17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Statement by Mr. E. J. Ward, M.P.
Mr.MENZIES. - Has the Prime Mini ster read, or otherwise been informed of, the statement made in this House last night by a member of his Cabinet - the Minister for Transport - which included a variety of matters, but in particular the statement that certain of the United Nations were deliberately withholding supplies from Russia in order to bleed that country white? In view of the damaging and scandalous character of such statements, which obviously are aimed at Great Britain or the United States of America, or both, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take?
– I did not hear other than the concluding portion of the speech of the Minister for Transport, and do not know what he said. I have not had an opportunity to peruse the report of his remarks. I desire to have that opportunity. When I have’ had it, I shall consider what action shall be taken.
Remarks by Judge Drake-Brockman.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the published remarks of Judge DrakeBrockman, made early this week, that 2,000 of the 6,000 tram and bus employees were of military age and classified Al, to which he added, “ If there is any more nonsense, they might find themselves out of the transport service and serving somewhere else? “ That statement was strongly resented by the men, whose representatives have pointed out that before the end of 1940, 2,000 men from this service had enlisted, and that they were joining up at such a rate that the Government had made transport a reserved occupation ; in addition to which, the majority of them have relatives in the fighting services. In view of the tendency of some Arbitration Court judges, and other persons occupying quasi-judicial positions, to make provocativ e utterances in respect of trade unionists, and to ursurp functions which really belong to another jurisdiction, even to the Executive Government, will the Prime Minister issue the timely warning that their function is to arbitrate and conciliate, not to widen any breach that might exist between workers and managements in industry?
– I have not read the remarks of Judge Drake-.Brockman. I can see no reason why the Executive should interfere with the judiciary. If judges make remarks that are controversial, there are those who can answer them.
– Sometimes they are in our favour, and at other times are not.
– I have not any doubt that the public, having heard or read what Judge Drake-Brockman said, are quite as competent as I am to form an opinion as to the propriety or otherwise of his remarks. In any event, I would not take any notice of what a judge said of me ; and I should not expect a judge to take any notice of what I might say concerning him.
– Will the Prime Minister make an early pronouncement as to the intentions of the Government in regard to the continuance of clothing rationing after the 1st July next, in order that the public may be enabled to plan their purchases in the intervening period by means of such coupons as .they still possess ?
– Insofar as it would be proper to give early knowledge to the public of information which would be useful in promoting a better understanding and enabling the clothing industry to appreciate what lies ahead of it, I shall see that that course shall be taken. There may be objections to it; for example, that the purposes of rationing might thereby be defeated.
– If the Prime Minister is unable to supply the information immediately, will he ascertain whether or not Australian-built Beaufort bombers cost between £75,000 and £80,000, whereas a similar bomber produced in Great Britain costs only about £27,000? Further, docs Great Britain defray 75 per cent, of the cost of every Beaufort bomber produced in Australia? If so, should not the public be made well aware of the generosity of Great Britain ?
– The Australian Government pays all the costs in connexion with the construction of Beaufort” bombers in this country. I shall have prepared a comparison of costs, and should there be a marked difference I shall obtain an explanation of it. The rate of exchange would account for a difference of 25 per cent. There are also other factors, such as wage rates, and the need to import at extra cost certain of the components. The honorable gentleman appears to consider that the Australian Government is not ready graciously to appreciate the considerable help which Great Britain has given to Australia. I assure him that that is a mistaken idea. We are full of gratitude, and I cannot speak too highly of’ what Great Britain has done, not only in the fighting sense, but also in respect of all other aspects of the war. It would seem that the honorable gentleman has unearthed a fairly large “ mare’s nest “.
– I assume that, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is aware of the considerable dissatisfaction that exists among the producei’3 of whole milk who supply the Melbourne metropolitan market and areas adjacent thereto. Will the honorable gentleman give early consideration to an increase of the return to these producers, by way of either a subsidy or a straight-out price increase?
– I shall take the matter up with the appropriate authorities, and shall instigate a consultation between the’ Whole Milk Committee and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner.
Reasons for Discharges
– I have received several letters from officers who have been discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force, complaining that they have never been notified of the reason for discharge and have not been shown any adverse comment, should there he any, on their record. They are men of good character, who have never been called upon to face a charge. If I supply the names, will the Minister for Air undertake to have the reasons for discharge given, and to have comments ‘brought to the notice of officers against whom an adverse report has been made, in accordance with the provisions of Air Force Orders?
– If the regulations provide that officers shall have the opportunity of seeing, prior to their discharge, any adverse comments that have been made concerning them, I shall instruct that they must be observed. I am not aware of any instance of that nature, with the exception of one person who corresponded with a number of honorable members and was granted, at my request, interviews with officers of my department. He has made out a case which I consider from my personal investigation, and the investigations made on my behalf, has no justification.
Supplies and Distribution
-UY. - I ask the Minister for Labour and National .Service whether or not Italian prisoners of war who are engaged in rural activities in Australia are supplied with 6 oz. of tobacco fortnightly, whereas Australians working in the same districts and at the same avocation experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining any tobacco whatever? Will the honorable gentleman confer with the appropriate Minister with a. view to having the anomaly rectified, in order that Australians as well as Italians may be able to obtain supplies of tobacco ?
– I shall certainly have the matter investigated. I cannot believe that the position is as stated; if it is, then a wrong is being perpetrated.
– Many Australians and members of Allied nations who are prisoners of war in Germany are compelled to do road work and other hard labour. In view of what occurred after the last war, when ex-soldiers who were placed on the land had to exhaust their accumulated savings in the clearing of their properties before they were able to commence farming operations, does not the Minister for the Army agree that the time has arrived for the utilization of prisoners of war in Australia in the clearing of land preparatory to its occupation hy ex-soldiers immediately the war terminates ?
– More than 7,000 prisoners of war in Australia are now fully occupied, the majority of them on the land. For security reasons, certain German prisoners of war cannot be placed on farms, hut have to be kept in detention ; these are engaged in the growing of vegetables inside the camp area, or the cutting of firewood for military establishments beyond the area. Other prisoners of war are being brought to Australia at the request of the British Government. Upon arrival, they will be utilized in operations on the land, in order to provide additional relief for the overworked primary producers of this country.
– Yesterday the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said that Italian prisoners of war were being conveyed 2-5 miles by motor transport to their place of employment and that motor transport was also used to supply them with meals. Will he take steps to stop such pampering of prisoners of war, who could be accommodated in camps and supplied with meals at the place of their employment? British or Australian prisoners of war would not be given such treatment.
– I take it that the honorable member refers to a large number of prisoners of war who are working in the fruit districts of Victoria. In the localities where they are working there is no accommodation for them, and consequently the only way in which their’ services can be made available to fruitgrowers is by transporting them to and from prisoner-of-war camps. These men have to be kept under guard. Accommodation for about 800 men cannot be erected quickly. Moreover, it would involve the use of large quantities of material and considerable man-power. About 25 miles from where they are working there is a prisoner-of-war camp where they can be guarded at night. The Commonwealth Government is carrying out both the spirit and the letter of the international agreement regarding prisoners of war. While working in the orchards these men have to be fed, and the army authorities are making the best arrangements possible to do that.
Operations in South- West Pacific.
– by leave - I inform the House that a communique issued to-day by General Head-quarters in the SouthWest Pacific includes the following reference to the Huon Peninsula : -
Our ground troops advancing along the coast have established contact with our forces at Saidor, thus ending a relentless pursuit of 150 miles, lasting many weeks, over most difficult terrain, by Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces troops and American engineers. This completes the occupation of the Huon Peninsula area and successfully concludes the phase of the New Guinea campaign initiated with the landing at Finschhafen. A Japanese reinforced division trapped with its supply and communication lines cut and with its way to the south blocked by almost impassable mountain ranges and our forces in the Ramu Valley were gradually destroyed in its desperate efforts to break out to the west. Starvation and disease as well as constant air bombardment and continuous attacks by light naval units supplemented the work of out ground forces. The enemy units engaged were the 79th, 80th and 238th Infantry Regiments, and the 26th Field Artillery Regiment, the 20th and 33rd Engineer Regiments and miscellaneous service, naval and base units. His aggregate strength amounted to approximately 14,000 men, the great bulk of which have been destroyed.
– Some time ago the Mini- ster for Commerce and Agriculture said that investigations were being made to ascertain the suitability of meat from the Werribee farm. Is be yet in a position to make a statement as to the results of that investigation?
– The investigation has been made and a report submitted. I shall lay the report on the table of the House on the next day of sitting.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to initiate an alteration of theConstitution in the manner prescribed by section 128, namely by passage through both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and submission to the electors of Australia for their approval.
The purpose of the alteration is to vest in this Parliament, for a limited period ending five years after the close of hostilities, the power to make laws with respect to a group of fourteen specified subject-matters. This group of powers, together with the existing powers of the Commonwealth, the Government regards as adequate, but not more than adequate, to permit the carrying out of an Australia-wide policy of post-war reconstruction. Unless a further amendment of the Constitution takes place before the end of the agreed period, any Commonwealth law passed under any of the additional fourteen subjectmatters will cease to operate at. the end of the period.
I propose (1) to place on record the process in which the bill originated; (2) to suggest certain principles which shouldbe kept in mind in considering constitutional alterations; (3) to describe the general scope and objects of the present bill; (4) to suggest some of the problems and special difficulties that are certain to arise in the immediate post-war period; and (5) to show how the new powers are necessary to enable the Commonwealth Parliament, either alone or in active association with the States, to solve the problems and surmount the difficulties.
In October, 1942, in the life of the last Parliament, leave was obtained to introduce a bill to alter the Constitution. That bill was read a first time. The Government did not regard the proposals contained in the bill as either’ final or definitive. It invited all concerned to make suggestions for modification or improvement of the bill. The Government also summoned a special Constitution Convention, representative not only of all parties in this Parliament, but also of the Government and the Opposition in each State parliament, to consider the matter. The convention met in this chamber from the 24th November to the 2nd December, 1942. On behalf of the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and I placed before the convention the Commonwealth’s case for increased constitutional powers, and also a new draft bill, resulting from a revision of the first bill in the light of the public discussion that had already taken place.
As the Prime Minister said in opening the proceedings of the convention, it was the very special needs of the war which prompted the Government to convene such a distinctive assembly, for which there is no provision in the Constitution itself. The Government thought that the fullest consultation was desirable, to see whether representatives of the seven parliaments of Australia could agree upon an effective plan, lest the existing Constitution should fail Australia in the important task of post-war reconstruction. The convention formed, as the Prime Minister well described it, an “ advisory committee of the whole nation”.
Alter several days of discussion, the convention, on the motion of the Premier of Tasmania, the Honorable E. Cosgrove, unanimously reached the following resolution : -
That this convention is of opinion that -
Adequate powers to make laws in relation to post-war reconstruction should he conferred on the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
It is undesirable that permanent alterations of the Constitution should be effected at this critical stage in Australia’s history.
For this reason, legislative power with respect to suitable additional matters in relation to post-war reconstruction should be referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the parliaments of the States under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution.
Such reference should be for a period of not less than five years and not more than seven years from the cessation of hostilities and should not be revoked during that period.
At the end of such period, or at an earlier date, a referendum should be held to secure the approval of the electors to the alterations of the Constitution on a permanent basis.
I draw attention to two crucial points in that resolution. First, it was the unanimous opinion of the convention that, for the purposes of post-war reconstruction, the existing powers of the Commonwealth would be inadequate, and it was therefore necessary to confer on the Commonwealth suitable additional powers. That unanimous expression of opinion from an “ advisory committee “ of the whole nation should, I submit, convince every reasonable Australian of the necessity for altering the Constitution by conferring on the Commonwealth Parliament some additional powers in relation to post-war reconstruction. If so, the area of useful discussion and debate inevitably tends to confine itself to a second question: What specific powers are required, and why? That is exactly the course which was taken by the Canberra Convention.
Secondly, it was the unanimous opinion of the Convention that it would be undesirable to effect permanent alterations of the Constitution at such a critical stage of our history. The Commonwealth Government was a party to that resolution. It has accepted that resolution as the basis of its subsequent programme.
Having adopted the resolution which I have quoted, the Convention appointed a committee to draw up a list of the powers which, together with the existing constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, could be accepted by both the Commonwealth and the States as a reasonable and sufficient foundation for national reconstruction policy. That committee included all six State Premiers. The Commonwealth was represented by the Prime Minister, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) and myself. After much consultation, the committee unanimously agreed upon a list of fourteen matters which it was proposed should he referred to the Commonwealth by the State legislatures in accordance with the procedure permitted by section 51 (xxxvii.) of the Constitution. That list of fourteen powers formed the foundation of a draft Commonwealth powers bill. All Premiers undertook to do their utmost to secure the passage through their respective legislatures, as early as possible, of a bill in a form also agreed upon unanimously. If that course had been carried into full effect in the six States, the present proposal of the Government would have been unnecessary.
But what was the sequel? In the fourteen months that have elapsed, only two State legislatures- those of New South Wales and Queensland- have fully supported the understanding given at the Convention by the Premier of the State. The legislatures of two more States - South Australia and Western Australia - have passed Commonwealth Powers Acts, but they are acts which depart in many vital respects from the agreed list of powers. In Tasmania, despite repeated attempts by the Government, the Legislative Council has refused to pass the powers bill at all. The Victorian legislature did pass the bill in substantially the agreed form, but attached to it a condition suspending its operation until all the other States had passed substantially identical measures. In view of the attitude of the Tasmanian Upper House, this condition means that the Victorian bill has no operation at all. The four legislatures, and in particular their upper chambers, which refused to pass the Convention Bill in the agreed form, have given no sign of a change of mind dr heart.
At first sight, the Commonwealth Parliament’s power under section 51 (xxxvii.) to make laws with respect to matters “ referred “ to it by the States seems to offer a convenient means of extending the Commonwealth’s powers to meet new exigencies, whilst avoiding the expense and delay of a referendum. But previous attempts to use this “ reference “ provision in the Constitution do not give much ground for optimism. In actual practice, too, it has always been found exceedingly difficult to get all six State Legislatures to implement fully assurances given by State Premiers in relation to section 51 (xxxvii.). Senior’ members of this House will recall that an attempt to enlarge the Commonwealth powers by State “ reference “ was made during the last war. On that occasion the attempt failed. Despite the doubts arising from experience, the present Government agreed to fall in with the wishes of the States at the Convention, and to agree to the States making a further attempt to proceed by this method. As I have explained, the six State Premiers agreed to make the attempt. Once again the procedure has not been successful.
As a consequence, the position has ‘become almost chaotic. The leaders of every Government in Australia publicly agreed that, for the limited period, additional subject-matters should be brought within the jurisdiction of this Parliament. Despite arguments brought forward by several eminent lawyers, not during, but after, the Convention, I am convinced that under section 51 (xxxvii.) the reference of matters by a State legislature may be restricted to a fixed period. If this be right, what is the present position? Additional matters have, in fact, been validly referred to this Parliament by four of the six States. But they are not the same matters. If the present position be allowed to continue, some extraordinary consequences will follow. For instance, as . a result of valid references under section 51 (xxxvii.), the Commonwealth now possesses legal authority for post-war reconstruction measures to provide security of employment throughout New South Wales and Queensland. But, owing to the inaction of their legislatures, the Commonwealth possesses no similar power in any of the remaining States. Likewise, the Commonwealth now possesses, by virtue of the references, legal authority for restricting, during the fiveyear period, such evils for instance as the wasteful production of unessential goods at a time when vital supplies for housing construction are in short supply. But this legal authority of the Commonwealth will extend only to the two States - New South Wales and Queensland - which have referred to this Parliament the subject of “production”.
To be sure, it might be inconvenient or anomalous for the Commonwealth to exercise such powers within the territory only of the States which have made the relevant reference. On the other hand, it might be essential for this Parliament to act in relation to such matters as the employment of the people even though its action was confined to several States. There would be complaints of discrimination, but who would bc responsible for such discrimination? Not the Commonwealth, but the non-acceding States.
My point is that the refusal of four States to pass the agreed Convention bill has already created an anomalous and absurd situation, full of peril, not only for the Commonwealth, but also for the people of those four States.
So far as New South Wales and Queensland are concerned, the issue of this referendum is in an important sense already decided. The question for them is not whether they shall accept the proposals - they have already accepted them through their State legislatures. The question for them is whether they alone or all sis States shall accept the proposals in their entirety. For the people of the remaining four States the issue may well be whether the Commonwealth Parliament shall be endowed with power to extend to them also beneficial Commonwealth legislation which, under the existing references, it can lawfully pass in relation to New South Wales and Queensland alone.
– Or adverse Commonwealth legislation?
– Yes, beneficial or adverse. I accept that comment without qualification.
In Victoria, as I have said, the legislature passed the Canberra bill but with the condition that all other States must do likewise. The object of that condition can be fulfilled if the present proposals are passed into law.
I need not elaborate the point further at present. It is better for this Parliament and for the people of Australia as a whole to face up to the problem which confronted the Convention. In view of all that has happened since, there is no practical method left for laying a sound constitutional basis for Australian postwar reconstruction, to which this Government has pledged itself to the people, except by an appeal to the people. In no sense can this Government be accused of forcing a referendum upon the States.
It has allowed full time for them to adopt the only legal method by which a referendum could be avoided. I submit that it is now the right and the duty of this Parliament to initiate the grant of those very powers which the political leaders of Australia, in conference assembled, agreed were necessary to protect our people during the immediate post-war reconstruction period.
It must be plain to every thinking person that no post-war planning can be satisfactorily continued, let alone completed, unless and until the Commonwealth’s constitutional position i3 placed beyond doubt. We have already established a Ministry of Postwar Reconstruction for the purpose of carrying out such post-war objective as full employment. Already important preliminary work has been accomplished. Shall it be continued, or shall it be dropped altogether? I suppose that not one Australian in a hundred would favour the Government giving up the task. If so,- we must see that the legal foundation of post-war reconstruction is sound.
The vote of the people at the elections last year involved a mandate to the present Government, not only to continue at the task of organizing for victory, but also to plan reconstruction in the years following the cessation of hostilities.
– The post-war period covers a long time.
– The relevant point is that, immediately after the war, we shall pass through an especially difficult and dangerous period, which in this bill is measured .as five years.
– It will be longer than that.
– One can sympathize with the point of view of the honorable members who have interjected, and their remarks are an implied criticism of the limitation of time imposed in the bill.
After such a vote, some might contend that we should ask for wider powers than those agreed upon at the Convention. But we have decided to stand by our deliberate acceptance of the precise group of additional powers determined upon at the Convention.
In substance, therefore, the bill now before the House is identical with the draft Canberra powers bill. The only differences are a few verbal changes that are rendered absolutely necessary in order to turn a bill for a State act into a Commonwealth bill for a formal Constitution alteration. For example, a Commonwealth bill could not refer simply to “ the Governor in Council “, though such a reference is correct in a State bill, and was contained in the Canberra draft bill. Again, the agreed phrase “ uniform company legislation “ has to be expressed in a form to fit in with the covering words of the proposed new section 51a. Only in such cases have I made any changes whatever.
The Government regards itself as pledged not only to the substance of the Convention’s recommendations, but also wherever possible to their precise form.
I realize that the form of several of the fourteen subject-matters may be open to drafting criticism. Such criticism almost inevitably follows the making of any proposed constitutional alteration. The difficulties of drafting will be easily understood. A form had to be agreed upon by all six State Premiers and Commonwealth representatives as well. There was agreement as to broad purposes, despite differing interests and conflicting political affiliations. That was an achievement. I would here quote a not irrelevant observation of Viscount Haldane in reference to the Australian Constitution itself -
Tn dealing with constitutional reform we must, I submit, keep certain principles in mind.. The legislative jurisdiction over any particular subject-matter must be kept absolutely distinct from actual or possible exercise of that jurisdiction by the Parliament. Take, for instance, the existing Commonwealth powers in relation to banking and insurance. Under these powers it would be legally competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to nationalize all private banking and insurance institutions. Equally, Parliament is legally competent to control such institutions or to give them an altogether free hand. All these are types of possible legislation - some favour one type, some the other. But who would deny the necessity for retaining in the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate upon both banking and insurance? “Why is this? Because banking and insurance are, in their nature, subjects of obvious national concern.
Similarly, take the existing Commonwealth power in relation to telegraphic services. Without doubt the Commonwealth Parliament has complete jurisdiction over the whole subject of telecommunication. In the exercise of that jurisdiction it could socialize all the existing commercial wireless stations. But equally it could leave them alone, or even subsidize them. Some would favour one type of legislation - some another. But here again the Commonwealth’s power over the subject-matter of tele-communication is and should be beyond question. It is not a matter of political policy or party politics. It is a matter of selecting what is a true subject of national concern.
The matter may be restated thus. Sub- ‘ject to one condition, it should be axiomatic that, in making a grant to the Commonwealth of legislative power, Parliament should, as a general rule, be given authority to pass legislation on a topic so as to carry into effect any political policy on that topic to which the electors have given their approval. What is the condition? It is this - that the topic should be one of Australia-wide concern and interest. Therefore, when the question arises- at a referendum, the true issue should not be confused by advocating or condemning political policies that may be embodied in Commonwealth legislation in relation to the proposed subjectmatter. The true issue is this - whether, in relation to the particular subject-matter, a national Commonwealth policy is preferable to six differing and almost certainly divergent policies operating in the several States. The fact that a policy of nationalization or of greater government control can be lawfully carried out in relation to a particular subject-matter is no more relevant than the fact that it will be possible to carry out the opposite policy of laisserfaire or complete legislative inaction.
Moreover, under the Commonwealth Constitution, a general election must be held at least once every three years for the House of Representatives. The proper place for determining rival political policies is at the polls. The function of constitutional reform is to make sure that, whatever policy is determined upon by the electors, it should be made legally possible to effectuate that policy through the Commonwealth Parliament if it relates to matters which have become of national concern.
If it were otherwise, necessary constitutional changes would become impossible of achievement. This is nowhere more evident than in the field of industrial relations. Attempt after attempt has been made to give additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament in this important field. So far, every attempt has failed. When the attempt was made by a Labour Government the Opposition played on the fears of the employers, forgetting that no government remains in power indefinitely. Similarly, when the attempt was made by a non-Labour Government, important sections of the Labour movement said “ No “, not because additional Commonwealth control was undesirable, but because they feared its exercise by a particular government at a particular time.
Surely constitutions must be considered not in the aspect of the politics of the day, but in the aspect of a developing democracy in which divergent political forces must come into play, and in which opposing political parties will from time to time hold office and power. If you deny that, the peaceful settlement of constitutional issues becomes almost impossible. If you admit it, you must concede that legislative power should be defined in terms which admit of its effective exercise, not only by your political supporters, but by your political opponents also.
So, too, we must, I submit, set aside mere political arguments conjured up by such question - begging phrases as “ bureaucracy “, “ regimentation “ and “ controls “. It is true that there has been a very large number of Commonwealth regulations passed under the National Security Act for the purpose of aiding in the prosecution of the war. Fortunately the output seems to have passed its peak. The rate of production is fast diminishing. We must remember in fairness that the National Security Act was passed by agovernment under the leadership of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He contributed a not inconsiderable quota to the aggregate of regulations. Of course, the rate of output was considerably increased after Japan’s entry into the war because of the great changes which the war made necessary in our social and economic life. However, the stream that threatened to become a flood is now little more than a trickle. Before this war ends, new emergencies are certain to arise and therefore we cannot yet see the end of regulations. But they have been made for war-time use, and we shall certainly hurry back to ordinary methods of legislation as soon as possible after the termination of hostilities.
Therefore, I ask that, in considering the constitutional matters, political matters shall be kept in due subordination. If the proposals are accepted, the method of legislation necessary for effective post-war reconstruction and especially for the carrying out by the Commonwealth of its policy of full employment - will be entirely a matter for determination by the Commonwealth Parliament as it may from time to time be constituted.
I now turn to the general scope of the bill. I emphasize its limited character, in three respects. First, it is restricted in point of subject-matter. Secondly, there are special safeguards, to ensure that certain agreed aspects of the national plan of reconstruction shall be carried out in co-operation with the States. Thirdly, it is a temporary measure, giving powers “ on probation “.
The Commonwealth’s powers under the bill will be limited in subject matter. Indeed they will certainly not, in the post-war years, be as comprehensive as they have been under the defence power during the war. The Government left by itself would have preferred an amendment of the Constitution which would give to the Commonwealth power in respect of some of the more general topics which at various times have been advocated by the present Leader of the Opposition, and also his deputy. . But the State
Premiers, at the Convention, were unable to agree. For instance, instead of supporting a general Commonwealth power over trade and commerce they agreed that they preferred that the Commonwealth should assume jurisdiction over only certain vital phases of trade and commerce, in which they considered that national action would be specially required. Illustrations of this are the proposals in relation to “ profiteering and prices “, “ and organized marketing of commodities “, “ trusts, combines and monopolies “, and “ uniform company legislation “.
However, the Government’s considered opinion is that the fourteen specified powers, taken together, will provide a satisfactory minimum legal foundation for reconstruction policy. The Government, is in fact, asking for those powers, and those powers only, which the six State Premiers agreed were indispensable, from a practical point of view, to enable the Commonwealth to carry out an adequate reconstruction policy. I repeat that the powers proposed are limited. Indeed their restricted character may disappoint many who speak from a single-minded desire to see Australia grappling as a nation with all the great problems of the post-war world.
Secondly, as the powers contained in the bill were formulated in conference with, and with the concurrence of, State political leaders, it is only natural that the agreed list should contain a number of safeguards to ensure co-operation with the States in the carrying out by the Commonwealth of national plans for post-war reconstruction.
The importance of associating the States with the nation in organizing Australia’s war effort has been fully recognized by the Commonwealth. Indeed, one outstanding feature of this war has been the extent to which the Commonwealth has availed itself of the assistance of governmental units in Australia, including not only the States themselves but local governing authorities as well. Though the form of co-operation has varied, the general design has been the same. The Commonwealth has determined the general plan or laid down the general principles. The State has assisted in either carrying out the plan or where that is necessary, taken more or less independent action, to meet local conditions.
The Canberra agreement expressly contemplated the continuance in the post-war period of this type of relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. The list of new powers also contains a number of reservations for the protection of State interests. Of these the most important are the provisions that the power with respect to primary production cannot be exercised in any State except with the State’s consent; that the power with respect to the raising of money in Australia shall be exercised in accordance with principles laid down by a majority of members of the Australian Loan Council; that no national work may be commenced in any State without the State’s own consent, and that the work shall be carried out in co-operation with the State; and that laws with respect to national health shall provide for co-operation with the States. These provisions will all tend to make the States necessary partners in some of the important phases of post-war reconstruction in Australia.
Even in matters where no specific reference is made to the States there is no reason to apprehend that their special organisms and institutions would be ignored by the Commonwealth. Take for example the power with respect to employment and unemployment. In making laws on matters of employment it is reasonably clear that the Commonwealth will provide for a maximum degree of local autonomy in matters which are not plainly of over-riding national principle, or which are of special local concern to States like Queensland and Western Australia.
On this part of the case it may fairly be said that the Canberra agreement provides for Commonwealth, leadership in post-war reconstruction, but so that many of its post-war plans will be implemented not only by the Commonwealth itself but also by State and local government authorities. This agreement will be carried into effect.
In the third place, the bill proposes an alteration of the Constitution which will operate only temporarily. Under the bill the new powers will last until the end of five years after the cessation of hostilities, i.e., five years after the end of the actual military operations. The conclusion of an armistice between the belligerents will not immediately bring to an end what is called a “state of war”. That “state of war “ will continue for some time longer, possibly until formal treaties of peace come into force. It is from the time, however, when the actual fighting stops that the task of reconstruction will rapidly assume huge dimensions. Under the bill the limited period “will end five years after the termination of hostilities.
Under the bill, the close of this fiveyear period will bring to an end not merely the Commonwealth’s power to make laws with respect to the fourteen new subject-matters, but also all the legislation which has been enacted by the Commonwealth under the new powers during the agreed period. That is made perfectly clear in the bill itself. If the new “ reconstruction “ powers, or any of them, are to continue to be vested in ‘the Commonwealth, -the people must so decide. If the present proposals are carried, an opportunity should be afforded for the complete revision of the Constitution before the end of the five-year period, and for the timely submission to the people of the necessary constitutional amendments. My personal view is that it would be proper to include in such a permanent revision some, at least, of the constitutional guarantees which are contained in the Constitution of the United Stages >of America.
One great advantage to be derived from the temporary grant of .power .is that the people will obtain the benefit of ,an important constitutional -experiment. If the Commonwealth’s use of .powers during the five years’ period ‘commends itself to the people, they will certainly approve of the continuance of further enlargement -of Commonwealth power especially in connexion with such matters ‘as employment and the prevention of unemployment. On the other hand, if the .people are ‘dissatisfied, they will insist on a return to the pre-existing constitutional set-up. In my view the grant to the Commonwealth of powers “ on probation “ .has .a ..special advantage in that the step now proposed to ‘be taken is not final, but can be retracted.
– Does that presuppose another referendum at the end of the five years?
– Yes ; unless a referendum is carried to continue these powers, or, as I think preferable, to carry into effect the decisions of a convention giving certain powers permanently to the ‘Commonwealth, not only these powers but also all legislation passed Tinder them will cease to operate.
– At the end of “five years could “the States refer these powers permanently to the Commonwealth?
– Yes; any State could refer a power to the Commonwealth within its own area. I say that subject to the argument that a State has not the power to refer powers .temporarily, but only permanently. I do not agree with that. In my view the States can refer powers either permanently, .or for a limited period.
– And it -is possible that conditions may be created in the five-year period which will make it impossible to return to the pre-existing order..
– Here is the bogy man !
– In one sense what the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) >says is true. At the same time, things may occur in that period which will .probably render it undesirable to return to the pre-existing constitutional set-up.
– It is also possible that ihe people will not be given an opportunity to extend these “powers.
– That is possible, but I hope it will not be so. It is .hard to imagine that the people would allow to lapse powers the use of which during the five-year period commended itself to them.
I should like to illustrate the concrete situations which are likely to arise in the immediate post-war years. The question is : How shall the people of Australia be armed with legal power to cope with these situations? The case for this bill is that the Constitution as it now stands will not permit national action to meet the urgent practical needs of the post-war period, but that the list of powers contained in clause 2 will enable this Parliament to meet those needs in a practical way. “What will be the primary needs of the people of Australia after the end of hostilities? I am afraid that many are inclined to discuss the problem in general, even abstract, terms. That may he essential, hut a multitude of individual and personal problems will certainly be involved. “ Post-war reconstruction “ should take into account problems of immediate importance to service-men and servicewomen, indeed to all those engaged in war activities and war industries. Then there will be great personal problems for the owners or shareholders of concerns which have been turned over wholly or largely to war production, and of concerns whose present position has been founded upon war-time business prosperity. Successful national reconstruction will be a vital personal matter for all these Australians and their families. The problems will be much greater and more complex than those of 1918-21 or 1929-33. They will be equalled only by the problems of the war itself.
The question so many are now asking: “ What am I going to do after the war ? “, confronts not merely the Australian in the services or in the munitions annexe who has no special joh waiting for him when peace conies. The question presents itself quite as forcibly to the man who has a job to go back to, to the man who owns a business, who works a farm, or who runs a shop. Each one knows that the answer to his personal problem is bound up with the success or failure of national and international plans of postwar reconstruction. For instance, it will be quite useless to train the returned soldier for a particular job, place him in it, give him all the personal protection one can devise, if industry and commerce as a whole tend to slump. Such things happened after the last war and during the last depression. We should enable the Parliament to do everything possible to prevent a repetition of them.
It is sometimes suggested that the naval and military defence power of the Commonwealth Parliament will of itself be a sufficient basis for post-war reconstruction.
I shall show that this view is unsound and that reliance upon it would be most foolish. Admittedly the extent of the defence power in time of war is very considerable indeed. What it enables the Commonwealth Parliament to do after hostilities have ceased is, however, a matter of considerable doubt and difficulty. It was held after the last war that, under the defence power, the Commonwealth can provide for the reestablishment in civil life of persons who have served in the defence forces of the Commonwealth and have been discharged from such service. But the precise meaning and extent of such “reestablishment “ is still undetermined by the courts. Undoubtedly the Parliament can pass valid repatriation legislation. But it is by no means certain that the Parliament could give even permanent preference or priority of employment to returned servicemen in private establishments although the States, under their general and undefined powers, can certainly pass such measures within their own borders. The present Commonwealth Repatriation Act contains a special clause requiring that preference shall be given to certain classes of servicemen in this war. But that provision was limited to employment by the Commonwealth or by its instrumentalities, and is therefore a valid exercise of the Commonwealth’s admitted power of controlling its own employees and regulating employment within its own instrumentalities.
During the present war the Court has had to interpret the defence power on a number of occasions. Certain limits have been placed on the power and an excellent illustration of the present position is a recent case where the High Court held that the National Security (Industrial Lighting) Regulations were beyond the defence power of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Chief Justice said -
Under the regulations the Minister is given complete control of artificial lighting in industrial premises. No doubt good lighting is conducive to industrial efficiency and industrial efficiency is important for the purpose of the effective prosecution of the war. But the same thing might be said of any prescription of standards in factory conditions, or in almost any other conditions affecting human life and well-being. For example, the provision of food, clothing, housing and recreation for workers is required for full industrial efficiency. But, in my opinion, the existence of war does not result in handing over to the Commonwealth general control of these subjects.
Elaborating further, the Chief Justice said -
In my opinion the Industrial Lighting Regulations do not have a real connexion with defence. They do not deal with a subject which has any specific relation to the subject of defence, except insofar as all matters affecting the w,ell-being of the community have such a relation, and that is a general and not a specific relation. For this reason the regulations are, in my opinion, invalid.
It will be noticed that the Commonwealth power over defence even in time of war failed to reach the point where the State legislatures had general jurisdiction over conditions of employment in industry.
After the last war, it was also held that the defence power authorized Commonwealth legislation carrying into effect the Treaty of Peace made at Versailles. It was stated by the court that the termination of hostilities by the imposition of terms of peace and the enforcement of those terms were measures of defence. That was in 1921.
But a case subsequently determined in 1926 illustrates how in time of peace the defence power tends to become almost ineffective except in relation to military and naval purposes, strictly so-called. The Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, constituted by the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923, had entered into a contract to supply certain steam turbo-alternators to Bunnerong power house. The validity of the contract was successfully impugned. The contract was sought to be defended on the ground that the using of the plant and personnel at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney in such a way as to keep it continuously in a state of efficiency for naval purposes was incidental to the defence power, and although the plant was not being used directly for naval purposes the keeping in efficiency of trained dockyard technicians was sufficiently related to the defence power of the Commonwealth.
– If I remember correctly, no evidence was led to establish that fact.
– I do not think it was. The case arose under a demurrer.
– But the principle was rejected by the majority of the court which said -
It was suggested, however, that the dockyard and workshops on Cockatoo Island were required for the purposes of the naval defence of the Commonwealth, and that it was impracticable to maintain them efficiently foi that purpose unless the managing body - the Shipping Board - was authorized to enter upon general manufacturing and engineering activities, because the cost of maintenance of the works would be excessive and the working staff would be unable to obtain proper experience. Despite the practical difficulties facing the Commonwealth in the maintenance of its dockyard and works, the power of naval and military defence does not warrant these activities in the ordinary conditions of peace, whatever be the position in time of war or in conditions arising out of or connected with war.
– The idea being that we start the war right off scratch.
– The court modified that decision later.
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman will know that in another case, dealing with the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, the Chamber of Manufactures of Victoria sought to restrain the factory from making uniforms for the State police, boy scouts, and others who were not fully enrolled members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces. But the court upheld the power of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory to make uniforms of that character.
– So that our constitutional powers depend on the personnel of the court from time to time.
– The right honorable gentleman raises a broader question which is particularly delicate and a difficult one to deal with.
Although the Cockatoo Island decision might not be followed in its entirety by the court of to-day, it has to be stated that “ during the present war the High Court has hardly given so wide an interpretation of the defence power as during the war of 1914-18. At any rate, it is absolutely clear that, after hostilities have ceased, or. at any rate in time of peace, the defence power of the Commonwealth is no sure foundation for general Commonwealth laws regulating employment and unemployment, prices and profiteering, and the production and distribution of goods.
Therefore, the defence power cannot he relied upon as a safe basis for Commonwealth legislation to carry into effect general plans for post-war reconstruction. I entirely agree with the warning given to the Constitutional Convention by Sir Robert Garran, Sir George Knowles and Professor K. H. Bailey. After referring to the possibility that the defence power might cover some conditions arising out of or connected with the war, they added -
But there is no reason to suppose that the High Court will be prepared to apply this principle widely or loosely, so as to bring post-war economic and social conditions generally within the scope of the defence power. There is therefore no reason to suppose that after the war the defence power will be wide enough to include all the phases of national life that would fall within any adequate plan of post-war reconstruction. There are the plainest indications to the contrary.
I now turn to discuss the group of fourteen agreed subject-matters proposed to be added to the jurisdiction of this Parliament for the limited period.
I begin with the reinstatement, rehabilitation and advancement of the servicemen ‘and -servicewomen. That is and will -be the primary obligation of the Commonwealth. All will need old or new jobs to go to* For many, special .training will be required. Many will need to find houses and equipment to re-establish themselves in domestic and business -life. It has been asserted that the .Commonwealth requires no additional powers at any rate for these matters - that the existing defence power, even in peace-time, will be wide enough. In view -of my analysis of the defence power, I cannot share this optimistic view. Certainly, other ideas prevailed after the last war. For instance, the “ States insisted at that time that all plans for soldier settlement were exclusively for their legislatures and not for this Parliament to lay down. Therefore, it is far wiser to include the proposed subjectmatter as .a reinforcement to the defence power.
Plainly, the problem of the servicemen and servicewomen merges into the general problem of ensuring employment, and maintaining security of employment, not only for the returned servicemen and women but for all people. I therefore turn to what I regard as the most important subject-matter of the list, viz., “ employment and unemployment.”
In relation to the subject “ employment and unemployment “, it is clear that the provision of employment and the prevention of unemployment will be foundational to post-war reconstruction. About half of our entire working population will have to change jobs when the war is over. Many war-time industries will be converted to peace-time production. “What will happen to the employees threatened by the infinite number of impacts and dislocations caused in this period of transition ? What authority in Australia will have the legal power to ensure that employment is guaranteed and unemployment is prevented ? What authority will have power to prevent mass dismissals or the “putting off” of employees as the euphemistic expression goes. Under the existing Constitution this Parliament would have no direct authority -whatever. For the Commonwealth has no general peace-time power in relation to employment.
The policy of “full employment” will mean nothing unless legislation is passed to train and place men and women in jobs; to .give reasonable security of employment to .all ; to modify the unlimited right of arbitrary dismissal that hangs like the .sword of Damocles -over nearly every worker throughout his industrial life.’
Further, in the disturbed conditions of the post-war years, full employment cannot possibly be achieved “unless some authority is empowered to exercise a wide power to determine ‘how -employment is to be expanded.
At present the Parliaments of the States have full power in all these matters, but powers restricted to their own areas. This Parliament and this Government, in time of peace, have virtually no power., except the indirect .’influence that they can exert through tribunals .for conciliation and arbitration in settling a limited class of industrial disputes. The experience during the- depression of 1929-1933 suggests that there .is little ground to believe that the States, either jointly or even individually, will .be able to exercise the necessary authority over the field of employment.
Further, in peace-time, the only steps which Australia, as a nation, can take- to eliminate unemployment are by way of grants to the States or by way of unemployment insurance. I do not think it is generally realized bow relatively little employment the Commonwealth itself can give in peace-time in its own services. It could, of course, employ persons on works incidental to the exercise of any of its legislative powers. But these are limited both in number and in character. They could not possibly serve as the foundation for such a flexible public works policy as would effectively prevent mass unemployment.
I submit that, in the disturbed conditions of the immediate post-war years, the Australian people dare not leave to the unco-ordinated decisions of six State Parliaments, the provision and regulation of employment and the prevention of unemployment. That, is truly a topic of national and Australia-wide concern.. The bill provides for it, in simple and unqualified terms. It will also enable the Commonwealth to establish better standards of employment throughout Australia.
In support of this paragraph I quote the remarks made by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, during the committee stages of the debate on the Commonwealth powers bill in the House of Assembly -
I ask members to retain the paragraph as printed. I know that the provision is wide, and contains .extensive emergency powers, but I think those powers are required. In the past we know of instances where drastic action was necessary in an emergency.
I come next to the “ organized marketing of commodities “. A period of rapidly changing markets, at home and abroad, seems certain to follow the close of hostilities. That wa3 Australia’s experience after the last war. The factors that produced it then will all be operative again, but on a much larger scale. Of some commodities there will be a great shortage. In others huge stocks will have been carried over. Some of our war-time markets will close suddenly. Some of our former peace-time markets will take a long time to re-establish themselves. Our obliga tions to relieve the starving and distressed peoples of other countries will make important demands on our local production. Even here at home changes in the centres of population and in employment will tend to create local gluts and shortages, just as they have done during the war.
In a word, the post-war years will be years of disturbed conditions. For producers, they will be anxious years. Out of such conditions, in the past, have grown those experiments in the organized marketing of commodities that have been distinctive of the Australian .primary industries. The objectives have been to maintain stable prices, to secure for the producer a fair and steady income, and to eliminate unfair marketing practices, to maintain standards of quality and purity and to ensure adequate supplies. But I remind the House that in all the primary industries affected the marketing organization has, in fact, required cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States, and has taken years of patient effort to accomplish.
During the war, when the defence power has brought under Commonwealth control all marketing transactions in the major primary industries, experience has shown the advantage of enabling a single authority to lay down a plan for dealing with a particular commodity. In some cases plans have been put into operation by the Commonwealth in fewer months than the years that would have been required in time of peace. The present bill which also gives authority to control “ prices “ under another head, in primary industries and generally, will enable the Commonwealth to give to the producer similar advantages in the postwar years.
The case for granting this power to the Commonwealth was well summed up by the Premier of “Western Australia, during the debate in the Legislative Assembly on the Commonwealth powers bill. Mr. Willcock then said -
We want to give whatever power is necessary for reconstruction after the war. I repeat that this transfer of power is for a period of only a few years when disorganization, stress and lack of production will prevail. At the Convention we considered that within a reasonable time after the war industry should be able to get back into its stride and do things as they, were done before the war. In the intervening period, however, we ought to give the Commonwealth the necessary power to do almost anything in regard to the marketing of our commodities.
The Commonwealth’s powers under the bill will still be subject to section 92 of the Constitution, which provides for interstate free trade. Even so, the power will be substantial. The High Court’s decisions have shown that effectual marketing schemes can be established without infringing section 92, providing that the scheme is really directed not to the mere restriction of interstate commercial transactions but to the achievement of such objectives as the preservation of standards of purity and quality, or the orderly maintenance of adequate supplies for consumers.
I next refer to “ companies “. Unquestionably the failure of the present Constitution to give to the Commonwealth power to pass a national companies act for the whole of Australia is a serious defect. As it is, companies of one State are treated as “ foreign “ companies under the laws of other States and must register as such.
It has been argued that to give such a power for five years would be useless. I think the objection superficial. If the Commonwealth makes a success of the uniform companies act, the business community will never want to see the restoration of the complicated system that now exists. “ Trusts, combines and monopolies “ form the subject of the next paragraph.
The post-war reconstruction period will probably witness the growth of many new industries, both in production and in commerce. The experience of every industralized community shows that in periods of rapid development there is a special susceptibility to the formation of cartels, trusts, combines and monopolies detrimental to the public interest.
In the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906, the Commonwealth endeavoured to deal with pernicious monopolies. But the act could not be made effective, for the Commonwealth has no direct constitutional power either over production or over intra-state commerce. It has also been discovered from experience that effective State action is quite impracticable because the evils extend far beyond the limits of any State. The power as it stands in the bill, is therefore needed to enable the Commonwealth to protect the Australian people from exploitation during the specially difficult years of the reconstruction period.
I turn now to the next two powers in the bill before the House - a power in relation to profiteering and prices and a power in relation to production and distribution. They may be conveniently dealt with together.
Here again we come very, close to the lives of the men and women of the services and of the war industries. One of their first and most pressing needs will be homes. The Commonwealth Government has already approved aggregate targets of 50,000 homes in the first post-war year, rising to 80,000 in the third.
– Order I The right honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Cuetin) agreed to -
That the right honorable member be granted time to conclude his speech.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction is now engaged with the State governments in the necessary planning.
No additional powers are required to make grants to the States for housing purposes. But that will be only the beginning. A housing programme of the planned dimensions will have tremendous impacts in many directions. Stock-piles of materials - bricks, timber, fittings - will have to be prepared beforehand and maintained through the post-war years. More than that, they will have to be so distributed to each State, irrespective of their State of origin or the demand for them there, that a balanced achievement of housing targets all over Australia can be attained. And the costs of production will have to be so controlled that the finished houses will be within the financial reach of the people who need them. If these things are not made subject to some final supervision and control on an Australian basis, lopsided developments in particular States will lead to breakdowns in the scheme with inflated costs and profiteering in many areas.
What is true of housing is true of furnishing and fitting the finished houses. Some people will not have the means to furnish in the earlier years. Homemaking for many will be a process extending over several years. The Commonwealth Government will be expected to assist and protect the home-makers until the demands on production for housing purposes are fully met.
– Will that override the existing model by-laws of the States?
– I .am dealing now simply with the legal power over the subject, and must not be taken as indicating how the details of any policy that may be executed under the power will be worked out.
– But it could ‘be exercised to override them, could it not ?
– Many powers could be abused, as I indicated earlier. I want the House to consider these powers irrespective of the possible abuses of them and of the political policy that may be carried out by any particular parliament that happens to be constituted over a period of years.
Without some .power to direct or coordinate production and distribution and to control the prices of much-sought-after materials, no fair and coherent programmes of housing and national works will be possible.
There is another aspect of price control in the transition years which should be of very considerable importance and benefit to the business and trading community. After the last war, prices rose rapidly in 1919 and 1920 and then fell just as rapidly in 1921. Such a sequence which benefits neither the consumer nor the producer, but only the speculator and the profiteer, will undoubtedly recur after this war unless the Commonwealth acquires and uses the power of price control during the period of reconstruction. This means that traders who had assembled stocks at relatively high wartime prices would suddenly be faced with disastrous depreciation. If, however, the Commonwealth has effective powers of price control, the natural decline of many prices which will occur when goods now in short supply become abundant can be cushioned so that the fall, is not cata strophic. The fall can be made reasonably gradual - the trader will be enabled to clear existing high-cost stocks without loss. This is fair and proper, for in the early years of war-time price control, these same traders were effectively prevented from making undue profits on stocks bought at pre-war prices.
The safeguarding of traders on the one hand and of consumers on the other can be achieved only by price fixation on a national footing. Price control in one State cannot be effectively maintained if prices in neighbouring States are fixed independently by the authority of those States.
Under the Constitution as it stands, the Commonwealth’s power of price control in peace-time is practically valueless for national purposes, because it could lawfully operate only upon interstate and overseas transactions.
As to production, the Commonwealth has no direct peace-time power under the present Constitution except as an incident of other powers, such as bounties and external affairs. Next, as to distribution, it has power only in relation to interstate or overseas trade. Unless the Commonwealth is in a position to exercise effective control and direction along the lines I have indicated, business conditions may become simply anarchic, and a policy of full employment” will be impossible of achievement.
T draw attention to the special qualification attached to the proposed Commonwealth power in relation to primary production. Having regard to the long history of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in the marketing of primary products, and also to the great importance of primary production in the political and economic affairs of the States, the Premiers insisted that no Commonwealth law under the specific power of production should operate in a State except with the consent of the State government.
– Was that the view of all the Premiers?
– Whatever their original views were, this was the final agreement, representing the unanimous decision of the six State Premiers.
This is an important safeguard for the States, hut at the same time an important limitation upon the proposed Commonwealth power. Some members of the convention urged that, in view of the probable disturbed condition of Australia’s export markets in the immediate post-war years, it was a mistake to fetter the Commonwealth’s authority in any way. The convention accepted the view, however, that in actual practice the limitation would operate not as a State veto upon necessary national action but rather as a means of ensuring that there would be proper consultation and cooperation with the States. However, the power was agreed to in its present form.
In the immediate post-war years, the production and marketing of some of Australia’s primary products will be a major feature of our ever-increasing activity in international affairs. For instance, Australia has already undertaken obligations, .as one of the United Nations, under the International Wheat Agreement and the United Nations Rehabilitation Relief Administration Agreement.
In view of these facts, it was explained to the convention, and I now wish to remind the House, that the “ external affairs “ power, contained in section 51 (xxix) of the Constitution, may reasonably be expected to confer on the Commonwealth Parliament full power to carry out any legal obligations regarding production which rest upon it by virtue of international treaties ot conventions to which Australia is a party. This will be so even although the subject-matter of such treaties and conventions is ordinarily a matter of exclusive State jurisdiction, such as production. I mention this to suggest that the Commonwealth’s legislative authority in relation to matters of primary production will be more extensive than might be supposed from the form of this particular paragraph.
The next paragraph’ deals with the subject of overseas exchange and investment and with the raising of money in Australia. The existing constitutional powers of the Commonwealth cover important aspects of both these subject-matters. But it is necessary to be sure that certain gaps are closed.
I need hardly emphasize the importance of currency stability in working out policies aimed at full employment. For the effectiveness of reconstruction plans in every country it is essential that each should be able to exercise control as a national unit over exchange movements.
In the reconstruction period it will probably be essential to encourage the flow of capital expenditure into channels which will give the maximum employment in the directions desired. In support of the proposed Commonwealth power over the raising of money in Australia, I quote what was said by the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Dunstan) in his second-reading speech on the Commonwealth powers bill in the Legislative Assembly -
It may be desirable in the public interest to prevent private individuals or companies intruding upon the loan market in order to raise money for purposes like the multiplication of the number of breweries, the erection of huge picture theatres, and for use in other unnecessary directions at a time when money is urgently needed for important national purposes . . . The Loan Council will prepare plans for the raising of money to be utilized for necessary purposes. I must admit that this power goes a considerable distance, but the important point is: Can any one object to it? If we are going to carry out big national works after the war, money must be made available for those purposes, and not be expended upon unnecessary works. If money is expended in the wrong direction, national and developmental works will suffer.
The next two paragraphs in the list deal with special phases of transport - first, air transport and, secondly, uniformity of railway gauges. There is certain to, be a great development of air transport in Australia after the war. It is most unsatisfactory that, under the present Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot deal with civil aviation as a whole, except by permission of the States. I do not suppose anybody will doubt the wisdom of giving to the Commonwealth a paramount authority over this national concern.
The differences in State railway gauges have always been an ugly feature of the transport systems of the Australian States. During the war, inconvenience has grown almost to danger point. Railway construction within a State is forbidden to the Commonwealth except with the State’s consent. However, under the power contained in the hill, the Commonwealth could at least determine what is to be the standard gauge for all future railway construction and initiate a plan for bringing about uniformity of gauges in the existing lines. The carrying out of such plans will no doubt require the consent of the State concerned.
The next power in the list relates to “ national works “. The Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, is already engaged in planning a great programme of post-war public works. This will be an essential part, of the function of re-establishing and maintaining employment. Proposed national works would cover housing and town planning, both in the cities and in country districts. Plans in preparation in the Ministry of Post war Reconstruction also contemplate works for the wider purposes of regional planning, such as afforestation, water and
Soil conservation and irrigation.
I have already explained that the Commonwealth’s present peace-time powers to carry out a programme of national works are limited. The “new power is heeded as one of the essentials of reconstruction.
Under section 96 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth can, of course, make grants to the States for carrying out national works on conditions laid down by this Parliament. The Federal Aid Roads Act of 1926 gives an illustration of this process. The new power requires cooperation by the States, but under it the Commonwealth will acquire a direct power and responsibility for national public works. ‘
I come now to national health. During -the war it has become even more evident that the health of the people is a matter of national and not -merely of local concern. Considerations of nutrition, health and hospital facilities, and preventive medicine, do not differ from State to State and the services to the people made available by the great hospitals, both public and private, should be extended throughout Australia with practical Commonwealth support. The importance of national health has been recognized in recent years by such CommonwealthState collaboration as maris, for example, the National Health and Medical
Research Council. If the plans of such bodies, including the Joint Committee
On Social Security of this Parliament, are to be put into practice, it is essential that the Commonwealth shall have the power of leadership in the field of national health.
As it stands, the Constitution lags well behind public opinion in matters of national health co-operation and organization. The only corner of the field of public health which belongs to the Commonwealth is that of quarantine. The new paragraph will bring the Constitution up to date and will ensure that Commonwealth health activities are carried out in oo-operation with the States.
The next paragraph deals with ian important social security power. Family allowances tend to bring about a real equality of opportunity and to improve living standards. Through such allowances, freedom from want Can be achieved in Australia. At present, the Constitution gives ‘to the ‘Commonwealth express legal support only for its invalid and oldage pensions system. But, in peace-time, the present child endowment and widows’ pensions systems would rest entirely upon the possibly insecure basis of the appropriation power. The new power in the bill will put beyond doubt these important war-time advances of the Commonwealth towards social security. It will also permit other grants to be made to the family-for example, allowances for medical or other health benefits, for vocational training, for university bursaries, or for any analogous social service.
—“Why is the appropriation power of the Commonwealth Parliament to make advances for child endowment doubted?
– The appropriation power is a general power to grant money for Commonwealth purposes. It has always been a matter of debate and doubt as to whether it enables the Commonwealth to do more than grant money, for example, to establish a system of control, as has been done in relation to not
Only invalid and old-age pensions, for Which provision is made in the Constitution, but also other pensions. The latest expression of opinion by the High Courtstill leaves the matter in doubt.
I emphasize the wisdom of placing on a secure basis all those advances which have been made since the outbreak of war by successive Commonwealth governments. But the power goes further than that. It will enable the Commonwealth Parliament to make any allowances so long as the family is the unit through which the allowance is made. The purpose of the allowance would be in the discretion of this Parliament.
The last paragraph of the bill refers to “ people of the aboriginal race “. Few will deny that the care and welfare of the Australian aborigines should, in principle, be a national responsibility. The Constitution as it stands provides that the Commonwealth can legislate for the people of any special race, but for some curious reason makes an express exception of the Australian aborigines. They are to be left to the States. .Such an anomaly would be all the greater in the post-war years when Australia will be assuming special responsibilities towards the native peoples of the South-West Pacific.
I submit that I have made out the case for approval by the Parliament and the Australian people of the new list of powers. To meet a situation of national dislocation and probable national peril the bill proposes a limited, temporary, provisional extension of this Parliament’3 powers to deal with the situation in the interests of the whole nation. It is the task of the House to assist in arming the Parliament with every ‘adequate power for post-war reconstruction. In Australia, the opportunity of altering the Constitution, so that it can serve the needs of the day, belongs to this Parliament and to the people. Such an opportunity carries with it a corresponding responsibility. The Australian people of 1901, in accepting the ‘amending process - section 128 - have enabled this Parliament, acting in co-operation with the Australian people of 1944, to make such constitutional changes as are necessary to face the conditions of 1944 and the future years of post-war reconstruction.
There remain several matters of supreme importance. When considering a grant of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, the people of
Australia should take into special account the fact that, broadly speaking, the Commonwealth Parliament is far more democratic and far more responsive to popular control than are the legislatures of the States. In five of the six States there are upper Houses which are not elected on the basis of full adult franchise and which cannot possibly be described as democratic bodies. In some of them property qualifications are still retained - retained in the year 1944! Moreover, even in the lower Houses of some of the States, the method of electoral distribution is quite opposed to the democratic system embodied in the Commonwealth Constitution under which the general rule is one of equal electorates. Further, the Commonwealth Parliament cannot extend its own life without a referendum. Most of the State legislatures can do so. Some of them have done so, even during the present war. All this tends to show that the constitutional framework of the Commonwealth is far more popular and democratic in character than can be found in most of the States.
This reinforces the inference that, in enlarging the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, the people of Australia will enlarge their own powers of self-government. It is they who will elect and in that way control the members of the Federal Parliament. To them the decisions of Parliament will be responsive. There will be no narrowly constituted upper House to thwart or delay their clearly expressed will.
After all, what is really involved in a constitutional change of the character now proposed ? This and only this, that the people of Australia shall give to themselves in their Commonwealth capacity an authority - indirect but real - to deal with post-war reconstruction matters. It will be a new authority in the sense that they can exercise it as a nation, as one Australian people, and through the Commonwealth Parliament. Given this approach, it is erroneous to speak of States and Commonwealth as though they were absolutely independent organisms. They are not. Let us remember that, in amending the Constitution, we are dealing with the people of Australia and that they aTe identical with the people of the six States. We propose to ask them to give to themselves additional powers of self-government so as to carry out a national joh in a national way during the critical post-war years.
To speak of a “ transfer “ of powers from States to the Commonwealth is convenient, hut is a misleading abstraction. If these proposals are adopted, there will be no direct loss of legislative power by any State legislature. The great change will be that, in relation to the specified list of subject-matters, Commonwealth laws will prevail over State laws. Until the Commonwealth legislates, the State law will remain effective. To refer to “State rights” in this connexion is to overlook the fact that the only rights that matter are the rights of ‘the people themselves.
Unfortunately, each generation has to discover this truth for itself. In the years of the depression the Australian people discovered it by bitter experience. In the formative years before federation, it was more generally perceived. I quote a statement made more than 50 years ago by the Honorable T. Playford, the then Premier of South Australia, and the grandfather of the present Premier of that State. He referred to the movement towards federal union of the people of Australia. “ The people “, he said, “ will lose no power. The local legislatures may lose a little. But the people will have larger powers than before.”
Only a few months ago Sir Isaac Isaacs stated the same great principle very clearly and most forcibly -
Whatever powers the people grant to the Commonwealth Parliament are granted to themselves, to be exercised by their own chosen agents, and controlled by themselves. They are not powers handed to a foreign body, or to a party, or a clique. . . . They are not powers which would, as in the case of the States, enable a minority of the population, specially privileged politically, to have a double share of government, not only to oppose measures in one House of the Parliament, where all are represented, but also, if unsuccessful there, to alter or veto the decision in the second House which they exclusively for the most part control.
I believe that the minority to whom Sir Isaac Isaacs referred will not be able to impose their will either upon this Parliament or upon the great majority of the people of Australia. Therefore, to the people, including the Australian servicemen and servicewomen, we shall appeal, confident that they will endow themselves with power - acting as Australians through the Australian Government - to carry out a national plan of post-war reconstruction worthy of the great cause for which they strive.
I commend the bill to the judgment of the House and of the nation.
Debate (on motion by Mir. Menzies) adjourned.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The coal crisis
– I move -
That the House do now adourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I take this action because I consider it necessary that the House should have an opportunity to discuss what I regard as one of the most important matters that could be dealt with in this Parliament at the present time. It has been rightly said that coal is the life-blood of a nation at war. Without it we can do nothing. We cannot make the necessary implements of war without coal, we cannot service our fighting men with the necessary foodstuffs, we cannot give them transport, and we cannot carry on the essential services of the country. Without coal it would be impossible for us to wage the present war to a successful conclusion. Yet we are dangerously close to a position in which we shall not have sufficient coal to carry on the services necessary for the waging of the war. Yesterday I read the following short paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald, setting out the position with regard to the shortage of coal for the five working weeks from the beginning of January : -
In New South Wales 250,000 tons of coal has. been lost by strikes in. the five working weeks of this year. This represents almost one-third of the 732,000 tons by which coal production dropped in 1943 below the 1942 figures. If this rate of loss were maintained throughout the year, production in 1944 would be at least 2,000,000 tons less than in 1942.
Whilst the position with regard to coal production is mainly the responsibility of the Government, it is necessary for it to take such action as is requisite for the winning of essential coal supplies, and not be diverted from that purpose. Unfortunately the Government has been playing at politics in this regard, and has allowed the position to deteriorate to a marked degree. A day or two ago seven coal mines were idle. There is no coal at grass, although formerly there were reserves at grass of approximately 500,000 tons. The reserves for the vital war industries and for essential services are dangerously low, and the gas companies in New South Wales and Victoria are in a precarious situation. The Australian Gaslight Company has sufficient reserves for only a couple of clays’ production of gas. The Victorian gas manufacturing industry has reserves sufficient for only about seven days. There is talk now about the need for the rationing of gas, because the necessary supplies of coal are not available.
The policy of the Government has been to pander to the employees in the coalmining industry, and because of that the Government has completely lost control of the industry. Those are serious charges, which should not be idly levelled at the Government, and. I would not make them unless I were prepared to attempt to justify them. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is aware of the position. He has said much harsher things than I am saying to-day about the loss of coal. Only recently, in his statement to the transport workers, he accused the coalminers of lawlessness> naked and unashamed. Before this House rose in October last he made a statement regarding the coal-mining position. He makes such pronouncements from time to time, and the effect they have is to lull the genera] public into a false sense of security, believing that at last a strong government is determined to take action to rectify the trouble in connexion with coal production. But when the Government’s subsequent inaction brings about a worse state of affairs than before,, another statement is made by the PrimeMinister. Again, a smoke-screen is laid, and again the public is lulled into a false sense of security. We all remember the position prior to the statement by thePrime Minister in October last. We all listened to his repeated assertions and appeals. We knew that with regard to coal production the arbitration courts had been superseded by the Government. Regulations in legion had been brought down, but had not been implemented. We were aware that the prosecutions foreshadowed would never be carried out to the utmost, and that the fines imposed would not be collected in their entirety. Yet appeals were made by the Prime Minister to the civilian population to ration themselves with coal, so that the miners, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said, could have a few more holidays at Christmas-time. All this has resulted in a continued and increasing loss of coal and flagrant disregard, on the part of the miners, of the Government, the law, and the welfare of the nation. In his statement in October last, before the House rose, the Prime Minister said -
We note that he refers to the matter as a crisis - leaves the Government no escape from the duty it owes to the nation of getting the quantity of coal required.
How did the right honorable gentleman discharge that duty? We have lost more coal for the five working weeks of this year than we have lost during any similar period previously.
After a series of telegrams that passed between the mine-owners and the Prime Minister - I have no knowledge of what passed between the miners federation and the right honorable gentleman - a conference was called in Canberra for the 27th October. It is interesting to note that the conference was convened to discuss the coal position with the coal-mine owners, in order to see if they could iron out another code that might solve the problem. But, to the amazement of the coal mine owners, they found that another conference had been held prior to their conference, and that the Prime Minister had sold out completely to the miners. He had made a series of concessions to them at their request, without even listening to the case of the mine-owners, although they were due in Canberra on the next day. That was a flagrant discourtesy, to say the least of it, but the Prime Minister satisfied the miners temporarily. In his subsequent investigations - because the conference with the mine-owners was held -did he find that the owners were at fault with regard to the stoppages of work? Did he discover that they were refusing to do certain things and thus causing strikes ? No. At that conference he said to the mine-owners -
The employers have generally, and in .your case I would say completely, accepted the decision of the courts. The men have not done so.
That is a clear and unequivocal statement. Yet the Prime Minister had sold out to the miners on the previous day, without taking into consideration the representations which might be made by the mine-owners at their conference. The fact is that the working conditions in the mines have never been better than at present. This “war has given the miners an opportunity to improve their conditions to an extraordinary degree. They have never earned so much money as they are receiving to-day, and because of that the important issue of income taxation, which may be the basis of most of the strikes now occurring on the coal-fields, has arisen. Let me give two examples. In the Maitland Main mine some men have earned on an average £3 3s. lOd. a day. In another case that has come to my notice, men employed at the same mine have been paid on an average £2 16s. 6d. a day.
– Is that after the deduction of the cost of explosives?
– Yes. I shall not give details of improvements of the conditions in the mines, but many concessions have been obtained by the miners through the local reference boards. These number some hundreds, and therefore the conditions must be better than formerly. I invite honorable members to compare the rates that I have cited with certain figures given in the Stock Exchange Gazette of September or October last, regarding the profits accruing to the mine-owners. It was stated that some of the companies with capital totalling £1,000,000 or more had not drawn one penny in dividends during the last sixteen or eighteen years.
– If that were true their capital would have disappeared.
– An investigation of the matter would show the correctness of the statement.
One of the comments with regard to the Central Coal Reference Board was that Judge Drake-Brockman was to be relieved of his duties in connexion with coal.
– That is not accurate.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s correction, but the fact remains that Judge Drake-Brockman was relieved of his jurisdiction with regard to the coal-miners. The right honorable gentleman is splitting hairs. I do not know why the miners were desirous of removing the judge from that jurisdiction, unless it was because they had obtained from him all they possibly could, and considered that if somebody else could be placed in his position they might obtain as much from him as from the previous judge. In other words, they could run out each chairman as they did in the case of the local coal reference boards, and so succeed in improving their conditions. When the mine-owners objected to the alteration of the coal reference boards the Prime Minister said -
But I am faced with the fact that it is the psychology not of the owners but of the miners which is producing the discontents and stoppages in the industry. You have accepted the decisions and I have no doubt that you. will accept the decisions of any impartial tribunal. I say that because your record warrants me in believing it. I shall weigh very carefully, as will my colleagues, the submissions you have made. I assure you that I shall not have in the industry any authority that will not be an arbitral authority. I assure you that the chairman will be chosen because we believe that he will have at least an impartial outlook upon the problems of the industry.
That is a clear and unequivocal statement. In effect, the right honorable gentleman told the mine-owners that they had been good boys; they had accepted the decisions of impartial tribunals in the past and could be expected to continue to accept such decisions; therefore ‘ they would be rewarded by the appointment of a chairman who would be impartial. But let us see who that chairman turned out to be : I am sure that other honorable members were as amazed as I was when I read that the chairman was to be Mr. A. C. Willis.
– A good man, too!
– A good Labour man, yes. I recall reading in the Bulletin a short resume, of Mr. Willis’s labour activities, in which he was described as a New South Wales union boss. Of course he is a union boss, and therefore a good Labour man; but is he impartial ?
– Yes, he is. As a matter of fact I wish that the miners would accept his decisions. Then everything would be all right.
– I shall remind the Prime Minister of something that was said by Mr. Willis, and of a letter which the right honorable gentleman received on the 28th January. That letter was sent as a protest to the Prime Minister, because the mine-owners, having received an assurance that there would be impartiality, had looked to the Prime Minister to ensure that an impartial attitude would be adopted by the chairman o£ this tribunal.
– Who sent the letter?
– It is from Northern Collieries Limited. It states - lt is the desire of my Council to bring under your notice a statement which appeared in the N.S.W. press on the 26th January, attributed to Mr. A. C. Willis, Chairman of the Central Coal Authority, and not denied hy him. I quote Mr. Willis’s statement: -
My sympathies naturally are with the miners and I have to protect them against the employers who would brand men they do not like as incorrigibles in order to get them out at any price.
Honorable members will agree that these remarks can hardly be regarded as an impartial statement by an impartial chairman. The letter goes on to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the promise which he had given in regard to the setting up of an impartial tribunal. Then it states -
We accepted your statement in its entirety, although we viewed the ultimate appointment of Mr. Willis with considerable apprehension.
A review of the decisions given by Mr. Willis since his appointment reveals the fact to any impartial observer that these decisions have been anything but impartial. I was summoned to the presence of Mr. Willis, and he told me that on the authority of a responsible Minister he was able to say that costs were not a major consideration as far as the Government was concerned.
Apparently the Government was prepared to give way on any matter, and the costs incurred were not a consideration. _Extension of time granted.] The letter continues -
This leads us to the opinion that it must be Government policy that concessions should be made to the miners and this opinion was further strengthened when Mr. Willis made the request to me that my organization should make a payment of one-third of a shift in respect to the first day of each quarterly cavil. I informed Mr. Willis that I regretted that ‘1 could not accede to his request in this matter which had been before the High Court only a few days previously, and if I acceded to his request I would be making the payment in direct contravention of a decision of the High Court of Australia on this specific matter. Mr. Willis replied: “You have nothing to worry about getting your extra money back as I have authority to say that the Commonwealth Government will reimburse you.”
Apparently this allegedly impartial chairman was prepared to advise the breaking of a High Court ruling, under Government direction.
– Who is the authority that Mr. Willis said that?
– The authority is the secretary of Northern Collieries Limited, Mr. Gregory Forster.
– Does the honorable member happen to have a communication from Mr. Armstrong to the same effect?
– I have no communication from Mr. Armstrong.
– I am not at all surprised at that.
– These things were said by Mr. Willis to Mr. Forster. It is all very well to deny them now, but we want to know what is going on behind the scenes in regard to these matters and what is behind the suggestion that * certain measure will be introduced, because all the troubles in the coal-mining industry at present are of this Government’s own making. They are due entirely to the policy of appeasement.
– Of course, no coal stoppages occurred until this Government came into office!
– Had the Government been fair and -firm in its approach to this matter, the problem might have been kept under control, but the Government has not been fair and firm. It has gone from regulation to regulation, from statement to statement, from chairman to chairman, from authority to authority, and has succeeded only in making confusion worse confounded. To-day we find that all the big unions are taking the bit in their teeth and are striking because they know that to strike means Commonwealth intervention, and that Commonwealth intervention means concessions.
Mr. Forster goes on to say ;
We feel that it cannot be said in Mr. Willis’s favour that he has brought about any greater peace in the industry than that which prevailed prior to his appointment, and now that he has openly declared himself, greater lawlessness will intrude itself on the coal-fields, as the irresponsible element there will take Mr. Willis’s statement as meaning that no matter how impossible the claim placed before him, the decision will be in their favour. This will only bring about a position of confusion worse confounded.
I am in complete accord with that observation because I believe that Mr. Willis is not an impartial chairman. The statement which I have quoted robs him of any claim to impartiality, and I believe that when the facts relating to certain other troubles on the South Coast coal-fields become known honorable members will understand more fully the manner in which the Government, in conjunction with Mr. Willis, has been handling matters on those fields. The Prime Minister has admitted that the mine-owners are not at fault, yet, whilst he charges the miners with disloyalty and actions closely akin to sabotage, he is continually placing restrictions upon the mine-owners. He is sending inspectors along to investigate every little complaint that is made. In the event of prosecutions of mine-owners, he is briefing both senior and junior counsel, whereas when miners are being prose cuted, only a junior counsel is briefed. He is doing everything possible to pinprick the management of the coal mines, possibly with the object of causing the owners ultimately to boil over so that he can take action to nationalize the mines in accordance with the repeatedly expressed wishes of the miners. If the right honorable gentleman does propose to introduce a nationalization scheme for the coal mines - I do not think for one moment that he would be foolish enough to do that-
– ‘Then why does the honorable member mention it?
– I say if the right honorable gentleman intends to take that action - I do not know what is in the bill - he will have to swallow all his remarks in regard to nationalization, and I do not think that he will be prepared to do that. I do not think that the history of State-owned coal mines, both inside Australia and abroad, would justify such action being taken in this country, even in war-time. I have before me a most interesting cable, the contents of which I should like to make known to the House. It was sent from Great Britain yesterday by the Colliery Guardian following upon a request for that information, and sets out some facts in regard to State control of coal mines and absenteeism under State control. It says -
Under State control output down absenteeism up costs up. Output per man shift 1939 was 22.88 cwt. in 1940 was 22.13 in twelve months to June 30 1941 was 21.62 same 1942 was 21.28 same 1943 was 20.83. Average weekly output 1939 was 4,305,700 tons in second half 1942 was 4,017,700 in first half 1943 was 3,855,700 in second half of 1943 was 3,078,450. Men employed were 760,322 in 1939 and 749,165 in 1940 and 697,633 in 1941 and 709,031 in 1942 and 710,003 in 1943 to June 30.
I suggest to the Prime Minister that the decrease of coal production per man, and, in general, under State control of coal mines, is a matter which is worthy of consideration. It is a most serious matter.
– Where is that?
– That is in England.
– Then they have State control in England!
– If the Prime Minister approaches the coal problem in Australia with the same levity as he displays towards the situation which I have outlined in Great Britain, I can understand why the present troubles have arisen.
– Is there a “ spineless “ government in ‘Great Britain, too ?
– I am glad that the Prime Minister has made that remark. Recently a question was asked in the House of Commons regarding deferment of prosecutions, and the answer made it quite clear that prosecutions would not he deferred nor would the payment of fines be deferred. I suggest that the same policy should be followed in this country.
The cable continues -
Absenteeism all wage-earners per cent, shifts possible 8.27 in 1940 and 9.03 in 1941 and 10.20 hi 1942 and 12.09 in 1943 to October. Costs not published but increase substantial. 1942 plan remains but rationing abandoned. Loss entirely industrial effect of bombing insignificant as our transport difficulties limited. Signed Colliery Guardian.
If the Prime Minister wishes any further evidence of the inefficiency of Stateowned coa] mines let him turn to the State-owned mine at Lithgow, New South Wales, which is losing approximately £17,000 per annum, or to the State mines in Victoria, which in 1941 had a deficit of approximately £121,548. Nationalization of the coal mines, which is the aim of the coal-miners, because that is why they strike, is not the solution of this problem, because it would inevitably mean loss of production.
– Then what is?
– Strikes occur in many State instrumentalities, as was the case recently with the transport services in Sydney and Newcastle. I repeat that the difficulties associated with this problem are all of the Government’s own making, and have resulted from the policy of appeasement which has only succeeded in encouraging the miners to ask for increased powers and increased concessions.
Sitting suspended from 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– An adjournment or the suspension of a sitting is beneficial, especially when one has re ceived an interjection with which, for the moment, one cannot deal because of the lack of necessary information; it provides an opportunity for checking. While I was reading an extract from a letter which the Prime Minister had received, the right honorable gentleman asked me who the writer of it was. When I had given this information, the right honorable gentleman said, “Have you a letter from Mr. Armstrong ? “ I told him that I had not. He then, to a degree, ridiculed the source of my information. This is typical of the tricks that are associated with debate. The right honorable gentleman is perfectly well aware that he received not only a letter from the secretary of the Coal Mine Proprietors Association, hut also a personal letter from Mr. Armstrong, objecting to the appointment of Mr. Willis and to certain observations that that gentleman had made. If the right honorable gentleman wanted something which he could regard as of greater moment than my earlier remarks, I present him with that.
It is well for us to try to understand the trouble that is associated with strikes and absenteeism on the coal fields. I consider that these are caused by overcontrol, and the interference indulged in by the Government in this industry. It has brought down regulations, the number of which. is legion. Had these been given effect, my first premise would collapse. But the attempts at enforcement by the Government have been beaten back again and again. The miners claim that, under the regulations, the Government has given to them the right to strike. It has given to the executive of the miners’ federation the right to say whether coal shall or shall not be won, and this is interpreted by the miners as the right to strike should the federation deem such a course advisable. The regulations are seldom given effect. On the 10th December last, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) discussed with the miners’ federation the possibility of instituting prosecutions. No statement has been made with respect to the outcome oi” that conference, but it is interesting to note that not one prosecution has since been instituted on the northern coal fields. Why? Because the Government knows that it cannot enforce its regulations. When a striker has been fined, the miners’ federation pays the fine. Supposedly, his wages are garnisheed and the federation is. reimbursed. That sounds all right ; hut what is the result in practice ? We have the- classic example of the ten miners at Cessnock who were fined. The federation paid the fines. The lodge then attempted to collect from them 10s. a week, but they simply refused to pay it. The. secretary of the lodge has now asked the federation to discipline them. I say to the Prime Minister: Why use brave words and apply timid appeasement?
– The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– The honorable gentleman, we know, has come to this Parliament fresh from a struggle on the political cliffs with a woman, from which he had rather a narrow escape. Evidently, he considers that he should now descend into the coal mines in order to continue the political struggle. I had hoped, in view of the announcement of the intention of the Government to introduce legislation dealing with the industry that the honorable gentleman would have made some suggestion as to what it ought to contain. He has not done so.
– We do not know what it covers.
– There are certain problems under which this industry labours. These are not peculiar to this country. I understand that they are a legacy from past times. They require the exercise of a good deal of patience, as well as thought, if they are to be resolved. Some of them I do not believe can be dealt with in the present circumstances. The honorable gentleman, anticipating that there- was to be some form of national control over the coal mines of this country, said that in Great Britain, where this system had been tried, there had been a falling-off of production. I shall not give to him any information that I have about what has happened in that country, because I do not regard it as relevant to what is occurring in. our own country. We have our own problems, and ought to try to deal, with them. But I can say to the
House that from both Washington and London have come to the Commonwealth Government requests for it to supply coal to the European theatre. I invite honorable gentlemen to dwell upon that. The United States of America and Great Britain are great coal-producing countries. The European theatre is much closer to them, in point of distance, than is this Commonwealth. I know that they have their man-power problems and their difficulties. They know that we have our man-power problems and our difficulties. Yet these
Governments - about which, I am quite sure, the honorable gentleman would not speak in the terms which he has employed concerning the Australian Government - find that such are the demands for coal, and such is the capacity to get it in the present circumstances, that they, too, like ourselves, are unable to have produced the quantity that would enable them to meet the expansion of their war industries.
– For the same reason?
– I do not say that it is for the same reason. But I do say that they have vast resources of coal production and, relatively with ourselves, vast resources also in respect of manpower. They have their own problems, but these are not quite the same as the problems that we have.
– They are mostly man power problems, rather than those caused by stoppages.
– Are they? New Zealand has been cited to me. New Zealand is clamouring for coal from Australia. Not only did the Government of the United States of America, with that of Great Britain, ask for coal for the European theatre, but the former has also asked this Government on several occasions to supply coal to Chile, which is much closer to the United States of America than we are. The United States of America has a population of 140,000,000, and great anthracite mines. They also “have John Lewis. Furthermore, they have problems that are entering the field of discussion in this country.
– We had an export coal trade at one time.
– Of course we had. I have been in this Parliament for a number of years. Fifteen years ago, during my first week as a member of this Parliament, there was a discussion about coal, and I do not think that since then there has been a session in which the problems of the coal industry have not in some way been the subject of examination in this Parliament. It is perfectly true that I have consulted with the owners and the miners on several occasions; I have consulted with them together, and separately. The notes of those discussions are in the hands of the participants in the series of conferences. I shall not survey all the suggestions that have been made; I merely say that the best men, with the longest experience in this industry, have been asked by the Government to submit proposals. Their proposals arise out of their experience. These men are not wedded to any fixed principle. Indeed, practically the only thing upon which, the owners and the representatives of the miners are in complete agreement is that penalties, for not working will not produce coal. However, under our arbitration laws strikes are unlawful, and therefore I have two things to do: I have to endeavour to vindicate the law, and at the same time I have to endeavour to get more coal. The Government has applied itself to the task of getting more coal with varying success; at the present moment the predominant feeling is one of great disappointment. Unfortunately, the production of coal is not keeping pace with present requirements.
– Or with past performances.
– Production is not keeping pace with the performance in 194’2, which was the year of the Canberra code. A conference was called to discuss the problems of the industry, and from it the Canberra code emanated. I had hoped that the code would succeed. For some time it did show good results, but later, as the fine fervour ebbed away, production began to fall owing to absenteeism and strikes. I “have dealt with that matter in previous statements. I certainly have no desire to hide any of the facts. On the contrary, I have done my best to state them clearly and fully.
I could wish that there was some one in this country who could tell me how to get more coal. I know that in one quarter the remedy is thought to be in the nationalization of the industry, but I do not believe that that would produce more coal. I say that candidly. My statement pleases honorable gentlemen opposite, and it displeases a great number of people who are said to be my political supporters. On the other hand, honorable gentlemen opposite, and certain other people who ventilate public opinion in Australia, say, “ prosecute the strikers with the utmost rigour of the law, or put them into the Army”. Those are some of the proposals that have been advanced.
– The right honorable gentleman himself has referred to the mechanization of the mines. Perhaps he will tell us how that proposal is getting on.
– It is getting on slowly; that is because the means of mechanization cannot be obtained. Underground transport, for example, is an improvement of working conditions in the mines which should have been provided during the years when unemployment was rife in Australia, and there was no great demand for steel rails and other equipment for war purposes such as there now is. These things are mentioned by the miners in explanation of the falling productivity of the mines.
– The coal-miners were opposed to mechanization.
– The owners controlled the mines, and I have frequently heard that the governments of those days were strong governments.
– Some of them were Labour governments.
– There was a Labour government in the Commonwealth from 1929 to 1931.
– There were Labour governments in New South Wales.
– Must I accept responsibility to-day for everything that has been done by other governments both Commonwealth and State?
– The right honorable gentleman must accept responsibility if he claims credit for what they did.
– I do not claim credit for anything that the right honorable gentleman did when he was the Leader of the Government, because it probably would not enhance my reputation. However, let us pass from these political sallies. I say with candour, as I have said before in this Parliament, that each yea* we need 2,000,000 more tons of coal than we are now getting in order to prosecute the war with the strength which our other resources enable us to deploy. I say that candidly and frankly. I have said before that I believe that it is the duty of the miners’ federation to ‘ use all its strength in the interests of the great cause to which it is pledged no less than is the Government. That body is under an obligation to do all that it can to win that extra 2,000,000 tons of coal. In 1942 more coal was produced in this country than in any previous year. Perhaps the fact that the war against Japan had commenced late in 1941 had something to do with that result. Last year’s production was, however, most disappointing; the output was 800,000 tons less than in the previous year. If that 800,000 tons of coal had been available, it would have enabled all our reserves to be maintained; but because of the deficiency in production we have had to dip into those reserves. The demand for coal is growing. Since the war began there have been times when Australia has sent coal out of its stocks to distant places. At this stage, I cannot acquaint the House with certain war situations in which I felt that it was proper that this country should take a risk with its own future coal reserves in order to meet what I believed was an urgent war requirement. War involves risks, and a government which will not accept risks will not win a war. The risks were taken, and our stocks of coal were depleted. In addition, there have been shipping difficulties. There always have been shipping difficulties. Other difficulties have arisen owing to the fact that it has been the custom of the miners not to produce coal unless the ships were there ready to be loaded. There are no facilities at Newcastle to build up a coal dump at which ships could be loaded. Moreover, miners are accustomed to absenteeism, because for many years it was the habit of the
mine-owners to send them home when they presented themselves for work if there were no ships at the wharves, or no trucks available to carry the coal. Having regard to the personnel employed, the time actually worked by members of the miners’ federation last year was as good as in previous years. However, I do not regard that as a justification for what has happened. I do not expect that absenteeism oan be altogether avoided, but I am sure that the loss of 800,000 tons of coal in a year could have been greatly reduced, and there ought not to have been strikes.
The appointment of Mr. Willis was made by the Government in these circumstances : The Canberra code provided for the appointment of local reference boards, and a central reference board. After a while, it was found that the local reference boards were not making decisions in regard to a great many matters which I, as chairman of the conference which drew up the code, expected them to make. It was also found that a large number of matters, which had hitherto been decided by the mine managers and the lodges between them, were being pushed, on to the local reference boards. For some reason the mine managers were not making decisions; or, if they were, the decisions were not to the satisfaction of the miners. As a result, the local reference boards were congested, and this may have accounted, in part, for the fact that so many matters were sent on to the Central Reference Board. In regard to many other matters, however, the point was taken that they affected other mines in other districts, and therefore the local reference board had no authority to deal with them. The Central Reference Board was composed of a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the other members were representatives of the employers and the employees. It has to be remembered that a great number of craft unions are concerned with the mining industry. The miners took the point that the representatives of other unions did not understand actual mining operations as they did. The miners did not ask that Judge Drake-Brockman be removed from the Arbitration Court. As a matter of fact, the court still functions, and
Judge Drake-Brockman is still Chairman of the Central Reference Board. What the miners did ask is that a separate central reference board be established for the coal-miners. All the other unions desired that the existing machinery be continued, with Judge DrakeBrockman as Chairman of the Central Reference Board. The Government decided to accede to the request of the miners in this regard. I saw no reason why a man who had been a secretary of the miners’ federation, who had been elected to a State parliament, who had been made the leader of the government in one House of that Parliament, and who had- served as Agent-General for his State in London, should not be regarded as being just as impartial as a lawyer who had been president of the Employers Federation.
– The Prime Minister is misstating the case.
– -In what way?
– The Prime Minister knows that the Central Reference Board had on it no representatives of the craft unions except when it was considering matters in which those unions were concerned. When the hoard was considering purely mining matters its members consisted only of representatives of the miners and of the owners.
– Yes, the personnel was changing all the time. It is said that Mr. Willis is not impartial, yet the fact is that there have been more disputes over the decisions given by Mr. Willis than there were over those given by Judge Drake-Brockman.
– There is nothing very mysterious about that. Those are part of the tactics being followed.
Mr. Holt. - The decisions of Judge Drake-Brockman were more satisfactory because he has a trained judicial mind.
– A trained judicial mind! The honora’ble member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) comes from a State where for years industrial conditions were determined by wages boards. The chairmen of which had no judicial training.
– Those boards adopted ‘almost in their entirety the findings of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– As between the two proposals - to nationalize the industry, or to prosecute the miners with the utmost rigour of the law - I can see no positive contribution to the solution of the problem of how to get more .coal. This matter concerns me just as much as it does honorable members opposite. I have said that I believe there was « stage in the history of this country when provision for defence was conditioned by the amount of money that could be provided. Then, when the Japanese struck, our defensive preparations had to be measured in terms of man-power. It is now my firm belief that the capacity of the country to wage war this year can be measured in tons of coal. The quantity of coal available has a vital bearing upon transport, upon industry and upon shipping activities, and it profoundly affects the contribution which we can make towards the efforts of our Allies in this and other theatres. Honorable members may. if they like, accuse me of being plaintive, but I say that if any one can show me a better way of getting more coal, I shall not hesitate to follow it. However, I have been assured by those who are in a position to know that it would* not solve the problem to put the miners into uniform, or to drive them down the mines, or to send them to gaol. I am assured that, before a man is of any use as a coal-miner he must have some knowledge of the industry. Experience is needed in order to win coal. It may be that democracy has reached a stage in this country, as in others, when certain occupations hitherto disregarded by governments and the community, are now so vitally necessary that those who follow them have become a little bit too important in their own eyes, and regard themselves as able to call the tune. That may be the. case in this instance. If so, it is most regrettable. I have attempted to see that the law is enforced. Prosecutions have been launched, but we found that we were prosecuting men who wanted towork as well as those who did not. The prosecutions were unjust in the case of those men who voted against a strike. Honorable members should understand that, in this industry particularly, it is impossible for men who are opposed toa strike to continue working when a majority of their comrades have decided to strike. What is called “ scabbing “ is something which simply cannot happen in the coal mines of Australia.
I repeat, therefore, that I, and the Government generally, have done what we could. Honorable members may not think much of it, but it has been the very best that we could do. Time after time, I have sought to learn how more coal could be produced. I have ‘been told that the arrangements underground could be more efficient, that transport facilities are, in many instances, obsolete. I know that there is much sickness among miners. I know that disputes occur over the safety or otherwise of the mines, and all these things make for loss of production. The law in New South Wales prescribes a method for determining whether or not a mine is safe, but the law is not always acted upon, and I cannot force a State government to act. In any case, the problem is how to get the men to produce more coal. I told the owners that they appeared, according to all the records, to have observed the decision of the umpire. The honorable gentleman quoted that as if he were putting up something that I had omitted to say. I said it quite candidly to the conference. I did not in any way misrepresent anything. If that were the impression it was because I was misunderstood. I do not know much about the industry except what I have learnt from my study of it and from the inquiries I have made. I have never worked in the industry, and I have never had much to do with it. I am very much like thousands of others, perhaps, who do not know much about it but have much to say about it. So I called in these people for their advice, and up to the point that there was any consensus of opinion upon the matter, the decisions embodied in what is known as the Canberra code were regarded as favorable. The parties said they would do their best to carry out the code. That machinery did not work, and it is not working now. Certain things intruded themselves. What they are I do not know. Here, I assure the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that there are certain persons in the unions whom I regard as persons who do not desire the code to succeed.
– Get rid of them.
– I have tried to do so ; but there are certain men among the coalowners of whom the same can be said. Thus we have a situation in which it is not easy to place the final responsibility. I propose to bring down a bill dealing with the industry as soon as I can get it drawn. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is engaged on that measure now. I have only to say that the governments against which no charge has been made similar to that levelled against this Government have the same problem. I do not propose to cite details of strikes and absenteeism in other countries in order to provide some alibi for those in this country who go on strike and absent themselves from essential work, so that they may say to themselves, “ If others can do it, why can’t we do the same? “ I see no purpose in that. I say to the House that this problem of coal is not peculiar’ to Australia. It is one of the greatest causes of concern to the governments of all the United Nations. J refuse to acknowledge that the matter is hopeless. I believe that there can come a transformation of heart on the part of the mcn. I hope that those in the managements who, either thoughtlessly or out of prejudice, are responsible for certain discord in the mines, will also realize that they must exhibit a certain degree of toleration. I have been accused of saying harsh things about the miners, and of having described certain actions as “ lawlessness, naked and unashamed “. 1 have said these things when, faced with all the circumstances of the war, I confessed to the human feeling of being stung to anger at what I regard as actions destructive of the best efforts of the country to ensure its defence. I withdraw none of those statements. . If I leave the office which I now hold to-morrow I shall leave it with the firm conviction that, even if I fail to get the quantity of coal I need, I do not know how to get more, and I do not think that anybody else does.
– I do not propose to detain the House more than a few minutes because some of my colleagues have given recent and detailed study to this problem, and I do not want to cut in on their time. The thing I want to say is this: The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has not for the first time on this subject, because it is not the first time it has been debated, in this House, used words which are as words entirely reasonable. I have not got up here to say that I know you can tie up into a neat package the answer to the coal problem; and I do not know that anybody can say he knows the answer to the coal problem as a neat, positive solution. But what is overlooked in this matter - and I regret that the Prime Minister has overlooked it - is that there is such a thing as pursuing so fluctuating a course that you encourage trouble on the coal-fields. After all, consistency in one’s course, even though it be an inadequate course, and, perhaps, in some ways an erroneous course, would have great merit; and it passes the wit of man to devise a perfect course of conduct. But what has happened in this matter? I have yet to hear the Prime Minister say anything about the coal industry which I did not think was very sensible. But when I leave the House and go about my affairs, and open my newspaper from time to time, I find myself confronted by a series of the most extraordinary inconsistencies. One day I will read words - harsh words, strong words, words which involve threats of penal action; and a week later I read a few quiet words whispered as gently as any cooing dove. One week I will open my mail in the morning and receive the day’s batch of National Security Regulations, a batch which I am happy to learn from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is about to diminish ; and I find there is an anti-strike provision, that under penalties of great substance, people are prohibited from absenting themselves from their work, particularly if engaged in protected industries. And like every other citizen I say to myself, “ This means that strong words, quiet words and gentle suggestions having failed, there is now to be an enforcement of the law. The law has converted itself into a penal law on the matter “. But, later, I hear the Prime Minister say that penalties will not get coal, that it is no use prosecuting people. Well, if it is no use prosecuting people - and that may be true for all I know - what i3 the use of making laws which provide that the Government will prosecute offenders ? What sort of results does the Government expect to get from a great body of men in a vast industry if they know that when the strong words and laws come, soft words will assuredly follow ? And the third paradox that has confronted us in recent times is this: That in recent months and last year the losses of coal production due to unpardonable absences on the part of the men have been almost of record proportions. Right through this period, so that coal-miners may rest, housewives have been scrimping, saving and economizing on coal, and at the same time reading advertisements in the newspapers suggesting that the housewives were responsible for the coal shortage. They make a patriotic response and save coal. Railway services are cut and stock which ought to be transported to market cannot be brought to market. All those disorders come upon us so that the coalminers may rest. All I say to the Prime Minister is that there can be nothing but encouragement to the lawless elements of this country from the course of conduct which chops from north to south and from east to we3t. I do hope that if this proposal which the Government has in mind comes in - and I know nothing about it but what I assume to be mere rumours in the newspapers - and whenever it is adopted by Parliament it will be enforced, because I am quite certain that in the long run the issue of coal is not an issue concerned with little matters. The real issue is who is in charge of this country - the Government or a few men on the coalfields of New South Wales?
– I approach this subject with a good deal of regret. At all times I try to find solutions of troubles. In the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who moved this motion, there was not one suggestion as to how the Government should overcome the difficulties which beset it in dealing with the coal-mining industry, but only ridicule of the Government for propaganda purposes. I know that the coal-mining industry can be termed a “ problem child “, but we find men like the honorable gentleman, with no knowledge of coal-mining or coal-miners and their troubles, antagonizing the men by claiming that coal-mining is easy. He was to have proved his words by going down a pit to work on the face, but, of course, he did not turn up. One honorable member opposite, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), did go down a mine, and he did fill a skip with coal, but the mine he went down might be termed a surface mine. As the result of statements he made afterwards, that mine ceased work for the first time in twenty years. That honorable gentleman filled an easy skip, but at least he did fill one, which is more than the honorable member for Wentworth has done, in spite of his promise to do so.
– I was refused permission.
– Simply because the management was aware that the Coal Mines Regulation Act provides that before any one can go on to the coal face and fill coal into skips he must have two years’ experience. It is a wonder that the honorable member for New England was not prosecuted. I do not want to get heated about this subject, it is sufficient to be worried. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is worried, the Government is worried and I am worried, because 75 per cent, of Australia’s coal production comes from my electorate, and the bulk of the troubles in the coal-mining industry occur in that area. I assure the House that the job which the Prime Minister has given me gives me a headache. Nevertheless, I will do it to the best of my ability. It is a pity that honorable members opposite, after hearing the pleas of the Prime Minister for a settlement of the troubles in the industry do not try to aid him instead of ridiculing the miners. They should see the miners, who are not heathens. They will treat honorable members decently, and will listen to them. Every time I have had something of value to impart to the miners I have passed it on to them with remarkably good results. I go out at 5 a.m. to address pit-top meetings, and thereby settle many disputes. I have never sought press publicity in respect of the disputes I have settled, but every time I fail or the miners walk out on me I get plenty of publicity. Honorable members should make themselves more conversant with the problems of the miners. They are an isolated community. They live apart from other industrialists. They live very much to themselves. They are not so conversant with outside problems as are workers in other industries who have other industries nearby. It is our duty to convince the miners of the absolute necessity for coal to be produced. I remind honorable members that we are dealing with people who for more than 100 years have had bitterness and distrust in their hearts. They remember the time when owing to fear of diminished production injured miners were not removed from the mines, but were left lying in’ the goaf until knock-off time. They know that only a few years ago men were locked out for fifteen months, because the bosses were trying to, and did, enforce a 12-J per cent, reduction of wages. That occurred when the parties opposite, or at least parties which went under different names from those now used but were similar in their political make-up, were in office. They talked about prosecutions with the full rigour of the law. They promised the then Opposition that they would prosecute the late John Brown for locking out the men, but immediately the House went into recess the prosecution was withdrawn, in spite of the fact that it was one of the most illegal lockouts in history. These things are embedded in the hearts of the men. The men and the owners are mutually distrustful of each other. I have mined in other parts of Australia where the men and the bosses fraternize. For five years I worked at Collie, Western Australia, and at the same time I carried out honorary duties as a union official. During those five years there was a stoppage of only three days at one colliery. Why does this bitterness exist on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales? In Collie the colliery managers and the miners have the one club. They are associated. They understand one another’s troubles. But, in the northern district of New South Wales, I may live side by side with a man and go to work with him. Then, perhaps, he will take a course in management in order to become a mine manager. He may get a lift towards that end. I may remain his friend, but his wife becomes a superior person and avoids my wife, and, ultimately we drift apart, simply because of the class distinction between the coal-miners and the management. These are things that have to be broken down, and honorable members in Opposition should find means to break them down, because they can help to do so. They should go to the mines and talk to that superior class which they consider they represent, and then try to bring the two lots together so that they may live in harmony. Honorable members opposite would be better employed in doing this than in trying to make dirty political capital in this chamber out of the existing troubles. They would be rendering a service to their country instead of trying to promote the interests of a political party. (^Extension of lime granted.] The honorable member for “Wentworth, who moved this motion, quoted a letter from Mr. Gregory Forster, secretary of Northern Collieries Limited, with regard to a decision of the High Court. The decision referred to came about in this way: on a cavilling clay the men are compelled once every quarter to move tools, and in some cases carry them 6 miles underground from one section to another. Judge Drake-Brockman gave a decision that the men should be paid a quarter of a shift for this work on the first day of the cavil. The . men considered that that quarter of a. shift was to be paid irrespective of whether they filled their ordinary run of skips in the mine - what is known as a darg - that is, that if they filled their darc- and went out early that quarter of a shift would apply. After some stoppages had taken place, they sought an interpretation from Judge Drake-Brockman, who gave a decision accordingly, that if they did fill the ordinary run of skips or darg, and came out early, they would get the quarter shift. The companies for which Mr. Gregory Forster acted appealed to the High Court against that decision. The High Court found that Judge Drake-Brockman’s interpretation was not a formal order. It therefore dismissed the case until such time as the miners applied to the judge to put his interpretation into the shape of a formal order. I have had many dealings with Mr. Gregory Forster. On one occasion, relying on his promise that he would rectify a matter at Millfield Colliery, I got the men to resume work for three weeks. Although I was warned by Mr. Henry Scanlan, the president of the northern district miners’ organization, that Mr. Forster would let me down, I took the risk, went to the men’s meeting on a Sunday, and got them to resume work. Nevertheless, Mr. Forster did what Mr. Scanlan predicted - he let me down.
While there may be political differences amongst the members of the miners federation, there are also among the owners two factions striving for control. They are the Gregory Forster group and the Colliery Owners Association, of which Mr. Davies is secretary. Mr. Forster not only forwards to Smith’s Weekly for publication propaganda advocating action against the miners, but he also writes to the Colliery Owners Association to induce them to join with his section in forming one organization. The relevant parts of his letter, which is dated 2nd March, 1943, and was written from Atlas Buildings, Sydney, are as follows : -
We have not been asleep to the value of newspaper propaganda in our interests: so much so that on many occasions Union leaders have endeavoured to have us suppressed, and wc can quote the fact that over the past six months more newspaper comment has been made on behalf of the coal-mine owner than had occurred in the press for ten years previously. We suggest it must be apparent to you that newspaper propaganda carries a good deal of weight in influencing the outlook of the present Government and with this view in mind we never let an opportunity pass to place our side of the question fairly before the public. In so doing we believe we have made the public generally realize that the conditions under which the miners are working to-da.y are far above those of any other employee. . .
I would point out to you that this committee is not dependent upon the subscriptions which you make to pay for its existence as it is supported by other coal interests.
That is a very sinister letter, and shows the genesis of the propaganda that has been going on recently.
The honorable member for Wentworth has quoted quite a number of instances of stoppages which, he condemns. I wish to make it abundantly clear that I do not stand ‘and never have stood for many of those which have taken place. I realize that there are always two parties to a dispute. I therefore go into these things minutely and try as impartially as I possibly can to hold the scales of justice evenly between them. Let me describe a. dispute which took place only recently at Abermain No. 2 Colliery. The whole crew got water money to keep down dust where a scraper was operating. The company had just had a new loader installed. Dust is considered very dangerous not only from an explosive point of view, but also because of its effect on the health of the miners. Many comparatively young men, of ages ranging up to 40 and 50 years, have had to leave the mines, owing to illness caused by dust. Mr. Baddeley, who deals with safety matters, decided that the place had to be watered in order to keep down the dust. Previously, the whole crew was paid. This had become a custom, and once anything becomes a custom the miners hold on to it. When Mr. Baddeley ordered that the place should be watered, the owners abandoned that custom and put only one man on watering.
– Mr. Baddeley’s ruling was that a responsible person should be paid to look after it. They simply did what Mr. Baddeley told them to do.
– The honorable member for Wentworth does not know what watering is. Watering meant wetting the whole of the men. The contract workers were getting 4s. 8d. a day as a war loading, and out of that allowance the owners stopped one-sixteenth of the war loading for each shift, which amounted to 3id., because some of the men came out of the mine at about 25 minutes past 2 o’clock.’
On the 3rd January last at 6 a.m., when honorable members opposite were still enjoying their Christmas vacation, some trouble occurred at the Pacific colliery. Five wheelers were absent, and the lodge officials endeavoured to find substitutes for them. When they finally succeeded, the men were half an hour late in going down the mine. Despite this delay, they completed their darg.
They then ceased work for the day, and Mr. Gregory Forster made them forfeit in wages the equivalent of one-sixteenth of a shift. This penalty was imposed in defiance of Judge Drake-Brockman’s award, which provides that contract miners who complete their darg shall be paid for the prescribed one-third of a shift .for the first day of cavil. .Such incidents as that are not reported in the press, but I vouch for their accuracy.
Before I was elected to this chamber, I worked at the Pelaw Main Colliery, the second largest coal mine in Australia. For an alleged breach similar to that at the Pacific Colliery, twenty men were “ docked “ one-sixteenth of a shift, although they had filled their darg. They left work early because it was Christmas Eve. Honorable members opposite may not be aware that it has always been the custom on Christmas. Eve for the whole of the men to leave the mine on completing their darg. Apparently the management was trying new irritation tactics against the men. Here, a curious anomaly occurred. Sixteen of the men were paid in full, but the remainder forfeited one-sixteenth of a shift. The result of this incident was the loss of a week’s production. But even those irritation tactics do not justify a stoppage. The owners know that the men have fighting qualities and believe that they can irritate them sufficiently to hold up production. If the owners were the agents of Hitler, they could not work more effectively than they are doing by the manner in which they irritate their employees. However, I do not justify stoppages over those things. Tribunals have been appointed to deal with these grievances, and’ if the men themselves were only a little more patient, they could expose the machinations of the owners. Instead of doing so, they take the bit in their teeth, stop work and incur the opprobrium of the general public.
I hope, with the use of judicious propaganda, to reduce the number of stoppages. When the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was abroad several years ago he took some excellent moving pictures of scenes in Great
Britain. Some of those films could be exhibited with advantage in the coal-mining districts for the purpose of showing Australian coal-miners the conditions which miners are enduring in Great Britain. I was greatly impressed with one of the films, which showed bombed villages in coal-mining areas of Wales. If the right honorable gentleman will make some of those films available to me, I shall have them screened. One of the problems of those who are attempting to preserve industrial peace on the coal-fields arises from the fact that many of the young men, who are responsible for some of these stoppages, do not attend miners’ meetings. But they do go to motion picture theatres, and through the propaganda that I have mentioned, they could be made to realize their responsibilities.
I emphasize that whilst the coal-miners can be lead, they will not be driven. Prosecutions and other coercive methods are bound to fail. The men have gone to gaol before, and they will go to gaol again, if necessary in such large numbers that our gaols will not be large enough to accommodate them. I do not desire to arouse bitterness in this chamber, but I invite honorable members opposite to consider the .performances of previous United Australia party administrations in endeavouring to settle disputes in the coal-mining industries. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was Prime Minister in 1940, a general strike occurred. A general strike has never been experienced when a Labour government has been in office. I regret that the loyal service given by many coalminers over long periods receives no word of commendation. Some pits have splendid records of continuity of production. For example, Cessnock No. 2 colliery has worked for 2,050 shifts without a stoppage. But when honorable members opposite heap ridicule on the heads of all coal-miners and claim that they are worthless fellows, they arouse feelings of resentment in the hearts of many good, patriotic workers. [Further extension of time granted.]
A difficult position has arisen at the Coalcliff colliery. The court issued an award and the owners cannot, or will not, carry out its provisions. The operation known as pillar extraction is extremely dangerous, because pillars are the last to be worked in a mine. I ask honorable members, who do not know what pillar extraction means,’ to imagine that this building is being demolished by the gradual removal of the walls, until finally the roof itself collapses. Three pairs of miners are engaged on removing the pillars, and the operation creates dust which affects the lungs of the employees, whilst the noise is such that other men are unable to hear a warning of “ creep “ or cracking of the roof. Eather of those things causes fatalities. More men are killed in pillar extraction than in any other work in a mine, and naturally the employees are afraid. Some honorable members may question the necessity for pillar extraction. Since no action was taken against those responsible for the lock-out in 1929-30, the coal-owners have been encroaching on the privileges of the miners. The men were not then in an economic position to withstand that pressure, but to-day they believe that on the conclusion of this war and with the introduction of machines as labour-saving devices, another depression will occur in their industry. Consequently, they are endeavouring to regain the privileges that they lost in 1929-31. They cannot be blamed for doing so. I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that if the trouble at the Coalcliff colliery is not settled during this week-end. the whole of the collieries in the Illawarra district will become idle. I spent a whole .Sunday three weeks ago trying to avoid that. The Prime Minister, in all good faith, talks about the losses of coal. I believe that some pf the loss is due to misunderstanding of the conditions in the industry by men appointed to certain positions by a previous government. With all due respect to them, although they have made good in some respects, they failed in other instances to appreciate the implications of their awards. Interpretations had to be given, and appeals were made to the High Court, which ruled against the interpretations. For many of the stoppages in the mines for which the employees are blamed, the mine-owners themselves are partly responsible. The miners are sometimes blamed for stoppages brought about by other craft unions. The miners have had to “carry the baby”, because they are loyal trade unionists. The State Government and the local-governing authorities have taken advantage of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with expenditure on roads leading to the mines. Omnibuses broke down, and when L appealed for money to repair the roads it was not made available. The Commonwealth Government has been asked to provide £900 for repair work which should be done by a State instrumentality.
I shall now refer to the dispute over miners’ income tax returns, which was settled last Sunday by me and other executive officers of the miners’ federation. As far back as 1936 the miners have been assessed for income tax in respect of money expended by them in the provision of explosives used by them in the course of coal production. I have admitted to the Commissioner of Taxation that when I was working in the mines I always filled in my return in the belief that the money I received from the colliery consisted of my gross earnings, and that I had a right to deduct the cost of the explosives used in producing my income. That practice has been in vogue for many years, but the Taxation Department has only recently become aware of the position. At the end of last year it sent out re-assessments, and demanded payment of sums ranging from £30 to £100 for wrongful deduction of the cost of explosives. I asked the Commissioner how he had found this out, and what proof he had that the mine-owners were supplying correct figures. The reply given to me was that the information had been obtained from an anonymous writer. I have a suspicion that some sinister hand is at work with the object of fomenting industrial trouble on the coalfields. Is it not possible that somebody with a sinister motive, and aware of the fighting qualities of the miners, has written to the Commissioner of Taxation saying, “ These men have been acting wrongly, and you must do your joh with regard to them “, hoping to cause a general stoppage of work?
– Have sums been wrongly deducted in income tax returns?
– In many instances the miners filled in their returns under the impression that they had been supplied with their gross earnings; but some of the companies furnished the employees with particulars of their net earnings, and thus a duplication of the deductions has occurred. If miners are fined for this mistake I believe that the Commissioner will waive the penalty. It would be easy for a person with a sinister motive to send information to the Commissioner anonymously about the deductions, but why was the Commissioner not aware of the practice of the miners when the Opposition was in office? Why has the department found this out in the middle of the war, although the practice has been in vogue for fifteen years?
The Prime Minister has indicated that he will introduce a system of control over the mines. I have never previously heard of a draft bill dealing with the matter. I am aware of the law in operation in New Zealand with regard to coal production. In 1939 a controller was appointed, but that system proved futile. In 1940-41 the controller was replaced by a council of control, of which the Minister for Mines was chairman. It was required that all members should have mining knowledge. Although New Zealand has about ten state coal mines, government control is exercised over private mines also, and the production of coal since the appointment of the council has been satisfactory. Trouble with regard to coal-mining is world wide. The miners usually live in isolated communities. They have their own social life and their own hospitals. They trade among themselves through co-operative societies, but they contribute directly to the progress of the world by reason of the commodity which they supply. In no industry is the toll of human life greater than in the production of coal. When we enjoy the comforts of electric light and heat and railway transport, we should always realize that in the production of the coal that is used in providing those services much human blood has been spilt. A heart to heart talk with the miners would do more good than trying to hold them up to ridicule, or classing them as a . community of heathens or disloyalists. Many of their sons, who were unable, owing to the depression, to obtain employment in the mines until they had reached the age of about 26 years, are fighting for their country to-day, and many of them have sacrificed their lives. Others have won honours on the battle-field. This should be remembered when we are inclined to ridicule the miners. I offer honorable members opposite an open invitation to visit the mines at any time they wish, because I am sure that such a visit would enable them to understand the present situation in the coal-mining industry much better than they do at present.
.- We have all listened with a great deal of interest and sympathy to the speech of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) because we recognize that he represents the principal coal-mining area of Australia, and that, as the representative of that area, it is his responsibility to place the views of the miners before this House. In passing, I should like to make it quite clear that I do not hold the opinion, nor have I ever held it, that all the coal-miners of this country are a discredit to Australia; that we should speak of them with shame, or that they have not a rightful place in the respect of this community. I believe firmly that much of the trouble in the coal-mining industry is due to the qualities of loyalty and comradeship which the miners possess, and that a large number of the stoppages that have taken place in the coal mines have been caused by the “ one out all out “ attitude adopted by the minors out of a sense of loyalty to their comrades, irrespective of the origin or nature of the disputes. These are qualities which one must admire, but when the nation is at war, and many essential services are being restricted, ships which are to carry foodstuffs to our fighting forces are being held up, and members of this Parliament are continually receiving letters from soldiers in various parts of the South- West Pacific Area stating that their supplies are not coming forward, it is the responsibility of this House, and of every honorable member of it, to consider the matter seriously and to endeavour to determine the cause and location of the trouble, so that any solution which is within the capacity of the Government to apply, may be applied at once. I repeat that I believe that a large majority of the miners are loyal; that they are good citizens; and that almost all of them have families in which sons, brothers, and husbands are serving on the fighting fronts. I believe, therefore, and I am on firm ground when I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to give effect to his own declaration that action would be taken to discipline and weed out from amongst the miners those unpatriotic individuals who are at the root of all the trouble. I refer to the following statement made by the Prime Minister in this House in October, 1943 :-
As the result of inquiry which I have made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of the minority of malcontents and incorrigibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased production.
Has anything been done since then to weed out these malcontents and incorrigibles? No doubt the Prime Minister would like to say that it has, but my information is that not one miner who could be regarded as incorrigible, or as a potential source of trouble in the mines, in the northern areas at least - I am sure that the honorable member for Hunter would support this statement if he were to tell all that he knew - has been weeded out in accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise. I have substantial authority for that statement. The chairman of the Central Reference Board, Mr. Willis, tried to obscure the real issue by making in the press recently a statement which, if not altogether false, at least was intended to mislead the public, namely, that 130 men had been weeded out from the ranks of the coal-miners. As the result of inquiries that I have made, I have ascertained that almost every one of those 130 men left the coal-mining industry to join the Army, or wished to engage in some other employment, and coal-mining being a protected industry, he had tq obtain the permission of the man-power authorities to do so. Not one of the real agitators whom the Prime Minister classed as bookmakers or disreputable types of individuals, and who allegedly have been the cause of frivolous strikes, has been dealt with by Mr. Willis, by the man-power authorities or by the Government. I repeat that I am not criticizing the bulk of the coal-miners.
I believe that many of them are good citizens. But I know, and every honorable member opposite who supports the Prime Minister knows, that a small section of the miners is responsible for a large proportion of the unrest and the removal of that section would bring about at least some degree of peace in the coal-mining industry.
– Is there not a similar section amongst the mine-owners?
– I am dealing now with the statement made by the Prime Minister last year. In my opinion much of the responsibility for the present defiance of the law which is evident in the coal-fields, rests upon the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) because of his failure to enforce the law. The right honorable gentleman uttered brave words about what the Government and his department intended to do, but in not one case has a penalty been enforced.
– That statement is quite incorrect. M!any hundreds of prosecutions have been launched, and many hundreds of penalties collected. It is true that a large number of penalties were remitted, but the whole matter is under the constant supervision of my officers, and I have endeavoured to the utmost to enforce the law.
– I presume that when the Deputy Commonwealth Crown Solicitor in New South Wales, Mr. Watson, makes charges against the owners alleging that they have been responsible for much of the trouble on the coal-fields, he does so as a civil servant and not without first obtaining the approval of his superior officers. Mr. Watson should never have made the statements that have been attributed to him. He went out of his way to exonerate those whom his department was prosecuting and penalizing. If he did that upon his own responsibility, and without the authority of the Attorney-General, then that right honorable gentleman should take steps to discipline Mr. Watson. No matter what may be the .political complexion of a government, it has a responsibility to protect the industries of this country which are so vitally dependent upon coal. Any one who has studied the coal situation in recent months knows that coal stocks in this country are down to a dangerously low level, and I should not be surprised if at any time in the near future, a huge and important undertaking vital to the war effort, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, might be forced to close down because of lack of coal. Already there has been a curtailment of certain vital services. For instance, the number of trains running to certain country districts has been curtailed, and we find that, owing to lack of transport, stock cannot be conveyed to market, with the result that the people are being denied adequate supplies of meat. A thousand and one hardships and inconveniences are being inflicted upon the people unnecessarily. What does the Government propose to do should the situation become worse owing to lack of coal ? Does it propose to let the matter rest as was indicated in the closing remarks of the Prime Minister earlier to-day - “ I do not know what the solution is. Nobody else can say more “. Is that the attitude of the Government? If it is, then it is a pathetic attitude indeed, and one which the Prime Minister will have the greatest hesitation in proclaiming as the attitude of an allegedly strong government when he goes to. England.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Second Front in Western Europe: Statement by Mr. E. J. Ward, M.P. - Food Production - Man-power For Rural Industries - Australian Army : Leave ; Proposed Parliamentary Standing Committee - Employment of ex-Internees - Ammunition : Needs for Pest Destruction - Royal Australian Navy: Pharmaceutical Chemists.
Motion (by Mr. ‘Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct attention to a gross misrepresentation by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) of remarks that I made in the course of a speech in this House last night. I have since had an opportunity to peruse the uncorrected report of my speech. I am there reported to have said -
I do not know whether a second front in Western Europe is advisable. That problem I leave to military experts to determine. But there has been a widely shared opinion not only in Australia but also in other countries that certain of the United Nations tend to try to withhold their strength, and to retain it and build it up while allowing the Soviet to bleed itself white, so that when the conflict terminates they will be the strongest military powers in Europe and therefore wield the greatest influence at the Peace Conference.
It is very clear that the opinion I was expressing was not my own, but the opinion that is held by many people in this country.
– What absolute rubbish I
– I do not claim to be a military expert like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who had a very brief experience in the Army, nor like the right honorable member for Kooyong, who had a military training during the last war but never saw active service. The Leader of the Opposition was not present when I made my speech, and did not have the opportunity of perusing the report of what I had said.
– But I accurately stated it.
– The right honorable gentleman apparently attempted to suggest that there was something sinister in my statement that the opinion was held that there was no alacrity in certain quarters in regard to the opening of a second front. Let us look at what the right honorable gentleman himself had to say during the course of his speech. I did not pass any opinion on the opening of a second front in Europe : but this military genius - who a high military officer in this country said would have had a brilliant military career had it not been for the outbreak of the last war - sets himself up to tell the people at large why there should not be a second front. He said, “ It is too dangerous ‘’. Let us examine the effect of that pronouncement on the Allied cause.
– I rise to order. The honorable gentleman is purporting to reproduce what I said last night. I did not say that there ought not to be a second front. I said that I hoped that the problem of the second front would be dealt with by soldiers and not by civilians.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman has not sustained a point of order.
– I repeat, that the purport of the speech delivered last night by the right honorable gentleman was that there ought not to be a second front.
– That is a lie!
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition is most disorderly.
– The Allied Chiefs of Staff, and the Allied leaders-
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in continuing, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, a debate to which he has already contributed but which is not yet concluded ?
– The Minister’s remarks are quite in order. Alternatively, he could make a personal explanation, in which he could say exactly the same thing.
– Apparently, he is speaking with the approval of the Prime Minister.
– I have not had a proper chance to look at the report of the Minister’s speech.
– The right honorable gentleman has an excellent opportunity of listening to what is now being said.
– The Leader of the Opposition has not denied that I have correctly quoted from the Hansard report of what I said. I did not express any opinion on the point at issue, nor did I make any aspersion against any of the United Nations or their leaders. But the Leader of the Opposition has himself questioned the judgment of the Allied leaders, who have already determined that a second front shall be opened. What effect is that likely to have on the
Allied cause? The Leader of the Opposition in one of the Parliaments of one of the British Dominions says, in effect, that the opening of a second front in Western Europe would be too dangerous.
– That is a deliberately untrue statement !
– I rise to order. The Minister is continuing a debate in which he participated last evening, and which has not yet been completed.
– The Minister’s statement consists of lies from beginning to end.
– Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) attempted to raise the very same point as the Leader of the Opposition raised this morning in the form of a question. The honorable member for Barker was not in order in then attempting to continue the debate upon a subject-matter that had been dealt with that day. The Minister now contends that this morning the Leader of the Opposition misrepresented what he said last night. The Minister is not entitled to debate the question generally.
– That i3 what he is doing.
– Order ! The Chair is the best judge of that. The Minister is not entitled to re-debate the question, but he is entitled to make it clear that he has been misrepresented.
– In deference to your ruling, sir, I am quite satisfied to leave the matter where it stands; that is to say, that the Leader of the Opposition deliberately and maliciously seized upon what he regarded as an opportunity to misrepresent what I had said. I have quoted correctly from the report of my remarks.
– On a point of order, is the Minister in order in inferring malice on the part of the Leader of the Opposition?
– The Minister never speaks in any other terms.
– It is unfortunate that both the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have been guilty of a cardinal sin against the Standing. Orders.
On three occasions the Leader of the Opposition referred to a remark of the Minister as “ a deliberate lie “. That is just as much unparliamentary as the statement of the Minister that the Leader of the Opposition had acted maliciously. I hope that both the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will moderate their language a little.
– I wish to make it quite clear that I am not claiming to be an authority on whether or not a second front should be opened in Western Europe. I have never claimed to be such an authority. Nor do I suggest, or support the contention, that the United Nations are not acting in accordance with the agreements into which they have entered, that they are not working to a common plan or striving for victory.
– The Minister had better leave it at that.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker, but I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition would be wise to be a little more careful in future before he accuses me of saying certain things without first acquainting himself with what I did say.
– I do not propose to endeavour to bandy words with the Minister for Transport and External Territories (Mr. Ward). He has the foulest tongue that has ever been unleashed in this House.
– Order ! Such remarks do not improve the situation.
– I do not propose to improve it. Nor do I propose to enter into a hopeless competition with a man with such a mastery of the argot of the gutter. All I can do is to express my very great regret that in this year of grace a Minister should be able so to conduct himself in the presence of the Leader of his Government and continue to be a Minister. This morning I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) about a speech made yesterday by the Minister for Transport and External Territories. I did not profess to quote the Minister’s exact words. I did not hear the exact words that he used, because I have long since made it a practice - a very healthy one I believe - not to occupy my time in listening to the Minister for
Transport and External Territories in this place. But having been most credibly informed as to what had been said, I put my question. I did not think that I should be at liberty to quote from the set of uncorrected proofs, because I notice that it is headed “Unrevised and confidential, and not to be quoted from”. Naturally, I thought that I should not be able to quote from it, but as it has already been quoted from, I shall repeat the quotation that has been read. I do so for the benefit of the Prime Minister. These are the words of the Minister for Transport and External Territories as they appear in the unrevised report of yesterday’s proceedings
T do not know whether a second front in Western Europe is advisable.
So far we are on common ground, because that is what I have said myself.
That problem I leave to military experts to determine.
Again that is what I have said. The Minister’s statement continues -
But there lias been a widely shared opinion not only in Australia, but also in other countries that certain of the United Nations tend to try to withhold their strength, and to retain it and build it up while allowing the Soviet to bleed itself white, so that when the conflict terminates they will be the strongest military powers in Europe and therefore wield the greatest influence at the Peace Conference.
I am most credibly informed that every member who was in the chamber at that time heard the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) repeatedly demand to know which country the Minister referred to.
– It was a dirty insinuation.
– To-day the usual thing happened. The Minister said that those who read his remarks carefully would see that what he said was : “ There has been a’ widely shared opinion”. He does not say that he held that opinion. In our experience of life we encounter every different variety of slanderer and libeller, but the worst of all of them i3 a man who sneaks in his slander or libel and later, when challenged, says : “ I was not offering my opinion, I was only saying what some one else told me “. The Minister’s statement was in substance a grievous allegation against two of the great powers fighting in this war. No equivocation will enable him to elude the consequences of what he said, or allow the Prime Minister to escape from the consequences of forming his own judgment and taking action in regard to this matter.
.- I wish, first, to refer to a matter to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made reference yesterday in order to clear up any misconception regarding food production which may have arisen out of the debate. The honorable member for Moreton referred to certain statements alleged to have been made by the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock. The honorable gentleman said that Mr. Bulcock had stated that the Commonwealth authorities had overlooked the question of making plans for food production. What the honorable gentleman did not explain was that Mr. Bulcock was referring to last year’s production. As the honorable member for Moreton did not quote the full text of the remarks to which he referred, I shall give them to the House. In the Daily Telegraph of Tuesday, the ‘Sth February, the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. F. W. Bulcock is reported as follows : - “ I can safely promise that the position will be different this year “, Mr. Bulcock added. “ Last year the direct war effort was given first priority, to the detriment of food production. I think we oan pardon those who made that mistake. The war seemed much closer to Australia then. Mr. Bulcock said he could assure growers that mechanized resources would be provided this year to help farmers. Lack of man-power was one of the outstanding grievances of farmers engaged in dairying and vegetable growing “, Mr. Bulcock said. “ 1 know some farmers will not take another man in place of some one in the services who has worked for them before “, he added. “ Any sensible person can see it is not always possible to pick one man out of the services and send him back to a certain farmer “.
The honorable member for Moreton should have quoted Mr. Bulcock’s remark? in full.
– I did.
– Mr. Bulcock, while Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, was asked to accept the position of Director-General of Agriculture for the Commonwealth. Had the war situation as .it existed two years ago not improved, we should not now be discussing how much food we should get, because we would be too greatly concerned about whether we would get any food at all. Those who still lived would probably be receiving a daily dole of rice. Criticism of our food supplies seems out of place at a time when millions of human beings in China and India, and in many enemyoccupied countries of Europe are dying of starvation. It is most distressing to read that in France children are being born withoutfingernails or toenails because of the malnutrition of their mothers. Instead of continuing inthis chamber the press propaganda against the Government in regard to its handling of the food problem, honorable members would do well to offer constructive suggestions. In this connexion I draw attention to the action of the master butchers who distributed among members of Parliament 60,000 circulars which purported to come from their constituents. That was done in an effort to make it appear that there was a general outcry against meat rationing, whereas the only people concerned were the vested interests whose profits may be affected. The Government will not baulk at carrying out its policy because of criticism of this kind.
I am concerned to know whether the policy of the Government in regard to the release of men from the Army in order to engage in food production is being carried out. It would appear that there is obstruction somewhere. I have taken up with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the case of about 70 B class men who were to be released from units stationed in country centres in order to engage in food production. At the time, the Minister stated that the information which I supplied to him was not correct, but he promised to obtain a report from the Army authorities on the subject. A report from Major-General Plant, who is in charge of the Lines of Communication, Sydney, substantially bears out what I told the Minister. It stated -
On arrival at G.D.D. it was discovered that some of this personnel did not comply with the conditions laid down in L.H.Q. 196718, and were therefore dealt with in accordance with their correct categories.
On 26th November, 1943, a signal from L.H.Q., No. A.71197, was received advising that owing to the urgent demand for “ B “ class personnel for Ordnance units, no further releases under SM.24973 would be made pending further instructions.
The personnel in question, therefore, were dealt with as under: -
Eighteen were discharged to industry as being not suitable for Army requirements.
Four were medical cases and either medically boarded or sent to hospital, and the balance allotted to Ordnance units, except a few special cases where their suitability made them more useful in other units.
The bulk of the personnel allotted to Ordnance unite went to 1 Aust. Ord. Veh. P.k. at Bandiana, Victoria, and 23 were marched out to 4 Aust. Ord. Veh. Pk., Queensland, in accordance with instruction No. 033120 of 2nd December, 1943, from the Officer-in-Charge, 2 Echelon, L.H.Q.
None of this personnel had been selected or asked for by man-power, neither had they conic from any particular industry, but were mixed personnel who would normally be considered for discharge as unsuitable for Army employment.
Major-General Plant does not say that no advice was received from district war agricultural committees, but merely that no advice had come from the man-power authorities. Some of the district war agricultural committees believe that their efforts are futile because their advice is consistently ignored. Major-General Plant proceeds -
It would appear that the latter personnel mentioned are those referred to by Mr. Morgan as going to a unit which had been overstaffed. There is no knowledge of the strength of this unit, but the personnel were sent thereto on an L.H.Q. instruction.
The information given tome is that some of the men had been sent back because the unitwas overstaffed, and this seems to be borne out by the facts. This officer says that there is no information regarding the strength of the unit, but I maintain that there is no reason why such information should not be readily available. The letter continues -
L.H.Q. signal A.73871 of 8th December, 1943, advised that normal procedure could be resumed with regard to SM.24973, and since that date the discharge of “ B “ class personnel to industry has returned to normal.
For your information, although the discharge under this “ B1 “ class scheme was suspended for a period of approximately three weeks at the end of November and early December and the scheme only started early in November, 143 soldiers were discharged in November and 100 in December.
It is clear that, for a period of three weeks at any rate, the scheme was suspended. Was this done at the direction of the Government, or was it done by the Army authorities in contravention of the policy laid down by the Government? The letter concludes -
Far from there being any obstruction on the part of the Army, there is full co-operation with the man-power authorities and every effort is being made to expedite the discharge of personnel for industry, both under the M.P.R. scheme and the endorsed “B”. class scheme.
I am glad to have that assurance, and to know that the Army authorities intend to co-operate with the Government in this matter. However, I .submit that, in view of what has happened, and having regard to the pressure of work upon the Minister for the Army, a parliamentary standing committee on Army matters should be appointed here as has been done in the United States of America. Such a committee, by keeping a vigilant watch upon Army administration, could ensure that the Army continues to be, in fact, the servant of the Government and the people.
Some extraordinary decisions have been given by the Army authorities, decisions which appear to me to lack common sense or simple justice. For instance, a soldier from my electorate served for three and a half years overseas. He was on relief when he enlisted, and had a wife and six children. After his return, he was posted to a unit in Queensland, where he did more or less menial work in the canteen service. When his wife was about to give birth to her seventh child he obtained fourteen days’ leave, which was then due to him, so that he might look after the other six children while his wife was confined. As it happened, the event was delayed, and he applied for a further period of fourteen days’ leave. This was granted, but only on condition that he remained away at his own expense, and that he received no pay. That was bad enough, but the authorities then deprived his wife of her dependant’s allowance for the second fourteen days, and also declined to pay dependant’s allowance in respect of the children. I have brought this case to the personal attention of the Minister for the Army, but so far there has been no redress. This is one of the matters to which a parliamentary standing committee could attend. Here is another case : It concerns a man who some years ago had a fall from his bicycle, with the result that one of the handle-bars was driven through a kneecap. He was called up for military service and, although he is obviously unfit, the Army medical authorities will not release him. His own doctor says that he is unfit for the Army, and that an operation is urgently necessary, but the Army medical authorities will neither operate upon him, nor recommend his discharge. Matters of this character should be given careful consideration, and I again suggest that an army committee should be set up to deal with them.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government a matter of the utmost importance. I refer to the employment through the Allied Works Council, the Civil Constructional Corps and other governmental bodies, at award rates and under award conditions, of Italians released from internment camps, whilst, at the same time, members of the fighting forces are being used in labour battalions for work on the wharfs and elsewhere under army conditions and at army rates of pay. This system gives preferential treatment to Italian ex-internees and constitutes a gross injustice to the members of our fighting services. The work which the latter are called upon to perform is exceptionally heavy, and very often these soldiers work up to eighteen hours a day. For such work they receive the army rate of pay of 6s. 6d. a day plus 2s. a day deferred pay. At the same time, Italian exinternees, employed by the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps receive award rates and benefit by all the award provisions including overtime rates and limited hours of duty. This system is most unjust to our own men. Many of the soldiers employed in this way on the wharfs and elsewhere are the sons of farmers. They could and should be released to return to their homes in order to assist their folk in building up supplies on the food front, and the exinternees should be engaged on the work now being done by these soldiers. The present system is not only unfair to members of the fighting forces but also a serious reflection upon the Government. I protest against it most emphatically. I understand that numerous representations on the matter have already been made to the Government. I have received many letters of protest from returned soldier organizations, the members of which are incensed at the Government’s action.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Italians who are released from internment camps should not be compelled to work?
– They should be used in labour battalions to perform the kind of work on which many of our soldiers are now employed, and they should be made to work under conditions not superior to those under which the soldiers are working. “What is the implication of the interjection?
– I thought that the honorable member objected to these exinternees being obliged to work at all.
– I want to see every one in this country, including the coalminers, put to work in order that we can prosecute the war effort to the utmost. I urge the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to exert pressure on the Government to abandon the system of which I now complain. Returned soldier organizations throughout Queensland have expressed intense resentment on the matter; and I say advisedly to the right honorable gentleman that if the position is not rectified promptly the returned soldiers of this country will be provoked to express their resentment in a practical way, I am not making any threats. I draw that conclusion from the tone of the letters which I have received from such organizations, from which it is clear that they are furious about the matter.
I ask the Attorney-General to give his personal attention to the subject immediately, because the resentment of returned soldiers is now at white heat.
.- The Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories. (Mr. Ward) has added another episode to a ministerial career which has descended to depths unprecedented in the. history of this Parliament. I was present in the cham”ber last night when he delivered his speech, and I listened to it closely. Perhaps, I have an advantage over some honorable members- in discussing this subject in that I was present and heard his speech; and there was nothing wrong with my hearing. I agree with the view expressed by other honorable members on this side, whatever may be the language of the Minister’s speech as it appears in Ilansard. I hesitate to say that Hansard has not reproduced precisely what the Minister said. The remarks which preceded the passage in question and the atmosphere in which the speech was made left no doubt in my mind that the view of the Minister was that the United Nations, and in particular Great Britain and the United States of America, were deliberately withholding military support from Russia in order that that country should be bled- white. That was the clear impression gained by every honorable member who was sitting on this side, so much so that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), moved as he was by the baseness and mischievous character of the Minister’s statement, ‘repeatedly interjected to ask, to which nation he referred. The honorable member for Indi kept repeating that interjection, and, being quite aware of the kind of answer that would ie given by the Minister added, “ Misreported again, I suppose “. That was the reaction of honorable members fitting on this side of the chamber. In order that those honorable members who were not present may recapture the atmosphere in which the statement was made I refer them to a few sentences which preceded- the particular remarks under consideration. According to the unrevised proof,, the Minister said -
Consider the barriers that the Soviet had . to surmount ! Russia had very few technicians and secondary industries, and, in addition, had to contend with the opposition of a ring of capitalist nations that were determined to destroy Bolshevism and prevent the success of socialism.
I regret that I cannot reproduce the venom and feeling which the Minister is so capable of injecting into his utterances in this chamber. He continued -
To-day those people cannot do without the Soviet. But they are afraid of the Soviet and i>f the final outcome of the war. They are endeavouring to save as much of Europe as” they can for capitalism, because they believe that if Russia becomes’ the predominant power in Europe, the predominant economic system of Europe will be the same as that in operation in the Soviet Republics. Therefore, both American and British Imperialists, although they have their differences have something in common in the fact that they are alarmed at what the success of the Soviet armies may bring.
I do not know whether a second front in Western Europe is advisable. That problem I leave to military experts to determine. But there has been a widely shared opinion . . .
I remind honorable members that the Minister’s previous remarks were not widely shared opinions.
– Is the honorable member denying that that is what the Minister said?
– I am not admitting that this is what he said. If this is an uncorrected proof which we call a “ flat “, it is a very “flat” version of what the Minister said last night.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Minister’s speech has been tampered with?
– -No. Every honorable member is familiar with the procedure. Hansard reporters do a good job in reporting the remarks of honorable members which in certain cases are spoken at a rapid rate and may be somewhat ambiguous. We pay tribute to their work in that respect. I repeat that no honorable member who listened to the Minister’s speech last night could have any doubt that he said that the United Nations, and particularly Great Britain and the United States of America, had deliberately withheld military support from Russia in order that Russia may be bled white. From there he went on -
But there has been a widely shared opinion, not only in Australia but also in other countries, that certain of the United Nations intend to try to withhold their strength, and to retain it and build it up, while allowing the Soviet to bleed itself white, so that when the conflict terminates they will be the strongest military powers in Europe, and therefore wield the greatest influence at the peace conference.
No one who heard or read the speech could have any doubt that that statement was made. I say that the statement, and the implications contained in it, constitute damaging and mischievous propaganda against the United Nations. It is scandalous that a Government which is supposed to be working in concert with those nations, and which is, in the main, dependent on their physical assistance, is prepared to carry on with a member of the Cabinet who will say such things publicly.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) to the necessity for sufficient ammunition to be made available to primary producers to enable them to destroy dingoes, which kill their calves and sheep, and hares and other pests, which destroy their vegetables. I hope that the Minister will place my request before whichever of his colleagues it may concern. Dingoes have’ increased enormously in the four and a half years since we have been at war, and for two reasons. The first is that most of the men who shoot dingoes as an occupation are at the war; and the second is that the men who ordinarily would be able to shoot them, those who live on the holdings themselves, have not been able to get ammunition. The total quantity of ammunition required to meet their needs would be a small part of the total output. I urge that sufficient ammunition be made available for immediate needs, and that stocks be established in various country districts so that men will be able to get what they require at regular intervals without unnecessary travelling. Their motor car tyres are wearing thin and their supplies of petrol are short.
– What kind of ammunition is required, shot-gun or rifle cartridges ?
– Heavy-shot cartridges are needed for hares and other small pests and, say, .303 cartridges for the dingoes. Recently, I received a letter from a man engaged in growing vegetables. His ammunition ran out before he could destroy all the hares that were ruining his crop. .Before he could get more, the whole of his labour had gone for nothing. The first thing needed is to make supplies of ammunition available, and the second is to distribute it to readily accessible places in the rural districts so that those who require it shall be able to satisfy their needs without unnecessary travel. In various districts responsible men could bc made custodians of supplies sufficient for six to twelve months, and from them their neighbours could obtain what they needed. Many properties are 50 to 60 miles away from the nearest store. The system could be under the control of the local police officer. The adoption of my suggestion would enable headway to be made against pests, thus saving for the nation from 50,000 to 100,000 calves and sheep, as well as huge quantities, of vegetables at a time when it is imperative that food supplies be con.served.
– The control of ammunition for use by primary producers in the destruction of vermin is, so far as I know, working fairly satisfactorily.
– We can get permits, but we cannot get ammunition.
– Well, the right honorable gentleman must realize that a limit must be placed on the quantity of ammunition that can be made available.
– We cannot get any at all.
– Allow me to explain the position. The right honorable gentleman must realize that the quantity of ammunition which can be made available is limited. Explosives, metal and labour are used in the manufacture of ammunition. The Government learned that ammunition, which had been made available specifically for the destruction of vermin, was being used for recreational purposes. For that reason, the Government felt compelled to impose a fairly tight control on the use of ammunition for the purposes of destroying vermin, but in doing so it set up a form of control sufficiently flexible to meet all circumstances. In the first place, a property-owner requiring ammunition for that purpose can, .by going to the local police, obtain a permit to procure itIt is true that the permit limits the supply : I do not know the exact quantity allowed.
– We can get permits all right, dozens of them, but not ammunition.
– The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) can make available only that quantity of ammunition which the supply of materials and the labour position permits.
– ‘Some of the farmers in my electorate have to travel 150 miles to get 50 cartridges.
– I will explain how necessary it is to have control and how flexible the conditions are to meet the situation.
– They do not meet the situation. On the Upper Clarence we have not had any cartridges for a year.
– I find it very difficult to believe that statement.
– It is true. On my property we have not been able to get cartridges for two years.
– ‘Any primary producer can get a permit from the local policeman.
– He can get a permit, but he cannot get cartridges.
– He has been able to get cartridges. ,
– He has not been able to do so. The Minister is absolutely wrong.
– The right honorable gentleman thinks he is the only individual in the Commonwealth who lives in a rural district. I live in one and I move about the municipalities. I have discussed this problem with persons interested and I know that supplies are available.
– Why the discrimination in favour of the Minister’s electorate? I cannot get ammunition.
– There is no discrimination in favour of my electorate. In addition to knowing what is going on in my electorate, I also know what is going on in the neighbouring electorate, represented by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), where’ the position is equally satisfactory.
– Why, then, the discrimination in favour of Victoria?
– The same conditions prevail in his electorate as in mine. The position is that any primary producer who wants ammunition for the destruction of vermin can go to a police station and get a permit for a certain quantity. But, should he want an additional supply, he can go to the district war agricultural committee. If that committee says, “ What the police officer has given you is not sufficient to meet your requirements, we will advocate that you get more “, and endorses a recommendation to that effect, the ammunition is made available. It is not possible to allow the local police authorities to issue all the ammunition that individuals are demanding for the alleged destruction of vermin. I am not saying that it is always the primary producer that does this, but it is a fact that in many cases, after demands have been satisfied, it is found that the ammunition has not been used for the purpose for which it was issued. The system of control which the Government has set up is as flexible as possible in the circumstances, seeing that we cannot possibly make available all the ammunition required.
– I feel obliged to refer to a matter which has been discussed in this chamber this afternoon, because I was present last night when the Minister for Transport and Externa] Territories (Mr. Ward) spoke, and he so provoked me in the course of hia speech that I - as you, Mr. Speaker, may remember - felt obliged to interject freely. There is not the slightest doubt that although the Minister for Transport and External Territories in reading this afternoon a short extract from his speech last night, disclosed that he had covered what were undoubtedly his own opinions by some form of words in the shape of a preamble, nevertheless, taking the whole of his speech into account, it is revealed as a diatribe against those nations which he describes as capitalist, against the principal allies of this country, and our own kinsfolk. As the Minister has quoted some parts of his speech, I desire to refresh honorable members’ memories by referring to other parts. Following an interjection by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) the Minister for Transport said -
Surely the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is fully aware of the fact that already, even before victory is assured to the United Nations, commercial interests are manoeuvring for advantage, one against the other. Capitalism breeds war. Capitalists produce not to supply their own people but in order that they might sell their goods in a profitable market.
He went on to say -
Great Britan is no different from any other capitalist country in that regard. Lest honorable members should misunderstand me, I point out that when I criticize Great Britain, I do not criticize the people of Great Britain.
It will be noticed that the Minister always has his own target. He continued -
I refer to the ruling class, the people responsible for the degradation amongst the common people of Great Britain.
Then, having referred to the armistice at the end of the last war, he said -
The end of this war will also be only an armistice unless socialism is established throughout the world. It will be an armistice only until the capitalist interest in the capitalist countries can develop strength to fight another war which will bring about the destruction of the workers.
– He had a perfect right to say that if it was his opinion.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry now indicates that he is in agreement with that statement.
– I did no such thing.
– He said that the Minister for Transport was quite right.
– I did not. What I interjected was, “ He had a perfect right to say that if it was his opinion “. I did not express agreement or otherwise.
– The words the Minister used were, “He is quite right”. Whilst I have never heard the Minister for War Organization of Industry make declarations of that kind, he is, I think, an unabashed socialist, which gives me reason to believe that he finds himself in alinement with the Minister for Transport and External Territories. The Minister for Transport and External Territories, having indicated that Great Britain is no different from any other capitalist country, made it quite clear that he believes that, unless there is world-wide socialism at the end of this war, the commercial interests in the capitalist countries, among which, in due course, he proceeded to name Great Britain and the United States of America, will be merely organizing themselves for the next war which, as he states in clear language, is to be fought at the expense of the workers with the object of crushing them.
If it is possible to employ the English language to express subversive thoughts, that is the most efficient employment of it that one could imagine to achieve that purpose, and to create fear and doubt in the minds of the people of Australia, Great Britain and our Allies. Those words do not come from an irresponsible citizen. They come from a Minister of the Crown who holds office under a system of government in which it has been traditionally accepted that a Minister expresses the policy of the Government to which he belongs. It is traditional in the British parliamentary system that when a Minister speaks, he either expresses the opinion of the Government of which he is a member, or else he is obliged to dissociate himself from that Government.
Here are the most subversive expressions of opinion that I have heard uttered during . the course of this war in this country. The Leader of the Opposition takes the entirely proper course of asking the Prime Minister, who is not now present, to acquaint himself with what was said and then to indicate where he stands. Surely that is urgent. Surely it is important, yet the Prime Minister many hours later who says that he has not yet read the speech, listens to another scurrilous attack by the Minister for Transport and External Territories in this chamber, and not by the batting of an eyelid does he indicate that he desires to dissociate himself from the Minister and his utterances. It is the duty of those who disagree with all this to endeavour to terminate it. At least if we are not successful in terminating it, we can voice our protest against it. My purpose in speaking this afternoon is to make a most vigorous protest. Still referring to those people whom he described as “ capitalists “, the Minister continued -
To-day those people cannot do without the Soviet. But they are afraid of the Soviet, and of the final outcome of the war. They are endeavouring to save as much of Europe as they can for capitalism, because they believe that if Russia becomes the predominant power in Europe, the predominant economic system of Europe will be the same as that in operation in the Soviet Republics. Therefore, both American and British imperialists, although they have their differences, have something in common in the fact that they are alarmed at what the success of the Soviet armies may bring. . . . But there has been a widely shared opinion not only in Australia but also in other countries that certain of the United Nations tend to try to withhold their strength and to retain it and build it up while allowing the Soviet to bleed itself white. . . .
It is true that the Minister is able to-day to point to a cover that he provided for himself with the words, “ There has been a widely shared opinion “, but every one who listened to him last night knew that he was one of those who shared that opinion. He, a Minister of the Crown, made it so crystal clear that he shared the opinion that the most vigorous protests by way of interjection occurred during his speech. They indicated to the Minister, while he was addressing the House, the construction that was being placed on his remarks from at least this side of the chamber. But he did not attempt to disabuse the minds of honorable members who were attributing to him the views which he expressed, and the opinion that certain of the United Nations, which he lacked the courage to name although invited to do so, desired to see the Soviet bled white. This is a poor background against which the Prime Minister will appear when he visits Great Britain to confer with the representatives of other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The right honorable gentleman should have made it clear that he does not share those views. We have no doubt that he is not prepared to have associated with him in his Cabinet a man who did undoubtedly share them and who as a Minister of the Crown grasped the opportunity to cast into the minds of members of the fighting services and their relatives a fear that this is not a bona-fide war, but a struggle manufactured by the capitalists for the advancement of capitalism. A doubt will be aroused as to whether we desire to win the war for the purpose of establishing a better order. Many people who read the Minister’s speech will fear that certain of the United Nations desire to win the war so that the world may be saved for capitalism. The Minister is busy sowing those seeds of doubt in the minds of the Australian -people. People abroad, unaccustomed to the position which has developed in this country during the regime of the Labour Government, will believe that what he said represents the views of the whole Ministry.
– Especially if they are not denied.
– Yes, especially in the complete absence of any disavowal by the Prime Minister, a colleague of the Minister or a member of the Labour party. Members of the Opposition cannot compel the Minister to withdraw or resign ; but we can indicate our complete disagreement not only with his statements, but also with the condition of affairs which presents him with the opportunity to make them. After all, his tactics to-day were merely a repetition of his escape from a similar predicament last year when he covered himself with the words, “ I am reliably informed “. To-day he said, “ The opinion is widely held “. One opinion widely held by honorable members on this side of the chamber is of entire contempt for the Minister.
.- I refer to another point relating to the issuing of ammunition to country residents for the destruction of dingoes and other vermin. I ask the Minister to bear in mind the vast distances out west that people are obliged to travel in order to obtain their requirements. People have driven hundreds of miles, although the tyre3 of their motor vehicles were practically worn out, to purchase 50 rounds of ammunition. The position is ridiculous. Where permits are approved for the issue of cartridges, the police should be allowed to post them to the applicants. My request is reasonable and, if adopted, would save many gallons of petrol and conserve tyres. When conducting my electoral campaign last year,. I was travelling on Sunday between Quilpie and Charleville and I met a shearer who had been stranded on the road from Friday evening until Sunday evening. During that time no one had passed him. His misfortune occurred: when the diaphragm in his car burnt out.. People should not have to travel vast distances to the nearest police station to get a few cartridges for the destruc-tion of dingoes. I cannot reconcile the Minister’s statement with the announcement by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) yesterday, when he promised a more plentiful supply of ammunition to sportsmen. It is outrageous if sportsmen are to be granted additional supplies of cartridges when country dwellers require more ammunition to eradicate pests.
I have asked the Minister for Munitions to consider the advisability of releasing to country residents discarded tyres from army trucks. Many miles of travel could still be secured from tyres that are being discarded by the Army, and they could be sold to settlers at a nominal price. The Minister replied that when the Army discards a tyre it is worn out. I invite him to visit the dumps of tyres in and around Brisbane. Hundreds of tyres are breedinggrounds for mosquitoes, because water has collected in them. Their condition is no worse than that of some of the the tyres now being used by country residents. Failing that, the Minister should grant a higher priority to bonafide primary producers who require tyres.. If the shortage of rubber is still very serious, and I do not doubt that it is, let the inconvenience be borne by city dwellers, who have various forms of transport available to them. Their needs are not so urgent as those of country dwellers. Hundreds of primary producers cannot leave their homes because they cannot procure motor tyres. Their position is tragic. They are asked to increasefeed production, but in many cases they are unable to take their cream or pigs to market. They have to live on their properties on what they can grow, and be dependent for other essential supplies on the driver of the cream or mail van, which passes perhaps once a week. As the Government has now been made aware of the predicament of many primary producers, action should be taken immediately to assist them.
.- The answers given to me this morning by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), in reply to my questions regarding the number of qualified dispensing chemists in the Royal Australian Navy, discloses a most disturbing position. According to the information tendered to the House, there is only one qualified chemist whose duties involve dispensing for the naval personnel in one of our many ships. This is a shocking state of affairs. When one considers that the dispensing of drugs for civilian use is regulated by acts of State Parliaments, and that to obtain the qualifications necessary to become a qualified chemist involve years of study, it seems a paradox that the thousands of men in our navy, to whom this nation owes much, should not have equal protection against serious errors on the part of unqualified and unskilled persons. I am not aware of the proportion of dispensing chemists to the civilian population, but I do know, and I am sure honorable members know, that every chemist must be registered by the Pharmaceutical Board in his State, and every unregistered person who dispenses drugs is subject to very heavy penalties. Why should the Naval Board, or any other government department, not give our men all the qualified service and protection they received before they volunteered for service? Is it because there are too few Australians on the Naval Board, or because anything is regarded as being good enough for the Australian seamen ? The Army and the Air Force have qualified chemists, and some of them have been promoted to commissioned rank. I have directed attention to aserious disability, and I hope that the position will be remedied at the earliest possible opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. There is only one who holds the rating of Leading Sick Berth Attendant. He is employed in a sea-going ship and part of his duties would involve dispensing.
PRICE CONTROL in Queensland.
S asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs’, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Road Transport: Service in West TAMAR DISTRICT, Tasmania.
y asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Director of Emergency Road Transport, personally visited Beaconsfield within the last month when he conferred with the municipal authorities who expressed complete satisfaction in regard to the services provided.
WAR Pensions : Allowances to Dependants.
e. - On the 10th February, 1944, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question, without notice: -
Can the Minister for the Army say whether, in determining the eligibility of the widowed mother of a soldier for a dependant’s allowance, payments in respect of a Commonwealth widow’s pension are taken into account? What amount of income is the widowed mother of a soldier allowed from all sources before the rate of her dependant’s allowance is affected?
In reply, it is desired to state that a widowed mother of a soldier is treated as a partial dependant if she is in receipt of income, including the Commonwealth old-age pension or widow’s pension, within certain prescribed limits. A widowed mother in receipt of no income would receive the full dependant’s allowance of 4s. 6d. a day, but when income is derived from any other source, the dependant’s allowance is reduced in accordance with the following scale* -
Income up to 7s. lid. a week - Full dependant’s allowance of 4s. fid. a day paid.
Income from 8s. to 12s. lid. weekly - Dependant’s allowance reduced to 3s. 9d.
Income from 13b. to 17a. lid. weekly - Dependant’s allowance reduced to 3s.
From I8s. to 22s. lid. - Reduced to 2s. Od.
Income from 23s. to 27s. lid. weekly - Dependant’s allowance reduced to 2s.
Income from 28s. to 32s. lid. weekly - Dependant’s allowance reduced to ls. 6d.
Income from 33s. to 37s. 4d. weekly - Dependant’s allowance reduced to 1b.
Income from S8s. lid. to 42s. - Dependant’s allowance reduced to 6d.
Over 42s. weekly - Nil.
A widowed mother in receipt of the widow’s pension of 27s. ‘a week would thus be eligible for dependant’s allowance of 2s. daily .subject, of course, to the soldier making the prescribed allotment from his pay in his mother’s favour.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440211_reps_17_177/>.