17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer whether or not there is evidence of a growing practice among private commercial and industrial companies of establishing provident funds for the sole purpose of avoiding war-time taxation ? Is it a. fact that the operation of such schemes confers little or no benefit on the lower paid employees, and mainly provides retiring allowances for high executive officers, aggregating in some instances thousands of pounds ? If so, what action has the honorable gentleman taken or does he propose to take in order to correct the position?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - A number of instances have come under notice of companies or organizations having made provision for provident funds that have been specially designed to provide retiring allowances or pensions for only certain members of their staffs, at times for only a limited number of their executive officers. In one instance, provision was made for the general manager, and the employees of the company were excluded from any benefit. The matter has had the consideration of the Government, and I hope that shortly I shall be able to make a statement indicating the views that it holds.
– The honorable gentleman is not opposed, as a general principle, to the establishment of provident funds by businesses?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - No; only to those funds that have been established for the benefit only of selected members of the staff.
-But such schemes have to be approved by the Commissioner of Taxation.
– In February, 1940,
Mr. Kenneth Slessor was appointed by the Commonwealth Government as official war correspondent, and he has held that position ever since. I ask the Prime Minister whether or not Colonel Rasmussen, Director of Army Public Relations, has asked the Department of Information to apply for the cancellation of this official’s accreditation to the Army. If so, will the right honorable gentleman stay further action until a civilian, not an Army officer, has had an opportunity to determine whether or not Mr. Slessor is being prejudiced and treated unjustly by Army officials?
– Certain statements have been made to me concerning Mr. Kenneth Slessor, but as Minister for Defence I have no knowledge of any change having been made in the position that he holds. I shall ascertain whether or not a change has been made, either by Mr. Slessor or as a result of action taken in respect of him. Until I have seen the papers, I should be as competent as anybody to decide whether or not the right thing is being done.
– So long as an Army official does not decide the matter I shall be content.
– This is the first I have heard of such a possibility.
– As the majority of the State Parliaments have set up parliamentary committees to inquire into the matter of post-war reconstruction, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consider the setting up of a federal parliamentary committee to co-operate with the State committees and to co-ordinate the work of the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with this problem?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I have not given consideration to such a proposal, but I shall look into the matter and later advise the honorable member of the views of the Government.
– Does the Minister for
Commerce ‘and Agriculture appreciate the difficulties that are now being experienced by dairymen in Victoria in obtaining adequate supplies of concentrates, particularly in view of the present drought conditions and the damage caused recently by bush-fires? If so, can the honorable gentleman assure the House that every effort will be made to provide reasonable quantities of concentrates in the near future?
– Recently, in Victoria, a committee was appointed, consisting of the principals of the organizations of dairy-farmers. In addition, steps have been taken to control the different fodders, including concentrates,which are essential to the dairying industry. Every endeavour is being made to supply those districts in Victoria which need them most. The committee is devoting the whole of its time to that purpose.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet decided to extend in a northerly direction the area in the Northern Territory to which civilians may go without being obliged to obtain the permission of the Army authorities ?
– A decision has not yet been made to extend the area.
. -by leave - I informed the House yesterday that I had received last Friday the resignations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as members of the Advisory War Council. I took the requisite action in consequence of those resignations, and am now able to advise honorable members that the Governor-General in Council has been pleased to accept them.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has accepted an invitation issued by me to serve as a member of the Advisory War Council, and the Governor-General in Council has been pleased to approve of his appointment. As honorable members are aware, the right honorable gentleman was sent abroad by the Fadden Government as the accredited representative of Australia in the United Kingdom War Cabinet, and continued to act in that capacity for my Government. He rendered very distinguished service to Australia in that responsible position. Upon his return to Australia, hewas co-opted as an additional member of the Advisory War Council, in order that the knowledge he had acquired during his association with the higher direction of the Empire’s war effort might be used in the service of this country at a critical stage of its history. I am grateful for his further expression of willingness to aid the Government in the war effort by fresh service on thecouncil.
I take this opportunity to make reference to the position of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).. Honorable members will be aware of certain circumstances associated with his decision to continue to serve as a member of the Advisory War Council. On the 23rd February, I wrote to the honorable gentleman as follows: -
I am glad to learn, as indicated in our conversation this morning, that as an Australian you are continuing your membership of the Australian Advisory War Council.
Needless to say, I deeply appreciate this decision on your part because you have been a member of the Council since its inception and prior thereto as Minister for the Army had a most intimate knowledge with the problems of Australia in respect to its security and the prosecution of the war. Prior to my Government, you were a member of the War Cabinet, and, as a result, have been in the most intimate and uninterrupted way associated with the development of our present position as a country whose Allies and ourselves have still got the task of victory in front of us.
I have publicly said that I felt I rendered some service when a non-Government member of the War Council and it is a great pleasure to me to acknowledge to you the indebtedness that I have as head of the Government to you as a member of the War Council for the influence you have exerted and the part you have played as a member of a council whose role in the war has been, in my view, of incalculable advantage to the nation.
To that letter, the honorable gentleman was kind enough to reply in the following terms : -
I am in receipt of your letter and I thank you very much indeed for its contents.
I, too, hold the view that the War Council discharges an important function in this country and I have no hesitation in saying that my obligation is to render whatever service I can to the country and to you as its leader at this time.
You may count upon my continued service upon the council and in any other capacity where I can assist in bringing this war to a successful conclusion.
I desire to express my appreciation of the service which the honorable member has rendered to the Advisory War Council.
The circumstances of this last week made it necessary for the Australian Country party to determine its position in relation to the Advisory War Council, and I place on record the following letters dated the 18th February which have been exchanged between the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and myself on this matter. These speak for themselves : -
My dear Prime Minister,
I have to advise that a meeting of my party to-day considered its position in relation to the Advisory War Council and decided that, in its opinion, the present charter and method of procedure of the Advisory War Council fell short of making that body the most effective instrument for its avowed purpose.
The Australian Country party is willing to assist in the Advisory War Council if the Government will remedy the defects in it that experience has revealed and subject to a review of the position upon your return to Australia.
It is the view of my party that, so long as you feel there should be consultation between the Government and the Country party on matters affecting the prosecution of the war, per medium of the Advisory War Council, the Country party will be available for such consultation, subject to the above.
I have to state further that the Country party is willing to do everything possible to aid the Government in a total war effort and especially to assist the Prime Minister on his overseas mission.
My dear Mr. Fadden,
I beg to acknowledge your letter of even date regarding the Australian Advisory War Council and note with appreciation that the Australian Country party is of the view that there should be consultation between the Government and the Country party on matters affecting the prosecution of the war per medium of the Advisory War Council.
I have to say to you that I am firmly of the opinion that such consultation in that way is of great advantage to the country in the tremendous strains and stresses inseparable from the fact that the nation is at war for the preservation of its liberties.
I desire to say that I am not aware of any defects in the present charter and method of procedure of the council and would be glad to be informed of the views of the Australian Country party in this connexion and assure you that I have no purpose other than to make the Australian Advisory War Council a body which would function effectively in the great purpose that I know we jointly have in view.
I am regarding your letter as an intimation that the decision of the council to meet next Thursday stands.
In the final paragraph of your letter you very kindly stated that the Country party is willing to do everything possible to aid the Government in a total war effort and especially to assist me in a mission overseas. I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude for this intimation.
I have only to add that the meeting of the Advisory War Council was held this morning.
– There is no paper; the Prime Minister merely made a statement, and a statement cannot be tabled.
– Am I in order in moving that the statement of the Prime Minister be printed?
– I thought I had made it clear that it is not competent for any one to move that a statement be printed. It was not put forward by the Prime Minister as a paper. A paper can be printed, but a statement cannot.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether all vacancies on the Advisory War Council caused by the resignations last week have already been filled?
– At the moment, no.
– Splendid !
– In view of the fact that a vacancy still exists on the Advisory War Council, will the Prime Minister give consideration at the earliest possible moment to the appointment of one of his able back-bench supporters willing to assist in the war effort in order that the vacancy may be speedily filled?
– I shall give consideration to that matter, but I assure the honorable member that, for the moment, my mind on that subject is something like that of the Sphinx.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the functions of the Advisory War Council have been in any way altered and, if so, in what way and, particularly, has the council now any functions of executive government?
– The Advisory War Council never did have and does not now have executive functions. It is purely advisory. There is now greater appreciation of what is meant by the term “ advisory “.
Production - Pool Payments - SUPERPHOSPHATE - Rust.
– In view of the statement of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board that an appeal would probably be made to wheat-growers to increase production, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether this is, in fact, the policy of the Government, because, if it is, growers should be advised early so that they may make their preparations? Will the Minister also say whether an increased price will be offered in order to induce growers to increase their acreage, and whether additional supplies of superphosphate will be made available?
– The matter referred to in the first part of the honorable member’s question has been dealt with in recent announcements of Government policy. As for the price of wheat, there will be an increase of ls. a bushel, as compared with the first advance, on the residue of wheat over and above the quota, and this will be in addition to the amount allocated by the committee recently set up to compensate growers for. the extra cost imposed upon them by the Harvesting Award. In the immediate future I propose to broadcast an appeal to wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth, and especially in the eastern States, to grow as much wheat as they can on their registered acreages, but we cannot make any promise that additional superphosphate will be made available. The superphosphate simply is not to be had, and all amounts available are already allocated. Wheat grown over and above the quantity for which superphosphate has been allocated with have to be grown without superphosphate.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when a payment will be made from No. 6 wheat pool?
– I am now preparing a submission to Cabinet recommending a further payment on the residue of wheat in No. 6 pool.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture given effect to the written undertaking which he gave to me in November last that a survey of the damage caused by rust in the wheat crops of Western Australia would be made with a view to providing some compensation for losses incurred as the result of that disease in that State?
– The honorable member did correspond with me in reference to rust damage to wheat. I have had the matter investigated. My departmental officials consider that we cannot make an exception in the case of Western Australia, because rust may be general throughout Australia, and because it is hard to assess what damage it causes to wheat crops. However, as he has again approached me on this matter, I am having further investigations made in order to ascertain whether there are isolated cases in which rust has caused damage. I shall communicate the results of that investigation to him at the earliest possible moment.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House what quantity of superphosphate will be available to wheat-growers for the 1944-45 season?
– Lack of shipping is one of the main reasons why supplies of superphosphate available in different parts of the world cannot be made available in Australia. We consider, however, that with the improvement of the war position, and of the shipping position, there will be more liberal supplies of superphosphate available to the wheat industry for the 1944-45 season.
War Pictures in London.
– Has the Minister for Information seen a report in the Daily Telegraph of to-day’s date in regard to an exhibition of Pacific war pictures in London in which it was stated that no pictures of Australian activities were shown? According to the report, the person in charge of the exhibition said that he had tried to get pictures from Australia, but those received could not compare with the pictures available from American sources. Will the Minister take action to see that pictures illustrating the war effort of Australians are exhibited in London?
– I have read the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, but I do not know whether the facts are as stated. I am not prepared to accept the assumption of the honorable member that the report is correct, and that, therefore, we ought to make arrangements to exhibit pictures in London of the Pacific campaign. I have complete confidence in the competency of the officers of the department - having regard to our rather restricted resources - to do everything possible to place before the people of Great Britain what is necessary to emphasize and illustrate Australia’s war effort. When I am in a position to give the honorable member more information on the subject I shall do so.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is true, as reported in the press, that the Treasury has given permission for the investment of £500,000 by one firm in Melbourne? If that is correct, may it be taken as an indication that the Treasury is about to ease up in its administration of the regulations which, up to now, have consistently limited investment in a private home to £400 ?
– A question on this subject, with special reference to Carlton and United Breweries Limited, was addressed to me by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), and I promised that I would obtain the information for him.So far, I have had an opportunity to make only casual inquiries, but I have been given to understand that there were peculiar circumstances associated with that purchase. I cannot hold out any hope that the restrictions on investment generally will be relaxed.
– I have received a letter from the Town Clerk of the municipality of Preston in my electorate, in which he states in regard to a number of houses within that municipality that there is an insufficiency of water mains, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works is quite willing to supply the deficiency if it can get the materials. As the shortage and the difficulties are acute, can the Minister for Munitions hold out any hope that the piping will be made available?
– As the honorable member has intimated, there is an extreme shortage of this type of material, because of the urgent needs of the fighting services in operational areas. The availability of piping for the purposes mentioned by the honorable member will depend on their urgency, but I shall be very glad to have inquiries made and, if possible, to supply what is required.
– Will the Minister let me know the result?
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware of the enormous increase of rabbits throughout Australia? Has he had requests from various municipalities and associations throughout Australia for the release of rabbit netting? Will he release sufficient rabbit netting, 42 x1¼ inch, through district war agricultural committees to combat the plague ?
– I shall have the matter investigated, and reply at the earliest possible moment.
– A bit of netting would be more satisfactory.
– When does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture propose to take the vital step, which is six weeks overdue, necessary before the South Australian potato arbitration case can proceed to a hearing?
– I do not know what that step is, but I shall have inquiries made. I am as anxious as is the honorable member to see completion of the arbitration ease referred to.
– I have received from the right honor- able member for Cowper (SirEarle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The continuous decline in food production owing to the shortage of essential materials and equipment, and the lack of adequate transport for cream, milk, vegetables, and all farm and orchard products to the factories and market, and the absence of opportunity for the families of many farmers in outlyingdistricts to secure the necessaries of life under existing regulations regarding motor vehicles”.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The decline of food production in Australia has at last been officially admitted by the Government.
– Nothing of the sort.
– In a statement last week, the Government pointed out that the exports of butter to Great Britain had declined from 113,000 tons in 1939-40 to 40,000 tons in 1942-43. This decline will continue, but what is worse, a total collapse is inevitable unless a Ministry of Food is appointed immediately to prevent the issue of irritating and contradictoryregula tions, which now stultify the production of food. In this regard I feel a sense of frustration. I have appealed publicly and privately to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), the Food Controller Mr. Murphy, and departmental officials from the local man on the spot to the permanent heads, to end this system, which has been conceived in a madhouse. If they are unable to abolish the system, they should at least remove outstanding anomalies, which are compelling some people to lead sub-standard existences, unequalled’ in any other civilized country. I shall drive home that point in a few moments. One hears talk about “ equality of sacrifice in war-time”, but that is a myth, because many people are living under intolerable conditions, although members of their families are fighting for the preservation of this country.
The items which we lack are rubber, petrol, machine tools, equipment and skilled workers. That is a fair statement of the essential shortages. The organization which has grown up seems to waste all of them to the maximum degree under the pretence of saving each one of them individually. For example, rubber is in very short supply, so the Government insists that gas-producers, which weigh from 1 cwt. to 5 cwt., shall be fitted to motor vehicles. The owners are usually obliged to install the gasproducers in a position which reduces the life of the tyres by from 50 to 75 per cent. Having done that, the Government then insists that the gas-producers shall be fitted in garages according to a specified order of priority, with the result that ordinary running repairs tomotor vehicles are seriously delayed. Cars have been delayed for weeks while a garage has been busy fitting gas-producers to other vehicles, many of which are not being used. Some owners install gas-producers for the purpose of ensuring that they will be able to obtain an additional ration of petrol. In fact, hundreds of vehicles so equipped are lying idle in garages, and that is the best place for them.
In addition, the Government commandeered 50 per cent. of the lathes from country garages which used to service motor vehicles. As a result, man-hours, tyres and petrol are wasted in shifting a job from one shop to another. In one instance a car had to be moved to three different garages before the repairs were completed. It was a stupid arrangement to strip country garages of their lathes.
The Government issued a regulation providing that, regardless of requirements, only one spare part shall be given to an applicant. I required a steering rod and the little bulb that attaches to the end of it, because they had become worn. The proprietor of the garage told me that he could supply me with only the steering rod. Five days later we drove into a fence because the rod broke again. Then the garage supplied the second part. Can honorable members imagine a more stupid arrangement than that? A point that should be borne in mind is that most of the cars in use in the country are antiquated vehicles which are not required for the war effort. The parts which they require are usually not available in country garages, and the owners have to wait for days or perhaps even weeks before a spare part can be obtained from the “pool “.
If a man wishes to obtain a new tyre, he must hold a very high priority. His
Excellency the Governor-General has priority No. 1, and high Government officials have priority No. 2. But that does not always save them from inconvenience and delay. On one occasion, an important Government official was driving through Grafton when one of the vehicle’s tyres blew out. I had to lend him a tyre from my own motor car to enable him to continue his journey; otherwise he would have been delayed for about five days awaiting the arrival of a new tyre from Newcastle or Sydney. Grafton is a substantial city, with a population of from 10,000 to 12,000 persons, but apparently no one there can be trusted to maintain a reserve of tyres for the use of persons with high priorities. If a person is so unfortunate as to have a priority below No. 3, he may never get a tyre.
Nearly every day one hears of important Government officials being delayed through this lack of co-ordination. What is the effect? I have received a letter dated the 18th February from the Upper Hastings Co-operative Dairy Society Limited of Wauchope. The Hastings River is from 80 to 90 miles long and its watershed rises steeply up to the tableland 3,000 or 4,000 feet high in the course of 20 or 30 miles. Innumerable creeks with admirable fertile land for dairying from which the cream goes to the factory, drain into the river. The manager of the factory wrote to me that the petrol rationing committee in Sydney had refused to allow four of the cream carriers petrol, unless they installed producergas units. These men have already given producer gas a very fair trial. They have worn out one or even two units since the introduction of substitute fuel, and, as each of the carriers has purchased a new vehicle, they are indisposed to install gas units. The country from which these men draw their supplies consists mostly of ungravelled roads and mountainous country. The stops between farms make the plant inefficient and by no means a saving in petrol. The manager wrote: -
If the Fuel Committee adheres to their drastic action, there is no alternative than for the carriers to transfer their lorries to timber as there is no shortage of petrol for this class of work. Due to man-power shortage in this district and the lorry position being much the same, will leave us in a very sorry plight to find means of transport to get our 147 cream suppliers, producing 79,700 lb. of butter per month, to the factory, and the feed problem about which our Government is so much concerned will also suffer. My directors, and also the cream carriers, will welcome a visit from an officer who is prepared to go over the roads with the carriers as they feel when he sees the conditions of the country travelled it will place a different aspect on their knowledge of what is expected of a producer-gas unit.
This is a long-standing trouble. I took it up three or four months ago with the ControllerGeneral of Food and said, “ You must fix up something for me on this subject “. But the men got no concession whatever. It should be realized that these individuals know the country under all conditions. They are finding their circumstances so impossible at present that they cannot get on with their job and they are giving it up.
In the Upper Nambucca two butter factories in particular are involved in similar troubles. They asked that an investigation be made on the spot by a departmental officer, and undertook to inform him on every aspect of their problems. Previously I had been able to arrange that carriers in the Dorrigo and Comboyne districts should be exempt from the regulations because of the very steep country through which they had to travel. The Upper Nambucca country is similar, yet the authorities advised that they could not consent to my request for an investigation owing to the fear that if the case were proved and a favorable report were made they might be faced with a demand for general exemptions in such country. There must be general exemptions in such country. The people in the Bulga district operate under conditions exactly similar to those in the Dorrigo and Comboyne country. Torrential rains fall during the summer months and charcoal becomes saturated and practically useless. In such circumstances surely it is reasonable to ask that a general exemption from the regulations shall apply. Some of the persons involved in these troubles have been informed that unless they fitted producergas units they would have their petrol supplies reduced by 75 per cent. Consequently, they installed units and obtained licences. However, they realize that energy is only wasted when the producer- gas units are employed, and the units are therefore left in the sheds at home. A man working on the Clarence River told me last year that he had been carrying up to 5 tons of cream on his lorry six days a week, but now, because he cannot get sufficient petrol and the producergas unit will not operate in the hilly country, he can travel only three days a week. One result is that the factories are receiving, a large quantity of secondclass cream which must be destroyed. Only the stupid official attitude is responsible for this result.
This is not a party question, and I beg the Government, as I am sure every honorable member representing a rural constituency on either side of the House would do, to take steps to remedy this deplorable state of affairs. To instance how ridiculous the present dual control is, I refer to the experience of a man named Maxwell, who was engaged in carrying large drums of petrol. He was informed by the Liquid Fuel Control Authority that if he did not instal a producer-gas unit he would not be allowed petrol. However, the Petroleum Pool authorities informed him that if he drove a producer-gas unit into the yard where he had to load petrol drums he would be immediately ejected, because producer-gas units were too dangerous in such surroundings. To-day that man is doing much less work than he would normally do, the reason being that he is subject to the control of two government departments, the work of which is not co-ordinated.
I turn for a few moments to the subject of tyre3. To illustrate my case I refer to the experience of the small settlement of Cascade, 36 miles from Bellingen. In a letter dated the 15th February, 1944, which -was forwarded to me with a petition signed by 72 residents, the request is made that the Government should - make suitable provision for emergency transport in cases of serious accident or illness at this centre. ‘ The nearest ambulance is stationed at Bellingen, a distance of 36 miles, and the nearest doctor is resident in Bellingen. The extra work thrown on the ambulance men is such that over twelve hours may now elapse before a patient can be reached. Even such a period depends upon the telephone lines being in order, for during the past four years the labour required for brushing the telephone line routes has not been available, and all replacement material is still in short supply. As a doctor you will readily understand the argent need for some special provision being -made.
I refer also to the case of Mr. Lyon, of Bulga. He is 40 miles from Wingham on a road that is untrafficable. His two sons are at the front. For nine months he and his wife have not been able to leave their farm because they have no tyres. Their nearest post .office is four miles away, and their nearest store is 40 miles distant. The cream carrier goes away early in the morning before their work is finished, and does not return until the next day, so they cannot get to town except by their own transport. Yet they cannot get tyres.
Finally, I mention a case at Coffs Harbour. Mr. C. H. Everingham, chairman of the District War Agricultural Committee, has written to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), saying that he must resign his position as chairman unless the farmers in his district, all of whom have priority 4, are given tyres. All the rejected applications are from farmers, dairyfarmers or. vegetable-growers. Mr. Everingham writes -
Should tyres and tubes be not available to these men, most of them will not be able to carry on with production of vegetables, &c. lt is no use men growing produce unless they can get it to market in at least a reasonable sound condition, and without transport this is impossible. I am holding my resignation from the District War Agricultural -Committee pending decision of rubber control in reference to release of tyres and tubes to the district primary producers. Please do “all you can to get tilings made a little better in this and other departments. I may state that not even a reply to letters is at present being sent along.
These requests date from the 2nd September up to the present.
Surely if the tyre position is as bad as this, tyres should be stripped off the cars that are jacked up in every city of Australia.
We are supposed to be short of petrol ; yet, men have to be dragged to town time and time again, unnecessarily, because of delays in fixing their essential implements brought about by the removal of lathes from country workshops. I shall mention now the case of a Mr. Steer, of Coff’s Harbour. As honorable members know, there is a shortage of doctors in the country and in the city. No doctor cam visit one-tenth of the cases he ordinarily would visit. All confinement cases must come into town. Mr. Steer’s special job is to bring these women, on sudden calls at all hours of the day and night, into the nursing homes to make certain that they receive attention. Yet, though he made a request that he should get a special allowance for this purpose, which could be under the supervision of the local police, it has been refused. [Extension of time granted.] He wrote a most reasonable letter, requesting a special allowance of petrol, based on exact knowledge of what demands would be made upon his services in the ensuing four months, but he met with a curt refusal. He said, “ I am prepared to have everything ‘ vetted ‘ by the local police sergeant. . My books can be examined, and the mileage that I do can be seen. I shall not use any of the extra petrol for the running of my car other than on these special trips. As doctors and nurses cannot visit their patients, I am willing to transport the patients to the town “. Country garage men, and city men who are in a similar position, should be allowed sufficient petrol to enable them to undertake this work. The petrol ration of country dwellers should have a different basis from that of persons who use their cars for pleasure purposes in the cities. They should be allowed the basic ration that every one else receives, and in addition sufficient to enable them to visit the marketing centre at least once a week in order to transact whatever business may demand their attention. Since the outbreak of the. war, it has ‘been almost impossible to have a new telephone line constructed. That would greatly alleviate the position. I urge the Government to place the matter under the control of one Minister, and todispense with all the existing contradictory controls. I have always advised the acceptance of the suggestions of war agricultural committees in such matters. The most important consideration in the world to-day is the production of food, and that will continue to be the position for many years after the termination of the war. It is essential to maintain first the lives and then the spirit and comfort of those who are engaged in primary production.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has stressed what he regards as the grave anomalies and difficulties that are being suffered by people in country areas by reason of certain restrictions which it has been found essential to apply in order to meet the grave and serious demands imposed by war. It appears to me that the right honorable gentleman has failed to appreciate that the country is at war. He and those who hold his views apparently do not understand that war inevitably makes demands upon the resources of this nation far in excess of those that are made in peace-time. Many of the materials he has mentioned are urgently needed by our fighting forces in the most forward areas. Even the most seriously inconvenienced person in a country area would, I believe, gladly submit if he knew that thereby material aid was being afforded to the men who are rendering the best possible service in fighting the enemy in forward areas.When the essential needs of the fighting forces in relation to man-power are being met, one cannot expect the volume of production to be equal to meeting all the normal demands of the civil community. The Government has sought to make the most equitable distribution of whatever supplies are available. The right honorable member has said that the conditions in country areas are to-day below the standard that would be regarded as reasonable. That is a ridiculous statement. Such exaggeration will not impress a House of responsible persons who know that the position is quite different from that which he has depicted. The right honorable gentleman has referred to the shortage of tyres. The members of the present Government cannot be held responsible for any shortage of rubber stocks that may exist. When they assumed office, the reserves of this most important material were very small. The problem of supplying the essential needs of the fighting services, and making provision for the civilian population, has caused constant concern not alone to this Government but also to the Allied Governments. The right honorable mem ber said that discrimination had been shown in the treatment of applicants for tyres. I point out to him that there are district agricultural committees which assist in determining the claims of applicants, and the recommendations of the committees are taken into account when making allocations. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has informed me that it is a very rare occurrence for the recommendation of a district agricultural committee to be refused. There may be individual cases to which this does not apply, and I ask honorable members to bring such cases before me. I have found in the administration of the Department of Munitions that almost invariably there is a sound reason for refusing requests, and I have no doubt that the same is true of applications dealt with by the Department of Supply and Shipping. I challenge honorable members to produce particulars of cases in which applications have been refused for other than sound reasons. The Government has tried, to the full extent of the resources of the nation, to make tyres available to all those who really need them. However, honorable members must be aware of the grave shortage of rubber, and if we must choose between the needs of the fighting forces and those of the civil population, there can be no doubt as to what our choice must be.
The right honorable member also complained because stocks of spare parts for motor vehicles were not held in various country centres, and said that motor garages had been deprived of the means to make spare parts. I admit that that there have been difficulties, largely arising from the fact that it is now necessary to keep motor vehicles on the road for longer periods than was the custom in peace-time. There are many makes of motor vehicles, and this increases the difficulty of providing spare parts for all of them. We have tried to keep stocks of spare parts for the more popular makes, but we cannot be expected to provide parts for the more exotic makes, or for motor vehicles of ancient vintage.
Great play was made by the right honorable member on the supply of petrol to various kinds of road users. He said that persons carting timber from the forests were allowed petrol, but those engaged in carting cream over country roads were required to fix gas-producers, and this, he suggested, was a grave injustice to the cream carters. Does not the right honorable member know that lorries carting timber out of the forests must travel over unmade roads and over steep country, where it would be ridiculous to suggest the use of gas-producers.
– But it took us a year’s agitation to get an allocation of petrol even for the timber carters.
– The position in regard to cream carters is entirely different because, in their case, the carting is done over average country roads. Where this does not apply, the person concerned can always ask for special treatment. It is the invariable rule of the Department of Supply and Shipping to meet special circumstances.
– That is not true. I can supply dozens of instances of requests being refused.
– Order! The remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper are unparliamentary.
– The right honorable gentleman was not prepared this afternoon to supply the convincing proof that is essential if we are to assess correctly the difficulties which he considers are being suffered by those on behalf of whom he speaks. The right honorable gentleman sought to leave the definite impression on the minds of honorable members that pleasure motorists are treated by the liquid fuel authority on the same footing as primary producers in the issue of petrol ration tickets, but that, as the right honorable gentleman knows, is not so. He knows that men who rely on motor vehicles to carry their goods to market or themselves to where they do business receive special consideration from the Liquid Fuel Controller. Let the right honorable gentleman give some concrete instances of injustice or extreme difficulty and we shall be better able to judge the worth of the case which he has endeavoured to make out. The Department of Supply and Shipping has in every instance sought to make available to the civil community as much as possible of its needs after the requirements of the fighting services have been met. It is the policy of the department to maintain supplies of essentials to the producers of essential foods. The Government has sought in every way possible from the resources at its disposal to assist those engaged in primary production.
.- I do not think that a debate of this kind calls so much for a defence of the Government, such as the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has endeavoured to put forward, as for some degree of sympathy and understanding of the problems that confront the country. The purpose of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was not so much to indict the Government as to make suggestions which would possibly assist it in solving the difficulties of a great number of people in country districts who find their conditions almost intolerable. The matter of motor transport is of grave urgency and importance. My personal contact with the Minister for Munitions has shown that he has a great deal of sympathy with the primary producers, but, at the same time, I consider that he is gravely misinformed on some of the subjects on whichhe spoke this afternoon. For instance, he said that residents in country districts had more petrol than men in cities who use motor vehicles for pleasure purposes. Only to-day I received a letter from the Liquid Fuel Control Board, Queensland, in reply to some representations which I made to it on behalf of the foreman on a farm 11 miles out of town. The road to town is rough, and his only means of transport is an old car. I asked that he be given an increased ration. The board’s reply was that he would be given 4 gallons a month. Could he get less if he lived practically in the heart of a city?
– I get only 2 gallons a month.
– But the honorable member uses ministerial cars.
– This man lives 11 miles out of town, and has seven children. He has no other means of transport. In spite of the strong case that I, as a member of Parliament, made out on his behalf, he will receive no more than 4 gallons a month. I do not think that the Minister, who has particular sympathy for workers, would agree that in such circumstances that is a fair ration. What I want to impress on the Government is that, although we all agree that, when war against Japan broke out in December, 1941, heavy restrictions were necessary, changes in the war situation make it necessary to alter our policy in certain respects. The Prime Minister himself has emphasized that from time to time in this House. I have endeavoured on more than one occasion to show the Government the grave damage that is being done to the national economy by the attachment of producer-gas units to motor vehicles, and the failure to supply petrol. I assume that the Minister knows that when a 6- owt. producer-gas unit is attached to a truck the heavy strain imposed on the tyres reduces their life in some instances by half. Not only is the life of the tyres reduced, but also, as any garage man will confirm, the greatly increased amount of low gear work, with consequent extra revolutions, tears the life out of engines much more rapidly than would be the case with a petrol-driven vehicle which can cover most country in top gear. The time has arrived when the position should be reviewed with a view to determining whether it would not be better to bring petrol into the country, and thereby save rubber and vehicles.
– And time.
– Yes. We should determine whether, from the point of view of the general war effort, it would not be better to supply more petrol to motor users in order that they might save their rubber by dismantling their producergas units. Unfortunately, the Liquid Fuel Control Board is still following the lines laid down in December, 1941. Perhaps it is appropriate that it should do so, for it is not supposed to take cognizance of anything without receiving ministerial directions. I am glad to see the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in the chamber. I believe that he, having a sympathetic understanding of the problems of the country, must have personal knowledge that, what I say is absolutely correct. How long will the owners of motor vehicles be compelled to use wasteful gas-producers? They are wasteful in the terms of the war effort. The United States of America provides our requirements of petrol, as well as considerable quantities of rubber. As rubber is more difficult to obtain than petrol? I believe that the United States of America would prefer Australia to economize in the use of this article, even if it necessitated a greater use of petrol. The time has arrived for the Government to review its decision that certain classes of motor vehicles must be equipped with gasproducers. This matter is of great importance to primary producers. The Minister for Munitions endeavoured to defend the administration of the department, but I hope that he will recognize the necessity for alleviating the intolerable conditions under which many worthy primary producers are now working.
.- Replying to the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) declared that difficulties in supplying the essential requirements of primary producers were attributable to the war. That does not help the situation. The primary producers know that Australia is at war, because they have suffered from it more than has any other section of the community. Indeed, they have made a greater contribution to the war effort, in terms of man-power, than has any other class. The fact i3 that primary producers are not receiving their requirements because of governmental bungling. We now ask the Minister to review the existing plan, if it can be described as a plan, and ensure that annoyances, irritations and delays shall be abolished. A few months ago, all persons who had applied for tyres for motor vehicles on a particular form were notified that they should complete a new form. Instructions of that character cause irritation and delay. That could be prevented by better administration.
The Minister referred to war agricultural committees. I have discussed with a large number of them their applications for essential supplies for primary producers. They told me that in many instances they were thoroughly “ fed up and were only wasting their time,because their recommendations fell on deaf ears. The men who constitute those committees are patriotic, public-spirited citizens, who are outstanding among the primary producers in their respective districts. They are eager to give to the war effort their best service. They have a thorough knowledge of the problems of primary production, and their hearts bleed for the farmers who are enduring so many unnecessary hardships. The Government will never achieve its production goals unless primary producers have adequate man-power and supplies of essential equipment. It is all “ eye-wash “ for the department to fix targets if primary producers are not assisted to attain them. In this morning’s newspapers, the Controller-General of Food, Mr. Murphy, was quoted as having said that when he was appointed to that position, he tried to secure the release from the Army of 50,000 men to engage in primary production. The Government decided to make available only 15,000 men.
– Order! The motion contains no reference to man-power.
– I made only passing reference to it. Continuing, he said, “ Consequently, there is a serious shortage of local labour for producing essential food”. The Food Controller further stated : “ If the dairying industry fails to produce milk, the whole food structure will break down.” That is a severe castigation of the Government by its own Controller-General of Food. Figures have been quoted in this House to show that our exports of primary produce to Great Britain have seriously declined since the outbreak of war. When the invasion of the Continent from the United Kingdom begins, enormous quantities of food will be required from Australia to sustain that effort. Again, as the tempo of the Allied drive against Tokyo increases and large numbers of troops are concentrated in the SouthWest Pacific, Australiawill receive further demands to supply food. The setting up of high targets of production without giving the primary producer the wherewithal to hit them, is ridiculous. Australia must exert every effort to produce record quantities of food, but production will decline unless the Government alters its present policy. Recently, a Minister hinted at the possibility of an extension of food rationing here. Whilst the Australian public will accept it, rationing will not produce an extra ounce of food on the farm. The only result will be that the consumer will have less to eat. Production targets can be attained only by increasing the output of each farm. And that is the ambition of our farmers. Australia’s “ second front “ is the food front.
On many occasions I have asked in this House for a relaxation of clothes rationing as applying to primary producers.
– Order! That subject is not within the terms of the motion..
-It relates to supplies.
– I ask the honorable member not to argue with the Chair. I have declared that clothes rationing is. not within the terms of the motion.
– In my opinion the motion covers all supplies. Primary producers are asking, the Government to make it possible for them to obtain more concentrates, plough shares, plough, chains, split links, scufflers (cultivators), diamond harrows, corn planters, tractors, tractor ploughs, single-disc horse ploughs, mowers, rakes, double-disc ploughs, chaffcutters, windmills, pumps, tyne and disc cultivators, and spare parts for these items, engines for driving milking machines, &c. The answers received from official authorities in reply to requests for additional supplies of these items are heart-breaking to those who are endeavouring to help primary producers. My list also includes cream cans, barbed and plain fencing wire, horse collars–
– Order ! There is no mention of horse collars in the submission of the right honorable member for Cowper.
– There is reference to “ essential supplies “ and horse collars, buckets, milk strainers, filter wads, K wire, yard brooms, side handles, wire gauze, strainer bottoms, iron for tanks and roofing, spouting, down pipes and galvanized iron are all “ essential supplies “.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has moved the adjournment of the House to discuss - the continuous decline in food production owing to the shortage of essential materials and equipment, and the lack of adequate transport for cream, milk, vegetables, and all farm and orchard products to the factories and market, and the absence of opportunity for the families of many farmers in outlying districts to secure the necessaries of life under existing regulations regarding motor vehicles.
I wish first to make it perfectly clear that the preamble to the motion is completely without foundation. There has not been a continuous decline in food production. I pointed out to the House a few days ago that the production of every basic primary foodstuff in short supply in this country has substantially increased since this Government assumed office. Honorable members opposite are doing a grave disservice to this nation by continuing to make extravagant statements to the effect that production is declining. I challenge any honorable member opposite to name one basic food product in short supply that has not shown an increase of production since this Government assumed office.
– Butter is a secondary product. It is manufactured from whole milk and the production of whole milk has increased substantially since this Government came into office. It must be remembered that not only butter, but also condensed and powdered milk, and a number of other dairy products, come from whole milk.
– Until recently we produced hardly any condensed or powdered milk.
– Obviously, if whole milk has to be diverted from its former uses to the manufacture of condensed and powdered milk, the manufacture of other secondary products is likely to show a decline.
– The production of whole milk has declined since 1939.
– Not only are we using whole milk for the specific purposesI have already mentioned, but we are also using it for the manufacture of ice cream and for beverage purposes. I believe all honorable members realize that many servicemen and women who formerly drank some other beverage are now drinking milk. Official figures show that our whole milk production in 1941- 42 totalled 1,106,000,000 gallons, in 1942- 43 it totalled 1,034,000,000 gallons and the estimated production for 1943-44 is 1,150,000,000 gallons. I hear an honorable member ask how the estimate was obtained. It was obtained from officials of the State Departments of Agriculture. I think that honorable members generally will agree that for political reasons some of the State governments would do anything they could to make our position regarding agricultural production appear as bad as possible.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister for War Organization of Industry in order in casting such a reflection on State governments?
– He is at least as much in order as any honorable gentleman who casts a reflection upon the source of his figures.
– Seeing that since this Government came into office there has been a substantial increase in every basic food product that is in short supply in this country, I say that the preamble to the reason given for this motion is quite inaccurate. A decline has occurred in the production of wheat, barley and certain other commodities of which we have a surplus. The figures in relation to meat are showing an increase on the corresponding figures for last year. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was entirely incorrect in stating that the target figures were set too high. The target figures in relation to almost every primary product will be achieved.
– And exceeded!
– And this will occur partly because of the fine work being clone by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), particularly in the stepping up of the production of pig meats. Speaking from memory - and I have a fairly good memory - I would say that the only target figure which will not be attained is that applicable to dairy products. A part of the reason for failure in this regard will be that Victoria has been passing through one of the worst drought periods which it has experienced for a number of years. In addition, the tragic bush-fires of recent days must necessarily have an adverse effect on production. The statement has been made in this chamber recently by certain honorable members opposite that evidence is available that dairy-farmers are thoroughly dissatisfied with their conditions. In support of that view they have stated that many dispersal sales of dairy herds are occurring. [Extension of time granted.] Honorable members have not produced any evidence of that. I have had considerable experience in the dairying industry.
– But the honorable gentleman was not very successful.
– I was quite as successful as the honorable member for Bendigo has been in any venture he has undertaken. I left the dairying industry solely for the reason that the party of which the honorable member is a supporter had refused to introduce legislation which I, as the President of the Dairy Farmers Association of Victoria, had many years previously obtained from it a pledge to introduce. Any honorable member who has had experience of that industry knows that in any season, in any locality, dispersal sales occur. In order to prove that the number has been larger this year, the honorable member would have had to compare the records for this and previous years. I have taken the trouble to abstract records of the number of clearing sales advertised in the Gippsland News. These show that during a given period the number was fifteen in 1939 and ten in 1942. The number of cows sold at those sales was 812 in 1939 and 427 in 1943. The number of heifers sold was 310 in 1939 and 138 in 1943. The number of bulls sold was 23 in 1939 and only fifteen in 1943. These figures disclose a tendency exactly the opposite of that alleged by honorable members. Their extravagant statements, many of them highly inaccurate, do a grave disservice to the community, because they probably encourage the public to believe that the Government is not attending to the matter of food production as efficiently as it should. On the contrary, the production of food has increased very largely since this Government has been in office. It must not be thought that other members of the Government and I do not realize that dairy-farmers, and primary producers generally, are carrying on under great difficulties. The Government appreciates the very fine work that they are doing. It knows that all commodities are in short supply, and regrets that primary producers cannot obtain as much of certain requisites as it would wish them to have. But honorable members must recognize that this country is at war, and that the war has yet to be won. The matter is not determined by consideration of the hardships suffered individually. Let us consider, for example, the hardship caused to a primary producer by his having a ration of only 4 gallons of petrol, and being obliged to travel 11 miles on a bad road.
– Every day.
– The question to be considered is:. What additional petrol would be consumed if that particular man and all other applicants with claims of equal merit were given an extra ration? The answer is that 20,000 gallons would be needed to supply 10,000 applicants with an additional 2 gallons each. Honorable members view the matter in the wrong perspective. The Government is aware of the scarcity of all commodities and of the difficulty of continuing to mount our offensive in the north on the scale desired. It is popular in these days to describe as a pincer movement operations such as those that are proceeding to the north of Australia. This pincer movement is squeezing into a certain area a considerable force of our enemy. One jaw of the pincer, and the lever which operates it, are predominately Australian in character. It matters not, at the moment, whether the pincer is to be used to squeeze the enemy to final destruction, or to nip the supply stem and leave his forces within the area to wither on the vine.
If honorable members opposite had their way, that Australian jaw of the pincer would be so weak as to be ineffectual, and final victory in this struggle would be so much the longer delayed.
– The concluding statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) would be humorous if it were not tragic. Apparently he rose for the specific purpose of trying to discredit the basis of the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He said that the right honorable member had misled the House by prefacing his motion with a statement that there had been a continuous decline of food production due to shortage of equipment, &c, and the Minister then went on to argue that there had been a continuous and substantial increase of food production in Australia.
– Since this Government took office.
– Yes, that is what the Minister said. I wonder whom we are supposed to believe. The Minister set out his case in his usual convincing manner, but I am armed with information from the Commonwealth Statistician, and I am disposed to accept the Statistician as a more reliable authority than the Minister. On the 2nd February, the Commonwealth Statistician said that, in the last half-year of 1943, the production of butter throughout the Commonwealth declined by 14,000,000 lb., compared with the corresponding period of 1942. He said, further, that production had fallen short of the comparable period in 1941 by 4,400,000 lb., and the decline was general in every State of the Commonwealth except Western Australia. In Queensland, for the half-year ended December, 1943, butter production declined by 3,900,000 lb., as compared with the corresponding half of 1942. The latest figures from Queensland show that the production of , butter declined by 2,000 tons during the seven months from July to January last, and this was during the best dairying season that has been experienced for years.
– It was the latest season on record.
– The output of cheese declined by 1,200 tons. No milk has been processed in Queensland, and ice cream is rationed there. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said that the dairying season was late, and suggested that production would increase before the end of the year. Mr. Colin Clark, in his publication Economic News, has compared agricultural production for the various years in terms of money value. He says that in 1938-39 the value of Queensland’s agricultural products was £A11,615,000, but that in 1940-41 the value declined to £A11,469,000, whilst for 1942-43 the value was only £A10,332,000. He also comments upon the comparative values of dairy products and pigs. He says that in 1938-39 - which was before this Government came into power - the value of those commodities for the State of Queensland was £A10,670,000. For 1940-41, the value was £A8,539,000, whilst for 1942-43 it was £A8,757,000. Again I ask, whom are we to believe, the statisticians or the Minister for War Organization of Industry? I am prepared to believe the statisticians, both Commonwealth and State, and so, too, are the producers and the public generally.
I support the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper, and I do so in no spirit of carping criticism. I recognize that Australia has been passing through strenuous times, and that there are still strenuous times ahead of us. I know that we have had to husband our resources, and to use them in the best interests of the nation. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) laid great stress upon the need to maintain a system of priorities. I agree that the fighting services, and the munitions industries which supply them, must have first claim, but I submit that next in importance is the food front. Everything possible should be done to increase food production, and certainly to prevent the decline which has been taking place. I know of numerous instances in which farmers have not been able to obtain essential supplies, and my complaint is that there has been an unfair distribution of the supplies available. Too little consideration has been given to the claims of men in the country who lack the amenities of the cities. In regard to transport, no account has been taken of the fact that city dwellers have alternative methods of transport available to them.
The Government should immediately embark upon a stocktaking of equipment and material which have been accumulated in various parts of Australia.- In my travels round the suburbs of Brisbane, and through my own electorate, I have seen acres of ground covered with barbedwire, piping, &c, commodities of which the farmers are in urgent need. Weeds, shrubs and even saplings are now growing over some of the dumps. There are also accumulations of motor vehicles and farm machinery, such as scoops, which were impressed by the military authorities after Japan came into the war. They were taken to depots, and much of this equipment is still lying there unused. Idle equipment should be either used or returned to the owners. I am convinced that many of the tractors that were taken from farmers could be given back to them if there were a proper stocktaking. The matter calls for immediate attention. Trucks, tractors, scoops and other implements should be returned to the farmers in order that the shortage of labour might be alleviated. I think also that strict supervision should be instituted to prevent the over-use of Army motor vehicles and consequential waste of petrol and rubber.’ Heavy trucks are to be seen running about the cities carrying only small loads. The Army is over-capitalized to- that extent.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish, in the brief space of time at my disposal, to disabuse the minds of honorable members of the idea that there has been the general falling off of production alleged by honorable members opposite: There has been a slight overall diminution of milk production, but in some States production this year is greater than last year. Generally speaking, with the exception of the drought-stricken or burnt-out areas of Victoria, the dairying industry, although there may be fewer persons engaged! in production, is more prosperous than ever before. Honorable members opposite have cited the number of dispersal sales that have taken place, but the fact remains that never in the history of the Australian dairying industry has stock brought such high prices. The records of clearing-out sales indicate alltime record high prices. Last night a man who buys dairy cows by the thousand in Victoria and the southern and north coast districts of New South Wales told me that he had never had to pay or received such high prices as were ruling for dairy cattle for the metropolitan milk supply of Sydney. That is an indication of the prosperity in the dairying industry.
The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to the production targets that have been set. I shall do likewise. The production of meat in 1938-39 was 876,000 tons. This total fell to 851,000 tons in 1940-41 when the right honorable member was Minister for Commerce. The figure for 1943 was 1,045,000 tons, which exceeded the target by 46,000 tons.
In the year before the war, Australia sowed 98,000 acres of potatoes. The figure for 1940-41 rose to 99,000 acres, an increase of 1,000 acres. Increased demands made it imperative that greater consideration should be given to strengthening the supply position. This Government determined on a plan of guaranteed prices for potato-growers and for 1943 set a production target of 174,000 acres. This target has been exceeded by 16,000 acres. The target set for the ensuing season, which was discussed at .the recent meeting of the Agricultural Council is 275,000 acres.
In 1938-39, just before the outbreak of war, the estimated sowings of vegetables were 254,000 acres. The position remained relatively static in the year 1940-41, but in 1943 the figure had risen to 500,000 acres, or approximately double the pre-war acreage. I need not elaborate further the increased vegetable plantings.
In 1938-39, the acreage sown to rice” wa3 23,533 acres. This was increased by less- than 1,000 acres- in 1940-41.. This season’s plantings are over 50 per cent greater, and the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales have co-operated in extending rice plantings to the Wakool area, which will produce rice for the first time. Approximately 5,000 acres has been planted in this area. That is almost twice the quantity of rice produced in pre-war years.
There has been a slight falling off of wheat production, but stocks in Australia’ are in a healthy position. Production in 1938-39 was, in round figures, 155,000,000 bushels. Because of adverse seasonal conditions, this fell to 82,000,000 bushels in 1940-41, which was the last year in which the right honorable member for Cowper held ministerial office. In 1942-43 production was almost the same as in 1938-39, being a little more than 155,000,000 bushels. Owing to adverse seasonal conditions and smaller dressings of superphosphates, the 1943-44 production will be slightly less than 100,000,000 bushels.
Production of barley in 1940-41, before this Government took over, was 7,133,000 bushels. Production for 1943 was 8,000,000 bushels. The Government plans to increase this to 10,000,000 bushels for 1944-45 and is guaranteeing advances to growers, ‘
The Leader of the Country party cited figures in regard to pig meats, but the figures I propose to cite are those which I have obtained in the last few days from the Meat Industry Commission, which has a check on all meat produced within the Commonwealth. In 193.8-39, the production of pig meats stood at 87,000 tons. In 1940-41 this had risen to 111,000 tons. Because of the collapse of prices in the early months of 1941, to which I have already referred, there was a fall of production. The Government has been forced to give serious attention to this industry, and recently provided a guaranteed average price of 9d. per lb. to stimulate production. Th, Government was also forced to restrict the slaughter of porkers. It is expected as :a result of the3e steps, that production for the year will nearly meet the record target of 143,000 tons. Recent indications are that there will be a substantial increase .of output from all .States with the exception of Victoria.
Because of the absence of reliable information concerning pre-war production of eggs, and the fact that backyard production has played a considerable part in providing civilian supplies, of which norecord has been kept, some difficulty has been experienced in obtaining accurate information. The most reliable sources indicate that commercial production has risen by between 11,000,000 dozen and 20,000,000 dozen since 1938-39.
According to estimates, 10,000 tons of dehydrated vegetables will be produced this year. The production of canned vegetables has increased fivefold, and the estimate of 112,000,000 lb. is likely to be exceeded. Those figures reveal a steady increase of production, despite a shortage of man-power in all sections of primary industry. [Extension of time granted.”] With the exception of milk, there has been an increase of all forms of primary production throughout Australia. In many instances the targets have been exceeded. Indeed, the targets set for 1944-45 will show a material increase compared with the production goals of previous years. The representatives of the States, when attending the recent meeting of the Agricultural Council in Canberra, submitted most encouraging reports, showing a degree of co-operation and systematic planning hitherto unknown in Australia.
I assure honorable members that the mechanical side of production has not been overlooked. For the first time in the history of Australia, we now have machinery “pools” in the States. Those machines will step up production fivefold in some instances, and in other instances make up the leeway caused by the shortage of man-power. The Government has every right to be proud of the success of its policy towards primary production. I pay a tribute to the Departments of Agriculture of the various States for their cooperation, hut above all full recognition must be given to the efforts of the primary producers ‘of Australia who responded magnificently to the appeal of the Government to increase production. We do not hear from them the complaints that are uttered by honorable members opposite, who are obviously actuated by political motives. Their persistence in referring to these matters reveals a lack of a sense of responsibility and can only lower the morale of primary producers, thereby doing untold damage to our war effort.
– For the benefit of the Minister for “War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), I shall cite figures relating to whole-milk production in Australia. He will find that they are somewhat different from his statistics. He endeavoured to lead honorable members to believe that since the Curtin Government took office milk production had steadily increased throughout the Commonwealth. The truth is that production has declined since the Menzies and Fadden Governments went out of office.
– That is not correct.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) makes a tremendous lot of noise. Out of a little space comes much nonsense. The relevant figures relating to wholemilk production are as follows : -
If the Minister for War Organization of Industry challenges the accuracy of the figures, I tell him that my authority is the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who issued the statistics to the press last December.
– As a matter of fact, production in 1940-41 was 1,128,205.000 lb.
– The figures which I gave were not “ lb.” but “ gallons “, because the Minister for War Organization cited whole-milk figures in gallons. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture now cites the figures in pounds it will be most misleading.
I will make some suggestions which, if adopted, may greatly assist in a better distribution of the available supplies of materials required for the production of foodstuffs. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) declared that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) failed to realize the demands that war made upon materials. None of us has failed to realize that an acute shortage of materials is being experienced, but we believe that a better distribution of the available supplies can be achieved. I support the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper for the creation of a Ministry of Food. I also advocate a greater use of the services of district war agricultural committees. By this time, the additional sums of money which the Parliament voted to them last year should have percolated through to the committees. They should be given more staff and higher remuneration. I understand that the secretary of a district war agricultural committee is paid £2 a week, and is not given clerical assistance. Consequently, these committees are not able to function as efficiently as they should.
Honorable members have heard many complaints about the shortage of tyres for motor vehicles, and the Minister for Munitions asked us not to talk in generalities but to bring to his notice concrete cases, so that he could decide them on their merits. I shall cite several cases. Many butter factories are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining tyres for their own lorries and for the motor vehicles of their contractors who deliver the cream. The Raymond Terrace Co-operative Butter Factory in the lower Hunter district, which is one of the largest factories in New South Wales, recently had extreme difficulty in this regard. Only after weeks of effort was it able to obtain the required tyres. Although recommendations were made through the proper channels, the Controller of Rubber rejected applications for tyres for motor vehicles conveying cream to the factories.
In the far west of New South Wales settlers’ applications for tyres are being rejected in circumstances that are almost too as’tonishing to believe. I refer specifically to a case involving three station properties beyond Bourke. Although the area is large, the number of sheep carried is not great. The proprietors applied for four tyres for use on the utility truck needed to work these properties. Three of the existing tyres had been on the truck for four years. These properties required the closest attention because the worst drought for fifteen years was being experienced in the Bourke district. The application was rejected. A printed form was received which read : “ It is not possible to make your requirements available”. My next case concerns a gentleman in the Booligal district whose property is 104 miles from the railhead, who also applied for tyres to enable his to work his property, but was refused supplies. I can give the Minister for Munitions the names of these two gentlemen and of seventeen others in the Bourke, Brewarrina, Hay,Coonamble, and Warialda districts. It was most unfair for the Minister to say that all applications submitted by the district Avar agriculture committees received favorable consideration from the officers of the department concerned.
I wish now to refer to the unsatisfactory position in relation to spare parts for agricultural machinery, especially tractors and windmills.I am told that even if only a sparkingplug is required for a tractor the application must be submitted in writing to the local agent who forwards it to the Allied Works Council. Such circumlocution must necessarily cause delays in farming operations. Recently I saw twenty rotary hoes at a workshop in my electorate; all needed new spare parts, applications for which had been made to the Allied Works Council and which had been held up for a. considerable period.
The one other matter which I shall mention may seem of small importance but may be described as one more straw to help break the camel’s back. Plumbers are finding it impossible to obtain ingot tin in order to repair milk cans. The Minister for Munitions has said that ingot tin is in short supply and that solder must be used. Solder is unsatisfactory for this work. Consequently dairy-farmers are experiencing great delays in the repair of cream cans and milk containers used on the farms.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The speeches of my ministerial colleagues have shown clearly that no justification exists for the alarmist attitude adopted by certain honorable gentlemen opposite, because there has not been a continuous decline in foodproduction owing to “the shortage of essential materials and equipment “. That is proved by statistics given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). Great credit is due to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for his consistent and successful efforts to step up food production in the face of tremendous difficulties. The honorable gentleman discovered, when he assumed office, that, arising from war conditions, the primary producers faced serious man-power troubles. Honorable gentlemen opposite are doing a grave disservice to this country by acting in a way calculated to undermine the morale of primary producers, and by encouraging them to believe that they have been singled out for specially severe treatment. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has informed us that 1,106,000,000 gallons of whole milk was produced in Australia in 1941-42 and thatthe estimated production for 1943-44 is 1,150,000,000 gallons. This whole milk is used for butter and cheese production, processing, and so on. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recited figures which indicated that meat, wheat and potato production had also increased. The performances of Australian primary producers during thewar period, in the face of great difficulties, have been most creditable. We must not forget that the world is engaged in the most terrible conflict that mankind has ever experienced. I represent a large primary producing electorate and I have every sympathy with primary producers. They have done a splendid job in the face of tremendous difficulties- difficulties which were greatly accentuated after Japan entered the war. The policy applied by this Government has cushioned the impact of many hardships on primary producers.
I remind honorable gentlemen that years ago a number of factories in this country were producing agricultural machinery, but before this Government assumed office those plants had been diverted to other production. Immediately after this Government took control of the affairs of the country an investigation was made to ascertain in what way the supply of agricultural machinery could be increased, and steps were taken to cause suck factories to revert to their former types of output. It was discovered that 240,000 items or parts of agricultural machinery would be required in 1943-44. Approximately 35 per cent. of that quantity had been produced at the beginning of January. The biggest difficulty that has had to be faced in this respect is the shortage of ball-bearings. It is of no use trying to blame this Government for that shortage for it is world-wide. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been successful in establishing machinery pools atGuyra, Bathurst, and Cowra, and at places on the South Coast. Steps are being taken also to establish such pools elsewhere. These pools are under the control of the district war agricultural committees and their establishment has meant a great deal to primary production in Australia.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who has criticized the Government, will admit, I believe, that when this Government came into office navy beans were not being produced in Guyra, which is in his electorate; but 500 acres has been put under navy beans in that district alone, and 10,000 acres is under this crop throughout the New England district. The honorable gentleman is usually fair in his outlook, and I think he will be ready to admit that these figures show that a good deal has been accomplished in his own electorate. Good work has been done also in vegetable production in the Cowra district in the last twelve months. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has been active in this regard. As a result of the establishment of machinery pools, 1,000,000 tins of green peas have been canned in the Cowra district. This is an actual accomplishment, not a dream to be realized in the future. The foresight, organizing ability, enterprise, and drive of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture have caused food production to be stepped up to a very high degree, to the lasting credit of Australia. The disabilities that the primary producers are suffering are due entirely to war conditions and many of them may continue until after the war has ended, but I do not believe that the primary producers will shirk in any way their responsibilities, for they realize how necessary food production is in these hard days. They may rest assured that the . Government will do everything it can do to alleviate the hardships which are inseparable from primary production in war-time.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway through Mr. Chifley) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway through Mr. Chifley) read a first time.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
.- Recently, on behalf of constituents, I raised a number of matters in connexion with Army administration, particularly applications for release and transfer. I cited cases which clearly established that many decisions disclosed a lack of common sense or simple justice on the part of the officers concerned. A soldier who had been certified by his medical officer - Dr. Max Hertz, who is regarded as one of the outstanding surgeons in the southern hemisphere - as being urgently in need of an operation, was retained in the Army, and prevented from undergoing treatment. The initial response when a matter is placed before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is a stereotyped reply promising inquiry and a subsequent report. This arouses hopes of satisfactory attention, and the recipient expresses his appreciation. Later, however, the Minister advised that the matter had been given careful consideration by competent and responsible Army officers, and it is regretted that the request cannot be granted. I believe that the shock of receiving a reply acceding to a request would cause my death.
When the Government propounded a policy that was to govern the release of men from the Army for food production, we were led to believe that a given number would be released. In the light of information which I am receiving, I am beginning to wonder whether or not effect is being given to that policy, despite the figures in relation to releases actually made that have been cited by the Minister. From what I have been able to gather, other honorable members hold a similar view. I trust that the Minister will investigate the accuracy of his figures, and will ascertain whether or not the policy of the Government is being carried out. I have excellent reasons for believing that it is not. Possibly the honorable gentleman is not in a position to impose a check because of the many duties that devolve on him. I have already mentioned to him that 70B class men were transferred from certain country centres to the general details depot at the Showground, Sydney. A report subsequently furnished to the honorable gentleman showed clearly that the policy of the Government was not being given effect, because it stated that the men were sent to other units instead of being transferred to industry. The report of MajorGeneral Plant, Officer in Charge, Lines of Communication Area, stated that, for a period of at least three weeks, the policy of the Government had been suspended. I have not heard whether or not the Ministerhas inquired into the reason for that suspension, or on whose authority the action was taken. I asked the honorable gentleman to define, for my guidance and that of applicants, the grounds on which releases would be granted, and yesterday received from him the following reply:-
With regard to your request for clarification of the circumstances under which such release would be approved, I wish to advise you that under the decision given by the Government in October, 1943, regarding the release of serving soldiers to industry, personnel may be discharged from the following four classes: -
Personnel medically classified A serving on the Australian mainland, except those serving in certain specified units which cannot be named for security reasons.
Personnel medically classified B regardless of unit or station.
Personnel over 40 regardless of unit or station.
Personnel over 35 who have had three years’ full-time service.
Discharges, however, cannot be made from the following five classes: -
Personnel medically classified A in units serving outside the Australian mainland.
Personnel medically classified A in reinforcement training units.
Reinforcements en route to operational units.
Personnel medically classified A attached temporarily as instructors to units on the mainland.
Such a clear instruction having been given to the Army authorities, one would expect that no doubt would exist. Yet I have received a further communication, dated the 25th January, from a member of the 14th Australian Employment Company, 17th Lines of Communication Area, Cairns, which reads as follows: -
We were reading an article in a paper, dated the 8th January, 1944, in which you stated that B class men were being stopped from getting releases in Sydney, and as you seem to be one of the only ones who have anything to say about these things I would like to. state a few facts about the things that have been happening in the 17th Lines of Communication Area, Cairns, of which Colonel Cook is the officer in charge.
There are about 200 B class men here who have been in the Army from three to four years who belong to the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions, and have seen action on every front on which their divisions have fought. These men have been attached to the 14th Employment Company, of which Captain Yates is the commanding officer, for from three to seven months. They were told they would be sent to their own States when they were boarded, and would only be in this company for the time being. On Monday, the 24th January, we were informed that we now belonged to this employment company, which is mostly composed of A class men, and are expected to carry on and work here with A class men.
Since these B class men have been here they have done all types of work. If they complain they are told they are swinging the lead. One instance of this was when wharfies refused to unload cement. B class men were sent to do this job, and then were told that the shipping company was complaining that they were not unloading the cement fast enough. The men said they could not go any faster. Every man on the job - 25 in number - was fined 10s., when they asked for a court-martial they were told the charge was too trivial, but it was enough to be framed on and take nearly two days’ pay from them. If they want us to work in employment companies, why not in our own States?
If we are unfit for our various unite we are unfit to unload or load cement, iron, ammunition, iron pipes, timber, roofing iron, Army stores, canteen stores, flour in 150-lb. bags, which has to be stacked fourteen bags high, potatoes, &c. This is in a tropical area in iron sheds. Men are putting iii for discharges and transfers which do not seem to get past the orderly room or Lines of Communication office. The least that could be done for these men if they will not release them is to send them to their own States where they may get treated as soldiers, not coolies or flunkies.
These men are all fighting troops who volunteered to fight and were not called up or forced into the Army, and it is about time they got a break from Mr, Forde and the leaders of our Army. As this forcing men into this company is against all the G.R.O’s we have ever seen we think it should be seen into. Hoping you will champion us, and try to get us a fair go. We are, yours sincerely, the B class boys, per Corporal Ward.
That is clear evidence that the policy of the Government is not being applied. An idea seems to be abroad that men should be released from the Army only to assist in primary production. There are secondary industries in my electorate engaged in the processing of food, and many applications for the release of men to work in those industries have been refused. The proprietor of the ice works in Granville, a big industrial centre in which many munitions factories are situated, has broken down in health, and cannot carry on any longer. I have applied on his behalf for the release of his son from the Army, but I have been unsuccessful. Medical certificates were obtained in support of the application, and the local municipal council has asked me to make strong representations to the Minister on the subject. I quote the following letter, which I have just received from the State member for the district, Mr. W. H. Lamb, M.L.A. :-
I am advised by George Flanagan, of Granville Ice Works, Granville-street, Granville, that his application for the release of his son, NS6, E. J. Flanagan, has been refused.
A very serious position has developed. Mr. Flanagan has been a sick man for some time, brought about wholly and solely by long hours in the factory under arduous conditions, endeavouring to carry out his commitments in regard to the supply of ice. He has now broken down and will have to go to hospital, and he has advised me in writing that he can see no alternative but to close the factory.
As you know, his staff consists of his wife and daughter. They are supplying ice to 7,000 customers, exclusive of supply to the majority of the largest industrial concerns in the district, such as Clyde Engineering Works, Waddington’s, James Hardie’s, and all the other works contiguous to those mentioned.
If the works close down, as I am certain they will, it means not only great inconvenience to some thousands of people, but serious loss as well. Apart from that, there is grave danger during the hot weather to large numbers of babies, old people and invalids, who must have ice in order to preserve milk in particular.
Recently, Mr. Flanagan was asked to supply ice, and is doing so, to the Foodstuffs Control Board. This supply will also cease. The men in the industries mentioned are engaged on important war work, and if their foodstuffs are to be interfered with and allowed to deteriorate through lack of ice, then the war effort must be seriously interfered with as well.
This, as you know, is the second time that the application for young Flanagan’s release has been rejected. On the first occasion, and I have the correspondence, Forde virtually said that ice manufacture was an unessential industry. Does he really mean this? On the second occasion, it would appear that this soldier is indispensable to the successful prosecution of the war. The fact is that there is no one who cannot be. done without. If Forde and Blarney both died or resigned, or were incarcerated, the war would still go on, and be won.
There is tremendous indignation throughout the area serviced by Granville Ice Works. You are toeing loudly accused of failing to interest yourself in the matter, and I am being attacked from all angles. The whole thing is controlled by the Federal Government, and it is your pigeon, and in view of the fact that the State elections are coming on shortly, and the policy these days appears to be every man for himself, I am going to make it quite clear that I have done my best, but that I am impotent to prevail upon the federal authorities to do anything.
I want you to take a .personal interest in the matter, and to got Forde to do likewise, because the thing is too serious to remain where it is. I will not accept a reply that winter is approaching and that ice will not be wanted, neither will the people. Ice is wanted now, and will be wanted for another three months. ,
Unless something is done immediately, 1 intend to expose the position in Parliament next week, and so make my attitude clear to the electors.
Young Flanagan was brought up in his father’s business, and he is the only person trained to take charge of it. He can render a far more valuable service to the people, and to the war effort, in continuing the production of ice in his father’s business than spending his time where he is at present. If Forde thinks he is short of soldiers, 1 will tell him where he can get hundreds who appear to have done nothing since the war began, and appear likely to continue to do so.
It will be useless to send some inexperienced man to take over, or any man unfit to do Hard work. It is a specialized business, requires a trained man, and the man in this instance is young Flanagan.
It is up to you to do your part, and jolt some of those federal officials into recognizing the seriousness of the position, or else take steps to dynamite them out of it.
In order to show that this is not an isolated instance, I quote the following communication from Green Canneries Limited, Fitzroy-street, Marrickville : -
As you are doubtless aware, the provision of adequate reliable labour for food processing is presenting a big problem, and the Company’s factory, in common with similar factories, is confronted with difficulties in meeting the ever-increasing demands being made by the Australian and Allied defence authorities for the supply of foodstuffs to the armed forces.
In this connexion, we are seeking the release from the Army of the undermentioned soldier:
The Company is exclusively engaged on the production of meat and vegetable rations for members of the Australian and United States Armies, and in this connexion we would refer you to the following order numbers issued by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture: -
These combined orders call for the supply of over 6,000,000 cans of rations and are very urgently required. The provision of adequate staff to fulfil these orders is causing us some concern, and we are endeavouring to explore every avenue to secure reliable and conscientious employees. We are anxious to secure the services of the above soldier and shall be pleased if you will make representations to the appropriate authorities for his release from the Army, as we feel sure that his services could be better utilized in the national interests by his employment in our factory than in his present sphere.
That application, like all the rest I have mentioned, was refused. It is time that the Minister took some steps to inquire personally into these matters. It is of no use his calling for a report. He should call for the papers and satisfy himself personally. If he cannot afford the time to do that, he should appoint a committee of rank-and-file members of this House to give him advice and assistance. It is obvious that with the hundreds of thousands of men in the fighting forces the Minister cannot have personal knowledge of all the things that go on, and, therefore, it is time that a standing committee of Parliament was appointed to stand between the Army and the people to ensure that government policy shall be applied by the military authorities. We all know only too well that there are numbers of high-up officers who do not want to see the Army reduced in strength because that might affect their own status. There is a strong feeling that that is why releases from the Army are not made in accordance with the policy laid down by the Government. It is necessary that this committee be appointed not only to supervise that matter, but also to check the inefficiency and waste that take place in the Army. We know very well that many men are employed on unnecessary menial work and perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds is being wasted in that way. A standing committee would have time to inquire into all such matters, and perhaps thereby save much of the taxpayers’ money which is being wasted in present circumstances.
– If everything said by the honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) is true the reflection is not entirely on the Army ; it is also on the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), because, obviously, the Minister ought to be aware of what is going on. Honorable members have brought matters to his notice from time to time and, as the Minister responsible to the House, he should tell the House what he has done and what he proposes to do. But, of course, the Minister is not aware of all the facts. Honorable members know as well as I do the opinions held outside about the Army and the Army administration. I do not intend to deal with that because it is obviously well known. The Minister has a duty to this House and he should discharge it. From time to time honorable members make representations to the Minister in the hope that they will receive something closely approximating the facts. When they do not, it is obvious that a cog has slipped somewhere, and the Minister must be responsible for the slipping of that cog. We want to know what he proposes to do about it.
I have an extraordinary case to put before the Minister and I ask honorable members to pay attention, because what has happened to the central figure in this case may equally well happen to anybody closely associated with any other honorable member. The case is an indication of the extraordinary conditions which obtain in the Army and honorable members should follow me when I detail its history because they will thereby have an indication of the immensity of the injustices inflicted on this young soldier. I doubt whether it could be paralleled anywhere in the world. The man concerned was formerly, a sergeant named Martin. He. has been in a bad state of health for some time. Since July, 1942, he has been in hospital eleven limes with malaria and its attendant complications. Eight of the last twelve months he has spent in hospital. One would imagine that land head-quarters would take steps to ensure that a man with a record like that would be thoroughly fit before it detailed him for duty in a’ forward zone, but it did not worry about that. Apparently needing a man to go to Darwin, the authorities ran their eyes down the list and chose him without looking up his medical record. He was warned to go to Darwin, but on the 12th August, 1942, Captain Davey, Medical Officer, Head-quarters, 1st Armoured Division, certified that he was medically unfit to attend the divisional training camp at North Sydney. That was conclusive proof that the Army was aware that he was medically unfit. If the army had not been aware of the fact the medical officer would not have issued that certificate.” A soldier’s records should follow him wherever he goes and there ought to be a copy at land head-quarters. Ever since he entered the army this man’s medical history has been a bewildering mass of contradictions and inconsistencies. At Darwin, in July, 1942, he was deprived of two stripes, given pack drill and branded as a malingerer. A few hours later five doctors discovered that he was suffering from malaria. His condition was such that he was flown to Sydney. Apparently the doctors at Darwin considered that they could not suitably attend to him in hospital there - that, after he had been branded by the Army as a malingerer and given pack drill ! He was treated at a military hospital in Sydney for malaria. On fie 11th December, 1942, ho collapsed at Rutherford and was sent to the 113th Australian General Hospital. In January, 1943, he was at the Lady Gowrie Convalescent Hospital. Then, on the 20th April, he was arrested as a deserter from Adelaide River. I ask honorable gentlemen to note that as another inconsistency. He was flown from Darwin suffering from malaria and then arrested as a deserter from Adelaide River! He naturally thought he was entitled to be treated as a convalescent. There are army regulations regarding movements. Yet his history card was in such a deplorable state that he was able to be arrested as a deserter. On the 3rd May, 1943, he was ordered again to the 113th Australian General Hospital and was then sent to another convalescent home. Then, again without any concern as to. his health, he was sent to Ingleburn and forced to go on a route march, although he pointed out that he was not physically capable of doing so. He was then taken back to the 113th Australian General Hospital because he was not medically fit to carry out his duties. Next he was given two days’ leave and warned to proceed to Darwin. I do not know, but 2 believe that there is a regulation, rule or order regarding the movement of malarial cases to Darwin. Perhaps the Minister will indicate what the position is. This man, who had a complete history of malaria, was ordered to go to Darwin. He believed that there was an order that malarial cases should not go to Darwin. He considered that it would be most unwise for him to go to Darwin for fear that he would cause the spread of malaria in an area that was free of the disease. He was warned at 1 p.m. to report at 5 p.m. to the Railway Transport Officer. He said, “ If you do not believe that I have malaria, although my history card shows that I have, may I have leave to go to a civilian doctor? I will submit his certificate to show that I have malaria “. The Army declined to grant him leave. He was told, “You have been posted to Darwin, and to Darwin you shall go “. As a good soldier, he should have obeyed orders, but he decided not to report. He was prepared to take the consequences of that act. He knew that, in view of the state of his health, it would be most unwise for him to go to Darwin. He went absent without leave, but gave himself up on the following day. The Army court martialled him as a deserter and he was sentenced to reduction to the ranks and detention for one year. That sentence, I suppose, was one of the most severe punishments that have been imposed during this war.
I digress for a moment to refer to a letter which I received from the Minister for the Army on the 1st February, 1944. Honorable members will agree that it is a most extraordinary letter, revealing that the Minister has no knowledge of what is occurring in his department. He wrote -
With further reference to your representations of 20th October, 1943, and 25th October, 1943, in presenting correspondence . . . comprising letters dated the 10th October, 1943, and 12th October, 1943, addressed to you by Sergeant J. H. Martin, who, Mrs. Martin stated, was in a poor state of health and asked that investigations be made into court martial proceedings instituted against him, I desire to inform you that inquiries have been made in the matter.
That reference was to a letter which I sent to him after this matter had been widely discussed in my electorate. Prominent persons in the community knew of the circumstances, and of the disabilities which this man had suffered. The letter continued -
Sergeant Martin was convicted by court martial on 19th October, 1943, of desertion and sentenced to reduction to the ranks and detention for one year. The court martial proceedings show that Sergeant Martin, after being warned that he was to entrain at Sydney for Darwin on the evening of 13th October, 1943, was granted leave until 5 p.m. on that day. He had been twice medically examined during the preceding fortnight and found fit for duty. Although he promised to report at 5 p.m. on the 10th October, 1943, he neglected to do so, and thereby wilfully avoided proceeding to an operational area.
If an honorable member received a letter of that nature, he would be’ entitled to assume that everything was all right. The man had been certified as being fit to proceed to Darwin, the Minister was perfectly satisfied with the findings of the court martial, and “everything in the garden was lovely “. My subsequent advice will disclose that conditions were not so attractive as the letter of the Minister would lead one to believe. Obviously, he had no knowledge of the case. He must have been wrongly advised and it therefore behoves him to take some action for the purpose of ensuring that a repetition of this case shall not occur. His letter proceeded -
Ex-Sergeant Martin admitted that he absented himself without leave in order to avoid his movement to Darwin for duty. I am advised that ex-Sergeant Martin’s conviction is legally valid.
I have no argument about that. By failing to report, he violated an Army order and had to pay the penalty. The whole of my case is based upon the excessive bungling which has occurred in the department. The medical history of this man was never taken into consideration. The letter continued -
In view of the circumstances surrounding ex-Sergeant Martin’s offence involving the wilful flouting of military authority, it is considered that the sentence is not excessive. It will, however, be reviewed-
I ask honorable members to take special note of this - with a view to remission on the 19th April, 1944, when regard will be paid to his conduct while in detention.
That is a strong statement, but it shows that the Minister is not entirely devoid of human kindness. Obviously, he was speaking without the book. This man was not then in the Holdsworthy detention camp. He had been discharged. Extraordinary situations arise in the Department of the Army ! The Minister’s letter concluded -
Numerous representations by this soldier as to his health have resulted in repeated medical examinations by eminent officers of the Australian Army Medical Service, and in no case has his medical classification shown that he was unfit for duty. He has received adequate medical treatment by the military authorities at all times, and after his conviction by court martial was again medically boarded on 2nd November, 1943, and classified fit for duty - Class A2.
This man had been in hospital on eleven occasions since 1942, and had been certified as a malaria case. He had not been permitted to attend a certain school because he was medically unfit. But on the 2nd November, 1943, he was classed as being fit for duty. On the 17th December, 1943, I received the following letter from him : -
I still don’t know how I stand with the Army, as quite a number of things have happened, but I have been told nothing. I was vetted by a major at Holdsworthy, and he apparently recommended my discharge. I was subsequently vetted by Dr. Robert Taylor and Major Donovan, and was on Monday discharged as medically unfit. This would seem to vindicate the stand I took in refusing to return to Darwin, as I was medically unfit.
On the 10th December, 1943, Martin had been medically examined and discharged as medically unfit. On the 2nd November, 1943, he had been classed as A2. This extraordinary situation must give honorable members cause for concern. The medical history of this man warranted the closest examination.What happened ? First he was “ blasted “ as a malingerer and given pack drill. Then he was arrested as a deserter from Adelaide River, although he had been sent from Darwin as a hospital patient. He was court-martialled and sentenced not only to be reduced to the ranks but also to a year’s detention in Holdsworthy. A month later he was discharged as being medically unfit. Similar cases must occur very frequently, and in view of my experience honorable members would be wise closely to investigate complaints from their constituents concerning the Department of the Army. Martin was punished three times although he was innocent. He has been branded as a malingerer and as a deserter on two occasions, and has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and reduced to the ranks. Nothing whatever that the Army can do can remove this blot from his military record, but at least he should be given justice. I ask the Minister for the Army to see that he receives an honorable discharge, and the full pay due to his proper rank until he is so discharged. He has been deprived of his rights owing to Army bungling and, insofar as the injustices can be removed, they should be removed. This man is one of a family of five brothers, all of whom volunteered in different parts of the Empire. His family has an excellent record, and he is entitled to sympathetic consideration. I informed the Minister for the Army earlier to-day that I intended to refer to this case, because I considered it of vital importance. I have given the Minister the details as they were given to me, and if, on investigation, they prove to be correct I ask the Minister to take all necessary steps to deal justly with this individual.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches of honorable members. I shall deal first with the case mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). When the honorable gentleman told me, before the House met, that he intended to refer to this case I requested Army head-quarters to let me have the man’s file and all details of the case without delay. I have not yet received them, but if, when I ascertain the facts, I find that a miscarriage of justice has occurred I shall take appropriate steps. I have been long enough in ministerial office, however, to realize that it is unwise to express opinions until both sides of a story have been heard.
– The man has been discharged.
– The honorable member said so in the letter he wrote to me. In an Army organization which consisted of 30,000 personnel in 1938, but which now includes many hundreds of thousands of men and women, it is quite possible that records may go astray or that a file may be incorrect in some details. We aim, of course, at a perfect organizationin the Army; but when an immense organization has been developed in a very short space of time by the enrolment of butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, doctors, lawyers, clerks, farmers and artisans, it is inevitable that errors will occur. When the war broke out we had all too few trained officers to carry on the necessary instructional and organizing work, and schools for the instruction of officers and non-commissioned officers had to be established. In the haste, mistakes were bound to occur. “ To err is human.” We are doing everything possible to remove grievances and correct errors, but with such a huge organization, and with men being shifted daily by rail, aeroplane and ship from one end of Australia to the other, and from training areas to operational areas as far apart as Western Australia and New Guinea, records are bound to be incomplete. The Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and his officers are constantly engaged in correcting anomalies, and in doing everything possible to remove grievances.
In regard to the cases mentioned by both the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) complete investigations will be made, but I shall suspend judgment until that has been done. I believe that both honorable members will admit that a Minister of the Crown who is required to be in regular attendance at full Cabinet, War Cabinet, the Advisory War Council, and departmental committees, and at the same time to attend Parliament and maintain his administrative work, cannot be expected to have a personal knowledge of the grievances of individual soldiers; but I assure honorable members generally that my door is always open to them, and that I shall cause to be investigated every complaint that they bring to my notice.
– But who will make the investigation ?
– If the honorable member will discuss that subject with me in my office I shall be able to tell him more about it. The honorable member made a statement to a Sunday Sun reporter recently in relation to releases from the Army. It was published in the issue of that journal of the 9th January, 1944, in the following terms: -
There was definite evidence that Army officers were flouting government policy of releasing B class men for food production, Mr. C. A. Morgan, Labour M.H.R., said yesterday.
B class men experienced in food production had been sent to Sydney for release, and redrafted to other units, in defiance of the Government’s direction, said Mr. Morgan.
That had reference to the handling of the matter by General Details Depot, Sydney, which is under Major-General Plant, G.O.C., L. of C. Area, Sydney. The information furnished to me by the Army authorities shows that there was no justification for thestatements made by the honorable member for Reid. I requested Major-General Plant to have the complaint completely probed, and received from him the following reply, dated the18th January, 1944: -
I have to acknowledge your communication enclosing a memo. from Mr. Charles A. Morgan, M.H.R., with regard to B-class soldiers sent from Dubbo Camp to the Showground, Sydney.
Whilst the information given in Mr. Morgan’s letter is not very definite, it would appear that he refers to personnel marched out in accordance with L.H.Q. 196718, which provided for the submission of this personnel to Man Power in accordance with L.H.Q. SM.24975, by which Man Power were to be given the opportunity of placing unwanted Army B-class personnel in industry, and to give A-class personnel in exchange.
The following personnel were marched into G.D.D., Sydney, under this memo. -
On arrival at the G.D.D. it was discovered that some of this personnel did not comply with the conditions laid down in L.H.Q. 190718, and were, therefore, dealt with in accordance with their correct categories.
On 26 Nov. ‘43 a signal from L.H.Q., No. A.71197, was received advising that owing to the urgent demand for B-class personnel for Ordnance units, no further releases under SM.24973 would be made pending further instructions.
The personnel in question, therefore, were dealt with as under: - 18 were discharged to industry as being not suitable for Army requirements. 4 were medical cases and either medically boarded or sent to hospital, and the balance allotted to Ordnance units, except a few special cases where their suitability made them more useful in other units.
– No. It was not a reversal of the policy of the Government in regard to the discharge of 2,000 men a month for a period of ten months.
– Those eighteen were discharged because they were not required by the Army. That is not in accordance with the principle that was laid down.
– They were not sent to Sydney for discharge to farmers. MajorGeneral Plant’s letter continued -
The bulk of the personnel allotted to Ordnance units went to 1 Aust. Ord. Veh. Pk. at Bandiana, Victoria, and 23 were marched out to 4 Aust. Ord. Veh. Pk., Queensland, in accordance with instruction No. 033120 of 2 Dec. ‘43 from the Officer-in-Charge, 2nd Echelon, L.H.Q.
That shows that the instructions that were issued were being carried out. The letter continued -
None of this personnel has been selected or asked for by Man Power, neither had they come from any particular industry, but were mixed personnel who would normally be considered for discharge as unsuitable for Army employment.
It would appear that the latter personnel mentioned are those referred toby Mr. Morgan as going to a unit which had been overstaffed. There is no knowledge of the strength of this unit, but the personnel were sent thereto on an L.H.Q. instruction.
L.H.Q. signal A.73871 of 8 Dec. ‘43 advised that normal procedure could be resumed with regard to SM.24973, and since that date the discharge of B-class personnel to industry has returned to normal.
For your information, although the discharge under this B-class scheme was suspended for a period of approximately 3 weeks at the end of Nov. and early Dec, and the scheme only started early in Nov., 143 soldiers were discharged in Nov. and 100 in Dec.
Far from there being any obstruction on the part of the Army, there is full cooperation with the Man Power authorities, and every effort is being made to expedite the discharge Of personnel for industry, both under the M.P.R. Scheme and the endorsed B-class scheme.
– Who authorized the suspension of the policy for three weeks?
– The purpose of that was to meet the demands of the Army for “ B “ class personnel in the units to which Major-General Plant referred, thus releasing physically fit men for forward combat areas. Under the man-power release scheme, 2,000 men were tobe discharged every month, and machinery for their discharge was provided. The Army does not discharge any one who has not been recommended for discharge by the man-power authorities. Those authorities had not made any demand for the discharge of the “ B “ class personnel. The recommendations are received by the Deputy Director of Man Power for the State, through the district war agricultural committees. He advises the Army authorities. It is only upon the receipt of a favorable recommendation from him that the discharge is made, and then only provided the man falls within the categories agreed upon by War Cabinet. The decision of War Cabinet was made after hearing the report of the War Commitments Committee, which consists of the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces, the Chief of the Navy and the Chief of the Air Staff, together with the Director-General of Man Power, the Deputy Director of Man Power for the State, and a representative of the Allied Works Council. Having had before them the complete picture of the war in the South-West Pacific, and having in mind the commitments on. the food front, those gentlemen decided unanimously to recommend the discharge of 2,000 men a month from the Army for a period of ten months. That rate of discharge has been more than maintained by the Army, because 8,000 were due for discharge by the end of February, and by the 19 th February the Army had approved of the discharge of 8,907 and had actually effected the discharge of 8,690.
– How many “ D “ class men are included in those figures?
– “D “ class men are not included in them. The number of physically unfit men normally discharged from the Army is approximately 4,800 a month. That is in addition to the 2,000 a month discharged under this scheme, and makes the total number of discharges approximately 6,800, which is far in excess of the monthly intake of the Army. Every year, the normal routine discharges, for medical and other reasons, number approximately 60,000. There are certain categories from which discharges may be made.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The War Commitments Committee, after considering the requests that had been made, recommended the release from the Army of 2,000 men each month for a period of ten months, and the release of 20,000 men from munitions factories. War Cabinet, after hearing the opinion of the Commander in Chief, and having in mind the commitments of the Army to carry out the strategy of General MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blarney, decided that the releases should be made from the following categories : -
War Cabinet also approved the recommendation that, because of the commitments of the Army in the New Guinea area, the following categories should not be interfered with: -
For the time being, those categories are not being interfered with, but the war is not static. In a few months the position may have changed so much that the whole plan can be reconsidered.. Manpower problems are constantly under review by the War Commitments Committee. The paramount consideration will be the defence of Australia and of Australian territories, while keeping in mind the needs of the food-producing industries and the need for munitions. I can understand the natural anxiety of overworked primary producers and of employers in secondary industries to obtain the release of men from the Army to assist them in their work, and I can understand their disappointment when they meet with refusal. Perhaps they do not know when they apply just where the soldier concerned is. ‘They may not know that he is serving in New Guinea, or is in reinforcements bound for New Guinea, and so the Army administration comes in for severe criticism. It must be remembered, however, that no man can be taken into the Army unless he is made available for military service by the Director-General of Man Power, and no one is released from the Army except on the recommendation of the man-power authorities. A soldier’s commanding officer has the final say regarding his release, with the proviso that if he rejects a recommendation of the DirectorGeneral of Man Power he must submit the caseto a higher authority - to his Corps Commander, or to the AdjutantGeneral in Melbourne. In some instances the decision of the commanding officer has been overridden. It has been argued that the district war agricultural committees should have power to say whether or not a man should be released from the Army. However, if this proposal were given effect, a commanding officer who is to go into action in New Guinea in a few weeks’ time might be faced with a demand for the release of 200 of his 800 men. The commanding officer is the only man who can have knowledge of the efficiency of his unit, and of the number of men who have already been released from it. As the representative of a large primary-producing district I know the heeds of the farmers in respect of labour, but, as the Minister for the Army, I know also that there canbe no wholesale releases of men from the forces. If there were, the various units would be disorganized, and there would be no guarantee that the men would go back to the farms. Many of them would find their way to the capital cities to obtain employment in secondary industries. The release of men on a selectivebasis is the only possible way. I have gone carefully into the matter with General Sir Thomas Blarney, and with the Adjutant-General, and Iknow that they realize the importance of giving effect to the decision of War Cabinet. While the Army authorities were required to release only 2,000 men a month, they have,in fact, up to the 19th February, approved of the release of 8,690men, and have given approval for the discharge from the Army of 8,907 men. Consideration will also be given to the claims of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) for the release of men to work in secondary industries in his electorate. I shall get the particulars of applications from him, and have the various cases investigated. They will be referred to the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in order to learn whether, in his opinion, , the men applied for should be released.
– This is an occasion upon which one is entitled to say something about things one does not like. It is generally known as moaning or whingeing day, and it is seldom that I trouble to take part in these debates. However, the time has come when we must take note of certain things pertaining to Army administration. With a full knowledge of the position I hold, and with due regard to the uniform I am wearing, I propose to say what I have to say on the subject of Army administration. This House should concern itself with the method in which command is exercised in time of war; with the administration of justice inside the Army; with the way in which the policy laid down by Parliament is applied; and, finally, with censorship, a matter upon which I have a tew words to say. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), and the right honorable member for Cowper” (Sir Earle Page), have both spoken upon the general subject of Army administration, and I do not wish to traverse any of the ground covered by them. The old military board has gone. It was customary for us, as a British community, to fashion our Army administration upon well-tried British methods. In 1941, after Japan struck, a decision was carried into effect by this Government - it was made by its predecessors - that there should be established in) this country what was known as the Home Forces Command. When the history of this war is written, the historians will declare that, after the return of the Australian Imperial Force, the Curtin Government was responsible for one of the greatest abdications of political power that has ever occurred in a British community. Under the present set-up, the Parliament of this country has seldom been given the opportunity to go into the whys and wherefores of how the Australian Army works under present conditions. On many occasions men in uniform have asked me, “ Just exactly what does the Australian Parliament think in regard to us?” My answer has usually been, “ So far as my experience goes, the Australian Parliament is not very seriously interested in the principles of and the methods under which the Australian Army functions in time of war “. Until a fortnight ago I do not think there had been an occasion for something like three years on which there had been an attempt at a full-dress debate on the Army and Army administration. There were such debates early in the war, but for three years we have witnessed a state of affairs in which it has been the custom of men in high authority on both sides of this House practically to wash their hands of everything in connexion with the Army and say, virtually, that it is not a concern of theirs at all, that it is not a concern of this Parliament, and that it is only a concern of the High Command. Like Pontius Pilate, they do not wish to have anything to do with it. iSo I raise this question of abdication of power, an abdication made clear every time the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) sneaks. Whenever the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gets into a debate on this matter it becomes a matter which we must not discuss. Well, I am going to discuss it, and the first thing I shall refer to is the competent exercise of command. It is not my function to tell the High Command how it ought to work, but it is my business and the business of this House to learn, either publicly or privately ; what is happening. We have already been told twice, once in this House and once in the Senate, that we shall not say or learn anything about the Army in private and, therefore, we are forced to say what we wish to say in public. With regard to the competent exercise of the command, one of the disturbing things in the Army to-day is the way in which altogether too many head-quarters have been established throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I shall not go into great detail, but, early in 1941, there were established two very high formations. They had high-sounding titles and each was in charge of a high officer. A good many men who serve in the Army have a strong feeling that the formation of those head-quarters had much more to do with high Army politics than with the defence of this country. It may or it may not be significant that the two men who commanded them have recently left this country for appointments overseas. Having served under one of them, namely, Sir Iven Mackay, let me say that I think that he will do ,a very good job overseas. He is one of the best men this country has ever produced, and I frankly compliment the Curtin Government on having made that appointment. It is an excellent choice and I think that he will fulfil the tasks allotted tohim overseas with credit to himself and great advantage , to Australia. Another appointment made lately was referred to the other night. I do not know the officer concerned. He has gone to a high position in Victoria. All I can say about him is that he was one of those men who got his chance under the scholarship plan laid down by Cecil Rhodes. It will be a very good thing for the Commonwealth if the Rhodes Scholarships give us many more men of his type. So he goes. The third high officer to whom I refer is one whose name has already been mentioned, namely, Sir John Lavarack. Here is a man in the prime of life who ought to be at the very height of his military career, at the top of his reputation. He successfully commanded the Australian troops in Syria. Not only did he do that, but, if my information is correct - I do not think that Ministers will correct me - he did a great deal by his diplomacy to secure a cessation of hostilities in Syria much earlier than might otherwise have been the case. He decided on the defence of Tobruk and he is the man who selected the man who held Tobruk against the siege of the German and Italian troops. Since then, with the exception of a short intrusion into Java, that man has not been effectively employed by the Australian Army, and I say it is a very bad thing, for a bad impression is created in the forces when a man like Sir John Lavarack is left for nearly two long years stuck up on a hill somewhere round Toowoomba and has no effective employment. If Ministers and honorable members think officers and other ranks do not take notice of these matters and do not discuss them in camps, in messes, on the train, in planes or wherever they are, they are making a mistake. This is a matter of importance to men who know what is being done with certain prominent men that this country has produced and I say in this matter of the transfer overseas of a man of the record, reputation, capacity and potential military capacity of Sir John Lavarack, there is a case for the Government to answer. I doubt very much whether the Government will be inclined to answer it.
– The honorable member will be “ on the mat “ before the Commander-in-iChief after this speech.
– He is not afraid of me. It is no use blinking our eyes to the fact that we have what is know in the Army as “ the Middle East complex “. Some gentlemen refer to themselves as the “M.E.M.A.S.” or “Middle East Mutual Admiration Society “.We get the state of affairs in which a man who has not been to the Middle East is virtually “scrubbed”, meaning that he has no chance.
-Who “ scrubs “ them?
– I will not go into that. I am dealing with an important and serious matter, not a laughing matter. If honorable members think that , a certain state of affairs to which I shall refer does not exist in the Army, they have another think coming. Let me tell honorable members that the men to whom I am referring are citizens and taxpayers of this country and they will have something to say about this matter in due course. I am referring to men who have not been able to get forward or backward. I shall not refer to any by name, but I have seen case after case. One case which has come under my personal notice is that of a man whose release the Minister himself recently refused. That man has high technical skill. He has his own private business. He was asked to enlist about three years ago to do a special job in the Middle East. He has never been out of the country and he is not allowed to go out of it.
– In what capacity did the honorable member obtain all this information ?
– I meet people in all sorts of ways. Notwithstanding that my mail is continuously opened by the censor, my letters still get through. If the Minister forWar Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is interested, I shall give him the names and addresses. No doubt some of the men live in his electorate.
– The honorable member is using his position in the Army to give information which otherwise he would not have.
– In 1939 the son-in-law of Mr. Winston Churchill, himself a member of the House of Commons, was the subject of a select committee of the House of Commons because he had been court martialled on a charge that he gave certain information to .the House. The House of ‘Commons, having gone into the matter, decided that while a man “was a member of the House of Commons he w,as under an obligation to inform the House of anything which he found wrong with the forces.
– -Hear.. hear ! That is what I said.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– If the honorable gentleman is .not satisfied with what I tell him, the Library will inform his mind, if it is capable of being ‘ informed. There are to-day in the Army men .of all ranks who have been for two or three years in uniform but have not heard a .shot fired in this war, and who should either be going somewhere and doing something or told to get out of uniform into plain clothes in order to assist production in some way or other,. That state .of affairs transcends anything the High Command may want to do.. It concerns this Parliament which is the supreme legislative authority of this country, although .one would not think so who has -been here on one or two occasions during the currency of this war. So that is one of the .problems. These men feel that they are being completely frustrated. There is no effective job for :them to do in the Army. This war might end and they will have seen three or four years in uniform and in all that time will have been no more .than “ cho.cos “., to use the expression that they use about themselves. There are those - I am one of them- who saw service in the last war. If the Government considers that the time has come for them to return to civil life, it should give the necessary instruction, lay down a scale of .ages, set the physical requirements, and say that any one who does not comply with those standards must get out. But at present, as far as I can see, the Government does neither -one thing nor the other. It is
Hot altogether within the competency of high military authorities to decide things which are matters of policy. What I want to get into the minds of honorable members is a realization that matters of policy are things which the Government and Parliament should determine. They are not matters which should be left to men in uniform, to decide on their behalf.
Then there comes the question, an awkward one perhaps, of the administration of justice in the Army. We have heard one or two minor things to-day. I refer to one or two higher-placed men. .1 refer to the state of affairs which exists in Australia. In the United Kingdom, when any senior officer gets into trouble, there is no attempt to conceal the fact. At various times in the North African campaign when officers of general rank were no longer in the possession of the confidence of the Government of Great Britain, that fact was communicated “by the Prime Minister of Great Britain to the Parliament when it was assembled. The officers were named, and that was that. But the method adopted ‘here has been entirely different. Officers, as high as lieutenantgenerals, have been “ scrubbed “ with no cause made known to the troops who served under them. I say, with great respect ‘to Ministers who control these matters, that again I have to impress upon them that the troops in formations have feelings. They are inquisitive and want to know why things happen. If things happen, it stands to reason they will want to know. If they do not know, “ Dame Rumour “ gets to work in an effective way, and then an explanation will be given. We have the case which has been already referred to. I am not the -first t-o refer -to it. It is the case of former Lieutenant-general Rowell, now reduced to the rank of major-general and sent overseas. It was -not simply a matter of “ scrubbing ‘” this officer when -that event took place.
– What event?
– His removal from his command in New Guinea. For many months a complete censorship was imposed in this country regarding the fact that anything had happened to that officer. At the same time, certain other officers under him were also reduced in rank. Whether the
Government knows anything about this matter I am unable to say; but I know the names of some of those officers. I am not raising personal issues here, but [ refer to the subject because there is a feeling to-day in all ranks of the Army that something is far from right. Brigadier-General Clowes, the first general officer successfully to withstand an onslaught by Japanese troops in a landing - he repulsed the invaders at Milne Bay - was also removed and is now doing a base job. All sorts of rumours were circulating as to why that happened. When these things occur, the only proper and sensible course for the Government to pursue is to inform the Parliament of the facts, without any camouflage and without any attempt at concealment. Every man, however efficient, is liable to make a mistake. If a high-ranking officer makes a mistake, he is the last person to ask for mercy. He expects to pay the penalty for it.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred to the bottleneck in promotions and appointments. Associated with that is the matter of temporary rank. I do not make a practice of studying General Routine Orders, or Orders of Promotions. They do not worry me, but I occasionally glance at them. Sometimes I find that a man holding the rank of major-general may have the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel. If I had the authority, I should lay down that a man shall not have a second grant of temporary rank until the first one was confirmed. The result of the present system produces a sense of insecurity for an obvious reason. To be reduced in rank, a man does not have to be charged with having committed a breach of army law or some dereliction of duty. It simply means somebody standing over him may decide that he shall be reduced to the substantive rank that he holds. In other words, if a man holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel incurs the displeasure of a higher authority, he can he stripped of his temporary rank and become a lieutenant. Under such conditions, we cannot expect men properly to exercise authority. This policy creates within the forces a state of affairs that this Parliament should examine.
I now direct attention to the position of. many men who belong to the Staff Corps. They had distinguished records in the last war and were later members of the permanent military forces. To-day, they wear red bands around their caps, but they have not heard a shot fired since the outbreak of the present war. What will be the position of those men after the war, when the establishment of the permanent army will be reduced? What chance will they have of retaining their positions? Is it not reasonable to suppose that persons in high positions in future will say to them : “ You were a permanent officer and had years of service, but you were just not in it “. That aspect should be examined. It seriously concerns this Parliament because the legislature imposes the taxation that provides the revenue to pay these men, and lays down the conditions under which the permanent forces shall be kept in being.
I now desire to refer to matters that affect the authority of this Parliament. Last year, an act of repudiation was committed, but was successfully fought. I refer to a decision that men who joined the second Australian Imperial Force under certain conditions were to be told that they were never in it, and were never asked to be in it. I shall describe the circumstances. When things got rather “ sticky “ early in 1942, a circular letter was sent to the section in which I was serving stating that every officer was required to sign a declaration as to whether he was willing to join the second Australian Imperial Force. Till that date, many of us had been told that we were not wanted in the second Australian Imperial Force. To enable us to qualify for the second Australian Imperial Force, the authorities reduced the physical standard and increased the age limit for enlistment. No doubt many men joined under those conditions. In due course, the Army, which, like the mills of God, “grind slowly but exceeding sure”, allotted numbers to these men and so far as they were aware, they were members of the second Australian Imperial Force and eligible to serve in any part of the world. Many of them had been members of the first Australian Imperial Force and were prepared to serve anywhere that the Government chose to send them. But last year, an order was issued declaring that men in certain classifications and over a certain age had never been asked to join the second Australian Imperial Force. They had never been wanted. They were never in the force. The record of their having joined the second Australian. Imperial Force was to be expunged from their pay books and the base records.
– Does the honorable member say that the records of the Australian Army have been falsified?
– I did not say that they had been falsified. I ask the Prime Minister not to put words into my mouth. If the right honorable gentleman will examine the general routine orders, for which he was not responsible, because they are very secret-
– Then . the honorable member should not mention them in this chamber.
– I speak with full responsibility.
– The honorable member bandied my name about without justification.
– The correspondence between the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and myself on this subject stands. I have the right to write to the Minister. The instructions given were that those records were to be expunged. Later, that decision was reversed.
– Does the honorable member say that the record was to be destroyed ?
– Then what does the honorable member mean?
– The relevant passages were to be crossed out. We were never in the second Australian Imperial Force. The Prime Minister can verify my statements. Does he consider that under those conditions officers would have a feeling of contentment and security ?
Another decision which has been made affects very intimately parliamentary policy, because it relates to the whole conduct of this country, not only at the present time, but for a long time to come. Someone in his wisdom, or lack of wisdom, decided that the Royal Military College at Duntroon should close and the Minister for the Army published that decision.
– No decision was made to close the Duntroon Military College. A decision was reached at one time to reduce the intake, but subsequently the number of entrants was restored to the former level.
– I know that. I was a member of the deputation which waited on the Minister to discuss the matter. This kind of decision should be examined by this Parliament. A decision as to whether the Duntroon Military College shall continue is a vital factor in the post-war military set-up of this country.
– There was never any proposal that the military college should be closed.
– We need not go into the details. The Minister knows perfectly well what occurred and who formed the deputation to him. I contend that matters of this description are matters of policy that ought to be determined by this Parliament. They should not be decided by persons who are not laying down the future policy of Australia. Whatever the outcome may be, the power to determine policy must remain in the hands of this Parliament. I have noticed several instances of the authority of this Parliament having been disregarded. The government of the day has allowed certain persons to go abroad on missions; and I presume that the government of the day will claim that it has the right to send anybody it likes outside this country on any mission that it chooses.
– Does the honorable member challenge that?
– I support it. But some persons in high authority have taken upon themselves the responsibility of sending people overseas to try to prevent others from carrying out the job that they had to do. I can provide the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) with evidence to prove that statement so that he may discuss it with the Prime Minister. It is competent for the Parliament to discuss these matters.
I come now to the censorship. This is a personal matter. For some time I have had occasion to . complain in writing to the Minister for the Army that a percentage of mail addressed to me at this Parliament House was being opened by the censor. I received his answer yesterday, after waiting more than a month for it, and it does not tell me anything.
– The honorable member should raise the question as a matter of privilege.
– CAMERON. - I raise it now and if a fight develops on the issue, no doubt the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will take my part, [Extension of time granted.] I have told the Minister for the Army in writing what I think about the opening of such a high proportion of my letters. I have received two letters within the last 24 hours, which have been opened. The envelopes have been shown to the Minister for External Affairs. I have in mind, also, one urgent air-mail letter which was held up for seventeen days, and the holding up of which affected the administration of justice in this country.
– The honorable member must be a bad character.
– If the Government has any reasons for dealing with my mail in this way, I should not occupy the positions I hold in this House and the Army.
– It is a very important matter.
– The matter was raised by a former honorable member for Grey about two years ago, and the present Prime Minister declared that the practice was not to continue. I have given envelopes, which have been opened, to the AttorneyGeneral, who is also the Minister in charge of security in this country. Letter after letter addressed to me as a member of this Parliament at Parliament House has been opened by the censor. I have had letters posted in this House, and addressed to me at my private address which have been opened by the censor. Those letters, also, have been submitted to the authorities.
– Where was the censor?
– I do noi know. The letters had a censor’s number on them.
– All letters of persons on active service are censored.
– These were not letters of active service personnel. They were ordinary letters posted inside the Commonwealth to me in my capacity as a member of Parliament. Some were posted in this House, and bore the clear mark of the Parliament House Post Office cancellation stamp. They were addressed to me at my home in South Australia.
These are matters that should be investigated. I do not mind what attitude the Prime Minister takes on this subject. My attitude always has been that when certain subjects arise which I consider to be of sufficient importance to warrant my speaking about them in this House, I shall do so, and there is no power in this country that will prevent me from doing so. Let me tell honorable members that the urgent telegram which came to my address in Adelaide requiring me to report at Victoria Barracks for service for the duration of the war can be produced. I do not mind whether the Government likes what I have done to-night. If not, it has its remedy. It can please itself about that. As I said earlier, my total service in the armed forces of this country overseas and in the Militia is nearly twenty years.
– The honorable gentleman is getting too old.
– If that is so, I should be put out; but I have not been put out. The matters I have raised to-night require the consideration of the Parliament. I have the conviction that sufficient attention has not been devoted by honorable members or by His Majesty’s Ministers to the welfare, the work, and the future, of the armed services of this country, to the Department of Munitions, the Allied Works Council, and kindred matters. I trust that as a result of what I have said, following what was said by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) a fortnight ago, and by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), this Parliament will decide to take a more lively interest inthe internal working and the welfare of the armed forces of Australia.
– I very much regret that I was not present to hear the whole of the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I have informed my mind on some parts of them, and I invite the House to consider the general way in which he has submitted what he had to say. Since I have been present the honorable gentleman has made a series of statements, but he has adduced no evidence in support of them. He simply threw them into the ring, and said that they called for investigation because they indicated that there was something radically wrong with the organization of the Army of this country, although, towards the conclusion of his speech, he stretched his remarks to cover the Department of Munitions and the armed forces as a whole.
When the present war commenced this part of the world was not involved in it, but the previous Government, having accepted the obligation to share with Great Britain and its Allies the struggle in which they were engaged, organized an expeditionary force and appointed a Commander-in-Chief of that force. If I remember rightly, the honorable member for Barker was a member of the Government at that time.
– The right honorable gentleman is quite wrong. I was not a member of the Government when that appointment was made.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s statement. The Government of the day made an appointment. I have no doubt whatever that that decision called for the most weighty consideration of the qualifications and attributes required by the person who would have to take the lead in such an important part of the Australian national life. A choice was made, and a CommanderinChief of the expeditionary force was appointed. In due course he was appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief of all the British forces in the theatre of war in which the Australian forces were engaged, which appeared to me to make manifest that the choice of the Australian
Government of a leader of its armed forces had been justified by experience - so much so, that other people felt warranted in appointing that officer to the second highest post in the theatre in which he was serving. The officer concerned was, of course, General Sir Thomas Blarney. He was in charge of the Australian Imperial Force during the time it was overseas in the Middle East theatre. Major-General Gordon Bennett was given charge of the 8th Division which was despatched to the Far East.
With the coming of Japan into the war, this Government had to face a new situation. I do not need to retail to the Parliament the state of affairs in the world at that time, other than to say that in order to make better provision for the war against J apan, we arranged with the Government of the United Kingdom for the return to Australia, ultimately, of all the Australian Imperial Force divisions, but, for some considerable period, the 9th Division remained behind. Naturally, the Commander-in-Chief came back, and we immediately made him Commander-in-Chief of the fighting forces in this area - a decision which we felt was warranted by the precedent of the previous Government in making him Commander-in-Chief of the Australian force fighting in another part of the world. We considered that the man chosen to lead in another area could be trusted equally to lead in the defence of the soil of this Commonwealth. Much has happened since then. There have been all kinds of remarks, and whispers, and criticisms, but, as I look back over the period, I venture to say that history will give to General Sir Thomas Blarney one of the highest places in the annals of this country for the service he has rendered to it. I do not believe that there is an abler mind at the disposal of the Government in respect of the organization of its military forces. I believe that, in respect of his strategical concepts, General Sir Thomas Blarney is as well equipped as any man we could get. He also has a firm grasp of the organization of the Australian Army. After having shared some part of General Sir Thomas Blarney’s anxieties and having, I hope, helped to minimize some ofl them, I say to this House and to ths country that I have never for one single moment had other than the most complete confidence in his capacity, his fidelity, and his devotion to his supreme duty. Time and time again he has been examined, not only in War Cabinet, but in other places to which I shall not refer. The honorable member for Barker has made certain remarks about the subordinates of the ‘Commander-in-Chief. [ believe that , the great majority of them are proud indeed to be his loyal subordinates. Reference has been made to an occasion when General Sir Thomas Blarney went to New Guinea, and to’ what happened there. It is no secret that when the fighting in New Guinea took on a complexion which caused disquiet in certain quarters in Australia, General Sir Thomas Blarney, as CommanderinChief of the Australian forces, went to New Guinea and took command in the place where the actual fighting was in progress. In a war such as we have been fighting, and in the circumstances which we have witnessed, it does not appear to me to be an extraordinary thing that the man who had been given the leadership of the Australian Military Forces should, on certain occasions himself take the responsibility for directing the forces. And he did that. He did it with the entire approval of the Government, and with the prior knowledge of myself as Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. It is true that an incident occurred in which LieutenantGeneral Rowell was involved. I do not propose to make this place a coroner’s inquest, but I wish to say that I took it upon myself personally to investigate the whole of the circumstances. I had a full and complete interview with both the Commander-in-Chief ‘and LieutenantGeneral Rowell. I regard LieutenantGeneral Rowell as a very able commander. I believe that he is loyally devoted to “his country. I “believe there are many other men like LieutenantGeneral Rowell in Australia, anxious to do their very utmost in the service of the Commonwealth. In saying that I have t”he greatest admiration for Lieutenant-General Rowell, I add that, as Minister for Defence, I entirely approved, and still approve, of the deci sion which was taken. That is all I have to say about that.
Reference has been made also to Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack, who has been sent to Washington. I shall not enter into an elaborate explanation of why he has been sent to Washington, but I remind the House that Washington is the seat of the combined Commanders-in-Chief, and that it is of the highest importance that the views that are held by the Government and the commanders in this part of the world should be made available, not only on the diplomatic level to the President through the Minister Plenipotentiary for Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, but also on the service level through the medium of officers of the prestige and competence of Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack. Par from that officer having been pushed aside, the use that is being made of his services, his experience, and his competence in the present circumstances is, in my judgment, the best use that could be made of them. The honorable gentleman has interested himself in this .matter much more intimately than would be measured hy the statement he has made to the House. I have to tell him, as, he has already been told by me. that he has been grossly misinformed in respect of the facts. I am quite sure that he will acknowledge that.
– In that particular instance, I do, quite willingly.
– I venture to affirm that the .field of the honorable gentleman’s misinformation is much more general than ne suspects.
Reference has been made to Lieutenant.General Sir Edmund Herring. It is right that I .should take this opportunity, the first I have had in this place, to pay tribute to the great and distinguished services of Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Herring. He has not only a military record which redounds to his credit, but also other qualities which all of us admire. As Minister for Defence I h.ad looked forward to his continuing in the service of the Australian Army, ‘but he has been made the recipient of one of the most distinguished offices in the gift of the State of Victoria. I ascertained that Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund
Herring, after his long service in the tropical areas, had reached a stage in his career when it could be said, not only that he had rendered great service to Australia, but also, without unfairness to him, that because of the strains and stresses which the climate of New Guinea had imposed upon him, it was a matter of some doubt as to whether he could serve, operationally at least, for a much longer period in that part of the world. I see nothing wrong with consent being given to a high military officer possessing the necessary qualifications for appointment to the office of Chief Justice of a State, accepting that office. My only comment upon LieutenantGeneral Sir Edmund Herring’s retirement from the Army is to express deep gratitude for the distinguished service he has given, and to wish him good fortune in the brilliant judicial career which I hope now awaits him.
With respect to Sir Iven Mackay, do I have to explain to the House that in South-East Asia there is an important command in which will take place events that will directly bear upon the conduct of the war against Japan and will be associated with a general co-ordination of activities in the South-West Pacific and the Central Pacific? Can I not dispose of the whole situation by saying that, if it was good enough for the Prime Minister of Great Britain to select a distinguished military leader to be the Viceroy of India, therecannot be anything very wrong with the decision of this country also to select for a high diplomatic office in that country a man of proved military competence ?
– As a matter of fact, I said that the decision was right.
– Well, then, the honorable gentleman must have made a speech of shreds and patches. Apparently, the patches were thrown in merely in order to make a prima facie justification for the shreds.
The Australian Army, in respect of both the manner in which the Government has mobilized the man-power, and the use that has been made of that manpower by the commanders, reflects very great credit on those who have been responsible for its organization. Bear in mind, this is an army of civilians. The great mass of them, in the month before they became a part of the Army organization, were shearers, shopkeepers, farmers, mine-workers, teamsters, carriers, lawyers, accountants, and doctors, who - let it be said - had had no military training and certainly no experience whatever in the art of war. Yet, out of that material of untrained but patriotic men has been conjured a force which, both in the Middle East and in the islands adjacent to, our country, has won a reputation as being among the best fighting material the world has ever seen. I am very happy to be able to mention that as the opinion not only of missions that have gone from this country to other places, but also of missions that have come to this part of the world from other places, and it is no secret that the head of the British Mission, Major-General Lethbridge, has paid the very highest testimony not only to the fighting qualities of the Australian soldier, but also to the organization and general direction of the fighting capacity of this country. The honorable member for Barker had better get it well into his mind that the implied strictures on the CommanderinChief that permeated his speech are not shared by the best qualified minds of this country; that there is nothing but admiration for General Sir Thomas Blarney by those who serve under him. There may be there, as there are here, certain disappointed personal ambitions, but there is no professional criticism. There may be in some quarters, as there is in this Parliament, the belief that someone else could do better; but I have been unable to find it among those whom I would regard as most qualified to offer a judgment. I shall recite one example, and shall tell the honorable gentleman the name of the man who offered the criticism to me. I have always had to consider what might be the position if certain men were laid aside. I have always regarded it as necessary that I should be able to lay my hands upon somebody who could step into shoes which might become vacant, either because of enemy action or through natural causes. I say to the honorable gentleman, and I say to this House, with pride and thankfulness, that I have had from the men whom I have entertained in mind, in order to feel sure that we should not be left in the lurch, nothing but the assurance that, if ever the command should come to one of them before the war was over, they would regard its coming as a national calamity. That applies to more than one general. A. state of disquiet as to the conduct of the Army, and its organization could easily be manufactured in any country. This war is not static. We sent forces to the Middle East and brought them back. We have had to organize to the uttermost the fighting capacity of this country. That is not so grievous a problem to-day as it was two years, or even one year, ago. We have now to rebalance our war organization in order to overtake the deterioration of certain of our economic phases which are just as vital for the conduct of the war as was fighting material two years ago; though fighting material is just as essential to-day as it ever was for completeness of victory. The 1 honorable gentleman must know that re-assessments, changes and redispositions have to be, and are being, made constantly. Unceasing reviews make changes inevitable. The . honorable gentlemen has said that certain men had been given temporary rank and had then been deprived of it. That is not a new practice in any army organization; it has happened in every period in which armies have had to be arranged and promotions have had to be temporarily effected. But when the honorable gentleman proceeded to say that the Government does not know what is occurring in the Army, he made a mistake. The Government does not regard the administration of the Army as a matter for day-to-day discussion in public places. On occasion there are matters in connexion with the Army which, in the interests of those who are primarily concerned, it is best to forget; for these men have given themselves to their country, have suffered all kinds of deprivations, have made great sacrifices, and have been subjected to the most terrible of all strains. They have temperaments. In certain circumstances they say things which, in all probability, they would afterwards wish they had never said. Therefore, far easier is it to close the matter than to regard it as the foundation upon which a muckraking campaign among personalities should be conducted, however pleasant an occupation that might be for those who would seek to keep debate going until this country had become a place of confusion rather than of sober confidence in its fighting capacity, and the achievements of its army.
In regard to Royal Military College at Duntroon I say that it has never been so effectively used for the purpose for which it was established as it is to-day. If such were not the case, I should regard it as a reflection; because Duntroon College is now more necessary - as we have had the sorry misfortune to learn - than was ever believed. It has developed to such a degree that it is now playing a part of which, I venture to say, any member of this Parliament may well be proud. What the honorable gentleman has said is not true; other than that, as the Minister for the Army admits, when we were hard pressed in the early part of 1942 it was decided temporarily to reduce the intake of students. When the situation cleared, the normal intake was re-established; and in addition, all kinds of refresher courses for officers, and other special courses, have been added to the ordinary work of the college.
There is one final word that I would say. As honorable members probably know, we now stand in the Pacific with forces greater than have previously been assembled there for the prosecution of the war against Japan. We are mounting in Europe a strength greater than has ever been mounted before. In every part of this global war I find that the enemy, which but a little while ago was on the offensive and driving the Allied forces back, is now on the defensive and is himself being driven back. That is the position in Europe. Much stamina and determination will be required, and great effort and grievous sacrifices will be called for in Europe in order to bring about the defeat of the German Army, just as there must be great tribulation and suffering before the defeat of the Japanese is accomplished. These victories, which we believe are now definitely in sight, which we believe will cost us much blood and treasure, will be gained for us by the armed forces, by the men of the Army, the Navy and of the Air Force, and I submit that, unless honorable members can bring forward specific charges supported by evidence to prove incapacity, it would be better, in the interests of the country, if they were to express gratitude for the organization, the direction and devotion which have brought us to where we are, a position so immeasurably better than where we were that we can now see before us the path leading to peace. We hope that peace will be achieved without too much criticism of those whose leadership has contributed to the increasing security of the country, and whose reputations in Australia and in Allied countries will, I am convinced, be more enduring than those of their critics.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), when he began his speech, said that it was unfortunate that he had not heard all the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). After listening to the Prime Minister, I am of opinion that what he did hear he completely misunderstood. The fact is that no attack was made by the honorable member for Barker on the integrity or military acumen of Sir Thomas Blarney as Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces. The Prime Minister began with the formation of the Australian Imperial Force, which he called an Australian expeditionary force, but I, and most honorable members on this side of the House, prefer to call it an Australian Imperial Force - and this, by the way is the force which neither the Prime Minister, nor any of the honorable members who sit behind him, wanted to be formed at all. Even after it was formed, many months elapsed before they could make up their minds whether it should be reinforced. After referring to the deeds of the Australian Imperial Force across the seas, the right honorable gentleman arrived at the point where Sir Thomas Blarney was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East. He then insinuated that the honorable member for Barker had made an attack on Sir Thomas Blarney as Commander-in-Chief of the
Home Forces. That was a misconstruction of the speech of the honorable member for Barker. The honorable member for Barker did refer to the movements of Sir Thomas Blarney’s subordinates, and I ask whether members of this House are not to be allowed to refer to matters of that kind. It is this Parliament which controls even the CommanderinChief, and which determines the strategy which he shall follow.’ If it was wrong for the honorable member for Barker to refer to certain of the subordinates of the Commander-in-Chief, and to say that they have been scattered throughout the world, then it was equally wrong for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to say that he was unhappy about the appointment to various positions of such men as LieutenantGeneral Sir Iven Mackay, LieutenantGeneral Sir John Lavarack and LieutenantGeneral Sir Edmund Herring. It must also have been wrong for the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to say what he said, because both he and the Leader of the Opposition, two ex-Prime Ministers of Australia, have expressed regret that men like Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay and Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack and Major-General Rowell are no longer serving with the Australian Imperial Force. I repudiate the suggestion of the Prime Minister that members of Parliament should behave like mummies, that they should be denied the right to criticize, and that they should stand in silent awe before the closed doors of the War Council. Last week I raised the question of promotions in the Royal Australian Air Force. I pointed out that the highest substantive rank to which a duration member of the Royal Australian Force could aspire was that of flying officer, the equivalent of a lieutenant in the Army. Am I now to be told that it was wrong of me to raise my voice in criticism of such a practice? It is absurd to suggest that such matters cannot be discussed in this House by any honorable member, whether or not he happens to be a member of the Australian armed forces. To-night, for the first time, we have had from the Prime Minister some sort of an explanation of events which have given rise to much, questioning throughout the length and breadth of the country. In the absence of any explanation, rumours circulate and actions are misinterpreted.
The Prime Minister suggested that the honorable member for Barker had attacked the Government over the appointment of Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay, but the fact is that he did just the opposite. He made no attack upon the appointment. On the contrary, he said that it was one of the appointments made by this Government which, in his opinion, was fully justified, and in the best interests of the country. Again, the Prime Minister completely - and, I believe, deliberately - misconstrued the remarks of the honorable member for Barker. The only other possible explanation is that he did not hear the remarks clearly. No attack was made by the honorable member for Barker regarding the conduct of operations in the field by General Sir Thomas Blamey. Tomorrow, when the Prime Minister has read the report of the speech of the honorable member for Barker, he may, if he is feeling in a generous mood, qualify what he said to-night.
Reference has been made to the Royal Military College at Duntroon. I have no clear recollection of what happened in regard to the college twelve months ago, but I know that most honorable members had an impression that it was proposed to close it, and that belief was shared by a member of the Senate, who holds the rank of general in the Army. I believe that there was something in the wind at that time.
– There was never any suggestion that the Royal Military College should be closed.
– The Minister for the Army himself stated that it was proposed to reduce the establishment.
– There was a proposal that, because of the exigencies of the war situation, the intake should be reduced. As a matter of fact, the activities of the college have been increased, and there are now special staff schools functioning there in addition to the normal activities of the college. It was never proposed by the Government that the college should be closed.
– Representations were made on the subject from this side of the House. It is all very well to point to the activities being carried on at the military college to-day, but the honorable member for Barker was referring to the situation existing twelve months ago. The one point with which the Prime Minister did not deal, the point which is exercising the minds of most honorable members, is the censoring of letters of a member of Parliament. The Prime Minister conveniently sidestepped that issue, but perhaps the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) or the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will have .something to say about it. I ask honorable members opposite whether they believe it to be just to censor the correspondence of a member of Parliament. Do they not believe that such action is an attack on the privilege of members of this House? Possibly, because he is a member of the Military Forces, the private mail of the honorable member for Barker, including mail from his friends and constituents, has been tampered with. This is not a recent occurrence; it has been going on for months. The honorable gentleman made it clear to the Prime Minister and his colleagues that his mail had been censored for some time. This is not a matter which has arisen in the last 24 hours. He said that he had spoken to the Minister for the Army and, I think, to the Attorney-General about it, but that nothing had been done.
– Be fair! I think the honorable member for Barker will admit, that he did not tell me this till to-day.
– I got a letter from the Minister yesterday.
– Yes. The honorable member knows quite well that there has been no direction by the Government that his mail shall be censored. If he does not. I give him that assurance.
– Possibly weshall be able to hear the Minister at greater length on that matter. It is most, serious, as he will agree. The matter in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Barker, in regard to which all honorable members particularly desired to be satisfied, was his complaint that his private mail had been censored, but the Prime Minister completely overlooked that. I hope that that matter will be cleared up to the satisfaction of all, because tampering with the mail of members of Parliament should not be tolerated. It is an infringement of the privilege of honorable members of this House. If the Government has allowed it to go on for months, I hope that it will immediately prohibit it. I rose to reply, not so much to the Prime Minister’s words as to the insinuations behind them. The honorable member for Barker made no attack on General Sir Thomas Blarney as Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces. I believe that the honorable member would say, if he had the chance, that he revels in the victories of our Navy, Army and Air Force, and that he looks forward to greater and quicker victories. But it is insinuated that no criticism of the Navy, Army or Air Force should be voiced in this chamber. My reply is that, if that be so, this House may as well shut up for all time.
– I take this opportunity to bring before the House the urgent national need that homes be provided for the people of this country. It is no new thing for honorable members to speak on this issue, but to-day, more than ever, the problem is so great that it must be faced immediately. According to the first interim report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission in October of 1943, the estimated shortage of houses by 1945 will be between 250,000 and 300,000 - a tragic state of affairs. In my own electorate houses are appallingly overcrowded. In one instance fourteen people are living in a four-roomed cottage and in another instance a man and his wife and four children live in a single room. Throughout the metropolitan electorates this is a familiar occurrence. It is tragic that young couples, with or without families, are unable to obtain decent habitation. Bit by bit, we see the family life of this country broken down. In many instances houses are in a poor state of repair, and many of the owners will not carry out the repairs, with the result that people are compelled to live in conditions which are a menace to health and life. I realize that the paramount need is to win the war; and I also realize that since this
Government assumed office, this country has been organized by it into a magnificent war effort, an effort which is second to none. Having well in mind that we still have to win the war, I maintain that we cannot lose sight of the need to house the people. That need is immediate. Each day I am inundated in my electorate with inquiries from people who want homes. They come to me requesting that something be done. I realize that the war may continue for longer than we anticipate, but a housing programme should.be only second in priority to the winning of the war, and I consider that men who are engaged in any activity which is even slightly unessential should be switched to the work of providing homes. Whatever labour and materials can be made available ought to be made available for that purpose. The Government owes a duty to the people to ensure that they shall be properly housed even in time of war and, even though the establishment of a housing programme immediately may involve a reorganization of activities, the work must be commenced. It is necessary to begin the solution of the housing problem if we are to continue our magnificent war effort. I should be lacking in my duty to my constituents - and I feel that I also speak on behalf of all city dwellers in this nation - if I missed this opportunity to impress upon the Government the extreme urgency of the housing problem.
. - I think we all agree that it is of the first importance that the housing problem be taken in hand at the earliest possible moment, and that plans be worked out in detail immediately for the provision of homes for the people in the hope that the time will soon come when it will be possible to implement them. There is one particular section on which the shortage of housing bears more harshly than on any other section; I refer to the men who are being discharged from the Army and cannot find homes. Many of those men have married since the war began and have families. When they are discharged they look for homes without a hope of finding them. I believe that it is a first duty of the Government to provide accommodation for those men to whom we owe a great debt. It is the responsibility of the Parliament and the country to ensure that they shall be satisfactorily reinstated in civil life, and a necessary prerequisite to that is decent housing. I, therefore, suggest to the Government that it should take in hand some scheme which will provide at least a proportion of the houses needed by them. Hundreds are leaving the Army every week. Many are going into the country to work in rural pursuits, either for their parents and relatives or for people who previously employed them. Many others return to their own homes in the cities. But the others have nowhere to go at all. I hope that the Government will immediately do something to end their plight.
– I take this opportunity to direct the attention of honorable members to what I consider to be a most serious attack, made in this morning’s press, upon a member of this Ministry in the person of myself. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is always withdrawing from something or other, commencing with his withdrawal from the Army at the beginning of the last war, said as his explanation of why he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) were withdrawing from the Advisory War Council -
In view of some misapprehension which appears to exist with relation to the reasons for the withdrawal of the United Australia party from the Advisory War Council, I should mako it clear that a growing feeling in the party was brought to a head by the public condonation by the Prime Minister of the statements made in the House by Mr. Ward, statements which were of an antiBritish and subversive kind.
I consider that the right honorable gentleman - I am obliged to use the word “ honorable “ in accordance with parliamentary practice - whilst approving of the application of the closure to a previous debate in this House, made a despicable attack upon me in the columns of the daily press. Then, when he knew that I was going to reply, he ran to cover, as he has run to cover on previous occasions.’ I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that it was he who sponsored the move for the royal commission into certain charges which I previously made in regard to the defence strategy of the Menzies and Fadden Governments, but, when the report of the royal commission was tabled and was to be discussed, he was missing from this chamber. In order to make it clear that I am not the one who has been engaged in making subversive statements or statements likely to embarrass the United Nations in their fight against the Axis powers, I shall refer to what the so-called champion of the democratic powers has had to say on many occasions here. I took down what he said recently on the war situation, and I say that his speech was a veiled attack on those who are directing the activities of the United Nations and, in particular, a veiled attack on the Soviet Republic. In my speech, I said that military experts should determine whether there should be a second front in Western Europe, but the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to deny the right of the leaders of the Allied Nations to determine that. They had already made a pronouncement to the world of their decision that a second front in Western Europe should, be opened. He said -
I hope that no second front, third front or fourth front will be opened by the arguments of non-combatants. I profoundly hope - I most sincerely pray - that if the time comes when the forces of democracy are to be thrown against the fortress of Europe from the sea, it will be by the judgment of soldiers and at a ripe -time, and not by the judgment of those who look on at these things from a great distance.
– What is wrong with that?
– The gentlemen who decided on the second front did not make the decision from a great distance. They were the leaders of the United Nations and they knew all the facts and thus were the most competent to make the decision. But the right honorable gentleman, with his very slight military experience, attempted to set himself up as an authority above the leaders of the United Nations. He proceeded -
Casual people have said - “ Well of course the Russians have the Germans on the run, and this is the psychological moment fm opening a second front “…
Implying that only casual people believed that the psychological moment had arrived for the opening of a second front. He continued -
As for France, one does not know anything. One needs only to imagine things to realize that in occupied France, in momentarily defeated France, Germany must have vast forces and long prepared and powerful defences, and above all of necessity an area to be defended against invasion which must be limited by the capacity of the invader to put protective fighter aircraft over his invading forces.
Again, he said -
Nobody denies that, but the whole implication throughout his speech is criticism of the decisions made by the leaders of the United Nations regarding the opening of a second front. What was I criticized for saying? I said -
I do not know whether a second front in Western Europe is advisable. That problem I leave to military experts to determine. But there has been a widely shared opinion not only in Australia but also in other countries that certain of the United Nations tend to try to withhold their strength, and to build it up while allowing the Soviet to bleed itself white, so that when the conflict terminates they will be the strongest military influence at the Peace Conference. . . .
I expressed that as a widely held opinion, and that was challenged. I shall now examine whether that opinion is shared elsewhere. In Sydney to-day, a film is being exhibited depicting the work of the former American Ambassador to the Soviet Republic, Mr. Joseph Davies. The film is entitled, The Mission to. Moscow. I assume that the Government, through the censorship, would be very careful of the dialogue of such important films depicting historical events or political happenings of the past. As the dialogue or the script must have been passed by the Government authorities, I take it that the film was intended for general exhibition. I shall now read some of the dialogue taken from that film -
Mr. Stalin. ; There are some matters on my mind I would like you to know and your great President to know.
Mr. Kalinin. ; Mr. Davies. Mr. Davies, please. The outlook for European peace is bad, very bad. England and France have allowed Hitler to take Austria without a struggle. They will probably allow him to do the same with Czechoslovakia. They have repudiated all their pledges to the League and are throwing defenceless countries on the mercies of bandits.
Mr. Davies. ; It is clear what they are doing. But I don’t quite understand why they are doing it.
Mr. Stalin. ; I will tell you why, Mr. Davies, and I will tell you frankly, because this is the time for plain words. The reactionary elements in England have determined upon a deliberate policy of making Germany strong. At the same time they shout lies in the press about the weakness of the Russian army and disorder in the Soviet Union.
Mr. Davies. ; You mean, these elementsare actually encouraging German aggression?
Mr. Stalin. ; There is no doubt thattheir plan is to force Hitler into war with this country. Then, when the combatants have exhausted themselves they will step in and make peace. Yes. The kind of peace that will serve their own interest!
Mr. Davies. ; But I am sure the English people don’t approve of such a policy.
Mr. Stalin. ; In my opinion the present Governments of England and France do not represent the people. Finally, the Fascist dictators will drive too hard a bargain and the people will bring their Governments to account but then it may be too late.
That film has been viewed by thousands of people in this country, without protest. I mention the particular part which refers to the reactionary elements in Great Britain. They were the very elements to which I referred. I was not referring to the British nation as such and the British people, whose sacrifices in this war I admire and who I know can be depended upon to continue the struggle until final victory is won. I was referring to the reactionary elements in control of Great Britain when they were following their policy of appeasing the Axis powers, and the criticism of those particular elements. I mentioned that the opinion which I expressed was not my own, but one widely shared by many people, and that is evidenced by the fact that the film has been passed for exhibition to the public. Furthermore the wellknown author, Douglas Reed, in his latest work, Lest We Regret, states -
The confused conflict of thought, about Russia, still thwarts us. Of how much misery has it been the cause!
The stubborn antagonism to Russia, in this country, is too strong to be ignored or denied. Indeed, it is open, and can be proved. The awful thing is, that antagonism to Russia means antagonism to winning this war quickly. But even to that, the people seem to have become accustomed. You would think that with hundreds of thousands of their men in foreign captivity, they would feel strongly about it. I think they lose the power to feel strongly about anything.
The openly expressed antagonism ranges from the statement attributed to, and never denied by a British Minister (of the hope that “the Russian and German armies will exterminate each other, and while this is taking place we will so develop our Air Force and other armed forces that if Russia and Germany do destroy each other we shall have the dominating power in Europe”) to the statement of a Conservative M.P. : “ I cannot foresee the military result of the German attack on Russia, but of this I am certain - the war of 1914 brought Bolshevism to Russia, the war of 1939 will drive it out. Russia has proved greater than any dogma. The Bear walks like a man again “.
Following some Russian reverses, a newspaper declared in an article-
The military alliance with Russia was forced on us by necessity. A large section of our people, including the Prime Minister, regarded it as an unpleasant necessity . . . perhaps the disasters which have overtaken the cause of the Allied Nations in Russia may not be, in the long run, the unmitigated evil they may seem !
There is ample evidence that this opinion was shared that certain elements in Britain and this country were not so enthusiastic about the war with Russia as our ally as they might make the people think they were. I come to another statement of the Leader of the Opposition. The Melbourne Argus ‘on the 31st January, 1944, published the following report of a statement by the right honorable gentleman in regard to relations with Russia : -
Mr. Menzies said we must continue our struggle towards collective security. We must start with Anglo-American co-operation if we were to provide for the League of Nations that real core of genuine alliance which would ultimately give it both reality and power.
It would be mere fleeting sentimentality to pretend that as yet there was an instinctive feeling of community of interest between the Russians and ourselves. Many old prejudices would need to be overcome.
Our enthusiasm about Russian victories over Germany should not lead us to assume that Russia alone could have defeated Germany. All the probabilities were against it. With a weakened and divided France, the balance of power in Europe would depend more than ever upon continued intervention in European affairs by Britain.
I propose to show how this opinion was out of keeping with what the Prime Minister stated about the Russian efforts. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speeches in this chamber and outside it, has been anti-Soviet, not only prior to the war, but also while the war has been in progress. The Prime Minister thinks differently of the Russian efforts. He declared in his speech to this House -
The magnitude of the Russian achievements is illustrated by the fact that more than 200 German divisions are fighting on the Russian front, and that for over two and a half years Russia has had to deal with by far the greatest part of the Axis forces in Europe. . . .
Despite the favorable developments I have described to-day, there is as yet no reason to believe that Germany will be defeated without the launching of an invasion from the west.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on occasions has made anti-Soviet statements. The following passage is taken from Hansard: -
Certain principles ought to be observed by any government when considering an alliance with another power, especially if the alliance is likely to lead us into hostilities- after a short period. I think that the first of them should be that there is a community of interest between the two powers affected. …I should like to know where exactly is the community of interest between Great Britain and Russia.
A Sydney newspaper published the following report: -
Mr. Cameron, the member for Barker, had this to say of our gallant ally shortly after Russia entered the fight against Germany - “ I have some misgivings as to whether the gentleman with the big moustache will fight for very long - letus not be deluded that winter will come to our assistance, and that the German armies will dissolve while the Russian forces remain intact. I deprecate every word that has been said to-day for sending assistance to Russia. Personally, my attitude to the Russo-German war is that it was an act of mercy or of providence for two great thieves to fall out - from our point of view it does not matter who wins the RussoGerman war because the British Empire is committed to fight the winner - let us get very clearly into our heads that whichever side wins, we fight.”
These honorable gentlemen now try to stand up enthusiastically and talk about “their gallant Soviet ally” and they would make it appear that no sections in this country or in any other country are or have ever been anti-Soviet in outlook. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), in a broadcast over national stations, said -
Russia made an unprovoked and brutal attack on Finland, which shocked and angered the whole world.
I wonder whether he would repeat that statement to-day. I now refer to a statement by the Leader of the
Opposition relating to the Axis powers themselves. On the 5th October, 1938, he said -
It is quite wrong to imagine that the dispute aboutthe position of the Sudeten Germans was a. dispute in which all the merits were one way. implying that there was certain merit in the case of the Axis power, Germany. That was made prior to the outbreak of war, but at least it indicates the general view of the right honorable gentleman of the Axis powers and those opposing them. Speaking to the Constitutional Association, the Leader of the Opposition is reported on the 24th October, 1938, as having said -
Why was Hitler able to tear up the treaty of Versailles, absorb Austria and the Sudentenland without firing a shot? The dominating reason why he was able to do it all is that he gives the German people a leadership to which they render unquestioning obedience. If you and I were Germans sitting beside our fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.
By no stretch of the imagination can it be suggested that those sentiments were critical of the Axis powers. The Argus of the15th November,1938, reported -
In his recent visit to Germany he (Mr. Menzies) had been impressed with German industrial efficiency and with the attitude of responsibility of the big industrial enterprises to the welfare of their employees and their children. Italy was fundamentally more prosperous and better governed now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. As for Germany, the majority of the people there were satisfied with their Government.
If the Leader of the Opposition believes that theFacist form of Government gives those benefits to the people, how does he expect to arouse the enthusiasm of the workers of other countries to oppose them? But the facts are that the workers of this and other countries realize quite well what they had to lose if the Axis powers were successful. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 12th December read -
Mr. Menzies said: “We must get out of the cheap easy going habit of mind which causes people to say whatever Germany may do is wrong … I think there is a great deal to be said for Germany re-arming.”.
This is the gentleman who to-day abhors the continuance of the war. He was in favour of Germany re-arming. Why was he in favour of Germany re-arming? Would he have been in favour of Germany re-arming if he had thought that Ger many would fight Great Britain? Or was he in favour of Germany re-arming because he believed, like other reactionary elements did, that the re-armament of Germany meant that eventually that country would come into conflict with the Soviet? It is obvious why he favoured the re-armament of Germany. On the 15th November, 1938, the Sydney Morning Herald reported him thus -
Mr. Menzies said : “ He was constantly astounded to realize how difficult it was for some people torealize two sides to every question. From talks with leaders in Britain and Germany he had concluded that Germany had some real grievances against Czechoslovakia, which was also the view of the British Government.”.
He said other things commending this particular form of government.
The attitude adopted by the antiLabour press towards me has also been adopted by the United Australia party and its Country party cohorts, with the object of preventing me from expressing my views in this country. But some honorable gentlemen who are now sitting on the opposition benches in this Parliament have also been prevented on occasions from expressing themselves freely. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has said that the whole of my speech was censored, and so was not given publicity beyond Australia. I do not know whether the speech was censored or not, but I ask the honorable member whether he is aware that the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in the same debate was censored, and that the right honorable gentleman himself agreed that it should be censored? Obviously the Leader of the Opposition realized that his remarks might do damage to the cause of the United Nations by tending to create dissension among them. Yet he not only made the speech but was quite prepared to have it censored.
I wish now to quote certain remarks which the Leader of the Opposition made on one occasion concerning a speech delivered by Herr Hitler in the Reichstag. The newspaper report reads as follows : -
This is a statement on Hitler’s Reichstag speech made by the Federal Attorney-General (Mr. R. G. Menzies) and banned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
Mr. Menzies said : “ I thought on the whole Hitler’s speech was as satisfactory from our point of view as we could very well hope. I thought the general atmosphere of the speech went to show that Mr. Chamberlain’s achievements at Munich were a great deal more substantial than pessimists would have had us believe . . . For myself I repeat what I said when I came back from England last September - it is imperative that we should get to understand the German point of view and so help to destroy the German delusion that the democratic countries do not understand her and have no sympathy with any of her ambitions.”
I should like the Leader of the Opposition to tell us which particular ambitions of Germany deserve any sympathy. Those remarks, of course, were made prior to the outbreak of war when people such as the Leader of the Opposition were prepared to express themselves more freely than they do now. The right honorable gentleman, therefore, at that time saw no need for restraint when talking about the need for sympathy with some of the ambitions of Germany.
I turn now to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) who, according to a newspaper report, said during the period when he was Minister for External Affairs in this country -
Australia desired only mutual understanding and peace with Japan.
As recently as the 12th January, 1941, the honorable member forWarringah (Mr. Spender) also showed his attitude towards Japan. At that time he was Minister for the Army and was visiting Singapore. In a talk, which he broadcast from Singapore, he said -
Australia has no quarrel with Japan. We are far removed from the theatre of war. We are neighbours, and it would be a disaster of the first magnitude if any conflict arose between us.
Yet in 1939 Japan had clearly indicated its identity of views with the Axis Powers. Japan at that time was undoubtedly a potential enemy of this country. About that time the honorable member for Indi, who held opposite views, made a reference to Japan having joined the Axis. He used the following words : -
The pact can mean no less than that Japan has entered into a clear-cut military alliance with our enemies.
-While the honorable gentleman was making that statement one of his ministerial colleagues was saying that we hadno quarrel with Japan.
– I was Minister for External Affairs when I made that statement.
– That is so.I come now to the period when the Leader of the Opposition, as Attorney-General in the Lyons Government, tried to coerce the workers at Port Kembla into loading pigiron to send to our potential enemy, Japan. The men went on strike on that occasion, not because they wanted higher wages, but because they desired to be wholly loyal to their country. They realized that Japan was the potential enemy of Australia and they were prepared to suffer financial loss and even to involve their families in suffering rather than load pigiron that was intended to go to Japan. I refer to that time because I desire to show the state of mind of the Leader of the Opposition. He is now prepared to hurl all sorts of epithets at me and to cast aspersions on my loyalty, yet not very long ago he was quite ready to compel the workers of Australia to load pig-iron for Japan.
It is just as well that we should realize, too, that honorable gentlemen opposite are far from being a happy family. The following quotation indicates the opinion a right honorable gentleman who has just been sworn in as a. member of the War Council held of a member of that Council who has recently resigned. This is an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th July, 1939-
Kempsey, Monday. - The leader of the Federal Parliamentary Country Party, Sir Earle Page, in an address to the Cowper Electoral Council of the Party, gave several reasons why he would not consider joining a coalition government while Mr. Menzies was Leader of the U.A.P. “ The National Leader “, said Sir Earle Page, “must have courage, judgment and loyalty. Mr. Menzies does not possess these qualities, which are needed to fit him to be the leader of the country in these times of international crisis.”
Sir Earle Page added that he differed in outlook from Mr. Menzies on many matters, including defence, trade treaties, and naval strength.
The Leader of the Opposition, who was the subject of those strictures, now desires the present Prime Minister to throw me out of the Ministry because of an unwarranted interpretation he has been pleased to give to my remarks. Hehas said to the Prime Minister in effect, “Now you will have to get rid of this man. You will have to throw him out of the Government because he has said something with which we cannot agree”. Many people have made remarks that have been derogatory of Russia. I remember that shortly after the present High Commissioner for the United Kingdom arrived in this country he made a statement which was severely criticized by the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and for which that right honorable gentleman was taken to task by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In this connexion I quote the following report from the Sydney Morning Herald : -
Criticism by Mr. Hughes.
Remarks on Russia and Communism attri buted to the new High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Sir Ronald Cross, were criticized by the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, yesterday. The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, said later that Mr. Hughes had not been speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
When Mr. Hughes’s remarks were referred to Mr. Menzies at a press conference last night, the Prime Minister said - . “ Sir Ronald Cross is a highly-qualified man fresh from Great Britain. If he is not at liberty to make a statement of what he believes opinion in Great Britain to be I mistake the function of the High Commissionership.”
The Leader of the Opposition made some remarks on the 30th July, 1939, which indicated his attitude towards Japan. I quote the following extract from the report of the Sydney Sun of that date: -
The temporary interruption of the happy relationship which has existed for many years between Great Britain and Japan can only be regretted. The serious nature of the issues which arose cannot lightly be dismissed, but there is good reason for believing that the dispute has passed its worst stage.
I think we may reasonably anticipate a satisfactory settlement. The preliminary agreement signed by representatives of Great
Britain and Japan took a practical view of the position in China. Great Britain had commercial interests in China and could not allow those interests to be destroyed by the course of hostilities.
It is clear from that extract that the right honorable gentleman was quite prepared to sacrifice our gallant Chinese allies, although they were fighting for democracy just as effectively as any one of the United Nations has since fought. Apparently he was prepared to go a long way to preserve peaceful relations with Japan.
My next extract is a gem from the Melbourne Argus of the 5th March, 1941. It is the report of a function which the right honorable gentleman attended in London at that time and it reads as follows : -
Mr. Menzies’ moderate declaration regarding the Pacific situation at the Foreign Press Association Luncheon, yesterday, evidently astonished many correspondents, who seemed to have expected that some sort of warning might be given to Japan. When, after beginning his speech in a light vein, Mr. Menzies mentioned the Pacific, his audience looked expectantly towards the tables at which a dozen or more Japanese newspapermen were seated. There was a sort of half audible whisper of “ now for something “, but a little sigh of disappointment went up when Mr. Menzies made it clear that he did not intend to criticize Japan’s policy. The Japanese representatives alone among those at the luncheon applauded Mr. Menzies. . . .
When the Argus’s special correspondent later asked one representative Japanese what he thought of the speech he answered, “Very excellent. We are very pleased that Mr. Menzies adopted such a realistic view, but unfortunately it is not always people like Mr. Menzies, you and me who settle these affairs. I hope that the Japanese people understand and appreciate it properly. It is very encouraging to us.”.
I claim that the views that the right honorable gentleman expressed on that occasion must have been much more encouraging to Japan than anything I or any other honorable member has ever said in this Parliament or elsewhere. By no stretch of the imagination could any of my words have given encouragement to the enemies of our cause. The Argus published a leading article that day, in which it referred to the speech in the following terms : -
The speech of Mr. Menzies to the Foreign Press Association in London on Monday was, to say the least, maladroit. The equivocal sentiments to which he gave expression did not represent the majority of public opinion in Australia: it did not represent the majority opinion of the Australian Parliament. This is no time to mince words, and it has to be said plainly and bluntly that Mr. Menzies’ speech was pure appeasement - appeasement of a kind which, two and a half years ago dimmed the lustre of British prestige and nearly brought the whole Empire to disaster.
There was no doubt concerning the immediate peril and the quarter whence it threatened us. Australian public opinion then made clear the nature of its reaction to the peril. It indicated plainly that it regarded Japan in her true light as a pledged friend of our deadly enemies and one whose insidious but inexorable policy of pushing ever South, in imitation of the immoral methods of her Axis partners, threatened our very national life.
In the speech which he delivered in this House on the 10th February the Leader of the Opposition said -
I find it difficult to envisage some strategy that ultimately defeats Japan which does not include some great move that opens up Burma, that forces a way for powerful troops and. powerful air forces into Chinn, and which, in doing that, not only relieves those magnificent Chinese people who have done and suffered so much in this war, but also gives us bases from which we can roast these foes of ours in their paper houses . . .
Yet when he was Prime Minister in a former government the right honorable gentleman had the audacity to bring pressure to bear upon the British Government in order to force it to close the Burma Road and so prevent supplies from reaching China, notwithstanding that the Chinese people had been sacrificing themselves for so many years in the cause of humanity. On the one hand, he was supplying the Japanese with pig- iron, and on the other hand was depriving the Chinese of supplies. [Extension of time granted.’) In order that there shall be no misconception as to whether or not pressure was applied from this country to secure the closing of the Burma Road, I again quote the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), whose previous statements have been very helpful to me in this discussion. A newspaper report reads -
Before the British Government made the agreement with Japan to close the Burma Road to certain supplies for China for three months, it consulted the Commonwealth Government.
This was revealed yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. McEwen. “ For some time”, he said, “the Government has actively interested itself in these matters “… “The Commonwealth Government’s . . . viewpoint was expressed in exchanges of cables with the United Kingdom Government during the recent discussions”. . . .
Mr. McEwen said that it was wellknown that there were some outstanding questions at issue between Japan and Great Britain, which, if allowed to drift, would possibly have developed into serious friction. The agreement gave an opportunity for tension in the Far East to ease, and would enable current difficulties to be examined in a . calmer and more reasonable atmosphere. . . .
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th July, 1943,’ published the following -
Canadian press reports declare that most of the pressure for concessions to Japan in the hope of attaining peace in the Far East came from Australia.
Our friends opposite, who to-day seek to impress the general public with their hostility to the Axis powers, were then in control of the Commonwealth Parliament. On the 23rd May, 1939 - Hansard, page 663 - the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) said in this House -
There are honorable members of this House who would give the territory north of the Tweed to the Japanese or any other potential enemy.
Honorable members opposite, probably for personal reasons, did not evince a desire to have that statement inquired into by a royal commission.
– There is no need for me to condemn the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition on the CommanderinChief of the Australian forces; that task has been adequately discharged by the Prime Minister. I merely say that it will greatly damage our prestige abroad, injure Australia’s cause, and make it appear that we are a nation of bunglers - that from the CommanderinChief down, we do not know our work.
Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Herring’s release from the Army has also been criticized by the Leader of the Opposition. It is only fair to say that the right honorable gentleman probably resented the release of LieutenantGeneral Herring from the Army by the Commander-in-Chief, in order that he might accept an important post in Victoria, because, whether or not it is very well known, the right honorable gentleman was himself an applicant for the office ofChief Justice of Victoria, to which Lieutenant-General Herring was appointed. There can be no doubt that he would resent the release of LieutenantGeneral Herring to take up a position for which he believed himself to be more suitable.
I now come to one of the recent utterances of the right honorable gentleman. It is remarkable that honorable members opposite should direct a great deal of attention to what I have had to say, yet maintain silence in regard to a recent statement of their own leader in favour of a prosperous Germany and Japan. Not one word has been said in this chamber in regard to that statement. But some members of their party elsewhere have commented upon it. I claim that one of the reasons that actuated the Leader of the Opposition in launching an unprovoked and unjustified attack on mo was to distract public attention from what he himself had said with regard to a prosperous Germany and Japan. Mr. Mair, the then Leader of the United Australia party in New South Wales, made the following comment on the 2nd February last : -
By expressing such extraordinary views, Mr. Menzies will cause the deepest anguish to those whose dear ones have made the supreme sacrifice and to those held as prisoners of war who are being brutally treated by the very creatures Mr. Menzies desires to be prosperous.
He continued -
If Mr. Menzies’s views are correct, I say what are we fighting for? … I wonder how Mr. Menzies’s speech would have been received among the fighters of New Guinea. Just imagine how Goebbels will twist Mr. Menzies’s plea for our enemies’ prosperity to strengthen their morale.
Some newspapers have commented very caustically upon the outburst of the Leader of the Opposition. The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express published the following on the 4th February, 1943 : -
This is what is meant by “Freedom for All”.
U.A.P. - Democratic Policy Brazenly Exposed by Leader. “ Pig-iron Bob “ wants Prosperous Japan and Germany.
Appalling Statement Coincides with Reported Horrible P.O.W. Atrocities by Japs.
Coincidentally with the announcement in the Australian press on Monday of the stunned horror and indignation aroused right through out Britain and Australia and the other Dominions by the revelations of the profoundly shocking treatment of our prisoners of war by the Japanese, comes the appalling statement by the Federal Leader of the Opposition (Mr. R. G. Menzies), made on the same day to the Australian Institute of Political Science Summer School at Canberra, “ That a prosperous Germany and prosperous Japan would have to be integral parts of a peaceful post-war world “.
It can be said without hesitation that never before during this or the last world war, or probably never in the entire history of the Commonwealth, has an Australian public been so stirred and righteously insulted as it now has been by the appalling and totally unAustralian views expressed so flagrantly by Australia’s former notorious “ scrap-iron for Japan “ Prime Minister.
It can now be definitely stated that the latest serious political blunder by Australia’s most blundering politician of all time has not only cast into permanent oblivion the last pitiful remnants of the much discredited United Australia party, but placed the present Federal Labour Government in unassailable power for at least a further nine or twelve years, apparently rendered certain the carrying by a huge majority of the Federal extra powers referendum soon to be placed before the infuriated Australian public, and finally seems to have assured the return of the McKell State Government by a sweeping majority in New South Wales.
For putting the final “kibosh” on all these things his erstwhile supporters can thank Mr. Menzies. For him and his satellites it is “Good-bye Mr. Chips” - (or should we say “ pig-iron “).
The Castlemaine Mail published the following on the 1st December, 1943 : -
Mr.R. G. Menzies once again “ in fancy strays “ from empire interests.
Always adept as saying the wrong thing at the right time, Mr. R. G. Menzies, Leader of the Opposition, has, we understand, once again raised the ire of his confederates (and supporters) in his party. The “party” is of course the United Australia party, the Liberal Democratic party or the “ Institute of Public Affairs “ - take your pick. With Australia - and the Empire - locked in a death struggle with ruthless enemies, Mr. Menzies has turned his attention to the “ future prosperity “ of those enemies.
Mr. Menzies has found himself in many tight corners before, and he has extricated himself by the simple expedient of resigning from something or other. Just what method he will adopt on this occasion, or what form his resignation will take, will be awaited with interest . . .
The puny sentiments expressed by Mr. Menzies may find favour in some quarters. With Hitler and Tojo - if they deem them worthy of consideration - they will be applauded. But with wives and mothers and fathers and children who mourn the loss of those who have laid down their lives or who contemplate the bleak and hopeless future of those who have been permanently maimed, in the fight for freedom; or with the men who have suffered privations and experienced the brutality of our enemies, they will be received with astonishment and disgust.
There is no need to recite in full the atrocities that have been committed by the Japanese; a recital of them has already been made in the House of Commons as well as in the American House of Representatives and in this country. I merely impress upon honorable members the fact that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in favour of a prosperous Germany and Japan was made on the very day on which the Japanese atrocities were announced in this country and elsewhere. The Sydney Morning Herald published the following on the 29th January, 1944: -
Thousands of British Empire prisoners of war held by the Japanese had died (not 100 as Tokyo had reported), and a high proportion of the others were seriously ill, the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, revealed to the House of Commons to-day in a deliberate statement on the unspeakably savage maltreatment of prisoners by- the Japanese.
Thousands of British Empire prisoners in Siam were being forced by the Japanese to work under tropical jungle conditions without adequate shelter, clothing, food, or medical attention.
Eight hundred prisoners were killed when the Lisbon Al am was torpedoed by an Allied submarine on the 21st October, 1942.
The Japanese crew and military guards kept prisoners under the hatchways and abandoned ship forthwith, although it was 24 hours later before the ship sank. Some of the prisoners who broke out and swam to land were fired on.
There is no need for me to read further. Honorable members, and the public of Australia, know what atrocities have been perpetrated against our unfortunate prisoners of war. But this posturing individual with the scowl of Mussolini, the bombast of Hitler, and the physical proportions of Goering, would distract attention from his statements ‘by seeking to make it appear that I am the one who has injured the cause of the United Nations. I have always been in favour of a whole-hearted war effort. Unlike honorable members opposite, who want all sorts of restrictions imposed upon the workers of this country, but do not want their privileges or wealth to be interfered with, I would have everything go into- the pool in order to secure victory.
I conclude with a statement indicating the opinion that is held of the Leader of the Opposition by the Japanese authorities. They read his excellent contribution in favour of a prosperous Germany and Japan, and the following official statement was subsequently made over the Japanese short-wave radio : -
There are clear-sighted men in the enemy camp, in Australia, in Britain and America. Such a clear-slighted man is Mr. Robert Gordon Menzies, former Prime Minister of Australia. He showed his clear-sightedness by declaring that a prosperous Germany and Japan are necessary for the stabilization of the post-war world. Similarly, there are clear-sighted nien in England, a few men with vision, men who combat Vansittaritism, the policy of that Mr. Vansittart who wants to exterminate Germany, which policy is exemplified by the terror raids against German women and children. In the United States of America, there are also still clear-eyed souls, mainly in the so-called isolationist camp, led by such men as Colonel McCormick, Colonel Lindbergh and Senators Wheeler and Nye. ‘Nippon has constructed her GEA sphere, and Germany sits impregnably in the centre of her European fortress. Mr. Menzies and his counterparts in England and America are, by their clear-sightedness, marked as the future negotiators for world prosperity.
Yet this individual would hold me up to the public of this country as an object for opprobrium. He was in the House earlier, but when he heard that I intended to speak, he ran away, as he always does. I shall welcome an examination by him of the speech that I have made, and the authorities that I have quoted. I am prepared to leave to the Australian public the decision as to which of us has been responsible for damaging in any way the cause of the United Nations. The right honorable gentleman submitted in this House a motion designed to have me removed from the Ministry. If judgment were delivered according, to merits, then, or: the statements and the past activities of this gentleman, he ought to be out of the public life of this country for all time.
.- It is quite evident that the House has heard from the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) the speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) suppressed last week by moving the “ gag “. There is not the slightest doubt in the mind of any honorable member in the chamber that the Minister for Transport has chosen this occasion, in clear defiance of his own Prime Minister, to get off the wellprepared diatribe which he was prevented from delivering last week when the Prime Minister moved the closure. It is evident that the weird and wonderful assortment of quotations which the Minister read was collected with considerable pains, and with great effort, not by himself, but by the officers of his own department, aided, perhaps, by the officers of the Department of Information, and by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell’) himself - that admirer of the Minister for Transport, who did not hesitate to let it be known last week that “ Eddie Ward had something prepared that would make Bob Menzies feel he was sitting on a hot spot”. I have no doubt that the two collaborators have been at work when they, and the officers of their departments, might have been better engaged.
– That is grossly unfair and untrue. No departmental officers have been so engaged.
– I shall not refuse to accept the assurance of the Minister. Icontent myself with pointing out that if this weird and wonderful collection was put together by the Minister alone, or by the two Ministers acting in collaboration, it follows automatically that the administration of their departments must have suffered grievously.
Last week the Prime Minister made a Statement - certainly not one of his best - in which he offered ari explanation of the speech of the Minister for Transport. He said it was a fact that, in the course of heated debate in the chamber, many members, including himself, made statements which they would not have made if they had had time to ponder them. Then, reading a letter signed by the Minister for Transport, he made it clear that that Minister was to be included in the category of those who sometimes made such impetuous statements. The suggestion was that the Minister had made a wild statement, and that he was permitting his Prime Minister to apologize for him. The Minister for Transport left no doubt that that was not his idea of how the matter should be handled; but he was muzzled by the Prime Minister and, unfortunately, other honorable members had to be muzzled also. Now he ha? taken the opportunity to-night to render, for the benefit of the House, his previously unfinished symphony. It is a poor occupation for a Minister of the Crown to devote himself to the sowing of seeds of distrust and disaffection, but it is no new employment for the Minister for Transport. Let us turn our minds back to tho occasion when this incident first arose. The -Prime Minister had made a ministerial statement regarding the progress of the war, and he was followed by the’ Minister for Transport, who launched what all fair-minded members of this chamber regarded as a vitriolic attack upon certain of the United Nations, an attack calculated to cause disunity, and certainly to reduce the will to fight among the people of the United Nations, including the people of our own country. Standing under this grievous charge, the Minister came here to-night and played a trick which he always had ready in his repertoire. He stands accused, but what does he do? He does not reply in his own defence. He does what every juggler in every age has always done. In effect, he holds some glittering object in his right hand in order to distract the attention of the spectators, while he does with his left hand something which he does not want the spectators to notice. The Minister for Transport now makes a vicious attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I do not propose to answer that attack; no one is better capable of doing that than the Leader of the OPPOsition himself. I merely draw attention to the fact that the Minister for Transport has not attempted to defend himself, although no one stands more in need of defence than he. Knowing that he is incapable of offering satisfactory defence, he seeks to distract the attention of the onlookers by making a new attack on the Leader of the Opposition. The main issue is that, the . Minister for Transport stands accused, in the terms of a motion submitted to this House, of doing thing? which it is improper for a Minister of the Crown to do.
– The charge was dismissed on the vote of the House.
– I do not propose to reflect on the vote of the House. I merely point out, that among those who voted for the dismissal of the charge there was none who was not a member of caucus. The original speech of the Minister for Transport was made immediately after the Prime Minister had announced to the House and the people of Australia the splendid progress of the war; after he had explained in what great measure we had recovered from the depths of fear which encompassed us two and a half years ago, how far we were already striding along the course of victory. He described to us the war potential of our own country and of our Allies, and did so in terms which left no doubt that the combination of the Allied Nations was unbeatable in thi3 war. Germany knows that. Hitler is capable of adding up the resources of his enemies, and of arriving at the conclusion that, by force of arms, he has no hope of winning the war. Therefore, the leaders of Germany have turned their ever-ready minds to the consideration of other methods, and they have reached the conclusion that there still remains one hope of winning, and that is the creation of disunity within the ranks of the Allied Nations. Where the tank, the gun, the sword and the aeroplane have failed, their object is. to sow the seeds of mutual distrust and mutual fear amongst the Allies. That has patently been the whole programme of German propaganda during the last twelve months, the German rulers having been finally made to realize that they cannot win by force of arms. Now, unhappily, we find a Minister of the Commonwealth Government playing the very game of our enemies by endeavouring to sow amongst the Allies the seeds of distrust and fear. It is true that the Minister seeks to protect himself by using a customary form of words - no new preamble to some malicious statement from him. Upon one occasion he said, “ I have been reliably informed “. This time he says, “ The opinion is widely held “. That is a mere preamble, springing from the mind of a clever and resourceful man to avoid a charge of enunciating his own views, and the results which might follow from a frank avowal of them. Following that paltry preamble of words, he goes on to say that certain United Nations desire to see our ally Russia bled white. Notwithstanding the challenge from this side of the House to name the United Nations to which he referred, he avoided making a reply, and went on to complete his sentence. If one had all the time that he desired to devise the thought best calculated to cause dissension within the ranks of the United Nations, he could not do better than to instil deeper the fear which obviously exists in the minds of some of the Russian people, that their democratic allies are unduly delaying the establishment of a military front in Western Europe. What the Minister has said ought to be treated as a declaration calculated to create friction between the Allies. The law already provides for closing the mouths of people - or punishing them if it is too late to close their mouths - who deliberately spread statements calculated to produce such an effect. But this Minister is not satisfied merely to let it go at that. Having achieved the principal motive of his speech, and thrown this spanner into the works of the Allied Nations, he goes on with his traditional habit of causing disunity in the ranks of his own people, and between the units of the British Empire itself. Following upon these dreadful charges, he goes on deliberately in his clever way to interpret them, as regards Great Britain, by saying, “ Of course I do not level these charges against the British people, or against the British fighting forces “. Then, cocking his ear for the cheers, he adds : “ I have nothing but admiration for their gallantry. I am levelling these charges against the ruling section or class in Great Britain.” I have listened to the honorable member making speeches in- this chamber for ten years, and have never had to wait very long for him to make yet another speech calculated to pit section against section and class against class. This is therefore not a new thought that he throws out. He merely repeats his oft-expressed views when, referring to the vile charges he has made, he says: “I am speaking of the ruling class, the people responsible for the degradation amongst the common people of Great Britain.” What could he better calculated to create in the minds of Australians the thought that all is not as it should be in Great Britain? The Minister does not explain what the degradation is, but lets the phrase go, because it is good enough to sow a vile and rotten thought. Who compose the ruling class of Great Britain? I do not know whether there is a recognizable ruling class against whom the Minister levels this charge ; but, if there is one, surely it is headed by the King himself, yet one of the King’s own Ministers makes the charge. As head of the Government of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill,by reason of his parliamentary position, might be regarded as one of the ruling class, or, if that be not the test, he might be so regarded by reason of his whole ancestry, as a scion of one of the great houses of Great Britain which has an unmatchable military record and a magnificent tradition of service to the British Empire and people. Then is not Mr. Churchill one of the ruling class which a Minister of this Government says has brought degradation on the common people of Great Britain? Those are the things which the Minister should explain away in his place in this chamber, instead of adding more to the mud which he invariably throws. Why does he not stand up in his place and endeavour to explain his words, so justifying the generous explanation of his Prime Minister that one does on occasions say unwise things in the heat of debate? Not a word of that kind comes from him, but he cleverly tries to divert our thoughts from his previous utterance, by turning a new attack upon a man who has served and is serving this country. He is not content with attempting to divide the United Nations, casting aspersions upon the British people, their form of government, and what he describes as their ruling class; but he must throw aspersions upon Great Britain’s colonial administration, and its armed forces in Singapore. This man, who is never satisfied unless he is up to his elbows in muck, must refer to what another anonymous gentleman has told him. He never seems to deal with people who are identifiable, whose names can be cited, but an anonymous airman has told him that he came back from India, where he found in hotels fifteencourse meals being served, while people outside the window were dying of starvation. That is the contribution of this single-minded Minister, who claims not to have a thought in the world but to advance our war effort and hasten the day of victory. But for the action of the censor, this statement would have been transmitted to India, as the view of a Minister of the Australian Government at a time when, heaven knows, it is difficult enough for the British Government to handle the problems of the Indian administration! He moves on, making the world his platform, to Singapore and says, “I have heard it said “. You see - “ I am reliably informed “, “ the view is widely held “, “ I have heard it said “. They are the customary preambles to the throwing of the mud. “ I have heard it said that the military caste in that theatre” - he is referring to Singapore - “ spent the bulk of their time at such parties “ - cocktail parties he had referred to - “ and were in a semi-drunken state, when they should have been attending to their military duties “. Then he goes on to say, “ To-day unfortunately “ - quite clearly because of this - “ some of the best of our man-power are languishing in Japanese prisonerofwar camps “. What a dreadful thing to throw into the minds of the parents, relatives and friends of our soldiers who are in Japanese hands the thought that their capture is the result of the misconduct of British military men in Singapore who were in a semi-drunken state when they should have been looking after their military duties! Does he cite any authority for this ? No ! “I have heard it said “, he says. Does he answer this charge? Does he explain himself ? No ! But like a juggler using a glittering thing in one hand to divert attention from what the other hand is doing the Minister makes these new charges to divert attention from his outrageous conduct. I will not let him get away with it. He has to be heard in his own defence or judged for what he has said and never explained or defended. The irony of it, that of all men in this Parliament our own colonial administrator should make an attack on British colonial- administration, whether it be in India or Malaya. And what is his pitiable record ? Why, we as a young people, have only one territory outside Australia to attempt to govern and to be responsible for. To-day that is his ministerial responsibility. He was clever in quoting the words of other people. Well, I am not going to follow his example other than to say that it is very apropos of the speech which he has never explained away that I should remind honorable members of just a few words uttered by him about the territory which he is now administering, not years, but only months before the war broke out. I think that it was during a debate on the subject of defence, as reported in Hansard, Vol. 157, page 146, that the honorable gentleman said -
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territory, they should defend it themselves.
This is the man who attempts to accuse Great Britain of shortcomings in colonial administration. To-day, the turn of the wheeL makes him administrator of that territory. A few months before war broke out, he used the words I have just quoted, which show quite clearly where he stands. I am not going to labour this matter unduly, but I am going to say that a certain proposal in respect of the Minister’s status was brought before this House and resolved by this House. I do not propose to refer to that further, but I say quite clearly that it is my opinion that it is absolutely improper that any supporter of this Government, and far more improper that a Minister should engage himself during the opportunities which come to him in this Parliament in sowing seeds of distrust and disunity as between the United Nations, the units of the British Empire and the people of our own country. These things go deeper than mere charges against other administrations. The Minister made what, in my opinion, is a statement in the most unequivocal terms calculated to be most discouraging to our own armed forces and to bring intolerable despondency to the dependants of the members of the forces when he said that, unless socialism were adopted, this war would not be followed by peace, but would merely terminate’ in an armistice, with the certainty of war again breaking out, and that all the suffering that had been endured in this war would be for naughtHe used these words -
The end of this war will be only an armistice unless socialism bc established throughout the world. It will be an armistice only until the conflicting vested interests in the capitalist countries can develop strength to fight another war which will bring about the destruction of many more workers.
He said previously -
Unless socialism is established throughout the world at the end of this war, many millions of men will have died in vain, because, without socialism, it is inevitable that there shall be a further conflict.
Nothing could be more calculated to reduce the will of the people to fight than for them to he told that, unless some condition succeeds this war - a condition which we know will not succeed it - all those men who have died will have died in vain, and that this war will be followed by an armistice to enable the capitalist countries to gain strength to engage in conflict and the destruction of the lives of many more thousands of workers. Provision has been made by this Government to deal with persons who make statements calculated to discourage the will to fight. I read from Regulation 17 of the National Security (General) Regulations issued under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 519. The relative words of the regulation are -
A person shall not make any false statement or spread a false report whether orally or otherwise, or do any act … or likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or public alarm or despondency ot to interfere with the operations of any of the forces. . . .
That regulation was promulgated by the Government of which the Minister is a member specifically to prevent utterance calculated to cause disaffection, disunity, public alarm, and despondency in the minds and the hearts of the people. I cannot imagine any words better calculated to arouse alarm and create despondency than to say that unless a certain state of affairs is created after the war, all the sacrifices of our fighting men shall have been in vain, and that as soon as the capitalist countries could regain their strength there would be another war. In my opinion - it is the opinion of a layman - the Minister infringed that regulation when he made those remarks. Certainly he infringed it under the protection of Parliament, but the proper course for the Prime Minister to take is to ensure that’ his Ministers shall not make subversive statements, and I hope that he will prevent further utterances of that nature being made in this place, the proceedings of which are given the widest publicity, because they are calculated to establish the only foundation upon which we can possibly lose this war, namely, disunity within the ranks of the Allied countries.
– I feel impelled to address the House because of the attacks which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has made upon the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and myself. The honorable member launched these attacks in his usual manner, with insinuations, misrepresentations, distortions, and mud-slinging. He accused the Minister for Transport of having used improperly the officers of his department to prepare the speech which he made tonight, and accused me of giving to the Minister for Transport the assistance of officers of the Department of Information. When the charges were denied, he said that he would withdraw them. Some time ago, the honorable member used the same technique to make an attack upon the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein). On that occasion, he asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to say definitely tha’t the honorable member for Watson had not been improperly or wrongly granted a commission in the Royal Australian Air Force.. He threw as much mud as he could at the honorable member for Watson, who, with the patriotism of the average Australian, had placed his services at the disposal of the nation in time of war. The honorable member for Watson made his explanation, but immediately afterwards the honorable member for Indi commenced a tirade of abuse against him, as usual, by insinuation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) rebuked the honorable member for Indi for daring to suggest that the Air Board had been influenced at any time or in any circumstances, by any member of this Ministry, or of this Par liament, to secure advancement for a member of the Royal Australian Air Force; but the mud had been thrown in the hope that some of it would stick. By interjection and in his speech the honorable member for Indi made insinuations against the Minister for Transport, but I think that the Minister succeeded in showing clearly that whatever might ‘be said of his attitude to matters of national or international importance, and whatever might be said in criticism of his utterances, criticism could be levelled with far greater justification at the utterances made both before and since the outbreak of war by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). At least the Minister for Transport has never been praised over the Japanese radio for anything that he has said. However, after the Minister had demonstrated quite clearly what the Japanese thought of the opinions of the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Indi rose and repeated the allegations of the Opposition against the forthright and vigorous exponent of democratic views in the person of the Minister for Transport. The honorable member for Indi conveniently quoted National Security Regulation No. 17 of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 519, clause 2 of which states -
A person shall not make any false statements, or spread a false report, whether orally or otherwise, or do any act, or have any article in his possession, likely to be prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, or likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or public alarm or despondency or to’ interfere with the operations of any of the forces of the King or the Commonwealth or the forces of any foreign power allied or associated with His Majesty in any war in which His Majesty is engaged.
I shall take the honorable member for Indi back to November, 1940. In that month the Melbourne Cup was run as usual, and when the attention of the people of Australia was concentrated upon that big sporting event, enemy raiders laid mines in Bass Strait. Certain individuals associated with a Sydney newspaper - a fifth-column rag known as the Daily Telegraph - approached the honorable member for Indi, who was then Minister for Air, and asked him when the last reconnaissance flight over Bass Strait had been made by Royal Australian Air Force planes.
Anxious to curry favour with the capitalist press of this country, the honorable member ascertained from officers of his department that no reconnaissance had been made of Bass Strait for five days prior to the laying of the mines.
– That is a complete distortion’ of the facts.
– It is a complete statement of the facts. The honorable member made that statement to the press in complete defiance of censorship - when he was in duty bound to maintain secrecy - and he was never prosecuted by the Government of which he was a member. The press published that statement. In effect, the honorable member told Japanese agents in this country - we were not at war with Japan at the time - that our Air Force was so weak, or its commanding officers were so inefficient, that we had been unable to patrol Bass Strait from Melbourne and adjacent stations, during a period of five days - a matter in regard to which the closest secrecy should have been observed. Yet be now has the odious temerity and unspeakable effrontery to attempt to castigate the Minister for Transport, not for the divulgence of secrets to the enemies of this country, but for expressions to which he gave utterance and with which the honorable member disagrees.
– The honorable member for Indi gave the information to the newspaper mentioned in a telephone conversation.
– -No doubt the honorable member for Indi would like to live that incident down. If so, he should at least maintain a discreet silence in regard to the activities of other people, because if he continues to push his chin forward in all these discussions he i3 sure to be hurt. He might tell us, and so also might other honorable members who applaud him, the full story of why they allowed the defences of this country to fall into such a state of weakness that when the Curtin Government took office and attempted to raise an army with which to repel the Japanese invaders, we were 300,000 rifles short of our requirements. Let them tell us how many thousands of pieces of artillery we needed and did not have with which to repel the Japanese. The fact is that the sceptre of power fell from the palsied grasp of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and had to be caught by a more vigorous and determined government in order that the country could be saved. Because the Minister for Transport drew attention to those facts in a speech before the last election honorable gentlemen opposite demanded the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into his utterances.
– He got tangled in “ the Brisbane line “.
– And the right honorable member got lost in it.
– He got strangled in it.
– Yes, the Opposition was strangled by “ the Brisbane line “. I could tell a lot more facts concerning the failure of the previous Government to arm this country, and neither the Minister for Transport nor any other honorable member on this side of the chamber is responsible for that condition of affairs. I was in Ballarat in January, 1942, with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). He was approached by some of his constituents, who feared that the oncoming rush of the Japanese would engulf them unless the Government of the country supplied them- with arms and equipment. But the country was in such a defenceless condition that when the honorable member for Kennedy approached the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) with a request for rifles, he was told that there were no battalions which could be sent further north than Townsville, and there were no rifles to guard that portion of Queensland which lies to the north of that town. As the result of pressure from people on the Atherton tableland and of mass meetings addressed by some members of the Parliament of Queensland, the honorable member for Kennedy, with those State members, interviewed the Minister for the Army in Melbourne. After hearing their representations, he allotted to them all that Australia could afford at that time, namely. 2,000 rifles for the Volunteer Defence Corps. With those arms, they were to hold 600 miles of Queensland’s coastline from Cape York southwards. That is the state of affairs to which honorable members opposite, who criticized the Labour Government so glibly tonight, reduced this country prior to the attack upon it by Japan. I prefer to forget a lot of those things, but honorable members opposite keep reminding us of their virtues. They got their answer on the 21st August, 1943. They campaigned for conscription, for the amalgamation of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces and for a national government. The people of Australia gave such an emphatic decision on those issues that, as the Minister for Transport stated, this Government is likely to remain in office for the next nine or twelve years.
– Then what is the Minister “ skiting “ about ?
– I want to tell this House some of the truths that the honorable member for Indi did not tell.
– What did the Prime Minister say, when he took office, about the state of preparedness in Australia ?
– I shall tell the honorable member for Deakin.
– Order ! Will the Minister tell the Chair?
– I shall tell the Chair and through the Chair the honorable member for Deakin what the honorable member for Indi suggested about twelve months ago. He was so enamoured of the prospect of becoming a great national leader because he was a member of the Advisory War Council that he asked the Prime Minister to recommend him for appointment to the Privy Council. On that occasion, the honorable member was joined in his representations by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). No wonder those two honorable members desire to continue their membership of the Advisory War Council. There is an old saying that “ hope springs eternal in the human breast “.
– That statement is without a scintilla of truth.
– I have said enough to suggest that the record of this Govern ment in the defence of this country is unassailable; to show that whatever the short-comings of honorable members on this side of the House may be, they have at least saved this country from invasion ; and to demonstrate that the attacks which the honorable member for Indi so often makes in such typical fashion upon us are devoid of a scintilla of truth. They are so fantastic that even his supporters outside this chamber do not believe them. I would not have spoken if the honorable member had not suggested that the services of the officers of my department had been misused in order to bolster the case, as he put it, of the Minister for Transport. None of my officers was employed for that purpose. The Minister for Transport is quite capable of making his own speeches. An energetic and painstaking man, he saves the statements of honorable members opposite and keeps press cuttings of their remarks. When the opportunity offers, as it offered this evening, he uses them so effectively that all the Opposition can find in the way of a defender is the honorable member for Indi, and all he put forward was his usual quota of insinuations, misrepresentations and distortions.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has for the first time since the elections given us some information. Unfortunately he did not give us quite enough information, and I desire to tell the House the details concerning the rifles, which the public has been told, Australia lacked’ when this country was in extreme danger. It is a matter of history. After the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk, where they had to abandon their arms and equipment, Britain was daily in danger of attack ‘or invasion. Britain had no rifles with which to arm its forces to repel an invasion and asked the Commonwealth Government to provide them with some of the necessary equipment. The Commonwealth Government did so. If Australia had refused that request made by Great Britain in its hour of peril and before Japan had entered the war, we should stand condemned by history as a race of craven cowards and petty isolationists not worth fighting for and certainly not worth saving. As a member of the former Government, I have no apologies to make for the decision to send that equipment to Great Britain. We have been repaid in great measure for anything that we did then. Let us remember that for twelve months Great Britain was the .only bulwark between Australia and annihilation. Honorable members opposite cannot dispute that fact. Great Britain stood steadfast when it stood alone, and when one nation which to-day is an ally had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and was faithfully observing it. We have had the spectacle to-night of no attempt being made by the Minister for Transport to defend a speech made by him in this chamber some time ago, because he knew that it was indefensible. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) knew that it was not possible to defend the utterances of that Minister. It was sound political strategy for the Prime Minister to impose the “ gag “ in order to prevent the Minister from getting deeper into the mire. Inadvertently, the Prime Minister did his colleague a good turn, but to-night the Minister tried to detract public attention from his own statements by attacking other honorable members. He reminds me of a man who, when brought before a court for wife beating, declared that he did not beat his wife because of any hostility towards her, but had done so in order to display his affection for her. The Minister wished to make us believe that the object of his speech was to show his loyalty to Great Britain, but anybody who could read that into_ his remarks must have a particularly vivid imagination.
I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to the vexed problem of the release of men from the Army for rural work. I agree with him that a large number of men cannot be released immediately, but the Minister himself is responsible to a large degree for the dissatisfaction which prevails throughout the Commonwealth regarding this matter. Seeking publicity, he announced over the air and through the press that the Government intended to release 20.000 men from the Army. The result was that members of Parlia ment were inundated with .requests from parents of men on service asking that they should be released, so that they could return to work on the farms. I have never inundated the Minister with such requests, although I have referred a few serious cases to him. He announced to-day that men aged 40 years and over would be entitled to release if application were made for their services. Only last week a man from my own district, aged 45 years, was recalled to the Army after applying for release on the death of his father. He was a member of the first Australian Imperial Force and has served for nearly three years in this war. He spent upwards of two years in the Middle East. He was kept waiting for several weeks, with extensions of leave of one week at a time, and he was told eventually to report to his unit. He had a brother killed at the last war and another brother won the military medal. He has not been able to obtain release, although his wife has applied for it on compassionate grounds. Yet the Minister reiterates the statement that men aged 40 years or upwards are entitled to release when application is made for it. If such a rule has been laid down, let it be adhered to in every case.
About three weeks ago, some people in my electorate had the misfortune to be burnt out by bush fires which raged over a wide area. At the Derrinallun soldier settlement there are only five houses remaining. I ask the Minister if it would be possible to release the sons of the men who have been burnt out, so that they might assist their fathers in the necessary rehabilitation work there. Houses have to be built, new fences erected and much other extra work done before the land will again be productive. We cannot expect these men, who are well past middle age, and many of whom served in the last war, to resume where they started 25 years ago, unless some assistance be granted to them. I know that in some cases it will not be possible for their sons to be released, but where release is possible I ask the Minister to give earnest consideration to the request I now make, so that the sons may be released, if only for a period, in order to assist their parents in safeguarding assets which will eventually come down to their sons.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sheehan) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Williamtown, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations- Orders -
Prohibiting work on land, and use of land.
Taking possession of land, &c. ( 53 ) .
Use of land (2).
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) expect a reply to the representations made by him on the 9th September last, concerning complaints made by the Australian Plying Corps Association of Tasmania?
– Some of the matters raised in the representations made on behalf of the Australian Flying Corps Association involve questions of policy which are receiving the consideration of the Government. A reply with regard to matters already determined will be furnished to the honorable member at an early date.
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
The original scheme in the River Murray Waters Act provided for -
By an amendment of the act in 1934 the scheme was altered to -
The cost of the scheme as amended in 1934 was estimated not to exceed £12,000,000, the cost to be borne by the four contracting governments - Commonwealth, New South Wales. Victoria, and South Australia - in equal shares. Some stone backing has yet to be placed at the Hume Dam, but it is held up by the war. Upon completion of this work the total cost would be approximately £ 12,000,000, 4 and 5. The information is being obtained.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440224_reps_17_177/>.