17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear j took the -chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Use of SCRAPER Loaders.
– As the Prime Minister has stated that he is prepared to act upon any suggestion designed to secure a greater output of coal, will he permit the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner to authorize forthwith the use of scraper loaders in pillar extraction?
– The use of machinery in the coal mines of New South Wales may be related to the safety provisions that are incorporated in the law of that State. I do not propose to compel the introduction of any system which would be contrary to such safety provisions. I shall have the suggestion of the honorable member examined.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether or not Mr. Baddeley, Minister- for Mines in New South Wales, at the direction of the
Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, ordered that scraper loaders be removed within one month from pillars where they had operated for a number of years at the Coalcliff colliery on the south coast of New South Wales? If these loaders were unsafe to work, why was a period of one month allowed for their removal ? Is it not evident that the matter is one which concerns not safe working but industrial considerations?
– I do not know whether or not Mr. Baddeley acted at the direction of the miners’ federation. It would be presumptuous were I or anybody else to say that a Minister had not acted in the exercise of his powers and in accordance with his own judgment. I am not the judge of whether scraper loaders are safe or unsafe to work. The law of the State of New South Wales decides where the responsibility for determining safety rests, and the Minister for Mines of that State has certain powers in connexion with the matter.
– If any doubt exists as to the safe working of scraper loaders on pillars in coal mines, will the Prime Minister institute an inquiry, to be conducted by three qualified persons of experience in coal-mining and the use of coal-mining machinery, with the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner or his nominee as chairman, in order to determine the safety or otherwise of the use of scraper loaders in pillar extraction?
– For as long as any of us can remember, the law with respect to the safe working of coal mines has been a State law. I do not propose to set it aside, or to establish a super authority whereby the responsibility which a State bears under its own law shall be made the subject of review by me.
– But the right honorable gentleman desires that more coal shall be produced, does he not?
– I certainly do. It would .be most proper to secure an increase of coal production as the result of continuance of work in the places and according to the safe working provisions of the law.
– Do the Government’s referendum proposals contain provisions for conferring upon the
Commonwealth complete power over coal mining? If the Commonwealth does not propose to seek this power, what is the reason ?
– The bill in relation to increased Commonwealth powers is on the notice-paper, and the matter raised by the honorable member may be discussed when the bill comes before the House.
– In October last, the Prime Minister said that, inter alia, the trouble on the coal-fields was largely due to irresponsible and undesirable persons in the unions, and that he intended to have inquiries made .with a view to purging the unions of such elements. Will the Prime Minister say what steps have been taken to carry out this undertaking, and whether any undesirables have, in fact, been removed?
– A question upon notice dealing with this subject was answered by me on Wednesday, and I then stated that the number of persons removed was 130. I did not say that all Hie trouble was due to such persons.
– No, the Prime Minister said that the trouble was due to that cause, inter alia.
– Well, inter aiia, those responsible have been dealt with in the manner I have stated.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
– I have just received the following telegram: -
Horse-shoes unprocurable in Townsville or Brisbane. We have 8,000 fat cattle to muster and market. If no horse-shoes available impossible to muster. Many others in same position.
Having regard to the decrease of food production, will the Minister for Munitions take steps to ensure that the requirements of horse-shoes by the agricultural and pastoral industries in Queensland shall he met as early as possible?
– The department has endeavoured to keep ample supplies of horse-shoes available in the different localities in which they are needed. Should there be an unusually heavy demand, at the moment, in the localities mentioned by the honorable member, T shall see to w’hat extent it can be met.
Bill presented by Mr. Curtis’, and read a first time.
Effect of Synthetic Substitutes
– In view of the everincreasing threat to the Australian wool industry by reason of the use of synthetic substitutes, does the Minister for War Organization of Industry agree that the industry should revert to the manufacture of high-grade double-weft material at the earliest possible moment? Does the honorable gentleman also agree that every effort should be made to meet the demands of New Zealand and other Pacific Islands for this grade of material?
– I refer the honorable member to the reply which I made a few days ago to a question on this subject by the honorable member for Griffith.
Pay-roll Tax and Entertainments Tax.
– Has the Treasurer received communications from the Victorian Bush Nursing Association in regard to the levying of entertainments tax and pay-roll tax upon entertainments and other functions promoted for the purpose of raising funds for that worthy body? As the operations of this association have the effect of lifting a big load from pu’blic revenues by reason of the support that it gives to public hospitals, does the honorable gentleman not consider that it would be fair to exempt it from these taxes ?
– I have considered a number of requests for exemption from entertainments tax, and am prepared to examine the case submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera. The act wisely provides, in respect of entertainments for patriotic and similar purposes, that at least 50 per cent, of the proceeds shall be devoted to the cause for which the function has been organized if the tax is to be waived. There have been instances of the whole of the proceeds of entertainments having been absorbed in the expenses associated with their conduct; in other words, the organizers of them have had a good time and have evaded the payment of tax. A similar provision operated during the last war. The Government has not considered the alteration of the law, and personally I should ‘be averse to its being altered. The Commissioner of Taxation takes into account special circumstances, such as wet weather or transport difficulties, which may adversely affect the patronage of .any entertainment. I am prepared to examine the matter, but not with the object of making any amendment of the act. I shall also consider the payment of pay-roll tax by the organization to which the honorable member has referred, and shall reply to him later concerning it.
– I receive numerous letters from country people complaining of the shortage of dry-cell radio batteries and plough chains. In view of the tremendous inconvenience that is caused to country people who have not the facilities which electricity provides, will the Minister for Munitions take steps to ensure the provision of the dry-cell radio batteries that are needed? Will he also step up the production of plough chains, which are so necessary to the work of the farmers?
– Due to the extraordinary demand by the fighting forces upon local manufacturers it has been found impossible in recent times to provide adequately for the day-to-day requirements of dry-cell batteries for civilian radio broadcast receivers. At the same time, it has been realized with grave concern that this shortage of supply must result in serious inconvenience, particularly to country people who rely upon batteryoperated receiving sets to obtain the news and market reports which are essential to them in these times. From the moment when this shortage became evident, special steps were taken to ensure that the manufacture and supply of these batteries would be the maximum that was possible in the abnormal circumstances prevailing, and in regard to the materials necessary to this manufacture, provision has been made to meet all likely demands for several months. However, it is still especially difficult to provide the man-power that is necessary to meet these demands’ in terms of quantity production. Action has been taken to ensure that the bulk of the civilian B battery requirements shall be met; nevertheless, the position will still be critical for some time. Broadcast listeners using radio sets operated by dry cells are urged to conserve to the utmost their present B batteries and replacement batteries. Radio sets should be switched off when not required, and switched on only for special broa dcasts or news services. Only by such action on the part of listeners can it be assured that the present serious position will right itself.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether or not it is the practice of the Government, all things being equal, to give preference of entry as cadet midshipmen in the Royal Australian Navy to sons of members of the forces who have made the supreme sacrifice? Will the honorable gentleman state the number of the last batch of entrants who are legacy children of this war? Is it a fact that the social standing of an applicant is considered of more importance than suitability for the work that has to be performed ?
– In reply to the third question, I state most emphatically, that social position does not confer any advantage on an applicant. The other questions involve the tabulation of statistics. If the honorable member will give notice of them, I shall obtain the information for him.
– Has the Treasurer seen a press report of an auction sale of land in Playford-street, Whyalla, in January last? Will he, in order to prevent excessive profit making, take action to investigate the high prices at which blocks were sold?
– I saw the report in the Advertiser, and I think it was also published in the Canberra Times. I have not yet been able to investigate the prices paid for land at the Whyalla sale, but I have been informed that the sale was conducted by the South Australian Lands Department. Apparently, it was originally intended that Essington-avenue should be the principal thoroughfare in Whyalla, but a diversion of business activities has resulted in Playford-avenue becoming the more popular. The regulations controlling the sale of land and property in the Commonwealth do not apply to State Governments and semi-government authorities, or to municipalities and shires. I am afraid that this position has been abused in some instances, and consideration will be given to bringing all sales of land, whether by private individuals, by State governments or by local government, or semi-government bodies, under the regulations. “There seems to have been some abuse in connexion with the sale at Whyalla, and I shall obtain complete information regarding this transaction, and supply to the honorable member a written statement later.
– Has the Government yet studied the report presented by the Income Tax on Current Income Committee? If so, has the Government reached a decision in the matter, and is it intended to introduce legislation this session dealing with the subject?
– Since the report was presented the Government has looked at it very carefully, but it is such an important document that I should like to have an opportunity to study it further during the week-end. I take this opportunity to express the indebtedness of the Government to members of the committee for the industry which they displayed in the preparation of the report, and I desire to convey my personal congratulations to them upon the result of their efforts.
Mi: WHITE.- Can the Minister for
Air say when he will be able to make available to the House the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Civil Aviation? Has the Minister anything to say about the recent re-organization of the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I stated last week in answer to a question that the report of the committee had been referred to a sub-committee of Cabinet, which is going into the matter, but some time will elapse before the Cabinet committee will be able to reach a conclusion. In my opinion, it is not necessary to re-organize the Department of Civil Aviation. The Government has merely appointed Mr. D. McVey to be head of the Department of Civil Aviation. In accordance with custom, this appointment was announced in the newspapers and published in the Commonwealth Gazette. The Government expects to be able to evolve an administrative plan that will satisfy the deep interest which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has in aviation, and which should also be satisfactory to the people of Australia.
– But when will the report be made available?
– Not for some time. The Government will act as rapidly as possible, consistent with the preparation of a satisfactory plan.
– Is Mr. McVey Leaving the Department of Aircraft Construction.
– I understand that he will be going overseas.
– Last week, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me as. a question regarding the release of naval personnel for enlistment in the Air Force. The question of the retention or otherwise of civil personnel for service in naval shore establishments is determined by the Central Man-power Committee, which reviews the staffing situation from time to time in the light of the essential war needs of the Navy Department. It should be understood that the serious shortage of trained and experienced personnel has been severely felt by the Department during the whole of the war period, and a number of young permanent officers, some, for example, with four to seven years’ experience, have, of necessity, had to be allotted to senior positions to which, in ordinary circumstances, they could have attained only after twenty years’ service or more. The more senior officers have been required to carry heavy burdens, due mainly to the shortage of trained and experienced staff, and are under such constant strain that the health of a number has been affected, in some cases seriously. The staffing position in general is causing much concern. Young officers have, however, been released from time to time for more active war service, and it is the desire of the department to release fit young men wherever practicable, particularly for air crew. Some have already been released for this purpose, but if the Navy is to be maintained it is, of course, impossible to release all of the young permanent officers. This aspect is regularly reviewed by the Central Man-power Committee, which is fully aware of the situation.
– In view of the difficulty experienced by mothers in procuring materials for infants’ clothing, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the possibility of reserving for this purpose all suitable unshrinkable light woollen material as has been done in the case of flannelette, and will he inquire into the possibility of ensuring an improvement of the quality of material already reserved ‘(
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and a reply will be furnished later.
– Has the Treasurer given any further consideration to the matters raised by me in this House regarding real estate investment regulations?
– I have been fairly active in this matter. A report of the honorable member’s remarks was sent to me, and I have received letters from him dealing with particular cases. I have looked into those cases, and have also considered the matter in a general way. The Commonwealth Actuary has been away in another State, and i desire him to take the matter up personally.
– I have received complaints from a large manufacturer of barbed wire in Queensland that an order has been issued by the Government forbidding the supply of barbed wire, and wire for the manufacture of barbed wire, until all the rusty wire at present in the possession of the Army has been used up. The manufacturer complains that he is unable to supply essential orders because of this restriction. As the employees in the factory are being paid so that they will not be grabbed by the man-power authorities, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs see that the order is revoked, and that barbing wire for the manufacture of barbed wire is once more made available?
– I have already explained the difficulty of obtaining materials for galvanizing wire, and it was no doubt thought advisable that we should use existing stocks of barbed wire before permitting the manufacture of more. Those stocks, paid for out of the taxpayers’ money, are available, and ought to be used. We are encouraging people to use up the stocks, because other kinds of barbed wire are needed for the services. I shall inquire further into the matter, and supply an answer to the honorable member next week.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether it is a fact that the cost of making 25-pounder guns and of making service rifles is more than twice as high in Australia as in Great Britain, despite the fact that steel in Australia is much cheaper than in Great Britain? If he does not know, will he report later to the House on this matter ?
– I am confident that the honorable member’s information is not correct. I have reason to believe that the cost of manufacturing such weapons in Australia is comparable with the cost in any other part of the world, and certainly the quality of the weapons produced here is higher than that of those produced elsewhere.
Release oe Men.
M:r. ANTHONY - Recently, the Prime Minister gave the House certain figures relating to the release of men from the Army. He said that of 16,217 applications, 6,234 had been granted, representing approximately 40 per cent. In view of the fact that members like myself, representing dairying districts with a No. 1 priority, have not been able to secure the release of more than 20 per cent, of those in respect of whom applications were lodged, will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the figures he cited are correct, and will he state the occupations to which the men were released?
– What the honorable member is really asking is whether I shall ascertain to what occupations men released from the Army have gone.
Mi-. Anthony. - That would verify the figure.
– The figures I gave in respect of releases from the Army up to the date mentioned in my statement to the House are correct. There can be no doubt about that. I shall endeavour to ascertain what has happened in the subsequent life of the released” individuals. The honorable gentleman knows that, although there is a power of direction, many instances can be adduced where difficulties have been put in the way of men going to the dairying industry. Owing to the employer’s indisposition to take a person so released, having preference for a member of his own family, or for some other reason, there have been failures to link the released personnel with the employment for which it is desired that additional labour should be provided. I am having another look at this aspect of the matter in the light of the discussions that have taken place in Parliament. This matter is being constantly reviewed by the Cabinet, and there is also a periodical reassessment of what is required to balance the war effort, and I am hopeful that if certain operations come to a successful and satisfactory conclusion - that is, not only successful in themselves, but also satisfactory in that they will enable other operations to be projected - we shall be able to meet more fully the demand for labour in the dairying industry in the near future. I admit that the season will be perhaps a little advanced and we shall not derive the full profit of the labour, but I am most anxious that this help shall be given, because honorable gentlemen will know in the light of statements made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and such other information as they have, that it is imperative that this country shall make a larger food contribution to certain of our Allies. I am most eager that that shall be done. Ways and means of doing it without denuding the fighting forces of the strength deemed requisite to the carrying out of their task are questions of balance and organization, and, in a war that is constantly changing, Where cannot be anything static about decisions in respect of man-power. It would be very simple for me to reduce the Australian Army by one-half for the purpose of meeting the man-power requirements in this country if it were agreed that other nations should provide the soldiers if we provided the food.
– No one has ever asked for that to be done.
– I know. That is why I say that what would appear to be the easy answer to this question would not be a realistic answer.
– On the 10th February the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked whether it was In accordance with the policy of the Government for the Prices Commissioner to ask individual professional men what charge they made for certain services. The Attorney-General has supplied the following answer on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs: -
On the 13th April, 1942, under the provisions of the National Security (Prices) Regulations, the Minister for Trade and Customs declared, with certain exceptions, the services supplied by any person in Australia. The declaration included those services supplied by doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professional men. It is in accordance with the policy of the Government that there should bc no increases in these charges and the same control is exercised over them as is the case with charges for other services and goods. The policy of the Government is to prevent any increases in charges for goods and services supplied during the operation of the National Security (Prices) Regulations.
Debate resumed from the 17th February (vide page 324), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Review of the war - Ministerial statement, 9th February, 1944.”
– In the debate which followed the review by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) of the war situation considerable discussion involving the Department of Air took place. I appreciate that the objective of remarks of honorable members opposite is the welfare of members of the Royal Australian Air Force. There is also a strong desire that the best possible use shall be made of the Air Force. One of my difficulties is to he able to tell the people of Australia just what is being done by and with the Royal Australian Air Force without giving away information which might be of considerable value to the enemy as to the disposition, location, equipment and mounting of the force, but I can say that the force is playing its part in implementing the declaration by Mr. Roosevelt, Marshal Chiang Kaishek and Mr. Churchill at Cairo that the United Nations would bring unrelenting and ever-rising pressure against the common enemy. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has mentioned hi3 close association with the Royal Australian Air Force when he was overseas. He probably knows a great deal more than even he would desire to -tell, but I certainly feel a degree of embarrassment when I am confronted with requests for information which I would like to give, but which I believe, in the interests of the organization itself and of the Australian people, I should not give in detail. Some time ago I did make a statement, which was published, that the number of men of the Royal Australian Air Force who were overseas was approximately 18,000. I think I can safely say now that the number is more than 24,000, showing that a steady increase has been taking place in the development of Australia’s share of the Empire Air Training Scheme. As far as I can see there is not likely to be any diminution of our share in that scheme but, of course, events may so shape themselves as to make an alteration of that policy necessary. If that occurs, some disappointment may be felt that we are not able to do all that we should desire to do, but I assure the House, particularly those honorable gentlemen who have expressed interest in this matter, that it is the Australian Government’s desire to implement that plan to the full, because I think it one of the greatest plans ever envisaged for the carrying on of war. It is not a plan such as would provoke war, but it is one of the finest defensive plans ever devised to defend, not only Great Britain itself, but also the outlying portions of the British Empire.
On every major battle-front men of the Royal Australian Air Force are fighting. They have guarded Allied convoys going through the Arctic seas to Russia. They have been based on Iceland. In torpedo bombers they have bottled up German cruisers in Norwegian fiords. Some of our Australians were based for months on Murmansk, where they gave a very good account of themselves. Australians have fought in Russia, and have distinguished themselves there. They are flying bombers over Berlin, and they have fought or are fighting in the skies over the Libyan desert, the United Kingdom, Italy, China, Iceland, India, Burma and the South- West Pacific war zone. In the South-West Pacific, men of the Royal Australian Air Force are going forward in the van of General Douglas MacArthur’s offensive. Heavy attacks have been carried out by both land-based and carrier-borne aircraft on Japanese bases, and the Royal Australian Air Force has played an effective role in them.
I am gratified to be able to say that the casualty rate is lower than was originally expected. The honorable member for Balaclava stated that the expectancy of life for men who were sent on bombing raids would probably be about twenty sorties. Most of the casualties that take place, according to information supplied to me, are in the early stages of those sorties and, whilst the overall percentage may be as high as I understood the honorable member to state - and I think it is borne out by the figures - they are somewhat lower than five per cent., nearer four per cent. Nevertheless, there are many men continuously engaged in bombing Germany and German-occupied territory who have made from 50 to 100 sorties. It may be that men who have made so many sorties are being overtested or over-tried. But the fact is that many do not desire to give up. They desire to continue. Men who nave distinguished themselves very greatly in the air force in different areas have protested, as far as protests can be made in a military organization, against being brought out of the battle areas.
– My proposal was that they should be given a term of service here .after having done a term in Europe.
– After a number of operational tours, air crews have a term of instructional or staff duties, and then, if they are fit and anxious to go back, they can be utilized again on operational duties. With a corps of men in Great Britain, which can be drawn upon, an endeavour is being made not to over-use the men who are doing this risky work from day to day.
– Many pilots in this area would like to serve overseas, but do not get the opportunity, and those who have done three years’ service overseas would like a term back here. A rotation system would assist.
– I appreciate that the honorable member has made that suggestion with the best intentions. That is being done as far as possible. He must be aware, however, that there are parties to the Empire Air Training Scheme, who are not willing to have the best men withdrawn just because one partner in that scheme desires that it be done. We are faced with the position that most of the men who have been overseas for three or four years are not flying men. Few, if any, flying men have been overseas for four years.
– Three years.
– Well, three years. We are succeeding in endeavours to bring back men fairly regularly. The number varies. Sometimes it is high, and sometimes it is not so high.
– Do not forget the men in the Middle East.
– The policy of bringing men back has been carried on. We are bringing them back in increasing numbers. I should like all the parties to tho scheme to agree to a rotation system which would be an equitable one according to the numbers that we have at our disposal and the training standards that have to be reached by the men who have to be ready to go into action.
– That is my idea.
– I think that the honorable member, who has raised this matter more than once, will see that the desire of the Royal Australian Air Force is to have a system whereby men will not he over-tested and over-strained. The extent of the role played by Australian airmen in the South- West Pacific cannot be divulged for obvious reasons, but I can assure the House that our men are not being denied the opportunity to play a very extensive part. This raises the matter of their participation in longrange fighting from Australian shores. I shall deal with that subject later.
Australians arc taking part in air operations over the Balkans, and they have also participated in raids on German-held territory in Greece. Since Japan entered the war, the Royal Australian Air Force has flown nearly 350,000,000 miles in operations and training, and its aircraft have flown over 3,000,000 hours. Although such figures have been given previously, I believe that they should be placed on record for general information, because they indicate the immensity of the work that u> being clone by this splendid and elli- went force. In Italy, the Royal Australian Air Force has been well to the fore. In fact, the .first squadron to operate from a base on Italian soil was the Australian No. 3 Fighter Squadron which was complimented by Air-Marshal Tedder on its fine work in destroying German transport. Our fighter-bombers supported the Fifth Army at Salerno and, since then, the Royal Australian Air Force has continued to give vigorous air support to land and sea forces engaged in the struggle for Rome.
I endorse all that the honorable member for Balaclava said about the devastating nature of the Allied attacks on Germany. It might be said that air crews can be mistaken or exaggerate, in their enthusiasm, the results of their missions, but reconnaissance photography, which has .been developed to a very high standard, proves beyond all doubt the heavy damage that the Allied air offensive is inflicting on Germany. As more than one-half of the air crews engaged in the air offensive against Europe belong to the Dominions, honorable members will see that the role which Australia is playing in that far-flung theatre of war is considerable. Australia, New Zealand and Canada provide a certain percentage of that force, and Great Britain supplies the remainder. I am not concerned as to who conceived the idea of the Empire Air Training Scheme, but those associated with it come from the Dominions and whatever may be said of the way in which it is .being used - and that is always open to criticism - it will be regarded as one of the .finest conceptions in British history.
– There is n;o doubt about that.
– I have given some indication of the increase of the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force abroad. Whilst the man-power position is such that we cannot hope to maintain the early rush of recruits, nevertheless the Government has taken steps to ensure, if possible, that the Royal Australian Air Force’s contribution to our war effort shall not be diminished. As Minister for Air, I could express opinions with which other honorable members and perhaps even my ministerial colleagues would not agree. I believe that it is essential to have a force in which the three fighting services are in proper balance. We cannot depend upon one arm alone, but if there is one arm on which Australia should depend more than another, it is the Royal Australian Air Force. That is my view and the longer I am associated with the Department of Air the stronger does that conviction grow.
– -Some government departments will not release men who desire to join the Royal Australian Air Force.
– I spoke earlier about the necessity for a balanced force, and it is quite understandable that some departments, and, indeed, some of the services, are reluctant to release men, because they have an immense programme to fulfil. Some people consider that that programme is more than we are capable of managing, and it is being continually reviewed. When a further review is made, perhaps new allocations will take place. But I assure honorable members that the Royal Australian Air Force is making every endeavour to get men of the right type, because those who will be trained for air crew in particular must have a fairly high standard of education and, in addition, have the highest physical qualifications. Some men, though physically fit, might not have the acuity of eyesight or hearing required to enable them to pass the strict medical examinations of the Royal Australian Air
Force. Hence, the wastage in the acceptance of recruits is far higher in that service than in the other fighting services. Whatever ‘troubles have existed in the .past, they have ‘been at least modified, if not completely removed. I hope that we shall be able to get the other services to release the kind of man who i3 essential for maintaining the strength of the Air Force.
The Royal Australian Air Force tas a number of squadrons abroad and a large number of air personnel are .serving with Royal Air Force squadrons. Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force abroad include heavy bomber, fighter, medium and light bomber, torpedo bomber, general reconnaissance flying boat, and army co-operation units. Of our Air Force two fighter squadrons and one torpedo bomber, one heavy bomber, one medium bomber, one army co-operation and one general reconnaissance squadron helped to defeat the Axis forces in the Middle East. . Some of those squadrons are now operating in the Mediterranean. I- do not consider that there is any harm in making that information public, because the people of Australia are proud of the achievements of their Air Force. The exigencies of war prevent some of the squadrons from being manned completely by Australians. The percentage of Australians varies, but, so far as is possible, the squadrons consist of Australian air crews.
As far as is practicable squadrons are serviced and maintained by Australian ground staffs personnel. I have dealt with some of the complaints which I have received, not only from honorable members but also from private citizens regarding the non-transfer to Australia of Royal Australian Air Force personnel after several years’ service abroad. Many members of the force have been employed as ground staff, and they are a splendid body of men. They can be relied upon to service machines as efficiently as any other person trained for that purpose, and it is interesting to note that the authorities under whom they serve are reluctant to release them. Nevertheless, we consider that steps must be taken to bring them back to Australia.
Whilst that course is being followed we must avoid the danger of denuding the squadrons, which are not wholly Australian, of ground staff required to service the machines. Some difficulties have arisen there, but representations have been made with a view to securing the return to Australia of some of the men each month. Gradually, all of them will bc absorbed here.
– I hope that the Minister will ensure that they are not forgotten but are declared eligible to wear the 1939-43 Star, which men serving in New Guinea would receive.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has brought that matter to the notice of the Minister for Defence and myself and we are examining it. I should not like to see any man forgotten who served in these theatres, just because of some method-
– Some technicality.
– A technicality which might deprive him of eligibility for the award, when he would have a proper right to be included.
All types of British and many types of United States aircraft have been flown by Australians. The Royal Australian Air Force is still growing in personnel and number of aircraft. The Government has secured further allocations of aircraft, of which more will be heard in actual operations in the not distant future. Honorable members will realize that I am unable to give details of those plans, but I make that announcement in order to indicate that we are doing our utmost to secure aircraft of the types which will enable our men to serve effectively. Our efforts to that end have not been without success.
Losses among Allied air crews have fallen short of the figure estimated by the British Air Ministry before the Allied air offensive began. This has been one of the agreeable surprises of the war. The reservoir of air crews from the British Isles and the Dominions, including Australia, is ample to meet requirements. Happily, neither operational nor attritional losses have been anything like the figure on which the Empire Air Training Scheme was based. This fact has been noted, and the matter is being discussed by the British Under Secretary for Air (Captain Harold Balfour), Air Marshal Sir Peter Drummond and Australian and Canadian representatives of the Empire Air Training Scheme. At one time, it was reckoned that four sorties over Germany were the most that an airman could “ get away with but some of the celebrated Pathfinder boys have completed more than 50 sorties and are still going strong.
– One of them has completed seventy-seven sorties, but that is exceptional. He has since returned to Australia.
– Battle losses during the last twelve months, which have seen the concentrated air attack on Axis Europe, prove that the average expectation of life of operational bomber crews far exceeds the British Air Ministry’s most sanguine calculations before the war. At one stage, 12,000 sorties were carried out for the loss of less than 300 aircraft. In one fortnight against Italy, Allied air forces performed 20,000 missions and the casualties were less than 1 per cent. Germany, particularly the Ruhr, is the most heavily defended place on earth against air attack. In some places, thousands of anti-aircraft guns are mounted. Airmen have told me that the Germans throw up at raiders “everything hut the kitchen sink”. The low percentage of losses is eloquent testimony to the skill and training of our airmen.
I emphasize that the training of our airmen has won approval wherever they have gone. From time to time, questions have been asked in the House regarding disciplinary measures that have been taken against airmen for low flying. It is because discipline has been strict but not unfair that our airmen are. properly trained and have been preserved for the time when they can go into action. If they were permitted to “ get away with “ infringements of discipline that may reasonably be expected of young men, we should not be able to put into the air so many efficient, highly trained men to do the good job that they are now performing. If an invasion of Western Europe be undertaken it appears certain that Royal Australian Air Force personnel will have a large share of the work; indeed, they will take a leading part, as they have already done in various theatres, in whatever attacks are made in “Western Europe. I can say with confidence that the fame of the Royal Australian Air Force has never stood higher, and that the force has never been stronger or better equipped than it is to-day.
It is with gratification that I refer to the fact that the Government has secured a number of Sunderland flying boats which are at present being flown to Australia for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. The first of the Sunderland fleet will arrive in Pacific waters shortly. The pilots who are flying them have had great experience with these craft in the Battle of the Atlantic and some of them helped to make the name of Australia’s No. 10 Sunderland Squadron famous throughout the Empire. Honorable members will recall that No. 10 Squadron was the first dominion air unit to go into action against the enemy in this war. Australian pilots had been sent to England before the outbreak of war to bring back to Australia some of these flying boats for coastal patrol work. Before they began their return journey, Hitler struck at Poland and Australia handed over to hard-pressed Britain the services of our airmen and aircraft. The Sunderland bristles with guns and is known to the Germans as “ the flying porcupine “. It is a war-time adaptation of the Empire Airways flying boats which flew on the Singapore-Sydney section of the pre-war air route from England to Australia. The arrival of these flying boats will appreciably augment Australia’s air strength in the Pacific.
The honorable member for Balaclava raised the matter of leave for Royal Australian Air Force personnel overseas. I assure the House that, despite the difficulties of transport and the requirements of offensive action contemplated in the future, everything possible will be done to grant them leave. To that end, the Government is endeavouring to devise a system of rotation. In relation to overseas service generally, I make it clear that the Royal Australian Air Force follows closely the procedure of the Royal Air Force concerning the length of opera- tional tours which members of aircrews are asked to undergo.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) criticized the Government somewhat severely. The Government does not object to criticism. Some kinds of criticism can be properly expected from an Opposition which is seeking to do its duty; but some other kinds are of what I shall call the “ coming and going “ character. What the honorable member for New England said in regard to man-power was of that order. It was very different from the criticism of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) who put his case reasonably, and I am sure that the matters he mentioned will receive the careful consideration of the Ministers concerned. The honorable member for New England appeared to pay no regard to changes of circumstances that occur because of the impact of war. If the Government had neglected to take adequate steps to provide Australia with air defence, the honorable member would have been the first to condemn us. He contended that we should not undertake the manufacture of heavy bombers in this country as it would be a waste of manpower. Because the Government has taken steps to provide these long-range bombers the honorable gentleman says that man-power is being wasted in the aircraft industry. But he must recognize that, whatever may be our hopes concerning the outcome of the massed battles that are likely to occur shortly in Europe, wc cannot afford to be left without’ the means of producing the equipment essential for our own defence.
Much of the honorable member’s criticism appeared to be based on the assumption that victory is just around the corner or, at any rate, not far off. The speech delivered by the Prime Minister last week, and also current news of the war, ought to be sufficient to dispel any such opinion. Any Government which failed ‘to make adequate plans for the future, in order to ensure the effective defence of this country, or which failed to employ the capacity of the country to produce the necessary means of defence, would deserve to be charged with, having an entirely un-Australian outlook. If one lesson should have been learned more completely than any other during this war it is that Australia ought never again to allow itself to depend on aid from overseas for the provision of the essentials for national defence, particularly in the early stages of a war. “Wars are not like they used to be. In these days it is possible for an aggressor to strike a heavy and sudden blow, such as the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbour, which may inflict tremendous damage on another nation and from which recovery must necessarily be slow and painful. For this reason Australia must learn the lesson that it must make its own preparations for defence and have the means at hand to manufacture the weapons necessary for defence. The Government considers, therefore, that it is necessary to make provision for adequate defence measures. Among these measures it should undertake the manufacture of heavy bombers.
– Was not the criticism of the honorable member for New England that we gave too much attention to design in aircraft manufacture and too little to producing aircraft?
– The point is that we were not in a position earlier to manufacture the aircraft we needed, because the requisite materials and manpower were not available. Moreover, it was necessary to get tools, jigs and other equipment for manufacturing purposes.
– It is still probably true that we gave too much attention to experimental work.
– I do not admit that. The Government has accepted the advice of experts, many of whom were appointed by previous governments.
– Unfortunately, some of them were not experts.
– At any rate they were assumed to be experts, and they were a part of the heritage of this Government from preceding governments. We have endeavoured -to remedy the faults that have become apparent.
Although a balanced force is necessary, will any honorable member doubt that it is even more necessary that we shall have aircraft capable of hitting the enemy at his most vital centres? What I am saying is not intended to reflect in any way upon the substantial aid that we have received in the form of an unstinted flow of aircraft from Great -Britain, and America. But a day may come when the flow of defence equipment from overseas will be either stopped or greatly diminished. If that happened we should be left to the tender mercies of a more air-minded and more air-prepared enemy. I do not desire such a situation to arise. I do not know whether the honorable member for New England spoke for all the members of the Country party, but certainly he appeared to think Australia should leave the manufacture of medium and heavy bombers to other countries. This would be a disastrous policy which I hope will never be tolerated again in Australia. Yet it seems that the Country party, if the honorable member for New England expresses its opinion, holds inflexibly to that view.
The honorable member’s remarks in relation to man-power bore no relation <to the problem of air defence. He referred to certain types of aircraft which could be flown from overseas to Australia. Does lie realize that if those types of aircraft were brought here spare parts would still have to be provided ? If that be admitted, it follows that we should need productive capacity to provide spare parts. Inevitably, therefore, under his policy we should need all the potentials to establish and maintain a heavy bomber force, yet he argues that we should not use manpower to assemble bombers.
In the course of this debate the urgent need to standardize the railway gauges of Australia has been mentioned. If there is one subject which, for their own sakes, honorable members opposite should fight shy of, it is this one. There was a time not long ago in this country when many thousands of men were unable to obtain work, yet in /those very days the antiLabour Governments in power in both Commonwealth and State spheres persistently refused to take steps to remedy the appalling problems arising from our varying railway gauges. For many years I have realized the urgent need to standardize our railway gauges. I formed my opinions in the days when I had to travel from State to State as the general secretary of the Locomotive Enginedrivers Association. I realized at that time that an enormous amount of additional and unnecessary work had to be done on our railways because of the breaks of gauge. I can remember a time of severe drought when trainloads of stock feed were hung up at every railway station from Broadmeadows to Albury because the trains that reached Albury could not be unloaded quickly enough. For this reason thousands of head of stock died in New South Wales. Of course something ought to have been done about this problem many years ago, but no anti-Labour government was willing to incur the expense necessary. That, I consider, is a serious reflection upon previous administrations.
– And not only antiLabour governments.
– I remind the honorable member for Balaclava that the Scullin Labour -Government was in office, ‘but not in power, in Australia during the early depression years. It was not able to obtain the approval of- a hostile Senate to the financial measures which it desired to pass in order to put public works in hand.
– That Government did not bring down a bill for the standardization of railway gauges.
– It had very little opportunity to bring down any measures. In any case, it always had to face the activities of a hostile Senate. I do not think that the blame for failure to begin the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia can be laid at the door of the Labour party.
– Nor of any other particular party.
– At the nadir of the depression 15,000 men could have been put to work to standardize the gauges of our trunk line railways. It was estimated, at that time, that the cost would be about £21,000,000. But antiLabour governments turned a deaf ear to the scheme formulated by a royal commission in 1921. For many years, in this House and out of it, I have advocated the standardization of gauges.
– Many of us have advocated it. [Extension of time granted.]
– Had the royal commission’s scheme been carried out all the main trunk lines of Australia would have been converted to a standard gauge before the war, and we should not have experienced the great difficulties that we have experienced during the war period in relation to transport and defence generally. Moreover, men would not have starved in the midst of plenty.
– No one disputes the necessity to standardize our railway gauges, but it is of no use to try to pin the blame on to a particular government.
– Anti-Labour governments were in control of this country for many years, and they cannot expect to escape responsibility for inaction in relation to the standardization of railway gauges. As far back as September, 1921, a royal commission recommended that the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge should be adopted as the standard for Australia, and it submitted a scheme for linking the capital cities of the States, and converting the Victorian and South Australian railways to the standard gauge. The report of the commission was considered by the Premiers and then by an antiLabour Commonwealth Government. The commission declared that the adoption of the uniform gauge was essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth. Yet the anti-Labour government of the day did precisely nothing about it. The people of Australia have since paid dearly for the procrastination of the Nationalist, United Australia party and United Country party governments.
– The Minister is spoiling an otherwise good speech.
– When an honorable member of the Opposition speaks as the honorable member for New England spoke last night about man-power, and when such comment as we have heard in this debate is made about standardization of railway gauges, I consider it my duty to put the facts to the House. I consider also that it is entirely unreasonable to expect the Labour party to accept blame for the present railway gauge position in this country.
The only other subject with which I wish to deal is collective planning, in the interests of Australia, in respect of postwar civil aviation. I have in mind, of course, international aviation. In a nutshell, the policy of the Commonwealth Government is directed towards the development of post-war civil aviation, internally and internationally. What has been done already in this regard is intended to set out the course that we should pursue, but, inevitably, the matter will need lengthy consideration. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Balaclava is deeply interested in this subject, and the Government appreciates that it is vital to this country. The civil aviation policy set out in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement 1944, recently signed at Canberra by representatives of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, provides for the ownership, operation and control of international air routes by an international authority, and, to my mind, it sets out a practicable formula. International ownership of air lines will prevent a ruinous scramble for business .by competitive nations. The rivalry caused in the post-war years by such competition and the refusal of landing rights could easily lead to a third world war.
– Does the Minister believe that such a scheme is within the realm of practical politics?
– It is one of the reforms that we hope will be accepted.
– But it is three or four generations ahead.
– The ‘honorable member is three or four generations behind in his thinking.
– If the honorable member for Warringah considers that the introduction of such a programme must be regarded as an impossibility he is sitting where he ought to sit in this chamber, for he shows himself to be a true conservative and opposed to democratic advancement.
– We shall militate against the possibility of having an Empire scheme if Ave aim at what is impossible to obtain.
– It has been made clear that we aim at ensuring that the trunk-line routes of the world shall be internationally controlled. The trouble with” the honorable member is, that he will not attempt anything that is advanced; his crusty conservatism absolutely prevents him from doing so.
– I take it that there will be an Empire body to control Empire routes ?
– Such details have not been worked out. It has been definitely announced that, in the event of failure to secure international ownership and control, the Government would certainly be agreeable to a British ‘Commonwealth of Nations control being set up. We do not want to be in competition with other nations which are now our Allies. I hope that every member of this House desires as strongly as I do, to avoid any competition that might result in conflict in the future with those nations that are fighting on our side. An instance of the satisfactory working of an international authority is provided bv the Postal Union, which has its headquarters at Berne, Switzerland; it controls the international postal affairs of 87 nations. The control of world civil aviation does not appear to be more difficult than control of the world’s postal arrangements.
– The Government has. “ dumped “ its isolationist policy.
– I did not know that it had one. The honorable gentleman always prefers to entertain thoughts of that kind concerning us rather than to give us credit for facts. It is impossible at this stage to produce a complete documentary plan, signed, sealed, and delivered, of Australia’s post-war aviation policy. The future of Australia’s commercial aviation will depend largely on the post-war development of other industries, and cannot be analysed as something that is insulated from other economic factors. Influx of population, expansion of rural industries, and repatriation, are matters that have a material bearing on the opening of new air-lines and the prosperity of existing lines.
– Is it intended that the internal routes shall be subsidized?
– I am not prepared to make a pronouncement at present in respect of subsidies. Efforts are made continually to learn the plans of the Government before the plans of others have been disclosed. Plans are being formulated, and the honorable member may rest assured that they will be good. I have a strong faith in the principles which underlie the policy of the party of which I have the honour to be a member, and shall espouse them with whatever strength I possess. The aeroplane is making hourly additions to its already impressive achievements, not only as an instrument of destruction but also as a means of transport for passengers and goods.
– I take it that the .Government will continue to assist the aerial medical services?
– I take it that the honorable member is endeavouring to assist me as much as’ possible. We shall have a false conception of the history of air transport, and an equally false idea of the problems of post-war planning, if we regard air transport as something that is wholly a profit-making enterprise. Some of the air-lines that are being operated to-day may be a totally different proposition after the war. In war-time, certain air routes are operated basically to service urgent military needs. The needs of peace differ from those of war. The balancing of commercial revenue against the monetary cost of operation, which means success or failure in a wholly commercial sense, has little, if any, influence upon the decision to use aircraft in time of war. Certain busy air routes in Australia have always appeared likely to be paying propositions. War-time development has increased their prospects as money-spinning concerns for private individuals. The Government has no intention of permitting individuals to skim all the “ sweets “ from the industry, leaving to the taxpayer the “ sour3 “ in the form of difficult, nonpaying routes that would require to be subsidized. I am not suggesting that there will not be routes that will have to be subsidized in any circumstances. A magnificent service is being operated once a fortnight, commencing from Alice Springs and covering a large portion of the north-west and a portion of central
Australia. Without it that country would be very severely handicapped. In my view, such services ought to be continued, and be given the utmost help by any government. This applies also to the “ Flying Doctor “ service.
– A profit could not be made out of such services, and they will have to be subsidized.
– The AustralianNew Zealand Agreement is a formula for international unity among the nations, and should be regarded as an important milestone in our history. As the House is aware, a report was recently furnished by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Civil Aviation. I repeat, not merely in answer to a question but also as a part of my statement, that this report is at present receiving the attention of a Cabinet committee. Matters arising out of the deliberations of that committee will doubtless be discussed in this House at some time in the future.
Therefore, on the civil as well as on the combat side of aviation, it can reasonably be said that the Government is doing all that it possibly can to make the fullest use of the most modern developments so that, after the war, we shall be in a position to play our part and enable this country to reach the highest point attainable. So long as the war lasts, Australia will continue to play the magnificent part which it has played from the beginning. After the war, it will have scope for greater achievements in the two branches of aviation that will be important factors in the future of every country.
– The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has touched upon many subjects that are of great interest at the moment and doubtless will be covered in a future debate. In regard to the international control of air-lines, the idea which seems to be uppermost in the minds of the Government is of the nature of an idle dream. I cannot visualize any international control of air-lines producing harmony among the nations, such as the Minister visualizes. Rather will it introduce a competitive element, which will give rise to envy and jealousy between the different governments of the world, instead of such rivalry being confined to the individual firms that have engaged in civil aviation. Far from being a settlement of the world .problem in this matter, it will arouse considerable disharmony and disputation, with results much different from those that are anticipated by the Minister.
The honorable gentleman also touched upon aircraft production in this country, and made the most of a story that is not very inspiring in relation to the activities of the Government. I believe that I am right in saying that, apart from the Beaufort bomber, there has not been built in Australia since the present Government came into office a modern aircraft suitable for combat ‘ operations. This, I consider, has been due entirely to the failure to look ahead and to determine upon a policy which would cause Australian aircraft firms to engage in the production of aircraft of modern types, which could have been used for some time in the present Pacific offensive. I can recall the position of this country at the outbreak of war. We were then manufacturing the Wirraway, which was one of the finest aircraft in the world in 1936. At the outbreak of the war it was recognized that the Wirraway could not be termed a modern combat aircraft. However, the Government was faced with the alternative of ceasing production of .aircraft of that type and endeavouring to obtain designs, tools, jigs, and so forth from overseas - which would have occupied a considerable time, possibly two years - of getting some machines quickly into the air. Great Britain had to face a similar problem in regard to tanks - something had to be produced. Production could not be suspended while a search was made for a greatly advanced design. We were advised at the time that the Wirraway was capable of meeting in combat any ocean-carried aircraft. Whether that advice was right or wrong, I do not know; possibly it was right when it was given, because the Japanese aircraft which we had to meet may have been designed and produced after the outbreak of the war. We had to build according to our capacity at that time or not build at all. As time went on, we had to solve the problem of training airmen for our own defence, under the
Empire Air Training Scheme, and for that purpose we needed training aircraft. But for the production of the Wirraway, many of our airmen could not have received their air training. Later, that machine was regarded mainly as a training aircraft. During this period, the Government was considering putting into the air a first-class combat aircraft - the Beaufort - and, as honorable members know, long, tedious steps to that end were taken. We were confronted with the difficulty of obtaining anything from overseas, because Great Britain’s need for aircraft was urgent and imperative, and so was that of America. Accordingly, steps were taken to produce a machine that could become an offensive weapon; later the Beaufort went into production, and is still being produced. But apart from the Wirraway and the Beaufort, not a single combat plane of any class has been put into the air during the regime of the present Government. We have built a few Boomerangs, which are quite good machines, but possibly only from 80 to 85 per cent, of the fighter class. Two years have elapsed. I have no hesitation in saying that for months men employed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation have been idling their time and have become exasperated, impatient and disgusted at the delays that have occurred in the doing of real work on behalf of the aircraft industry. The solution of the difficulty was comparatively easy; it was, to procure overseas a tried combat aircraft, and put it into production. To-day, Canada is manufacturing many aircraft of the finest types in the world, whilst Australia is looking only to the future to put something decent into the air. My submissions cannot be gainsaid. I am not in opposition to my friend from New England (Mr. Abbott) in regard to the undesirability of manufacturing in this country four-engined aircraft; because, if we had to build the engines, very few would be produced and their production would entail a tremendous number of man-power hours and terriffic cost to the taxpayer. These aircraft could be obtained from overseas. The man-power hours involved in the manufacture of aircraft are absorbed not so much on the fuselage as on the manufacture of the engine and the instruments that are needed. We know that Canada has not embarked at all upon the manufacture of aircraft engines, but has concentrated upon the manufacture of fuselage. If we were to attempt to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place in heavy bomber engines the cost would be tremendous, and it would involve the employment of thousands of men who, having regard to the total war effort, could be better employed elsewhere. I do not say that medium bombers or first-class fight- -ers should not be made here, or even aircraft of the Mosquito class, but I believe that it would be unwise for us to attempt to make four-engine bombers especially if engine manufacture were involved. Even the United States of America, with all its industrial capacity, has not been able to keep pace with all the changes that have been effected, and I do not think that 1 am revealing any secrets when I say that the engines turned out by the Rolls Royce company in Great Britain are well in advance of those being manufactured by the Packard Company in the United States of America.
I desire now to refer to the matter of promotions in the Royal Australian Air Force. In the Army, as is well known, any officer, whether of the citizen forces or of the permanent forces, may hold any rank, and we have such men as Morshead, Herring and Savige, members of the citizen forces, who have risen to the ranks of lieutenant-general and of major-general, while on the other side Vasey, Rowell and Sturdee, members of the permanent forces, have attained similar ranks. In the Air Force, however, permanent men hold all the principal posts. Only two officers, other than members of the permanent Air Force, hold the rank of air commodore, which is the equivalent of a brigadier in the Army. They are Air Vice-Marshal Hurley, who attained his position because of his medical qualifications, and Air Commodore Cobby, who held a high position in civil aviation 1 -nf ore the war. I believe it to be a fact Mint the highest substantive rank to which a non-permanent member of the Air Force may attain is that of flying officer, equal to the lowest commissioned rank in the Army, that of lieutenant.
I recognize that, in the early days of the war, the Air Force was expanding very rapidly, and it was necessary to accept the services of older men who. were experienced, but there are now great numbers of young men coming forward, and the lad who proves himself in battle is surely the one who should get promotion. A man may be brilliant in examinations, and have a great grasp of theory, but may perform quite differently in practice. That is well known in the medical profession, in which the man who does best in his examinations does not always make the best surgeon. In the Army and the Air Force, the only real test is battle, experience. Many generals in the Army have had to be replaced because, although their theoretical grasp of strategy and tactics may have been excellent, their battle record was not so good. I have no doubt that the same applies in the Air Force, which is essentially a young man’s show. In the Air Force a man must be almost perfectly fit physically. Surely it is fair that young men, having proved themselves in battle, should enjoy equal rights to promotion with members of the permanent Air Force. I am not asking for any favours for the duration men as compared with permanent men, but I say that they should be placed on the. same level. I do not think that it is generally known in the Air Force that the highest substantive rank to which a duration man may attain is that of a flying officer. If it were, I believe that a very strong protest would be raised. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter.
– If the proposal were adopted, the Government would be able to pick the very best men for service in the Air Force after the war.
– That is so.
I have referred previously to the practice of using the Australian Imperial Force divisions in battle over and over again, and the subject was touched upon the . other day by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Apparently, it is proposed to continue this practice in the future. The Australian Imperial Force was the brain-child of the party on this side of the House. Members of the Labour .party did not want an Australian Imperial Force at all. The very mention of an Imperial force sent a shudder down the spines of many of them. It was suggested by them that Australia’s role in tie war should be, not that of an active participant, but that of a supplier of food. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) raised the point again in his speech the other day when he said -
At that time honorable members apposite were clamouring for the despatch overseas of a number of divisions of Australian troops. We then .pointed out that the most effective role Australia could play in the war was that of the great supplier to the Allied nations, and that we should devote our efforts to building up supplies to that end. That view has been proved to he correct. It was clear that we could render far more effective help to our Allies as a supplier of food rather than as a supplier of military forces. Honorable members opposite now charge the Government with bungling the man-power problem, whereas had they , Daia heed to the views we expressed at the time to which I refer, this country would not to-day be denuded of man-.power.
That was what many honorable members opposite thought should be Australia’s part in World War No. 2. Even the Prime Minister, when in opposition, suggested that Australia should give £1,000,000 worth of foodstuffs to Great Britain, but, for the rest, should continue to grow food and sell it to our Allies. Against that view we prevailed, thank God, and the Australian Imperial Force divisions were formed. One of them, unfortunately, is still somewhere in the jungles of Malaya, or in the prison camps of Japan, but the others have played an important part in the war, and have added lustre to the name of Australia throughout the civilized world. These men who, by their training and battle experience, became equal to any troops in the world, have rendered great service to their country. After having fought in Greece and Crete and North Africa, they were brought back to Australia and, after a very brief period of leave, were sent to New Guinea, where most of them have been ever since. Apparently, it is proposed, as offensive operations proceed, to continue using them as the spearhead of our attack. It is this prospect which is agitating many households in Australia - the fear that the Australian Imperial Force will be used over and over again until very few of its original members are left.
Australian casualties up to the 25th December, 1943, were 55,890. Of course, the greater part were prisoners of war, but those killed in action or died of wounds numbered 10,884. Of that number it would be interesting to know how many were of the Australian Imperial Force and how many of the Citizen Military Forces. I am sure the great majority of them were members of the Australian Imperial Force. If the present military programme is carried into effect the discrepancy between casualties in the Australian Imperial Force and in the Citizen Military Forces will be even greater. I can understand that a Government or an Army chief might wish to use seasoned troops for important operations, but there is a limit beyond which it is not wise to apply that policy. The right thing to do would be to bring new men into the seasoned units progressively so that, instead - of there being a limited number, the great majority of the troops would be seasoned. That should be the objective of the Commanders-in-Chief, but I doubt whether it is the policy of the Government. In his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
When Labour took office, 431,000 men were in the fighting services. To-day, the figure is 820,000. . . . When my Government took over, only 267,000 men had volunteered to fight anywhere in the world with the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Imperial Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force. To-day, the figure is 530,000.
I do not know exactly how those numbers are made up, but it is certain that 820,000 is the total of those enlisted and called up, and deducting 530,000 from 820,000 one arrives at 290,000 as the figure approximating the number of men in the Citizen Military Forces. No other conclusion can be reached from the figures cited by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. It would be interesting to know how many of those 290,000 have had battle experience. It is evident that not many men are being used in New Guinea, for generals who commanded Australian forces in the Middle East have, for some reason or other, been scattered around the world to do very little. It is undeniably wrong that the Australian Imperial Force and a few reinforcements should do the hulk of the fighting and about 300,000 men in the Citizen Military Forces, who can serve in the area prescribed by the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act, should not do their share. Later in his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
The Army will be maintained at the strength necessary for providing for an Army Corps for offensive operations in accordance with the plans of the Commander-in-Chief, South-West Pacific Area; and adequate forces for the defence of Australia and New Guinea and for relief of units outside the mainland.
It is generally accepted that an army corps means three divisions. Therefore, the forces that Australia will use in offensive operations will be three divisions, and there are only three divisions which are capable of going on the offensive, namely, the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions.
– That is wrong.
– That statement is challenged, but, although thousands of men have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in the last two or three years in addition to those in the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions, no new divisions of the Australian Imperial Force have been formed, and the Australian Imperial Force men who arenot attached to one or another of those divisions are mixed up with men of the Citizen Military Forces. I defy the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to say that that is not true. Therefore, the only troops which will be used overseas on offensive operations are, unless other divisions be created, the men of the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions, plus reinforcements, and they are the men who have seen the bulk of the fighting. That is a scandalous policy -and it is time that the Government was required by the people to answer for it. I shall not be satisfied until the Prime Minister explains to this House what he meant by the statements which I have read from his policy speech. Opposition members are becoming tired of making speeches aimed at increasing our war effort in view of the fact that little attention is paid by Ministers to them. This, however, is a matter which the Government cannot dodge, because it affects thousands and thousands of Australian homes. Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of those in the Army Corps, which consists of the 6th, 7th, and 9th Divisions, want an elaboration of the Government’s policy as to the use of Australian troops in action, and I hope that that will be given before this debate ends.
A tremendous responsibility rests on Australia as regards the supply of food to ourselves and our Allies now and also to devastated Europe when the war ends. Labour is of supreme importance in the production of food, but, owing to the Army being virtually in control of the distribution of men, man-power is almost unprocurable. An elaborate machine has been set up to deal with the labour needs of rural industries. “We have the district war agricultural committees, national service officers, area officers, and so on; but, regardless of how necessary it is that a man be released from the Army in order that he may return to the land to grow food, the Army has the last say as to whether he shall be released, no matter how strongly his release is recommended.
– Who should have the last say?
– Frequently the commanding officer of the unit concerned has the last say, and, I am informed, that the facts are never made known to him. I have been told that by a commanding officer. Whether he was right or wrong I do not know. The right honorable member for -Cowper (Sir Earle Page) yesterday said the policy in Great Britain is that the Man Power Department has the commanding voice in the distribution of man-power. It rations the supply of men between the Army and the different industries, including those producing food. It is a preferential system which, I think, must be adopted in this country if we are to fulfil the demands on us to supply food. We must return to the dairying, meat, and other primary industries men who have been brought up in “them and understand them. [Extension of time granted.’) Men who know nothing about the dairying industry cannot be expected to be able to go on to a dairy-farm and make a success of their job. Dairy-farming is a family industry, and it is necessary that those engaged in it shall have returned to thom their sons who are serving in the armed forces and who could be doing a much more valuable job in assisting their parents to produce the dairy products which are so vitally needed by .Great Britain and the fighting forces of the Allies. Unless the man-power authority has the final decision, that cannot be. The man-power authority should be in the position of being able to say to the Army, “ This man must be returned home “. Otherwise, we shall fail to reach the goals of food production that this country has set itself on behalf of our own people and our kinsmen and friends overseas.
– Honorable members on both sides are appreciative of the opportunity given to them by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to debate the war situation. One thing that we need, if we are to overcome the difficulties that confront us, is a spirit of cooperation, but much of what I have heard from honorable gentlemen opposite indicates that we are far from achieving that. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) spoke about the world food shortage. We all agree that Australia should contribute to the maximum of its ability to the feeding of the armed forces and peoples of the United Nations; but one thing that has impressed itself upon me is that honorable members opposite seem more concerned about gaining political kudos out of the present shortage than about relieving it. It is of’ no use for them to talk about what some one said or did five, ten or fifteen years ago. The stark facts of to-day are those which matter. Great Britain and its Allies and all those countries which have been overrun would have lived at peace for hundreds of years had it not been for the German hordes. After the war, we must satisfy the food demands of many hungry peoples. For the present, however, our responsibility is to conduct the war to the best of our ability, and feed Australian and Allied troops in this theatre and our chai population. When we have fulfilled that programme, we are not able to establish reserves of food for the post-war period.
Some honorable members opposite accuse the Government of neglecting the “ food front “. Perhaps some mistakes have been made, not only in the production of food, but also in the manufacture of munitions. The solution of the problem is not simple. Some honorable members advocate the concentration of crops in districts best suited to produce them. That theory overlooks transport difficulties. For example, some persons believe that Australia’s potato requirements should be grown in the north-west of Tasmania, where favourable climatic conditions almost invariably ensure a splendid crop.
– What about Bungaree ?
– If the Australian potato crop were grown wholly in the north-west of Tasmania, it could not be distributed. In order to conserve transport, the Government has made efforts to encourage each district to produce its requirements. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) believes in the development of Bungaree. Last Monday, I visited that centre, where a huge area is sown with potatoes. The plants look very well, but unless rain falls during the next fortnight the crop will be poor. That will not be the fault of the growers or the Government. We cannot legislate to make rain fall at times when it is most needed. That instance should servo to demonstrate the fallacy of advocating that Australia’s requirements of potatoes, for example, should be grown in only one part of the continent.
Yesterday, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) stated that he had sought the release from the Army of 500 men to engage in primary production in his electorate. Work could be found for many hundreds of men in my constituency, but I shall not ask for all of them to be discharged from the fighting forces. Every person who is able to assist, must help to harvest and preserve our perishable crops. This year? Australia will have a crop of between 12,000,000 and 14,000,000 bushels of apples and pears, a large proportion of which will have to be packed in containers for our troops. We are told that unless men are released from the Army to assist in harvesting the crop, much of the food will be wasted. If every one were to adopt that attitude, we should get nowhere. Every individual, whether he be an old-age pensioner or a boy or girl aged nine or ten years, should help to pick that crop and preserve it. Tasmania has set an excellent example in that regard. Recently, youngsters of seven and eight years and people between 70 and 80 years of age harvested 10,000 tons of berry fruits. Some of those who helped were wealthy persons. One orchardist informed me that he had in his plantation pickers whose income from property exceeded £50 a week. They did not need the few shillings a day which they earned for their labour. They were impelled to work by patriotic motives. It is easy to criticize the man-power authorities, who are doing their best to supply the labour required to harvest our primary products.
The honorable member for Deakin criticized the decision of the Commonwealth Government to . construct large aircraft in Australia when they could be obtained more cheaply from Great Britain and the United States of America. He declared that Australia should be satisfied to manufacture aircraft of a smaller type. This inferiority complex regarding the ability of Australian workmen has existed for too long and must be dispelled. Australia’s industrial effort in this war has demonstrated repeatedly that Australian workmen are able to manufacture complicated machinery which a few years ago was deemed to be beyond their ability. If we require a battleship or a luxury liner like the Queen Mary, we should attempt to build it here. The reason why our population is only 7,000,000 is that the development of the country has been retarded by an inferiority complex in the manufacturing sphere, which successive United Australia party governments failed to dispel. Their policy was, “ Let us have it made abroad “.
– The point which the honorable member for Deakin made was that the construction of heavy bomber aircraft in Australia would make inordinate demands upon our man-power.
– Before the outbreak of this war, Great Britain warned the dominions that they must make themselves self-supporting. I attended a conference in England in 1935, and Mr. Anthony Eden delivered an address on his return from Geneva after the League of Nations had decided to apply sanctions against Italy. Mr. Eden emphasized the necessity for the Dominions to make themselves self-supporting. To an interjection by a Canadian he replied, “ I mean self-supporting in everything. The erection of a few munitions establishments does not mean that you are selfsupporting. You will also require factories for the construction of aircraft, ship-building yards, and adequate supplies of food and clothing”. Unfortunately, that warning was ignored. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) led that delegation. If Australia had heeded that warning, our position would be better than it is to-day. When I returned to this country after having seen the preparations that Great Britain was making, I advocated the introduction of universal training for our young men.
– The Labour party did not adopt that policy.
– The honorable member for Balaclava was the only member of the United Australia party who supported me, and I found no support in the Labour party.
As I stated earlier, thousands of tons of fruit will have to be harvested, packed and preserved throughout the Commonwealth during the next few months. If every one will assist, no fruit need be wasted. Dairy production could also be maintained .if people not directly associated with the industry were prepared to help in their spare time. The dehydration of vegetables must be stepped up in order to overcome the problem of disastrous gluts. In response to appeals for increased production, vegetablegrowers make a supreme effort and, aided by a favorable season, produce larger quantities than ever before. The market becomes glutted with their produce, enormous quantities of vegetables are wasted, and the growers do not receive an adequate return for their labour. That is wrong. I do not know exactly bow we can solve the problem, but definitely a man should be compensated for his labour and given a reasonable price for his produce. A good deal of talk is heard about the low wages paid to workers in rural industries. The reason why wages have been low is that the employer cannot afford to pay more. Whatever the commodity that he produces, he has to take a risk. Even when he sows the seed, an unfavorable season will ruin his crop and he will incur a heavy financial loss. Being a primary producer, I used not to welcome a good season. If I knew that a heavy frost or hailstorm had destroyed my neighbour’s fruit, I said to myself, “ That means that I shall get a little “more for my fruit “. That should not be. A producer should be protected, just as the wage-earner is protected. When a man sows a certain area, he should be guaranteed a return for that crop if pest, disease or fire destroys it.
– Does the Minister include drought?
– Yes. If the grower has to bear the loss, how can he be expected to pay fixed wages to his employees? He has the greatest difficulty in remaining solvent. He is thrown into the hands of banks or money lenders, and when that happens he will never free himself from their shackles.
Before this war ends, greater use will have to be made of electric power. Where many of our big industries are located now, they have no opportunity to use this cheap power. Most of the factories in Newcastle and Sydney depend upon coal, and honorable members are well aware of the difficulties that arise there.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to -2.15 p.m.
– Hydro-electric power schemes will become increasingly important to Australia. We have a fine scheme in operation in Tasmania, and I know that there are good possibilities in other parts of the Commonwealth. Th« honorable member for ‘Calare (Mr. Breen) has spoken informatively on the subject. There are good prospects in his electorate. In the Snowy River country and also in North Queensland hydro-electric schemes could be constructed with advantage. This is true of almost all areas where heavy rainfall normally occurs. We all are aware that oil supplies are limited, and we are making heavy draughts upon our coal resources. Consequently we should do all we can to encourage the construction of hydro-electric schemes. Works of this kind should be put in hand immediately our servicemen are demobilized. Thedecentralization of our industries will also be essential to the advancement of Australia. In days gone by - governments have decided, too often, that industries which could not be located in Sydney or Melbourne would be of no use anywhere else; we must alter that outlook completely.
Repatriation problems will loom large in Australia before very long. Up to the 31st January, 1944, we have granted pensions to 12,981 discharged service men and women with 28,700 dependants, at a cost of £1,823,455. We must do our best to put all employable men and women into useful occupations, and I do not consider that, once they have been settled, their pensions should be discontinued. The Government will do everything possible to ensure the replacement of men and women in useful callings. Not too much consideration was given after the last war to pension conditions in relation to war personnel re-established in industry; but we must consider this aspect of the subject carefully on this occasion.
– Even members of Parliament could do with pensions.
– Quite so. I have travelled with some members of Parliament who have seen active service and I have been very distressed at their disabilities. Such men deserve everything that can be done for them. The rehabilitation of ex-service men and women will be a big job, and it will call for sympathy and skill.
I wish to say a few words about the problem of bringing to Australia the wives and children of our men who have married overseas. The Government, I assure the House, has done everything possible to meet the needs of the situation. Earlier in the war an embargo was placed upon the travelling to Australia of the wives and children of servicemen because the seas were unsafe for travelling, but in spite of the embargo some wives got on board ships. I am sorry to say that numbers of them did not reach this country because the ships were sunk. During the recent visit to Australia of the New Zealand Minister for Defence, Mr. Jones, I discussed this subject with him, and the Governments of Australia , and New Zealand are now working in co-operation in this matter to do the best possible.
– What is the cost of bringing wives to Australia?
– When I was first approached on the subject, the shipping authorities asked for £44 sterling to bring a wife out here. I accepted that figure, although I believe that the fare, after the last war, was £35. Within a few weeks the amount was advanced to 55. I agreed to that. The next week it went up to 80 guineas. I did not agree to that. Before very long a demand was made for £120 sterling, equivalent to £150 Australian, for each wife. I objected strongly to that amount, and ultimately it was arranged that the Commonwealth Government would provide £55 sterling in respect of each wife. Anything more would have to come from other sources. ‘“That arrangement is now being varied, but I could not possibly agree to the extortionate amount of £120 sterling. The Government is at present considering other ways and means of bringing wives and children of Australian servicemen to this country. Even if I had agreed to the amounts asked for by the shipping companies, it would not have been practicable to bring more wives and children here than have actually arrived, because we were informed that only five or six a month could be accommodated. There are 700 wives and about 200 children of Australian servicemen in the Old Country. Honorable members may rest assured that the Government will do its utmost to bring them here as quickly as possible. I am confident that, in connexion with my department at any rate, I shall have the fullest co-operation of all honorable members.
.- A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about man-power. The members of the Opposition know as well as do the supporters of the Government that many difficulties arise in dealing with this serious problem. I am of opinion that a good deal of what has been said by honorable gentlemen opposite on this subject, may be described as pure political humbug.
– Impure political humbug !
– As three-fifths of the sugar produced in Australia comes from my electorate, it will be realized that I know something about the difficulties of the situation. Last season the Government sent a number of inexperienced young men of about twenty years of age into my district for canecutting. About 50 per cent, of them had given up the job in three weeks. They had no knowledge of the industry, they were not capable of doing the work, and they would not do it. I have received undertakings from the Government, and also from the Director-General of Man Power, that, as far as is humanly possible, experienced men will be made available for this work this season. I need hardly say that I am just as anxious as is any other honorable member that our great industries shall be maintained at the fullest possible capacity.
This morning the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) had something to say on this subject. I remind him that before this Government assumed office, I had directed attention to the difficulties that were likely to arise in Australia in regard to food production. Yet the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and, I believe, the honorable member for Deakin, would have put all the physically fit men in this country into uniform and sent them abroad at one stage without consideration of the needs of the food front. The honorable member for Deakin was anxious to go to the war at one time. He went away to enlist, but he came back soon afterwards and we were told that his eyes were bad. Yet,
I have seen him read small print in a bad light. I suggest, therefore, that his eyes cannot be too bad.
– He volunteered and was rejected by the authorities. The honorable member should be fair.
– So far as I know he has not volunteered since. Another member of this Parliament volunteered but he was withdrawn from the forces. He was a Minister. I do not know that he has volunteered since.
– This is unworthy of the honorable gentleman.
– I do not think the eyesight of the honorable member for Deakin can be too bad for I have seen him reading quite small print with apparent ease. It would have been unfortunate if all the physically fit men of this country had been put into uniform and sent anywhere overseas; yet that was the wish, at one stage, of many honorable gentlemen opposite. 1 made the statement nearly two years ago in this House that the loss of the Philippines and Java to Japan would have a very serious effect on the world’s sugar pool. I said that it would involve a loss of 2,000,000 tons of sugar annually. In my view the sugar production in this country should be increased. I agree with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) that the production of basic foods has been increased substantially since this Government has been in office. I believe that Australia is capable of still further increases of production but many difficulties will have to be overcome first. We all are well aware that many people engaged in primary industries have requested the release from the army of relatives and friends in order that they could return to farm work of one kind or another. Many of the applications have been refused for reasons which I regard as flimsy. I do not blame the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) for this. I consider that he has been badly advised. The right honorable member for ‘Cowper (Sir Earle Page) gave some individual instances of this kind last night. The circumstances that have been referred to in some such instances apply, in my opinion, to only a few cases. I have some of my own flesh and blood in the forces in New Guinea, and I believe that, they would be able to render better service to their country if they were following their usual rural work in Australia. I know that the health of some of them has not been good, for some of them who enlisted in 1940 have spent only about half their time on active service because of ill health. According to the army authorities their health is A 1, but that is- bunkum. I believe that the Government is just as anxious as we are that experienced men should be released from the army to engage in primary production, and it is hard to understand why some are not made available. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made the statement that many applications had not been dealt with, and 1 agree with him. It is necessary, of course, for a person who is applied for to request his own release. In some instances, I have no doubt, parents have applied for the release of their sons, but the sons have not made an application on their own behalf. Why, I do not know. It may be because the fathers do not like paying award rates and want to get cheap labour, and the boys consider they are better off where they are. The honorable m?m.ber for Richmond has held ministerial office, and must have a real conception of the actual position. The right honorable member for Cowper has had a long parliamentary experience, and for a short period was Prime Minister. He is acquainted with the difficulties of government. It ill-becomes these gentlemen to complain that some persons cannot obtain the release of their sons from the services. We are told that the Army is responsible, and that the Government is weak, if those who now sit in Opposition were in charge of the Government, they would have to be guided by what they were told by their military advisers. If Generals MacArthur and Blarney cannot say how many men are required, and where they should be placed, how are we to know ? More than a year ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said in this House that he would prefer the country to be faced with a food shortage than to have the Army denuded of the man-power it required. Not one member of the Opposition then protested against that statement. I have done as much as any honorable member, on the floor of this House and in direct negotiations with Ministers, to have the labour position relieved, because I know what it means to the great industry that I represent. For my own protection, I inform the House that it is bruited abroad that I have been working overtime to have Italians released from internment camps and returned to north Queensland. 1 have not done that. In compliance with requests that I have received, I have sought the release of certain men from internment camps. I do not retract one word of what I have said in regard to internments. When Italy surrendered, I approached the Director of Security and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) with the request that they consider paying the passage money of certain women and children to enable them to proceed to other parts of Australia where their husbands were working and wanted to settle. I said that that would be in the best interests of Australia, and that they would thus become assimilated in the national life much more quickly than they would be by any other form of colonization. That action was not taken. When I learned that men were to be released from internment, I again approached the Attorney-General and the Director of Security. I said to them, “I want you, as quickly as possible, to allow every cane-grower who is released to return to the north. The remainder should be subject to the same laws as all other persons in this country, and should be made subject to the requirements of the man-power directorate “. I have received from the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, an undertaking that, as far as is humanly possible, every available cane-cutter will be provided for the harvesting of the crop immediately the next season commences. It is pure humbug for honorable members to complain about the shortage of labour. Either they want to make it appear that they are super-patriotic, or they know as-well as I do that the labour is not available.
I am completely in agreement with the statement of the honorable member for
Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) that primary producers as a body use rubber and petrol in the real interests of this country. I repeat what I have said half a dozen times, namely, that every Sunday, every holiday, almost every evening, on the foreshores of Sydney can be seen numberless private cars, most of which use more petrol than is used by the farmers in my electorate in the transport of their produce to market, and their food supplies to their homes. These pleasureseekers are able to obtain tyres and tubes ; yet in my electorate persons who have been striving for more than six months have not been able to obtain a renewal of tyres because of the acute rubber shortage. I do not dispute that a shortage exists. My point is, that these primary producers are doing infinitely greater national work than are those who are wearing out tyres in running their cars along good streets to the beaches, instead of using the tramways or the railways. That is what happens in every big city. Cars are to be found parked at every bowling green in the Sydney metropolitan area. The distribution of rubber could be made much fairer if there were more careful research, and the matter were controlled by persons who understand the position. Generally speaking, the officials in charge of these matters have gained whatever experience they possess from a position behind a table in an office. They make mathematical calculations without having any knowledge of the subject. A set of tyres may last for a long time on certain roads, but quickly wear out on bush roads, on which they encounter protruding rocks and logs. Some of the country highways are merely tracks, and are not in any degree comparable with the excellent thoroughfares in the great metropolitan areas of any State. Long distances have to be traversed in the transport of milk and cream. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has informed me that private cars are being kept running in order to meet any contingency in which they might be needed. It would have been a very good thing, although horrible, if the Japanese, when they bombed Townsville, had dropped bombs also on Sydney, Melbourne, and a few other places
The people of those cities might then realize that real danger exists. I do not like saying such things, but that is how I view the matter. Recently, I was walking along a street in Sydney with two young men in uniform from north Queensland whom I have known from childhood. One of them said to me, “When you walk down this street, you would not think that the people had ever heard of the war “. The people of the southern States do not know what is happening in the north of Australia, and apparently are not interested in the matter. Compared with1 the conditions of which complaint is made in the south, the position in north Queensland is horrible. Until within the last few days, when rain fell, the residents of Townsville, which normally has a population of 32,000, but now has one of nearly 80,000 because of the presence there of members of the armed forces, the Civil Constructional Corps, and the like, could use water only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.; if they used it during any other period of the day, th’ey rendered themselves liable to prosecution. They were also advised that, unless the position improved, it might be necessary to restrict the use of water to two hours a day on four days instead of on all seven days of the week. I have been striving to have something done for those people since December, 1942. Recently, it was agreed that the municipality should be allowed to borrow in order to provide an additional water supply. .The city of Townsville should have been asked to bear only a portion of the cost, and the Commonwealth Government also should bear a fair proportion, because it has sent more people there than normally live in the area. Luckily, there has been a good fall of rain, and the position has eased materially. But that does not mean that the improvement is permanent. Unless something be done before the next dry spell occurs during the latter part of this year, the problem will be more acute than it was before the recent rainfall.
I have made these observations, because I have a good deal of knowledge of the difficulties that are being faced, and wish to be honest.
– This debate provides an opportunity for me to make certain observations. I do not propose to traverse the whole of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), but shall deal only with those matters in it that are pertinent to the conditions in the area which I represent, and to the provision of the foodstuffs which the right honorable gentleman has said that the Government desires to furnish to the United Kingdom. I listened with great interest this morning to the speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). It provided food for thought, but will not give much consolation to those who require food. The honorable gentleman was most solicitous for the welfare of the primary producer; he had armfuls of sympathy to extend to them, but apparently nothing else, considering the actions of the Government of which he is a member, in the direction of relieving the burdens that have been placed upon the primary producer.
Last night, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) advanced quite an interesting argument, and produced masses of figures, to show that under this Labour Government - he used that term time after time, and emphasized it - the provision of foodstuffs h’ad been greatly augmented. He told how much extra whole milk had been produced in the last year or so. What the people of Australia and th’e United Kingdom want to know is, where this extra food is tq be found, and why the Minister for War Organization of Industry repeatedly told this House and the country that all was well, when I had submitted a formal motion for adjournment in order to direct attention to the rapid deterioration of the food industries. Within a few months of his having disclaimed any possibility of butter rationing, he found himself concerned with its implementation. Is it not a fact, also, that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) - who, in a sense, controls the great cattle industry - told the country a month or two months before the introduction of meat rationing that there was no likelihood of meat being rationed, despite the figures which other honorable mein hers and I had produced in this House months previously in order to show that unless action were taken the rationing of these commodities would be inevitable?
– Does the honorable member believe in rationing?
– Eighteen months ago, I told the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and other honorable members opposite, that unless action were taken to preserve the foodproducing industries, rationing would be inevitable. Twelve months ago, I gave figures indicating how Australia was falling down on its obligations to the United Kingdom. I showed that butter rationing ought to have been introduced then, and argued that, whenever it was introduced, efforts ought to be made to increase production. I am speaking with feeling, because I represent one of the most closely settled farming areas of Australia, an area which produces great quantities of butter and other foodstuffs. I know the problems of the people faced with the job of actually producing the food which the Government hopes to send overseas. I know what they are up against. I receive what is probably one of the largest mails of any member of Parliament, and between 60 per cent, and 70 per cent, of the letters are from people who appeal to me in respect of their labour problems, and tell me that it is impossible for them to carry on much longer unless relief is forthcoming. I propose to read extracts from a few of the letters which I received yesterday. They are not specially selected - I receive letters of the same sort every day.
– I could bring along a couple of dozen letters of the same kind.
– I have no doubt of it. I believe that every honorable member representing a country district receives many letters of the same kind. The first letter is from a man 60 years of age, living at Broken Head, in the Byron Bay district. He is himself an invalid and he has an invalid daughter, and between them, they are trying to milk 36 cows, night and morning. He is trying to get his son out of the Army, and he says he cannot carry on any longer unless his son is released. Here is a letter from W. H. Hayter, of Pimlico, via Ballina, who has a dairy farm of 333 acres. He is 59 years of age, and suffers from heart trouble. Formerly, with the aid of his wife, his daughter and son-in-law, he produced 24,000 lb. of butter from 145 cows. This number has now been reduced to 75. He says that unless his son is released from the Army, he must turn the cows out. Already, 30 milking cows have their calves running with them because there is no one to milk them, and yet the Prime Minister says thai there is need for every pound of butter. What is to be done in regard to cases of this kind? The Army authorities have said that they are prepared to release a certain number of men, and that many have been released. The trouble is that the Army is not releasing the men who are most urgently needed at home. The old people in ill health, who are trying to carry on the farms, may have sons in New Guinea or at Cairns or on the Atherton Tableland, and the Army will not release men from those places. Practically two-thirds of the butter production of New South Wales comes from the North Coast, and this year we are having an extraordinarily good season, the best for twenty years. Had the season been only normal the position, acute as it is, would have been infinitely worse. What are our obligations to the United Kingdom in respect of butter? Before the war, we sent about 100,000 tons to the United Kingdom each year. The United Kingdom has only three sources of supply - its own farm-lands, New Zealand and Australia. The United States of America cannot send butter; neither can the European countries which formerly exported to Britain, because they are in the hands of the enemy. ‘Canada has no butter for export and only a very little is available from South America. In the year before the war we exported to Great Britain 109,000 tons of butter, and our average was about 100,000 tons. Last year we sent between 40,000 and 45,000 tons. The target figure was only 45,000 tons, and we are thousands of tons below that. The Prime Minister shakes his head, but I have the authority of Mr. Bankes Amery for my statement.
– Did Mr. Bankes Amery tell the honorable member that every country from which Great Britain obtained butter has had to reduce its export quota?
– He did tell me that Argentina, a country which we have always feared as a competitor in regard to meat, is now being encouraged by the United Kingdom to produce butter, and has already exported 10,000 tons, although never before was so much as one pound of butter sent from that country. This is likely to create for the Australian primary producers a fresh problem after the war. When the Prime Minister goes to England this year, it will be his duty to tell the people there, not only what our war achievement has been, but also what foods they may expect from us.
– I explained that to Mr.
Bankes Amery yesterday afternoon.
– The Prime Minister will be expected to explain it again when he gets to England, and will be told what Great Britain expects of us. The Prime Minister’s job will be rendered all the harder unless labour relief be afforded to the farmers in Australia. The right honorable gentleman was not in the chamber when I cited some examples of hardship on the farms in my district. Here is another case, that of a man named H. J. Richardson, of Leycester, via Lismore. There is only his wife to help him with 45 cows, and she has eczema on the hands, so that she cannot milk. ‘He is 65 years of age, and in bad health. This is how he concludes his letter -
If I am unable to get suitable or reliable labour I shall be compelled to give. up dairying and dispose of my stock.
Another man writes that he has not been off the farm for ten months, and has been working without intermission on seven days a week for all that time. He has not even been to town, because he is the only man on the farm.
– That is an exceptional case.
– It is not exceptional in my district. I take off my hat to the men and women on the dairy farms who, with their sons away in the forces, are trying to carry on with the milking of a large number of cows for seven days a week all the year round. We have been told that 40 per cent, of the applications for the release of mcn from the Army have been granted. If so, I should like to know where the men have gone. That percentage certainly does not apply to applications from my district, nor from the district of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), which is next to mine. It does not apply to the district of country members of any party with whom I am acquainted. The only way in which we can increase the production of food is to release men from the Army so that they may go back to the farms from which they came. Unless the Government does something to improve the position, the promises of the Prime Minister to increase the export of food to the United Kingdom will be no more than so many empty words.
The Prime Minister “has always tended to lay the emphasis upon the need to curtail consumption. It is proper that we should save as much as we can. I did not “ squeal “ against butter rationing or meat rationing. As a matter of fact, I think I was the first in this House to say that food rationing was necessary. But while we do what we can to cut down consumption we should also concentrate as much as possible upon increasing production. Otherwise we shall never get ahead at all, and unless something be done quickly, production will decline still further.
When meat rationing was introduced, we expected that all would be required to make an equal sacrifice. A man doing heavy work and a man working in an office have both been placed on the same ration, namely, 2£ lb. of meat a week.
The exceptions are cases in which a dispensation is granted, but here is some information which is worthy of note. Members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, who cannot be described as doing heavy physical work, are given 4$ lb. of meat a week. The authority for that is a letter from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) in which he says -
I am informed by the Minister for the Army, that the allowance .of meat for service- women is not 7 lb. a week but 4J lb., carcass weight, which is equivalent to 3J lb. butcher’s weight.
Even allowing for 3$ lb. a week, which is the minimum weight given to members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, we find that a girl, merely because she is in uniform, is receiving nearly 4 lb. a week, whereas, men who do heavy work like mining and road construction, receive only 2± lb. If we want to organize a minimum consumption of meat, we must take into account the requirements of those members of the armed forces who are not in forward areas, and ration them in the same way as members of the civil population are rationed. Unless we do so, or, unless the Army itself takes a different attitude, it will continue the practice of withdrawing from the civil community everything it wants in the way of food and labour and everything else that the civil population requires. An army which can give to the” members of its women’s auxiliary more meat than is given to men who do heavy work is not taking into account its responsibilities to the civil community in the way it expects the civil community to take into account its responsibility to the army.
I have not yet received a reply from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to my question about the substitution by some authority of the letters “ A.M.F.’’ for “A.I.F.” on soldiers’ graves in New Guinea. I have had this matter brought to my ‘ notice, not only by letters, but also by personal representations of members of the Australian Imperial Force recently returned from New Guinea. I am informed that, when a soldier is killed in New Guinea, it is the practice of his comrades to erect a cross over his grave and put on it his name and battalion, and underneath, if he was a member of the Australian Imperial Force, the letters “ A.I.F.” I am informed - and there is a great deal of resentment among those who have told me - that some authority, perhaps the War Graves Commission, has been systematically removing those crosses and substituting a plaque containing only the name of the soldier and the letters “A.M.F.”, but no battalion name or number. There may be reasons for it, but they are not cogent to the former comrades of those who have fallen, and there is tremendous resentment. When I, raised this matter recently, the Minister for the Army denied any responsibility, but I am anxious to know just who is” responsible and whether the practice is to continue.
– You will not be told who is responsible.
– -We should ascertain, in a matter of such importance as this, who gave the instruction and whether the Minister for the Army or the Government is going to stand behind it. If the Minister for the Army did not give the instruction, he should have it cancelled at once. The following is a letter I have received from a member of the Australian Imperial Force stationed in New ‘Guinea: -
I was pleased to read that you directed attention to the substitution of the letters “ A.M.F.” for “ A.I.F.” on the graves of soldiers in New Guinea. For your information I submit the following information received by me this week: -
At Soputa, Scarlet Beach, Satelberg, and Buna or Gona the letters “ A.M.F.” have been substituted for “A.I.F.” on the crosses which mark the spot where these brave men are buried. In some instances this was done when the remains were removed from a temporary grave to ti permanent grave in an established cemetery under the control of the Graves Commission, but the change has also been made after the permanent crosses have been erected. The members of the Australian Imperial Force are intensely angry over this matter, and when they are near the grave of a fallen comrade whose cross has been altered, they remove with their knives the central “ M “ and substitute the letter “ I. “ which is cut deeply into the wood thus making it read “ A.I.F.”. They leave the locality with expressions of the most profound contempt and disgust.
That is not a pretty picture or a happy state of affairs. It is necessary that this matter be taken up immediately by the Army, because, when all is said and done, the letters “A.I.F.” mean something in Australia’s history. They mean something to the men who are entitled to put them after their names. Unless the Minister for the Army takes action to cancel the instruction, or to correct what has been done, I believe that we shall not have heard the last of the matter from the Australian Imperial Force itself. I do not propose to labour the matter, because I await the reply of the Minister for the Army; he is absent from Canberra and may have an explanation which will place the matter in a better light than it is in at the moment.
In respect of the portion of the Prime Minister’s speech referring to the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, I associate myself with the opinions already voiced in this House regarding the necessity to submit to Parliament the terms of such agreements before they are made. We are approaching a period in national history when it is likely that many agreements will be made with other nations, inside or outside the Empire, and the people of this country could be committed in an extraordinary way in the future. Our children could be committed by actions of the Executive which Parliament will never have the opportunity to discuss, if the precedent recently created be followed. We could conceivably have, for example, some interference with the White Australia policy by virtue of some executive decision made by the party in office at the time. For instance, it is possible that an agreement could be reached with the Government of India regarding certain aspects of our immigration policy which this Parliament might never have the opportunity to consider. That is merely an example of what could be done by the Executive, and Parliament itself, consisting of the representatives of the people, would be impotent to deal with the matter.
-Order! The honorable member is anticipating the debate of a matter on the notice-paper, and he is not entitled to proceed.
– I shall not go any farther. In conclusion, I ask the Government to give particular attention to the problem of rural labour on the lines I have already suggested. I ask it to give -consideration to another matter which affects the manpower in rural industries, that is, the use of motor vehicles in country districts. We all are aware that ruDDer must be conserved. The only rubber that can be obtained is from stocks salvaged from Malaya. The alternative is the American substitute which is equally difficult to procure. More rubber is being burnt up, in country districts in particular, by the use of producer-gas units on vehicles than by any other means I know. Moreover, engines are being rapidly burned out, because of the extraordinary amount of low-gear work which has to be done by any driver of a vehicle fitted with a producer-gas unit. I submit to the Government that the time has arrived when it is easier to import petrol than new engines and rubber for tyres, and that an investigation ought to be made of the amount of additional tyre wear that is created by attaching to a lorry an attachment weighing 5 cwt. or 6 cwt. I know very well, as does any other honorable member with experience of using a producer-gas unit, that tyres wear out much more rapidly and that engines wear out twice as quickly when a motor vehicle has a producer-gas unit attached, than if it has petrol fuel. Any garage man in the city or the country, will confirm that. Now that the submarine menace has been overcome to a degree, and the seas are clearer and we can get tankers here, I am firmly of the opinion that it is better to conserve rubber and engines, which cannot be replaced, than petrol. The time has, therefore, arrived when the petrol rationing policy should be remodelled to meet the existing circumstances. As the Prime Minister himself has said, and as every one knows, war is fluid and > its circumstances change from time to time. The Liquid Fuel Control Board, however, is still applying the policy of December, 19411. That policy was needed to meet the conditions then, but the conditions have changed. Is it not a fact that throughout the country areas essential and other car users are facing the problem of tyre wear? Is it not a fact that rubber is not so available as is petrol? Is it not a fact that motor vehicles are no longer coming here from America and that we ought to conserve what we have? If those are facts, why does not the Liquid Fuel Control Board take them into consideration? I ask the Government to investigate this matter thoroughly because, unless something be done, the labour problems of the pri- mary industries will be considerably aggravated.
.- The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was of a very useful and encouraging character. Like some of its more recent predecessors, it was more cheerful than the earlier reviews of the war that were delivered in this House from time to time by successive Prime Ministers. That is most satisfactory, and we hope that such pronouncements in future will be of a progressively cheerful character. Nevertheless, within the context of the speech, I detected a restraint that indicated to the country and to the Parliament that we are a long way from being out of the wood. I propose to address the major part of my remarks to the man-power problem. Listening to the speeches of honorable members opposite on this subject, we should be conscious of the hint in the Prime Minister’s speech’ that it is still possible for this country and for the Allies, particularly in the Pacific, to suffer a reverse. The two major fleets in the Pacific have not yet engaged in a decisive battle. If the result of such a test should be adverse to Australia, the first people who would condemn this Government for having .depleted the Army, Navy and Air Force, would be our not very friendly advisers who occupy the Opposition benches. Sometimes it amuses me and at other times it makes me despondent to hear their criticisms, in view of .their attitude in the past. Rightly or wrongly, the Opposition, and particularly the Country party, was most emphatic in the early stages of the war that the Government should call up every available man. Possibly they were right; but the fact remains that they adopted that policy, and until May, 1942, through voluntary recruiting and compulsory call-up, men were taken haphazardly from the rural areas. To-day, regardless of the Government’s policy to release men from the Army, many soldiers who formerly worked in primary industries are not prepared to return to th’em. For that position, honorable members opposite must accept their share of the responsibility. It is true that the dairying industry is not producing so prolifically as is desired by the Commonwealth Government, the dairymen themselves, and our Allies overseas. If honorable members opposite were impartial, they would examine the history of the dairying industry. Until 1941, anti-Labour parties dominated the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and, through the Legislative Councils, the States. If difficulty is now experienced in increasing dairy production, the anti-Labour forces must accept their share of the responsibility. I admit that a United Australia party government introduced the Paterson butter scheme and other palliatives, and that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for years talked glibly of a fodder conservation scheme for dairymen. But I have never met a farmer who has received financial assistance under the muchvaunted Bruce-Page fodder conservation scheme. The plan was purely visionary. Although the expenditure of large sums of money was vaguely discussed, the scheme never came to fruition. Dairying is an arduous industry, and governments in the past have shockingly neglected opportunities to raise it to the status that it should enjoy. The present Government, realizing its responsibility, has taken a major step forward in subsidizing the industry and making it immensely more profitable to-day than at any other period in its history. Through the method adopted, the Government protected the consumers by preventing a direct increase of the price of butter. Not until the Curtin Government took office were other primary industries placed on a sound economic basis. For example, the Curtin Government subsidized the flax industry by guaranteeing the price. The result was that about 60,000 acres is now devoted to the growing of flax. In Victoria alone, 30,000 acres is producing this urgently needed article. Incidentally, areas of land which were formerly used for dairying are now growing flax. That is one of the reasons for the decline of dairy production. The Government has also guaranteed prices for pigs and potatoes. And handsome prices they are ! I become angry when I hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) talk about the “ poor deal “ that the primary producer has received from this Government. In 1940, potato-growers of the Ballarat district, which I represent, were asking people to come to the farms and get the potatoes at 25s. a ton. That price did not pay for digging and bagging. When I made repeated protests to the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the producers would be remunerated for their labour, I received the reply that the Commonwealth’ lacked the necessary authority. The Curtin Government has demonstrated that it possesses the power, and for the first time in our history, the potato-growing industry has been placed on a firm economic basis. Citrus production, indeed, nearly the whole field of primary production, including the humble vegetable which until recently was scorned and grown by unorganized methods, has been stabilized. In response to the demands of our Allies, and to satisfy the requirements of our Army, the Government has organized the production of vegetables. Producers are receiving contract prices and a guarantee that they will get an adequate return for their labour. Why do we hear this howl about the lack of labour ? It is perfectly natural in war-time for people to cry out that they are short of labour, and require more men. I had to tell a responsible gentleman a few days ago: “ After all, first you howled for an army and when you got an army, you are prepared to dissipate its strength until its efficiency will be seriously impaired “. As the war recedes from our shores, people tend to forget that we are still menaced. Although the problems of the primary producers are difficult, they must endeavour to carry on to the best of their ability with the labour already available, plus, releases from the Army, and with men who are automatically discharged because of ill health or age. Along with those men and the effort to increase production must go an effort to obtain all the mechanical aids that can be assembled for the purpose of assisting primary producers. We must face the facts honestly. We should not, like the honorable member for Richmond and the right honorable member for Cowper, deliver heart-rending speeches about man-power deficiencies in order to collect votes from their constituents. We should tell the story as we know it.
Last year in Victoria, potato-growers responded magnificently to the call of this Government to increase the crop from 50,000 to 74,000 acres. Many responsible people said that, with the manpower available, the target could not be achieved. They declared that the potatoes would rot in the ground. Half-way through the season, the daily press of Melbourne, and some honorable members in this Parliament, cried aloud for more releases from the Army in order to assist the potato-growers. Farmers wrote to me stating that unless their sons were released, they would never dig their potatoes. But the fact remains that not one potato in Victoria, and probably not one in New South Wales remained in the soil through the shortage of man-power. An organized effort was made. The morale of the potato-growing community remained high. Farmers were encouraged by the man-power authorities and were assisted by the Army, wherever possible, with the release of men who had reasonable claims. The net result was that they produced a magnificent crop, and not a potato was left in the ground. But what did we ‘find? A supposedly reputable daily newspaper in Melbourne, without any investigation whatever, but acting on the hearsay evidence of people like the honorable member for Richmond, declared that a shocking position existed in Ballarat. The potatoes were rotting in the ground. The newspaper even sent a photographer to Trentham, and in his ignorance he photographed the dead stalks of the potato plants and the Melbourne Sun described the picture as evidence that the potatoes were rotting in the ground. I hardly ever read the Melbourne Truth, but that journal sent a man to Trentham, where he interviewed the foremost potato merchant and some of the growers. He wrote a special article revealing the falsity of the stories about serious conditions in the potato-growing industry through the shortage of man-power. I was one of those unfortunates who fought in the last war. In 1914-18 the demand of Great Britain for food was nearly as great at one period as it is to-day, and our primary producers were called upon to meet it.
– In comparison with the war of 1914-18, this is a “phoney” war. I was in the fighting line and never once did I hear a pal or mate say that he proposed to apply for his discharge because “ his sister was dying “ or “ the cows were dead “. His mates said, “ Bad luck, Bill “, and Bill soldiered on. Now, with the war so near home, requests are received in thousands for releases from the Army. Honorable members realize the anxiety of parents to get their sons released, but they have to face the situation that while this country decides to maintain a front against the Japanese, they must endeavour to reinforce the morale of the home front. Many of these cases will not bear examination. I have replied frankly to many of the applicants, “ You have no hope of getting your son released “. Honorable members opposite will declare that although crops were harvested last year, the position will be worse this- year. They demand the release of more men from the Army, so that they will be able to send to their constituents a note like this : “ “With compliments of Harry Anthony. Your son has been released “. I wish that the war would end to-morrow, so that all of our troops could be demobilized. “We should ignore that type of propaganda and be honest enough to admit that it is necessary to maintain an Army as well as to carry on the work of primary production. People generally are, I believe, ready to do this and should be encouraged to co-operate in the utilization of machinery and man-power. We all realize the necessity to harvest our crops so that foodstuffs will be available to feed not only the people of this country but also those of the United Nations. Only recently it was said that the fruit crop would not be harvested in the Shepparton district of Victoria unless there was some departure from the Government’s man-power policy. But by virtue of the use, by the man-power authorities of Victoria, of their authority under regulations - an authority that, I am afraid, has not always been exercised discreetly - practically the whole of the fruit crop at Shepparton has been garnered. I believe that the fruit crop at
Mildura will also be harvested, and perhaps even the banana crop in the electorate of Richmond.
– The fact is that we are not getting the goods I
– I am giving the facts. One fact is that never before in Australia’s history has so much been produced from the soil of this country. Honorable members have referred to the peculiar conditions that obtain in the dairying industry. Because of seasonal conditions in New South Wales and Victoria, and, to some degree, the disastrous bushfires, dairy production has declined somewhat. But it is also true that because this Government has made fat lamb production more attractive, and guaranteed £7 10s. a ton for flax, of which two tons can be produced from an acre, giving a yield of £15 an acre; and because the Government has guaranteed £13 10s. a ton for potatoes of which 5 tons may be produced from an acre, many dairy-farmers are turning their attention to activities that are more profitable than dairying.
– The British Government guaranteed the price of potatoes.
– But this Government added to the price. Anyway, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) may tell his miserable story later if he desires to do so. This Government has applied a policy of guaranteed prices for production which has had the effect of causing people who formerly engaged in dairy farming, with the need to work Sunday mornings and Sunday nights and at other unattractive hours, to turn their attention to other callings because the returns are better and the conditions more agreeable. Naturally, under existing conditions, potato growing, flax production and the raising of pork and veal are more attractive than dairying. We must not shut our eyes to these problems. We must face them.
– We are facing our problems in the north.
– I do not believe that the honorable member ever faces any problem, but I am giving him the facts of the case. I realize the need for some re-examination of the system of releasing man-power from the Army. I know that the Government has decided that men over 35 years of age who have had three years’ service overseas, and also “ B “ class men shall be released on application. I know, too, that I have letters in my possession which reveal the unfortunate fact that some of the men who are entitled to release have not been able to contact dairymen who could make a claim for their services. If they knew any one who needed their services they could take steps to secure their release. I consider that there is a necessity for the Army to supply the man-power authorities with the names of men who are available for release because they have seen the requisite period of service or are in “ B “ class. If this were done, it should be possible to facilitate releases. The man-power authorities would then be able to say to a farmer, “Here is a man available for release and who is willing to work for you. You can apply for him, and if you do, you will get him “.
I have something to say to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), the military genius of this House. I heard his eloquent appeal to-day on behalf of the original members of the Second Australian Imperial Force divisions. He said that they had borne the burden and heat of the day and should be released. He also said that there were plenty of young men available in Australia to take their places. I have tremendous admiration for the men of the Second Australian Imperial Force. They have done great work. I think it is desirable that they should be released from the fight, if it can be done, but all old soldiers and younger soldiers who have a sense of responsibility will admit, I believe, that under war conditions it is utterly impracticable to release all the men of a particular unit. I know very well that during the last war the policy was to let the soldiers fight on as long as they could stand on their feet. While they could “ soldier on “ they were left to “ soldier on “. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that the men of the five Australian Imperial Force divisions in the last war spent a longer time in the battle line than have the men in this war. Fortunately, in the present conflict, the number of battle casualties’ has been, low compared with the number in the last war, and I pay tribute to the commanding officers for the strategy which has produced this result. In my own unit, which was 1,000 strong, the reinforcement number, before the war finished, exceeded 7,000 and many of the old boys were still fighting.
– But all the men had had their Anzac leave after four years.
– I came back in 1918 and on the boat were two men of my unit who were having their first leave. I should not have Deen coming back then except that I was “ knocked “. The same problem has to be faced in relation to the 5th, 6th and 9th Divisions as was faced in the last war. I am sure that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will agree with me when I say that a commander-in-chief always desires to retain a nucleus of experienced officers and men in all units.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– I am unable to see how that system can be changed, although I think that it should be changed. I am glad that my honorable friend agrees with me, because that implies that he disagrees with the honorable member for Deakin, the military expert.
We shall overcome our man-power difficulties. Helpful criticism is invaluable, and we should face the facta. One fact is that we must maintain a balance between the home front and the fighting front. In doing this, difficulties will be encountered, but by organization and co-operation, they will be overcome as they arise from time to time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Volunteer Defence Corps: Petrol Ration - Dairying Industry: Transpoet Problems - Barbed Wire - Motion of Want of Confidence: Closure of Debate - Royal Australian Air Force: Enlistments - Tasmania: Emergency Aerodromes; Shipping Service - Tobacco : Supplies and Distribution. Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government a matter affecting the Volunteer Defence Corps, which has been referred, to previously by both the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and myself. We have -also discussed the subject with several other members and correspondence has passed from us to members of the Government. I deeply regret what I regard as the unsympathetic attitude of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to the Volunteer Defence Corps. I refer particularly at the moment to the request that has been made that members of the corps shall be relieved of the necessity to make contributions towards the cost of the petrol they need for travelling to and from their centres of training and for actual training purposes. I appreciate the value of the work of the Volunteer Defence Corps. This branch of the defence service consists mainly of “ diggers “ from the last war and young men who are engaged in exempt occupations but who give their spare time to defence activities. The corps has rendered a vital service to Australia. I believe that if this country had been invaded the Volunteer Defence Corps would have been most effective in harassing enemy advances and in dealing with paratroops who might have landed in Australia. Members do their training in their own time, chiefly on Sundays and in the evenings. The men also work hard during the day-time at their usual callings. Many of them have rendered thousands of hours of service since the outbreak of the war and to do »o have travelled thousands of miles; yet they are still required to contribute towards the cost of the petrol they use for this purpose. At the very least, they should be able to purchase petrol at the rate charged to the Army, that is, duty free. The efficiency and enthusiasm of the Volunteer Defence Corps have been praised by many Army leaders, and I believe all the praise has been well deserved. Men have to travel many miles to centres of training and they should be given more consideration than they have received. We have asked previously that they should be granted free petrol for training purposes and also for travelling to and from their homes. The cost of petrol is a heavy burden. The members of one Volunteer Defence Corps unit have contributed in a quarter £390 for petrol. The duty on petrol is lid. a gallon plus 10 per cent, primage, which amounts to about a third of the total cost of the petrol. Consequently, the unit I have in mind has paid more than £100 to the Government in this period in duties alone. All this petrol has been used for training purposes. None of it has been used privately. In view of the fact that the men of the Volunteer Defence Corps give their time and services voluntarily, they should be encouraged in every way to reach the highest point of efficiency, but it seems that they are being discouraged. I am particularly interested in the Volunteer Defence Corps, because this arm of the service was formed as a result of a memorandum which, with the help of General Gellibrand, formerly member for Denison, and other senior military officers, I prepared after the last war. The document was subsequently presented to the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) and became the basis of the present system. I urge the Government to give favorable consideration to the request I am making. I consider it a great injustice that these men, who are serving their country with such efficiency and enthusiasm, should be forced to pay the duty and primage included in the cost of the petrol that they use in their travelling and training.
The primary producers of this country occupy an exceptional position in connexion with the utilization of motor vehicles, because of the great difficulty which they experience in obtaining the tyres and tubes that they require. I appreciate the acuteness of the problem of trying to supply all the petrol, tyres and tubes which the community needs. No section of the community is to-day in a more difficult position in this respect than are the primary producers. These men have to transport their produce over long distances. They are not provided with the perfect macadamized roads that are to be found in the cities, but are obliged to travel on the roughest roads imaginable. Many of them are not roads in the real sense but are slippy, sloppy, slimy tracks which cause abnormal wear to tyres and tubes. Primary producers have been placed on a very low priority, and are particularly badly handicapped. The dairy factories, which are mostly co-operative concerns, send their trucks throughout the different districts too, over almost impassable (roads, in order to pick up cream from the farms. They are having untold trouble in keeping their tyres and tubes in a safe condition, and experience many breakdowns, blow-outs, and other mishaps which cause delay. The cream deteriorates. From one end of my electorate to the other, the people are pleading for replacements of tyres and tubes for their vehicles. I urge the Government to call for a special report after re-examination of the whole matter, and to raise the priority of the primary producers. These men know that one-third of the revenue that is derived from the sales of petrol is allocated to the construction of arterial roads, but they realize that labour is not now available for the improvement of existing highways. The Government could, however, out of the pool that exists, make available to them more tyres and tubes, and place them on a higher priority. I appeal for this change to be made at an early date, in order that produce may be transported to the factories promptly and in a first-class condition.
In Queensland, barbed wire is made in a number of factories. The raw material for it is barbing wire, which is supplied by Lysaght’s and other factories in New South Wales. I have been advised by the Queensland Pastoral Supply Limited, one of the largest suppliers of barbed wire and other products for the grazing, dairying and other agricultural industries, that its factory has had to be closed because of a government edict, by reason of which it was impossible to obtain barbing wire. This company, and other companies, have to continue to pay their men while they are idle, in order that they may not be placed in a less important activity by the manpower directorate. Some of the reasons advanced by the Government are fatuous. This firm desires to manufacture barbed wire in order to fulfil orders for Commonwealth departments and the Queens- land Railways Department. After longcontinued pressure, accumulated stocks of rusted barbed wire, in the possession of the defence forces, was made available and is being sold in increasing quantities. But new barbed wire is imperative for railway purposes and to supply other government departments. I urge the Government to withdraw this edict, and to do everything possible to ensure that supplies shall be made available immediately to the factories in Queensland in order that their employees may continue to produce this essential commodity. As the war operations become intensified, and our men move forward, they will need a larger supply of barbed wire for any defensive action that they may wish to take, and no reserve would be too big. As the wire was produced, it could be distributed among those who needed it. The producers are being asked to provide more and more crops of all descriptions. It is difficult to obtain barbed wire, even in the cotton-growing areas, where it is essential for the sub-division of holdings in order to intensify cultivation, and to produce what is demanded by the Government, with the limited personnel available. The same problem arises in the pastoral and agricultural industries. It is most difficult to understand the reason for the edict of the Government.
I ask the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who appears to he the representative of the Government in the chamber at the moment, to see that the points that I have raised are brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned, in order that we may receive advice from them when the House re-assembles next week.
.- I draw attention to certain consequences arising out of the debate yesterday on the motion expressing want of confidence in the Government. I do so with full recognition of the fact that I should be challenging the exercise of your discipline, Mr. Speaker, if I were to attempt to re-discuss the merits of the motion, or to reflect upon the decision already reached by the House. I have no intention to do that. It will be remembered that in the course of the debate three speeches were made in severe criticism of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) then made a contribution to the debate which I think could not possibly be regarded as a defence of the Minister. The debate was then closed by a method familiar to all honorable members, namely, a motion for the closure. I voted for the closure, because, in the first place, I approve of it as being a fitting instrument for regulating debate in appropriate circumstances, and, secondly, because I do not lightly oppose a motion made by the Prime Minister and the leader of the party of which I am a member. But I most profoundly regret the fact that the Minister charged was not heard in his own defence. I myself had risen to offer a few words in exculpation of the Minister, but I was prevented from doing so by the closure. I make no complaint about that, because I was not charged, and because of the fact that, as I have already said, I think the closure may be applied in appropriate circumstances and at the right time. That, however, is not the position with regard to the Minister charged, and [ express my deep regret that he was not heard. I think it is unprecedented in parliamentary history that a Minister, having been selected for attack and criticism - in this instance, criticism of a most unrestrained character - should not, by reason of the forms of the House, have an opportunity to reply.
– Order! The honorable member is now reflecting on the vote of the House.
.- I draw the attention of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) to a matter of principle. I am not in favour of honorable members bringing to the notice of the House issues concerning individuals, but the matter of principle to which I draw attention largely concerns an individual. For a lengthy period, and at any rate since I have returned to Australia, T. have repeatedly asked the Minister for the Navy to use his influence to see that men in his department are permitted to enlist in the active forces, and particu larly for service in the air crews of the Royal Australian Air Force. He has promised to go into the matter, and, in a particular case which I brought to his notice, he gave reasons why the release of the officer concerned could not be granted. In my opinion a wrong spirit prevails in the Department of the Navy. The important question is not whether an officer can be spared by the department, but whether the country needs him. I am prepared to supply later the name of the officer to whom I am referring. He is a young man of ability. If he had no ability, he would be of no use in an air crew. In 1942 he made repeated attempts to attain the medical standard required of air crew applicants. Eventually, after incurring considerable medical expense, he passed the air crew medical examination. Applications for war service leave were submitted to the department in January, 1943, and again in July, 1943. On the 30th July, 1943, he forwarded his resignation from the ‘Commonwealth Public Service, but h; could not get beyond the head of his department, who said that he was a valuable man and could not be spared. The head of a department who desires to prevent an officer from enlisting can do so, if he has a powerful voice. The young officer to whom I refer has the bitter thought that he cannot serve his country as an airman, although he reads on hoardings that flying in the Royal Australian Air Force is the war’s biggest task, and that whatever a man’s present occupation may be he is invited to apply for enlistment. He writes as follows : -
The Central Public Service Man Power Committee has deliberated on these applications on four separate occasions. Of the three known decisions each has been virtually to the same effect, i.e., application deferred pending provision of a suitable replacement. Advice received from the Staff Inspector indicates that efforts are being made by the department to obtain a satisfactory replacement.
His section officer reported that he could be replaced, and that the work of the department could be carried on withouthim, but that did not go beyond the head of the department and the board which sat to decide whether this officer could be spared. He further states -
Generally speaking, a relief for my position could be met from either of the following avenues: -
a re-allocation of the duties between certain other members of the section; or
by transfers within the branch of young experienced clerks; or
the employment ofan “outside” relief.
He gave the names of three men who could be employed in his stead. I have asked questions on three occasions regarding this matter, and a reply was furnished to-day to the effect that the matter is being examined. There isa file as large as that of a royal commission with respect to this one officer who desires to do his duty. He is employed in the clerical division, and has all the qualifications required of a member of an air crew, yet the department stands in his way. I urge the Minister not to victimize this young man, who is prepared to resign from the Public Service in order to do his duty, and is even willing to lose the seniority which he might enjoy by remaining in his present position. I ask the Minister to view the matter in a proper spirit, and, instead of obstructing this man, to facilitate the entry of him and others into the forces. I know that there have been releases from this department for service in the Allied Works Council, and that men have been released for business and other reasons. Australia’s commitment for air crews is 1,000 men a month, and yet the Government is discouraging its own employees from joining. This, in turn, will have the effect of discouraging men from outside.
.- I draw the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to the need for removing the obstructions which were placed upon emergency aerodromes in Tasmania.[Quorum formed.] Now that the danger of attack upon Australia seems to have passed, there appears to be no longer any need to allow these barriers to remain. It may be necessary or desirable at some time to use the grounds, some of which are on the air route to the mainland. I know that the removal of the obstructions would involve the use of man-power, which is difficult to obtain, but I suggest that, as labour becomes available, the obstructions should be removed, at any rate from the more important emergency landing grounds.
I wish now to refer to a matter of greater importance to Tasmania, namely, the shipping service to the mainland. More than three years ago the business people of Tasmania agreed to the withdrawal of one of the ships engaged in the mixed cargo and passenger service to Tasmania, because of the urgent need which then existed for ships on the Australian coast. Since then the people have been carrying on with a service that has been reduced by 50 per cent. so far as the north and north-western parts of the State are concerned.
– And there is none at all to the south.
– That is so. I am reminded by the interjection of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) that he has been very active in this matter for some time past. Our position in Tasmania has gradually gone from bad to worse, and it seems to me that advantage has been taken of our tolerance, and our willingness to help the Commonwealth. I point out that it was not this Government, but a previous one, which first proposed that the ship be taken off. Apparently because wehave been so acquiescent, the idea has got abroad that we can safely be overlooked altogether. I realize that the air service to the mainland has been improved, but that does not entirely meet the situation. It enables passengers to travel backwards and forwards, but the cost is greater, and in any case the service is of little use to the people living in the north-western and southern parts of the State. I believe that if the Government were willing to alleviate the situation it could do so. I have no doubt that a suitable ship could be diverted to the Tasmanian service, at least for a few weeks while the ship which is regularly on the service is withdrawn for overhaul. Under present conditions, we are simply told that the ship is to be taken off the run for overhaul, and that we must go without any service at all for a period of five weeks.
– It is more likely to be three months.
– Yes, I believe that the service will probably be interrupted for at least two months. I want something to be done. It would appear that advantage is being taken of the patriotism of the people of Tasmania, who agreed to make sacrifices in the interests of the nation. If it be true, as has been stated, that the shipping position is not now so acute as it was a year or two ago, something should be done to meet the situation which has arisen. Admittedly, a certain type of vessel is required for this trade; it must be a vessel of shallow draught, capable of carrying cargo as well as a limited number of passengers. The arrangements which have been made to carry passengers to and from Tasmania by air do not meet the needs as regards cargo. It is true that some cargo vessels are operating in the Tasmanian service, but they are insufficient to meet the needs of that State. I am greatly concerned about this matter, and I urge the Government to take notice of the representations made by Tasmanian members in both Houses of this Parliament.
.- I regret that the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ls not in the House, and I hope that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will bring my representations to his notice. Last week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) whether it was a fact that Italian prisoners of war engaged in rural activities were supplied with 6 oz. of tobacco each fortnight, whereas Australians working in the’ same district and in the same avocation experienced the greatest difficulty in securing any tobacco at all. The Minister expressed astonishment at my statement, and added that such a state of affairs would be an injustice to Australians. He promised! to bring the matter to the notice of the appropriate Minister. Today, I received what is apparently a considered reply from the Minister for Trade and Customs, but it evades the question entirely. The answer admits that my statement as to the quantity of tobacco supplied to Italian prisoners of war was correct, but nothing is said about the tobacco supplied to Australians. The question which I asked on the 11th February was -
I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether or not Italian prisoners of war who are engaged in rural activities in Australia are supplied with 6 oz. of tobacco fortnightly, whereas Australians working in the same districts and at the same avocation experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining any tobacco whatever. Will the honorable gentleman confer with the appropriate Minister with a view to having the anomaly rectified in order that Australians as well as Italians may be able to obtain supplies of tobacco?
The reply which I received to-day is as follows : -
Inquiry made of the Australian Defence Canteens Services shows that the position is that each Italian prisoner of war in Australia receives a weekly quantity of tobacco products equivalent to approximately 3 oz. as a direct result of representations made at the Hague Convention and a reciprocal agreement entered into with the Italian Government.
I have no objection to that; indeed it is only right. But I do object to the Minister evading my question. I want to know how to rectify the injustice to Australians by ensuring to them a supply of tobacco as well as to Italian prisoners of war.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has referred to the shipping service to and from Tasmania. I agree with him that Tasmania is isolated from the rest of the Commonwealth, because there is no passenger communication whatever between that State and the mainland except by air. We are informed that the vessel which has been engaged in this service will be out of commission for five weeks, but I predict that the period is more likely to be two to three months. The vessel has been in such a condition that at any time a mechanical breakdown was likely; I understand that one turbine h’as been out of action for many weeks. In view of the fact that a handsome subsidy is paid to the shipping interests in order to maintain a service to and from Tasmania, and that that subsidy will not be payable during the period that the vessel concerned will be out of commission, I ask that it be made available to the airways company in order that passengers by air may travel at steamer rates. Australian citizens should not be penalized because they live in an island State; they should not be compelled to pay for air travel merely because ships are not provided for them. Persons who need to travel between Tasmania and the mainland must now travel by air ; they cannot swim the distance. The honorable member for Bass said that a vessel of light draught would be necessary in order to maintain the service to Launceston, but should such a vessel not be available, the service could be conducted with a deep sea vessel, because there are at the mouth of the river Tamar deep-water ports, such as Beauty Point and Inspection Heads. Passengers could be disembarked there and taken to their destinations by road. I add my protest to that of the honorable member for Bass against the unconcerned attitude of the Government towards the isolation of Tasmania because it was patriotic enough to agree, in order to assist the country, to certain vessels being taken off the Bass Strait service.
.- Some months ago representations were made by me and other honorable members to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that an increased issue of petrol ration tickets should be given to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps. The concession was granted and the corps, as a whole, can be said to be satisfied with the quantity of petrol its members are able to obtain. But members of the corps feel strongly that they should not be forced to put their hands into their pockets to pay for the petrol they use in travelling to and from parades. They voluntarily give up a great deal of their leisure time, especially on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, to attend parades and they travel in their own cars. I share their feeling that the Government, in recognition of their good work, ought to make some concession as regards the price paid by them for the petrol they use while on voluntary duty. Some months ago, I introduced a deputation to the Minister for the Army on this matter. The deputation received a very sympathetic hearing from the Minister and, after the position had been placed before him, it was suggested that the petrol they use while on duty should be either free or bought by them at Army rates. Subsequently, the Volunteer Defence Corps was notified that the request could not be acceded to on the grounds that it would not be in accordance with the voluntary system to make payments to its members by subsidizing the petrol they use and, secondly, because of the difficulties of administration. Neither reason is valid. Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, and other voluntary organizations, receive their equipment free, pay and allowances when called up, and, in certain circumstances, free medical’ attention. So how can it be said that to provide them with petrol, either free or at a reduced rate, would not be in accordance with the voluntary system? I do not agree that the alleged administrative difficulties are insuperable. The petrol ration tickets are issued from battalion head-quarters to battalions, from which they are issued to members. Arrangements could either be made for the members to draw their petrol free from an Army pool or for them to be recouped their outlay on petrol used for Army purposes. The Government could be debited with the amounts, which could be checked in the battalion and re-checked at group head-quarters. The matter should be given further attention, because it is wrong, not only that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps should be required to give their services free, but also that they should have to pay money out of their own pockets in order to give that service. As a case in point, men in one group were provided with petrol ration tickets representing £384 worth of petrol. Of that amount something more than £120 went to the Government as customs and primage duties. It is unreasonable that the Government should be requiring men, who give their services free, to contribute to the customs revenue as the result of giving that service. If the Government is not prepared to allow the issue of free petrol to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps when travelling on duty, it should at least allow them to buy petrol at the Army rate, which, as honorable members are aware, is duty free.
.- I promise honorable members that the questions they have brought to the notice of the House will be investigated. Unfortunately, with the exception of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr.Ryan) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), all honorable members who raised matters on the adjournment have left the chamber ; but that will not pre- vent due consideration from being given to their representations. It is rather strange that I, having spoken so often on adjournment motions in the past, should be promising that earnest consideration will be given to the representations made to-day, but i hope that honorable membershave more luck with their representations than I had with mine when I was so persistent and consistent in bringing matters of great and urgent public importance to the attention of appropriate Ministers. I hope that Ministers will see their way clear to concede at least some of the concessions that have been requested, particularly those asked for by members representing Tasmania constituencies, in view of the inadequacy of the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Papua and New Guinea (Control of prohibited articles).
National Security (General) Regulations -Orders -
Control of photography - Exemption.
Taking possession of land, &c. (73).
Use of land (6).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 38, 39.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian -BuiltBeaufort Bombers.
Mr.Curtin. - On the 11th February, 1944, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked me a question, without notice, in which it was suggested that Australian-built Beaufort bombers cost between £75,000 and £80,000, whereas a similar bomber produced in Great Britain cost only about £27,000.
I desire to inform the honorable member that if all expenditure on building extensions, plant, machinery and equipment, office furniture, labour training and the like were charged against the Beaufort order, the current cost would be approximately £44,000 per aircraft. However, the same equipment, buildings, &c., are being used for the production of Beaufighters, and are also planned to be used for the production of a heavy bomber, and capital costs, less residual value, will be spread over the three projects. When this is done, it may be expected that the current cost of producing Beauforts in Australia will work out at somewhat less than £40,000 per aircraft, whilst the average cost since the commencement of production would be approximately 10 per cent. higher than the current cost.
It is not possible to make any useful comparison between the costs of producing a Beaufort in Australia and Beaufort production costs in England, because the aircraft manufactured in those two countries are not wholly comparable, since they have different engines, propellers, armament, radio and other equipment. I am not in a position to verify that the British cost is £27,000 sterling, but I may mention in passing that the Australian equivalent of that figure is £33,750.
It may be mentioned also that in 1939 the British mission of aeronautical experts, which recommended the manufacture of Beauforts in Australia, estimated that the cost of producing them here would be £39,000. This estimate was made in 1939, and was based on wage levels and the cost of materials prevailing at that time. Furthermore, no allowance was made for the inordinate delays inseparable from war-time production, nor was it then anticipated that Britain would subsequently be unable to supply the bulk of the equipment such as engines, propellers, undercarriages, gun turrets and the like to be used on the aircraft, necessitating purchase in America and the establishment of manufacturing capacity for those units in Australia. “Wage levels and the cost of materials have increased since 1939. The purchase price of four items of equipment alone used in the aircraft, namely, engines, propellers, oleo legs and tail wheel struts, some supplies of which have been imported from overseas, is more than £4,000 higher than the purchase price prevailing in 1939. In addition? the equipment which the Air Force requires to be incorported in the aircraft has been increased to a very great extent since the Beaufort was originally designed. As one illustra tion, the armament is five times greater than it was originally, and the weight of the aircraft, because of the additional equipment found necessary in active service, has increased by approximately 2 tons, adding materially to the total cast of production.
The fact that Australian industry has been able to manufacture the aircraft at a price very close to the estimates made in 1939, despite heavy increases in costs of materials, the delays in arrival of supplies resulting from enemy action, the enormous difficulties of procuring supplies from overseas and skilled labour locally, plus the increased equipment being fitted, gives cause for soundly based confidence in the future of the Australian aircraft industry.
Tobacco: Supplies and Distribution
I esk the Minister for Labour and National Service whether or not Italian prisoners of war who are engaged in rural activities in Australia are supplied with ft oz. of tobacco fortnightly, whereas Australians working in the same districts and at the same avocation experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining any tobacco whatever! Will tho honorable gentleman confer with the appropriate Minister with a view to having the anomaly rectified in order that Australians as well as Italians may be able to obtain supplies of tobacco?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now furnished the following reply : -
Inquiry made of the Australian Defence Canteens’ Services shows that the position is that each Italian prisoner of war in Australia receives a weekly quantity of tobacco products equivalent to approximately 3 oz. as a direct result of representations made at the Hague Convention and a reciprocal agreement entered into with the Italian Government. Rations for prisoners of war are composed of second and third grades of tobacco only.
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440218_reps_17_177/>.