17th Parliament · 1st Session
MrSpeaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Second Front in Western Europe - Statementby Mr. E. j. Ward, M.P.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leaveagreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Ordersbe suspended as would prevent the Notice of Motion No. 1 - Want of Confidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move -
That this House strongly disapproves of the statements made by the Honorable the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories on Thursday, 10th February, 1944, gravely reflecting upon the policy and administration of Great Britain, and offensive to others of the United Nations; and is of opinion that the continued occupancy of a seat in the Cabinet by a member guilty of such statements (disavowed by the Sight Honorable the Prime Minister) not only constitutes a grave departure from the established principles of responsible government but also brings discredit upon Australia.
On Thursday of last week a speech was made in this House by a Minister of the present Government. He spoke as a Minister. One was entitled to assume that, speaking as a Minister, he would declare Government policy and Government belief. That, after all, is the function of a Minister, speaking in his place in this House or anywhere else. In the course of his remarks, the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) directed his attention to the conduct, in certain particulars, of Great Britain, and to the conduct, in certain particulars, of the United Nations. He made what I venture to describe as a scandalous series of allegations against them. It is quite true that he has since said something to qualify or to deny that; I shall come to that in due course. I shall read three of what seemed to me to be the most important passages in the speech that was delivered last Thursday. I say at once that I cannot hope, in reading them, to reconstruct the atmosphere in which they were delivered, or the secondary significance which they acquired in the course of delivery. After all, the honorable the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories is a gifted speaker. He is a man who is not lacking in vocabulary. He is a man who is not inexperienced in public speech. He is a man who, we are to assume, knows what he is saying, and means what he says. I cannot, of course, rely upon more than the mere words: although, as honorable members know, the Minister is one who can invest the simplest of sentences with a sinister meaning - the sort of man who can say to you, Isn’t it terrible weather to-day “ with a direct suggestion that the weather is due to some capitalist conspiracy. Therefore, I must confine myself to the mere words. Thefirst passage to which I direct attention is this -
If the controlling interests in Great Britain and France could have been assured that the advance of theNazis would be to the east against Soviet Russia, Britain and France would have been prepared to stay out of the conflict-
I repeat those words - would have been prepared to stay out of the conflict and allow the Nazis and the Bolsheviks to fight it out. Thosefacts must be faced.
It is quite true that yesterday, or on the preceding day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) received from the Minister a letter, a masterpiece which I hope that all honorable members have read. In the course of it, the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories said -
Iam surprised, and regret, that any one has misconstrued the meaning intended to be conveyed by me.
Can any but one construction be placed on the passage to which I have referred ?
Mr.Pollard. - Only by a lawyer.
– A very ingenious lawyer would be needed to place a second construction on it. That statement in the speech of Thursday last is one which, in reality, means this : that when this country, in September of 1939 - a month that I remember very vividly - stood on the edge of war, Great Britain and France were going into war not for the reasons that they stated - not to defend free institutions, not to honour their pledge to Poland - but because they thought that Germany, after dealing with Poland, would come their way. That is the allegation. The further allegation is that, had we received a guarantee from Germany that, having cleaned up Poland, it would proceed east, then we would, with cynicism, have torn up our pledge to Poland and would have said, “ Sorry, it does not matter about you; so long as the German fights the Russian, it is a good thing.”. That, as a statement to go out to the world from a responsible Minister of the Government of this country, subject to censorship, as an indication of what that responsible Minister thinks, is as diabolical a thing as could conceivably be thought of. It says to Russia, with which the British Empire, the United States of America, and all the expatriated powers of Europe have a partnership of blood: “If Germany had had a go at you and had taken Poland on the way, then Great Britain and France would have teen prepared to say, ‘ Have it your own way ‘ “. In other words, they would have been prepared toquit in face of the greatest responsibility ever .placed upon them. Then, having said that, he comes along with bated breath and whispering humbleness, and says, “ I regret, I am surprised, that any one has misconstrued the meaning intended to be conveyed by me “. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) must have interjected something at that stage, because the Minister went on to say -
I point out to the honorable member for Balaclava that one of our great disadvantages in the present conflict has been the fact that the native peoples over whom we had control - and I now refer to Great Britain -
Mark those words -
I now refer to Great Britain.
There is no alibi there. There is no suggestion that it was “ Uncle Willie “ who referred to Great Britain. The speech continued - were not so enthusiastically pro-British as one would imagine after experiencing many years of the alleged benefits of British colonial administration.
– Where did that happen?
– In the Malay peninsula. Some doubt also exists as to the loyalty of great numbers of Indians to the British cause. In Malaya, troops had to be withdrawn from the firing line in order to discharge cargo from ships because native labourers at Singapore deserted. In spite of the “ hifalutin “ talk of honorable members opposite, the natives saw no reason to be enthusiastic in defending a form of government which had kept them in a state of illiteracy and semistarvation
I ask honorable members on any side of the House whether there can be any room for misconstruction. Is there any room to doubt that that is an attack of the most scandalous kind upon British colonial administration? The whole sentence is a bitter sneer at British administration, and it is delivered at a time when the problem of India is delicate enough, God knows - when the whole problem of Eastern peoples now under the control of the Japanese is difficult enough. This is the time when the Minister chooses to say with a sneer things of this kind about British administration in Eastern countries. Later on, the Minister said this -
There has been a widely shared opinion, not only in Australia, but also in other countries, that certain of the United Nations tended to try to withhold their strength, and retain it and build it up while allowing the Soviet to be bled 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.
What construction should be placed on that? Why should a Minister of the Crown, from his place in the House, make such a remark? Was it in order to reproduce idle gossip? That is inconceivable. Did he say it so that, having said it, he could deny it? The fact is that he did not deny it. Did he say it so that, having said it, he could dissociate himself and his colleagues from it? He did not do so. What he did was to adopt this alibi form of words most carefully, and to use them in a manner which indicated deliberation. I notice that a commentator in one daily journal remarked with great spirit and propriety that a crime was none the more creditable because it was committed with a borrowed weapon. If the Minister intended no more than to recount this contemptible story, why did he not follow it up by saying, “ But nobody could believe such a thing “ ? He did not do that. He repeated the story, and left it there in all its repellent nudity. Then, when he was challenged, he declared, “ I was not making the statement, you understand; Iwas merely quotingwhat I heard somebody else say “. He would find that to be a singularly poor defence in court to a. criminal charge, but we, in this place, with all the responsibility that rests upon us as members of the National Parliament, are asked to accept this extraordinary statement, and to believe that he is surprised and regretful that any one should misconstrue the meaning intended to be conveyed by him !
In the whole of my parliamentary experience I have neverbefore heard such a statement made by a Minister of the Crown. I expected, as I suppose all other honorable members did, that we would have had from the head of the Government yesterday a ringing repudiation of his Minister’s statement, a repudiation so ringing that it would have gone around the world. Instead of that, all we have is this astonishing letter from the Minister, a letter which I feel that I must record in full - 15th February, 1944.
My dear Prime Minister,
Following on our conversation of this morning, I am surprised, and regret, that any one has misconstrued the meaning intended to be conveyed by me, but as such has happened I can” assure you that it was not my intention to reflect adversely in any way whatever upon the Governments either of Great Britain or any other Allied country.
So far from wishing to reflect on the United Kingdom and our other Allies in this war, I have only the warmest admiration for the tremendous sacrifices being made by these peoples and the heroism of their fighting services in the common struggle to defeat the Axis powers.
The Rt. Hon. J. Curtin, M.P.,
– The Leader of the Opposition himself could not have done better.
– If I had been the most experienced of criminal advocates I could hardly have composed a defence more superficially attractive - and less likely to win any support from the trial judge. Then the Prime Minister, commenting upon the Minister’s letter, said -
I regard the letter of the honorable member to myself as removing any grounds there may be for any assumption that he did reflect, or intended to reflect, on the Government- of Great Britain or any Allied country.
I do not want to do much more than put these matters on record. It will be for the Government to determine whether it shall use its weight of numbers in order to get behind its Minister. That is the responsibility of the Government and the responsibility of honorable members sitting opposite. Let me repeat the Minister’s words -
I have only the warmest admiration for the tremendous sacrifices being made by these peoples.
Let us look just for a moment at the aid to Russia in this war. I venture to think, and I hope that no honorable member will disagree, that, if there is one story of superb courage in this war, it is the story of the Arctic convoys going out of Britain week by week to Murmansk. I believe there is no human being of this generation who will not accord pride of place to those marvellous men who, week after week, battered, fronting every danger that could come, took from Great Britain month after month a large proportion of its war production and took it at a time when on the west of Europe Britain was without allies. In spite of that, we are told by the Minister that the people who can be responsible for such thing3, that the nation that can be responsible for such things, is, with others of the Allied Nations, trying to withhold its strength so that the Soviet may be bled white and exhausted at the end of the war. From all honest, decent people all over Australia, there can be one response only to a statement of that kind, and that is a response of horror and contempt. Yet, what has happened? The Minister is still in his place. He is still in a place, where, claiming the privileges of ministerial office, he may, perhaps before the sun sets, treat us to another of his famous exhibitions ; but he will still be a member of the Government. I do not know of any English-speaking country in the world in which a man as a Minister could say those things and retain his office. Why has he not been removed from his office? Why is it that this poor limping furtive letter is received without comment and he retains his place in the Cabinet? I want to say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Prime Minister that I am baffled by his position in this matter. I just do not begin to understand it. Surely, he must realize how ambiguous is his position in relation to this matter. It it almost as if, looking at our Allies, he were adapting some words of a famous seventeenth century song and saying, “I could not love thee so much, loved I not Eddie more How can it be explained? What is the secret of the powers of a Minister who can - and I hope and believe that this is a true statement - so frequently depart from the policy of the Government of which he is a sworn member and yet remain a Minister? What will the people of Australia say ?
– What will Hitler say?
Mr.MENZIES. - What will the people of the world say insofar as they are interested in us? What conclusion can they reach about this matter? It is a really astonishing incident. It is an incident which should have been followed by the instant dismissal of the Minister from his seat in the Government. It has not been so followed, and, because it has not been so followed, I believe - and I say it with regret and sadness - that this matter has brought grave discredit on this country wherever live people who have read about it and puzzled about it. So, I move in the terms of which I gave notice yesterday. The Prime Minister has said that this is a motion of censure. It is a motion of censure, indeed. “ Censure “ would be a mild word to describe the feeling of Australians who have read what was said last Thursday and what has been done, or has not been done, in the interim, and realize that the man who uttered those foul libels is still in a position to utter them with the apparent backing and undoubted authority of being a Minister of the Crown.
.- I rise to support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I only wish that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had been in the House last Thursday night to hear and sense the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). If the Prime Minister had been here, I do not think that he could with any sort of conscience whatsoever have accepted this mealy-mouthed apology of the Minister. I sat through that speech and listened with amazement to the thoroughly anti-British sentiments expressed by that Minister in this House. Throughout the speech, if one reads it, one can see a tirade against British administration before and during this war. The culmination of the speech was the words alreadyread by the Leader of the Opposition. I must read them again - I do not think they can be read too often - to let them sink into the mind of every member of this nation who has a drop of British blood in his veins -
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 stength, and 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 influence at the Peace Conference.
The implications in that remark are sinister. The Minister does not state that this is his own opinion. He said that it is “ widely shared “, but he does not say by whom it is shared. I will tell him. Such sentiments do not come out of even his fertile brain. They came from the German propaganda machine eighteen months or two years ago. They are similar to the propaganda that came over during the last war. They are nation-splitting sentiments, and the expression of them by a responsible Minister shows that he is, wittingly or unwittingly, making himself a tool of the German propaganda machine. Wars are won more by the spirit and morale of the people than by the fact that one people can produce more munitions and raise larger armies than another people. Armies are useless unless their morale is high and unless they have confidence in one another. Napoleon said, “Give me allies to fight”. To keep allies together there must he engendered between them a spirit of implicit trust and confidence that each is fighting for the same cause and that there will he no separate ends to be gained to the disadvantage of one of them. But the sentiments expressed here are the vilest sentiments that could be put into the minds of soldiers fighting on the allied side. They are specially coined by a skilful propaganda machine to attempt to split the Allies. Last Wednesday, I heard the remarks of the Prime Minister which, to say the least of them, are not unseasonable. He referred to Great Britain, though not in words such as those used by the Minister. He drew attention to the unequal distribution of the necessaries of life and he directed the attention of Australians to the fact that Great Britain is on the “thin edge of the wedge “ at the present time and the position looks bad for that country. He pointed out that Australia has a task to perform. That task is to endure a greater strain in the coming year than Australians have had to bear in the past. We must give up luxuries and perhaps even certain necessaries in order that we may send more of the necessaries of life to the people of Great Britain so as to enable them to carry on the struggle, despite their fatigue. The Prime Minister said -
The people of the United Kingdom, too, have been fighting for a long time. While t;he enemy has been using up his resources we also have been using up our resources, and it would be unrealistic on my part not tn acknowledge it.
What a difference between those words and the sentiments expressed by the Minister! The Prime Minister proreeded -
Most certainly the people of the United Kingdom,’ in particular, have had to bear stresses and strains inseparable from the maintenance of their island home, not only for themselves, but also as a base which the United Nations could and must use. The United Kingdom had to be held in order that it could be used as a base for the launching of a vast force against Germany. That this has been achieved by Great Britain is a matter not only for admiration, but also for thanksgiving, for had that base not been held Germany would have won the war. That is a fact. The people of the United Kingdom have been engaged in active warfare longer than have the people of Australia.
The Prime Minister of Australia is fighting a good fight. He is leading the thoughts of the people along the right lines. He knows how difficult it is for our people, as the threat of invasion recedes, to keep to the task when they are becoming tired. In his effort to educate the people of Australia to do their part, the right honorable gentleman needs tie whole-hearted hacking, not only of his own Ministers but also of the whole community. In repeating the sentiments put out by a German propaganda machine, the Minister for Transport is traitorous to his Prime Minister, to his country and to our Allies. That is my opinion of his remarks. He is not worthy to hold the position of a Minister of the Crown. He said in this statement that is supposed to clear him -
It is not my intention to reflect adversely in any way whatever upon the Governments either of Great Britain or any other Allied country.
Ou whom then is he reflecting? Is he reflecting on the people of Great Britain ? I have been in Great Britain during this war. I felt the spiritual impact of contact with those people under bombing. I am grateful and Australia is grateful for the enormous quantities of arms and materials of all kinds that they sent abroad in their extremity, when they had practically nothing with which to defend themselves. What is more, they have continued to send out those materials in ever-increasing quantities. The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the epic courage of the Murmansk convoys. Nothing like that has ever before been written in history. The people of Great Britain did that. I want the Minister to understand that I speak of things which I know. I saw these people in their distress. I visited the homes of people who had been bombed out and I saw what they were enduring. I know the confidence that they have in their Government. It is the pure trust and confidence of a grateful people to a government that has tackled superhuman tasks and has won, not only for themselves, but also for us. Where would we be if Great Britain had not held the fort in those dark days when the rest of Europe fell? No such sentiment as was expressed in this House on Thursday night should be allowed to go abroad from, any person in Australia, let alone a responsible Minister. But how can censorship prevent those words from being read abroad? They are published in every newspaper in
Australia. They will be read by Australian soldiers and airmen throughout the world, and the impression will be gained that the Commonwealth Government, which has led this country through dark days when invasion was near, and which has done a magnificent job for Australia, has condoned this utterance by tacit consent. It is unthinkable that the Prime Minister should condone such remarks. The Prime Minister cannot do it. A man who expresses such sentiments, and means them, and I say he meant them, because I sensed the atmosphere in the House when he was speaking that evening, should be interned. Make no error about it. It was a vicious, virulent speech that was meant to be slanderous to Great Britain and to British administration. “We shall never be worthy of what other nations have done for us unless we, in our hearts, are willing to bear the whole burden that we are expected to bear, and throw out those people who voice such sentiments as those which the Minister expressed. I urge the Prime Minister not to treat this matter lightly. The right honorable gentleman will shortly visit Great Britain, where his name and his reputation stand high. He must keep them high. Ho stands for Australia. He must not have to answer a charge that he is condoning sentiments that are thoroughly anti-British.
– The House is called upon to carry a motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) because the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is at present a member of the Government. The whole of the case put forward by the right honorable gentleman relates to remarks that were made in this chamber last Thursday evening by the Minister. If the matter stood there, I could quite appreciate the purport of the speeches that have been made. But yesterday I was asked a question, and I replied that I regarded the letter which the Minister had addressed to me as making it quite clear that he never at any time had any intention of reflecting adversely upon the Government of the United Kingdom or the Government of any of its Allies.’
– Does not the Prime Minister know the meaning of plain English?
– I took that then, and I take it now, as a withdrawal of any reflection upon our Allies, and chiefly upon Great Britain. He wrote in his letter to me that he had no intention of reflecting upon Great Britain and our Allies. I have been a member of Parliament for a long while and I have heard many speeches in this chamber. All of us, on occasions, express ourselves in what we ourselves might subsequently regard as a somewhat unfortunate way. In this matter the purpose of the Minister is the chief thing. If everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said about that speech represented- the intention of the Minister, he would not be a member of the Government to-day. As a matter of fact, he would not want to serve in the Government. But as it happens that his remarks either bear that construction or have been so construed, the Minister, in his letter to me, has assured me that he never had any intention of reflecting upon Great Britain.
– The Prime Minister must have thought differently when he caused the speech to be censored.
– Does the honorable member for Parramatta wish me to give instances of the occasions on which, for the good of this country, action has been taken in respect of remarks made in this Parliament?
– No ; but the Prime Minister must have had misgivings.
– It is a most unfortunate and, indeed, a most unhappy occurrence; there need not be any misunderstanding about that. Everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said about the words that were uttered could have been said by every honorable member on this side of the House. From the time that this Government assumed office until now, there has been in fact a maximum contribution by this country in order to wage total war. There has been on the part of this Government only the warmest and most eager co-operation with the Government of the United Kingdom in the work which had to bc done to ensure that the best results would accrue from our joint efforts in a cause which transcends governments, and which concerns not only the people of to-day, but also the people of the years to come. I do not think it is necessary to recite views which have been repeatedly expressed by me as to what we believe the world owes to Great Britain for what it has done not only since the war began, but also before the war started. I have made statements time and time again about what Great Britain did while it stood alone. In the speech that I delivered in this House only Last week I made quite plain the views of this Government in respect of the Government of Great Britain and our other Allies, but chiefly - and this would be the natural thought of all honorable members [ imagine - of Great Britain’s part. My own part in this matter, I venture to say, has not been unsubstantial.’
The facts are that a certain query was addressed to me on Friday morning by the Leader of the Opposition. We are at war. I do not know whether honorable members are of the opinion that I spend too little time in this House, but I spend so much time here that the work that has to be done elsewhere is done under great difficulties. I certainly spend as much time in the House as I think is reasonable, having regard to what has to be done here and in other places. I did not hear what the Minister for Transport said.
– Has the Prime Minister read the report of it?
– I have, and after reading it I had a conversation with the Minister on the subject on Friday afternoon.
– But it took five days for the letter to reach the Prime Minister.
– It did not. It was decided on Friday that the Minister should report again to me on Tuesday morning. He did so and brought the letter along with him. I regard parliamentary practice aa being not unrelated to this matter. We all are well aware that when statements made in this House are withdrawn by an honorable member the withdrawal is regarded as ending the matter.
– Not in respect of a Minister.
– Yes, in respect of a Minister. The practice of Parliament is that when an honorable member is required to withdraw, or withdraws voluntarily, a statement he had made, such withdrawal is regarded as. terminating the incident. The basic charge in this instance is that the Minister said things about Great Britain which should not have been said, and which, in fact, were detrimental to Great Britain, a reflection upon the Government of the United Kingdom, and upon its bona fides, and also a reflection upon the reasons for which Great Britain went to war.
– It was deliberately untrue.
– Order ! That remark is unparliamentary, and must not be repeated.
– The Minister for Transport, in his letter to me, withdrew any words that were objected to and said that his words had been misconstrued.
– I do not think that the words have been withdrawn.
– I take it that the whole matter is involved in the construction of the words which have been understood to reflect upon the United Kingdom.
– It was all objectionable; the damage has been done.
– That is true in respect of all objectionable remarks that are ever made. All the argument as to whether the Minister made scandalous charges against the Government of Great Britain is in my view covered by his statement that it was not his intention to reflect in any way whatsoever upon the Government of Great Britain.
– That is too thin.
– I suppose that anything might be too thick or too thin for the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I accepted the statement of the Minister for Transport as constituting a withdrawal of any charges that might have been made. I also accept his statement as a clear indication that it was not his intention to make charges against the Government of the United Kingdom. That is what I regard the Minister’s letter as meaning and that is the construction I place upon it. I was therefore quite ready to allow the incident to close. That is where the matter stands at the moment. I do not propose to say much more about it.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have been eager for a long while to discover in speeches, or in some other way, some indication that this Government is not fully co-operating with its Allies in the war. I do not think any evidence of that kind can be produced against the Government, for the actions which it has taken, and which it will take, are far more important than any words that may be uttered by any one. Our record of service and actual accomplishments - the things that have been done - is the most conclusive proof obtainable of how far the Government has striven for maximum co-operation with its Allies. The stresses and strains that, as a matter of policy, we have imposed upon the nation indicate that we have given the fullest co-operation that Australia could give to its Allies. For my colleagues as a whole and for myself I say that we are proud of what Australia, has done ; but we are even more proud of what Great Britain has done in the war.
– I must say that I am surprised and disgusted by the complacent manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has treated this serious matter. Hearing his sentiments, following the admirable speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the passionate British speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), I was both surprised and appalled. The Prime Minister said that he accepted the statement of the Minister for Transport (Mr. “Ward) that his speech had been misconstrued and misunderstood and that he had not intended to convey the sentiments that had been attributed to him by his critics. What the Prime Minister has said leaves the matter in a very unsatisfactory state. The right honorable gentleman said yesterday that he regarded the letter of the Minister for Transport - as having removed any grounds there might have been for any assumption that the Minister for Transport and External Territories either reflected or intended to reflect upon the Government of either Great Britain or any other Allied country.
Before dealing with the evidence that is available in the records of this House as to the continued intention and purpose of the Minister, I shall refer briefly to the very foundation of democratic government. The maintenance of constitutional, democratic government in this country depends largely upon the observance of the functions which tradition has handed down to us. The Cabinet is obviously the core of the system, and the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility must ensure the continuance of stability and unity in government. In 1864, Lord Palmerston stated -
A member of the Government, when he takes office, necessarily divests himself of that perfect freedom of action that belongs to a private and independent member of Parliament. The reason is that whatever a member of the Government does and says upon public matters must to a certain degree commit his colleagues.
The very basis of democratic and constitutional government in this country is the collective acceptance of ministerial responsibility and discharge of duty. The speech of the Minister for Transport was made in the course of a most important debate in this House - a debate that ensued upon a statement dealing with international affairs which had been made by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman now says that, having read the speech of the Minister - which, unfortunately, he did not hear-
– Nor did the right honorable gentleman himself hear it.
– Unfortunately, I heard a portion of it. The Prime Minister now seeks to evade his Cabinet responsibility by stating that the letter which he received from the Minister for Transport, dated the 15th February, 1944, removed any grounds there might have been for the assumption that the Minister had reflected or had intended to reflect upon the Government of Great Britain or the Government of any Allied country. I intend to show that the letter cannot in any way be read as a repudiation or denial of the very mischievous statements that are contained in the Minister’s speech of Thursday last. On the contrary, I regard it as the culmination of a series of speeches seriously maligning the British Government which the Minister has made in this House on many occasions over a period of years. One portion of the speech which has given rise to the present proceedings is as follows : -
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 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.
The Minister has said in his letter, and the Prime Minister believes him, that it was not his intention to reflect adversely in any way whatever upon either Great Britain or any Allied country. I submit, however, that the Minister’s statement has to be taken, not as an isolated instance, but as a continuation of intention and purpose which nave been definitely demonstrated by him over a period of years. I go as far back as the 21st August, 1941, a few months before we came into conflict with Japan and before the honorable member for East Sydney became a Minister of the Crown. In a debate on international affairs, initiated by a statement by the then Prime Minister, the honorable gentleman in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), made the following statement: -
The interjection proves what I am endeavouring to make plain to the country, namely, that many people who now advocate the granting of aid to Russia wish, in their hearts, that the Soviet will fall before the German hordes. Their fervent hope is that Russia and Germany will become so exhausted that the British, by conserving their strength, will be able to impose their will upon those nations.
That is almost exactly the sentiment which the honorable gentleman expressed last Thursday night. Yet we are asked to believe that it was not his intention or his purpose to reflect adversely upon the Government of Great Britain or any Allied country. Any one who believes that is, to say the least, complacent and simple. In this House on the’ 9th
May, 1939, before war had begun, the honorable gentleman, in the course of a debate on international affairs, made the following declaration: -
I ant not prepared to agree that the British Government has been generous in its attitudeto the solution of European problems of recent times.
During the same speech the honorable gentleman said -
It is true that that country- meaning Great Britain - is now taking a more definite stand against the totalitarian States, but the reaction is that those States, not satisfied with their conquests to date, are making demands in other quarters in which British imperialists have interests. Only when their interests are endangered will the imperialists of the nation resort to war. They are notactuated by any desire to preserve existing democratic institutions; if they were, they would find ample scope for their activities inside their own country.
He went on to say -
There are people occupying high positions in this country and abroad who, ever since the outbreak of war, have endeavoured to switch the war in order to make it a war not against Nazi Germany and Italy but against the Soviet. Evidently there are many men in this Parliament as well as in Britain who want to defeat Hitler, not because of his policy but because Germany is a strong rival of Britain in the commercial world.
Statements of ‘that character, made on several occasions over the years, coincide with the statement that was made by 1/he honorable gentleman last Thursday; yet we are asked to display such simplicity as to believe that it was not his intention or his purpose to reflect upon the integrity of Great Britain and our Allies. The appalling feature is that his leader, the Prime Minister, believes him, and seeks to make this Parliament, and through this Parliament the nation, and through the nation our Allies, believe that such scurrilous statements were not intended to reflect adversely upon Great Britain or any Allied country. The Minister cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for having made these statements, because the attitude of the Prime Minister and, I take it, of those who are behind the Prime Minister, was demonstrated in no uncertain manner when the right honorable gentleman said last Wednesday in this House -
At the Conference at Teheran, complete understanding was reached between President
Roosevelt. Marshal Stalin, and Mr. Churchill, on measures for the prosecution of the war against Germany, and for co-operation in the peace that will follow. The scope and. timing of operations which are to be undertaken in Europe from the east, west and south were agreed upon, and plans were co-ordinated and preparations made for the final defeat of Germany. These epoch-making conferences demonstrated the complete unity of purpose and close understanding of the United Nations, and the re-affirmation of their inflexible determination to wage the war until the final defeat of the Axis powers has destroyed whatever hopes the enemy had of securing a compromise peace.
Then, in the same debate, a responsible Minister of the Crown says that there is an opinion, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world, that some of the United Nations - Britain and the United States of America in particular - are letting Russia down; that they are reserving their strength as a part of a plan to bleed Russia white. It is evident that the Minister for Transport must have been aware of the statement made by his leader, and therefore, in saying what he did, he has shown himself to be out of harmony with the Prime Minister and with the Government. On the 3rd November last, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) issued the following statement for publication : -
By its published results alone, the Moscow Conference is revealed as one of the outstanding political events of the war. Apart from what has been made known, which is in itself a sufficient indication of the single-minded purpose of the three Powers concerned,, the public can take it that the discussions of the three Foreign Ministers were extended with great frankness and intimacy to other matters, both military and political, vital for or tending to accelerate the successful conclusion of the war against Germany and its satellites. The full results of the conference will appear gradually, but already it is clear that a completely decisive blow has been given to attempts by Axis propagandists and others to provoke political disunity between the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States.
I leave it to the Government to decide in what category the Minister for Transport should be placed - among the Axis propagandists or among the “ others “. The words which I have just quoted are not mine, but those of the Minister for External Affairs, a man who holds a senior and important position in the Government. They must have been known to the Minister for Transport and should have removed any belief he might have had there was a widely-held opinion in Australia that the United States of America and Great Britain were withholding their strength in order that Russia might be bled white. Yet the Minister says that he did not. intend to reflect adversely upon the British Government or upon any allied government. If that is true, I should like to know the meaning of the words “ reflect adversely”. It was his duty to back up the statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs in order to remove any doubt that might exist in this country regarding the motives of our Allies, a doubt that might lead to disunity. - The speech made by the Minister for Transport last week was merely the culmination of a series of similar statements that have been for too long tolerated by the Government and by this Parliament. The Minister for Transport, in his letter to the Prime Minister, stated as an excuse - certainly not as a denial or a withdrawal -
So far from wishing to reflect adversely on the United Kingdom and our other Allies in this war, I have only the warmest admiration for the tremendous sacrifices being made by these peoples and the heroism of their fighting services in the common struggle to defeat the Axis powers.
I ask honorable members how such sentiments can be reconciled with this statement from the speech of the same Minister -
Is it not a fact that cocktail parties were continued even when the enemy was getting dangerously close to Singapore? I have heard it said that the military caste in that theatre of war spent the bulk of their time at such parties, and were in a semi-drunken state, when they should have been attending to their military duties. To-day, unfortunately, as the result of that outlook some of the best of our man-power are now languishing in prisoner of war camps.
Are those the persons whose heroism he now professes to admire? Here is a further extract from his speech -
I point out to the honorable member for Balaclava that one of our great disadvantages in the present conflict has been the fact that the native peoples over whom we had control - and I now refer to Great Britain - were not so enthusiastically pro-British as one would imagine after experiencing many years of the alleged benefits of British colonial administration.
– Where did that happen?
– In the Malay Peninsula. Some doubt also exists as to the loyalty of great numbers of Indians to the British cause. In Malaya troops had to be withdrawn from the firing line in order to discharge cargo from ships because native labourers at Singapore deserted. In spite of the “ hifalutin “ talk of honorable members opposite, the natives saw no reason to be enthusiastic in defending a form of government which had kept them in a state of illiteracy and semi-starvation.
The Minister’s reference to the employment of soldiers on the wharfs in Singapore comes well from a member of a government which employed on the wharfs in this country Australian soldiers who had only just returned ‘from the Middle East. In spite of his statements the
Minister now. asks us to believe - and he has apparently convinced his leader - that he did not intend to reflect on the integrity of British administration. Surely the words he used can have only one meaning, and it cannot be said in his defence that this was merely an isolated statement made, perhaps, on the spur of the moment. It was merely one of many similar statements made with the deliberate purpose of maligning British administration, and calculated to produce disunity among the Allied Nations at a time when unity is so vitally necessary.
There is no need for me to say anything more in order to convince reasonable, loyal Britishers of what ought to be done. “Unfortunately, the Opposition has not the numbers in this House to enforce its wish,but as an Opposition we have a duty to perform, and that duty will be discharged with courage and determination. If we are unable to convince honorable members opposite, we are consoled in the belief that there is a tremendous body of opinion among the pro- British and true-thinking people of Australia which will not for long tolerate the inclusion in the Government of a man who holds the opinions expressedby the Minister for Transport in his speech last week. The duty of the Prime Minister is clear. Loyalty to an associate can be carried too far. Loyalty in a household is a great thing, but loyalty to the nation is greater. This country is overwhelmingly British and is an integral part of the British Empire. We must do all in our power to maintain our British character, for we have every reason to be proud of the
Union Jack and grateful for the protection we have enjoyed under it.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Ms. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put; -
That the motion (vide page 274) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority … 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Income Tax on Current Income Committee. Sufficient copies have been prepared to allow each honorable member to obtain one for immediate study.
Right to Raise Question ofprivilege.
.- I. move -
That the ruling of the Speaker given on a point of privilege sought to be raised by the honorable member for Warringah be disagreed with.
The subject with which I shall deal touches intimately the rights of private members of this Parliament. On the 10th February, when this matter arose, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled against me before I reached the point of explaining the subject-matter of a. motion in relation to privilege that I desired to submit. You did so on the ground that “the matter was not one suddenly arising and was not a matter of privilege “. I desire to disagree with that ruling because, in my view, it is wholly inconsistent with the procedure and history of Parliament. Matters pending privilege, I submit, can be raised at any time. As to whether they shall take precedence of other business depends in some cases upon the urgency of the subject. It seems to me that, owing to a misconstruction of the Standing Orders, misconception has arisen regarding the rights of honorable members. I direct attention to Standing Order No. 280, which reads -
Interruption not Allowed - Exceptions.
No member shall interrupt another member whilst speaking, unless (1) to request that his words be taken down; (2) to call attention to a point of order or privilege suddenly arising; or (3) to call attention to the want of a quorum.
I take that to mean that a member shall not be interrupted while he is speaking except for the reasons given. Standing Order No. 283 reads -
Speaking “ to Order “ or Privilege
Any member may rise to speak “ to order “, or upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising.
That surely does not refer to every case of privilege, but is limited to matters of privilege arising during debate, in which event it is provided that an honorable member may rise to speak to order or upon a matter of privilege “ suddenly arising “.
Before proceeding further with my submission I wish to indicate briefly the nature of the subject-matter on whichI desired to speak last week. The point had to do with the making of the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement 1944. That agreement was made on the 21st January, 1944. I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) last Thursday whether it was intended to submit that agreement to Parliament for ratification and, if not, why Parliament had not been given an opportunity to discuss the agreement before it was ratified. The Attorney-General, who was reading a paper upon the agreement, misunderstood or, as I think more likely, affected to misunderstand the point I raised. He gave to the House an erudite statement on the right of the Executive to make agreements under Royal Prerogative. At no time have I challenged that right, but in a deliberative and democratic assembly such as this is we must watch very carefully the making of pacts, agreements, and treaties with other countries under the reserve powers of the Royal Prerogative. The AustralianNew Zealand Agreement 1944 was made on the 21st January. Parliament had already been summoned on the 19th January to meet on the 9th February. Honorable members had been given preliminary notice at the end of December that Parliament would meet on that day. Accordingly, at the time when this agreement between New Zealand and this country was being discussed - before indeed it had been signed - the Parliament had already been convened. There was no suggestion whatever of any urgency or any need for secrecy about this agreement, yet, despite the fact that Parliament had been summoned, the agreement was made by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative a few days before the Parliament assembled. I submit that the subject was not appropriately dealt with by the reading of a statement by the Attorney-General after the agreement was made. Such a practice is not in conformity with the dignity of a democratic Parliament. “We should have been given the opportunity to discuss the agreement. While the Attorney-General was making his statement, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) interjected - “ That means that you are placing before the House a document that it is quite impotent to alter “. That precisely is the position.
– As objection is being taken to my ruling, I am loath to interfere with the manner in which the honorable member puts his case. I have given him considerable latitude, but in raising the question of whether privilege was or was not involved he cannot canvass the merits of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement 1944.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. It is not my intention to canvass the merits or demerits of the agreement. I desire to assert the rights and privileges of members of this Parliament, because there is a danger that honorable members may become mere ciphers and that would be fatal to a democracy. This matter is important, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will be departing overseas shortly to discuss vital matters involving the well-being of the Australian people, and pacts, agreements or treaties may be entered into which will bind this country although we shall have had no say whatever in them.
– We are not consulted as much as are members of the Labour party executive.
– I am dealing with a matter of substance and not of technicality. I direct the attention of honorable members to section 49 of the Constitution Act which reads -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its member? and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
Section 50, which also is important in this discussion, reads -
Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to -
i ) The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld;
The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House.
Those sections provide that each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders.
– By act of Parliament.
– And also by resolution of each House.
– Has that been done?
– It has not been done, but I am entitled to move in respect of the matter. The Attorney-General likes to be regarded as the defender, in theory at all events, of liberty and free speech, but, unfortunately, in this matter the right honorable gentleman has not defended the rights of this Parliament, and it may happen that pacts, agreements and treaties may be made by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues which will affect the lives of the people of this country, and bind even future generations without members of the Parliament having any say whatever in the matter. The subject, therefore, is one that calls for the serious consideration of every honorable member. The British Labour party has always adopted the attitude that pacts, agreements and treaties shall come before the Parliament. I assert that the Royal Prerogative should not be exercised unless there is the need for either urgency or secrecy. Apart from these considerations all such agreements should, in the view of the British Labour party, ‘ come before Parliament before they become operative.
The following significant passage occurs in a publication entitled Cabinet Government, by W. Ivor Jennings, M.A., LL.D. : -
In 1.924 the Labour Government announced that it would submit all treaties to Parliament and lay them on the table for twentyone days before proceeding to ratification. The succeeding Government refused to follow this practice. It was restored by the Labour Government in 1929, but has presumably not been followed by its successors. . . .
In this country, in which the rights and powers of this Parliament depend upon the Constitution, section 49 of which enables new privileges to be created, it is proper that we should maintain the closest scrutiny of any exercise of the prerogative, any act of the Executive which may bind this country firmly to another country. I concede that pacts may be made with other countries by means of the exercise of the prerogative. I also concede that agreements have been made with other countries that have not been placed before the Parliament for ratification. But I do not know of any occasion upon which an arrangement has been made between one part and another of the British Empire, which has not first been placed before the Parliament for ratification. Those who have been in this House for many years will share my remembrance of the very important Imperial Conference of 1923. Before Mr. Bruce left Australia to attend that conference, a discussion of various principles took place in this House, in order that he might be assisted in his deliberations overseas ; and he did notbind this country upon the vital matters that were there considered, until they had first been submitted to this Parliament for ratification. The Statute of Westminster, which recognizes the freedom of each part of the British Commonwealth of Nations under the Crown, also came before this Parliament for adoption. The Ottawa Agreement, too, was translated into legislation. On the present occasion the Attorney-General, who obviously was the moving spirit, promoted an agreement between New Zealand and Australia, the terms of which, for the moment, I do not canvass; an agreement, however, whatever views one may take of its provision, is none the less a farreaching and important document.
– How does all this affect the matter of privilege?
– I should not expect the honorable member to understand that it is the right of a representative in this chamber to protect the people, to express his opinion of public acts, and at all times to exercise the important function of maintaining the closest scrutiny of the Executive Government; that is one of the privileges of membership of this House. With great respect to the Chair, I affirm that any member of this House is entitled to submit a motion dealing with privilege, although it may not be on a matter “suddenly arising”. May’s Parliamentary Practice, twelfth edition, at page 241, states the matter clearly in the following terms : -
The .proceedings of the house may be interrupted at any moment, save during the progress of a division, by a motion based on a matter of privilege, when a matter has recently arisen which directly concerns the privileges of the ‘house; and in that case the house will entertain the motion forthwith. If complaint of a breach of privilege be made whilst the house is in committee, the committee reports progress. A privilege matter may also be brought forward without notice, before the commencement of public business, and is considered immediately, on the assumption that the matter is brought forward without delay, and that its immediate consideration is essential to the dignity of the House.
I direct attention to the fact that as far back as the early days of parliamentary history, in the reign of Edward III., the Parliament discussed without inhibition the limitation of the exercise of the prerogative. Farnborough, in the ninth edition of Parliamentary Practice, at page 289, deals with the question of privilege upon matters suddenly arising, and then adds the following: -
But in other cases, equally affecting the privileges of the House, but of less immediate urgency, the matter is ordinarily brought forward without notice, at the commencement of public business.
I submit with great respect that the Chair was in error in preventing me from raising this matter when I first sought to raise it. I have shown that the agreement between Australia and New Zealand was made while Parliament was in course of being reassembled. The AttorneyGeneral has met my contention that Parliament should have been first consulted with the proposition that the executive government has ample power to do what it did, and having now placed the document before us, has done all that the circumstances required. Apparently, we are expected to be satisfied that all the principles of democracy have been observed. The procedure adopted is not that in which I believe. I consider that no pact of this description should be made until it has first been placed before this Parliament for ratification. I am not, in this debate, opposing any portion of the agreement; that is entirely beside the point. In principle any matters, but. particularly those that may affect the relations of this dominion and any other portion of the British Empire, should be placed before this House before becoming binding upon this country. The Attorney-General has said that this is an exercise ,of the prerogative. The strange fact is that the agreement does not pretend to be an exercise of power by the Governor-General in Council. This is an act of the Government, and so far as I know the prerogative cannot be exercised by the Government, but only by the Governor-General in Council. Therefore, this agreement has been made under such conditions that it was not a proper exercise of the prerogative. Certain members of the Government, with complete’ disregard of the opinions of this Parliament, proceeded to make the agreement. The High Commissioner for Australia in New Zealand, Mr. Thomas D’Alton, is one of the signatories to the agreement. Apparently, his power is considered to be much greater than that of any member of this House.
– He is a member of th, Tasmanian Parliament.
– My submission is that this Parliament should express its view in respect of any pacts that are made in the future, whether between this country and another member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or between this country and a foreign power, unless there is the need of urgency, or considerations of secrecy, before they are made to bind this country. It was a motion to establish such a privilege that I was prevented by the Speaker’s ruling from moving. Accordingly, I move dissent from that ruling.
– The question before the House is a narrow one; not as to whether or not the Australian-New Zealand Agreement ought, as a matter of good practice, to have been brought before this House before it was finally ratified and given force and effect, but as to whether
Mr. Speaker was right or wrong in a ruling that he gave last week. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) then raised .the point that, because this House had not been consulted by the executive government before the agreement was made-
– Wo; before it became binding.
– That because this House had not been consulted before the agreement came into full operation, therefore a question of privilege arose. Mr. Speaker ruled against it on two separate grounds, the first being that it was not a matter of privilege suddenly arising, and the second that it was not a matter of privilege at all. He said, “ In my opinion, it is not a matter of privilege “. I submit that it clearly is not a matter of privilege. The privileges of this House are well known to honorable members - better known to many of them of long experience than they are to a comparatively new member like myself. I venture to suggest that never before has a motion of this kind been moved in any Parliament of the British Dominions. To what does the honorable member for Warringah point in support of his contention? He says that some government in the United Kingdom once made it a practice to bring all agreements and treaties before the House of Commons before ratification. Under that practice they had to lie on the table of the House for 21 days. That was the MacDonald Government. But the honorable member went on quite frankly to say that the next government did not follow that practice, presumably because it did not think it was necessary. The honorable member did not suggest that any one at any time rose in the House of Commons and claimed that the succeeding government, in reversing the practice, was violating a privilege of the House. I assert that the honorable member’s argument is preposterous. He is seeking to say, on a point of ‘privilege, what he could very well say when the agreement itself comes before the House for discussion,. namely, that the agreement should not have come into effect until Parliament was consulted. I will say nothing further on that point, because I have already made my position clear in regard to it. The hon- orable member referred to the Constitution, section 49 of which states that the powers, privileges and immunities of the House of Representatives, except where specifically declared, shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom. I point out that no privilege in respect of this matter has ever been declared.
– I sought to make a motion, the purposes of which would have been to declare the privilege.
– The honorable member will not find anywhere in May’s Parliamentary Practice even a suggestion that a matter of this kind has become the subject to privilege, and, according to May, new Commons privileges cannot be created. The honorable member for Warringah was a member of a government which performed many important executive acts without consulting Parliament. For instance, it declared a state of war without consulting Parliament. Its action could have been objected to on the ground that Parliament ought first to have been consulted, but no one would have contended that a question of privilege was involved. I submit that no question of privilege is involved in the present instance, and the honorable member has been unable to point to a single authority to support his argument.
– The fact that the honorable member sought to move that the House declare a privilege, shows that he recognized that no such privilege previously existed.
– That is so. I submit that the ruling of Mr. Speaker was absolutely correct, and that there is no ground now to canvass it. I am unable to claim that his ruling is covered by May, because never before in the history of the Mother of Parliaments has it-been suggested that privilege was involved in a matter of this kind.
– I support the motion, and, with respect, I suggest that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has not answered to the point of the motion. The ruling was given in these circumstances : The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) indicated that he proposed to raise a point of privilege in relation to the Australian-New Zealand Agreement. Then, you. Mr. Speaker, called the honorable member to order, and said -
Under the Standing Orders I must rule that the honorable member would be out of order in making the motion he has forecast.
The honorable member for Warringah said, “ I have not yet even stated my point “. Then you said -
The relevant standing order provides that a member may rise to a matter of privilege suddenly arising. This matter has not arisen suddenly and, in my opinion, is not a matter of privilege.
– He used the word “ and thus making a second point.
– The firstpoint I wish to make is that you, Mr. Speaker, delivered your ruling before hearing argument and that, I venture to suggest, is always undesirable. The privileges of this Parliament, however they may be defined, are in the custody of members of this Parliament, and they are for the benefit of all members or, more precisely, for the benefit of Parliament itself as an institution. It is not desirable that arguments on points of this kind should, if I may be permitted to be Hibernian, be terminated before they begin. There are really two questions involved. The first is whether Mr. Speaker was right in ruling that the relevant standing order related to questions suddenly arising. I submit that he was wrong in that. If he was wrong, a second question arises, namely, is the question of privilege sought to be raised by the honorable member a substantial question, and how should it be determined by the House ? I do not propose to discuss that pointbecause we are not now debating a matter of privilege, but a motion to dissent from the ruling of Mr. Speaker. The Standing Orders have two references, so far as I can discover, to matters of privilege. I do not need to tell you, sir, because you are more familiar with the Standing Orders than most of us, but it will be remembered that the Standing Orders were somewhat hastily drafted in the early days of federation and they are not what the AttorneyGeneral would regard as artistic. Standing Order No. 283 provides -
Any Member may rise to speak “ to order “, or upon a matter of Privilege suddenly arising.
That provides for a specific case, something that happens in the course of debate. Perhaps in the heat of debate, something said or done is a breach of the privilege of Parliament. At once, not only can an honorable member rise and submit a motion of privilege, but any honorable member may speak to it. That is the point of that standing order. Then, in Standing Order No. 285 we find-
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege, shall produce a copy of the paper. . . .
If Standing Order No. 283, which provides for questions suddenly arising, is the dominating standing order, what becomes of the newspaper provision? Must I bring a copy of the newspaper into the House as soon as it is off the printing press so that I shall be able to say that it has suddenly arisen ? Why, it wouldbe defeating the privileges of Parliament if it were not possible to bring a newspaper proprietor before this House for a breach of privilege months afterwards, if necessary, and, certainly, days afterwards. You will agree, Mr. Speaker, that to confine questions of privilege to those which suddenly arise in the course of debate is to reduce theprivileges of Parliament to a very small compass.
– That is the first point. The second point is, is it a matter of privilege ?
– That, I believe, is a question that this House has to determine.
– No, it cannot be, because it has not been declared to be a breach of privilege.
– The powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament are such as Parliament declares them to he. Parliament may, by appropriate means, declare its privileges. I know of nothing in section 49 of the Constitution which limits the matters which Parliament may declare to be privileges, so long as they are consistent with the law of the land. Provided there is. no inconsistency, Parliament may declare a privilege at will. I address these remarks to you, Mr. Speaker, most earnestly. This question of privilege is not a miserable little right that I have, or any other honorable member has, as an individual. It is of no moment that any one as an individual should secure special rights because he is a member of Parliament. On the contrary, as members of Parliament, we become the recipients of great obligations. But the/ privileges of Parliament are the privileges of the Constitution and are vital to self-government. That is why Parliament has always claimed privilege. That is why Parliament has always claimed the immunity of a member of Parliament from arrest while in the Parliament. That is historic. It would not be safe to rely on that immunity after leaving the House, but it is a long-standing privilege, and is designed to enable the work of Parliament to go forward without unseemly interruption. It was recognized that in proper deliberation lay wisdom. The Prime Minister will realize that “proper deliberation “ is the expression that I used. I said it with a slight retrospective tone in my voice. The privileges which belong to Parliament are, therefore, of great importance to the people. I do not profess to say at this moment - I do not think I am concerned to say - whether it is proper that this Parliament should regard as a breach of privilege the failure of the Executive to bring a truly executive treaty before Parliament. That is not the question at the moment, although it is one upon which one may say a great deal. But to say that the honorable member had no right to raise that matter as a matter of privilege and to secure the adjudication of Parliament upon it seems to me to cut across the whole foundation of parliamentary privilege. So, I submit, with the greatest goodwill to you, Mr. Speaker, that the ruling given by you in this matter was wrong, and, because of the circumstances now existing, I must very strongly make the submission to honorable members that your ruling should be disagreed with.
.- Because I am exceedingly jealous of the privileges of this Parliament, I find myself in some difficulty in regard to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), for, when it is voted upon, it will not really touch the main issue at stake. It will be a decision practically that oranges are not apples, and that is not really what we are anxious to settle. The privileges of Parliament are twofold. First, there are the privileges of the Houses of Parliament collectively, and, secondly, there are the privileges of individual members. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that in this debate both privileges are at stake and cannot be dealt with simply by moving dissent from your ruling. I hope that before the vote is taken you will expound the law and practice in regard to this matter so that we shall see exactly where we stand. There are two issues. The first is the question of privilege itself. If it is necessary that questions of privilege be raised immediately something affecting privilege has happened, what shall we do when Parliament is in recess, as it was on this occasion? The honorable member for Warringah raised the matter as soon as the House met. That was his first opportunity to do so. If a thing happens on Friday afternoon, it will be raised on the following Wednesday. That in the earliest opportunity to raise it. If we are to be bound by the time factor in matters of privilege, it seems to me that we may very easily lose our privileges which have been jealously guarded for many years. It is the prerogative and custom of Parliament to deal with matters of privilege at any time, whether a minute, an hour, or three months after the supposed breach. Consequently, it seems to me that that is the matter that should be settled. I should like an indication from you as to how we can raise such matters if the ruling given by you is to stand . in all cases. How do we raise questions of this nature, and at what time ? We must have a substantive motion. We should have a clear direction in regard to the whole matter.
The second issue is the question of privilege itself; that is, what are the rights of this Parliament in the ratification of treaties with other countries? It seems to me that we should be failing in our duty if, at this particular time, just when we are on the point of almost being forced into a spate of treaties with other countries on the termination of the war - there will be a necessity to make arrangements inside and outside the Empire - we did not have some very clear procedure to follow. I submit to the Government, for this is a matter for it rather than for you, Mr. Speaker, that it is indeed a bad practice that an agreement should be made by the Commonwealth Government with another government, especially one inside the Empire, without Parliament being called together to discuss that agreement before ratification takes place. It would be quite reasonable to incorporate in that particular treaty or agreement, a clause providing that the instrument should not have effect until the Parliament had ratified it. From every Imperial Conference attended by the leaders of governments of which I was a member, the Prime Minister brought back to the Parliament the various decisions and they did not become operative, so far as Australia was concerned, until the Parliament had agreed to them.
– That statement is mot correct. Not all of those agreements were ratified by Parliament.
– The decisions of the Imperial Conferences held in 1923 and 1926 were ratified by Parliament. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, attended the Imperial Conference of 1930-31 and I cannot recall whether he observed .that practice. But the late Mr. Lyons submitted to Parliament for ratification the decisions reached at the Imperial Conference in 1935. That should be the recognized practice, because in the next few years we cannot be too circumspect in the attention that we devote to the possibilities of something being done which will not have the unanimous approval of the Australian people. I hope that Mr. Speaker will elucidate this matter, so that something will be on record to ensure the preservation of the privileges of this Parliament and of honorable members, so that they will not run the risk of their remarks being misconstrued.
– The substantial part of the argument has no relation to privilege, but is concerned with whether this
Government should enter into agreements with other governments without the Parliament having an opportunity to ratify them.
– That is not the point. The right honorable gentleman is completely misconstruing the whole argument. ‘
– Parliament has the authority to take such steps as honorable members desire, to test that issue. The matter was mentioned in the first statement that I made to this House last week. I read a paper in which I referred to the agreement between the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, and moved, “ That the paper be printed “. Any honorable member could then have submitted an amendment to that motion. “When I read that paper, ] announced that on the following .day the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) would lay the agreement upon the table of the House. The right honorable gentleman did so, and. moved that the document be printed. Even upon that motion, the Parliament could have expressed its mind as to whether the treaty was one which the legislature should approve or disapprove. If the Parliament, were to disapprove the agreement which had been made by the. Government, obviously the treaty would be regarded by both parties as void.
– Suppose the treaty required amendment?
– The honorable member knows that a treaty cannot be amended.
– We may accept it or reject it. Instances have occurred where an instrument has been amended by the Parliament of one of the signatories and the alterations have been adopted by the parliament of the other country which was a p,arty to the agreement.
– My submission is that no question of privilege was involved.
– Why not?
– Because the privileges of Parliament, as Parliament, have not been impaired in any way.
– The honorable member for Warringah wanted to contend that they were, and the whole question is whether he is at liberty to discuss that by an appropriate motion.
– This Parliament can declare a new privilege.
– It cannot declare a new privilege unless it does so on a substantive motion.
– I asked for leave to submit the motion.
– That was during another debate. The very subject that the honorable member desired to raise, namely, the right of the Government tff the Commonwealth to conclude an agreement with another dominion or another country without including in it a provision for the ratification of the instrument by this Parliament, is a separate and independent question which can be decided by Parliament only on a substantive motion, and not as the result of some amendment on a motion to which the subject of the amendment would be entirely foreign.
– It was not even submitted as an amendment.
– I contend that in the circumstances no question of privilege was involved, and, therefore, the motion for dissent fails.
– I am greatly concerned about the issue in this case, because there was a tendency in this House to regard too lightly the very deep and far-reaching implications of the treaty-making power. The external authority of this Government is increasing by leaps and bounds. If we examine the Constitution, we must recognize that the treaty-making power is the only world-wide power exercised by the Executive of this country. It also covers Australia internally, because this Government or its successors may - in fact, this Government may have done so in the agreement with New Zealand - make some arrangement under which this Parliament will be committed to making, certain changes in our law or internal economy. The Government cannot dispute the truth of that statement. The making of a treaty with a foreign power is one exercise of the authority relating to external affairs. Another exercise is where an agreement is made between
Australia and one or more members of the British Empire. These matters have to be considered in two different categories. The implications, though, and their possible impingement upon our internal policy and economy, may have very much the same effect in some instances. Then there is- another aspect that must be considered, and this applies particularly in time of war.
– Is this a question of privilege?
– I shall come to that in a moment, in my own, perhaps, peculiar way. Particularly in time of war there is a tendency on the part of governments, some of them very good governments no doubt, to enter into agreements with other powers. Some of those agreements might not become the public property of this House for years. Even regarding agreements that are public property, there may be certain secret undertakings. I raise this point, particularly because of the ruling of Mr. Speaker that these matters must be based upon something “ suddenly arising “. I believe that the Chair was wrong a few days ago when Mr. Speaker ruled that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was out of order. I say that with very great respect to the Chair, no doubt. The honorable member was ruled out of order when he gave notice of his intention to conclude his speech by making a motion. If an honorable member raises a matter of privilege, surely it is a fair thing to expect the Chair to hear his case and the motion before ruling it out of order! Solomon in all his wisdom would not have come to a decision before he had heard the argument between the two ladies, for instance. But we did not have that judicial attitude last week. We had the spectacle of the honorable member for Warringah rising in his place and attempting to bring before the House something which he, in his wisdom, considered to be a matter of privilege and being prevented from continuing.
After all, there may be some disagreement on these matters. We have had evidence here this afternoon that even this Government, which claims to be the defender of freedom of speech, is not above taking action to prevent freedom of speech. That has occurred on this very date, the 17th February, 1944, which I shall remember. The Government claims to lead in democratic opinion, and in caring for the rights of the underdog; yet it is seeking to prevent persons elected to represent the people in this Parliament from speaking freely. An honorable member has even been prevented from making a motion on a question of privilege. If that is the attitude of the Government it should come out in the open and say so. The. people of Australia will then know where they stand. If the honorable member for Warringah calls for a division on this motion I shall support him even if, otherwise, he is alone. With great respect I submit that the whole subject should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration. If the Government would agree to that course I am sure that the honorable member for Warringah would be satisfied. The issues could be considered calmly in that setting and that would be a much better course to adopt than to determine them by the ringing of the division bells.
.- It is extraordinary that gentlemen of the legal talent of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should have advanced such weak arguments in support of their views. If honorable members will refer to the reports of what actually happened on the 10th February they will find that the honorable member for Warringah said -
I rise to a matter of privilege and shall conclude with a motion.
It would seem obvious from such a remark that a matter of privilege existed, yet the motion of objection to Mr. Speaker’s ruling is based partly on the ground that he ruled that a matter of privilege did not exist.
– Did the honorable member conclude with a motion?
– He did not. Moreover the authorities which the honorable member for Warringah has cited this afternoon support the ruling of Mr. Speaker that no matter of privilege existed. Mr. Speaker said -
The matter was not. one suddenly arising and was not a matter of privilege.
It may be that Mr. Speaker put the cart before the horse. He could more correctly have said there was no matter of privilege and therefore there was no such matter “suddenly arising”. The honorable member for Warringah did not conclude with a motion.
– I did not get the opportunity to do so.
– The honorable gentleman did not produce any authority to show that, under either the Standing Orders or the Constitution, he was entitled on a matter of privilege to conclude with a motion.
– It has been done for three or four centuries.
– I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman’s experience is greater than mine in these matters, but the fact remains that he produced no authorities to support his contention. In my view the ruling of Mr. Speaker is undoubtedly correct. A matter of privilege was not raised. Section 49 of the Constitution provides that this House has the right to declare its powers, privileges and immunities, and that until it does so, we must be guided by the practice of the British House of Commons. The honorable member for Warringah has not produced a single authority to show that the Government acted improperly in concluding a treaty with another member of the British Commonwealth of Nations before submitting the matter to Parliament for ratification. The Hansard report of our proceedings on the 10th February records Mr. Speaker as having said -
Order! Under the Standing Orders, I must rule that the honorable gentleman would be out of order in making the motion he has forecast.
The authorities produced by the honorable member for Warringah undoubtedly support Mr. Speaker. The honorable member then said, “ I have not yet even stated my point “.
– I had not been given the opportunity to refer to the subjectmatter with which I wished to deal.
– The honorable gentleman’s remarks to-day show clearly that the subject-matter he had in mind did not involve a question of privilege.
In regard to a matter of privilege “ sudden y arising I remind the honorable member for Warringah that, in law, fraud is taken into account from the time it is detected. It seems to me, therefore, that a matter of privilege could be taken into account from (the time the House became conscious of it, even if that should be months after a certain event occurred. In my view there is no merit whatever in the case submitted by the honorable member for Warringah, and, as I have said, I am surprised that he and his leader should have argued the matter as they have done.
.- in reply - I am not raising a technical matter of privilege, but one which I believe is of vital importance to the private members of this Parliament. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that it would be a .pity to divide the House on a matter touching the rights and privileges of members of this Parliament, not only now but in the future. It has been contended by honorable members opposite that no motion may be made in respect of a matter of privilege. I interjected while the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) was speaking in order to point out that it had been done for centuries, and has been done even in this Parliament. I direct attention to an occasion in 1920, which will be remembered by some honorable gentlemen, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), without referring to privilege, moved -
That, in the opinion of this House, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie . . . having, by seditious and disloyal utterances at a public meeting on Sunday last, been guilty of conduct unfitting him to remain a member of this House, and inconsistent with the oath of allegiance which he has taken as a member of this House, be expelled this House.
That was clearly a matter of privilege and it was dealt with as such. I consider that my only method of procedure, when I wished to raise this matter, was to conclude with a motion. This may relate to a matter in which a new privilege is sought to be asserted, as well as when an established privilege needs emphasis. I was not given the opportunity to put my case. I do not wish to press this matter to a- division.
We have had the opportunity to express our views and I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree that it is a subject that should be given more consideration. It is proper, in this or any other matter, that a member who seeks to declare a new privilege should be heard until he concludes with his motion. It is then for the House to determine whether or not the new privilege shall be declared. That is a right which private members must steadfastly uphold. The issue is a simple one. I have raised a matter of privilege. It is none the less a matter of privilege because I have sought to move this House to the declaration of a new privilege. My second point is that it is wrong to reject a motion of privilege on the narrow ground that the matter has not suddenly arisen. Thirdly, whether or not the matter is one of privilege can be determined only when the honorable member raising it has stated his argument and has concluded with a substantive motion. My contention is that this House should be the custodian of matters relating to foreign affairs, and that no agreement should come into force until this House has had the opportunity of either ratifying or rejecting it, unless it contains the element of secrecy or urgency.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Ctjb.tt.it) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to secure increased production of coal, and to provide for distribution of coal, in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth and the effectual prosecution of the present war, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a hill for an act to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1943.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942-43.
Review ofWar Situation.
Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 125), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Review of the War - Ministerial Statement, 9th February, 1944”.
.- The speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made in a review of the war last week is, I take it, one of those which will indicate exactly the arguments the “ right honorable gentleman will advance when he goes abroad. I wish him a successful visit to Great Britain and the United States of America later in the year, and hope that he will be able to assist substantially Empire co-operation and world collaboration. The conference he will attend will be of very great importance. It will have to deal, first, with the further prosecution of the war, and then with preparations for peace. In connexion with war operations, it will approximate in importance the conference that was held in 1917, the effects of which continued for many years after the termination of the last war. Despite the unfortunate proceedingsin connexion with the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, I trust that the right honorable gentleman will bring back to this Parliament, for discussion and ratification, whatever conclusions may be arrived at. I hope that his eloquence will convince the people of Great Britain that Australia is 100 per cent. behind them in the gallant fight which they have waged for many years, and that, with the support of colleagues from the other portions of the Empire, he will succeed in making it clear to the whole world that the British Empire intends to be a solid core in the post-war deliberations for the settlement of all negotiations. I assume that when he leaves Australia he will no longer be merely the leader of a party or a government, but will be the ambassador of this country. On that account, it is imperative that, before his departure, there should be a clean-up of as many as possible of the controversial issues that exist, inorder that he may be able to leave with the unstinted support of the whole of the people of Australia, and thus be fortified in his mission on behalf of the
Empire and the world. Therefore, I think it would he a very good thing if we were to place on record exactly what has been done by both Great Britain and the United States of America to help Russia, so that no doubt shall remain in the minds of people anywhere in the world regarding our appreciation of what has been done. I propose to catalogue the help which has been given, in the expectation that this will dispose of any suggestion by the Minister for Transport that Britain and America have been half-hearted in their support of Russia. In 1941-42, the first year in which Russia was engaged in the war, Great Britain sent 8,000,000 tons of war material to Russia by the northern sea route. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred this afternoon to the great heroism of the men who manned the ships in the Arctic Sea. Theirs was an epic contribution to the war effort. In addition to What was sent by the northernroute, great quantities of war material were sent to Russia through the Persian Gulf, and the British people established special factories for the production of goods to aid Russia. Even from Australia locomotives were sent through Persia into Russia. At the most critical period of the Pacific campaign, when the fate of Singapore was in the balance, Great Britain never stinted the Russian front. As I have said, in the first year, Great Britain sent 8,000,000 tons of war material, and it was shown afterwards that the Russian railways were unable to handle it all. Great Britain sent to Russia in 1941-42 no fewer than 4,700 aeroplanes, including spare engines and all spare parts. Supplies also included 6,000 tanks, besides a great number of motor vehicles. Altogether, Britain sent enough equipment to arm and equip 32 divisions. By the end of November, 1943, goods to the value of £129,000,000 had been sent to Russia, including £3,000,000 worth of clothing for the population of territories freed from Nazi control. In May, 1941, for every 100 aircraft promised to Russia, Great Britain delivered 111. Within one week of the invasion of Russia by the Germans, 500,000 pairs of boots were despatched by Britain, and by April of next year 3,000,000 pairs of boots had been sent to Russia. In a period of four days Great Britain despatched enough great-coat cloth to stretch from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Russia also received from Great Britain 3,000 tons of medical supplies and 50,000 tons of rubber, and the rubber wns sent after the fall of Singapore, at a time when Britain itself was in urgent need of every pound of rubber it could get. In addition, 831,000 tons of metal and machine tools was sent, and 41,000 tons of aviation spirit, every gallon of which had to be brought to Britain from overseas. Other items were 1,000.000 tons of sugar, and 2,500,000 tons of wheat and flour.
Both before and after the entry of the United States of America into the war, that country was affording active assist- ance to Russia, the goods being carried in British ships. Up to October, 1943, the United States of America sent under lend-lease to Russia goods to the value of $3,550,000,000. These goods included- 9,000 planes. 3,500 tanks. 195,000 motor vehicles (or three times as many as Australia imported normally in peace-time each year ) . 1,800,000 tons food, made up of - 343,000 tons wheat and flour. 277,000 tons sugar. 324,000 tons canned frit. 441,000 tons edible fats and oils. 130,000 tons dried fruit and vegetables. 38,000 tons dried eggs. 33,000 tons butter (which the United States of America had not exported for years). 5,500.000 pairs of army boots. 16,000,000 yards woollen cloth. 251,000 tons of chemicals. 144,000 tons of explosives. 1,200,000 tons of steel. 342,000 tons non-ferrous metals. 011,000 tons petroleum products.
That is the way in which Britain and the United States of America were bleeding Russia white ! It is imperative that these facts be placed on record, as also the appreciation of this Parliament and the nation of what Great Britain spared for Russia from its own defence at a most critical period of the war so that the Russian line might be held.
I trust that the Prime Minister will clear up this matter with members of his own party before ‘he leaves Australia, and that he will also clear up other natters at issue. He will need the un divided support of the country which he is to represent in Great Britain - a fact which I learned from my own experience. In his speech the other day the Prime Minister spoke in optimistic terms regarding the end of the war. I hope that he is right, but I believe that there is still a long road ahead of us, and that endurance is the quality necessary to enable us to win.
The enemy, both in Europe and in Asia, will make desperate efforts to achieve a victory or, if not victory, at least stalemate, before he succumbs. It must be remembered that Germany holds more than half of Europe, and that the German leaders have no hesitation in calling upon the populations of conquered countries for slave labour to support the German war effort. In the East, Japan holds 1,500,000 square miles of fertile and productive territory,and with such resources it is clear that the task of defeating Japan is a tremendous one.
The Prime Minister said that the status of Australia at the peace conference would depend upon the number of men we have under arms. I go farther, and say that our status will depend upon the magnitude of our total war effort, not only in relation to men in the armed forces, but also in relation to our production of munitions and food. To-day, warfare is a struggle, not between armies and fleets only, but between nations themselves, a struggle in Which every material resource and every moral quality must be actively employed. In such a struggle no speck of rottenness, nor any fault in the national organization, will be without its effect upon the final outcome. We should examine our whole national, economic, political and military structure in order to ensure that we are, in fact, doing our best. We must examine carefully our military situation. That is important in the long-run ensuring victory, and important in the short-run so that we may save many thousands of lives, and preserve the health of our people. Because of that I intend to make an analysis of our war organization and its effect on strategy, on the distribution of manpower, and on our total war effort. On the 3rd or 4th January I sent a telegram to the Prime Minister stating that I was greatly concerned about the whole matter, and suggesting that it would be advisable to call Parliament together at an early date in order to enable a discussion in secret. The Prime Minister has said that in his opinion that is not advisable,. I bow to his view, but if I say1 anything in public that I should have preferred to say in secret the responsibility is his, not mine. The first thing we have to realize is that the number of armed men that Australia can put into the fight is definitely limited. The forces we are able to put into the field, if all our adult male population without reserve were in uniform, would be relatively insignificant in numbers alongside the millions of British, American, Russian and Chinese soldiers. The men whom we have put into the field have done magnificently. They have earned in this war the great reputation that their fathers earned in the last war. On the munitions side also our effort has been magnificent. Starting from behind scratch, our munitions industry gained such momentum that we are now able to slacken our effort in certain directions. Our achievement in this respect is one of the most wonderful in the world. I think that the Minister for “War in the United States of America said that Australia ranked sixth as a producer of armaments, but, compared with the total- output of the world, our contribution of munitions is relatively insignificant. The products of the land, those things which go to feed and clothe people, are even more important than many munitions in war-time. Our production bulks very large indeed in the total production of the United Nations. It is necessary that we should be carrying on the production of food at 100 per cent, strength, but, unfortunately, we are slipping, and, when the war is over, the thing which will matter will not be the number of armed men or the stores of munitions, but what food we shall have to feed ourselves and the starving people of Europe, and clothes to clothe ourselves and the people in those European countries which suffer dreadful winters. If we find that because we have diminished our food effort during the war, the first result of peace is that we must ration victorious nations more than they had to be rationed in war-time, we shall have great difficulty in persuading those nations that they have won the war, because, having to feed the starving nations which have been beyond our assistance during the war, we shall get less and less for ourselves. It is, therefore, important that we should keep our food-producing industries 100 per cent, efficient. They must progress, not decline, whatever comes or goes. There are non-essential industries from which labour must be obtained if men cannot be spared from the Army or munitions. Failure to feed the starving millions of the world after the last war sowed the seeds of this war. That is what built up the idea of autarchy, that self-sufficiency that made Europeans produce what they needed at enormous cost, and thereby destroyed international trade. We most certainly shall sow the seeds of the next war if we fail in our duty to feed the starving after this war. All the efforts that we are making to prevent another war and to live in peace will go by the board. We saw when we suffered the terrible experience of being within an ace of invasion that the real security of Australia rested, not in world collaboration and treaties, but in our having millions of people in this country. When we have them we must be able to feed them, but what we produce at present would not feed them, and we cannot expand our production unless we keep the framework substantial.
We must see the whole man-power picture in proper focus. We are asking our rural workers to produce more than before, yet their numbers show a decline of 160,000 from the pre-war total. The number engaged in transport is down by over 40,000. The numbers engaged in trade and commerce are down 100,000; those in mining are down 14,000; and those in other services, including the professions, are down 33,000. Building and construction are employing roughly the same number of men, if the Allied Works Council is included in the present-day figures. The armed forces are up 700,000; the administrative departments are up 20,000, and all factories are up 100,000. Before the war there were 456,000 males employed in all factories, and of those 11,000 were in munitions factories. To-day, the total number is 550,000, of whom approximately 400,000 are in munitions factories. To maintain and increase our food production, we must replace the loss of ‘ 160,000 men by either human, electric or mechanical power. Many of the men engaged in munitions are needed to swing into the production of mechanical aids for agriculture. Existing machinery has worn out, and much new machinery is needed. Also, there must be many thousands of skilled land men returned to the land. Obviously, the Army and munitions are the two services - the great pool of supply - from which they must be obtained.
At the beginning of the war, the most useful countrymen and those most needed went into the Australian Imperial Force in great numbers. There was the call of patriotism, the call of adventure, the opportunity of going overseas, a liking for camp life, and the memory of their fathers’ previous war service. The important thing to remember about them is that the.y enlisted as individuals, and went away as individuals, and must come back as individuals. They cannot come back as a drove. They will come back, if released, as 20,000 individuals who are badly needed on the land, and who can be employed and housed on farms. In my own electorate I have investigated this matter. I have discussed the whole problem with the chief dairy inspector on the north coast, whose territory runs from the Tweed River to the Hunter River. He said that there are 500 named individuals who must return to the dairying industry in that area. Otherwise the industry will collapse. I know who they are, and where they are. The facts are on his files. Unless they come back the old folk of 60, 65 and 70 years of age, who have been striving to carry on, will collapse and die. Some have actually died at work because we have not allowed their sons to return to carry on work which was beyond their capacity in their old age. We must carry out the recommendations of the organizations that the Government has created to deal with this matter, namely, the District War Agricultural Committees and the Dairy Industry Man-power Committees. In every farming district those organizations consist of most responsible men. All have boys overseas. Many have lost their sons over Germany, in the Middle East or in New Guinea, and all have a definite personal stake in the matter. Those men have looked into this matter in such a way as to ensure that they would do a fair thing by the country. At Grafton, the District War Agricultural Committee examined 40 applications for releases of men from the Army. The committee ruled out twenty applications, because the subjects of the applications were in categories, members of which will not be released by the Army. Of the remaining twenty, the committee decided that ten should be released and ten should not be released. So, out of 40 applications for release the committee decided to recommend the release of only ten. But does the Government let them out? No. “He is a batman at Port Moresby, an active area and cannot be released “, was one answer; yet, generals fighting in New Guinea can be released to take up other than active service jobs. Therefore war needs cannot possibly be the reason why the recommendations of the District War Agricultural .Committees in these instances cannot be carried out. Parliament should insist that the organizations which the Government has established should be vested with full responsibility and executive power. The Australian armed forces consist of more than 700,000 men, and it cannot be claimed that more than 200,000 of them are indispensable. Of the 500,000 that are not indispensable, some should be released, as individuals, to work in primary industries. The difficulty arises from the failure of the Army itself to carry out the Government’s policy, and that, in turn, is due to the organization of the Army, which leads to chaos. I shall cite instances to prove my contentions. In March, 1943, the Prime Minister announced that Australian casualties in this war totalled 67,191 killed, wounded, missing and prisoners, of whom 10,253 were killed. Eleven months later he declared that the total number of casualties was 66,930, of whom 16,480 had been killed. That is to say, after another eleven months fighting there were fewer casualties in toto but more soldiers had been killed. That mistake could arise only from the system of Army administration. We experience it whenever we endeavour to secure the release of a man.
The file of Private Ensbey, which begins on the 30th June, 1943, and terminates on the 20th January, 1944, is a typical example of Army bungling. During the period when we sought his release, his mother died from overwork on the farm, his sister entered hospital a nervous wreck, and his father became an inmate of a hospital because of high blood pressure. The farm used to produce 1 ton of butter a month. When I first endeavoured to obtain his release, the Army claimed that he was a member of a particular training unit and that his discharge could not be contemplated. In the meantime, his neighbour from the next farm, who was a member of the same unit, had been released. When the mother died, I was able to secure for him a month’s leave and I tried to obtain his discharge. I received letter after letter from the Minister for the Army stating that the man was too important to be released, but the man-power authorities notified me on the 20th January that his release from the Army had been gazetted three weeks previously. Another man was released on the 6th October, but on the 31st December I received from the Army a letter saying that he could not be discharged. A fortnight later the Army notified me that he could be released. His wife and I were greatly surprised when we saw him in his civilian clothes on the day the Army had informed us that he could not be discharged. Like the spots of measles or scarlet fever, these are relatively minor visible symptoms of a deep-seated malady which is due to the faulty organization of the Army, the great pool of manpower. That faulty organization must be corrected because it is preventing the most advantageous use of our man-power. It disorganizes strategy and duplicates administrative staffs. For example, there are two secretariats, one with a staff of 2,000 and the other with a staff of 1,000 persons. One of those secretariats would be sufficient to do the job. Faulty organization also interferes with the Army’s relations with other government departments. Honorable members have experienced the terrible confusion that occurs when they approach the Army with a request. They are referred from one department to another. Faulty organization also delays the demobilization of the garrison troops in Australia. Thousands of soldiers are stationed throughout the country, although the Prime Minister stated that the danger of invasion has passed, and we are unable to secure the release of some of these men to engage in urgent rural work. Finally, faulty organization impedes or paralyses efforts essential to ultimate victory. Instead of being the servant, the Army has become the master of the nation.
For the information of honorable members, I shall compare our Army organization with that of Great Britain. After Great Britain has been at war for four and a half years, fighting on many fronts, controlling armies in many theatres of war, supporting the greatest navy in the world, and despatching tremendous quantities of arms and equipment to allied nations, the control of man-power there is infinitely more effective than it is in Australia. The reason is that Great Britain has started from a different basis. The control of manpower is the direct responsibility of the War Cabinet, and is exercised through the Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Ernest Bevin, who is the strongest representative of the Labour party in the British Government. He determines the number of men who shall serve in the Army, in the factories, and in primary industries. The antithesis to that system has been adopted in Australia, where the Army has first call on man-power, and men can only be released after months of strenuous “ digging “ on the part of honorable members. When I was in Great Britain a dispute arose in War Cabinet regarding what use should be made of the services of 11,000 rural workers. The Minister for the Army contended that they should be drafted into the fighting forces, but the Minister for Labour and National Service replied, “ without food we shall lose the war “, and the men remained in primary production. In Australia, the Army has first call on man-power. Even
Cabinet tries unsuccessfully to secure the release of certain men. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Army himself has just as much difficulty in securing the release of men to work in the electorate of Capricornia as I have in obtaining their discharge to work in the electorate of Cowper. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has also encountered considerable difficulty in this matter. By its policy the Government k locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen.
The British military organization carried England through that year when the country stood alone against the whole might of Germany and Italy. It has enabled the nation to carry on the world war for nearly five years on many fronts as the spearhead and directing force of the whole undertaking. This organization consists of the British “War Cabinet, the Secretary for “War, and the Army Council under the control and chairmanship of the Chief of the General Staff. The Army Council consists of the AdjutantGeneral, the Quartermaster-General, the Master-General of Ordnance, and they control the services. The Army Council controls the Commander in Chief of the Home Forces and the various CommandersinChief of the overseas forces. Before the outbreak of war with Japan, our Australian system was similarly handled. The authorities were: The Commonwealth Government, the Minister for the Army, the Chief of the General Staff, who had his military board under him, the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General, the MasterGeneral of Ordnance, the General Officer Commanding the Home Forces, the General Officer Commanding Australian Imperial Force overseas, and the various commands - northern, eastern, southern and western. After Japan came into the war, the Commonwealth Government entirely altered that basis. The Government and the Minister for the Army handed all power to the General Officer Commanding, the Commander-in-Chief.
This officer was given a task beyond the capacity of any one man adequately to discharge. He controlled the New Guinea forces, the first army and the second army, the Military Board, became principal staff officer to the
General Officer Commanding, Commanderin’Chief, and all the various corps and forces came directly under his control. The General Officer Commanding became personally responsible for the promotion of every officer above the rank of captain. At present, the CommanderinChief has to maintain relations with the Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, the Minister for Defence in Australia, and the Minister for the Army, and also control all matters from boot-laces for the Volunteer Defence Corps to bridgeheads in New Guinea. He maintains his own secretariat. In this maze much that is good may be lost or never emerge from the administrative bottle-neck. We shall have to get back to a simpler form of organization such as is in operation in Great Britain, and such as we had in operation until three years ago. The present duplication of control is costly and a waste of manpower. It has caused tremendous delays in minor decisions. I call to mind the case of a man released from the Army ; two days later the person who applied for the release received advice from the General Officer Commanding, Department of the Army, that the man could not be released.
A great deal of the circumlocution and many of the conflicting decisions given by various sectional authorities could be eliminated with proper co-ordination, but when the General Officer Commanding is thousands of miles away on the active front, and decisions have to be made, it may be impossible to allow a senior officer to appeal and flagrant injustice may be done. In fact injustice seems to have been done in many cases. The effect of the present lack of coordination can be seen in the strategy of the New Guinea campaign. Changes in strategy have had a very big influence on the demand for extra reinforcements owing to the numbers of personnel killed or wounded or disabled by tropical diseases.
Many of the difficulties would be overcome if the Australian control, under Wa.r Cabinet direction, followed the British precedent along the following lines : -
The Department of the Army, consisting of the Minister, secretariat and Military Board, which should decide matters of policy, personnel, equipment, supplies, medical necessities - prophylactic and therapeutic policy - and issue directions to -
The place of the Commander-in-Chief is with the Army in the field. The Middle East campaign was conducted at roughly the same distance from Whitehall as the New Guinea campaign was from Melbourne. It was carried out by the Commander-in-Chief with his head-quarters on the spot, to which was attached a Minister of State, who was also a member of the War Cabinet. Our political and strategic control should be in equally close contact with our fighting troops. The farther the battle is from Australia, the more necessary this becomes. This suggested organization for the control of the armies on the mainland of Australia would ensure, or make easy, the attainment of the ideal of one army and would abolish duplication of staffs, ensure the raising of the standards of organization and training, and facilitate the inspection of services so as to reduce waste of material and improper diversion of personnel.
The Minister for the Army has recently stated that 86 per cent, of our total forces are in the Australian Imperial Force. He also said that the bulk of the Citizen Military Forces consisted of boys of eighteen and nineteen years of age. Soldiers of this age, whether in the Australian Imperial Force or the Citizen Military Forces, are not being sent on overseas service. If these lad.? are the only soldiers left in the Citizen Military Forces the amalgamation of the two army administrations on the mainland should be very easy to accomplish. To understand the strategy of the Pacific war, as it has always been seen by medical eyes, it is necessary to remember the geographical distribution of endemic malaria, which is the highest single cause of death in the whole world and has caused the greatest number of disabilities to the Australian armies in this war. The line that separates non-malarious from malarious islands runs from Formosa east of the Philippines, just east of the Solomons and swings then to the west through northern Australia across the Indian Ocean, Asia and right over to Africa. The islands farther west, including Guam, Truk, Wake, New ‘Caledonia and Fiji, are all non-malarious. The Solomons, Philippines, Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea, Burma, India, and East Africa are all malarious. The territories that have been occupied by the Japanese are highly malarious areas ringed on the south and east by allied territories which are mostly non-malarious. If the J apanese could be driven out of the islands of Guam, Truk and Wake, they would be deprived of their few remaining nonmalarial bases, the occupation of which by the Allied troops would not expose them to an additional malarial hazard. Allied medical opinion has always been to make use of malaria and dysentery because it regarded these geographical and disease factors as our natural allies and most potent weapons which can be used for the destruction of the enemy without unnecessarily exposing our own troops.
Bombing, and especially night bombing, can be exploited to inflict malarial a 9 well as battle casualties on the enemy. Night bombing drives the enemy out of mosquito nets into slit trenches and exposes him to the added risk of malaria infection by the night-biting anopheles mosquitoes. This is particularly effective during the times of maximum seasonal incidence of malaria, which, as a rule, occurs at the end of the wet season. Similarly, the destruction, by day or night bombing of anti-malarial stores, drugs and mosquito-proofed huts would inevitably entail malarial casualties in hyperendemic areas such as those at present occupied by vast numbers of Japanese troops.
That is what happened in East Africa during the last war. The interruption of the sea and air supply lines of the J apanese troops in these malarial islands, who are already debilitated and anaemic from chronic malaria, would cause a very heavy death-rate from blackwater fever, and this dreaded complication. of malignant tertian malaria would have all the factors that are favorable to its development. This policy is now, apparently, being adopted in the south Pacific campaign.
With this background, let us consider the Owen Stanley campaign, and the losses from disease and battle casualties consequent on the abandonment of this strategy. I was given to understand that when the Japanese were driven back over the Owen Stanley Range, the military tactics were to follow the medical suggestion and cause the Japanese to rot to pieces from malaria, dysentery and starvation. by interference with their naval and air supply lines. I understood that no military commander associated with the South-West Pacific command believed that a major Japanese force could cross the range and attack successfully Port Moresby, where all the advantages were with us. There were no roads, the altitudes were high, the enemy could give his route little air cover, we had defeated him navally at the Coral Sea and Milne Bay, and months of work would be needed before he could make a road for heavy transport vehicles, even if it were at all possible. But, if that attack was believed feasible, why was not the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces sent immediately to New Guinea and kept there in charge of the momentous affairs that were in progress in July, 1942, and onwards? Why, if there was real danger of a major offensive across the range, was not more precaution taken? If the Government apprehended real danger, why had it not taken steps to block the passage across the OviTempleton area on the nether side of the mountains? Why was the defence force in that region merely one inexperienced, isolated battalion of Militia? What was the fate of that gallant, isolated, illequipped, insufficient force, when the Japanese began their passage of the mountains? We all remember what happened when the enemy did trickle over the ranges almost to the Moresby perimeter. Although it was no more than a trickle, the communiques were phrased as though the Imperial Guards had arrived at Parramatta. Then the Prime Minister sent Sir Thomas Blarney hotfoot to Moresby. The immediate result was that a distinguished Australian officer, Major-General Rowell, one of the two whose staff work had chiefly helped the escape of the hulk of the Australian Imperial Force who got away from Greece, was sent home from the Moresby Command. I ask the Prime Minister to give the Parliament a full account of the circumstances of Major-General Rowell’s recall. I ask him to state specifically what recommendations were made regarding Major-General Rowell - whether he acceded to them ; and, if not, why not? I ask him to give to us the very weighty reasons which induced him to send a man, who a few weeks previously had been an acting lieutenantgeneral in command of our chief fighting front and prior to that Vice-Chief o.f Staff of the Citizen Military Force, to Cairo, to act as liaison officer, a position which could have been filled by a much junior man. I ask him . to say what circumstances induced him to cause us to lose this brilliant officer, who has now been taken over by the Allied High Command and placed by General
Eisenhower in the highly important position of Director of Tactical Studies at the Head-quarters of the Western European Invasion Forces, in London, with the rank of major-general. I further ask him, and I ask the Minister for the Army, why, if it is possible to abstract Major-General Rowell, with the whole of the plans of the campaign in his brain and at his fingertips, from active service in the fighting line, it is not possible to release a batman of one of the officers who happens to be in New Guinea, for essential farm service?
To return to the Owen Stanley Range campaign: The enemy was only tenuously established at Buna-Gona as a major outpost. He had not shown any signs of building a large invasion base there. His force seemed to consist of approximately one Japanese division - which is smaller than a normal European division - with ancillary troops. He had no heavy artillery, but he had a few 3.1 anti-aircraft guns turned into anti-tank weapons. He had not even troubled to build a wharf. He had not built any roads worth the name to the approach to the mountains. He had not shown any signs of laying down staged dumps along the route. What air-fields had the enemy built at Buna-Gona in preparation for the supposed attack on Moresby ? I understand that he had one or two crude strips.
Were intermediary air-fields or other preparations found between Buna and Iroibawa, which pointed to a large-scale invasion? The enemy had made no attempt on land to protect his flank towards Milne Bay, with the result that allied troops landed there without resistance by land forces. An ill equipped force was sent from Moresby across the mountains; it stumbled into a heavy ambush on the other side, in the Ovi region, and lost many gallant lives. Yet, these men were able to advance, lightly equipped as they were, to the edges of the Buna-Gona perimeter. The enemy was obviously beaten in the air, since he could not prevent forces from being sent by land and sea to lay down air-fields right under his nose - air-fields that were large enough to land big transports incessantly without any major loss, and to establish dumps without much opposition. The enemy was blocked at sea, and blocked in from the air; we were told so repeatedly. Yet, it seems that in formations weary from the dreadful march over the mountains, ill-equipped, ill-prepared against malaria, which caused more than three times the number of casualties caused in battle, our men were driven on straight into battle. They were sent in as though the matter was one of desperate urgency, against a force which could not get away and was bound to starve, or die of dysentery or malaria, in i few weeks ; whose position, in fact, was so hopeless that it did not even attempt to escape, except in small parties. We had given our allies - malaria, dysentery and hunger - into the enemy’s hands, as his most potent weapon against us. The Japanese force, I repeat, was not a big one - about a division. Attacked with strong artillery, after long air bombardment, it must have been vanquished without heavy loss. But it seems that our men were thrown in before they were armed for the effort. They fought at first with very limited artillery support. I ask whether, having regard to the nature of the objective, such a method was necessary. The Parliament should see the military reports advising the course that was taken. Less than 10,000 Japanese dead were found, I am told. They were nearly all the Japanese’ who had remained to fight. Yet in wiping out that single division, ill-armed by the standards of modern war, cut off from its supplies, dominated from the air, with no fighter cover worth the name, and with only one or two air-strips which showed how minor had been its preparations, Australian battle casualties were more than twice those sustained during the whole of the fighting on the El Alamein front from the time when the 9th Division was brought out of Palestine to help stem the retreat, until it was withdrawn from the battle line after General Montgomery’s victory and brought home. I ask the House to compare the actions at El Alamein and Buna.
On the 25th November, 1941, the Minister for the Army announced that “the Australian Imperial Force in the recent successful action against the Axis forces in Egypt, suffered 2,419 casualties, of which 619 were either killed in action, or died of wounds, or are missing “. These casualties were later estimated at a total of about 2,700. [Further extension of time granted.’] Let us remember that these losses were incurred in one of the most intense battles in the world war, in which the 9 th Division opened the operation over open, heavily mined country, against a well-equipped enemy with an abundance of tanks, artillery and mortars - an enemy whose supply lines were open, and who was able to switch forces as the brunt of battle shifted; an enemy, in fact, at a vast advantage compared with the isolated Japanese division in New Guinea. But what of the New Guinea casualties? On the 11th April, 1943, the Minister for the Army said -
I regret to say that the number of men killed in action and died of wounds and sickness to date as a result of the land campaign in New Guinea is 2,11.0. A total of 3,833 have been wounded in action, and 209 are listed as missing. The grand total of these casualty figures is 6,212.
And these were not all, for the American losses were greater than the Australian. The joint losses of nearly 10,000, apart from all sickness which did not prove fatal, must have been about the heaviest in any successful operation anywhere in this war. Compare these with the casualties of the battle of Salerno, where the whole of an allied Fifth Army was engaged against several of the best of the German divisions well fitted out with armour and guns and entrenched in several rows of well-fortified mountain positions. According to The Times of London, of the 12th November last, the United States Secretary of State for War reported as follows: -
The United States Army casualties in Italy since the landings at Salerno on 9th September totalled 8,556 with 1,295 killed, 4,764 wounded and 2,497 missing. British losses in the same period were somewhat heavier.
So, in point of fact, the losses of the Australian Imperial Force and the Americans at Buna-Gona, against a foe fighting with only light equipment and without efficient air-cover or communication lines, were heavier in known dead than were those of the whole of the Fifth Army in Italy, British and Americans combined, in two months of incessant action against an entrenched and thoroughly armed and battle-tested enemy, with all the advantages of terrain and weather on his side. This takes no account of the terrible toll of sickness, which reduced the 6th and 7th Divisions to infinitesimal proportions at Buna. I have recited the history of wounds. What of the story of the casualties from disease? From August, 1942, to February, 1943, inclusive, disease caused 25,000 cases of disability, compared with 6,212 battle casualties.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Many of the casualties from malaria, dysentery and scrub typhus numbering over 15,000 could have been averted if the original strategy had been pursued, and Japanese supplies cut off by aerial and naval action. Even under the strategy pursued, disease casualties could have been greatly reduced, and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister announce the other night that the number of casualties under this heading had, in fact, been reduced in the recent campaigns. The fact is that methods of preventive treatment are well known and were, in the main, practised in the Middle East. Unfortunately, great difficulty was experienced in New Guinea in making soldiers, and even senior officers, understand the importance of antimalarial discipline. It may be recalled that in the South African War the number of casualties from enteric fever and similar diseases was very high amongst the troops. In the Great War, this difficulty was largely overcome because more heed was paid to the advice of the medical profession, and the troops were inoculated against disease. In this war, disease is as great an enemy as are the Japanese. I suggest that the military leaders should pay greater attention to the advice of medical men, particularly regarding the kind of food supplied to men in the front line. Every soldier knows that as he approaches the front line rations tend to be cut to the bare essentials, because of the difficulty of transport, so that at the actual fighting front little is left but bully beef, biscuits and tea, and even all three of these commodities may not be available on the same day. There is a danger that the eyes will be picked out of the rations bit by bit on the ‘way up to the front, until the fighting troops, who need the best rations, receive the worst. Malnutrition predisposes men to malarial infection, and to re-infection once they have contracted the disease.
We must abo consider the effect which malaria may have upon the post-war development of Australia. It is mo3t important that as few soldiers as possible should be infected during active service, and we should also take care to prevent the spread of the disease to areas in Australia where soldiers, training for active service, are likely to be infected. Malaria infection is carried by certain species of mosquitoes. The actual varieties carrying the disease differ in different countries, but they all belong to the anopheles order. Some of them carry’ the disease much more readily than others. In Australia, we are fortunate that the best mosquito carrier of malaria is found only in the far north, but there is another variety of anopheline mosquito found all down the east coast and in the irrigation areas inland. Up to the present, this mosquito has not shown itself, outside the laboratory, to be a very active carrier, but it might, in the midst of a malaria-saturated population, change its habits, as the rabbit and the prickly pear did in Australia, and become a very dangerous carrier. The whole of the better-watered parts of Australia, which are now the healthiest, might then become the most unhealthy, and become unsuitable for carrying a considerable population until after tremendously costly anti-mosquito and anti-malarial measures had been carried out. Therefore, I suggest that hospitals for the treatment of malarial patients should be situated on the elevated tablelands of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, which are not frequented by anopheline mosquitoes. Hospitals and training camps should not be situated in medically unsuitable areas merely to suit military convenience. In a matter of this kind medical considerations only should be allowed weight. The whole point of my argument i3 that the running of a modern army is not a one-man job. All the relevant factors should be given full consideration, and this applies particularly to medical requirements.
Many of the undertakings now being carried out by the Civil Constructional Corps are not comparable in importance with the work waiting to be done in rural areas, particularly in the production of protective foods such as meat, butter and eggs at present so badly needed by Britain. I have tried to get men released from the Army, but the authorities have informed me that the only condition upon which they will release men is that they get a body for a body. Only last week, Mr. BankesAmery. addressing the ‘ Agricultural Council, emphasized the need to increase food production. I believe that the organization already in existence, if given full executive power, could effect a tremendous increase of production. There is room for improvement in the way of farm mechanization, and the development of electrical power so as to make full use of the resources at present at our disposal.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in his statement made a comprehensive review of the war activities of the nation, and that the people are appreciative of his efforts as their war-time leader was fully demonstrated at the last general election. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for the way in which he has discharged his responsibility, and for his successful direction of Australia’s war effort”. Of necessity, his review was confined to generalizations, and his language was guarded. It was necessary to prevent the enemy from getting a preview of our plans, and of the plans of the United Nations. It was necessary, also because of the controversial nature of the proposed plans for the future prosecution of the war. I can appreciate, too that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has to be extremely careful in his approval of war policy. His party recently suffered a demoralizing defeat at the polls, and if he hopes to achieve any success in the future he should know that he must be careful in his criticism of the Government’s war policy. I regard the Leader of the Opposition as a very capable man, one who should have the information at his disposal to enable him to offer constructive criticism of the Government’s policy. Therefore, I cannot understand how a man with, a logical mind like his can envisage a new world order which includes a prosperous Germany and a prosperous Japan, particularly when we bear in mind his attitude towards the debated “second front”, by which we understand an attack on the west coast of Europe. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, in dealing with this matter, warned of the tremendous risks and almost inevitable awful casualty lists that would be entailed in the second front, and, reading between the lines, one would be forgiven if one inferred that both were sceptical of achieving worthwhile results, commensurate with the risks, in even a successful landing on the French coast. The Leader of the Opposition is a man who must be listened to because of his eloquence, logic and understanding of the position and because of the information that he has. Still, I cannot think that he is serious in advocating the second front if he believes that it will be fraught with terrible consequences if it fails. If he believes that the future of the world requires a prosperous Japan and a prosperous Germany, it does not seem sensible or logical that millions of lives must be sacrificed for the mere purpose of defeating the governments in Germany and Japan and then rebuilding these nations to the stage of prosperity which he visualizes as being necessary in a prosperous new world. If I believed that a military victory would destroy the ideology that we ‘term “ fascism “ I would add my voice to those which clamour for a second front. It is not the politician’s or the statesman’s job to do the military planning of the second front or the planning necessary for the conduct of the war in Europe. It is the parliamentarian’s job to look to the politics of the matter and it is the people’s responsibility to pay the cost of military operations and for the plans formulated by their representatives. Having appreciation of the price that the people have paid and are paying in the sacrifice of human lives on the battle-field and on the home front and in the hardships associated with their war effort, I believe that, as a popular representative in the Parliament, I should use the freedom of speech that they have won and paid for so dearly to speak as my conscience directs, whether what I have to say is popular or unpopular. I am not convinced that a military victory will finally destroy fascism in Germany or Japan or Italy or anywhere else in the world. In saying that I am speaking as my conscience dictates. I consider that the people who are fighting this war and have already made sacrifices for the right of free speech expect me to say things that I believe are right, particularly when I believe that the policy of organizing the physical force of the world for the purpose of destruction, for the purpose, of achieving a military victory, for the sole reason of destroying enemy government, is fraught with such danger of evil results. I have read reports that have come from all over the world by cable and wireless to the newspapers in order to find out just what the nations of the world are doing and just how serious are those who control the people’s destinies in their protestations of a new order to follow this awful war. I must say that I am very sceptical that those people who promise a new order hope to bring it about. I saw in the Canberra Times of Monday a report of a statement by the Assistant AttorneyGeneral of the United States of America. It said that if the capitalist organizations that have controlled the world in the past and that influence very much the economy of the world at the present time were not restrained a third world war would eventuate. ‘Such an eventuality is too horrible to contemplate.
I want to deal with this question of the continued organization of the physical force of the world for the purpose of a military victory from the point of view of the effect such a military victory will have on Australia, because, after all, my first concern is tie well-being of this nation. I realize that it will be very difficult to have a prosperous Australia in a world of confusion, but I submit also that, unless the people who are charged with the responsibility of government in the nations of the world ensure that those nations shall individually play their part in the scheme of things, the overall scheme will have no possibility of success. For that reason, I consider it my duty to let the people on whom the responsibility of the government of the country rests know that I consider that a military victory, whether it comes early, with consequential tremendous losses of men and ‘blood, or late, as the result of a long drawn-out struggle, can have but one final effect on this nation, and that effect will be disastrous. We have in Australia a population of about 7,000,000. Our task at present seems to be in politics, international politics, at any rate, to justify our continued occupancy of this huge continent by such a small white population. Having in mind the figures that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) cited to-day, it is only reasonable to suppose that, when the military victory is finally won, we shall have greater difficulty in justifying our holding of this country and restricting migration, especially if we desire to pick and choose the newcomers. I do not think anybody is more conscious than I that no matter what the future holds in regard to the war our destiny is fraught with danger, uncertainty and difficulty. Undoubtedly, it is a case of military victory by the United Nations or our discontinuance under the protection of Great Britain, and, as I heard the Leader of the Opposition say, lately, if we have to move out of the ambit of Great Britain, we shall definitely have to move into the ambit of America if we want to protect ourselves against any future aggression. But it is very problematical whether the people of the United States of America, when they have counted the cost of this war, will be inclined again to take part in what they term “the European mess-up “. It is problematical whether they will take us under ‘their wing in the event of our being attacked and not being able to secure the protection of the British Navy. Again, the question arises of the continuance of the WhiteAustralia Policy. Unless we have either the protection of the British Navy or guarantees of support by the United States of America, we shall not be able to withstand a challenge by the Japan or India of the future to our right to continue that policy. Yet, if we lose much more of our man-power, either in big military operations or as the result of casualties and disease in a protracted struggle, we shall, with fewer than 7,000,000 people, still forfeit the right to ask other nations to guarantee us in the maintenance of that policy. I cannot offer the solution of the problem, but I believe that, if this war can be ended without international recriminations such as followed the last war, if there is no World War III. within the next 20 years, and if we are able to expand our population to 20,000,000 persons, we shall be able to justify and defend our policy against any challenge. After all, no physical bastion, no Gibraltar at Noumea or Port Moresby, will hold this country if we have a reservoir of only 7,000,000 people. The defence of Australia in future will lie in a population of 20,000,000 persons, a high capacity for production, and a patriotism as fervent as that of our forebears. Those things alone will give to us the right and the ability to hold this country.
The Prime Minister is about to go abroad. I am grateful for the personal effort which he has devoted to the task of organizing and directing this country in its hour of crisis. I know his ability. He will not be easily swayed by some of the things that led to the downfall, from the Australian point of view, of former Labour Prime Ministers who went abroad. I am confident that that will not be the fate of the present Prime Minister. On previous occasions, I have praised the right honorable gentleman for his work in Australia’s war effort. No other man could have rallied the nation as he has done and guided the ship of state to the approaches of the harbour of peace. With my benediction to him on his projected departure, I say that in 1917, when he was sent to gaol for his war activities, he did more for humanity and for Australia than he did in 1944 when he was cheered.
.- In his very comprehensive statement to the House last week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) mentioned the trials and difficulties which will beset the people of Great Britain in the next few months. He explained that our obligation will be to see that they shall receive from us the greatest possible physical assistance, particularly in terms of food. As some days have elapsed since the Prime Minister made that statement, I shall repeat briefly what he said on that occasion, because he clothed the address in the most attractive language -
Moat certainly the people of the United Kingdom, in particular, have had to bear stresses and strains inseparable from the maintenance of their island home, not only for themselves, but also as a base which the United Nations could and must use. The United Kingdom had to be held in order that it could be used as a base for the launching of a vast force against Germany. That this has been achieved by Great Britain is a matter not only for admiration, but also for thanksgiving, for had that base not been held Germany would have won the war. That is a fact. The people of the United Kingdom have been engaged in active warfare longer than have the people of Australia.
Later, he said -
But to-day I am concerned about what I consider to be the inadequate distribution of the necessaries of life among our kith and kin in Great Britain, our comrades in this great struggle. We in Australia owe it to them, and we should regard it as our privilege to make our maximum contribution to their physical needs so that their stamina may be maintained and so that, having regard to what they have already undergone, they will be able to stand up to the physical ordeal that they must endure before victory can be gained. Any comparisons which can be made between what has been done in this country in the past and what is being done now are beside the point. The important thing for me to ask myself is, “How much of meat, butter, eggs and other foodstuffs can I contribute towards my colleagues, my brothers as it were, in the United Kingdom ? “ If this nation desires to bring the Japanese war to the earliest possible termination it must, this year, make its utmost physical contribution towards ensuring that supplies requisite for the great attack from Great Britain on Germany shall be provided on the largest possible scale.
Those lofty sentiments, nobly expressed, will commend themselves to every honorable member who has given any thought at all to the sacrifice and endurance which the people of Great Britain have displayed throughout this war. But the real test of any lofty statement is the ultimate performance. Unhappily, as with so many of the grandiloquent speeches which the Prime Minister delivers in this House, the facts do not, bear out the sentiments. The House will be shocked, as I was shocked after examining the figures, to learn the extent to which our deliveries of food to Great Britain have shrunk during the last few years. Australia is one of the few countries which can supply to the British Isles substantial quantities of food. I imagine that Australia was the most important contributor of food to Great Britain at the present time. “We know somethingof the severity of the rationing in that country, but if there has been any fault at all regarding our knowledge of the position, it is perhaps that we have been inclined to take a light view of the condition of the people of Great Britain because of the very cheerfulness with which they have borne those deprivations in their normal supplies, and because of the tales which reach us of their good health. It came to me as a surprise recently in Melbourne to learn from a very distinguished Englishman that unless supplies of food to Great Britain could be increased in the next few months, the people would experience not only deprivation but also very real want, leading to physical disability. In the face of that knowledge, which must be in the possession of the Commonwealth Government, we should be entitled to assume that during recent months Australia has established substantial supplies of food for export to Great Britain. Early in the war, shipping difficulties prevented the despatch to Great Britain of quantities of food that were available, but those obstacles have now been very largely removed. Mr. Bankes Amery, the head of the British Food Mission in Australia, declared this week that shipping was no longer a limiting factor. He said that ships were available to take all the food that Australia was able to send.
– Shipping never has been a limiting factor regarding essential food.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has made a closer study of that subject than have most honorable members, and I accept his statement on that point. Whatever the facts may be, the shipping problem does not exist to-day. Honorable members will be astonished if I read some of the figures showing our exports to Great Britain during the last few years. As statistics make very dull reading, I do not desire to read the whole of the list which waa supplied to me by the MInister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and therefore I ask leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
– What are the statistics?
– They relate to deliveries of food to Great Britain over a number of years, and were supplied to me by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
-Is there any objection to the inclusion of the figures in ilansard?
– I do not want statistics to be incorporated in Hansard unless I know their nature.
– I ask the honorable member for Fawkner to give to the House further information about the statistics.
– The figures relate to a five-year period, and I shall read some of them for the purpose of creating a realistic picture of the situation. The first year was 1939-40, which includeda few months under war conditions. The second year, 1940-41, found Great Britain almost alone facing the combined strength of Germany and Italy. The year 1942-43 is the latest period for which I have the detailed figures. In 1939-40 we supplied to Great Britain approximately 109,000 tons of butter; in 1940-41, 77,000 tons; and in 1942-43, 49,000 tons.
– A large number of American servicemen arrived in Australia during that period.
– We have heard that story before. If the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) will tell the House how many Americans arrived in Australia, we shall be able to get a true picture. No honorable member will be misled by that story. In 1939- 40, Australia despatched to Great Britain 40,000,000 lb. of cheese; in 1940- 41, 22,000,000 lb.; and in 1942-43, 15,000,000 lb. In 1939-40, Australia exported to Great Britain 10,000,000 doz. eggs in shells; in 1940-41, 17,000,000 doz.; and in 1942-43, not any. Our exports of meat in 1939-40 totalled 260,000 tons. ‘ The figures for 19410-41 were 216,000 tons ; and, for 1942-43, 109,000 tons. A drop from 216,000 tons to 109,000 tons is considerable. In 1939-40 we exported 65,000,000 lb. of dried fruits. The figures for 1940-41 were 93,000,000 lb. and for 1942-43 82,000,000 lb. That seems to indicate that there is still a fair export, but the figures in relation to canned fruits are enlightening. In 1939-40 we exported 67,000,000 lb. of canned fruit. In 1940-41 we exported 2,000,000 lb. but in 1942-4’3 we exported none.
– That was in compliance with the wish of the Government of the United Kingdom.
– There may be good reasons for it. I’ am not considering this subject from the political aspect. If there is - a reasonable explanation of the variations of the figures it should be given to us. I believe that if it were not for political bungling in’ certain departments, including the Department of War Organization of Industry, we should not be facing facts like these. I am endeavouring to impress upon the House that, despite the language of the Prime Minister, the people of Great Britain are not getting the supplies of foodstuffs which they could get. from Australia, and unless we improve our output, they will be in a desperate position.
– At any rate they are getting plenty of explanations.
– That will be poor consolation to them. I ask Ministers to preserve a sense of responsibility in relation to this subject, but a sense of responsibility has not been manifest among them this afternoon. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), who is a native of Great Britain, might be expected to show some genuine concern about the position. No one should be trying to obtain a cheap political advantage out of this situation.
– The people will make up their own minds about that.
– I believe that if the members of the Government would tell the people of Australia how their standard of living compared, in relation to foodstuffs, with the standard of living of the people of Great Britain, rationing schemes of all kinds would be accepted much more readily here. Nowthat I have indicated the nature of this table I shall, with the consent of honorable members, incorporate it in Hansard -
I wish to add one figure to those I have stated in relation to butter. In 1942-43 our exports of butter to the United Kingdom dropped to a little more than 49,000 tons which is considerably below the figure for the previous two years. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed me, in another document that he has supplied, that present indications are that we shall ship a minimum of 40,000 tons to the United Kingdom in the current twelve months, although he hopes that that figure will be exceeded. It is probable, however, that our output of butter will be adversely affected by the recent bushfires.
I have drawn a clear picture of how our exports of foodstuffs to the United Kingdom are shrinking. We must bear in mind that Great Britain is not able to supplement its supplies by imports from other countries. Yet it is faced with the necessity for continuing to supply Russia, and also troops in various parts of the world. In America the home consumption of these vital foodstuffs has had to be reduced. The Prime Minister said last week -
The important thing for me to ask myself is, “ How much of meat, butter, eggs and other foodstuffs can I contribute towards my colleagues, my brothers as it were, in the United Kingdom?”
I have already shown that we are not exporting any eggs at present and our figures in relation to meat and butter are unsatisfactory. If it is intended that our home consumption shall be fur ther reduced in order to supplement supplies to Great Britain I ask the Prime Minister’s colleagues, who are more intimately concerned than he is with these matters, to tell us what they propose to do. The butter ration in Britain is only 2 oz. a week whereas ours is 8 oz. a week. In Great Britain a person may purchase meat to the value of only1s. 2d. a week, which, I presume, would give very much less than our ration of 2¼ lb. a week. It must be obvious to all of us that as Great Britain will have to face what the Prime Minister has described as the physical strain of invasion preparations and also sustain invasion forces, it will be necessary to do something to supplement its food supplies. We wish to know what the Government proposes to do to meet the position. Mr. Bankes Amery stated a few days ago that if Great Britain were to get larger supplies we would have to reduce consumption in Australia or else increase production. How is it proposed to do either of these? Our colleagues of the Australian Country party have already debated the subject at some length in this sessional period. I believe that if effective measures are to be taken the Government will have to discard, almost overnight, a great deal of the machinery with which the country is cluttered up at present. A simplification of production and distribution methods is urgently needed, and action must be taken at once. Even an increase of production will not meet the needs ofGreat Britain in the critical months that are just ahead of us. We ought to be doing our utmost to increase supplies to Great Britain immediately so that the needs for invasion activities and the like can be met. The Government should impose immediately a considerable reduction of consumption in respect of both meat and butter in Australia. How else can we show our sincerity ?
– Has the honorable gentleman taken into account the availability of shipping?
– I have already referred to the statement made by Mr. Bankes Amery recently that shipping is no longer a limiting factor. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) can supplement my statement out of his own experience. Instead of making a sympathetic approach to these problems the Minister in charge of rationing, Senator Keane, stated in the press this week that a reduction of the butter, ration in Australia had not even been considered. I have seen no qualification of that statement. If the Government has not even considered a reduction of the butter ration in order that the people of Great Britain may obtain increased supplies it has hardly any right to consider itself as a cooperating unit in the British Empire. Certainly the Prime Minister had no right to use the language that he employed in this House last week when he said, in effect, that his heart was bleeding for the people of Great Britain, and that he had the fullest admiration for their wonderful war effort. Unless the Government faces up to the facts of this situation and does something to meet this emergency in order that Great Britain may be tided over the anticipated invasion period, it will be letting both Australia and the United Kingdom down very badly indeed.
– I should not have intruded in this debate had it not been for certain remarks made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Both honorable gentlemen have shown some agitation of mind concerning food production in Australia and the allocation of available foodstuffs. I inform them definitely that ever since it assumed office this Government has given a great deal of attention to the production of basic foodstuffs of every kind that have been in short supply. The output of every basic food which has been in short supply has been substantially increased since this Government came into office.
– Does the Minister say that about butter?
– If the honorable gentleman had been listening carefully to me he would have appreciated that I used the expression “ every basic food “. Whole milk is the basis of butter production, and the production of whole milk in Australia has increased very greatly since 1941-42. This Government came into office in October, 1941, so it had no opportunity to do anything to increase production in 1940-41. The production of whole milk in that year was, if I remember correctly, 1,106,000,000 gallons.
– We do not export whole milk.
– I am pointing out to honorable members that whole milk is the basic material for butter production. Our production of whole milk has improved very greatly. Honorable gentlemen must appreciate that we have had to provide for not only the civilian population of this country but also for a greatly increased service personnel. We have also sent to Great Britain large quantities of butter, cheese, condensed milk and powdered milk. Whole milk has also been used to meet civilian needs in this country and to produce ice cream. It is true that butter production has declined somewhat, but we have had to divert large quantities of whole milk to the production of condensed milk and powdered milk for the use of the fighting services, and we have used milk for the production of cheese in accordance with the wishes of the Government of the United Kingdom. I repeat that there is not a basic food commodity that has been in short supply in this country which has not been produced in substantially larger quantities since this Government assumed office. In regard to meat also that is true. Whereas in pre-war days the maximum production of meat in this country did not at any time exceed 1,000,000 tons, this year the production will be substantially in excess of that figure.
– What is the target for this year?
– Approximately 1,100,000 tons.
– That is not what the Prime Minister has said.
– Surely the honorable member does not expect me to keep in mind the exact figure in relation to every basic food commodity! I am quite certain that the figure that I have given is substantially correct.
– The target quoted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is 1,300,000 tons.
– That interjection shows that the honorable member who made it does not understand the position. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has ever said that the production target for meat this year is 1,300,000 tons.
– The Prime Minister has said that it is 1,344,000 tons.
– The 1,300,000 tons is not the production goal, but the total quantity that is being demanded from the Australian Government.
– Is it not a target?
– It is not a target. It expresses the totality of the demands that are being made upon us for meat. The Government has never assumed that 1,300,000 tons of meat could be produced; that is one of its difficulties.
– The Government has made such a mess of its administration that 500,000 sheep have been lost in Victoria through bushfires.
– The honorable member for Bendigo would be well advised to maintain silence on that subject. Had the party to which he owes allegiance done its job in Victoria there would not have been in that State the severe bushfires which it has experienced. I am perfectly certain that the demands on Australia for meat total 1,300,000 tons. Were it not for security reasons, I could divide that figure into the various constituents that are demanded by our services, our civilian population, the services of the United Nations in this country, British services and British civilians.
– The figures have been published in the press, and announced in this House by the honorable member for Darling. Why, then, withhold them for security reasons?
– I have read all the statements that have been made in this regard, and can say that the figures have not been published. I shall not pander to the honorable member’s insatiable curiosity. The Government has this year assessed our capacity to produce meat - and that is what is called the production goal - at approximately 1,100,000 tons. Actually, the production will exceed the estimate that was originally made, because of the excellent work which the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister who controls it, have done in stepping-up the production of pig meats. All of this criticism, goes back to something that is far more important than the question of whether or not the food front has been efficiently organized; it goes back to the much bigger question of whether or not the Government is using in a balanced manner the very limited supply of labour power at its disposal.
– That is not the issue which I raised; it is, whether the people df Australia should be entitled to have 8 oz. of butter a week whilst the people of Britain are allowed only 2 oz. a week.
– The honorable member should not be so conceited as to think that I am replying only to him.
– If the Minister were to reply to anybody, I should be satisfied.
– Other honorable members opposite have spoken to this motion. This criticism, as I have said, goes back to the question of whether or not the Government is making the best use of the limited supply of labour at its disposal. Certain members of the Opposition are continually claiming that more men should be released from the fighting services. Those members are not in a position to know exactly the strategic dispositions of the enemy, the strength of his forces, and in what places those forces are located. In fact, they are not in a position to know the extent to which we require the mobilization of our man-power in the fighting services. It is all very well to ask for the release of an additional 100,000 men from the fighting services. I make it perfectly plain that a decision by the Government to release such a number would be made against the advice of its expert military advisers. The Opposition has always contended that in military matters the Government should adopt the advice of its expert advisers and not interfere in matters of strategy. What would be the result if the Government, acceding to the wish of some honorable members, denuded the fighting services of the manpower which they require? We should not then have the necessary strength in the front line, and could not play our part in the operations that are to-day taking place in the Bismarck Archipelago. The Government is not prepared to accede to this request, which is made so strongly that one could describe it as a demand, because it knows that it could not afford to do so.
– The Australian Agricultural Council has made a recommendation in respect of the release of men from the Army.
– That council consists of State Ministers of Agriculture, who sit in session with the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It has passed a resolution to the effect that 50,000 men should be released from the fighting services. I ask honorable members: What do State Ministers of Agriculture know about the strategic situation in the north? . Are they in a position to know the facts in relation to the strength of the enemy? Do they know where the enemy is concentrated, and what strength is required to meet attacks that may be made on our advanced posts.?
– Do they conduct their discussions in complete ignorance of the premises?
– They certain]^ conduct their discussions in complete ignorance of all these matters I am now mentioning.
– Then why are they permitted to meet?
– To prevent them from talking is not my business. Were I or any other member of the Government to do that, the Opposition would be the first to object that we were imposing a censorship upon something that ought not to be censored. State Ministers of Agriculture, like members of the Opposition, who are continually demanding that manpower shall be released from the Army, are not in a position to know the strength of the enemy and the commitments which, the Government has to meet in order to play its .part in the operations which are proceeding in the north at the present time.
– So the Government cannot tell them what food is wanted?
– That is not the position. The Commonwealth Government first balances the man-power at its disposal, as between the fighting services on the one hand, and the welfare of the civilian population and the production of food for export purposes on the other hand. That balance is struck by the War Cabinet alone. The Advisory War Council may have the information - I am not a member of it, consequently, I do not know whether it has or not - but only those Ministers who are in the War Cabinet are aware of the necessity for keeping a particular number of men in the fighting services. This House ought to accept that allocation of the man-power of this country, because it is based on information which the Government cannot make public, even to honorable members.
– Does the War Cabinet, in determining the quantity of foodstuffs to be consumed in Australia or sent overseas, consider or scrutinize the demands of the various services, in order to determine that those who, for example, are in base jobs and are never likely to be engaged in operations, do not get more than civilians ?
– The honorable gentleman has loaded the question too greatly. The answer to the first part is “ yes “. The honorable gentleman knows that there are certain limitations in respect of the scrutiny of a portion of those referred to in the second part.
– Then deal with our own services.
– In respect of our own services, the answer is “ yes
– When the War Cabinet has made its decision upon the allocation of man-power as between the fighting services and the civilian population, the food programme is drawn up by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, taking into account the man-power at its disposal and the available supply of machinery and fertilizers. On- the basis of past production, an estimate is made of the productive capacity of the country, taking into account the drain on man-power which has occurred because of the need for men for the fighting services. These estimates are called production goals, and when they are fixed those which apply to important items of food are submitted to Cabinet, which makes the allocation in accordance with the requirements of our own fighting services, our civilian population, the American forces in this country, and the demands being made upon us by the United Kingdom.
– -What was the nature of the scrutiny, and is it a fact that women stationed in camps receive a better meat ration than do men in civil life engaged in laborious work?
– I understand that that is not so. A full scrutiny was made of the requirements of the Army, and those serving in base camps are not receiving any higher ration than is available to civilians. Of course, it depends upon the situation of the camp. Those serving in camps in North Queensland would get a full military ration, but those in camps situated near a city in one of the southern States receive, I understand, only the same ration as is available to civilians.
– The Minister is quite wrong.
– Perhaps the honorable member has information to support his contradiction, but I have been assured by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that Army rations are determined in the manner I have stated. It is true that, because of the demands made upon food supplies by our own Army, and by the American military forces stationed in this area, the quantity of food which we have been able to send to Great Britain has necessarily been reduced. It cannot be expected that we could increase production sufficiently to enable us to maintain our exports to Great Britain at the same level, while at the same time filling all the requirements of the American forces in the South- West Pacific, and sometimes of those situated in the South Pacific also.
– But can it be said that we are doing all that is possible while the butter ration in Australia is four times as great as that in Great Britain?
– The situation is being watched all the time. Until quite recently, shipping constituted a serious problem.
– Shortage of shipping has never been responsible for holding up the export of butter.
– It was not always possible to ensure the shipment of butter, even when the butter was available. The fact must also be borne in mind that the production of butter in Australia is confined to certain months of the year.
– No, it is produced all the year round.
– That may apply to Queensland, but, in the main, it is true that the production of butter is confined to certain months. The export of large quantities of butter to Great Britain is bound up with the provision of refrigerated space in Australia for the storing of butter until such time as it can be exported.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs said that the matter had not even been considered.
– It has been under consideration all the time. The butter ration was considered by a Cabinet subcommittee not long ago. In fact, discussions are at present proceeding with the British Government with regard to this and other matters, but it is not possible at present to disclose the nature of the discussions. If honorable members take all the facts into consideration, and compare the production of food in 1941-42, when this Government took office, with what is being produced now, they will be forced to admit that, on the food front, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has done a very good job. The production of every basic item of food which is. to-day in short supply has been substantially increased since 1941-42, and this has been achieved with less manpower than was then available. This has been possible because of the plans laid by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and because the Government set aside a certain amount of the country’s productive capacity in order to establish » pool of farm machinery. To-day, there is more mechanization on the farms than ever before. The position is being improved all the time, and we hope that the production of food will in future be increased still further.
– Will that result in increased exports?
– Probably, unless in the meantime additional military forces come to this theatre of war. It might then be necessary to re-allocate available supplies, and that would be done after discussion with the Government of the United States of America and, probably, the Government of Great Britain also.
In regard to the allocation of available supplies of labour in Australia, I believe that we have achieved as satisfactory a balance as has been achieved in any other country in the world. The residue of labour available after the satisfaction of war requirements has to be spread over a wide range of occupations and industries. Every production department is looking for more labour. We need more men to cut firewood for the approaching winter, more for the production of food, and more to work in industries for the supply of goods to the forces of the United States of America in this theatre. All those demands must be met out of a limited and very much depleted labour pool. The fact is that we have not enough man-power to meet all the demands that are being made upon us.
– The outstanding feature of the statement made last week by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was the great tribute which he paid to the war effort of ‘Great Britain and the other United Nations, and the stress which was laid upon the obligation which faces Australia to aid the United Nations in every way possible in the forthcoming attack on fortress Europe. The food produced in Australia must be supplied to our own troops in the South- West Pacific, to Allied troops in this area, and to the troops which Wl!11 be engaged in the attack on Europe. In addition, there will be a tremendous demand for food from the peoples of the countries that will be liberated from the enemy. In the last few months a heavy demand for food has set in from the liberated people of southern Italy, numbering about ten million.
To-day, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) mentioned the assistance which the United States of America had rendered to Russia, and pointed OUt that in the first (twelve months after Russia entered the war, America had sent to that country 32,000 tons of butter. However, the fact remains that the United States has not been able to provj.de as much food as was hoped, and any surplus produced in that country is, for the most part, sent to Russia. I suggest that the United States has not been able to help Great Britain to any great extent, nor even to supply the forces in the Middle East. The other great food producing countries in the Americas are Brazil and Uruguay, but until quite recently, food production in them was hampered by drought conditions. In Argentina, not only was there a drought, but the Government is a very doubtful quantity, being practically Nazi in character, so that Argentina cannot be depended upon to supply food to the United Nations as freely as might be hoped. South Africa is a comparatively poor food-producing country. So Australia and New Zealand are left as the two lands upon which Great Britain and its Allies must largely depend for essential food supplies.
As the Prime Minister has so often reminded us, this is a global war, one in which the only objective of the United Nations must be the destruction of the military power of Germany and Japan. We must not think in terms of a defensive war. To attempt to fight a defensive war is to lose the war. The only way to win a war is to go out and destroy your enemies, and to do that we must supply our fighting forces with food and war material to the full productive capacity of the United Nations. I put it to .lie Government that the armed forces of the United Nations need food to fight with just as much as they need munitions of war. I was astonished to hear the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), after saying that the question was whether the Government had used the man-power of this country in a properly balanced way, proceed to chide members of the Opposition for attempting to have men discharged from the armed forces in order to take their place in the great food production drive. I assume that, in the same breath, he also chides supporters of the Government, many of whom have been equally active in trying to have men discharged from the armed forces for .that purpose. My reply to the Minister is that the distribution of man-power needs a complete overhaul with an eye to what is needed now, not to some vague idea that certain war factories shall be kept operating in the post-war period. Our task now is not to think airily about what will happen to munitions factories when the war ends, but to use our man-power to provide means of bringing this world struggle, which is burning up humanity as in a furnace, to an end as soon as possible. We are not doing that. We are not using fully those things that we have in the greatest abundance. We are not producing sufficient food, because man-power is being wasted. This Government is not doing- its very best to win the war. The Minister for War Organization of Industry made a great song about attempts to have men discharged from the fighting forces to engage in primary production. He said that the Government’s military advisers advocated that we should maintain the size of the Army. Those military advisers are General Douglas MacArthur and General Blarney. But does the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington, which is directing the conduct of this war, think that Australia should maintain its forces at their present size, or does it recommend that those forces should be lessened in order that the food production drive in this country may be carried on to the furthest extent? Those are questions to which the country wants answers.
– Surely the honorable member does not expect me to discuss in public the nature of communications between the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee and me?
– I do not expect the right honorable gentleman to discuss anythink like that in public, but I think that the blessed word “ security “ is used, not only by him, but also by other Ministers, as a cloak for many sins of omission. There would be no breach of security if we were told whether the highest command in the world believes that we are making too great an effort in one direction and not one great enough effort in the other. The Minister for War Organization of Industry said that, for reasons of security, nothing could be said about why the numbers in the Army should be maintained. So, as we are left in ignorance - we are not even told anything in secret meetings - we must compare our enlistments in the services with those of other countries. I understand that the figures that I am about to give the House are correct. They have been published in the press, and have never been challenged. The Prime Minister himself gave in this House .the number of men enlisted in the armed forces of Australia. So those figures should be correct, and I say that the figures of the other countries have been checked. Enlistments in Australia are one in eight of the population, in Great Britain one in nine, in Germany one in eleven, in the United States of America one in thirteen, in Canada, one in twenty and in Japan one in twenty-five. We have no means of judging the necessity for Australian enlistments to be heavier than those of any other country, but the Prime Minister did make the following statement last week in his review of the war situation: -
The scale of Australia’s military effort will have an important bearing on our status at the peace table. It is of vital importance to our future that the part which we play should be such as to guarantee us an effective voice in the peace settlement. There is, therefore, a minimum below which our military effort cannot be permitted to fall.
Are we to paralyse the food production of this country because we think that we shall derive benefit from being able to say at the Peace Table that we have large forces in the background? Compared with the forces of other countries, our armed forces would be insignificant. I do not think that we shall derive any benefit from that if we go to the Peace Conference with a record of having failed to produce the food and raw materials which are so urgently required by the United Nations. It will be of no advantage to us to have a large army if we have failed in other essentials, thereby, possibly, prolonging the struggle for months longer than necessary. The Minister for War Organization of Industry said that man-power had been adequately and properly distributed in Australia to the best advantage of this nation. He cited figures in regard to the munitions industry. I understand that, according to an announcement by the Prime Minister in December last, the number of employees, male and female, in the munitions industry of Australia is 556,000. Only 7 per cent, of our women are being used in war work or in the Services compared with 40 per cent, in Great Britain. I submit that there is a great reservoir of woman-power which could be used to replace men doing light repetition work in munitions factories. Those men could take their place in the armed forces or be employed in the food producing industries.
From the outbreak of war to October, 1943, the number of people employed in rural industries fell by 28 per cent, from 500,000 to 360,000. During the same period 20,000 women took up rural employment. The Minister for War Organization of Industry read a mass of figures relating to the dairying industry. I give him credit for reasonable accuracy; he was only a few hundred thousand gallons out, but that, apparently, is a matter of little moment. What is more important is the fact that he tried to make out that since the coming into being of this Labour Administration milk production in Australia has risen like a rocket into the sky.
He was not modest, for he gave no credit to the Almighty for having poured down rain on to the earth to make the grass grow. I do agree with the Minister that the measure of production must be in terms of whole milk, because there has been a diversion to butter, cheese and dried milk. In 1939-40 the whole -milk production amounted to 1,256,000,000 gallons, but in 1942-43 it dropped to 1,128,000,000 gallons, a very big fall.
– What caused that?
– Mainly the loss of man-power in the dairying industry. The decline of production from 1938-39 to 1942-43 was 61,000,000 gallons. ‘The target for 1943-44 is 1,134,520,000 gallons, which is 121,580,000 gallons less than the production in 1939-40. The Prime Minister has said that the requirements are 1,287,890,000 gallons, leaving a deficiency of 153,000,000 gallons on the target figure, but, if we reached the 1939-40 figure we should be only 31,790,000 gallons short. The _ decline of production in the dairying industry is practically due to. the shortage of labour. It has been said that the dairymen are selective in the- labour they want in the industry. They ask for the return from the Army or from the munitions industry of their sons, other relatives, or people who have formerly worked for them. There is a very good reason for that. Those people know the industry; they know how to work in it; they know how to get production much better than any stranger. In my electorate, a man was engaged with his wife and daughter and a hand sent to him by the man-power authority in grading and packing citrus fruits for the food supply authority in Sydney. He was packing 1,250 cases a week. His son was allowed out of the Army for three months to assist him in the urgent work. As the result his deliveries jumped in one week to 2,500 cases and stayed at the same level. That was because he had the services of his own son, not a person with no interest in the work.
The Minister for War Organization of Industry talks a lot about meat production in Australia. One would think that the story was the best that could be told. “ God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world “, sums up his attitude, but I submit that a great deal more could be done to increase meat supplies to the armies of the United Nations. Australia has more cattle, sheep and pigs than it had in 1939. There are 10,000,000 beef cattle, nearly 125,000,000 sheep, and 1,560,000 pigs. Never before have those numbers been equalled in this country, but, because of lack of man-power to handle fat stock, our meat target for 1944 as given by. the Prime Minister on the 22nd December, 1943, is only 1,000,000 tons, compared wtih 963,000 tons in 1939. The increase of output is less than 4 per cent. This year, on the available stock figures, we should be producing 1,344,000 tons of meat. Although wo have the stock, we lack the necessary man-power to handle it. The man-power is tied up in munitions establishments and the Army. Labour should be sent to the country districts to produce the food necessary to bring the war to a speedy conclusion.
Although the Government is aware of the extraordinary shortage of man-power in rural industries, Australia chooses this moment to embark upon a vast programme for the construction of bomber aircraft, and a complicated aircraft engine. Those undertakings will demand the services of an enormous number of men and women. If the Government is anxious to construct . aircraft in Australia - and I believe that it is essential to keep- the aircraft industry in operation here - it should build machines that are not capable of being flown to this country. By constructing that type of aircraft, the Government would conserve shipping space. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) stated that more than 2,500 aircraft have been manufactured in Australia. He added -
The tens of thousands now employed have been recruited from all trades and callings and have made a success of their war job. . . . It is a pertinent fact that, at a time when there is talk as to what will be done with munitions factories when the war is over, the government owned and operated workshops that delivered their 500th Beaufort aircraft during the last quarter of 1943 have a better record of deliveries - having regard to the size and type of aircraft concerned - tiran privately.owned aircraft manufacturing establishments in Australia.
What the Minister did not explain was that, on those figures, the production of aircraft in Australia in the last four years is probably not equal to onequarter of the production of aircraft in the United States of America in one month. The Government should not commence the manufacture of huge aircraft, because the process is most difficult in Australia. The components of the planes must be despatched from city to city. For example, the wings might be built in Sydney or Adelaide, and other parts made in Melbourne, whilst the final assembly might be undertaken in another city. The parts have to be carted from pillar to post over a congested’ transport system, which is desperately short of adequate supplies of coal and rollingstock. The breaks of gauge add to the other difficulties. The manufacture of aircraft in Australia is being undertaken largely for the purpose of establishing for the post-war period an industry that may be of value to this country. But that is a doubtful proposition. The Government should divert those employees to the production of commodities essential to the victory of the United Nations.
As I stated, the Government proposes to construct in Australia a heavy type of bomber aircraft. I” understand that 30 transport planes of the type which the factory would be capable of making for civilian use would serve the requirements of the whole of our internal air routes in the post-war period. I am told by a leading authority on aircraft in this country and also an overseas authority that, after estimating replacements at a much higher figure than normal wastage, these planes would last for at least four and a half years, so that only seven new planes would be required every year. An attempt to create an industry of that nature in Australia is a waste of men and material. It .becomes wicked and cruel to do so when the effort may deprive the United Nations of essential food. The Government’s decision has been made at a time when primary producers are endeavouring to work broken down machines or are unable to operate them because of the difficulty of obtaining spare parts. The position is not helped by the fact that supply is hindered by red tape and bureaucratic control. A farmer, 30 miles away from the agent, may require a sparking plug for his tractor, or a new ball race. No longer able to obtain the spare parts simply by communicating with the agent by letter or telephone, the farmer has to make an application upon the prescribed form and despatch it to the Allied Works Council. No doubt, the application is referred back to the local district war agricultural committee. Unnecessary delays occur. Even if supporters of the Government do not realize it, the seasons do not wait until spare parts reach the farm. Ram does not dally until sparking plugs for tractors reach the farmer. Honorable members opposite laugh. I do not regard the situation as humorous. They think that it is funny when the farmer is deprived of these spare parts. They make witty remarks about it. Perhaps- when they meet their constituents again, they will explain this particular type of humour to them. The farmers will not understand it.
The Government must decide what are the essential requirements for Australia to produce for the purpose of assisting the United Nations speedily to finish the war. At the Peace Conference, the great Allied Nations will be influenced not by a huge Australian army, which will “ probably be considered a corporal’s guard by the ruler of Russia or in comparison with the forces which the United States of America and Great Britain will have under arms, but by its efforts to bring the war to a victorious conclusion; and the best effort that Australia can make is to re-aline the whole man-power of the country to ensure that supplies of food in unlimited quantities are made available to the United Nations.
– I associate myself with the sentiments that the Prime Minister. (Mr. Curtin) expressed in his speech last week, and particularly with his references to the work that has been done by Great Britain, and the ‘manner in which that country alone faced the world during one period of the war, and to that extent was our substitute in sacrifice. As I represent a rural constituency, I may be pardoned for repeating some of the remarks that have been made by previous speakers. The elector ate which I represent includes all the major primary industries of Australia, namely, wool, beef, wheat, butter, cheese, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, maize and peanuts. I was particularly interested in the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and some of his utterances about production I challenge. Dairy production has not equalled the output of 1938 and 1939. In fact, production in 1941 was only 50 per cent, of the production in those years ; and never since have the receivals of butter for export approached the output of those two years. Butter production for the first seven months of this financial year, compared with the corresponding period of last year, has declined by 8,000 tons, whilst the production of cheese is about equal to that of the previous year. In Queensland the production of butter this year is 2,000 tons less than it was last year. The production of cheese has been reduced by 1,228 tons. Some honorable members appear to believe that any matter raised in this chamber is ventilated for political purposes, but my only concern is to stimulate production. I accept the assurance of the Government that Australia requires increased production. Because of that need, the Government announced a policy of releasing man-power from the Army. Most honorable members have doubtless asked for the release of certain men, and in view of the Government’s announcement that 20,000 will be released in a certain period we cannot be blamed for doing so. My regret is that the releases are tardy and unsatisfactory. My own district is a rich dairying centre, and the chairman of the local district war agricultural committee informed me that the district was allotted, under the Army releases scheme, 330 men for the purpose of .assisting production. After the lapse of seven months, not a score of men have been sent to Kingaroy. I say without hesitation that the dairies which have gone out of production there number more than the men released from the Army. The tragedy is that the allocation of one man to each dairy would have preserved the farms. In my electorate more aged farmers have fallen by the wayside and died at their tasks than the number of men released in my district. That statement cannot be challenged. Of the twenty men released to work in the district, one half were discharged from the Army against the recommendation of the local war agricultural committees. Scores of recommendations for release were made, and we recognize that all of them could not he granted by the Army. But the Minister for the Army (Mr, Forde) explained that men are being released in accordance with the undertaking that he gave to Parliament. I ask, where are the men being sent? They are certainly no!t being allotted to Queensland in anything like the numbers that the State requires. That is causing me grave concern. In many instances, one additional man could prevent a dairy from ceasing production. Last season 100 dairies were sold and this season approximately 50 more have been sold in my district. Notwithstanding that we have experienced the best dairying season in Queensland since 1917, the production of butter has declined by 2,000 tons as compared with last year, which was a semi-dry year. We are missing the opportunity of the bountiful season which God has given us. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has said that production has increased. Insofar as dairying in Queensland is concerned, whether we consider whole milk, butter or cheese, the reverse is true, as the figures which I have cited show clearly.
What are the reasons, other than lack of man-power, that have caused this decline of production? Two months ago I wrote to the Minister for Supply and Shipping and asked whether it was a fact that 200 tractors suitable for main road and other constructional work were being held in Brisbane because there was no plant available for them to pull. The reply I received practically admitted that that was so. Yet throughout the previous twelve months we had been trying to obtain tractors for farm work and had found it impossible to do so. It seems to me that the recommendations which were made by the Agricultural Council which met in Canberra this week were futile. If they represent the best advice that the council can give us, I suggest that the man-power authorities should draw upon the personnel of the council for the purpose of increasing the man-power on farms. The council suggested that there should be an increased production of winter feed. But where is the man-power to grow additional feed? It suggested also a lengthening of the lactation period and supplementary feeding. The same question arises: Where is the man-power to produce the feed? It seems to me that the council consists chiefly of theorists. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) suggested that some of the recommendations were made in ignorance. I doubt that. The Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, who has been appointed to his position for a seven-year period, was available for advice, yet only theoretical suggestions were made. Some of the members of the council could, I think, do good work on dairy farms.
Herd-testing and an extension of farm machinery pools were recommended. I agree that it would be a good thing if farm machinery pools could be extended, but I do not know where there is one such pool in Queensland. We need more farm machinery. As to herd-testing, the plain fact is that many stud-breeders have had to forgo their herd-testing because of the lack of man-power. Mr. J. Sparkes, a prominent Hereford breeder in the Dalby district, adjacent to my own district, has stated that he cannot supply anything like the number of Hereford bulls required by dairymen. What does that signify? To me it indicates that the dairymen intend to breed for beef in preference to breeding for milking stock, because it makes for an easier life and will not mean slaving day and night in the dairy.
– Beef production has increased.
Mir. ADERMANN. - Quite so.
– The dairy-farmer likes to get higher prices just as the worker likes to get higher wages.
– That is an argument for an increase of the price of butter. I trust that the investigation committee will go thoroughly into that subject and that the Government will receive its recommendations sympathetically.
Another problem which people engaged in primary industries have to face is the shortage of rubber. I dealt with this subject some time ago in speaking on the motion for the adjournment. Any one who can picture the district that I represent, which is three times the size of Victoria, can realize the transport problems that have to be overcome. It raises the ire of. the producers in that district to be told by the Deputy Controller of Rubber in Queensland that they should co-operate with their neighbours. How can they do so’ when their nearest neighbours are from 20 to 30 miles distant? It is obviously an impossibility. Many of my constituents have written asking me to do what I can to expedite decisions on their applications for tyres and tubes, in order to keep on the roads the only transport they have available. I do not know the rubber position from the inside, and perhaps I have no right to know it, but 1 urge the Government to deal sympathetically with primary producers in this regard, and to give them a higher priority than they have at present. Primary producers in our outback areas never use their motor vehicles for pleasure. Transport for business purposes is the only thing that they are interested in and it is necessary that they shall be given a reasonable priority.
I shall revert to the man-power position for a moment because I overlooked one point earlier. Producers have been invited to nominate persons for release from the Army and also the Allied “Works Council, in order to work in primary industries, but I regret to say that applications made to the Allied Works Council receive very little consideration. I direct attention to the case of a semiinvalid of more than 60 years of age, who has only his wife, who is suffering from milking eczema, and has been forbidden to go into the dairy, and another lady to help him, in a dairy in which 130 cows are being milked. He applied to the Allied Works Council for the release of a man and his application was rejected. I renewed the application for him and it was rejected again. I made it clear that I would keep on applying on his behalf. The only reason given for the refusal to release the man was that this semiinvalid of 60 years of age could find time to do some repair work to his house. I know that this man rises before daylight and has to work well into the hours of darkness. If he did any repair work on his house it was done during an hour or two in the middle of the day when he should have been resting. As it is, he is working day and night and he ought to be given some relief.’
I must say a few words about wheat. The Government should be more liberal in relation to the area that may be put under wheat. Growers should be allowed to produce from an unlimited area at the guaranteed price of 4s. l£d. a bushel. Any one with a blind eye can see, as the Irishman would say, that there will be a shortage of wheat throughout the world after the war. We shall have to provide for 100,000,000 people in India, the people in the Netherlands East Indies, as well as the teeming millions of China. All these will need our wheat badly. How far will Australia’s surplus of 100,000,000 bushels go among them ?
– What about the prosecution of the war?
– I desire to be fair in this matter. I suggest to the Government that it should allow wheatgrowers in Queensland who have machinery lying idle to use their plant to produce wheat to the maximum capacity. A good deal of wheat-producing machinery is partially idle in Queensland because of the restrictions that are in force. Yet, every day about 400 tons of wheat has to be transported from southern areas to Queensland. If more wheat could be grown in Queensland, a great deal of man-power and transport could be diverted to more useful service, and we should not hear remarks by Commonwealth Ministers to the effect that insufficient transport is available. I do not ask that extensive additional man-power shall be made available for wheatgrowing in Queensland; I ask that our people there1 shall be allowed to grow wheat to their maximum capacity.
Vegetable production is very important in these days. Just before I left my electorate to come to Canberra, I made an investigation of the position. We all know that Commonwealth Ministers have urged that vegetable production should be increased. The tragedy is that gluts so often occur in this industry with the result that growers are compelled to accept unprofitable prices. Guaranteed prices are not available. When gluts occur growers are dependent upon the charity of a Commonwealth department, which may buy their surplus produce and send it to hospitals or elsewhere, in order to maintain prices.
– I suppose the honorable member does not complain because the surplus production is purchased?
– No. But the trouble is, that all the growers do not reap the benefit ; those who do not consign vegetables to the market on that particular day do not participate in it, nor does the price paid cover the cost of production. Why should the industry have to depend on the charity of a Commonwealth department?
– It is not charity.
– It is, when the department purchases the vegetables and gives them to hospitals.
– Would the honorable member be surprised to know that stockmen have asked that similar action be taken in regard to sheep?
– I can cite with authority instances in Queensland of the Government having fallen down on the contracts it has made, on the ground that quality was deteriorating. A contract was made with a resident of the Mundubbera district, covering £1,000 worth of swede turnips. Every man in the district who can speak with authority certified that the quality was absolutely first-class, and that nothing better had ever been seen. Because the Army refused to eat turnips, the grower was told that the quality was deteriorating, and the contract was set aside. On the legal issue of quality, the Government might succeed in’ certain instances if the matter were taken to court; but it has a moral responsibility. The chief factor in the loss of production is the lessening of the confidence which the growers have in the Government. To say that the quality is deteriorating when everybody knows that it is not, is despicable. I have been informed, on the authority of the chairman of the Gayndah and Mundubbera shires, that not a vegetable-grower in those two districts will grow vegetables in future, because of the actions of the Government.
– Some growers expect to be paid contract prices for third and fourth grade vegetables.
– Yesterday, 1 asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question regarding the delivery of cases with a view to saving the Stanthorpe fruit crop. I am sorry to say that the Minister followed his usual practice of generalizing and, in effect, giving no information. I asked him what action he had taken in response to the representations that had been made to him by all sections of the fruit industry. His reply was -
This matter lias received the constant attention of Timber Control in Queensland and every effort is being made to relieve the position which is acute in varying degrees in the fruit industry generally.
That is a general answer, which meant nothing to the fruit-growers of Stanthorpe. Had the honorable gentleman, three or four weeks ago, taken action to release nine or ten men to assist the sawmillers to get the cases out, the position would have been met. To-day, I received the following urgent telegram: -
Man-.power requirements Stanthorpe sawmills still not met. Growers have already lost many thousands of pounds worth fruit, Result serious. Case shortage calamitous. Loss now inevitable. Growers desperate. Delay inexcusable.
That is signed by the chairman of the Deciduous Sectional Group Committee. I urge the Minister to take action immediately to save the balance of the crop. Two or three months ago, at the instigation of some of these fruit-growers, I wrote to him, on the suggestion of a local resident, asking that a licence be granted to a small sawmiller at Amosfield, just across the New South WalesQueensland border. Transport was available. Had the honorable gentleman complied with my request, one or two men would have supplied all the cases that were required for the whole of the fruit industry in that district. He may have had good reasons for refusal ; I grant him that right as a Minister. But he has ignored the many requests that have been made from a whole district of growers. The growers of primary products of all classes are losing confidence because of the bureaucratic control of inexperienced departments. I grant that they are sincere ; but they have not had experience in the handling of such matters, and do not realize the need for taking action in time to save a crop. There seems to be a tendency to adopt towards primary production the attitude that is adopted in connexion with other civil matters, which we know can at times await attention for two, three, four, or even six weeks, without being adversely affected. Primary production cannot wait. Many crops have tobe harvested immediately they are ready. Latitude of a week or, at the most, a fortnight, is all that canbe allowed without prejudice to the crop. If we can instil that into the minds of the officials who are handling these matters, we shall have done much good. My object is to help the Government. I have no desire to criticize it continually. I should like it to he as serious in considering my submissions as I am in making them. I wish to help the primary producer to overcome the many difficulties with which he is now confronted, and to make the department acquainted with them. If I have been of any assistance, I shall have achieved my purpose, which is to enable the Government to increase food production. We should be told of the source from which labour is to be provided, and should not be charged with party political motives when we apply for it. The Government should remember that in the dairying districts of Kingaroy, Gayndah, Dalby and Jandowie, the production has been lowered to approximately 50 per cent. of the record output. That is one of the richest dairying districts in Australia. Relief is needed immediately.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drakeford) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 -
No. 3 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
No. 4 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association and Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 5 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 6 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 11.
Elections and Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Elections, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives,1943; Detailed Return in relation to the Election for the House of Representatives, 1943, for the Northern Territory; together with Summaries of Elections and Referendums, 1903-1943.
Elections, 1943 -
Statistical Returns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1943, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Pyrmont, New South Wales.
Swan Hill, Victoria.
Tocumwal, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (Agricultural Aids) Regulations -
Notice - Returns of stocks of bran, pollard and ground or crushed wheat.
Order - Feeding meals (Restriction of manufacture).
National Security (Army Inventions) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Direction under Citrus fruits order (dated 25th January, 1944).
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of -
Building materials (No. 2).
Essential materials (No. 5).
Footwear (Styles and quality) (No. 3).
Manufacture of gas producers (No. 2).
Spark plugs (No. 2).
Fishing gear (Estimates and returns ) .
Fishing industry secondary operatives (Registration).
Heating and cooking appliances (Retail sales) (No. 3).
Prohibition of non-essential production (No.15).
Radio broadcast receivers.
Taking possession of land, &c. (97).
National Security (Compensation Boards ) .
National Security (Representation before Compensation Boards ) - Revocation.
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (334).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (66).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 45.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules - Camp.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1944 -
No. 2 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 3 - Traffic.
No. 4 - Protection of Lands.
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 309.
House adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Price of Whole Milk.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Library all papers and correspondence in connexion with the removal from Deloraine to Launceston of the office of returning officer for the electoral division of Wilmot?
– It is not proposed to lay on the table of the Library the papers referred to.
Wheat for Stock Feed.
y. - On the 10th February, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked the following question, without notice: -
Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the subsidy paid to wheatgrowers in respect to wheat sold to poultry- farmers and for stock feed is not sufficient to make up the gap between the price of such wheat and the ordinary price of wheat sold for other purposes ? Will the Minister increase the subsidy so that the cost of providing cheap wheat for stock-owners shall not be a tax upon the wheat-grower?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the subsidy for wheat sold for stock feed brings the return to the Wheat Board up to the local price. In view of price stabilization measures and the benefits which they confer on wheat-growers as well as other sections of the community it is not proposed to increase the payment from Commonwealth funds.
y. - On the 9th February, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following question without notice: -
Is it a fact that, in the course of a recent broadcast address, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that Australians need not fear that there would be any reduction of the butter ration, and that even if it meant that Great Britain would be supplied with a smaller quantity, the present ration would be maintained in Australia? Will the Minister state what iB the present weekly ration in Great Britain as compared with the ration in Australia, and will he state by how much Australia was short in its butter shipments to Great Britain during the last few months?
In reply to the honorable member, I point out that the ration in the United Kingdom is 2 oz. per week per person and in Australia 8 oz. Great Britain has requested Australia to supply 55,000 tons of butter during the year ending the 30th June, 1944. The present indications are that Australia will ship a minimum of 40,000 tons during that period, with the distinct possibility that some further thousands of tons may be available for shipment.
In reply to the honorable member’s further question, I wish to reiterate that I did not broadcast or make any statement to the press regarding butter rationing in Australia, except to remark in reply to an inquiry that this was a matter for determination by the Commonwealth Government. I have not made a broadcast speech since immediately prior to the elections, except to formally introduce State Ministers for Agriculture who were joined in a national broadcast in the drive for increased production of foodstuffs generally
Bush Fire Relief.
y. - On the 9th February, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate the nature of the relief that is planned fur those primary producers who suffered loss as the result of the recent disastrous bush fires? Will he also indicate the progress that has been made in giving effect to the Government’s decisions, and the degree of Commonwealth and State cooperation that has been achieved in the matter?
I have to advise .the honorable member that, immediately the grievous nature of the Victorian bush fires was made known, I conferred with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) regarding Commonwealth assistance. It was decided to make an immediate grant to Victoria, and to guarantee the sum of £100,000 should it be needed. As there was a risk of bush fires in all States, the sum of £200,000 was set aside to assist the States, to afford relief where serious outbreaks occurred. In addition to the Commonwealth grant, the Victorian Government agreed to contribute £50,000. This sum has been included in the list of subscriptions to the fund opened by .the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. This fund now totals £138,000. The New South Wales Government has agreed to contribute £1 for £1 for money contributed by the Commonwealth for relief in New South Wales. The Victorian Government was notified immediately of the action taken by the Commonwealth, and officers of the Agricultural Division of Food Control were instructed to cooperate with officers of the Victorian
Department of Agriculture in ensuring Ohe supply of essential materials. Subsequently the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) was appointed as the Commonwealth Government’s representative on the Victorian Bush Fire Relief Committee.
Not only was there an appalling loss of life in She first of the Victorian bush fires - and I take this opportunity of extending the sincere sympathy of this House to the bereaved in this and the latest outbreaks - but also there was a very great loss of stock and property. Preliminary estimates indicate that approximately 500 homes, 1,000,000 sheep, 50,000 cattle, 1,000 horses, 1,000 pigs, 200,000 poultry and thousands of miles of fencing were destroyed. It is too early to estimate the losses of stock and property in the most recent outbreak, but it is feared that there have been heavy losses of dairy cattle, dairy equipment and buildings and additional quantities of fencing, as well as many homes. As the result of Commonwealth and State cooperation, those who have requisitioned for fencing are being assisted. Many settlers have not yet sought materials, possibly because they have not been able to estimate their total requirements. Living allowances are being provided Where a settler’s resources are limited and his income has ceased, and where his labour is required on his own property. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is represented on the Victorian committee by a senior officer, and his department is taking action to ensure the prompt supply of building materials to those who desire to rebuild. At the direction of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), the Allied Works Council has arranged for the transfer of 200 Civil Constructional Corps workers for work in Victorian forest areas. These men are being made available for the production of fencing materials, and will work in co-operation with officers of the Victorian Forestry Commission. The position in New South Wales, as the honorable member for Hume will appreciate, is much less serious. Approximately 200,000 acres - mainly grass land - was- swept, and approximately 14,000 sheep, a few’ cattle, and quantities of oaten, wheaten and lucerne hay were lost. A considerable amount of fencing also has either been destroyed or damaged. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) is the Commonwealth Government’s representative on the New South Wales committee. This committee has asked District War Agricultural Committees to sponsor applications for assistance. The committee is now receiving applications from sufferers.
Honorable members generally will realize that the. Victorian bush fires in particular, represent a disaster which the nation and the people can ill afford. The Commonwealth is giving all possible aid and will continue to work with the State in giving the necessary relief.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440217_reps_17_177/>.