year, for the same reason. Yet the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is reported to have said last Tuesday that Australia is now engaged on the biggest vegetable and seed programme in its history, in order to meet the 1944 vegetable target, and that seed production is to be undertaken on a large scale at Yanco. Is it common sense to expend thousands of pounds in stepping up the production of vegetables, by placing great posters on hoardings and advertising through the press and on the radio, when producers who have responded to the call and have contributed to their utmost to the essential food front have had to dump their produce because of bungling in distribution? I received today a letter from Sarina, North Queensland. The writer of it said -
I now have cabbages by the dozen going rotten because I am left with so many on my hands and prices are low. I also have 1 acre of swede turnips and I will not pull them because the ceiling prices are not worth the labour.
Is it not a farce to step up production and talk about a big campaign in connexion with seed production, in view of what I have related? Something has to be done in regard to distribution. There is too big a margin between the price received by the producer and that charged to the consumer. The Government has placed the cart before the horse with a vengeance, the net result being complete discouragement of the producer. The farmers cannot he expected to carry on at a loss; if there is no demand for the vegetables that they grow, or if the prices they are receiving are uneconomic, obviously they will cease to produce. The Government should guarantee minimum prices for the varieties of vegetables grown, and if necessary, a subsidy should be paid. The farmer is over regulated, over controlled, and subject to bureaucratic bungling.
– The right honorable gentleman is asking for more control.
– It is a matter not of more control but of wiser control. There is too much control in the wrong direction, as well as mismanagement on the distribution side. I have recited facts that cannot be denied. There is no reason why the Government should continue a lavish propaganda campaign. It should first remedy what basically needs alleviation and adjustment. There is something radically wrong with vegetable distribution. The whole problem should be reviewed and the practical difficulties should be removed’ in the interests of the food front.
– I was astonished to hear tue Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) say yesterday that Australia’s meat production is approximately 1,000,000 tons per annum, and that the
Government is not planning for a substantial increase. The Food Administrator of the United States of America, Mr. Chester Davis, said recently in regard to the production of food in that country -
It is a paradox, but a realistic fact that with every military success the correct management of food becomes more important and difficult.
He explained the meaning of that statement when he continued -
Our food is the chief reliance for encouraging the liberated people to help us in the final assaults against the Axis gates. Correct use of food is the cheapest way we can hasten the end of the war. Our food must continue to help keep the British and the Russians swinging prodigious blows against our enemy.
Australia has been asked to produce, in the next twelve months, approximately 1,300,000 tons of meat. That production will probably be distributed as follows : to the civilian population, 600,000 tons; to meet overseas demands, 300,000 tons ; and to the services, 400,000 tons. If the supply does not reach that figure, someone will have to go short. According to figures cited yesterday, it would appear that supplies to Britain are to be reduced, whilst our people are still to be provided with much more than the British ration. This morning, there was news of a declaration of war by Italy against Germany. Very shortly, Australia will probably have to help to feed approximately ‘ 22,000,000 Italians. Our responsibility in connexion with the supply of foodstuffs to other countries will increase so long as the war lasts. Every effort, therefore, should be made to accelerate food production. On the 13th October, the Sydney Morning Herald published a statement headed “ Shortage of meat; man-power need in the country “. It pointed out, in regard to beef production in Australia, that not only was labour required to work station properties and muster cuttle, but also that drovers were needed to move the stock, and stock routes had to be put in order. The position in regard to the droving of cattle in Queensland and the Northern Territory has not arisen suddenly. Many months ago, a friend of mine in Queensland told me of the extreme difficulty he was having in securing drovers to move cattle from the breeding country to the fattening areas. That position exists all over Australia, and very little has been done to remedy it. There are proposals for the return of men to primary industry, from the Army, at the rate of 2,000 a month. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) showed yesterday that 7.220 men left rural holdings in New South Wales in 1942-43. If we apply t hese figures proportionately to the whole of Australia, we shall find that probably 1 o,000 men have left rural holdings for other occupations. In the same period, 5.000 small holders in New South Wales left their farms. These figures have been taken from the records of the New South Wales Statistician’s department. The release of 2,000 men a month for the next ten months will not compensate for the loss of man-power that is occurring in rural industries to-day, and the manpower position will continue to go from had to worse. Everything that honorable members have said to-night in regard to the extreme difficulty of working many country properties, is perfectly true. Every honorable member who represents a country constituency is told the same story. In some instances, only the wife and daughter of the property holder have been left to work it. I received to-day particulars of a case in the New England district. It concerns a soldier in an ordnance depot at Scone. He is engaged in moving ordnance stores - work that anybody could do. Not a soul has been left to work his property. Last winter, owing to the extremely bad season in New England, and the fact that nobody had been left to look after his property, 80 head of the best breeding cows on it died. These experiences are causing country people to fee,l irate.
– Did he make application for permission to return to his farm ?
– I am pleased that the honorable gentleman has asked that question, because I can reply with facts. Two months ago, this man applied for permission to return to his farm. First he applied to his commanding officer, and then to the man-power authorities. Nothing was done. There are. dozens of similar cases. A “ B “ class man employed as an orderly in a base hospital at Toowoomba applied for release to his commanding officer. - Five months ago, his brother wrote to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), applying to have him brought, back to the farm. He did not receive the courtesy of a reply. Three months ago, he wrote to the’ DeputyDirector of Man Power in New South Wales. Although he received a reply from that gentleman, nothing was done. The Minister for the Army assured me some time ago, when I asked him a question in relation to “ B “ class men, that these men would be released from the Army without delay, in order that they might return to their farms for the production of food. That was just “ poppycock “ talk, because nothing was done ; and nothing will he done until some one seizes by the scruff of the neck and the seat of the pants those persons in the Army who are responsible, and shakes them into activity. I was interested to hear the Minister for Commerce yesterday talking about the position with regard to farming machinery in Australia, and saying that, with the exception of tractors, it would probably be unnecessary in the future to rely upon lendlease aid. For the information of the Minister, I quote from a journal called Farm Implement News, of the 2nd July of this year. It is published in Chicago, and it is one of the most authoritative journals of its kind in. the United States of America. This is what it says -
As for power and equipment, that authorized by L-257 does not appear to be adequate for the food goal, nor will some of it be available when the need reaches the crucial stage.
Take tractors as an example. With a wheat goal 26’ per cent. larger than the 1943 planted acreage, the permitted production of cultivating type tractors, 30 Hp. and over, is only 03 per cent., while the “ special purpose “ four wheelers so largely used on the plains are limited to 44 per cent. There is no allocation of track-type machines for agriculture at all in L-257, and the hig Diesels raise a lot of wheat.
Seeing that Australia is in so much less danger of invasion now, the time has come when some of the tractors seized by the Allied Works Council should be restored to the farms. Practically every kind of crawler tractor was taken, and food production would be increased if they were released.
Another matter which has an important bearing on food production is the fixation’ of prices for primary products. E cannot understand how Professor Copland arrived at his decisions in this regard. When he toured northern New South Wales three or four months ago to add ress meetings of primary producers, he agreed that if a ceiling price were fixed for a primary product, then there should be a floor price also. In other words, if the fanners were asked t.r> accept a ceiling price “they should have a guaranteed price. At the present time the position in regard to the price of pig meats is creating chaos in. the coastal areas of New South Wales, and also in the electorate of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The fixing of the price of pork at 9d. per lb., and the fact that the slaughter of pigs under 100 lb. has been forbidden, is driv ing many hundreds of dairymen out of pig production altogether. The other day I quoted in the House from the letter of the stock inspector for the Gloucester district, to the effect that, of 2,400 .primary producers in his district, 80 per cent, were dairymen who raised pigs. In a recent issue of the Maitland Mercury, Mr. Dransfield, the secretary of the Pastures Protection Board, discusses the cost of carrying a porker ‘weighing 50 to 60 lb. up to the baconer stage of 100 to 200 lb., and he points out that it does not pay the farmer if a maximum price of 9d. per lb. is fixed for pork. He says that dairymen who have been sending their milk away only once a day to supply the city usually keep three or four sows and raise porkers; but when the demand comes for two milkings a day to be sent, forward, they have to get rid of their pigs, especially now when the maximum price of pork has been fixed at 9d. per lb. lt does not pay them to carry on the porkers to the baconer stage. It is stated that one man was throwing away a thousand gallons of skim milk each week. The situation is also having an effect on the veal market, and poddy calves are selling at very high prices. Naturally, when large numbers of calves are sold for veal the future production of beef is endangered, as some of the slaughtered calves might have become breeders in the future. Even if they were allowed to grow up they would produce much more meat than when they are killed as calves. The suggestion of the stock inspector is that the embargo on the slaughter of porkers should bc lifted, and that the price of baconers should be increased from 9d. to lOd. per lb. The secretary of the Pig Producers Association at Tamworth suggested that the price be increased to ls. The matter should be further examined by the Prices Commissioner, because the present method of fixing prices is curtailing the production of pig meats. It is certainly not increasing the production of bacon.
The fixing of prices for beef also is having a serious effect upon the cattleraising industry. Cattle fatteners are in a most unfortunate position. Supplies of beef for civilian use have been cut to 33^ per cent., and a ceiling price has been fixed which may be altered at any time by the Commissioner, so that fat.teners may find that the market has fallen right away and they have over-bought.
– The price for beef generally is better now than it has been for many years, and the honorable members knows it.
– In some instances, yes. I am now putting before the Minister what the cattle producers said at their meeting. I say that they are living in a state of uncertainty, not knowing what prices will be in the future. They are afraid to buy store cattle because they do not know whether they will be able to sell at a profit, or compelled to accept a. loss. It was stated at the Maitland meeting that cattle-raisers might be compelled to switch over from the production of beef to the growing of wool, and that is something which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture does not want, I am sure. I ask that the matter be looked into, and a price guaranteed to the producers.
– I have listened to, without being impressed by, the “wingeing” of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). His speech to-night was in keeping with so many of his speeches. The demand for meat for the year 1944 is as follows: United Kingdom, 236,000 tons; Middle East, 25,000 tons; Allied and Australian Services, 389,000 tons; Australian unrationed demand, about 680,000 tons- making a total of 1,330,000 tons. Meat production in Australia has been on the increase. I can cite figures to show that the production of mutton and pigs has increased considerably. The position in regard to pigs is difficult. The last Government made no effort to stabilize conditions, but action taken by the present, Government has effected an improvement. The Pig Growers Council, representing pig-raising interests throughout the Commonwealth, met, on the 12th September last, at the offices of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Sydney, when the following representatives were present: -
Commonwealth. - Mr. Graham, Stud Pig Breeders Society; Mr. O. Playfair, representing meat exporters ; Mr. J. M. Davidson, Veterinary Officer, Department of Commerce and Agriculture: Mr. ti. G. Cunningham, Secretary, Council for Australian Pig Industry; Mr. T. L. Robertson, Assisting Secretary; Miss G. M. Page, Assisting Secretary.
Kew South Wales. - Mr. G. W. Gordon, representing producers; Mr. C. Bennett, representing co-operative bacon factories; Mr. W. J. Gale, representing proprietary factories; Mr. A. F. Gray, representing New South Wales Department of Agriculture.
Victoria. - Mr. A. H. Moore, representing producers; Mr. A. McKellar, representing co-operative factories; Mr. C. M. Stokes, representing proprietary factories; Mr. L. A. Downey, representing Department of Agriculture.
Queensland. - Mr. R. G. Watson (Chairman), representing producers; Mr. L. Krimmer representing co-operative factories; Mr. H. Reed, representing proprietary factories.
South Australia. - Mr. Hampton, representing producers; Mr. Richards, representing proprietary factories; Mr. W. S. McAuliffe, representing Department of Agriculture.
Western Australia. - Mr. H. Watson, representing all interests.
Tasmania. - Mr. T. D. Wardlaw, representing producers; Mr. R. D. Wilson, representing Department of Agriculture.
At that conference the following resolution was carried : -
That the price be fixed at : 90 lb. to 160 lb.8Jd.; ICI lb. to ISO lb. - 8d.; with a minimum of £5 13s. 4d.
The price ultimately fixed by the Prices Commissioner was 9d. per lb. A further resolution stated -
That there be a guaranteed price over two years of 8id., with, a.t any time during the second year, an announcement by the Government as to their policy for the third year (with twelve months’ notice at any time during the second year).
On the recommendation of the Meat Commission the Government fixed the price at 9d. as against the 8½d. asked for by the growers, so the growers cannot complain that the price is not satisfactory. The Government has made notable efforts to increase the production of pig meats in Australia. It is interesting to note that compared with other peoples Australians eat very little pig meat; the average eonsumption is 17 lb. a head, which is 9 lb. less than New Zealanders, 25 lb. less than the English, 40 lb. less than Canadians, and 45 lb. less than Americans eat. Pigs mature ever so much more quickly than cattle, an advantage shared by sheep, and therein lies the reason for encouraging their breeding. In order to give that encouragement the Government, in addition to increasing the guaranteed price, has also undertaken to deliver wheat to pig producers at country railway sidings at 3s. 6£d. a bushel. Growers may also obtain wheat stacked in the country at the same price, less the freight to the seaboard.
– I have a letter from the “Wheat Board, which I shall read later, saying that they cannot.
– That was the undertaking given to the Meat Board. I advise the Government not to give the slightest consideration to the suggestion by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that the ban should be lifted on slaughtering pigs weighing less than 100 lb. Men who desire the lifting of the ban have not the interests of their country at heart. If they do not wish to fatten their pigs beyond 100 lb. weight, they should sell them to some other fanner who will do so. The honorable member tried to bolster his argument by drawing an analogy between pigs and poddy calves. The matter of carrying calves has been thoroughly looked into. It is the practice in time of drought to shift poddy calves in stock vans from the coast to other parts where feed exists.
– But why should they be taken inland if it is unnecessary?
– It is logical to assume that if it were not necessary to take them inland, they would not be taken. If feed were available on the coast, they would be fed there. The issue is whether the skimmed milk on which they would have to be fed in their poddy stage would not be better and more profitably used in feeding pigs. Expert advice is in favour of the pigs, because of their quicker maturing qualities.
The action taken by the Government in guaranteeing pig meat prices will soon be followed by ceiling prices for beef, lamb and mutton. There will be guarantees against exploitation of the public. It has come to the notice of the authorities that many wholesale butchers have been fleecing the public by charging exorbitant prices which the retailers have to pass on. There is also evidence of an inclination on the part of some traders in meat to indulge in black marketing. Preventive action has already been taken and will be continued.
The shortage of labour is not confined to Australia. All the countries at’ war.
Allied and enemy alike, are having the some trouble. There is no easy solution of the problem. All we can do is use the labour available to the greatest possible advantage, and this Government has always applied that policy. Owing to the neglect of defence preparations by its predecessors, this Government, when Japan entered the war shortly after it had assumed office, had to create a substantial army with which to hold the Japanese at bay. The Japanese have not only been held at bay, but have been hurled back from the places where they menaced our shores. Now that the threat of invasion does not loom so large, the Government is able to transfer labour from the Army and the munitions industry to the primary industries, and is thus acting as wisely as it did when it raised forces to garrison this country. In an auricle dealing with Britain’s wartime food policy published in the Journal of Farm Economics, there appears the following -
Another important factor of the war-lime policy is that a very large proportion of men engaged in agriculture have been reserved from military service. Nevertheless, a large number of men have left agriculture for the fighting services, and it has been necessary to find more hands to deal’ with the increased food output of farms, and in this connexion the War Agricultural Executive Committee have arranged for .the supply of all sorts of substitute and extra labour. The Women’s Laud Army has played a significant part, while soldiers, school children and Italian prisoners have done certain seasonal work, such as harvesting, and have helped to meet thu demand for extra hands. The shortage of man-power, however, remains one of the biggest obstacles to greater output from farms - even though British agriculture in three years has become the most highly mechanized in the world - so that the need to see that all labour and all raw materials are used as efficiently n.s possible is obviously one of the foremost principles of Britain’s war food effort.
Great Britain’s man-power problem is tremendous, but the same difficulties apply in the United States of America. In 1940, America had about 8,000,000 unemployed, and in May, 1942, it still had 2,600,000 unemployed. Now, it has been compelled, owing to lack of men, to enter into an agreement with Mexico whereby Mexican labourers will be taken into the United States for the duration of the war to work on farms. The first batch of Mexicans to enter the United States under that agreement numbered 50,000. Therefore, the United States of America, with a population of 130,000,000 people, is in a similar plight to that of this country. This Government does not deny that fawners find it difficult to obtain the labour necessary to carry out the production of essential foods, and that is why, now that the clanger of attack on our shores is less imminent, it has decided to allow men to return to the land from the Army. Honorable gentlemen opposite are continually whining about the man-power situation. They find it very easy to complain, but they make no constructive suggestions. I point out, that the man on ;the land must play his full part in the production of food. Honorable members last night made reference to the fact that there were more sheep at Homebush abattoirs than could be killed, but a few weeks ago the slaughterers worked only parttime; the graziers would not send the stock in to be killed, because, as they admitted, there was more money in having them sheared.
– They were not in killing condition.
– Only 40,000 sheep were there compared with the 160,000 there now. The graziers must show more patriotism and less selfishness. The flow of stock to the abattoirs must be regulated. I appeal to the primary producers to assist the Government to the utmost in the production of food, particularly meat, by making the best possible use of the labour available. The Government will give all the assistance within its power, but the producers must carry on within the bounds of possibilities and not look to the realm of impossibilities.
– It was most refreshing to hear the lecture by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), particularly on the subject of pig meat production, because I understand that, in his constituency, there is about one pig to 100 square miles. The honorable member, who appears to be one of the “ mortar-board advisers “ to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), should take a’ trip to the
Richmond electorate, where thousands of farmers are trying to do the job of feeding Australia and breed pigs. I should like to hear him tell a mass meeting of those farmers a few of the things that he lias said so unctuously this evening. I really believed that, coming from a wool area, he knew something about wool; but I am convinced, after listening to his dissertation upon sheep, that he still has not been able to get away from his old trade.
If the Government insists that pigs shall not be slaughtered unless they are 100 lb. or more in weight, the production of pig meats will decline. For many years, pig breeders on the north coast of New South “Wales have bred the porker type, which is a lighter-weight breed, and even a Commonwealth regulation will not convert overnight a porker type into a baconer type of pig. This is a matter of breeding, and will require years in which to work out that class in order to conform to the requirements of the Government. In addition, farmers in the coastal areas have for a long time been breeding a larger number of pigs than they could feed to the heavyweight stage. They have enough milk to bring the pigs to 60 lb., SO lb. or 85 lb. If they are required to carry pigs beyond those weights, the animals must be given more feed. Farmers who have not sufficient milk to enable them to do that’ will be compelled to reduce the numbers which they raise. Wheat or corn is not grown in the northern areas, and transport restrictions will create difficulties in getting feed to remote districts, despite the good intentions and efforts of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Therefore, the retention of the ban will cause a deterioration of the food position in this country. When representations were made to the Minister, lie was wise enough to ‘amend the regulations prohibiting the slaughter of pigs less than 100 lb. in weight, and to permit the slaughter of pigs of 85 lb. weight. The farmers are doing their best to meet the wishes of the Government. I congratulate the Minister on taking a practical view of the position, and I hope that the production of pig meats will not be reduced.
The honorable member for Darling has given to honorable members this evening information which the Minister said yesterday was confidential and which, for security reasons, could not be announced. He stated that he could not disclose to the world the quantities of meat consumed in Australia, exported to the United Kingdom, or required for the armed forces. But the honorable member for Darling, who appears to possess n fund of information, has freely given the details to honorable, members. Personally, I do not see any objection to their disclosure. I merely cite the diffence between the attitude of the responsible Minister, and that of an honorable member occupying a seat on one of the back benches. The position is most unusual.’
Our total meat requirements in Australia are approximately 1,300,000 tons, and the maximum production to date has been about 1,000,000 tons per annum. Thus, between our requirements and our production is a gap of 300,000 tons. How can it be made up? The Australian public eats about 600,000 tons, and’ in order to make up the difference, civilian supplies would have to be rationed by “)0 per cent. Other courses to adopt would be to reduce the supply earmarked for the United Kingdom or the demands of the three services. In order to minimize the effects of rationing, the Government should strive to increase production by every possible means. The problem is most difficult. One is unable to conjure meat out of the air. But there are large numbers of cattle in the areas north of a line drawn from Rockhampton to the coast of “Western Australia, including the Gulf country, the Northern Territory, and the northern part of Western Australia. Because of the lack of facilities, that big reserve of cattle cannot be brought to market, and will ultimately die on the stations. Something must be done. Whilst the Government will be unable completely to bridge the gap of 300,000 tons of meat, it will be able to diminish it substantially by adopting my proposal. The cattle will have to be walked from the Northern Territory, the Gulf country, and the north of Western Australia to railheads. Before that can be done, the stock routes must be put in order, and wells sunk. This is not “ wishful thinking “, because the plans have been studied by the Northern Territory administration . and the Government of Queensland; they have been prepared, and are ready to. be given effect. I do not criticize the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, or the Government, for having failed to act in this emergency, but the position is acute. For the expenditure of £100,000 or £150,000, the Government could obtain an additional 50,000 head of cattle per annum.
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture Has already been in consultation with the Northern Territory Administration, and the Department of Agriculture, Queensland.
– All that is required is the expenditure of that sum, and the necessary man-power. Of the tens of thousands of men now in Army camps throughout Australia, some could be made available to do that work. Perhaps 2,000, or 3,000 men could be selected for the job. The construction of the North-South road across Central Australia was a vital war project, and when it could not be carried out by normal civil processes, it was done as a war undertaking. The repair of the stock routes is also a war job. The provision of food for the Australian public, the United Kingdom, and the armed forces is just as much a war job as is the manufacture of shells. If that suggestion is not acceptable, the Government must find other means of augmenting our meat supplies. The only reserve of cattle is in those areas.
– How shall we overcome the problem of the wet season, which is just commencing?
– That is undoubtedly a difficulty and perhaps the work will have to be delayed until the end of the wet season. I am not qualified to give an opinion on that matter.
We must plan for the production of meat not only for the next few months but for some years to come. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in a broadcast recently, mentioned that the war may last for a number of years, and I agree with his view. We must also plan some years ahead in order to assist to feed the starving millions of the occupied countries.
I how draw attention to a factor that, is retarding the production of food. According to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, 140,000 men have drifted from the rural industries since L939. Despite that loss of man-power the farmers have done a really magnificent job in maintaining production. Their efforts would be assisted greatly if the producers had labour-saving devices and plant. One of the most important requirements in my electorate is the provision of engines for milking machines. When a farmer’s sons enter the armed forces, his first, thought is to install milking plant, so that he may milk the same number of cows as before. Unless he can obtain that plant, he must either sell or reduce bis herds. I have correspondence from the Farm Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association which sells milking plant in New South Wales. Since July, 1942-, it has been negotiating with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and the Controller of Agricultural Machinery in an endeavour to obtain engines to drive milking plants. Some time ago, the Army or some other authority commandeered the engines. After fifteen months of abortive effort, the association appealed to the Prime Minister who, on the 21st September last, sent to the secretary the following telegram : -
A substantial quantity of engines released from lend-lease and will be made available at early date through Agricultural Machinery Controller.
Although the Prime Minister sent that telegram, three weeks ago, the secretary of the association has informed me that he can obtain no information about the engines. We are now in the middle of spring, when, production is increasing, and the farmers desperately require the engines.
– If the honorable member will see me to-morrow, I shall discover the cause of the delay.
– I thank the right honorable gentleman. I am confident that he will be able to overcome the difficulty.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for the Army have criticized me for suggesting that many men in the Army could be better employed in rural industries. I shall read extracts from some letters that I have received which bear on the points I am making. The first is from, a canecutter. A good deal of the cane on the Richmond River will not be harvested this year because sufficient cutters are nor available. This means that sugar will have to be carted from a long distance although it should be available close at hand. That kind of thing will not overcome transport difficulties. In days when we are facing the prospect of train rationing, food supplies should be obtained from centres as near as possible to the point of consumption. I have made representations to the Director-General of Man Power on this subject, but without success. I have recently received the following letter from a man in camp at Warwick: -
I am pleased to sue you going for Army bungling. You just want to have a look around the training camp where I am. There are six training battalions here and I am in one. I know what I am talking about. Not one of the battalions has more than 400 men in it. That is the most. They are fully staffed anil have been this way for months. Three battalions at the outside could train all the men that we have now. There is also one B class battalion with 300 mcn in it who could all be out doing something besides lying down in the camp all day and Al nien doing batman work looking after two officers.
– I should have thought, that a cane-cutter would make a poor batman.
– That is my view, too; nevertheless that letter -has reached me. The next letter that I shall quote came from a man in camp at Middle Head. It reads -
I have been wasting my time at a school at Middle Head, as a flunky for men that carry the rank of lieutenant and upwards. In all there would not be any more than 150 men and women in the school including the staff. Out’ of that there are 24 in the cook house to do the work. In other words, one cook or offsider to every five and a quarter men and women.
I shall refer these cases to the Minister for the Army in order that he may inquire into them.
– Did the honorable member advertise for correspondence on this subject?
– I did not, but I recollect that when the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was a backbencher in the last Parliament, he appeared to receive more correspondence than all the other members of the House put together. I am sure that all Government supporters have received similar letters, and they must know from conversations they have had with men in camps in different parts of Australia that very many men in the Army are eating their hearts out because they cannot do what they regard as a useful war job. I do not suggest that Army officers do not do their work, but the Government should be in control of the affairs of this country and it must accept the responsibility for what goes on. If the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) accepts all the recommendations of his officers - and I suppose General Sir Thomas Blarney would be one who would make recommendations to him - the control of the country is, to that degree, being handed over to the Army. Regard should be paid to the needs of the whole community, and the Government should hold the balance fairly as between all sections of the people. Some remarks that Dr. Coombs, Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, made recently in New York, are interesting, not because he made them, but because they bear on our man-power position. He said -
We have more than 700,000 men and women enlisted in our armed forces. That figure, to an American audience, perhaps sounds very small. It may put it in better proportions if I tell you that that is the equivalent, on a population basis, of armed forces for this country of 14,000,000.
How many men have we actually fighting in New Guinea? I do not expect an answer to that question, but I am sure that the mere asking of it will make people realize that only a small proportion of our enlisted personnel is in the fighting line.
– Does not the honorable member realize that by asking the question and saying he does not seek an answer he may create a wrong impression in the public mind?
– The Prime Minister may answer the question if he so desires, but I do not consider that such information should be disclosed. It is general knowledge that Australia has three Australian Imperial Force Divisions. If each division consists pf about 20,000 men, we have about 60,000 men in the Australian Imperial Force. Where are the remainder of our enlisted personnel? What are they doing? Are they in training, or have they completed their training?
– They may be undergoing re-training.
M;r. ANTHON Y.- That is quite true. Many men have been in camp for at least , two years. I believe that the great majority of our men are already well trained. If they were released for work in primary production no great harm could come to the country. The Minister for the Army appears to consider that when honorable members of the Opposition asks questions on this subject they are actuated by only a desire to assist the farmers. Our real desire is to stimulate food production.
– I would not blame any honorable member for trying to assist the farmers. I too am trying to assist the farmers. But the security of this country must be the paramount consideration of the Government.
– I agree with the Minister, but it is the duty of the Government to keep a check on the Army.
– A continual check is being made.
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that a committee of members of the Parliament should be appointed to ascertain the facts in relation to man-power in the Army. A committee of the Parliament has been engaged in useful investigations of war expenditure in order to prevent extravagance and waste. I consider that a similar committee could do good service by visiting camps throughout the country to ascertain that everything in the camps is as it should be, and this could be done without trying to tell the Army what it should do. I say definitely that vested inf.ere.sis develop in the Army. A general or a colonel knows that it is in his interests to have many officers about him. Whether all are usefully employed is beside the point. If a senior officer’s staff falls below a certain point he loses prestige and he may think that he is likely to bc removed or reduced in rank. Such statements have been made to me on many occasions. I have been told, also, that some doctors in the Army work for only one hour a day. We all know that doctors in civil practice do not know which way to turn to meet the calls made upon them. Some Army dentists also do very little work, yet civilians who need dental treatment often have to make appointments two or three months ahead. I am not in a position to prove the truth of the statements that have been made to me, but I can say that they have been made by reliable persons. I believe that something in the nature of a Gallup poll would indicate that the statements are substantially true. It is the duty of the Government to look into such matters. It should not accept, holus-bolus, whatever Army officials may submit to it, because it has a responsibility to all sections of the community. A committee of inquiry need not interfere with the routine work of the Army in any way, but it could find out whether men could be released from the services for work in primary industries without reducing service efficiency. It could ascertain how many men are lolling about in camps and not doing a tap of work. Some men have told me that they have not done a tap of work for months. If that is true we should correct the position.
I received the following letter to-day from a man who is anxious to be drafted out of the Army for work on the food front: -
My application for a discharge from the Army has not been accepted. This means another north-coast dairy-farm will cease. If Mr. Forde calls this a war effort I will give up. In this camp alone dozens of mcn as well as myself are practically doing nothing as a war effort. My father’s death was caused from shortage of help on the. farm. To save my brother the same fate the farm will have to be closed until after the war.
That letter is typical of many that have reached me.
.- The Estimates before the committee are those of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. They have had tacked on to their consideration a debate on the general subject of man-power, in the course of which accusations have been made concerning the strength, the general organization, and the practice of the Army.’ These, it would appear to me, have been added merely in order to make a number of generalizations, the purport of which is that the food requirements of Australia are being neglected because the man-power needed to ensure food production is being misused in the Army, which is at greater strength than the exigencies of war require. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), quoting Dr. Coombs, has said that the number of men and women enlisted in the various services of Australia is 700,000. There is a vast difference between enlistment and the effective force. As the honorable gentleman must know, all the discharges have to be taken into account, and there are losses due to incapacitation. Further, there is the fundamental distinction between Australia and the United States of America - if I may offer the comparison - that Australia is a vast country, with a coastline of 12,000 miles, and surrounded by islands which for too long have been seats of strength to the enemy. The enemy has had for too long, and has just lost, superiority in the air at his perimeter. He has had entire command of too much of the seaways between his primary base and this country. Therefore, as he precipitated the war at a time when a large proportion, of the fighting manhood of this country was absent from Australia and could not come back immediately, the mobilization of our manhood for the purpose of resisting his invasion projects was a matter of life or death. I have not any doubt that nothing is simpler than to read history backwards. Those who to-day study the problem backwards are able to give much more precise answers as to what would be the right balance between service and civilian requirements, than were the Government and the advisers of the day who faced the uncertain insecurities of the situa-tion.
– We may not differ seriously on that point.
– I believe that we do. The honorable gentleman says, in effect, that the Army, as it is now, consists of too many persons, many of whom, unfortunately, on the testimony that, he puts forward, are wasting their time. I have only this to say: Redistribution of the forces must be made in the light of not only global strategy but also the strategical dispositions of the commanders in this theatre; and for the execution of those strategical dispositions the commanders must have what they regard as at least the minimum force requisite to make the defence stronger than the maximum force which the enemy could dispose at the actual place of encounter. I should regard that as a sound policy. Any examination of the use of armed forces by a parliamentary committee, which excluded what I should regard as a very foolish examination of the plans of the commanders, would be partial and inadequate; and if it included those plans, I venture to say it would constitute a trespass upon a sphere of direction which no member of this Parliament is qualified to make.
The next point that I make is this: l t is the way in which the war develops which enables the Government to reassess the uses to which the manhood .of the country shall be put. That reassessment is being made constantly. It has to take into account many considerations; not only the food requirements in this theatre, but also the food commitments that we have made with our Allies ; not only the strength of the armed forces in this theatre, but also the extent of the commitment that this country has made in respect of the engagement in distant theatres of armed forces from this country. I do not intend to go into detail as to the number of Australian airmen who are fighting thousands of miles from this theatre. As honorable members have had the narrative this afternoon, I merely say that, although they are fighting 12,000 miles away geographically, they are none the less fighting for this country. The same applies to those contributions that wo make to the personnel of the Royal Navy as distinct from the Royal Australian Navy. It is also important that we should maintain a potential source of recruitment to the Empire Air Training Scheme, for reasons that I do not propose to advance in this debate, because I believe that this Parliament and country are cognizant of the fact that the Dominions and the Uni ted Kingdom together can have in the air a strength far greater than they could have were they operating as separate and distinct entities. We have to make provision on that account. No criticism that. 1 have ever heard has suggested that men should be withdrawn from the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy; the contention always is that the Army is at too great a strength. Basically, the Army is used for two purposes; one is to engage the enemy where his land forces are met, and to take possession of places that he occupies, and the other is to garrison all the places that, are regarded as important in order to maintain services, that are ancillary to the efficiency of the troops that are actually engaged in fighting operations. The honorable gentleman, I venture to say, knows that this war is different from any other war that has taken place in history.
– Every war is different from all others.
– Every war is different from its predecessors. This is a war in which the whole of the population is involved. But it is also a war in which the organization of the Army, as such, calls for the use of a larger proportion of men in base lines of communication, in the supply organization, and in all the specialist services, than has marked any previous struggle that man has ever fought; that is to say, in order to keep a division or any number of divisions at strength for fighting purposes, the very complicated and complex back area organization requires a larger personnel than was needed in any war fought in earlier times. I am not responsible for this state of affaii-3, but I have the responsibility of making provision for it. As the Avar develops, we cannot do other than arrive at a balanced estimate of the extent to which the manhood of the country shall be disposed in the economic services of the nation, which include the food, munitions and other requirements of the fighting forces. We have also to assure all that is requisite to maintain the civil population, its transport as well as its production. There has also to be taken into account the economic contribution which, at least in physical needs, this country must make to its Allies. Obviously, there is a limit to what any country can do. The stage has been reached, most certainly on the Allied side, at which, in order to do more in any contemplated direction, much less would have to be clone in one or other of the many directions in which hitherto our manhood has been used.
– Or the need in some other direction may have been overtaken.
– Of course ; that calls for redirection of capacity that is no longer required. It applies to plant, factories and workshops, as well as to labour personnel. The general problem has to be taken as one of relationships between all the various requirements of the nation. I have not ignored the development in the food situation. It is true that a year ago, in this chamber, warnings were sounded. I knew that that trend would grow. But I then said, and I take full responsibility for it, that if I had to take the risk of being then short, of fighting men or of being short of food a year hence, I should choose the latter. That was the only conceivable answer at a time when the Japanese were coming towards us. A re-assessment of the situation becomes practicable when, happily, we are able to say with some confidence that we believe we are now driving the Japanese back from us.
– That is the point I am making - that a re-assessment is due.
– It has been proceeding. May I say to the honorable gentleman that the communique which I read to the House this afternoon is an indication of the plans upon which the commanders have had to work for some considerable time. Although the communique was issued to-day in relation to what took place at Rabaul yesterday, the plans were not made yesterday, and the mounting that had to go into the operation involved a good deal of preparatory work. It might well be that some men who considered they were idling their time in camps were just being kept ready for use in one or other of the contemplated series of movements which go to make a combined operation in a general plan of war.
– Certainly not in Bclass training.
– It is easy for me, as an old scoffer, to say that a cane-grower would make a poor batman. I cannot say that officers shall not be provided with batmen. The efficiency of the officer is dependent upon certain services being rendered to and for him, so that he may be free to do other work. We have messengers in this Parliament, on the same general principle that the more valuable a man is, the less time should he spend on work that can be done for him by others whose qualifications are not so good or whose duties are not so exacting. Someone has to be the batman and someone else the cook. There will be occasions when there are more cooks than are required in a camp. Why does that happen? Maybe 100, 200 or 500 have been taken out of a camp in order to be moved to some other place as reinforcements. Other men may be going to move into that camp, and there may not be complete synchronization, because it is not practicable to have it, particularly in” a country like Australia, in which transport facilities were not envisaged, by those who were responsible for them, on the basis of providing a system that would be efficient for purposes of war. I know that there are square pegs in round holes and that there are men in the services who would now be better employed on farms. That, however, is true of soldiers who might be better employed in the production of coal, whilst others might be better employed in providing relief to locomotive engine drivers, for example, who are becoming fatigued.
The problems of primary production are much the same here as in every country. They cannot be solved except by detailed application and, in order to meet the position, the Government has set up what is known as the War Commitments Committee, consisting of the heads of all services and departments making demands for man-power. A target is fixed in regard to national requirements, and an assessment of man-power is made. It is then discovered that we are short of a number of men for this or that part of our general programme. Then those from whom alone supplies of man-power can be drawn are asked how many men they can yield without impairing efficiency. We find that we can re-direct a certain activity. We make changes in the munitions programme, ‘because the Empire munitions pool has a surplus in certain categories. Men arc put off from the factories, and ‘there is temporary unemployment. All that is part of the writing-off which is inseparable from the conduct of war. It has to be faced. The labour that is released is directed either to new enterprises, or is used to strengthen the labour force of certain departments of production, or certain industries in which there is a shortage. Incontestably, as the Minister for Commerce has all along emphasized, man-power must be directed back to the farms. Quite recently, there has been a reassessment of man-power so that we may know the limits available for each part of the total programme. A balance must be maintained. When we export commodities, we are, in effect, exporting man-power. When we import commodities, we are importing man-power from the exporting country. We do import certain commodities; therefore, we must, if we can, make a contribution in return. For that reason, we ration certain commodities even though we could produce more of them by making available more labour, but that is undesirable, because it could be done only by leaving ourselves/short of something else that is necessary. The honorable member spoke of total war. In order to wage total war, we must have a great variety of services.
– Therefore, the needs of the Army are not the only ones to be considered.
– We have to consider what are the demands likely to be made upon the Army. In the early part of last year, the garrisons in Australia seemed likely to have cast upon them a very great burden. Thanks to Providence, and to the deeds of gallant men ably led, that danger has been averted, but now we have longer lines of communication, and we need more ships. We have to dispose our men at greater distances, where they are more exposed to sickness than they were previously. The rate of casualties will probably rise, and more provision will have to be made for hospitals, which must be close to the scene of operations. This, in turn, means that they must be further away from the centres of population where they could be most economically constructed.
– The demand for food will increase.
– Yes, because of the undertaking to our Allies that we would do everything possible to service them. Every contribution to their strength here - which is also a contribution to ours - makes a further demand upon our capacity to produce food.
– Their assistance to us must be limited by available supplies.
– What we can accomplish in war is necessarily limited in all particulars by the fighting capacity of the enemy and by the extent of our resources. If there was in any sphere of national activity an abundance of man-power, would that not he incontestible proof that the Government had been negligent in not having put the surplus to better use long ago ? I say to the honorable member with respect - because he has made a constructive speech - that Australia’s interests must he considered a3 a whole. Food production is of vital importance to the conduct of the war, but so also is the production of minerals. We need more copper just as we need more food. Above and beyond all else, do not let us entertain the illusion that we can win this war without fighting man -power. We can have a strong Air Force and a strong Navy, but the Army will have to move into the places the enemy now occupies, before we can say that the enemy has been driven out, and until he has been driven from his outposts he cannot be defeated, nor can Australia be considered to be safe.
.- The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) -was very interesting, but I shall not attempt to traverse it in open Parliament. I content myself with saying that if he were to move among members of the armed forces as I have been doing, he would probably receive many letters of the kind referred to by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). Such letters are being written with increasing frequency, and the Prime Minister’s own statement that Australia is now free from the danger of invasion has done more than anything else to produce them. Until then they were rare. Now, hardly a day passes when I do not receive two or three, some-1 times from men known personally to me. Many of them would be quite happy to stay in the Army if they knew that they were doing a useful job there, but because of the statement of the Prime Minister they now believe that they could be more usefully employed elsewhere.
I listened carefully to what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clarke) said on the subject of pork. Had I not had some experience of the matter myself I might almost have thought that the honorable member knew something about it. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) may appoint committees and experts to advise him, but they can only tell him what any pig breeder has known all along, namely, that the amount of pork which can be produced is determined by the amount of milk available to be fed to the pigs. We cannot escape the fact that the number of dairy cattle in milk has declined considerably during the last two years. Many cows have gone to the butcher, and a beginning cannot be made to rebuild the herds foi- another three or four years. There are four classes of pigs - weaners, porkers, baconers and choppers - but without supplies of milk and grain they cannot be turned into bacon.
The honorable member for Darling said that the Government had taken steps to provide cheap wheat, for the production of pork. I have here a letter from the Wheat Board, written on official paper and signed by the secretary, which says that the board does not take any ii.oti.ee of the statement in the press about making cheap wheat available to pig raisers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture gave me the statement under his own signature to hand to the newspapers in South Australia.
– Will the honorable member hand to me that letter from the Wheat Board?
– Yes, and also the letter written by the person who sent it to me. It is very interesting, but [ do not propose to quote it here. If the Government proposes to make available cheap wheat for the production of pork, then, for heaven’s sake, let the poor devils in the drought-stricken districts of South Australia get back at 2s. a bushel wheat which they put into the pool last year.
During the election campaign, I received many complaints in regard to the Government’s campaign for the production of vegetables. Certain men in my district, out of the goodness of their hearts, and also, no doubt, in the hope of contributing by way of income tax to the revenue of the country, acceded to the Government’s request to grow vegetable.?. Some men. who had signed contracts, and had fallowed as much as 200 acres, were told after the land was prepared, that the Government did not propose to go on with the matter. If a private person signs a contract, and then fails to honour it, he is legally liable for damages.
– Were the contracts signed ?
– I understand, so. The original arrangement was that these men should grow peas, but after a lot of negotiation they were asked to switch over to something else. I have said more than once that, in the conduct of war, waste is unavoidable, lt is impossible to provide for all contingencies, but in this particular matter the honour and integrity of the Commonwealth Government was involved. If a government department encourages people to go in for ventures of this sort, then the Government ought to sec the matter through, or should compensate people for any loss suffered.
I also read some complaints during the election campaign regarding the production of vegetable seed. I came across one man who was a big producer of turnip seed. When I saw him he had over 1,000 lb. of turnip seed on the farm, but, under the regulations, he was not allowed to sell it to a seed merchant. He had been in communication with the department by telegraph and telephone, but all he could get out of the officials was that the seed had to stay on the farm. Eventually, it. was discovered that the hold-up was due to the fact that he had failed to fill in some kind of form. A little while after I had been to the place of the seed grower, I met another man who had made a contract with the Government to grow vegetables, but he was held up because he could nor, get turnip seed. This is bureaucracy run to seed with a vengeance! I recognize that it is sometimes necessary in war-time to interfere with the conduct of trade, but as a general rule it is best and cheapest to allow commerce to .be earned on in the ordinary way. A man who has been disposing of hb seed for years to a merchant should, if possible, be allowed to continue to do so. Many farmers are unable to attend regularly to their correspondence. They do not attach to some blessed form out of the Minister’s depart* ment that importance which some of his officials in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide and Hobart or elsewhere attach to it. Not only is injustice done but also the very best interests of this country are not being served. I just sow those thoughts in the mind of the Minister hoping that in good time they will germinate and bear fruit.
– I do not intend to reply at length to the remarks of honorable members, but all the points raised in this debate will he thoroughly investigated by my department. I impress upon honorable members that my intention is not to embarrass but to encourage primary producers. We must have production, but in order to obtain it we must equally have the cooperation of the producers; otherwise results would be negative.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) requested a copy of the reports tabled by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and the verbatim re/ports of the Food Conference at Hot Springs. The reports made by the Minister for External Affairs cannot be printed until the House decides that they shall bo printed, but a complete set of the documents will be sent to the right honorable member. The Food Conference did not issue any verbatim reports. As to the statement of the right honorable member that it was alleged that the Australian delegation expressed a view different from that expressed by the Canadian and British delegations, I would say that all delegations differed on minor points of detail, but as to principle and conclusions the conference was unanimous.
I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the areas served by individual War Agricultural Committees are too large. That matter will be discussed at the next conference of officers of the State Departments of Agriculture. The War Agricultural Committees are rendering a wonderful service and I intend that they shall receive all possible encouragement. I hope to be able to devise means to make their work more direct and therefore more effective. Honorable members’ references to the man-power position have been answered to the satisfaction of all by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). ‘
The most extraordinary statement in the debate emanated from the. Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who took the Government to task over the home gardening campaign. If there is one thing on which the Government deserves commendation, surely it is that. I realize that it may result in overproduction of some vegetables, with the result that commercial growers will not be able to dispose of their surplus products at a profit; but the needs of the allied nations are so imperative that it is surprising that any one should attempt to disparage efforts to encourage people to grow their own vegetables so that the output of market gardens might be diverted to the Allied forces or exported as fresh vegetables or canned or dried vegetables. Surprising as it is that the home garden campaign should be criticized, it is amazing that the criticism should come from the Leader of the Australian Country party.
I should like the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) to supply to me all the details in his possession about the man in Queensland who has grown rice and is forbidden to market it. I shall then order a thorough investigation of the matter. I shall send a responsible officer to the district to make those investigations. If any one at his own expense and on his own initiative is willing to produce a product so valuable and in such short supply as rice, I shall do all I can to encourage him. I guarantee to take all he can grow at the same price as is paid to the Rice Board, which is charged with the responsibility of growing rice in New South “Wales.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) mentioned the weights of pigs. I do realize the great difficulties that dairy-farmers have in carrying their pigs to the desired weight. The ban on the killing of pigs below a certain weight was imposed at the request of the Meat Commission, in order to get increased production of baconers and hamers, which are so needed by the fighting services and for export. Those efforts have been rewarded with great success in most parts of the Commonwealth, but I concede the difficulties that dairy-farmers in the areas mentioned by the honorable member have in complying with the ban.
– Will the Minister say that he will not interfere with the present position without prior full consultation with the growers’ organization?
– Yes. I shall issue instructions to the Meat Commission that there must be no departure from the present practice until a change has been determined at a conference with the producers’ organizations.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Social Services, £395,000 - agreed to.
Department op Supply and Shipping.
Proposed vote [additional to amount voted under “ Defence and War (1939-43) Services”], £256,000.
– In- the early stages of this debate, I listened to an interesting speech by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) about coal, and since then we have heard the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). We have to recognize in this state of total war that the overriding consideration industrially’ is coal. There can be no supplies, no transport, of supplies, no movement of a great part of our shipping, no turning of the wheels of industry, unless we have coal. It has been said here to-day that the twentieth appeal is about to be made by the Government to the miners of New South Wales - and I mention New South Wales particularly, because to the miners of that State alone the appeal has to be addressed - to get down to the mining of coal. The Prime Minister has declared that certain elements, which he has named, by their professions, trades, callings, or proclivities are responsible for the trouble. I do not accept that statement. The difficulties existed in the industry before any dog fanciers, starting-price bookmakers, barmen, touts and the like were called up for work in it. These things are nothing new in New South Wales. The only thing new in the coal-mining industry of that State is that during the period of greatest crisis, involving the security of the Commonwealth, the miners, “on the Prime Minister’s own showing, have lowered the coal production of New South Wales by over 2,000,000 tons in less than nine months. That has happened since this Government came into office. I refer to these things to-night because this Government is not new; it has already had two years in which to try itself out, and has failed miserably, repeatedly, and consistently to deal with the coal position of New South Wales. It has failed to get its own alleged supporters to carry out its own expressed requests. One of those requests was made not long ago by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) but I am afraid that it had no more effect on the production of coal by the miners of New South Wales than the appeal made by my friend, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he talked to them during the strike of 1940.
Some very extraordinary arguments have been used in regard to the coal position. I have heard it stated in this chamber that the overwhelming majority of these men are perfectly loyal and patriotic. If that is the case, then these perfectly loyal and patriotic nien must bc submitting to the mischievous and treacherous dictation of a very small and evil minority amongst them. That is not the conduct of men who are true and loyal to their country in time of war. If the statement is true, it indicates that there exists on the coal-fields of New South Wales that fascist, Nazi, communist method which we are fighting in this war, under which the majority is suborned, threatened and dictated to by
– What is the suggestion about the meeting this morning?
– I am not inexperienced in the ways of politics and of men. I have heard three statements in this place to-day, so we may leave it at that.
– The honorable member is off the target.
– That would not be the first time, but by getting off the target it is often possible to induce somebody else to open up. As the result of what the Prime Minister said here to-day he has to make certain decisions which are going to be very important. Somebody is going to be hurt by them, and that somebody is not going to be the coal-miners of New South Wales, but the generality of the people of- Australia, the travelling public, the users of electric power, gas, coke and many other things.
This Parliament should not adjourn until those decisions have been put into force. There should be no adjournment for any length of time. We should be meeting here, if not next week, then very shortly afterwards, to see how this matter is working out. I say frankly that I am one of those who do not accept at their face value .the statements made by the Prime Minister this afternoon. I shall not believe them until they have been proved correct, because nineteen times in succession the Prime Minister has been proved wrong. I do not believe that what he has said this afternoon is the law so far as the miners of New South Wales are concerned. My advice is to wait and see. No man in this chamber’ would be happier than I if we were able to come back here before Christmas and learn that for once in my life I was wrong.
There is no more important question before the House to-day than that of coal - what the Government has promised, and what it is going to do to achieve success. It is of no use to make a regulation. There must be something different. Recently I heard the honorable member for Hunter speak about the accident rate on the coal-fields. I said all through my election campaign that if any infantry battalion, consisting of men who knew nothing about the industry, were put on to the coal-fields of New South Wales to mine coal, the casualty list would not be anything like as heavy as at Buna, Gona, El Alamein or other places which I could mention, and at the same time they would get more coal. What happened at the docks recently, when men from infantry battalions and artillery regiments had to do the work while the “wharfies” sat down and watched them? That was a most disgraceful state of affairs. To conduct war in a democracy, certain preliminaries are necessary, just as they are in a dictatorship. There must be authority, and respect for it, and there must be order and discipline. The Government has not got these conditions on the coal-fields or the wharfs, or in the abattoirs, or in other places in Australia to-day. That applies with particular force in the State of New South Wales. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made some remarks the other day to which I listened with interest, and about which I propose to speak later on the Appropriation Bill. He used almost the same words in regard to the future, if certain things do not happen, as I used last year. I warn the Government that the coal-mining industry cannot be carried on in the way it has been carried on for the last couple of years in New South Wales without ultimately causing some form of civil strife. I am a responsible being, and I know the meaning of what I am saying. Honorable members now sitting on the front bench, including the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) understand it. The honorable member comes from the coal-mining areas, and knows the influences that are at work there, and what they would do to the Government of which he is a member if they got half a chance. If they get only, half a chance they will make the other half. I say, therefore, that we are faced with a state of affairs in which the Government of the Commonwealth may have to take extraordinary and unprecedented measures. On this occasion they will not have a precedent set by me to follow, as they have had on other occasions. Since the elections the Prime Minister has had to do what he was quite willing to condemn in me in 1940, although’ he would not do it publicly, and that was to employ naval ratings to do what the sea-‘ men would not do - shift the ships. When I was Minister I shifted a ship round from Fremantle by that means, although Senator Donald Cameron, who is now a Minister, came with another trade union secretary to my office in Melbourne, and protested against unionists being put to work on a ship alongside naval ratings. I* have also lived to see the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), having to close certain wireless stations, as I had to do in 193S. I set a few precedents in this country, and I have .had the satisfaction of knowing that Ministers in the present Government have been only too happy, when the issue has come before them, to follow in my footsteps. On this occasion the issue is the gravest that they have ever had to face, and one on which they dare not fail. I know the history of democracy for long years before this Commonwealth was founded, just as honorable members on the other side know it. Failure on this issue will do more than split the country. It will split something else, and every honorable member opposite knows what it is.
.- To-morrow, the Parliament will adjourn, probably until next February, leaving unsettled one of the gravest issues which the Government has encountered. Even at this late hour, the Opposition desires to make a few comments on the allimportant subject of coal. The fate of the Government is’ wrapped up in. this problem, and the welfare of the country is deeply involved. This afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a dramatic announcement to the House. If it could be accepted at its face value, the Opposition would be prepared to depart from Canberra with an easy mind. But having regard to previous announcements by the right honorable gentleman during the last eighteen months, I accept his assurances with some misgivings. On the 12th May, 1942, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following para.graph : -
MOVE AGAINST STRIKERS.
Coal Regulations Apply
The Coal Commission yesterday applied the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations to the 147 miners at the Millfield Colliery on the northern fields, who have been on strike since Wednesday last. This means that the men are no longer exempt from Army service, and can be called up for service in the Citizen Military Forces or in the Army Labour Corps. lt was stated last night that, even if the mcn decide to resume work, they will still he called up.
Despite that announcement that the men would be called up, because of their flagrant disregard of the law and their failure to perform their duty to the country, no action, was taken against the strikers. Three days after the publication of that news item, the following announcement appeared : -
MR. CURTIN ACTS.
Moves Against Strikers.
Orders under the regulations have been served on the. Millfield strikers, but because of . their decision to return to work, they will not apply unless a now stoppage occurs, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), announced in Canberra yesterday.
Hie Millfield mcn had actually received notices to report to Cessnock Drill Hall on Monday, when Mr. Curtin announced that their call-up would be deferred.
That was the time when the Government should have taken firm action against the strikers, because the country then had some reserves of coal. For example, Sydney had sufficient supplies for ten to fourteen weeks, and the Government would have been able to withstand a challenge by the strikers. Unfortunately, it backed down. The bold statement which the Prime Minister made on the 12th May proved to be valueless. The result was that the miners, and those who foment these industrial disputes, conceived the idea that the Government was afraid of them, because ever since that time production has been continually interrupted. The position of tho country is now appalling. If the Government fails to act firmly on this occasion, law and order will be held in contempt, and the success of our war effort will be seriously pre”’ judiced.
When the Prime Minister declared that action will be taken against those who provoke industrial unrest, he studiously avoided any reference to specific proposals. If. the miners continue to defy the Government, will they be drafted into the Army or the Civil Constructional Corps? On that question, the Prime Minister was silent. He merely stated -
In the main, the irresponsibles comprise youths of military age and men engaged in dual occupations …. These people will bc eliminated from the industry.
The Opposition would like to know what the Prime Minister proposes to do if the crisis does not pass. Honorable members should not disperse without an assurance that the Parliament will be summoned if the situation deteriorates. The Government may count on the support of the Opposition on the side of law and order. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie .’Cameron) forecast, the Government may be compelled to work the mines with troops. It cannot afford to allow the ‘irresponsible malcontent miners to hold up the production of war materials and dislocate the transport system. Next week, rail services throughout the Commonwealth will be reduced by one-quarter. In other words, one train in every four will be withdrawn. Every housewife who depends upon electricity for light and power will be seriously inconvenienced in the performance of her domestic duties. The situation will be appalling. If, in an emergency, the Government puts troops in the mines, its action will have the support of tho Opposition.
– I was amazed at the easy manner in which honorable members this afternoon dealt wil th what will probably prove to be the gravest internal issue in Australia during the war. The Parliament should remain in session until the crisis in the coal-mining industry passes. As the result of strikes on the coal-fields, essential services throughout the whole of the Commonwealth will be rationed next week. Transport will be reduced - indeed, almost dislocated - and power will be severely rationed at a time when all the Government’s energies are being devoted to increasing production. The shortage of coal will have a serious effect upon the manufacture of war materials. I say emphatically that at a time such as this, Parliament should remain in session to ensure that a lead will be given to the people. This country already is in a difficult position in regard to war transport. Our shipping is quite incapable of handling the traffic, even although many of the vessels burn oil fuel. The submarine menace has caused a reduction of the number of ships available, and in addition, many vessels have had to be diverted from their ordinary work to essential war tasks such as mine sweeping. “We are confronted with the enormous job of maintaining food supplies to our own people, to our armed forces and those of our Allies, and to the civilian populations in Allied countries; we have to transport the raw materials of war to our factories, and finished products to the battle front. How can we possibly fulfil these obligations if coal supplies are further reduced? The position is so serious that there should be established a ministry of war transport with executive powers to co-ordinate transport activities throughout the Commonwealth, as has been done in Britain. Even although the present crisis may last for only a few weeks, it will take a much longer period to recover our former position. For that reason it is imperative that the control of railways and shipping shall be centralized. I fail to see how we shall be able to maintain the economic fabric which we have built up during the last four months, unless that be done. We have brought into operation an elaborate system of price control and rationing in respect of certain commodities to ensure their equitable distribution at a fair price, but without full control of our transport services it will be difficult to maintain that system. Therefore I urge the Government to give immediate consideration to this very important question. Transport cannot be rationed merely by saying arbitrarily that there will be a reduction of 25 per cent, in New South Wales, 20 per cent, in Victoria, and so on. There must be discrimination in all industries. Whereas in one area it may be possible to make a cut in respect of a particular industry, no. such reduction may be possible in other localities. In these circumstances, a satisfactory job cannot be done with control of rail transport vested in six State organizations in addition to the Commonwealth. It is a job for one central organization. There are many sound reasons why the Commonwealth Government should control our entire rail system in war-time, but whatever action we may take in that regard, it is indisputable that a crisis such as this cannot he met satisfactorily unless control of all forms of transport, air, land and sea, is in the hands of the Commonwealth, lt should be the function of one central authority to determine priorities for the carriage of goods and passengers, both interstate and intra-state. That could best be done by the creation of a ministry of war transport as I have suggested. The payment of compensation to the States for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the railway systems is a matter for determination by a judicial tribunal. However, the effect of such a step upon State finances, important though it may be, is not nearly so vital as ensuring that the people of this country, members of Australian and Allied forces in Australia and adjacent territories, and the people of the Allied nations generally receive adequate food supplies.
– We have already taken preliminary steps along the lines suggested by the right honorable member, in that the 25 per cent, cuts will be subject to review by Commonwealth authorities.
– That is putting the cart before the horse. The initiative in this matter should be taken by the Commonwealth. Certainly a review such as that suggested by the Minister will be better than nothing, but the problem should be tackled boldly in the manner I have suggested. The Government is making strenuous endeavours to keep the prices of certain commodities down by the payment of subsidies, but with the control of the. railways in the hands of the States, we still have the system of differential rates, which operated at the outbreak of war. I agree that the position has been met so far as rates on military goods are concerned early in the war, but if, within the next few months a stringent rationing of transport is to be enforced, something must be done to make certain that the consuming public, storekeepers, &c, in all parts of the Commonwealth shall receive equal consideration. That can be done only if the Commonwealth itself handles the whole job.
– I should like to make a few observations in regard to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to-day on the coal position in Australia. I ask the Minister for ‘Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and his colleagues to cast their minds back to September, 1938, and to recall the remarks made then and persistently ever since by the members of the Ministerial party, in regard to the appeasement policy of the Chamberlain Government. This Government is adopting exactly the same policy of appeasement now in relation to the mining industry, as was adopted by the Chamberlain Government towards Germany, and that policy will lead Australia into exactly the same chaos and anarchy as it led the world. Prom the time this Government came into office, conditions on the coal-fields deteriorated steadily until a few weeks prior to the general elections, when the Minister for Supply and Shipping was reported in the press to have said to the trade union conference in Melbourne, “ Boys, give us a go. Do not have any more strikes before the elections or we may lose them “. And the boys’ gave them a pretty good go during the election period, but the moment the elections were over, unrest on the coal-fields again became evident, particularly in New South
Wales, and grew steadily until it reached an extreme pitch that had not been experienced in this country during the entire war period. It is evident that there are undesirable elements at work on the coal-fields, but I do not agree that these elements are confined to startingprice bookmakers, taxi drivers, billiard saloon proprietors, dog trainers and the like, who have insinuated themselves into the industry. Undoubtedly there were other people who, at a time when there seemed to be a possibility of building up some reserves of coal to meet future war emergencies, caused disputes and stoppages. There cannot be two Commonwealth governments controlling this country. An old Roman maxim is that there cannot be an empire within an empire, but to-day the Labour Administration, through its weakness and vacillation, is permitting the creation of another Commonwealth government. This battle has to be fought out, and if the Government ignores its responsibility and continues to permit this other organization, which seeks to rule this country, violently and flagrantly to break the laws of this land, then, despite the Government’s tremendous majority, it will fall, or democracy will be destroyed and anarchy set up in its place. Industrial strife cannot be condoned. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that, in view of this crisis, Parliament should not be permitted to adjourn to-morrow. Parliament is the last bulwark and the principal protector of the rights of the people. It is the microcosm of the whole nation, and if it goes into a long recess, Australia will again be ruled by a steady stream of National Security Regulations, which will be regarded by the people as unfavorably as they have been ever since the promulgation of the famous Regulation 77. As the honorable member for Richmond pointed out, the miners at the Milfield-Greta colliery were to be called up, but what happened? The would be strong men yielded, and no call-up was made. I have no wish to see the coalminers penalized unjustly, but I repeat that there cannot be two Commonwealth governments ruling this country. The Government must realize that unless the miners be disciplined, they will destroy the Government of Australia, and, perhaps, Australia itself.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) 1 11.44]. - I spoke on the subject of the coal position earlier to-day when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made his statement, but obviously I had not then had sufficient time to study the matter thoroughly. I said earlier that this was not the time for recriminations or postmortems; but the cold fact cannot be burked that the appalling position in relation to the production of that indispensable commodity, coal, is due entirely to bungling by the Government just as it bungled other rationing matters. The Government has repeatedly postponed action until such time as it has bad to face stark realities. In this instance, it has adopted every possible form of appeasement without success, and now finds itself compelled to face the inevitable. ‘Owing to inactivity, and the appeasement policy of the Government in its negotiations with the coal-miners, the production has so declined since 1942 that it has been overtaken by the consumption, with the result that our war effort, which is the foundation of our security, is in jeopardy. Therefore, the Government is faced with the inescapable necessity of rationing. Every honorable member who listened to the speeches that have been made in connexion with this matter must have noted the constructiveness of the suggestions that have been advanced. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that coal rationing cannot be effective unless it is done scientifically, having regard to our transport facilities. As the Leader of the Australian Country party, I want to know what plans the Government has for equitable rationing to the country users of the railways, electricity and other services. There will have to be some form of subsidy. The Government must consider the assumption of control of transport as well as the regulation of shipping services. I make that suggestion to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), who takes an active and conscientious interest in his department.
J regard him as one of the most competent members of the ministry, and hope that, he will be seised of the necessity for avoiding, as far as possible, dislocation and inconvenience in connexion with food supplies and the use of country transport facilities. The Government should bc prepared to call Parliament together should it discover that its position has weakened, and I ask it to promise that before the termination of this sessional period. The party that I have the honour to lead will give whole-hearted co-operation in connexion with any measures that may be deemed necessary. It is easy to be critical of the coal-mining industry, which is the bugbear of governments in every country. The Government has procrastinated for too long. It has used soft glove methods. In the discharge of national as well as international obligations, it must now take off the gloves and deal firmly with the situation.
– It is well to remind honorable members who have indulged in criticism of conditions on the coal-fields, that in 1940, when their party was in charge of the Government of this country, coa] production fell to the lowest level ever reached in its recent history. The production in that year was 11,000,000 tons. Notwithstanding all the trouble that has occurred during this year, and even up to this moment,- the production so far has exceeded 12,000,000 tons. With all the appeasement with which this Government has been charged, the production in 1942 was a record - almost 15,000,000 tons. Those figures speak volumes. In that year of record production, the number of men working on the coal-fields was thousands fewer than in 1940. Therefore, whatever faults the Government may have, its accomplishment has been greater than that of honorable members opposite. No honorable member on this side of the chamber wishes to minimize the trouble. We are as worried about it as anyone, and will do our best to get all the coal that is required. Criticism will not lead to greater production.
– Action might.
– Action at the pit lace will, by mcn who are competent, not by those who sit in this Parliament and merely talk about the matter. The responsibility rests upon the Government, and every effort will be made to discharge it. That is all that can be expected of us. Those who have criticized to-night should remember that their record is inferior to ours, because the lowest production occurred during the period of their occupancy of the treasury bench; for five months the mines were practically closed. I am mindful of the points that have been raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and the Leader of tho Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in connexion with transport. If a reduction of 25 per cent, in rail services is made by the Railways Commissioners in the various States, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to ensure that the war effort, including the operations of essential industries, shall not be affected. “We cannot allow picnic trains to be run simultaneously with cancellation of stock transport. The reduction of 25 per cent, has been decided upon as a preliminary step for the conservation of coal supplies. The Railways Commissioner in each State is to be required to inform the Commonwealth authority of lbc manner in which the reduction is to be applied. If the Commonwealth considers that the proposed curtailment of services will react to the detriment of the needs of the country it will exercise such powers as may bc necessary to effect alteration of schedules, lt may be necessary for the Commonwealth to take greater powers than it now has. I am not sure that the regulations governing transport are sufficient to meet the situation. Many things may have to be done which normally would not be needed. The matter can be left, in our hands, with the sure knowledge that we shall take whatever action may be demanded, irrespective of whether or not we intrude on State rights. We may not be able to determine what is required until the situation has developed. The position will have to be closely watched. We are most anxious to have advice or suggestions from any honorable gentleman who is prepared to view the matter in a practical light. We shall need the cooperation of every man who realizes the seriousness of the position and is prepared to help us by bringing to our notice any factor which may have a detrimental effect. We do not know what the morrow will bring forth, but we shall do our best to see the matter through to the end.
– If the transport of products such as wool and wheat has to be curtailed, can the honorable gentleman give the assurance that ample notice will be given so that the consigners will not find themselves in the position of having carted consignments to the railhead only to find that they cannot be conveyed farther?
– The authorities in control of the ‘matter will have to be in almost constant session; therefore, any situation such as that envisaged by the honorable member ought to be promptly met. I should like him and other honorable members to accept the assurance that suggestions will be acceptable at any time.
– If the mines could be kept working, rationing might not be needed.
– Exactly. The majority of the mines on the western and southern fields have been kept at work. The problem has been caused by the mines on the northern field.
– The situation is not yet beyond control?
– It is not. We are most anxious to keep all the mines going. The stocks are too low for safety, and we want to build a bank in certain places immediately.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has raised two or three points to which I intend to reply. The honorable gentleman is a tactician. He realizes, as I do, that attack is always the best form of defence; therefore, he goes hack to 1940. There is no comparison between 1940 and to-day in regard to either the coal position or the political position. In 1940, when I was a member of the
Menzies Govern ment, one of the worst coal strikes ever experienced in New South Wales occurred. I also recall that in 1928, when I was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly, the Butler Government had to send to Great Britain for coal, and the - coal-mining companies in New South Wales, on account of strikes, lost the profitable trade which they had enjoyed with South America and the Pacific Islands. The key to the position in 1940 is found in the political conditions that prevailed at that time. If the Menzies Government had done then in respect of coal what has been done with regard to forestry, railways and some other matters, and had said to the Minister for the Army, “Get 10,000 men from the Army so that we can provide coal for requirements at home and abroad “, what would have been the response? The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) would have denounced such action -as worse than anything Hitler has ever done. This country is far from being in a state of total war. The Government should be the sole authority to determine what work men and women are to do, but it is not the sole authority to-day. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister he visited the northern coal-fields, but the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) did not even lift a little finger to assist him during the crisis experienced at that time. Honorable members opposite talk about cooperation, but I have not come here to talk about that. I do not agree with the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). There is no half-way house between sitting on the government bench and exercising authority, and sitting on the opposition side and being free to talk about authority. There has never been co-operation between the Government and the Opposition, and that is one of the chief reasons why we have got into the present .tangle. If ever a government was given a mandate, the present Ministry has received one, and it has a right to say that the people have given it absolution for all the sins it committed up to the time of the general elections, and a free hand for the next three years. Consider the conditions which prevailed in 1940, when Australia had only one division of troops overseas. At the time of the Corio by-election honorable members opposite were not prepared to admit that reinforcements for that division-
Friday, 15 October ,19 iS.
– The honorable member is not dealing with the matter before the Chair.
– What I am saying has everything to do with coal. In common with others I pointed out at that time the kind of war we were to experience, and said that war could not be conducted without coal. The’ present Prime Minister was good enough to read a statement on defence policy by MajorGeneral Wynter. Honorable members opposite can measure up the conditions which prevailed in 1940 by any device they choose, but there is no comparison between the conditions then and now. In 1940 Australia was not threatened with a Japanese invasion, and even then our coal requirements were not met. I was unable to get a cargo of coal placed on the 10,000-ton vessel Westralia, which was lying at Newcastle. Another steamer was to be sent to Singapore with food and ammunition, and I recall what happened about the coal required for that vessel. The Government, in 1940, had no help from the Opposition of that period, and the present Prime Minister must admit it. Although in the recent election campaign my electorate was plastered with posters, one of which was headed, “ These two men saved Australia “, not one member of the present Government thought it worth while-
– That has nothing to do with the matter before the committee.
– Not one of them went in 1940 with the then Prime Minister to plead with the miners on strike to go back to the coal-mines. This Parliament should not be adjourned for any lengthy period until the difficulty with regard to coal production has been overcome. It is urgently necessary for the Parliament to keep a firm grip of the situation. I am the only member of the United Australia party who has taken part in the debate to-night. The people behind that party, like those who support the Country party, will expect us to give close attention to the situation. Country people have just been called upon to submit to the daylight saving regulation, and I give the committee my assurance that they do not like it. Daylight saving is bound up with the subject of coal production, and I do not think that it is anymore popular in Capricornia than it is in Barker. It would be a fair guess to say that when trains are rationed the people in the country districts will suffer further. In the metropolitan areas trains will no doubt have to be provided for passenger transport, and the country people will have their train services reduced. This situation will not be forgotten by the people of Australia. I trust sincerely that the Government will be 100 per cent, successful in its effort to solve the difficulty with regard to the coalmines.
– The honorable member does not.
– I resent that interjection by the Minister. If this Government had been on the treasury bench for only three months, the chances are that I should be silent to-night. I have said practically nothing on the subject of coal for the last two years, but the present Government is supposed to be closely associated with the trade unions, which have authority over the employees in industry. Obviously the trade unions do not take a great deal of notice of the people they are supposed to have helped into power.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Remainder of Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.10 to 1245. a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1943-44, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £180,057,000.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty, for the service of the year 1043-44, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £110,807.000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Scully do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
I lint the bill be now rend a second time.
– This bill is founded on the most extraordinary budget that has ever been presented in this country. It i3 a budget of mystery, which gives us hardly any information at all. Obviously, in time of war, there are some figures which cannot be disclosed, but never before in the history of this Parliament has there been a budget speech so barren of information. The most remarkable thing about it is the statement of the Treasurer that the interest, burden at present amounts to only 5$ per cent, of the national income, compared with 7 per cent, in 1935. Surely the Treasurer does not expect us to accept that measuring rod. There can be no effective comparison between conditions in 1935 and those of the present time. In 1935, we were at peace, although, admittedly, the country was just emerging from a depression. Now we are in the midst of a world war. How are we to gauge what constitutes the national income of Australia at the present time, when so much of the man-power of the country is engaged in the production of munitions of war? The Government has just been returned to power with the greatest majority ever accorded to a government in Australia. Representatives- of the Government told the people of the wonderful things that would happen if only Labour were given another term of office. So far, however, no indication has been given that the Government has any legislative programme at all. Is it the intention of the Government, now that the Estimates have been passed by this House, to go into recess, and then implement its social service programme by means of regulations?
– No. The programme will be submitted to Parliament in due course.
– Then there must be some very cogent reason for delaying the introduction of the first instalment of the new order, to which so many people are looking forward. During the election campaign, I said many unpleasant things about th’3 promised new order. I doubt whether any honorable member in this House knows what is meant by the term. I believe that whatever order we have after the war, whether it be new or old or middle-aged, will be conditioned by the interpretation accorded to two very important international documents to which this Government is a signatory - the Atlantic Charter, and the Lend-lease Agreement. The awkward part of it is that both those documents were drawn up by two men who are unlikely to be in office in their respective countries when the time comes to interpret them. It means a great deal to Australia whether the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-lease Agreement are to be interpreted on the other side of the Pacific by Franklin D. Roosevelt, or by Wendell Wilkie or some other member of the Republican party. Ministers have made it plain that Australia has entered into certain commitments with the United States of America for the maintenance of American forces in this area. Every hold-up of ships, every failure to produce coal, every hitch in connexion with the slaughtering of meat, and every other thing which militate? against the prosecution of the war from the American point of view will be carefully calculated. It must be remembered that just as we are expanding our Department of External Affairs and are increasing our contacts with other countries, so they are making contacts with us by similar means. At no time has the United States of America been better able to understand what is going on in Australia than it is to-day, and so I say that when the day of reckoning comes, Australia will have little reason to be thankful for the contribution of certain organizations to the common war effort. It would be well if that statement were made by some one possessing more authority in this country than I have. Both the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-lease Agreement will have a vital bearing on the conditions which will exist after the war.
Many people think that after the war Australia will be a kind of paradise in which every one will be wealthy, although no one will have to work. They will be disillusioned. Let us consider the destruction that is going on in the war zones.
Thank heaven, Australia has been spared from such destruction, and we have not had to fight on “ the Brisbane Line “. Fortunate though we have been, Australia has its own great and pressing problems; and to imagine, as many people do imagine - and among them are some members of this Parliament - that after indulging in the greatest orgy of destruction that the world has ever known we shall immediately step into a world in which every one will be wealthy, is to entertain hopes which can only be described as stupid. It is time that responsible Ministers and leaders in this country had something to say on this subject. During the recent election campaign I referred to this matter, and my majority was reduced accordingly. I did not engage in any radio campaigning, but I listened to the broadcast addresses of some other candidates couched in language which would give unthinking people the impression that the millennium was almost upon us.
I am strongly of the opinion that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) should pay a visit overseas in the near future. Already his visit has been postponed too long. It is of the utmost importance to Australia that the right honorable gentleman should visit Washington and London soon. The head of the Commonwealth Government should have personal contact with the heads of the Governments of the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom and should discuss pressing and important problems with them-. Australia’s commitments are more varied and intricate than ever before, and notwithstanding the good work which has been done overseas by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and, before him, by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and also by Mr. Bruce, the High Commissioner in London, and Australian Ministers in other countries, the fact remains that none of them speaks with the same authority, or enjoys the same prestige, as does the head of the Government.
I come now to the important subject of inflation. I have noticed that when the Government is in difficulties there is a Tendency for the public galleries to fill and for honorable members supporting the Government to be in their places. That is an indication to those who study the political barometer that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is about to speak. It signifies that chestnuts have to be pulled out of the fire and that the most astute supporter of the Government, the most experienced and ablest gentleman on the Government benches, has been selected for the job. I share the sentiments expressed by the right honorable member for Yarra regarding the results of inflation. Although he did not say so in precise language, he probably intended to convey the warning that there was already too much evidence of inflationary tendencies in the financial structure of this country. The Commonwealth is piling up a commitment at a rate without precedent in Australian history; and, notwithstanding what might be set out on page 2 of the bill, we are not piling up a capacity to meet that commitment in respect of the things that matter. The production of wealth depends upon three things. You cannot have wealth unless you have land to get it from, and labour to work; but, whilst labour and land can produce something, they can produce very little without the assistance of capital, which is only the accumulated product of labour. Those three things have to be paid for. There must be wages for labour, rent for land, and interest for capital. As our capital commitment is increasing at a rather alarming rate, it stands to reason that when the war is over the interest burden which we shall have to meet in circumstances which at present we cannot foresee, or prejudge, but of which we may have certain forebodings, will be in total, and on a per capita basis, greater than that which the premiers in conference had to deal with during the regime of tue Scullin Government in 1930 and 1931. Consequently, we must look forward to a time when there will be rates of income tax, and, perhaps, other taxes, in existence which we should not have considered feasible before the outbreak of this war. In spite of this fact, we hear the statement - and one Minister of this Government has said it - that interest should not be paid on war loans. When the Government is asking the people to subscribe to war loans, it should make a clear cut and unanimous statement that’ that is not its view; aud if any Minister is so foolish as to make statements like that he should be dealt with in the time-honoured way in which such Ministers are dealt with. However, up to date that has not happened. There has not been any increase in the production of real wealth in this country. Let us take the things that matter. Foodstuffs, raw materials, minerals, and services, which have to be produced as a part of the normal wealth, are not being produced to-day. We are producing things which are going to be blown away at the earliest favorable opportunity to dispose of them. Consequently, our real capacity to produce wealth will be less after the war than it was when the war started. Overshadowing all these factors is what I referred to earlier to-day, namely, how our internal economy will be affected by interpretations of the Atlantic Charter and Lend-lease Agreement. I believe that when the war is over, we shall witness in the Pacific area an empire controlled by the United States of America with which there is nothing comparable in modern history. I say, with all friendliness to the United States of America, that the history of democracies in coming to decisions and settlements in matters of this description is not encouraging. Consequently, a wise understanding of the trends of politics in. the United States of America will be of the utmost value to this Parliament, and any contacts that can be made between leading men in Australia and in the United States of America will be of infinite value to Australia within the next few years.
I should like to refer to a number of other matters, but I do not propose to delay the House at this early hour of the morning. The situation with which we are faced is so serious that I have made these brief remarks upon three or four subjects which I believe are of the most pressing urgency to the Commonwealth. All I can say is that the time allotted for this debate, involving issues of such magnitude, is quite inadequate. If ever there was a time in the history of Australia when we could have afforded honestly to devote time and serious consideration to several of the biggest and most important questions confronting us it is the present. These problems are most pressing; and they deserve, as they will demand before very long, much more attention than this new-fledged Parliament has seen fit to give to them in the last couple of weeks.
– in reply - I deny any suggestion that the Government is going into recess for the purpose of implementing its programme by regulations in preference to legislation.
– I accept that assurance.
– The time has arrived in the progress of the war when the Government must completely review the whole of the direction of the country’s activities. Substantial transfers of manpower must be made from one form of war production to another. Great problems confront the country. Australia has now assumed, an important role in the war; and it now devolves upon the Government to survey all that has been done and still remains to be done. It will take the opportunity to do so immediately the Parliament goes into recess. The programme of the Government will be submitted to the Parliament when it next meets. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has indicated that should any emergency arise that should be dealt with by the legislature, the Government will convene the Parliament for that purpose. Another point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was that not sufficient opportunity has been given to honorable members to discuss the important problems which he mentioned. I have noted occasions during this session, particularly in the course of the debate on the Address.iiiReply. when no honorable member appeared ‘to desire to discuss anything at all. In fact, the Address-in-Reply was agreed to at a time in the evening when honorable members, like the honorable member for Barker, might have utilized their ability in dealing with such subjects as he has just raised. I am afraid that the honorable member thinks that talking, rather than doing, is one of the important methods of conducting the war. He has made quite a number of speeches this evening, and, judging from the tone of them, I am able to appreciate why he experienced considerable difficulty during the recent election campaign. I again assure the honorable member that the Government’s legislative programme will be submitted to the Parliament. However, it might not be palatable to the honorable gentleman. Problems will arise from ‘the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-lease Agreement; and I am sure that the Government will be quite prepared to give to the Parliament an opportunity to discuss them. The implications of those documents are not apparent even to many students of international politics; As the honorable member has said, various interpretations will be placed on them. I do not know when the meaning of several important clauses of those documents will be finally determined. We understand the four main planks of the Atlantic Charter, and all honorable members will agree that the nation should work to achieve them. The important thing remaining to be decided is what machinery should be adopted to give effect to those principles. We know that after the war all kinds of vested interests will raise their heads, as was the case after the last war; and of some of those interests the honorable gentleman has been a champion.
– Vested interests of both, capital and labour.
– I admit that vested interests are not always confined to one side. The people establish certain rights, and particularly in respect of social legislation we find vested interests on both sides of the fence. I do not use the term “ vested interests “ in the narrow sense, but I realize that there are people in all’ sorts of political parties with axes to grind. Australia is not alone in that respect. The honorable member, who named certain politicians in the United States of America, knows that that great nation is divided politically and that differences of opinion exist, not only as to the part America should play in the post-war world, but also as to its part in the war itself.
It is undeniable that once the issue of bank credit passes a certain point there is very great danger of inflation unless there are strict controls. I said that the other night, and it has been repeated by other honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, especially those who have studied the subject. But I have no fear that during the war we shall have inflation, because it can be controlled. The danger will arise after the war, unless the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to impose the economic controls that will be necessary to restore this country on a proper footing in the post-war world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Additions, New WORKS, BUILDINGS, Etc.
Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1043-44, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £4,870,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and ‘bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
In the Estimates tabled on the 23rd September, an amount of £4,870,000 was included for Additions, New Works and
Buildings. The following is a summary of the proposed appropriations : -
Details will be found on pages 298-308 of the printed Estimates.
In view of the pressing necessity to divert all resources of materials and manpower to war purposes, expenditure on civil works has been reduced to the minimum necessary to meet essential and urgent requirements.
The civil aviation works estimate of £845,000 comprises provision for electrical and other equipment and works at aerodromes. These facilities are now being used extensively by the Allied forces. The provision of £3,242,000 for postal works also is mainly dictated by war conditions and the urgent demands of the Service Departments and war industries. The total expenditure on postal works for 1942-43 was £2,903,000.
Provision of £150,000 is made for hospitals and other institutions’ for the Repatriation Department. The cost of military hospitals is charged to Army votes.
Owing to man-power difficulties there is now a considerable curtailment of expenditure on civil works in the territories of the Commonwealth. The amount included for the Northern Territory provides mainly for the completion of essential works which are now mostly required for military purposes. Only urgent works within the . capacity of available resources are provided for in the Australian Capital Territory estimates.
The amount of the proposed appropriation of £4,870,000 does not include works for defence and war services; these arc provided for in war votes.
.- The items include £100 for the River Murray Waters Commission, compared with £10,000 last year. What is the reason for the decrease ? Under the same heading I notice an amount of £200 for the memorial at Canberra to His Late Majesty King George V. Last year £1,000 was voted and. £98 was expended. What is the £200 to he used for?
– It may be for the purpose of removing the memorial.
– I should like to know whether that is the case. I have raised this question on the Estimates every year since the work was begun. I am no more satisfied with it now than I was when I first raised the question, when the foundation stone was being laid. At this period, when we need every available penny for the prosecution of the war and other services, I fail to see why £200 should be provided for this undertaking.
– in reply - The two items mentioned by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) certainly seem minor in proportion to all the millions of pounds with which the bill deals. As regards the King George V. memorial, certain plaster models of figures of His Majesty are later to he forwarded to Great Britain for casting in bronze. I understand that they are a part of the original plan. It is not anticipated that it will be possible to do that work in 1943-44, but there are charges in respect of the packing and care of the models, and provision has been made to meet them.
As to the £100 for the River Murray Waters Commission, the Commonwealth Government is required to contribute equally with the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia towards the cost of all works carried out under the agreement. Owing to current shortages of man-power and materials, coupled with credits accumulating in the commission’s bank account from sales of plant and materials, it is probable that the Commonwealth will not be required to make any such contribution during 1943-44. A nominal sum. only has therefore been provided for use in the event of any contribution being required.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon war expenditure, and had appointed Senator Large and Senator A. J. McLachlan to serve thereon.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon social and living conditions in Australia, and had appointed Senator Cooper and Senator Tangney to serve thereon.
The following paper was presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Ballarat, Victoria.
House adjourned at 1.30 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Primary Production ; Post-war Marketing.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Bowen and district, Townsville and district, Ingham and district, Halifax and district, Tully and district, and Innisfail and district?
s asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the question of reaching an agreement with the State of New South Wales for the construction of a road to link Canberra with Tumut?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The question of thu construction of a road to link Canberra with Tumut has been considered in conjunction with the State authorities. The Department of Main Roads, New South Wales, is of the opinion that the proposal has no claims for consideration as a developmental project, and in view of the expenditure ‘involved, construction of the road could not be justified. No request has been made by the military authorities for the construction of the road for defence purposes. As the major portion of the proposed road traverses the State of New South Wales and as high construction costs are involved, it its not considered that the Commonwealth should incur the expenditure at the present time.
Australian Ah my : Military Police.
e. - On the 2Sth September, the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein) sought information from me as to the authority possessed by military police to enter the homes of innocent civilians in the early hours of the morning without warrant, and as to what protection it was proposed to give to women and children against such methods.
In answer to the honorable member, 1 wish to state that the military police have no authority to take action such as that referred to by the honorable member, but as the inquiries of the honorable member obviously related to an incident that had occurred in Sydney, information in regard to the facts of that case have been obtained. From the information so obtained, it is apparent that owing to an unfortunate error which occurred in the recording of a street number, Provost authorities, in a search which was made for a deserter from the Australian Military Forces, went to the wrong address in a certain street in Sydney, and it is regretted that the occupants of that house were caused worry and inconvenience as a result.
Honorable members will be aware that in an army consisting of some hundreds of thousands of personnel, there are always a number of troops who are absent without leave, and unless drastic action is taken continuously by the Army authorities to trace their whereabouts and apprehend them, the efficiency and discipline of the Australian Military Forces will rapidly deteriorate.
It is greatly regretted that in the case in question the error in recording the street number caused such distress to innocent people, particularly as the approach was made in the early hours of the morning, which would naturally give rise to apprehension. The personnel responsible have been warned that there must be no repetition of such an occurrence, and that great care must be exercised in ensuring the accuracy of their records before any approach is made to the homes of residents in any locality with a view to tracing deserters.
The Provost authorities concerned in this incident have good service records, the majority of them having served in the Middle East.
y.- On the 13th October, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The following figures represent the Iii St week’s operations of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, that is for. the period up to the 4th October, 1 $143. Later figures are no.t yet available: -
These figures do not include tentative applications or inquiries or applications refused.
A uditorGener a l’s Re vor t.
– On the 13th October, 1943, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the following question, 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 affaire 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.
I now desire to inform the right honorable member that the questions raised in the report of the Auditor-General in respect of departmental accounting in the service departments have been taken up by the Treasury with the departments concerned. Advice has been received that definite improvement has already been made in respect of certain matters commented upon, and that the other matters are receiving urgent attention. The honorable member will realize, in considering this question, that the service departments have ‘ been faced with serious difficulties by reason of lack of adequate training in the case of staff recruited for finance and store accounting duties, and also because of an actual shortage of man-power available for these duties. In regard to cost-plus contracts, I may say that Ministers and departments responsible for the procurement of war supplies are constantly watching prices to prevent excess charges. As the Auditor-General pointed out in his report, however, the Government has, in addition, appointed a contracts advisory panel of four persons who. are expert in various phases of industry to examine the existing contract bases. The first report of this panel has now been received, and is having the Government’s consideration.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19431014_reps_17_176/>.