17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– Has the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research received a report from an officer of the council upon the activities of the fisheries trawler which recently commenced to operate in Tasmanian waters ? If not, will he ascertain what catches have been made, and the experience that has been gained, during recent weeks ? What are the proposals of the Government for the development of the fishing industry on a commercial basis ?
– I have not yet received a report from the Council for Scientific’ and Industrial Research in regard to the activities of the trawler which the Government of Tasmania has placed in commission. I shall endeavour to have the report expedited as much as possible. A considerable time ago, the Commonwealth Government instituted inquiries in regard to the commercial development of the fishing industry. Developments during war-time will be influenced by shortages of man-power and materials, and other factors. My department will use every endeavour to increase supplies of fish by the use of the trawler which the Government of Tasmania has placed in commission. Further investigations in relation to the commercial development of the fishing industry in the post-war period will have to be made before the Government will be in a position to determine what its policy shall he.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping able to say whether or not the necessary legislation for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania will be introduced during this sessional period?
– All the necessary preliminary discussions between the Governments of Tasmania and the Commonwealth have been completed, and only a few details remain to be decided in collaboration with the Department of the Treasury. Legislation cannot be introduced during this sessional period, but I think I can undertake that it will be introduced during the next sessional period.
– by leave - On the 10th March, 1944, I received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) a memorandum in the following terms : -
The Opposition parties are of opinion -
That there should be an inquiry into censorship.
That this should not be conducted by a royal commission, but by a committee of Parliament specially appointed, which shall make recommendations to the Government.
That the committee should not be constituted of party leaders, but that it should be composed, having regard to the responsible nature of the inquiry, of Ministers and former Ministers from the Government and Opposition sides of the House.
That the terms of reference of the committee should be: To inquire into and make recommendations to the Government with respect to censorship.
That it should be left to the committee to determine whether, and under what circumstances, it will sit in public.
That the committee should not be constituted by resolution of the House (because it is intended that it should report to the Government), but that should any question arise during its deliberations as to its capacity to call witnesses, this question should be provided for by suitable regulation.
That, after making its recommendations, the committee should become a standing committee of advice upon censorship to which questions of censorship could be referred from time to time and which should be authorized to inspect censorship instructions and maintain contact with the censorship authorities.
I have decided to act in accordance with paragraphs 1 to 6 inclusive, and will consult with the Leader of the Oppo sition and the Leader of the Australian Country party in regard to the constitution of the committee of Parliament. After the committee has submitted its report to the Government, I shall consider whether or not paragraph 7 should be acted upon.
– by leave - I do not desire to discuss the soundness of the proposals that have just been announced ; the best evidence of their fairness is the Government’s acceptance of them.
As a persistent attempt has been made in certain sections of the press to discredit the Opposition in relation to the censorship issue, and as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has himself, I regret to notice, endeavoured to make party political capital out of current press speculations by his remarks reported in this morning’s press, it becomes necessary that I should state precisely where the Opposition stands.
It is utterly untrue to suggest that there has been disagreement and hesitation on this side of the House. The representatives of the United Australia party and the Australian Country party needed only one meeting, which took place on Thursday afternoon last, to arrive at complete agreement.
– The whole three of them.
– The whole seven of them. The result was that before noon on Friday the document just read by the Prime Minister was delivered to his secretary. This document contains the first and only proposal made on this matter by or on behalf of the Opposition. Moreover, there has been no delay. The Prime Minister’s proposals on this question, as the right honorable gentleman will recall, were at no time put in writing, but were conveyed to me orally on Tuesday night of last week.What he suggested was a committee consisting of himself and two Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party, and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– Who raised the matter originally.
– I realize that. The Opposition representatives at Thursday’s conference considered that such a committee could do no more than give brief or even perfunctory attention to the great question of censorship. It is palpable that neither the Prime Minister nor a party leader could possibly devote days, and perhaps weeks, to an investigation.
In the second place, we - and I am referring to the various war-time Prime Ministers - may be thought to. have a special interest in upholding what has been or is being done. “We should, therefore, not be the judges. I notice that a section of the press suggests that the Opposition has been “ scared off “ by some terrifying threats of disclosure. All that I need say for myself is, that I will be prepared to have my .own association with, censorship when I was Prime Minister examined quite freely by anybody.
– So will I.
– I am quite sure that the right honorable gentleman will. 1 am answering the absurd suggestion that there are threats which have produced a “ scare “.
– Not so absurd.
– We of the Opposition agreed that a royal commission had undesirable features, the chief of which was that its proceedings would probably be unduly protracted ; and we also agreed that, whilst the committee should not be made up of party leaders it should, if possible, be composed of men who had had experience of administration and who would appreciate the practical problems associated with it.
As to the terms of reference, it will be noted that we have used the expression “ censorship “, which is an allcomprehending term covering’ all forms of censorship, and, of course, is designed to include both communications and publications censorship. Some writer, evidently knowing of the Opposition’s memorandum, has criticized the proposal that the committee should report to the Government. But the Opposition’s view is that, having regard to the fact that a censorship report must inevitably touch upon many questions related to national security, some of which may be of a high order of secrecy, it should be made to the responsible government, and not simply laid upon the table of the House, as would be the case if a select committee were set up in the usual way. Should the Government fail to disclose the publishable sections of it, which nobody should anticipate, the Parliament, would have its own ways and means of requiring that those sections be made known.
Censorship has an important function in time of war, as all parties will agree, but abuses must be investigated and checked by those in Parliament who are responsible to the people. It is for this reason that the Opposition considers that there should .be established, after the present inquiry, a standing committee of both Houses.
- by leave- In the absence of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) last week, I acted in his stead during the negotiations between the Australian Country party and the United Australia party, and between those parties and the Government. I am able to confirm the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that there was neither disagreement nor delay in the course of the discussions. The Australian Country party made it clear that it wanted full consideration of all aspects of censorship, both communications and publications. It did not desire that any group in Parliament should, as the result of such investigations, gain a political advantage over the other. It was anxious that the investigations should be made by persons of experience in order to discover how censorship could best be conducted so as to ensure national security, and restore public confidence in the administration of what is an unpleasant war-time necessity. The Australian Country party would have agreed to the appointment of a committee of party leaders as originally proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin),- but we saw the force of certain of the criticism directed against the proposal that the investigations should be conducted almost exclusively by those who are either now administering the censorship, or who have done so in the past. We also believed that, if the investigation was to produce the best result, it should be conducted by persons who had had administrative responsibility. Any man who has administered a war department will know that there are phases of censorship which, whilst perhaps unjustifiable in the eyes of most people, are, in fact, unavoidable. The Australian Country party has at no stage of this discussion sought, nor does it now seek, to gain a political advantage, or to direct political opprobrium upon those who now administer censorship, or have done so in the past. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in expressing regret that fair consideration of this matter has been prejudiced by statements in the press, and by innuendoes read into press statements. I quote as an example a few lines from a Melbourne journal, published, I think, only last night -
It is well known in the lobbies that censorship files have been examined, and quiet hints have been put out from the Government side that there are documents in existence which would embarrass leading members of the Opposition.
– The writer does not say that he is “reliably informed”?
– No, but the technique is familiar. No member of the Australian Country party would be embarrassed by anything which might be disclosed in such an examination, nor does any member of the party desire to hide anything. However, we recognize that, as the censorship was instituted primarily for security reasons, and as a part of its function is to detect offenders, it would be absurd to hold a public inquiry into all aspects of censorship and to make the wholeof the report public. To do so would he to disclose to offenders the methods employed for their detection. I recognize that the official instructions governing censorship procedure must be drawn in very wide terms, so that there is necessarily room for errors of judgment, and even for improper action. I do not suggest that those possibilities can be wholly removed by the drawing up of a new set of written instructions. We do believe, however, that it is necessary to remove suspicion from censorship administration, and to that end two things are necessary - there should be a review of censorship methods, and, after new instructions have been issued, provision should be made for representatives of all political parties to maintain a running scrutiny of censorship practices.
– Canthe AttorneyGeneral say whether any action has yet been taken to check the rapacity of certain boarding-house keepers who are endeavouring to eject Australians, from their premises in order that they may take in allied servicemen, who are prepared to pay large amounts for accommodation ?
– This matter, which was raised last week, is at present engaging the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs. He is having a special report made, and I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject within the next day or two. I regard it as important.
– Yesterday the Sydney Sun attributed the following statement to the spokesman of the Metropolitan Meat Commission: -
Little meat had been shipped to theUnited Kingdom since the introduction of rationing because of absenteeism and the men’s failure to produce their award output.
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make available the quantities of all meats slaughtered at the Homebush Bay abattoirs for export to the United Kingdom since the introduction of meat rationing and for a similar period prior to its commencement?
– I shall obtain the statistics for the honorable member’s private information; but I assure him that the assertion contained in the report is not correct.
– Although it is the official statement of the Metropolitan Meat Commission?
– The reference to the quantities of meat shipped to the United Kingdom is not correct. Since the introduction of meat rationing Australia has had more meat for export than could be carried by the ships available.
Alleged Breach of Regulations at Bankstown.
– Is the Minister for War Organization of Industry yet in a position to reply to my representations regarding the erection of a certain building in Bankstown?
– When the honorable member raised this matter, I replied that I hoped to have a complete report at my disposal this week. I expect to receive that report to-morrow but until I have considered it, I shall not be in a position to make a statement.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to an advertisement which appeared in last Friday’s issue of the Melbourne Herald -
Can peaches for the Forces - Earn up to £8 a week - 400 women and girls wanted at once - On piece-work smart workers can earn £4 10s. a week after a week’s training - Experienced workers can average £8 for a 44-hour week.
The advertisement is authorized by the Commonwealth Food Controller, with the approval of the Deputy Director of Man Power. Will the Minister say whether the House is entitled to infer from that advertisement that the Government has given its approval to piece-work in the packaging of foodstuffs? Does its approval of piece-work extend generally to other firms engaged in this kind of work? Is it the practice of the Government to approve of advertisements of this kind, which must necessarily entice workers from one branch of industry to another ?
– As this practice has been followed in these particular factories for a considerable period, the advertisement does not introduce an innovation. In addition, employees in fruit-processing factories have always been able to earn the wages referred to in the advertisement. Consequently, the Government is only continuing an existing practice. The reason for the advertisement is the urgency to obtain labour without delay, because the cold-storage departments of the canneries are full of fruit.
Improvement of Quality - Branding of Imitation Cloth
– Having examined with great interest the exhibition of substitute fibres in King’s Hall, I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to consider the production of a more durable and attractive woollen cloth for the . purpose of maintaining the demand for, and appreciation of, Australian woollen goods and preventing a further wastage of manpower ?
– I invite honorable members to examine the exhibit closely, because it indicates a threat of major importance to Australia. Expressing my own views about the matter, I am keenly anxious for a better class of cloth to be manufactured and made available to the Australian people, but my Cabinet colleagues consider that the man-power position does not yet warrant a change. Even though they may differ from me on this point, they appreciate the importance of marketing a better cloth in this country, and I believe that in due course the weight of opinion will enable the honorable member’s representations to be given effect.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping see that early consideration is given by the Government to the introduction of legislation to compel manufacturers of imitation woollen goods to brand or label them as such?
– I am not certain of the powers of the Commonwealth in this respect. I am aware that in some of the States procedure such as the honorable member suggests has been followed. At one period legislation was introduced in New South Wales to provide for special markings and so on. I shall discuss the matter with the Attorney-General to ascertain what steps can be taken to meet the honorable member’s wishes.
– I have received from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following letter in reply to my further representations urging the growing of rice in Queensland : -
This matter has recently received the detailed attention of my department, and for your information I point out that for some years there has existed a “ gentleman’s agreement “ between New South Wales and Queensland that New South Wales should specialize in the production of rice and leave sugar production to Queensland. Your State was quite agreeable to this, because it gives Queensland practically a monopoly in the production of sugar. In the circumstances it seems undesirable from the point of view of your own State to encourage the production of rice in Queensland.
I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to inform me when the agreement was made? “Who was responsible for making the agreement for Queensland? How does it benefit the Queensland sugar industry?
– The information which was conveyed to the honorable member in the letter that he read, is correct. Rice-growing in Queensland has been discussed at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council when the representatives of all the States were in attendance. The Minister for Agriculture in Queensland agreed to this policy, and it has been endorsed by the Commonwealth. If an expansion of ricegrowing becomes necessary and if manpower is available, such production will be encouraged in the irrigation areas of northern Victoria and. New South Wales, where experiments will not be necessary.
Leaves - Africa Stab Ribbon
– Is the Minister for the Army yet in a position to make a statement to the House regarding the granting of accumulated leave to members of the 6th and 7th Divisions? Will he also explain the position of members of the 9th Division?
– I assume that the honorable member refers to a telegram that he received.
– I have received several of them.
– The complaint was that in the opinion of the senders of the telegram, discrimination had been shown against the personnel of the 9th Division in the granting of leave. I assure the honorable gentleman that the allegation is incorrect. The telegram that he received
– This telegram arrived subsequent to the one I showed to the Minister last Thursday.
– The representations contained in all the telegrams will be fully considered, and I hope to be able to make a statement to the House this week.
– I refer the Minister for the Army to the dissatisfaction that exists in our fighting forces at the way in which the Africa Star ribbon is being issued. Men who have served in the Middle East and are now serving in New Guinea are unable, when they return to Australia on leave, to obtain the ribbon, whereas men in base jobs have received it. I quote the following paragraph from the press -
Complaints have been made . . that while Middle East veterans in Brisbane base areas are wearing the ribbons, men returning from New Guinea have not been able to get them. One officer said, “It makes the boys sore to find men stationed on the mainland wearing the decoration and not to be able to get it themselves. They feel that preference should have been given to the men coming back from New Guinea, so that they could wear the ribbon while on leave”
As these men are not here for very long, is it possible to ensure that they get the ribbon immediately they arrive in Australia, or, at least, before they return to New Guinea?
– I understand that there was a shortage of ribbon. I shall see whether stocks have come to hand, and whether the Africa Star ribbon can be issued to the men immediately they arrive in Australia.
– In today’s press, the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales is reported to have said that 400 women who absented themselves from canning factories yesterday would be prosecuted. Is the AttorneyGeneral prepared to give to the House an assurance that no discrimination will be shown in the launching of prosecutions for absenteeism? If it is intended to prosecute 400 women, will similar action be taken against ten times 400 miners who were also absent from their employment yesterday?
– The statement attributed to the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales has not come to my notice.
– Will the Attorney-General give the assurance for which I asked?
– I shall give the assurance that in the administration of the law on this matter, I shall endeavour to hold the scales fairly. A large number of prosecutions has already been launched against miners.
– As many men are now being discharged, from the services, and many of them are married and are finding it impossible to find accommodation, will the Minister for Repatriation consult the Minister for War Organization of Industry with a view to arranging for the construction of houses for these men and their families?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that I and the Minister for War Organization of Industry fully realize the position to which he has referred. For some time a sub-committee has been inquiring into the matter, and we are doing everything we possibly can to provide adequate accommodation for returned servicemen.
.- I desire to raise a question of privilege, and I intend to conclude my remarks with a motion. I raise this matter because I wish to protect the privileges of honorable members by making certain that absolute fairness is observed in the broadcasting of statements dealing with speeches made in this House. First, I submit that when such statements involve controversial subjects, the case for each side should be put. Only a fortnight ago the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) declared that a speech I had made had been censored on the air; and, in fact, I am told that an attempt was made to censor that speech in a section of the press as well.
– To whose speech is the right honorable gentleman referring?
– I am referring to a speech which I made on Army administration. The second point I wish to make is that when only one side of a controversial matter is given there can be distortion and suppression of relevant facts which will not be obvious to the public. In a statement published in the press this morning the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is reported to have said that I had sought to create the impression among relatives of members of the forces that the strategy of the higher command had incurred casualties which might have been avoided. My whole conduct in this war, and in the last war, has been devoted to trying to save the lives and conserve the health of all front-line troops. I only need to put on record the circumstances which led up to the speech which I made in this House on this subject to prove beyond doubt that the publicity given to this matter is not my responsibility, but that of the Prime Minister.
– Will the right honorable gentleman inform me how his privileges have been infringed ?
– That will be made clear from the motion which I intend to move.
-The subject-matter of the speech may not correspond with the motion. I should like to know how the right honorable gentleman’s privileges have been infringed.
– Having made a speech in this Parliament my privilege of being heard over the air with regard to it has been denied to me ; but, at the same time, the Prime Minister has been permitted to make his own statement on the matter.
-I rule that no question of privilege is involved in the matter raised by the right honorable gentleman.
– I move-
That the ruling of the Speaker given on a matter of privilege sought to be raised by the right honorable member for Cowper be disagreed with.
– I second the motion. What was your ruling, Mr. Speaker?
– When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) took the responsibility of seconding the motion dissenting from my ruling he should at least have informed himself of the nature of that ruling.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I unhesitatingly seconded the motion dissenting from your ruling because you gave it without listening to any argument on the matter, or listening to the case of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The whole House should be told clearly what you did rule, and why.
– The Chair fully understood the point raised by the right honorable member for Cowper. Apparently, he made a speech in this House, and he sought to make a speech over the air on the same subject, but the latter was censored.
-The Chair might be mistaken, but the right honorable gentleman claimed that a speech he made outside had been censored.
– A speech made in this House was censored wrongly for broadcasting.
– The right honorable gentleman implied that it was a speech for broadcasting.
– No, it was a speech made in this House.
– Even if a speech made in this House had not been reported to the satisfaction of the right honorable gentleman, no question of privilege would arise.
– My contention is that a speech which I made in this House was censored, and yet the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army have been permitted to reply over the air to that speech.
– The right honorable member is grossly misinformed.
– The only matter before the Chair is the motion that my ruling be disagreed with. I am guided in the first place by a letter which I received from the right honorable gentleman himself in which he says, “ I desire to inform you that this afternoon I intend to raise a question of privilege on a matter concerning the censoring of broadcasting of speeches from Parliament”. Speeches are not broadcast from Parliament.
– by leave - I am quite sure that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has misunderstood the situation which has led him to raise this matter in this way, and I believe, Mr. Speaker, that there is some misunderstanding on the part of some honorable members as to your ruling, and its effect. I should like to say that the speech which was made in this House on the 18th February by the right honorable member for Cowper was passed for publication locally, and for broadcasting and cabling, in its entirety, except for one sentence which disclosed secret information in respect of casualties among troops from malaria and other diseases. I am quite sure that if the right honorable gentleman could have a consultation with me this matter could be terminated, because until yesterday I made no statement about what he said on the 18th February. Apparently he thinks that I have been given facilities to answer a speech of his which was censored, and that, because of some action taken by the censor, the public has not had a reasonable opportunity to peruse what he said. I refer, of course, not to what newspaper editors did, but to what the right honorable gentleman thinks was the result of - what the censor did. In the right honorable gentleman’s very courteous message to me, which contained a copy of his letter to the Speaker, he claimed that a breach of privilege had been committed in the censoring of the broadcasting of speeches from Parliament. I understand that what he means is that the announcer, whoever he might be, in reporting what took place in Parliament, was prohibited from broadcasting certain parts of the right honorable gentleman’s speech in Parliament. If he does not mean that, he cannot mean anything.
– I rise to a point of order. I have been prevented from putting my case, but the Prime Minister is now putting something which he suggests is the case that I really meant to put. I am quite prepared to discuss the matter with him this afternoon.
– The right honorable gentleman will suffer no loss of rights by agreeing to discuss the matter with me before it is debated to-morrow. “With great respect, I suggest that he should at this stage withdraw his motion.
– My only justification for raising the question of privilege is that it relates to a matter suddenly arising.
– Very well, if the right honorable gentleman will not withdraw his motion, he apparently does not wish to discuss the matter with me this afternoon.
– Under the Standing Orders the debate on the motion of dissent will be adjourned until to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for Munitions state whether it is a fact that the munitions factories west of Sydney are closing down because of lack of orders, or lack of coal, and that already more than 2,000 employees are out of work in one factory alone in the western district, whilst another 10,000 will be laid off within the next two months. If these are facts, what plans has the Government for the absorption of those people in other war or civil employment or in rural industries?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Richmond is aware that the work undertaken in munitions establishments is determined by the requirements of the services, as estimated from time to time by the Defence Committee. As regards the man-power position mentioned by the honorable member, it is expected that the munitions establishments will be able to contribute 20,000 employees during a certain period to help in ‘other very urgent projects, including food production. It is anticipated that any munitions employees affected by retrenchment due to the lack of sufficient orders to keep the munitions factories going at full capacity, will be afforded opportunities for employment in those other urgent projects.
– On the 2nd March the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me questions, without notice, concerning the marketing of tinned butter. I have looked into the matter, and am now in a position to inform the honorable member that, after taking all the circumstances into consideration, it is thought that any butter saved in Australia by voluntary reduction of the butter ration could be more satisfactorily and equitably distributed in Great Britain by increasing the bulk quantity available for shipment from Australia.
– On the 10th March the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked me a question without notice concerning superphosphate. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that some representations have been addressed to me by primary producers desiring increased supplies of superphosphate, but these have not been many. However, it is quite probable that additional requests for superphosphate have been made to the State Departments of Agriculture, who are directly concerned with the rationing of this fertilizer to producers. The quantity of superphosphate available to primary production in 1943-1944 has been 520,000 tons. In respect of 1944- 1945 Australia has been allocated additional quantities of phosphatic rock which, if received in Australia, will provide for the production of superphosphate in quantities which will considerably exceed the 1943-44 supply. As the importation of the rock is wholly dependent on shipping facilities, I am unable at this stage to give a firm figure of the actual quantity which will be available for distribution to primary producers in the coming year.
– I remind the Prime Minister that on the 2nd March last I asked him to consider a suggestion to take up with the United States of America Government the matter of the pay of members of the American armed forces in Australia. I now ask him if, in view of the public statements on the subject by Brigadier-General Hedrick, Judge Advocate General of the United States Army and Air Force, and Acting Judge Redshaw, in the Sydney Quarter Sessions, he will seek the views of the American Government ?
– I have given consideration to the suggestion which the right honorable gentleman made to me several days ago, and have decided against it. I find that the problem does not properly fall within the jurisdiction of the Australian Government, and I see no reason why I should suggest to the United States Government how it should allocate the pay of the members of its forces, any more than I would welcome a suggestion from the British Government that the Commonwealth Government should, for some reason, reduce the pay of Australian airmen serving in the United Kingdom.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether the declaration of Australia’s post-war policy, which, according to today’s press cablegrams, has been made by the Financial Councillor of our legation in Washington, was made with the knowledge and full concurrence of the Australian Government? If so, will , the Minister inform the House of the full implications of that portion of the declaration which stated that Australia desired a lead from the United States of America in trade and other matters? If the declaration was not authorized by the Australian Government, will the Minister take steps to see that the trend towards control of our domestic policy by economists is not extended to the international field?
– The officer in question «vas speaking on his own behalf and without the knowledge of myself or the Australian Government; he was probably addressing some learned society in the United States of America. The honorable member may rest assured that the economic policy of this country will be decided in Australia and that, from time to time, this House will be given the fullest information in regard to that policy.
– (Can the Prime Minister say who are -the Australian representatives in the monetary stabiliza tion negotiations which have been taking place in Washington. and London?
– The officer who is representing the Australian Government in the administrative discussions which are taking place in the United Kingdom on monetary matters at present has been borrowed by the Commonwealth Government temporarily from the ‘Commonwealth Bank. He is Professor Melville.
Debate resumed from the 10th March (vide page 1224), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the hill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - (vide page 1027).
– This measure is another milestone in the road towards increased powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. Already, the bill has been dealt with fully by leading lawyers and others in this chamber; but I shall endeavour to break some new ground. A nation’s existence and development does not depend on high wages as the only factor, but on trade and commerce. Uppermost 1U the mind of the Government seems to he the conviction that at all costs as a Government it must employ every man who wants work; that it must start State enterprises in order to provide such employment and spend large sums, not on developmental works, but merely to ensure the payment of high wages. We on this side of the chamber do not cavil at the highest possible wages ; but we believe that if we are not able to solve the problem of our post-war development in a manner better than that sug.gested by the Government and by speakers from the other side of the
House generally, we shall not progress very fas. Our duty to the servicemen cannot ‘be ensured merely by placing another 100,000 soldiers upon the land. First, we must find assured markets for the commodities which already are being produced. Every day we hear expressions of the urge for more intensive land settlement; but how can we hope to support further large numbers of primary producers unless we first provide adequately for those people who are already on the land? It is claimed that this measure will ensure full employment at high wages; but high wages are only one essential factor in our political economy. It is suggested, as a means of securing full employment and high wages, that £50,000,000 should be expended on the construction of homes, and £50,000,000 on the standardization of railway gauges; but if these large sums are to be expended to ensure high wages, why not expend them on developmental schemes which will be of some value? For instance, a water conservation scheme in itself creates electric power, provides water for irrigation in this country in which irrigation means so much, and so enables industrial expansion. This is a worth-while means by which we may give full employment, and at the same time increase the wealth of the country and provide modern conveniences and comforts for thousands of outback homes.
The bill provides that the increased powers, being a post-war necessity, shall remain in the hands of the Commonwealth for only a period of five years; but what will happen in regard to company law, for instance, when the Commonwealth relinquishes control at the end of that period? Only chaos can result. In regard to repatriation, the powers sought by the Commonwealth .are no greater than those which it exercised at the end of the last war. Eminent constitutional lawyers in this chamber have expressed differing opinions in regard to the necessity for conferring certain of these powers upon the Commonwealth, and many honorable members are inclined to wonder just what is the real meaning of this legislation. Certain Government supporters have given us food for thought as to their intentions; rightly or wrongly, they support the bill because they see in it an opportunity to proceed with the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I do not say that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) holds that view, but we do not know what is in an egg until it is hatched, and we shall not know what is in this measure until it is hatched - if itis ever hatched. We shall not know what the real import of the bill is until the High Court, in its wisdom, is called upon eventually to adjudicate in some dispute. It is wise, therefore, that we should hesitate until we know definitely the meaning of many of the provisions of this measure, and whether Government supporters are right in their assumption that some of the powers sought provide for the socialization of industry, both primary and secondary. Post-war activities should ‘be confined to the promotion of enterprises which will enable our people to build a better and a greater nation. Australia is still only a young country. As a nation, we are advancing too slowly, and we should devise ways and means of increasing our population and developing our latent resources. We must ensure that we do not cater for a selected and privileged class in the community to the detriment of other sections, particularly the primary producers and those who, through their thrift and the investment of their money, have developed the .secondary industries of the nation. The improvement of the general conditions of the people must always be our chief aim. We must go forward, in particular, with a policy of all-round development. The application of a programme designed to gain “ higher wages, shorter hours and cheaper food “ is not likely to lead to outstanding rural development in Australia. We all are well aware that, although many people in the community have obtained _ higher wages and better conditions during the war period, the primary producers have had to work longer hours and stagger along against desperate odds in order to maintain food production on the home front. The development of the great undertakings forecast under this bill would no doubt be desirable in this country, but a much higher, worthier objective would be the development of our essential rural and secondary industries on sound economic lines. Such & policy would he truly nation-building in character. We need great secondary industries. which are on sound economic bases, but if such industries be established through the abandonment of thrift and the destruction of the private investments which have been responsible for our existing development, that policy will not ibo in the best interests of the country.. We need a national policy on different lines from that. If we are contemplating departure from private enterprise and personal initiative, we are contemplating a dangerous step, and one which we shall not take entirely in ignorance, as previous experiments of Statecontrolled businesses in Queensland have clearly shown the danger of such a policy. Those experiments resulted, in a very short while, in an accumulated loss of £4,000,000. In fact, that loss was the only achievement of those State enterprises. The Government desires power, which it contends it does not now possess, to convert the war industries of the nation into civil production units after the war, but as a Queenslander I must protest against any such procedure, for, as it happens, practically all the great war-time industries of the nation have been established in the southern States to the detriment of Queensland. A continuation of that policy in peace-time could only perpetuate the existing disadvantages of the northern State. I am opposed to the conversion of government war-time industries into government peace-time industries if Queensland also is not catered for. To .a very great degree, perhaps by force of circumstances, these industries have been established’ in States other than Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. I shall not jump hastily to the conclusion that hot-headed extremists will dictate Commonwealth Government policy. A great deal of speculation is going on in legal circles as to whether the powers being sought in this bill are not already, in the main, possessed by the Commonwealth. If they are not already vested in the Federal Parliament, the Government is merely asking that a costly referendum be held to authorize the transfer to the Commonwealth Parliament of powers which the State Parliaments have been operating since before the Commonwealth Constitution was drafted. Some of the powers which the Government is seeking may be necessary, but many people consider that a great deal of power is being sought in order to socialize industry and murder private enterprise in the days following the war. Before a person agrees to surgical treatment, all prospects of survival, recovery, and renewal of health are carefully considered. Before we hand over the Constitution for overhaul we must consider the possible effects of the overhaul on the body politic. It is necessary that we shall have in our minds as clear a picture as possible of the existing situation. We need to be satisfied that power of the kind being sought in this bill will be used carefully and in the interests of the general community. The people also should satisfy themselves that any additional power vested in the Commonwealth Parliament will be used wisely. We must attempt to hold the balance fairly between the various interests that are likely to be affected. Legal authorities of high standing in this Parliament differ in their views on this subject. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber fear that an attempt is being made to socialize industry ; whilst some honorablemembers opposite make no secret of their satisfaction that socialization would be possible if the new powers were granted.
I intend to support the policy, of the Australian Country party on this issue-. That party urges that before an expenditure of £200,000 be incurred in the taking of another referendum,, negotiations should be renewed with the States with the object of having certain powers referred to the Commonwealth. Parliament by the State Parliaments. At present it appears that the Legislative Council of Tasmania is the only .State legislative authority which is really opposed to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. As we have got so far in negotiation, T believe that it would be possible for us to achieve- complete agreement if discussions with the States were renewed. The Australian Country party, therefore, urges the Government to take the subject up again with the State Parliaments before it embarks upon the proposed ref erendum campaign.
The first power referred to in the bill relates to the repatriation of the members of the fighting services and the making of adequate provision for their dependants. Munitions workers are included in this category. But surely this power was operated after the last war? If munitions workers are not already covered - and I fail to see how any reasonable opposition could be offered to providing for them - steps can be taken to meet their case. But the defence power of the Commonwealth definitely does not provide for the socialization of industry.
The powers sought in paragraphs iii and vii of the operative clause of the bill are, in themselves, of some importance, but I regret that no amendment is being proposed to meet the difficulties that have arisen in relation to section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that - trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States . . shall be absolutely free.
Unless an amendment be made to this provision we shall meet continued hindrance in the orderly marketing of our primary products on a Commonwealthwide basis. The socialization of all the means of production, distribution and exchange is a policy not likely to appeal to primary producers, but a proposal to amend section 92 would win their approval for it would indicate that some thought was being given to rural interests. The power being sought to acquire land is, to my mind, unnecessary for the Constitution permits the Commonwealth to acquire property on terms from any State, or person, for soldier settlement, and to provide the money to finance such acquisitions. After the last war, soldier settlements were established through State government instrumentalities. That was a convenient method of operating, for the State governments administered laws in relation to the land. The State Lands Departments have machinery already established for this purpose, and for that reason were handed the money to carry out soldier settlements.
I wholly support the proposal that the Commonwealth should have power to deal with trusts, combines, monopolies and profiteering. Any corporations which act to the detriment of the people should be brought under control. Here, the question arises as to whether or not the monopolistic activities of the coal-miners of New South “Wales fall within this category; because they are destructive, they cause industry to be interrupted, they are a deterrent to development, they restrict trade in respect of the commodity which they produce, and they have done damage to our war industries. If we are to legislate in restraint of combines, monopolies, and profiteering, some consideration should be given to the inclusion of industrial organizations.
Powers in relation to national and family health are already held by both the States and the Commonwealth.
It is proposed that national works shall be carried out subject to the consent of the States. Such power has always existed.
The proposal to expend £50,000,000 in order to achieve uniformity of railway gauges is entirely unjustified and completely obsolete in thought and in practice. “Within a decade aerial transport will replace much of the existing rail transport. In this connexion, every country is expanding, with a vision far beyond anything that was contemplated even twelve months ago. Thousands of our young trained airmen and skilled air mechanics will have to be rehabilitated. Let us, then, devote a proportion of the colossal sum of £50,000,000 to the establishment of additional airways, which would result in an expansion of industry and trade and commerce, open up hitherto undeveloped areas, promote production, and increase population. Our troops to-day need quick transport, and thousands of them are sent into operational areas as parachutists. Railways would not provide a quick transport service in the event of our having to participate in a fresh conflict 20 or 30 years hence. Branch lines of uniform gauge throughout the Commonwealth would not add one penny to the national revenue, or one more railway station to those portions of the Commonwealth in which transport is now available to settlers. The advancement of air transport would ultimately be of considerable advantage to both primary and secondary producers. It would further the policy of decentralization, and promote the development of natural resources on the coast, in the hinterland, and in the vast outback areas, the great wealth of which is at present latent and unexplored. It would be a factor in ensuring the long-sought permanency of employment at high rates of wages, and a quick and reasonable return to the community at large. In other countries, particularly in the United States of America, development has been along the lines illustrated in an official journal issued by the Department of Commerce of that country, entitled Community Action for Post-war Jobs and Profits. Mention of profits in Australia is almost a crime. The person who is prepared to invest his savings in a newenterprise, with a view to making profits is viewed with considerable disfavour in certain quarters. Yet why does a worker leave one job for another, why does he claim an increase of the wage that he is receiving, except to obtain a greater profit for himself? If the profit incentive be withdrawn, the many millions of pounds in private hands that are available for development will lie dormant. “Jobs and profits “ is the catch-cry of the United States of America. In a foreword to this publication the following appears : -
The need for full employment and profitable business after the war is thoroughly recognized by both government and private enterprise. That business men must do the major spadework now to meet these basic economic needs is equally apparent.
In an effort to provide a set of workable tools for this vitally needed work, the Department of Commerce has published Community Action for Post-war Jobs and Profits . . .
In making it available the Department of Commerce again demonstrates its interest, belief, and faith in American business and in the. system of free enterprise.
In a later paragraph it says -
The U.S. Department of Commerce believes unreservedly in the free enterprise system.
It then sets out to enunciate the principles under which this has to be promoted. A questionnaire was sent out to every community and to every chamber of commerce, in order to ascertain how it proposed to strengthen its agricultural and industrial services, to distribute its trade, and to enlarge its manufactures. Questions asked were -
Are there enough of these in your town -
Do banks give adequate service on -
Real estate loans?
Does your town have modern and adequate hospitals, sanatoriums, and rest homes?
– Order ! Does the honorable member propose to connect all that information with the bill?
– I shall. Other questions were -
Does your town have clinics, either free or part-pay, where people of limited means can get-
Are the utilities services adequate -
Are good repair services available for -
Is there a good entomologist or farm adviser available in your town?
It goes on to deal with a variety of subjects, the whole of which I need not recite. The object of the questionnaire to ascertain where avenues of employment exist in order that there may be a proper allocation of available labour to every portion of the United States of America. In Australia, the local authority is merely asked to specify what works it has, and in these proposals the Government is seeking to obtain the power that will enable- it to expend money on such works, brushing aside the objection to develop new industries which are essential to our well-being and would employ the large amount of capital that is privately held in this country. The powers sought in this bill are in many respects inadequate. The successful development of this country depends on a greatly increased population, and in order to get that our industries must be expanded. When the bill reaches the committee stage, I hope that an amendment will be submitted to provide an assurance of freedom of employment, freedom of enterprise, and freedom of criticism. It is of vital importance in a democracy that the people should safeguard their right to criticize freely, whether by direct speech or through the medium of the radio or the press.
.- The bill before us is purely a machinery measure. It is designed to empower the Government to make an appeal to the people -by means of a referendum for a grant of increased powers to this Parliament. The people are to foe asked to give certain powers for a period of five years commencing with the cessation of hostilities, in order to enable this Parliament to - enact legislation for the temporary control of the economic resources of the nation for the purpose of preventing the hardship and distress that, it is feared, may be the lot of many citizens, unless a measure of ‘planned economy be instituted. The submission of the Government is that, unless additional powers be granted, the limitations of the Constitution will prevent adequate rehabilitation of the members of the fighting forces, and prevent the Government from effectively assisting industry to transfer smoothly from a war-time to a peace-time economy. Those limitations would also prevent the Government from taking proper’ steps to see that the community did not suffer distress through unemployment, owing to the large number of people to be discharged from the fighting forces or transferred from war-time to peace-time industries. The Government desires wider powers than it now possesses for the carrying out of national works that would provide employment and develop the natural resources of Australia. It also claims that it has not sufficient power under the present Constitution to enable it to speak with confidence and authority at such gather’ings of representatives of the nations as it may be invited to attend for the stabilization of world affairs, the establishment of peace for years to come and ensuring the safety of Australia. The Government has presented a very strong case. Without the powers sought in the bill, the Government would remain in its present position of having to go cap in hand to the States to ask for the implementation of a programme necessary for the welfare of the people. I do not contend that it would be impossible to carry out such a programme under present conditions, but it could not be put into effect without the delays usually associated with appeals to the States. At best, the appeals would result in compromises, and possibly the States would fail to agree to the Government’s proposals. In any event there would be long periods of procrastination which would operate much to the disadvantage of those whom the ‘Government desires to help.
Whether the machinery that the Government proposes to set up is the best that could be devised, I am not prepared to say. The Government has declared that it requires the increased powers sought, but many people disagree with it in that regard. The Opposition has not shown that it is prepared in this instance to sink its differences and allow this Parliament to march forward with one voice, in order to guide the people to a frame of mind that would enable the good work desired by the Government to be done. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has cast doubt as to whether the Constitution does not give sufficient power already to enable the Government to carry out the whole of the programme envisaged by it, but the history of the bill does not to any degree support the doubt expressed by him. Let us consider the way in which this measure has been produced. A bill was presented to this House by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in 1942. It was withdrawn, and the Government decided to call a convention of political leaders from all of the States to discuss with representatives of the Commonwealth whether the powers sought were necessary. The personnel of the conference comprised representatives of all political parties in Australia. It consisted of the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition in all of the Parliaments of the States, matched with an equal number of representatives of Government and Opposition parties in the Commonwealth Parliament. The views of the Commonwealth Government were placed before the Convention and after due consideration a drafting committee was formed. A bill was drafted, embodying the minimum requirements to enable the Government to carry out the programme which it desired to implement in the post-war period. That bill was unanimously, accepted by the Convention. The Leader of the
Opposition has attempted to draw a herring across the trail by saying that the Premiers were taken unawares at the conference, because they were not properly armed with expert advice, and were therefore not in a position to reach a considered judgment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), however, apparently without a proper liaison with his leader, definitely stated that there is no truth whatever in the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has placed his views before the House, but, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he was in full accord with the decisions of the Convention, at the end of which he made a eulogistic reference to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the decisions reached there. The right honorable gentleman has since changed his ground. He now states that the bill contains too many points, and that the safeguards have been withdrawn, the safeguards, in his opinion, being contained in a clause which would have made it very difficult for the States to withdraw from agreements ratified in their respective Parliaments. The only way a State could get out of the agreement would have been by holding a referendum of all the people in the State. That was a binding provision, and to say that it was in the nature of a State safeguard is much as if one said that the prison bars are there for the protection of the prisoner rather than for the protection of the public.
In my opinion, the Opposition, in opposing this bill, has indulged in confused thinking. Its attitude is not calculated to promote the best interests of the country, or to give a proper lead to the public in the determination of this issue. I am forced to the conclusion, after listening to the speeches of those who took part in the Constitution Convention, that the decision of the Convention was the only honest and correct one that could be reached on the facts submitted to it. The Premiers, in giving their promise to submit the decision of the Convention to their State Parliaments in the form of a bill, and to attempt to have that bill passed through the Parliaments, were making a genuine attempt to give effect to the agreement into which they had entered.
The failure of some of the State Parliaments to back up their Premiers, and to pass the bill, does not, in my opinion, indicate that the position is hopeless. I wish to make the point that the holding of a referendum is a dangerous thing. The reception- which the bill received in the State Parliaments was actually very favorable, indeed. Three of the States passed the bill, one of them with a rider that it was not to come into force unless all the other States passed the bill. Two of the States passed the bill in a modified form, but the modifications, when analysed, are found to be not very serious. Only one State rejected the bill altogether. Now, the Commonwealth has taken up the position that the rejection of the bill by the Parliament of Tasmania shut the door against any further negotiations. On that point I disagree with the Government. I believe that negotiations should be pursued in order to obtain, if not full agreement on the original proposals, at least a compromise which would ensure to the Commonwealth Parliament sufficient power to carry out its post-war programme.
– The decision reached at the Convention represented the bare minimum.
– That was the opinion of the Commonwealth representatives, but if we examine the issues upon which some of the State Parliaments differed from the Convention we find that compromise ought not to be impossible. : South Australia was not willing to give the Commonwealth control of combines, monopolies and trusts. Well, that is a power which the Commonwealth ought to have permanently. It is not essentially a matter affecting only the period of postwar reconstruction. South Australia was willing to give control over prices for only three years, and Hat might be long enough. The Commonwealth could, perhaps, meet South Australia on that point. South Australia also amended the bill by restricting the power over marketing to products of which there was an exportable surplus. It might be possible to get South Australia to give way on that point. I agree that wider powers are needed.
– Even the power agreed to by South Australia is wider than the Commonwealth enjoyed before the war.
– Yes, it was a much wider power than the Commonwealth has enjoyed hitherto. Western Australia and South Australia both objected to the proposal to give the Commonwealth power to pass a uniform company law. That, also, should be a permanent Commonwealth power, rather than merely a temporary one. Western Australia limited the Commonwealth’s power over rationing to goods in short supply. I suggest that the amendment was a reasonable one.
– South Australia also refused to give the Commonwealth control over employment and unemployment.
– Power over employment is one of the most vital provisions in the bill; .but I suggest that, if negotiations were continued with the Government of South Australia, it might be possible to effect a compromise. I am not convinced that everything possible in that direction has been done. However, the Commonwealth now takes the view that the only course open to it is to ask the people for the powers it needs. The Government acted wisely in submitting an exact replica of the bill drawn up by the drafting committee, and adopted by the Convention. I approve of the amendments introduced by the AttorneyGeneral to provide that neither the Commonwealth nor any State may abridge freedom of speech or expression, or freedom of religion, and also the amendment restricting the promulgation of regulations without the approval of Parliament. However, these are all in the nature of permanent powers, and are not particularly relevant to the post-war period.
I support the bill because, whether there is to be a referendum or not, it is desirable that the Government should have sufficient power to continue the work it has begun. It will be a great pity, however, if we must hold a referendum in war-time. I can visualize what will happen. The bill will certainly pass this House, because the Government has the numbers. However, to have the
Government’s proposals accepted by a convention of well-informed Premiers and Leaders of State Oppositions, or by members of Parliament who have greater access to information than have the general public i3 one thing; to have the same proposals agreed to by the people at a referendum is quite another thing. The chance of securing their agreement is about the same as of throwing a double four or higher at dice. It is a five-to-two chance against the Government. If the Opposition parties take the platform against the prop’osal, the Government’s chance will be considerably less.
The Leader of the Opposition prepared has speech on this subject with great care. He put a lot of thought into it, and the speech was designed for the express purpose of laying a foundation upon which clever propagandists could erect an edifice of doubt, distrust and fear in order to influence the public mind. When these issues are put before the people we shall, have a situation similar to that during the last election, except that it will be worse. The people will be divided in a political battle at a time when all their energies should be devoted to winning the war. We have not yet struck a major blow at our enemy in the Pacific, and he is still strong. He still holds many of our men as prisoners of war. Now we are to engage in a political fight, over what? - the division of the spoils of victory before the victory has been won. It would be better if these differences could be settled without confusing the minds of the people; yet it would appear that the Government expects to get a considered judgment from people whose minds will be confused. On that ground alone I doubt the wisdom of holding a referendum. If there is a way out it should be taken. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have suggested that further negotiations with the States should be undertaken, and that, failing satisfactory results, the Commonwealth should accept the grant of powers offered by the States and implement them, in the hope that those States which at present are not prepared to grant full powers to the ‘Commonwealth will change their attitude when they see the benefit of Commonwealth control over the economic resources of the country. There may be a way out; such a way should be sought. The attitude of Tasmania could be disregarded because section 51 xxxvii of the Constitution provides that the Government shall have power to make laws with respect to -
That provision does not necessarily require reference of powers by all States.
– There is no doubt about that. Queensland and New South Wales will get the benefit of this legislation.
– The Minister may be right, but that does not necessarily follow. Unless the Commonwealth will enact laws in conformity with the limited powers granted to it, nothing will eventuate. In whatever way the reconstruction is to be carried out the task ahead of Australia will be difficult. Australia has turned to war as great a part of the nation’s resources as is possible to be applied to war purposes ; this country has turned to war as great a proportion of its economic resources as has any other nation. It is easy to destroy what has been created, but building requires planning. In turning over to war a very great amount of unevenness has been caused. Some industries have been completely eliminated, because they are regarded as non-essential, yet in peacetime they employed large numbers of workers. Other industries have been changed over to war production, and have been expanded, but it will take a long time before they can get the requisite machine tools and raw materials to make peace-time goods. Still other industries have carried on with their normal production, although on a much larger scale, because their production was suitable for war purposes. They have been put in practically a monopolistic position, and recovery after the war will be comparatively easy for them ; they will have man power, machines and materials with which to carry on in the post-war period. If the incidence of hardship is to be evenly borne after the war, there must be a balancing agent , to allow those who have been transferred to war activities - sailors, soldiers, airmen, and men and women engaged in various war activities - to be helped back to peace-time employment. They cannot be left to the mercies of competitive economics, as in the past, because, in that event, the strong would have everything whilst the weak would go to the wall. All the change-over for war purposes has been done at the institution and direction of the Government, and from whatever angle the subject is argued, the fact remains that the Government must accept the responsibility for the change back again. We cannot say to those people, “We used you ; we took your bodies, your goods, your machines for war purposes, and now we throw you on the scrap-heap “. The Government owes a debt to the people. This bill is an acknowledgment by the Government that it realizes its indebtedness and intends to honour its obligations. Assuming that some power would be granted by the States, the Commonwealth Government has already taken steps to prepare for the rehabilitation of people now engaged on war work. That time may be a few years hence; possibly five years. In preparation for that time, the Government has set up a Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction. The Ministry has been in existence for about twelve months, but we have heard little about it, except that certain appointments have been made.
– There was a Division of Reconstruction long before then.
– I had in mind the appointment of Dr. Coombs as DirectorGeneral of Post-war Reconstruction. That was the first positive creation by the Government in acknowledgment of its responsibility. I expect that that Ministry will function whether or not these additional powers be granted to the Commonwealth. That Ministry has all sorts of people attached to it - economists, engineers, accountants, architects, statists, welfare officers, and others - and has been investigating the industrial possibilities in this country. I know that its officers are delving into the economic life of Australia and are investigating suggestions by municipalities and States for national developmental undertakings, and for the re-absorption in industry of the men and women now with the fighting services. The Ministry is preparing reports and drawing plans. I understand that its charter is to prepare a blue-print for restoring opportunity and prosperity to disorganized industry throughout Australia, and to prevent disaster in the change-over period until ,such time as economic equilibrium is again reached. Among the matters receiving consideration is a gigantic plan for the housing of the people. It will be generally admitted that some measure of governmental control will be necessary during the transition period from war to peace. Whilst some of the war-time controls may have to be retained for a considerable time, others may be relaxed a few months after hostilities cease or abandoned the moment an armistice is signed. Purely prohibitive regulations, such as those which declare industries non-essential, can be repealed immediately the fighting ceases, because Australia will have to do everything possible to build up its industries, and no industry will be non-essential to those people who earn their living in it. It is doubtless proper in war-time to declare some industries non-essential because the country can do without them; but Australia will need every avenue of employment after the war to re-absorb nearly 2,000,000 persons who will have to be transferred from the fighting services, munitions establishments and the like, to peace-time avocations. Definitely, the Government will have to expand the scope of industry, and avoid any tendency to depress it. I have no doubt that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is keeping that matter well in mind.
Some war-time controls, such as priorities, price-fixing, and possibly the rationing of certain goods in short supply, will have to be retained for a time. For example, imported goods in very short supply such as rubber, cotton and oils will have to be rationed. For the benefit of the community generally, some form of governmental control will have tobe exercised and a system of priorities continued in order to ensure an equitable distribu tion of vital supplies. Otherwise, certain favoured industries will reap great advantages to the detriment of others that are struggling to regain their peace-time footing. For that reason, the Government must be granted additional powers.
As I stated earlier, destruction is simple, but building must be planned. I do not like to suggest that any delay will occur in dealing with these matters. For some time, I have advocated that whilst all our resources, thoughts and planning must be concentrated on winning the war, a planning authority should be looking ahead and estimating what w’ill be necessary to restore Australian industry and Australian citizens to a peace-time basis. Long before hostilities cease the Government should plan for the peace in order to be able to present to the people, not a nebulous scheme, but a well-considered, practical policy. For that reason, I suggest with all humility that the Government should not hold a referendum until it has placed before the people the plans already evolved by the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction. I accept for the time being the contention that the Government is right in declaring that the only course open to it is to hold a referendum. But that is dangerous. It is a gamble against odds. The Ministry for Post-war Reconstruction has been functioning for more than twelve months and must now have decided upon a definite line of endeavour to bring it to its destination. If it has not, the matter should be investigated. But if the Government desires to gain the confidence of the people, it must tell them about its plans. Members of the Opposition have already built up a story of doubt which, will be supported by propaganda machines. The referendum will be fought on political lines. It will be useless for the Government to meet it on that ground. The Government should not be satisfied with issuing a denial of this story of doubt and pointing out that its architects, public servants, professors and economists have evolved a scheme which, though nebulous, will bring Australia into the sunshine of prosperity after the war. That will not satisfy the people. What they want is something into which they can sink their teeth. They want to be told the specific purposes for which the Government requires these* powers. I realize that the Government will not be able to present to the people a complete programme for post-war reconstruction. Lt requires wide powers to meet an emergency in matters of this nature and certain points cannot be elucidated at present. But some sections of the Commonwealth’s policy of post-war reconstruction could be published for the purpose of impressing the people with the necessity for granting to the Commonwealth these additional powers. If the Government, as the basis of its appeal to the people, will tell them the truth regarding the extent to which it will utilize these powers, the chances of its winning the referendum will be reversed, because the people recognize that some need exists for the continuance of governmental control in transferring from a war-time to a peace-time economy.
– The Government will ‘ tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
– I am thoroughly satisfied that the Government has good intentions, but it has to convince the people. The history of referenda does not support the belief that this appeal to the people will be a “ push-over “ for the Government.
I shall now examine the actual powers which the Government seeks, for the purpose of seeing whether it could influence public opinion in favour of the referendum to a greater degree than might otherwise be possible. First, the Commonwealth seeks power with respect to the “ reinstatement and advancement of those who have been members of the fighting services of the Commonwealth during the present war, and the advancement of the dependants of those members who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the present war “. On this matter the Attorney-General was intentionally broad. He did not give details as to the Government’s intentions in this respect; and, to that degree, I suggest that the Government’s approach to this subject is open to criticism. The only proposal in respect of which the Government has stated its intentions fairly definitely is the power to enable it to settle service personnel on the land. Surely, by this time, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction could have evolved a basic plan for this purpose. I should like the Government to be more definite on matters of this kind. Our success in dealing with post-war reconstruction will mainly depend upon the frankness of the Government in announcing its plans at this stage. If the Government will state that its policy is to establish service personnel on farms and to -see them through their period of establishment, that is until the farm is productive, without loss to settlers or the stacking up of debts which settlers will find it impossible to get rid of, it will bring a ray of hope to every man who settles on the land. Any proposal along those lines will undoubtedly win the support of the general public. The Government could very well give that undertaking to service personnel. From my experience of soldier settlement after the last war, it would have been cheaper for the nation had the Government paid off the debts incurred by settlers rather than permit them to walk off their blocks.
The second matter proposed to be referred under the bill is “ employment and unemployment”. I entertain no fears whatever with respect to the granting of powers on this subject to the Commonwealth Parliament. This Parliament is subject to the verdict of the people every three years, and it can be trusted to carry out the wishes of the community just as much as State Parliaments are trusted to-day in the exercise of identical powers. However, opponents of these proposals will no doubt implant fears in the minds of the public. As the people of this country will not submit to the conscription of man-power in peace-time, the argument that the powers sought in respect of employment and unemployment are too great to be given to the Commonwealth Parliament is groundless. It is obvious from the speech made by the Attorney-General that the Government will endeavour to provide employment for every one, and sufficient facilities for the training of men and women who desire to improve their lot, or whose normal avenue of employment has been closed to them. The Government undertakes to establish better standards of employment throughout the country, and to provide opportunities for all, with certain restrictions as to the power over mass dismissals. The Government’s proposals in this respect are undoubtedly benevolent, and should be acceptable to all people. One grave omission from the Attorney-General’s speech to which no supporter of the Government has yet drawn attention is his failure to refer to preference to members of the fighting services. The nation as a whole owes a debt to these men which is as great as life itself, because they have risked their lives for their country, and, in so doing, have left their homes, in many cases, for years at a time. They have lived under uncomfortable conditions in trenches for long periods. Apart from any political issues that might arise, we must recognize the fact that servicemen are at least entitled on their discharge to a preferential chance of obtaining a job which will enable them to enjoy the comforts of home life which they voluntarily surrendered for so long in defence of our country and in order that we ourselves might continue to enjoy those comforts. That argument is unassailable. The Government must make a clear statement along the lines I have indicated if it wishes the referendum to be carried.
The next matter proposed to be referred under the bill is in respect of the organized marketing of commodities. The Commonwealth will need to retain its present power over the marketing of commodities during the unsettled conditions which will arise immediately after the war. [Extension of time granted.’] The’ retention of such powers by the Commonwealth in the post-war period can be of great benefit to the country, whilst lack of that power might give rise to grave dangers. Immediately after the war there will be great surpluses and shortages of commodities. Prior to the war many countries controlled imports and exports. If Australia is not able to exercise its full bargaining power as a nation in order to obtain the best results during the post-war period, it will find itself at a very great disadvantage indeed in its endeavours to obtain a just share of the world’s markets. Those markets have been closed to us. Many countries which were previously our customers have practically disappeared as national entities. In any case, the masses of the people in many countries already find themselves in such circumstances that primary producing countries like Australia will be required to give rather than sell foodstuffs to them in the postwar period. Unless the Commonwealth retains its present power over the marketing of commodities, this country will not be in a position to carry out its obligation to go to the relief of the distressed peoples of the world after the war.
The power now being sought by the Government in respect of company legislation should be granted permanently, and not temporarily. I notice that the Government of South Australia does not agree with the view that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to legislate with respect to trusts, combines and monopolies. I believe that this power should be granted in order to enable us to curb the activities of such bodies as are proved to be to the detriment of the nation. I ask the Government to indicate clearly that that is the only reason why it seeks this power. Obviously, the Government which has the responsibility of controlling the nation’s economy as a whole should possess power to prevent vicious activities on the part of trusts, combines and monopolies.
The next matter in respect of which power is sought is “profiteering and prices “. The Attorney-General in his speech bracketed this subject with the following matter, namely, “production and distribution”. Of these subjects, the control of prices is the most important. “With price control, I cannot see how profiteering can occur. I shall therefore discuss this subject primarily from the point of view of price control. Control of prices has proved itself in the war period to be, if not the greatest, certainly one of the most valuable economic weapons that Australia has had. It has kept the cost of living within reasonable bounds, and has been a boon to every one in Australia. After the war, during the period when there will be a shortage of goods, its value will be evident to all honorable members, and it will be shown to be just as important then as it is during a war-time shortage of goods. Unless we have price control following the peace treaty, there will be the greatest possible opportunity for speculators and investors to buy and hold for excess profits at the expense of the public that this country has ever experienced. There will be no way of holding down the prices to which goods will rise. There will be a great shortage of goods, and we have a large pool of savings in Australia. With savings long and goods short the savings of the people will simply be dissipated, and they will not get the satisfaction that they expect out of them. Those most vitally affected and hurt will be returning service personnel wishing to get married and set up homes. They will find that the prices of goods have skyrocketed, and their savings will simply disappear, so that they will be very disappointed people indeed. We shall have a problem on our hands if we do not hold prices down so that returning service men and women who wish to set up homes with their savings shall be assured of a fair deal. I regard price control as so important that I shudder to think that it may be risked just on the throw of the dice at a referendum. If it could possibly be granted as a special power, it would be worth any extent of negotiation to put control of prices into the hands of the Commonwealth Government, regardless of- whether other powers came with it or not. I look upon it as an extremely vital matter, and again plead with the Government to look into the suggestion put forward by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and others. One passage in the Attorney-General’s speech I regard as almost humorous, although I do not like to use that term in referring to anything that he has put up. I certainly do not agree with that phase of his argument in regard to price control, which he put in the following words : -
There is another aspect of price control in the transition years which should he qf very considerable importance and benefit to the business and trading community. After the last war, .prices rose rapidly in 1919 and 1920 and then fell just as rapidly in 1921. Such a sequence which benefits neither the consumer nor the producer, but only the speculator and the profiteer, will undoubtedly recur after this war unless the Commonwealth acquires and uses the .power of price control during the period of reconstruction. This means that traders who had assembled stocks at relatively high war-time prices would suddenly be faced with disastrous depreciation. If, however, the Commonwealth has effective powers of price control the natural decline of many prices which will occur when goods now in short supply become abundant can he cushioned so that the fall is not catastrophic.
Then, and this is the point to which I take great exception, he said : -
The fall can :be made reasonably gradual - the trade] will be enabled to clear existing high-cost stocks without loss. This is fair and proper, for in the early years of wartime .price control these same traders were effectively prevented from making undue profits on stocks bought at pre-war prices.
I advise the Government to soft-pedal on the suggestion that traders will be protected against “disastrous depreciation of stocks “, assembled at high wartime prices. I do not say that it is impossible to control prices downwards. I was told by an architect friend, and have since proved by experience, that what people call impossible is only expensive. I warn the Government very gravely against any proposal to protect traders against risk of loss in a steeply falling market by means of price fixing. It may be feasible, and I should say it would be, with standardized goods of regular quality, or primary products handled under a controlled marketing system. All that it amounts to is an extra tax on the buying public, making their hard-earned savings worthless. But if the Government seriously thinks that it can force the public to pay fancy prices for the wartime junk which is masquerading as merchandise in the general merchandise field, it will undertake something for which I should not like to see it foot the bill. It will be walking, with Alice, in Wonderland. It will simply take off the shoulders of the merchants the normal trade risk which they have always been ready to run, and induce them to fill their shelves with war-time junk, instead of with the new and better merchandise that should be available after the war. If the Government wishes to do something for them, it should do it not by price-fixing, but by investigating cases of hardship and granting a subsidy to any one who has been caught by circumstances outside his control when trying to render what he thought was a service to the people. The general public would always refuse to buy goods for more than they are worth, and the merchants would be left with the goods. More businesses fail through having rows of bad stock on their shelves than for any other reason. I offer that advice to the Treasurer for what it is worth.
– The honorable member does not deny that where there is a heavy demand for certain materials there will be a tendency for prices to rise?
– I have said that pricefixing is vitally important to prevent inflation of the prices of goods after the war, but if it is to be used in the reverse process to hold the prices of goods up, I say to the Government, “ Beware, because you will have on your hands a lot of war-time junk which will have no value at all “. We desire the benefits of new and improved merchandise,, produced by the superior methods of manufacture, through the use of new components, resulting from scientific discoveries during the war, to be made quickly available to the people, at prices which will enable their savings to be of some value to them.
The next power sought is overseas exchange, which I agree should be under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament in order to prevent manipulation by operators working against the Commonwealth and the producer. The proposal to exercise control over the raising of capita] and loans on the market is purely an anti-inflationary measure, and I approve of it. It would be well worth while for the Government to expand its functions a little more in that regard. Air transport is rightly a matter to be handled by the Commonwealth. I cannot see how any other Government in Australia can have sufficient jurisdiction to control international air lines and so on. That subject naturally must come under -the authority of the Commonwealth. The standardization of railway gauges is just one of the public works which will be carried out with the whole purpose of developing this country, providing better service, making it more easily defendable, and providing employment in the post-war period.
In regard to the undertaking of national works with the consent of the States, I think that an excellent opportunity is offered for the Government to make a definite statement of its intentions and its policy. If it is the intention that this country eventually should support a population of, say, 20,000,000, State boundaries should not be permitted, to interfere with national developmental schemes. [Further extension of time granted.] I cannot see that proper development of this country can take place if irrigation and water conservation schemes, electricity supply undertakings, and improved transport services are to be limited by State boundaries. The natural topography of a country does not lend itself to that type of development. The rivers and mountains belong to the nation, and if a water supply happens to be in Victoria or Queensland, and water is required for the development of adjacent portions of New South Wales or South Australia, it should be readily available. The same argument applies to electricity. A full statement of the Government’s intention with regard to that phase of its reconstruction programme would be welcomed by .the people and I am sure would do much to engender trust and win support. The Government could state, for instance, that it intends to provide an electricity supply for every home in Australia. That is far from an impossibility. It is being done in other countries, and it must be done here if Australia is not to be left out of the race. The Government could say also that it plans to provide water supply and sewerage for every town,- large or small. These are just a couple of suggestions which come to my mind. It might be a sound scheme for the Government to bring plans of that nature into this House so that they could be discussed openly. Then the Government could say, “ This is what we are working for, and if the proposals in this measure be approved these are the benefits which we intend to bring to the people of Australia “.
Home building, of course, must be one of the biggest items of any plan of postwar reconstruction. Home building alone can set the wheels of industry moving at a fast pace. I do not think that there is any other single industry in this country which can give so much employment in such a diversity of trades as the building of homes. Not only does it employ the unskilled and skilled worker on the actual construction work, but its ramifications are so extensive that practically every industry, both secondary and primary, is affected. The Government could well use some imagination in the preparation of home-building plans. I have discussed this matter with members of housing authorities, and I have been impressed with some of the ideas which they have expressed. I have also read a good deal about home-building developments and ideals in other countries. It seems to me that consideration might well be given to an extensive plan for the modernization, of homes. I have heard it said that all that is required for a home is four walls, a roof, and a bit of ground to dig up, but that is a poor outlook. I am not one of those who believe that what has .been good enough for the father should be good enough for the son. The country cannot be developed in that way. If the Government were to give to the people an idea of the kind of homes it intends to build, this country could look forward to living conditions a little better than those enjoyed by the previous generation. For instance, the Government could say that it believes in the construction of all-electric homes; that every home should be equipped with hot water and refrigeration, and in those areas where it is necessary, air conditioning. The demand for equipment for such homes would be sufficient to set the wheels of industry turning double shift, and would bring the price of laboursaving appliances, which at present are purchasable only by the 15 per cent, of the population in the apex of the income triangle, within the reach of the much larger percentage in the wide base of that triangle. Perhaps the Government could even assist in the purchase of these devices on a time-payment basis. In that way, the people who needed laboursaving devices most, namely, the wives of the ordinary wage-earners, who have big families to look after, would be able to enjoy their benefits. However, modern equipment can be brought within the ‘ reach of these people only if it is installed when the cost of installation is the lowest, namely, when the houses are being built. There is no reason why Australian homes should not be places of happiness instead of places of drudgery, as so many are to-day.
In regard to “national health in cooperation with the States I take it that the Commonwealth would enter into negotiations with the States to equalize State health services, and to provide additional benefits where necessary. Family allowances are, of course, on the same basis as health. Possibly the Commonwealth needs powers to legalize some of the allowances which it is paying now, such as child endowment and widows’ pensions. If it becomes necessary, for the alleviation of distress, to grant family allowances on a -more liberal scale than at present, I shall be in favour of legislation for that purpose, as I always have been.
The last power sought relates to “ the people of the aboriginal race “. As a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I hardly know what to say about that, because Australia’s record in its treatment of the aborigines is worst in the area which is under the control of the Commonwealth. Apparently the Commonwealth has no sympathy with these unfortunate people. Recently I read an article entitled “ Australia’s Black Blot “ in a publication entitled The Practical Patriot. The article commenced by stating -
Australia’s foulest blot is her treatment of the aborigines. Unlike our sister Dominion (New Zealand), we made no attempt to assimilate the blacks. We regarded them, erroneously, as inferior mentally, spiritually and physically.
The article goes on to describe, the lack of sympathy shown in the treatment by the Commonwealth of the aborigines. No doubt that has been due to the fact that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth is excluded specifically from making laws in any of the States, and therefore it has not been possible to secure any uniformity of treatment.
– There was a comprehensive investigation of this subject just before the war.
– According to Dr. Duguid, of South Australia, who is an authority on the subject, the Commonwealth Government has fulfilled its obligations to these people negatively. I suggest that the Government should announce a definite long-term policy and indicate the steps that will be taken to apply it. The people of the aboriginal race should be granted full citizenship rights, such as have been granted to the Maori people of New Zealand.
-wen. - The Lyons Government had decided upon a long-term policy.
– The point is that nothing has been done by previous administrations and, so far, very little has been done by this Administration to give these people their rights.
The powers referred to in this bill are being sought for a five-year period. They are to be exercised, apparently, until a state of economic equilibrium has been achieved. When supplies equal demands, and no further need exists for pricefixing, rationing, and other such economic controls, I take it that the controls will taper off and finally disappear. I shall support the bill because, in the event of negotiations failing, a referendum w.ill have to be taken, as it is imperative that these powers shall be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament if it is to do all that will be necessary for the welfare of the nation in the years immediately ahead of us. I hope that the Government will give effect to my suggestion that it should submit to Parliament as much information as possible about the programme which the Ministry of Postwar Reconstruction intends to apply in this country. If that be done the people will be given an earnest of the Government’s intentions, and I believe that it will have such a good effect upon their minds that there will be a very good chance of them returning an affirmative vote, for they will have some trust and confidence in their Government.
– I have followed very closely the debate on this bill. From the many speeches that have been delivered by honorable members opposite, an uninformed and casual observer might have formed the impres sion that every honorable member on this side of the chamber is opposed to. the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Government to enable it to do the job that will be expected of it after the war. That is very far from the truth. Whether honorable members opposite are unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between opposition to an objective and opposition to a- method of attaining that objective, I do not know; but it is only the question of the method that is causing differences among us. I approach this subject with some diffidence because I am not an authority on constitutional subjects. I believe that one may be a very immature politician and yet a very sophisticated citizen. It is as a citizen that I shall discuss these issues. The citizens of this country will look at these proposals coldly and dispassionately, and not with the emotional enthusiasm which has characterized many speeches delivered from the Government benches; and they will determine for themselves how much is good and how much is bad in this bill and, according to their judgment of the degrees of goodness and badness, they will record an affirmative or a negative vote. It is because of the danger of a negative vote being returned that I apply myself to this aspect of the subject. We all are agreed that the Commonwealth Government must accept a great deal of the responsibility for rehabilitating this nation in peace-time pursuits after the war, and that that responsibility will not, only mean the partial remodelling of our economic structure but will also include the protection of all the principles for which we are fighting and the securing to the individual the liberties which mark the distinction between democracy and totalitarianism. Those liberties include the right of the citizen to think, speak and act with freedom, just as his inclinations direct him, consistent with observance of the laws of the country. I emphasize that point because I ask the House to consider it in association with certain remarks which are alleged to have been made at the Summer School of Political Science which met in Canberra early this year, some of which have been attributed to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is fathering this bill. I should be very reluctant to exploit any statement which did not truly reflect the opinion of the person who made it, because I have said things at times which did not reflect my own opinions, and which, on reflection, I would not repeat, but which have been seized upon by my opponents and used to my disadvantage. The statements made at the Summer School of Political Science in Canberra, to which I shall refer, have doubtless done some damage, but they have not been denied. For the purpose of relating cause and effect, I propose to read certain extracts from a report of the Canberra meetings. One prominent Melbourne gentleman who attended the school is reported to have said -
After all the right of man to choose his own employment was the one that distinguished man from beast.
The Attorney-General is reported to have said in reply -
I do not think that to-day, with the enormous development of industry and industrial organization, corporate control and finance, there is any longer a real right of every person to choose his own vocation in life.
En replying to another interjection against the regimentation of man-power after the war, the right honorable gentleman made some remarks which were dealt with in a press report which read - “ The highlight “ of the school was when, in reply to an objection to tile regimentation proposed by the Government planners, Dr. Evatt stated that “ the taking away in future of the right of the individual to choose his own vocation and employer was only one of the freedoms which the Australian people must forgo in the interests of the State “.
That report refers to “ one of the freedoms “. How many other freedoms to which the same comment could be applied is left for us to guess. I stress that these sentiments were expressed by individuals in a nation of 7,000,000 people scattered over a territory of 3,000,000 square miles - a territory offering scope for expansion greater than is offered by any other country in the world. The freedom of individuals in regard to employment has been defined by many eminent authorities. I direct attention to these observations on the subject by Viscount Simon : -
It will be readily conceded that the result contended for by the respondents in this case would be at complete variance with a fundamental principle of our common law - the principle, namely, that a free citizen, in the exercise of his freedom, is entitled to choose the employer whom he promises to serve, so that the right to his services cannot be transferred from one employer to another without his assent.
On the same occasion Lord Atkin said -
My Lords, I confess it appears to me astonishing that apart from overriding questions of public welfare power should he given to a court or any one else to transfer a man without his knowledge and possibly against his will from the service of one person to the service of another. I had fancied that ingrained in the personal status of a citizen under our laws was the right to choose for himself whom he would serve: and that this right of choice constituted the main difference between a servant and a serf. But if Parliament has so enacted tile result must be accepted . . . It is said that one company does not differ from another; and why should not a benevolent judge of the Chancery Division transfer the services of a workman to another admirable employer just as good and perhaps better. The answer is two-fold. The first is that however excellent the new master may be it is hitherto the servant who has the choosing of him, and not a judge. The second is that it is a complete mistake in my experience to suppose that people, whether they are servants or landlords or authors, do not attach importance to the identity of the particular company with which they deal.
I believe that the Attorney-General was annoyed at the publication of the remarks -which I have quoted, and there is disagreement as to whether or not he made them. I point out, however, that they are pertinent to the interjection which provoked them. If they were not made, it would not have been necessary to raise the question of the regimentation of employement. I am fair enough to admit that when the Government engages in huge national undertakings it cannot bring them into the backyard of every man in order that he may not be inconvenienced in proceeding to his work.
– Is it not suggested at present that a man has to take what he can get?
– It is necessary that the man-should go to the job, not that the job should be taken to the man. There is agreement on that point. What I suggest is, that a man must have the right to say whether or not he shall go to a job. He may die on the road, if he so chooses; he has the prerogative of determining the matter for himself. After all, we are fighting against totalitarian coercion in the provision of employment, and are not likely to acquiesce in the introduction of something similar after the war has been won. The remarks that are alleged to have been made by a very prominent member of the Government have been given wide publicity. The affairs of the people are already fixed. That is one reason why I want the Government to consider its position.
– The Attorney-General has challenged the accuracy of the report.
– He has not challenged its accuracy, and it has been repeatedly quoted.
– He did so in this House recently.
– We are all agreed that the Commonwealth must be granted the power to do that which will be expected of it. The only difference between us is as to the means by which the power should be obtained. I was interested, as a new member, in the remark of the Attorney-General that from time to time various governments had submitted to the Parliament proposals similar to these and that all oppositions, notwithstanding their political colour, had considered it obligatory upon them automatically to oppose the granting of the powers that were sought. I wonder whether I should interpret that to mean that if members of the present Government were in opposition they would be opposed to proposals of this character emanating from their opponents. That ia an inference which may be drawn. However, let us accept the statement that the powers are needed not for a particular government, but for the Commonwealth itself, regardless of the political colour of the party in power. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some other government will -have to implement these powers if they are granted. If I were a member of the Government I should ask myself, whether or not I earnestly desired that these powers should be granted to the Commonwealth. The answer being in the affirmative, I should then ask myself what was the best method of achieving the objective at which the Government was aiming. I should take note of pre vious efforts in this direction, and would be confronted with a cavalcade - if I may use that expression - of defeats; consequently, I should not derive a great deal of encouragement from a perusal of that record, and I should consider that a short-cut to the defeat of the proposals would be to try to have them endorsed by the people at a referendum. Naturally, then, I should turn to the States, and endeavour to secure their co-operation. I should learn that they are just as anxious as the Commonwealth could be to have Australia established suitably, prosperously and peacefully; because, after all, collectively they are the Commonwealth. Comment in certain quarters would lead one to believe that the Commonwealth is a separate entity and that the States are foreign bodies, whereas the truth is that both consist of the same constituents. I direct attention to the analogy of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) : “ We are here with eleven chickens in the coop. In our manoeuvring to get another three into the coop, the eleven which we have already bagged escape, and our last condition is very must worse than our first.” With the co-operation of the States, we should not only obtain the powers that we desire, but also allay any suspicion which may linger in the minds of the people. I take it that if these powers are granted the Commonwealth will provide the finance and State instrumentalities will be responsible for the administration. I should regard that as the correct procedure. Tasmania has lifted up its mighty voice, and has said that the Commonwealth cannot have these powers. I have the greatest respect for its opinion, and agree that it has a perfect right to determine its own destiny. As Voltaire said on a famous occasion, “I do not believe a word that you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”. It is not to speak derogatively of Tasmania to say that in population it is no greater than one suburb of Melbourne or Sydney. That it should be able to say to the Commonwealth, “You have to incur an expense of a couple of hundred thousand pounds, and the risk of not getting what you want, because it does not suit, not the people of Tasmania, but the two or three persons who represent the majority in the upper house of the legislature”, is not right. If the Commonwealth decided to exercise the powers that have been referred to it by other States, to the exclusion of Tasmania, that State would, within one month, be in the scheme with both hands and its hat held out. I am doubtful as to whether or not the Government has seriously considered the possibility of its proposals being rejected by the people. I know that the possibility is a live one. I have in mind a picture of .a military unit going into action so cocksure of victory that it makes no provision for defeat, amd when defeated is absolutely helpless. If these proposals were rejected the Government would be fairly helpless. If a negative vote were cast, the greatest contributing factor would be fear, not of the use of the powers, but of their abuse. I do not say that the Government would abuse the powers asked for, but it is necessary to allay the fears of the people, who, because of the varying views placed before them and the confusion arising therefrom, will find it difficult to determine whether the powers should be granted. In order to be on the safe side, they would reply, as they have always done when appealed to by means of referenda, “ No “.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), in an eloquent speech, drew a harrowing picture of legions of unemployed marching without bands or bunting, such as happened on the return of our troops from the last war. That happened twelve years prior to the period of which he spoke, and consequently had no relation to it; but the honorable member’s intelligence compelled him to say that he did not believe that one honorable member on the Opposition side desired to see a return to those conditions. A cheerful soul behind him interjected that the Opposition did want that, and would not care if it happened to-morrow. Absurdities of that kind are to be deplored, and are not likely to produce the unanimity of thought and action which is essential with regard to important matters of this kind. Every Australian was to a greater or less degree burned in the fires of the depression. That catastrophe was not caused by any political party, and from it we all learned sufficient to ensure that we would use any and every power to prevent it from occurring again. The speech of the honorable member for Adelaide drew a wrong picture of the outlook of servicemen on their return from the war. Because of their training, and because they have had to match their wits against those of a clever enemy over a number of years and defeat him, they will have developed a self-reliance which will find expression in a demand for the right to determine their own destiny. Ali that they “will ask of the Government is that they be given a start and a guarantee that their services or goods will find a ready market, and that they will be allowed to proceed about their business unhampered by restrictions or red tape entanglements. The servicemen will want nothing more than that. To inculcate in the minds of Australians the belief that from the cradle to the grave they will find Santa Claus around every corner is to do the greatest possible disservice to them, because the spirit of independence is inherent in our race.
Australia offers prospects of industrial expansion greater than those of any other country. I repeat that we have a population of only 7,000,000, although we have an area of 3,000,000 square miles. When we speak of social security legislation, which I approve wherever necessary, I feel constrained to ask what is wrong with Australians that they have not made better use than they have of their magnificent inheritance. There is ample room for expansion in this country. The province which I represent was, in its original condition, possibly the most difficult part of Australia to develop, but to-day it stands as a monument to the initiative and resource of the fathers and grandfathers of the present generation. I do not agree that the independence of spirit that characterized the fathers and grandfathers is lacking in the sons and grandsons of to-day. I hope that the Government will devote its energies, and any additional powers which may be granted to this Parliament, to giving scientific direction to the people, assuring them that their services and goods will be required, that a market will be found for them, and that they will be granted the liberty which all free people desire to exercise at all times. If the Government uses its powers in that; way, instead of imposing on the community any kind of regimentation, the people will be proud of its work. I believe that posterity will bless or curse 113 according to the manner in which we acquit ourselves of the tremendous responsibility which the post-war period will impose upon us.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made out a very strong case for the Government’s proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. Indeed, so good a case was it that it might well have been printed and distributed by the Government during the coming referendum campaign. Alternatively, it might have been published under the title, “The Case -for Labour”. When the arguments of the right honorable gentleman were strongly supported by those of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) it might be wondered why speakers from this side of the House should need to heap coals on the fire. We must remember, however, that those honorable members, and others of their party, represent only a section of the community - an important section, admittedly, but not the most important, if numbers are to count for anything in the referendum. I am impelled to speak on this bill because I believe that Labour voters, who constitute the largest section in the community, want to know what their representatives in Parliament - and out of Parliament, too, for that matter - advise them to do in deciding an issue that will probably be confused by the press and other interested parties. For that reason, I thought it desirable to address the House, and, through the House, the people who sent me here.
There is also this point to be considered : The political organizations tend sometimes to decry evidence submitted by their political opponents, and despite the fact that the right honorable member for North Sydney has knelt at the drum and given his testimony, his declaration of faith may be somewhat suspect by those who do not ordi narily look to him for advice. For that reason, also, it is desirable that accepted Labour representatives should go out and tell the Labour electors, without whose support the referendum cannot be carried, that they should vote for the Government’s proposals. Unless the referendum be carried, Australia will face a very difficult future. The path before us will be difficult enough without the Government being embarrassed by the lack of necessary powers. Labour policy is more than an economic thesis - it is a political philosophy. Just as a philosophy was necessary to inspire the people to make sacrifices when this country was threatened with invasion, so it will be necessary for them to be inspired by a political philosophy so that they may accept the sacrifices incidental to the introduction of an ordered social and economic system after the war.
Some honorable members opposite have argued that the Commonwealth already possesses power to enable it to unwind the springs that have been tightened for the purpose of the war effort, and thus return to peace-time conditions. I believe, however, that if our purpose is merely to get back to the conditions which prevailed before the war, then the sacrifices made by all sections of the community, and particularly by those who lay down their lives for Australia, will have been in vain. The present Government, which I hope will be in office when the war ends, intends that conditions after the war shall be very different from those which prevailed before the war. Certain of the Government’s proposals for the alteration of the Constitution might be, and, indeed, have been, described as political abstractions. The proposal for the socialization of industry has been so described. That may be so. After all, any social or political ideology is essentially more abstract than real. Apart from that, however, certain of the Government’s proposals may be described as the practical or implementing provisions, and it is on those that I propose to concentrate. This applies particularly to proposals ix, x and xi, which deal with air transport, railway gauges, and national works. I have great respect for the various committees which are interesting themselves in plans for the introduction of better social conditions after the war. Housing and health services are very desirable, but as practical persons we must remember that the people cannot live after the war by taking in one another’s washing. Unless the necessary organization exists for producing the basic things that make life possible - food, clothing and shelter - social services of any kind cannot be provided. Australia is a big country. It is as large as Europe, with the exception of Russia, and about as large as the United States of America, but it has a population of only 7,000,000 people. Actually, Australia is organized on the basis of five city States, and this political, economic and geographical organization cannot ensure that degree of self-sufficiency that would enable us to defend the country during the next two generations as we have defended it during the last few years. If we are to rely on ourselves we must re-organize our internal economy, and we must do it as one people under one central control. The people, instead of being motivated by ideas of personal gain, must be inspired by the philosophy of labour. The country must be controlled by a government which accepts that philosophy, and directed by persons in whom the people have confidence. The men who are laying the foundations of a new economic and social order can be trusted to raise the walls and fix the roof of Australia’s new social structure - one that will resist the stresses and strains to which it will be subjected in the coming generations. Our social and economic systems must be radically altered if we are to give effect to our ideals, if we are to be selfcontained and self-sufficient -in peace and war, and to maintain the standard of living which we have enjoyed in the past. This cannot be achieved if Australia is to be split up into half a dozen sovereign States which have shown themselves incapable of evolving any other system than that of city States. Only by the establishment of a central authority can this condition be remedied, and the Government’s proposals ix, x, and xi would give the Commonwealth power to carry out plans to that end. I refer particularly to the standardization of the railway gauges, which when accomplished, will go a long way towards solving the problems associated with the centralization of industry. I am not greatly concerned with having a continuous railway line of standard gauge for passenger traffic between the capital cities of Australia. That is important, I admit, but, after all, it is only relatively important. In my opinion, what is much more important is to bring the railway systems of Australia to such a degree of efficiency as will allow goods to be transported cheaply from the places where they are produced to the ports from which they are exported. Unless our railway systems function efficiently, we shall not be able to produce commodities which will find a sale in the world’s markets in competition with other commodities produced under more economic conditions. The solution of this problem lies in the electrification of our railway systems. It may be said that this would be a big undertaking, and that in view of our scattered population it would be uneconomic; but, in support of my contention, I point to the experience of Great Britain. The authorities there realized the futility of trying to legislate to meet the competition which the railways had to face from road transport, and water transport by both sea and canal. They realized that legislation aimed at protecting vested interests might easily result in retarding progress, and so they tackled the problem scientifically by setting out to electrify the railway systems. The first act was to rationalize the electric generation and distribution systems. The electrification of the railways was an integral part of that scheme. Two alternatives faced the authorities, whose job it was to rationalize the generation of electric power either to limit the generating potential or create a market for it. The authorities set up by act of Parliament, among them the McGowan Committee, suggested that, instead of reducing the output of electric power, the fullest use of the generating nl ants already in existence should be encouraged. “They went on to say that one of the principal means by which the electric power capable of being generated could be consumed would be by the electrification of the railway systems, which, they said, would absorb about 50 per cent. of the power generatedin the country. The implementation of that scheme not only provided a market for the generating potential of those plants and increased the load factor, hut it also speeded up the railway system to such a degree that road transport found its natural level as a feeder to the railways, instead of having to be legislated out of existence in order to protect an already existing uneconomic railway system. Similar methods could be employed in Australia with profit. In order to show some of the advantages of electric traction I shall quote some extracts from Political Economic Planning, generally known as “ Pep” which is a standard work, sponsored by various scientific and philanthropic organizations in Great Britain and subsidized by the British Government -
A committee known as the Electric Power Supply Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Archibald Williamson (Lord Forres). The terms of reference were: “ To consider and report what steps should be taken, whether by legislature or otherwise, to ensure that there shall be an adequate and economic supply of electric power for all classes of consumers in the United Kingdom, particularly industries which depend upon a cheap supply of power for their development.” The key of the recommendation was the concentration of electricity output for public supply systems in a limited number of generatory stations and to interconnect the generator plants by high-tension transmission line.
In Australia 90 per cent. of the generating plants are owned by public concerns and supply power to public concerns. We have gone a long way towards rationalizing our electric power systems. The committee to which reference has been made recommended that a network of electric power lines should be spread over England. That work took six years to complete and cost Great Britain £27,000,000. The report of the committee stated -
Its effect on employment was to produce 240 million man-hours of work, in coalmining, iron and steel industry, cable-making, electrical engineering, cement and pottery industries, building and contracting. Upwards of 150,000 tons of steel were required, 12,000 tons of Scottish aluminium produced by hydro-electrical power were used on overhead lines. The completion of the grid caused acceleration of demand for electric power, which in turn created a demand for new generating plant to the value of £28,000,000, which was more than the cost of the grid.
This is an indication of the tremendous industrial activities due to application of electric power to raw materials.
The electrification of farms played a big part in this development. In five years the figure rose from 4,000 to 25,000 electrified farms. In the immediate pre-war years every modern nation was looking to its electricity resources and developing them to the utmost. Here are some figures for comparison, taking 1929 as base year and regard 100 as output for that year. Here arc the indices for 1938: - Great Britain, 170.7; Russia, 359; Denmark, 170.7 ; Japan, 155.5 ; Czechoslovakia, 143.0; Spain, 141.0; Holland, 130.9; Canada, 130. Employment in 1030, 400,000 persons in United Kingdom. Average consumption of coal 1.54 lb. per unit generated. Cost per unit generated excluding capital costs varies from 2d. per unit to 1.5d. per unit.
It was decided to provide some means of consuming the constant base load of the generators, and the railways offered the best means for the absorption of that power. As a consequence, the committee investigated the electric traction systems operating in various parts of the world. Here are some of the facts which the investigation disclosed -
Stockholm to Gothenburg: Electrification reduced the time of journeyfrom 8 hours 40 minutes to 0 hours 4 minutes.
Naples toFoggia: Time reduced from 5 hours to31/2 hours.
Delaware to Lakawana: Time reduced by 37 per cent.
Chicago to Milwaukee, instead of 2.37 minutes to take 1,000 tons 1 mile by steam traction, the time required by electric traction was.964 minutes-
Paris to Orleans: 30 per cent. increase in speed.
Germany: 39 per cent. increase in speed of express trains, 47 per cent. increase in fast trains, and 42 per cent. increase in speed of freight trains.
Sweden : 66,000 miles of railway operated by electric traction and only 28.000 miles by steam traction.
The investigation also disclosed that whereas the immediate effect of electrification is a decrease of staff, the increased business resulting from electrification soon rectifies the position. It also showed that ‘ in converting a railway system from steam traction to electric traction the whole cost of electrification ultimately goes into wages. Australia could follow the example of Great Britain with advantage, especially as we have already gone a long way towards implementing a similar scheme in this country. Some time ago it was decided that munitions factories which were manufacturing vital weapons of war should be located an inland districts where they would not be so liable to attack. Factories were built in inland districts, but it was found that the cost of production in such factories was greater than in metropolitan factories. Consideration was then given to the utilization of those factories in the post-war period. Certain economic factors had to be taken into consideration. We had to face the fact that Australia contains a number of city States; that is to say, the great bulk of the population of the mainland States is concentrated in the capital cities, which constitute the principal market for the products of our factories. Obviously, a factory which ii built near to the market in which its product is consumed is in a .better position to dispose of its goods than is a factory to which the raw materials have to be conveyed some hundreds of miles, and after manufacture under ‘ uneconomic conditions, must be returned the same distance to the market where they will be disposed of. N”o financial institution would give backing to such an organization.
At the present time, many munitions establishments are located outside the grid system of electricity generation, and power costs 4£d. a unit in those places. The cost of transporting raw materials to the metropolitan area from the seat of production is considerable, ranging from 15s. to £1 a ton. The raw material contains a good deal of dross which has to be discarded when it arrives at the point of manufacture; and the manufactured article has to be taken back to its logical market, the metropolitan area, where it will be consumed. This position can be remedied only by the creation of big areas of population away from the metropolitan area. But big areas of population cannot be established unless big industries are located there to provide employment for people. There cannot be big industries to employ people if power cannot be supplied to them at rates comparable with the rates ruling in the metropolis. That is the position.
I am not concerned so much with having a uniform railway system between the capital cities so that passenger traffic Ban: flow freely between them, because that will not help to decentralize our popula tion. Fast transport cannot be legislated out of existence in the post-war period, if Australia is to be an economic unit with the rest of the nations. In other words, the Government cannot and dare not restrict air transport or fast road transport in Australia. That is obvious. But if the powers sought under this bill be granted, the Commonwealth Government can co-ordinate and finance the work of the States. 2To other authority can electrify the railway systems throughout the Commonwealth so that they will take the base load for big generating stations located inland and consuming our coal. In the post-war period Australian coal will have great difficulty in finding markets to provide employment for the present number of people engaged in the industry, and to satisfy the business interests concerned in the production of coal and, automatically, of their own profits. Therefore, some medium will have to be found. That offers a profitable avenue for the consumption of coal, andwill also provide cheap power, if the railways will take the base load for manufacturers, who might be making electrical equipment for the railways and for the electrification of farms. During the last twenty years, and particularly during the last three years, people have drifted from the rural industries because they were disgusted with their economic condition. The metropolitan area offered them a heaven on earth for themselves and their families, an opportunity to educate their children, an escape from the slavery that prevailed in the rural areas. The electrification of farms as a post-war project is not confined to Australia. As this country has to rely upon its primary produce to meet its commitments overseas, we shall have to do the same things as our competitors abroad do to secure more economical production for the markets of the world. I refer to an article in the Scientific American about farm mechanization. It reads -
Mechanization - real and thorough: mechanization - of the farm is one of the bright spots for heavy industry in the future. Already proved are new designs for highly efficient, self-propelled combines, cotton-pickers, sugarbeet harvesters, and a host of other machines. One machinery -manufacturer, -going whole hog, has i set for himself the goal of producing a complete set of mechanized tools for the small farm, the whole to sell for not more than
We in Australia, who in the last twelve months have seen the modern machinery that the United States of America uses for agricultural production, can realize what our prospects will he of competing with such people in the markets of the world unless we emulate them and mechanize our farms in order to produce a commodity as cheap as their own. Remember, also, that farm life in the United States of America is much more attractive than it is in Australia, if for no other reason than that the housewife and children are offered the same living conditions as are enjoyed by city dwellers and infinitely better than those which prevail on Australian farms. Again, I emphasize that only the Commonwealth Government can make possible the decentralization of industry. One medium that offers itself as an effective means of achieving this objective is the electrification of the railway system not only in New South Wales, but also in the less densely populated States like Western Australia. The running of an economic power line alongside a railway system or a railway line for hundreds of miles into the bush might involve a large sum of money. That argument was used when the Commonwealth’ and State Governments in the early stages of the development of this country expended large sums of money in laying railway lines through great areas that did not provide any marketable commodities. Ultimately, such lines helped to develop this country and they have proved business and national assets. We must now go a step farther, and bring the finished products of the farm to the big areas of consumption. We must make it possible for countrykilled meat to compete with metropolitankilled meat. Australia is urgently in need of meat at the present time, although the country has more sheep than ever before, but a big meat- works only 250 miles from the metropolitan area is reducing its staff and consequently its output almost to vanishing point, because it cannot compete with metropolitan-killed meat. All authorities admit that country-killed meat, as a marketable commodity, is much better in appearance and for consumption than meat that is brought on the hoof over hundreds of miles, during which it is knocked about, before it is killed and distributed in the metropolitan area. Because of the high cost of refrigeration this big meat-works, which is situated in one of the best fat lamb-raising areas of Australia, must severely curtail its output. The journey under steam traction occupies ten hours. Under electrical traction it would be reduced to five or six hours. The output from country meat-works could be brought to the metropolitan area overnight and distributed to the retail butchers more cheaply than the city abattoirs could provide supplies.
I desired to deal with the handling of many by-products of our raw materials located in country districts as an additional means of helping the decentralization of industry and as making possible the taking of power lines, which are regarded at present as being uneconomic, into the vast stretches of the interior. I wanted to submit evidence from many parts of the world on ‘the need for the conservation of our coal resources. Authorities have pointed out that the Greta seam lends itself to liquefication projects, and the coal is suitable for the recovery of petrol. The treatment of these materials would help, in the decentralization of industry. American authorities have estimated that the United States of America has in sight supplies of oil to meet requirements for from 50 to 100 years, and they are wondering what will happen when those supplies are exhausted. The consumption of oil in future will be on a much greater scale than it has been in the past, because the war has developed air transport beyond what even the most fertile imagination ten years ago could conceive. Consequently, reserves of oil will be quickly consumed if the rate of consumption in future increases. The United States of America is looking to its coal reserves as the principal source for the supply of oil in the future. Australia, in turn, must also look to its coal reserves for a similar purpose. The Commonwealth Government is expanding the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia, and will rely upon a strong air force as one of the principal means for defending this country. But there is no external occurrence of oil in Australia, and aircraft constructed in Australia and manned by Australians, without oil also produced in Australia, will be as useless as a rifle without ammunition. When we find it so essential to manufacture aircraft in this country, even though it may not be economic to do so, is it not equally important to develop the industry that will secure for us supplies of oil to enable those aircraft to fly? [Quorum formed.]
.- The bill now before the House seeks to amendthe Constitution very substantially. As the debate has already proceeded at such length I do not propose at this stage to attempt to analyse the existing powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, or to examine those which it is now proposed should be embodied in the Constitution. I subscribe entirely to the very admirable analysis which was made by my leader in this respect. He showed that at present the Commonwealth possesses wide and flexible powers, and he agrees, as we all agree, that some revision of the Constitution has become necessary. It would be remarkable if, after a lapse of more than 40 years, with all the great changes which have taken place in our economic and social organization in that period the necessity for some changes had not arisen. The royal commission which analysed the Constitution in 1929 made very important and specific recommendations as to how the Constitution might be amended. I share the views of those who claim that this country will not have developed to the status of full nationhood until the Commonwealth Parliament has sovereign powers over such subject-matters. But, although I believe these things, I strongly oppose the proposals of the Government now before us. Some honorable members have said that we should be prepared to dissociate in our minds the powers proposed to be granted from the exercise of such powers by one political group or another. That view would be very fine, if it could be carried into effect; but, personally, I find it impossible to dissociate in my mind the powers which it is now proposed should be referred to the Commonwealth Parlia ment from my conception of the uses to which they would be put. The Government seeks these powers for a period of five years after the termination of hostilities. They are wide powers, comparable with those which the Commonwealth now enjoys under its defence power. However, we know that this Government will have virtual control of the Senate for six years from the 1st July next. The party now in office, through its control of the Senate, will have control of the policies of governments during the period for which these powers will be extended. I remind the House that a scalpel may be a very useful instrument in the hands of a surgeon. In such hands it can be used to save life and restore health; but in the hands of a homicidal maniac it can be a weapon of death. Therefore, we should not regard these powers entirely apart from uses to which they may be put.
– The honorable gentleman should never take the risk of using a scalpel.
– I have used two extreme illustrations to emphasize my point; but I do not suggest that honorable members on this side should be regarded as the skilled surgeons, or that honorable members opposite, despite some evidence, should be regarded as the homicidal maniacs. I believe that honorable members opposite are sincerely trying to use the powers now possessed by the Government in the best interests of the country ; but that does not prevent me from saying that those powers have been gravely misused and abused during the past few years. That springs partly from the fact that honorable members oppossite have for so long been unaccustomed to power; and power is a heady liquor. They have for so long been deprived of power as a government that it is not surprising that they have become slightly drunk on it. But, instead of asking the Opposition to help them, through the discomfort of their “hangover” they bring along this measure and say to us, in effect, “ Stand us another round of drinks “. I suggest that it will be time enough to stand this Government another round of drinks when it has shown that it can imbibe temperately and retain a steady head. My hostility to this measure springs from the knowledge that this Government has used the powers it already possesses to imprison men for months without trial. I need hardly remind the House of the story of the Australia First movement, or of the fact that self-confessed saboteurs, who were interned after a full and proper trial, have been released. Need I recall to the minds of honorable members the names of Ratliffe ,and Thomas? We have also seen .the Government use its present powers to pander to one union which was more sympathetic to it politically in order to obliterate another union. I remind the House of the antagonism of the Waterside Workers Federation to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. This Government enacted a regulation which had the effect of obliterating the latter union. That union was a legally constituted and lawabiding body which came to the help of this country in its hour of need during the last war. Yet the Government permitted a feud to develop between those two unions to such a stage as to afford it an excuse to blot out the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The Government has also used its present powers to compel decent, law-abiding Australians to pay tribute by membership and financial subscriptions to bodies to which they had no desire to belong. I remind honorable members of the strike which occurred at Duly and Hansford’s works when Australian women, who decided to add something to the war effort, accepted employment at those works, and were told, first through the threat and later the medium of ‘ a strike, that they would be victimized if they were not prepared to join the Ironworkers Union. I also remind the House of the use made by the Government of its existing powers and of the taxpayers’ money to differentiate between members of the Commonwealth Public Service doing identically the same class of work. It gave to members of the Public Service, who belonged to a union, higher wages, amounting in the aggregate in some cases to as much as £24 a year, than those payable to members of the service who were doing precisely the same work but were not disposed to join any union. One cannot imagine a worse mis-
Mr. Holt. v use of the Government’s power than that. It has also used its present powers to stifle news and comment politically embarrassing to it. I quote an extract from a newspaper, which, in recent months, has been remarkably sympathetic to the present Administration, and refers in the most eulogistic terms to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I refer, of course, to the Sydney Morning Herald. In a leading article in that newspaper a few days ago on the subject of censorship this passage occurs - and I am astonished that if it were not justified the Government did not take immediate action to discipline its proprietors, although I suggest that the reason no action of that kind was taken was because the Government knew that the newspaper precisely stated the facts. A paragraph of that article reads -
Censorship of news has degenerated from an instrument of security into a system of suppression and distortion. It hardly troubles nowadays to mask its political character. It is concerned not only with the withholding of information likely to be of use to the enemy, which is its proper function, but with what it chooses to regard as matters of public morale, and with the excision of material thought to be inconvenient to the Government.
I have taken that extract from a leading article published in one of the most responsible and traditionally reliable journals in the Commonwealth. What has the Government done about that matter? Far from saying that such a statement was unwarranted, it has set up a committee of this House to inquire into censorship; and in this bill by way of amendment it has proposed to the House a power to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression. These things would not have been done unless the Government was aware that the gravest possible disquiet exists in the public mind concerning what has been disclosed in relation to press censorship, and other branches of censorship. Let me instance how this power has been abused by the communications censorship branch. One of my colleagues in the Senate referred to certain facts which I have also had supplied to me by the same company. He referred- to the incident in which a firm seeking confidential information from an American firm was given particulars confidentially of an industrial chemical formula. In due course those particulars came to hand, but the communication was also covered by an official minute containing comment by officers in a number of government departments to which the information had been given. The firm was not supposed to see the minute, but, apparently; the officer in the last department to which it bad been sent had very clumsily omitted to remove it. In that way the company was able to learn that information which had been sent confidentially to it had not been merely censored on security grounds, but had also been scattered around half a dozen departments. I am informed that the Departments of Munitions, Supply and Shipping, Import Procurement, Post-war Reconstruction, the Commonwealth Bank and the Prices Commissioner regularly receive information of this kind. We have seen sections of the community given licence to flout the law and defy the direction of Ministers from the Prime Minister downwards. We have only to review the recent history of the Government’s dealings with the coal-miners to obtain ample evidence of that fact. This Government, clothed with the fullest possible authority in time of war, is taking its instructions on high matters of policy from its Trades Hall masters who owe no responsibility whatever to the Australian electorate. This Government has also used publicity agencies under its control for party propaganda purposes. In spite of these and other instances of the Government’s misuse of power, we are now asked to give, for a period of five years after the termination of hostilities, the wide powers set out in the bill to a government which has used so capriciously the powers it already possesses. Why are we asked to do that? What are the blandishments which would induce us to meet the wishes of the Government in this matter? The first inducement put out to us is that these powers are vitally necessary in order to enable the Government to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women now in the fighting services. This was the power which my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) described as the Trojan horse in the Government’s proposals - the ruse, the subterfuge whereby the Government was to induce the electors to confer on it the other powers sought. Let me examine them for a moment. I can assure the House that there is by no means unanimity on the part of the servicemen themselves that these powers are desirable. Only last week I received the following letter from a representative group : -
On behalf of the returned men convalescing at “ Stonnington “, I would like to ask you to do what you can to prevent the Powers Bill from going through, as we consider the Commonwealth Parliament already has too much power, and also the pay-as-you-earn taxation method is wrong as it is definitely an extra, taxation on the people. As a returned man myself, I am dissatisfied at the way some of the boys returning from the present war are being treated, many of them are in bad health and the Government are evading responsibility by giving them neither treatment or pension, and a number of them are in ordinary instead of military hospitals … If these men are accepted for military service in first class health they should be the responsibility of the country until their health is restored.
That is a sentiment and viewpoint with which I think we ali agree, yet there is no lack of power on the part of the Government at present in relation to repatriation. There is. nothing to stop it from ensuring that men discharged on medical grounds as unfit are restored to the fullest possible state of health before being put back into the civil community, yet less than 25 per cent, of those being discharged from the services to-day on medical grounds are entitled to medical treatment from the Government. Ministers mouth the words “ Reconstruction “ and “Repatriation”, but what are they doing to ensure that the men who are already being discharged from the Army are given just and proper treatment to re-equip them for their jobs in life? We have already seen complaints from organizations of discharged soldiers that men who are being placed in employment are being put into dead-end jobs again. Last week the honorable member for Balaclava .(Mr. White) asked what number of war service homes were built last year for discharged members of the forces. We know the difficulties that these men have to face. Some married just before the war, and others have since married. Their wives are trying to bring up families in most difficult conditions, without proper homes, struggling along in single rooms, or living with their families. One would expect that right at the top of the priority list of things to be carried out, even in time of war, would be the provision of suitable homes for men discharged from the services as no longer fit, yet the programme carried out by the Government last year to meet the needs of men discharged during the war amounted to two homes for the whole Commonwealth.
– Yet we won the general elections!
– The Minister’s comment does not do much to strengthen one’s faith in democracy, or justify the belief that these powers, if conferred by the people on the Government, are bound to be subject to the rigid check and supervision of a watchful electorate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a strong point of that when supporting the case for the increased powers. He said that there was no instrument more responsive or sensitive to the will of the people than a Parliament. I question the accuracy of that statement. When I find, as I do to-day, a Parliament comprising an overwhelming majority of members of one party, a government in office with nearly three years to run, and without any apparent prospect of a serious challenge to its position, I cannot believe that it is sensitively responsive to public opinion upon matters of policy. I have seen no evidence of it yet. If this Parliament were to function as a Parliament, with its individual members taking their responsibility on matters of policy, we might have some faith in its sensitiveness to public opinion, but when one sees from this side of the chamber, day after day, the dumb, docile response of caucus members to the policy put before them by their own Government, one despairs of democracy functioning properly, in this place at any rate, while such conditions continue. So one can feel no confidence at all in the control which the democracy outside this Parliament has over honorable members inside, until it can teach them that they are expected to be thoughtful and responsible men and women father than automata mechanically responsive to the dictation of the caucus. As regards the repatriation aspect of the proposals, I wish merely to add that, as has been pointed out by many honorable members on this side, no government has, since the conclusion of the last war, been denied, through lack of power, the opportunity of doing what it thought necessary in the interests of returned men, including the carrying out of measures regarded as desirable for their repatriation. So, we repeat, this is merely the sugar placed around the bitter pill to make it more palatable to the Australian electors.
The second inducement put forward is that these powers have become essential to carry out the reconstruction programme of the Government, and to plan the new Australia to which we all aspire. That is the rosy prospect put before us. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), looking to the time when he will be given the supreme duty of shaping the new Australia within the austere mould that is his ideal for our way of life, claims that the powers are essential if he is to carry out a reconstruction programme. It is odd to look back on the arguments advanced for the grant of almost similar powers at other periods of our constitutional history. We were told then that the powers were necessary for a variety of other purposes. We could always find reasons for seeking the extension of our authority. But what inducement are we offered in this programme of reconstruction? What sort of world is it to be for the hundreds of thousands of young Australians who will be called upon to build the new Commonwealth? After all, however governments may plan, it is upon the young and virile population, and its productivity, that the prosperity and general well-being of a country must be developed. We are told that a convention of responsible members of Parliament, chosen from all parts of the Commonwealth, met and agreed upon the powers necessary for reconstruction. This team of youngsters met at Canberra to plan the new Australia for the younger generation. I believe that my respected colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), was the stripling of the party, who nevertheless were prepared to lay down the powers required for a programme to shape the lives and destinies of hundreds of thousands of Australians who, by the Government’s proposal to hold a referendum in war-time, will be deprived of the opportunity of giving serious consideration or proper thought to the scheme. Is this the kind of world that the new Australia will want? “We are offered by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and his colleagues a very. carefully contrived plan. We are not offered it too blatantly at the moment, because we have to be educated slowly to understand these things, but that is what we have been offered, as I can assure honorable members from my own personal experience. In the last week of January a most interesting conference was held in Canberra at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science. It was addressed by a number of very senior, able and respected government officers, including the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, the DirectorGeneral of Reconstruction. Dr. Coombs, Dr. Lloyd Eoss, a senior member of his organization, and, la3t but not least, by the Attorney-General himself.
– What about the Leader of the Opposition?
– I also heard what the Leader of the Opposition had to say. If honorable members will study the paper read by the right honorable gentleman at that conference, they will find in it the most masterly statement of Australian foreign policy ever given to any gathering in this country. It will repay the serious study of any honorable member.
– Very masterly - a prosperous Japan ~ and a prosperous Germany !
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has given more than one example of his capacity for taking a statement from its context and giving it a twist which the context itself would not have permitted. He would be considerably better informed than he is at present in relation’ to Australian foreign policy if he took the trouble to read the right honorable member’s speech. We had at that conference the very interesting experience of having placed before us, in effect, the shape of things to come - tho new order in Australia, as visualized by three of the most senior officers on the planning side of the Government’s administration. It is not my purpose to attack those gentlemen. I have the greatest respect for their capacity. I listened with great interest to the three very interesting addresses which they delivered, and have no doubt that, from the point of view which they wished to advance, their case was presented very effectively. But, with some experience of the Parliament and people, and the industries and professions of this country, I am sure that the way of life there proposed would be anathema to 90 per cent, of our people. The Australian people do not want a regimented Australia, a drab grey world in which every human being is pushed around like an unimportant part of a giant machine. That is what would come from the proposals of those gentlemen. They have a plan which is to be in force at least during the period in which the proposed powers are to operate and which in their opinion is a complete solution of the future problems of the Australian people. I remind the House that this is not the first time that a plan has been presented in this or other countries as the complete answer to the problems of the day. The same .planners who are telling us now that one course offers the complete solution of all the problems of the post-war era, offered us a very different solution in the post-depression period. It is no wonder that we become a little sceptical about the efficiency of plans proposed by these experts. President Roosevelt, of the United States of America, a great executive with a flair for politics and a great following, tried, during his early years in office, to put into effect a plan which was to ‘be the complete answer to the demand for economic and social security and advanced standards, of living. This was known as the New Deal, but after eight years of it, despite all the planning and government expenditure and controls, there were still between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America. . It all comes back to the point which I made a few moments ago, that the well-being of a community is essentially and directly based upon the productivity of its people. Is .a plan of the char acter proposed by the
Government’s economists the solution, or is ‘a greater development of opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young Australians who will be given the fullest inducement and incentive to exploit their own energy and enterprise a better solution of this country’s problems in the post-war years? I have no doubt in my mind as to where the answer lies, and that influences me tremendously in my approach to the problem of giving to this Government extensive power to put into effect a plan which I consider would be disastrous to this country. “We are told that we have to-day a problem of man-power; I contend that it is not so much a problem of man-power as of man-effort, which is quite a different thing. I have told the House before, and I challenge successful contradiction of the statement by any honorable member opposite who is associated with industry, that the output per man to-day is at least one-third less than it was, under similar conditions, in the year immediately prior to the war. Therefore, if we have a man-power shortage to-day it is caused to the degree of one-third at least by the fact tha* we are not getting the man-effort that we got prior to the war.
– How does the honorable member reconcile that statement with the fact that the national income has increased by 33-J per cent. ?
– I can give several reasons for that. First, unquestionably more people have been brought into production. For instance, -the ranks of oldage pensioners have been drawn upon as is disclosed in the general decline of the number of old-age pensions paid. Secondly, there has been a substantial increase of the number of women engaged in industry; and, thirdly, technical developments have made remarkable strides both in primary and secondary industries. A much less satisfactory explanation, of course, is that the currency of this country has depreciated by at least 25 per cent, since the outbreak of war. To keep pace with that loss, the national income in terms of t3ie £1, has had to be advanced considerably. I do not make that statement in regard to loss of production merely for the sake of political argument; I regret very much that the loss has occurred, and I wish that the Government could provide a remedy for it. We on this side of the chamber have endeavoured to suggest some remedies, but, up to the present, those suggestions have been ignored. In my opinion, until the Government restores, as it most certainly will have to restore in the years immediately following the war if reconstruction is to count for anything, the incentive to work and the opportunity for individual enterprise the loss of production due to a declining man-effort will not be overcome.
In the course of this debate reference has been made to the bogy of the great depression of 1931 and 1932.
– It is no mere bogy to the unfortunate people who suffered during those years.
– I suppose that every one in this chamber experienced the hardships of that period to some degree at least. However, that depression which was a very real factor, and which created great and natural bitterness in the minds of many Australians, is now being used in the crudest form of demagogy to persuade those people that the only way to avoid another depression, is to giVe to the Commonwealth the additional powers which it now seeks. That argument ignores a number of important factors. Some of them are nonrecurring factors which were present at the time of the depression, such as the sudden cessation of overseas borrowing, and the failure to use the now-familiar techniques to control the credit resources of this country. It is misleading the people of this country in the most cruel way possible to tell them that the powers that are now conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution are insufficient to enable it to avoid a depression of the kind which we experienced in 1931 and 1932.
I ask the House to examine the new Australia that ‘ we wish to see after the war. .In the international field I suggest that, instead of concentrating on the language of the Atlantic Charter which has been made fashionable by the Attorney-General, honorable members would perhaps find in the Teheran declaration a truer ex pression of what we are looking to in the international field. That conference was attended not Only by the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America, but also - and most significantly - by the Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There we had the representatives of three great powers subscribing to a common declaration, the keynote of which was co-operation in democracy, the elimination of tyranny, slavery, oppression and intolerance. That declaration stated -
We look with confidence to the day when all the peoples of the world will live free lives untouched by tyranny, and according to their varying desires and their own consciences.
That tyranny in the international field to which that declaration refers is something which, unless we exercise the greatest possible care, can come to the people of this country through the tyranny of an inflated bureaucracy continuing after the war and bringing “ snooper “ minds into the affairs of the citizens of this country while they are stumbling through the entangling red tape the bureaucracy has provided.
Whilst we admit that after the war there must be a period of readjustment in which the kind of controls which we are experiencing to-day may have to be exercised until we can carry through the transition stage from tie war-time economy to the peace-time economy, there are in the Constitution to-day powers which, if properly used, are ample for this purpose. There is in the National Security Act power, which will endure through the general defence power of the Commonwealth, until the technical cessation of hostilities and that may be eighteen months or two years after the actual conclusion of the fighting. During that period we shall still have our emergency powers and our defence power would be sufficiently wide to put into effect all the measures necessary for the repatriation of men and women of our fighting services. We would have also the necessary authority to carry out the readjustment of our own economy. It is not as if there were no reservoir of power at all within the Commonwealth for this purpose. That power is there, within the confines of the Constitution itself. It may be that in some respects the power can be exercised only by the Commonwealth with the co-operation of the States, or it may be that the States themselves will have to be called upon by the Commonwealth to take a direct hand in some aspects of reconstruction, but the fact remains that we are not faced to-day with a choice between a complete absence of power for the purpose of reconstruction, or the granting of power solely to the Commonwealth for that purpose. What we are asked to do under’ this measure is to give to a single authority complete power and the fullest possible opportunity to deal with these matters, even at the cost of disregarding the welfare of a great section of industry, or of even a great section of the people of the Commonwealth. I for one do not tremble at the prospect of some of these powers having to be used in co-operation with the States. It may be of great advantage if , in the immediate post-war period, the reshaping of our national life has to be done in the closest possible cooperation with the States. The moment that we give to this Parliament supreme authority, without at the same time enlarging its membership or providing more adequate representation of the smaller States by some other means, we shall be giving’ to the more populous and more industrialized States an opportunity to dominate the economic and social welfare of : this country, and I question whether that will be desirable.. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women who are in the services or are working in war industries, and will have to live their lives in the new Australia, should be given the kind of world to which they are looking. And to what kind of a world are these people looking? They are not looking to a world in which those individuals who are already established economically shall have their privileges and security safeguarded at the expense of those who are seeking opportunities in the new order; yet that is what the Government proposes. The Government seeks to control investments - control which it claims to be necessary for postwar reconstruction - but what will that control mean in practice? It will mean that a boot factory which is now well established will be made safe from competition because it will open boot factories now in existence and will be able to produce all the boots that are required in this country. So going from industry to industry, the Government, by its control over investments, could say that because we are well catered for in this direction or that direction, fresh competitors should not be allowed to enter the field. In these circumstances what kind of an opportunity will be given to the thousands of members of the younger generation who will be seeking to test their own skill and ability against that of their elders even if it means standing up to the blast of competition? We shall not be giving them a fair opportunity at all. We shall be stifling the opportunities which otherwise might have been available to them. Instead, the Government will say that it has a splendid programme of public works to take care of these people. Some will be engaged as pick and shovel workers on the standardization of railway gauges, and others may attain the eminence of builders’ labourers on grandiose housing schemes. So, our young men and women will be given employment on a dozen or more such schemes which the Government will control, whilst the vested interests of those who have already established themselves in business will be protected from competition. The Government will say to the young people, “ We shall give you security ; surely in return you will not begrudge us something of your own freedom”. At the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science it was stated that the freedom of a man to chose his place of employment was just one of the freedoms that he would have to forgo in order to secure this new security.
– Who said that?
– The Attorney-General was one who said it.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– I have the advantage over the Minister of having attended the gathering mentioned. I have also consulted several other members of the audience since, and I am quite clear as to what the Attorney-General said. Let him deny it in this House if he so desires.
– I have read the report of the proceedings.
– The comment to which I have referred was made during the discussion stage, which is never fully reported. The practice is to report papers in full, but to give only a resume of the ensuing discussion. If the Minister wants confirmation of my claims, let him read the paper read at that school by Dr. Lloyd Ross. In that paper appears a passage which describes the restriction on the freedom of movement of workers as both necessary and one which would not be begrudged by the worker.
– He was not speaking for the Government.
– That may be Perhaps he is like the anonymous “ government spokesman “, who makes pronouncements from time to time, but, apparently, does not speak on behalf of the Government. At any rate, Dr. Lloyd Ross is a senior member of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and no doubt is engaged upon the planning of the programme which will be presented to this Government in the reconstruction period. He said that as general secretary of the Australian Railways Union he had never found the members of the union complain because they were compulsorily transferred from one place of employment to another. [Extension of time granted.] According to Dr. Lloyd Ross the men realized that compulsory transfer was part of the price they had to pay for security in their employment. The men often said that the amenities of one place were better than those of another place, but they never objected seriously to their transfer. They accepted the restriction of their freedom of movement in return for their security of employment. He then drew a precise parallel with the experiences of other workers. I refuse to believe that the attitude of the railway workers is the general attitude of the workers in industry in this country. In support of my statement I direct attention to certain observations of a wellknown Labour statesman - I think I may call him that because of the position he has held in governments in his own State and in the Labour movement generally. Writing immediately after the close of the summer school in Canberra, Mr. J. T. Lang, for it is he of whom I speak, said -
The professors set out for us what is virtually a five-year plan for the Government of the country after the war. They stripped their plan of all its disguises and revealed it as pure unadulterated fascism. t
It is the intention of the professors that every regulation and restriction that has been employed during the war will be carried on for the duration of the five-year plan. Every vestige of liberty is to be forfeited for a professor’s promise of the four freedoms. Every form of rationing, restriction, and coercion and conscription that has operated during the war is to carry over into the peace. There is to be a new altar on which a new god will be enthroned, and it will be named the plan. ‘
The plan say6 we will eat what is rationed for us, we will work where we are told to work, live where we are told to live, read what the professors allow us to print, send our children to the university or the coal mines as ordered by the planners, enjoy such entertainment as the planners permit us to enjoy. We will be regimented and regulated as much as any German or Russian ever was. When the young men return from the war they will find that the professors have erected barbed wire entanglements stronger than any they encountered at the war. The plan is merely a device to keep the planners in office. It is anathema to the Labour movement.
Those are not the remarks of a hidebound tory, nor were they published in a to ry journal. They do not express merely the timid fears of vested interests or the capitalist class. They appeared in the official organ of an important section of the Labour movement in New South Wales, which is said to champion the rights of the working man. No one who has carefully studied the views expressed at the summer school will say that the possibilities of regimentation have been overdrawn by Mr. Lang.
Not only is that programme anathema to the Labour movement; it is also anathema to the young and virile spirit of the people in this Commonwealth. We have a land rich in opportunities, rich in natural resources, and rich in the strength and quality of its people. Our people do not ask that their lives shall be organized so completely ‘as to secure every possible comfort for them. Of course, they desire the application of a programme of social security, because they know that there will always have to be faced the hazards and accidents of our industrial and domestic lives. They ask that the employees be placed on a constructive scheme of social security, a proper system of health and education, a fair standard of living, and provided with decent homes which they may purchase out of their own earnings. They definitely do not desire that their lives shall be harnessed to a Statecontrolled bureaucracy. The people of the United States of America enjoy the highest standard of living in the world, and the greatest degree of industrial development ever achieved, but this has been attained by the exercise of the initiative and energy of the individual and not by bureaucracy. It is significant that on many occasions young American servicemen who have come to this country, impressed with its opportunities, have privately expressed their desire to return to Australia after the war and make their homes here. We must preserve a proper approach to the problems of government, and to the consideration of the powers necessary to enable governments to make Australia the land we desire it to be. In the words of perhaps the greatest of our Empire statesmen, Mr. Winston Churchill, I would say -
Wo must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except a politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges. Of all the races in the world our people would be the last to consent to be governed by a bureaucracy. Freedom is in their blood.
Because I adopt those words, I shall resist the proposals of the Government in this bill, and shall support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I support the bill and its intentions as enunciated by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). During the whole of the time that I have been associated with the political life of this country, whether as a private citizen or as a’ member of Parliament, I have supported every proposal to vest greater powers in the Commonwealth Parliament. I have done so irrespective of the party submitting such proposals, and irrespective of whether my own party has been either luke-warm or opposed to such proposals. I have taken every opportunity I have had to vote in favour of such proposals and have also advocated them from the platforms of this country. The only fault I find with the proposals now before the House is that they do not go far enough, and that the powers are not being sought for a longer period. I support the bill in its present form only because the Government believes that in war-time it is desirable to obtain enlarged powers by amicable arrangements with the States’. The Government considers that the powers now being sought are absolutely essential to ensure the reconstruction and rehabilitation of this country after the war. Every opportunity has been taken to consult appropriate bodies on this subject. It will be remembered that towards the end of 1942 a convention which consisted of leaders of all parties in this Parliament, and of the Premiers and Leaders of Opposition in various State Parliaments, assembled at Canberra and discussed the situation. The present proposals issued out of those discussions. In the opinion of the leaders of all political parties which assembled at that time these powers are the minimum requirements for this National Parliament for five years after the war. Because of the agreement that was reached at that ‘time, which expressed the views of all shades of political opinion as to the minimum requirements, I am supporting this bill, but I make it clear that I would always support proposals to vest the widest possible powers in the National Parliament.
I have been interested in the speeches delivered in this debate. ‘ I was disappointed in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). On the 22nd November, 193S, the right honorable gentleman, in his most eloquent and able manner, submitted to this House what he considered to be the enlarged powers that should be vested in this Parliament in normal times. His remarks are to be found in the Hansard report of the proceedings- of that day. I shall not read from the report, but will content myself with reminding honorable members that the right honorable gentleman stressed the necessity for vesting in this Parliament complete power over trade and commerce. He also said that power over public health was needed, and, in that regard, pointed out that the Parlia ment now had power to deal only with quarantine matters. He laid great stress on the necessity of clothing this Parliament with power to control companies, and he indicated the deficiency that existed in the incomplete industrial power of the Parliament. He said that it was necessary that the National Parliament should control transport, agriculture and the fishing industry. If those powers’ were necessary in peace-time, surely no honorable member will suggest that they will not be needed very much more in the days following the termination of this war. The right honorable gentleman intimated to the Parliament at that time that in the following year his government would submit these questions to the people by way of a referendum. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are now saying that even the modest additional powers being sought by this Government should not be the subject of a referendum, because this is not the time to take a referendum ! Had the present Leader of the Opposition gone to the country in 1939 with a request for the powers that he outlined in his speech many honorable gentlemen opposite would have followed him like sheep, but now - to use the parlance of the racecourse - the best they can do is to have £1 each way. They say that additional powers .are necessary, but this is not the time to take a referendum, or that additional powers should be sought by negotiation. In view of the legislative outcome from the work of. the representative convention which met in Canberra in 1942, how can honorable gentlemen opposite imagine that another convention would get us any further than we have got? I believe that the Premiers of the various States put the Commonwealth Powers Bill to their Parliaments sincerely. In the Parliament of Tasmania one House, which is not subject to any form of democratic election, completely rejected the proposals. The Parliaments of some of the other States emasculated the bill in such a way as toleave it but a shadow of the original measure. I can see no justification for assuming that if another appeal were made to the State Parliaments the results would be any different. In view of the fact that the bare minimum of addi tional power is being sought I had hoped that all the members of this Parliament would have put aside petty political considerations, and would have asked themselves honestly whether anything less than these powers could possibly lead to the building of the national economic framework which is so necessary to the rehabilitation of this country after the war. ‘ Some honorable gentlemen opposite have talked about decentralization, but with the possible exception of Queensland and, to a lesser degree, Tasmania, State control throughout Australia lias resulted in centralization to a marked degree, for more than half the population of the major States is located within the capital cities. If any Government has attempted decentralization it is this Government. I give credit to it on that account. The Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) took steps to decentralize munitions production, and I give credit to it also. But never from any State Parliament, with the exception of Queensland, has one move been made for the decentralization of the industries that are congregated round the bloated cities. There are simple, fundamental reasons why this Parliament should have additional power. When unusual circumstances arise as the result of war, it should have power in respect of all national problems, and whatever machinery .of a local or decentralized character may .be necessary through either State or semi-governmental bodies, that machinery should be fitted into the main structure. It is absolutely essential that there shall be no doubt as to the powers of this Parliament in regard to the rehabilitation of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who will be discharged from the fighting forces. One may quibble by saying that certain powers exist which could be used; the fact remains that there is no power in this Parliament to provide for the employment of men as this Parliament may itself direct. As the present Leader of the Opposition, speaking practically from the spot that I now occupy in this House, so eloquently stated on the 22nd November., 1938, no industrial power lies in this Parliament. I know how fallible is human nature. From time to time, every individual makes mistakes. No honorable member can say that at some time in his career, particularly politically, he has. not made mistakes. Therefore, it is idle to talk about the workings of a bureaucracy and the actions of certain ‘ public officials. It is absolutely clear that this Parliament should have powers that shall be beyond question in relation to employment and unemployment. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) introduced much irrelevant matter, including the old hobby-horse of bureaucracy. To those who cherish illusions in regard to that sort of thing, I say that it was extensively canvassed at the last elections. The people pronounced their judgment on what they had been told, and the result is well known, particularly to those candidates who are not now members of this Parliament. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) last week made it perfectly clear, as did also the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), that there can be no denial of the necessity, during a period of war, for some regimentation, rationing, and. control of those things which are in short supply. Because it has been necessary to do such things during war, it is assumed that the same sort of thing will be done in the ensuing peace period. The honorable member for Fawkner referred to the great freedoms. I have had an opportunity to study the exercise of freedom under a Government which went out of office recently. In my electorate, 1 witnessed the freedom that was enjoyed by 2,000 men who congregated outside the gates of a factory in an attempt to secure the one job that was offering. I was able to study the freedom to starve, and to live on a dole of 8s. 9d. a week - a single man on 5s. 6d. a week. Those were the results of freedom of private enterprise, and the- exercise of economic individualism, under which everybody had the right to go his own way, the Government acclaiming the importance of the maintenance of the existing economic order without disturbance. The honorable member for Fawkner said that we had learned a new technique. The learning of ‘ it took a long time, and in the process hundreds of thousands of young men grew into manhood with their fathers on the dole and themselves without a job. At the outbreak of the war, the great believers in personal freedom and liberty insisted that these young men should risk their lives on behalf of those who had lived in luxury while they had starved.
– They had the right to choose whether or not they should join up.
– What were they expected to do? There is no denying that since 1928 a race of young men and women, particularly the former, has grown up in this country under a system of which the previous Government was an apostle. Hundreds of thousands of them could not get a job, and they had none of the opportunities of which the honorable member for Fawkner has spoken. They could not even obtain a proper education, or the decent homes about which he is so solicitous. But when the war started, imperilling the freedom of the economic individualists whose only god was Mammon and profit, and whose only concern the ability to continue to pay dividends, these young men were expected to risk their lives. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that they had the right to volunteer. Would that have been true had this country been invaded? Would not the Militia have been expected to defend the factories and the grand homes of those who had made a profit during the depression? All this talk about freedom i3 sheer, utter hypocrisy. We have heard much of what was said at a certain summer school. If regimentation be necessary in order to ensure to every, one a decent standard of living, freedom from economic insecurity, proper housing, and requisite food and clothing, I say quite frankly that I should prefer it to the economic individualism that we had under the old order. If this Parliament be given the powers which the Government seeks, and they have to be used in such a way as to ensure a proper distribution of what the people need, whether it be money or materials, then I have no> hesitation in saying that whatever government may be in power it will have my complete support in the exercise of those powers. No honorable member will deny that an extraordinarily heavy task will rest upon whatever Government is in office at the termination of the war, in rehabilitating in civil life the hundreds of thousands of men and women who will have to be diverted to fresh occupations. Local governing bodies throughout Australia are continually writing to me and to other Ministers, as well as to private members, seeking advice in regard to matters relating to the post-war period. They have lost hope and faith in State governments. Their eyes are turned to this Parliament, to which they look for the provision of opportunities for the more lowly individuals about whom the honorable member ‘ for Fawkner has spoken. This is the only Parliament that can do ‘that job. If deliberately, because of political considerations or a difference of opinion as to how things ought to be done, any honorable. member is not prepared to grant full powers to this Parliament, then either he is completely stupid or he disregards entirely the national needs. Whatever our political differences may be, I assume that every honorable member individually is anxious that all the men and women in the fighting services shall be returned to civil life and be given all the opportunities it is possible to give to them, in order that they may be provided with employment in the occupations to which they are best adapted. No door should be closed so as to prevent this Parliament from discharging its duty to those who are entirely’ its responsibility. These men have gone into the fighting forces of ‘this country. They are under the orders of the Army, the Air Force, or the Navy. There are others in civil employment who have also done great work. There are members of the Civil Constructional Corps, the Mercantile Marine, and innumerable other people who have performed very responsible tasks. The careers of hundreds of thousands of young men have been interrupted, and in some instances partially ruined. It is hard to pick up later the four, five, or six years of a young man’s life that are lost between the ages of 18 and 22 years or later. There is a break in education, training and opportunity, which cannot be repaired. It is perfectly true that experience is gained; but that is not material to an ordinary civil avocation. On this Parliament rests the responsibility of seeing that the right thing shall be done. It will be to the discredit of any man if he advises the people that ample powers exist to do what is necessary, and endeavours to evade the real issue by talking about a convention. What is meant by a convention? I presume that what is meant is a convention elected by the people. The process of constituting such a convention would certainly cause some distraction in the ordinary pursuits of life. If we are to have a convention, when will it be held? Will it be during the war or after the war? And will there be an election to decide who shall attend the convention? Is it intended that we shall wait till the war is over for these things? If so, will there ‘then be a campaign extending over several months! I ask honorable members to visualize the state of affairs which would exist with a campaign in progress while the country was engaged in the tremendous task of rehabilitating the men;and women now in the fighting services or engaged in various forms of war production. To me has been entrusted the task of inaugurating the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction. I have had some experience, as indeed have some honorable members opposite, of trying to get the States to agree on various matters. First, a conference is held, and then the representatives return to their several States, only to find that another conference is necessary. Letters pass between the various governments, and the delays are interminable. The trouble is not only that the States do not agree with the Commonwealth ; they do not agree with one another. Yet they are expected to join with the Commonwealth in producing a complete plan for the rehabilitation of service men and women. I cast no reflection on members of State governments, but the fact is that the people of this country will look to this Parliament to make prompt decisions in regard to the matters that will arise after the war. Under the existing Constitution that will not be possible. I remind the House that it took from 1929 to 1938 to get a wheat stabilization scheme in operation. Indeed, only when war came was it possible to inaugurate such a scheme. If the reports of all the conferences that were held, and the various files in connexion with the establishment of a wheat stabilization scheme were placed on the table before me, there would scarcely be room for them. As I have said, it took years to establish a stabilization scheme in respect of one primary product only. I agree with those who say that Australia cannot disregard what is happening elsewhere in the world. This is a primary producing country for the most part; about 25 per cent, of Australia’s bread-winners are engaged in primary production, exclusive of mining. Of our exports, 82 per cent, consists of primary products. It is clear, therefore, that Australia must organize its primary industries. Of what use is it to talk about closer settlement schemes for soldiers if the people of this country cannot buy what is produced, or if the surplus above local needs cannot be disposed of overseas? There is room for a great expansion of our primary industries in order to meet the needs of the Australian community. That may not be so in respect of wheat and wool, but it is true in respect of other primary products. For instance, if each Australian were to drink another half pint of milk a day, employment would be found in the dairying industry for 12,000 additional breadwinners. If this Parliament needed additional powers for no other purpose than the development of the country’s primary industries, that would be a sufficient justification for seeking additional powers. But other powers are necessary, as, for . instance, powers to control industry.
– Why is primary production excluded?
– I admit that there are some proposals to which I would not be prepared to agree in normal times.
– Primary production was excluded at the request of the representatives of the States.
– That is so. At the moment, the Government is asking for what is a compromise arrangement, aimed at giving to the Commonwealth certain limited powers, working in harmony with the States, which the Government hopes will be sufficient to carry the country over the immediate post-war period. I do not pretend that the powers sought in this measure will be ample for the National Parliament in the years that are to come. They will not be sufficient. The people of Australia will expect this Parliament to be the authority responsible for the rehabilitation not only of servicemen and women, but also of civilians who have been engaged in war work. If this Parliament fails in that sphere, it will fail in a great national duty. This Parliament cannot do that job satisfactorily because it has not the power to do so. It is true that if the States would refer these powers, the Commonwealth could at least make an attempt to give effect to the things that are needed; but the States have refused those powers. In this bill we say to the people, “ Here are the powers which this Parliament believes are the minimum powers that should be vested in it. If you doubt the word of a Labour government, read what the leaders of all the political parties decided at the Canberra Convention”. What could be more democratic than that? I believe that if the issues were placed before the people simply and clearly, they would not refuse to give to this Parliament the minimum powers it requires, namely, those set out in the bill.
.- I support the bill, and congratulate the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on the three amendments which he has foreshadowed. I shall not cover the ground that has already been well covered by other honorable members, but I shall say what I think will be best for this country both in the prosecution of the war and in the post-war period. Honorable members opposite have said that, if the States were again approached, they would probably give to the Commonwealth the powers sought in this bill, but I do not agree with that view. I recall that when the enabling bill was before the Legislative Council of South Australia the same old bogy as has been raised here was raised there; it was argued that the Government’s intention was to implement its socialist policy. The proposal which emanated from the Canberra Convention could not have been dealt with more severely if the Legislative Council had taken an axe to it. The members of the South Australian Legislative Council represent only about one-third of the electors of that State. For instance, 400,000 women are entitled to vote for the election of the Legislative Assembly, but not more than 50,000 are qualified to vote for the election of the Legislative Council. It is quite evident that the members of the Legislative Council have no leaning towards the Labour party. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that if the people of South Australia were given the opportunity they would take back some of the powers which the Commonwealth already enjoys. However, I believe that, although he has been a soldier for a good many years - and 1 say that quite respectfully - this is one of the occasions when the major is out of step with his men. I am sure that he does not represent the opinion of the people of South Australia. I come from an industrial area, and I know what is in the minds of the working people of my State. . Almost without exception their first question is, “What are you going to do for us when the war ends ? “ If the Commonwealth is not given the powers sought, there will be seven authorities in Australia trying to repatriate 1,500,000 persons discharged from the services and the war industries. The result will be chaos. Much has been said during the course of this debate on the subject of repatriation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that no government since the last war bad lacked power to legislate in respect of repatriation. If that is so, then the governments which were in power lacked either the courage or the means to legislate effectively. It should be remembered, of course, that during the last 27 years, Labour has been in power for only four and three-quarter years, and at no time during that period did a Labour government have a majority in both Houses of Parliament.
After the last war, returned soldiers were settled on land at inflated prices, and they were required to pay high rates of interest. After years of hard work many of them found that they had been “settled” indeed. They were unable to make ends meet, and were pushed off their holdings. That was the reward meted out to men who had so faithfully served their country in the last war. Those who return after this war will expect something better than that.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said that the minds of the people were too preoccupied to permit them to cast a considered vote on the issue which it was proposed to place before them. I remind the House that the people of Australia, and the men at battle stations, cast a most intelligent vote on the 21st August last, and I have no reason to doubt that they will be able to cast an informed, and intelligent vote on the proposals to give the Commonwealth greater powers.
We have heard several opinions on these proposals from legal men in this House, and honorable members might be interested to hear a quotation from a speech by another legal representative. The honorable member for Fawkner said that if the Government’s proposals were accepted, the people of Australia would be regimented and denied the right to choose their own jobs. We can all remember a time, not so long ago, when a great many of the people of Australia would have been pleased enough to be regimented into a job. However, I propose to quote a statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner outside this House, and it is reported, not in a Labour newspaper, but in one of the Murdoch papers published in Adelaide - a tory paper. The honorable member for Fawkner, speaking at a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, stated -
Since the last election, the Labour Government has progressed and gained power. If we went to the country to-day we would find it hard to hold our fourteen seats. We must develop a federal outlook. The people of this country are sick and tired of our negative approach to politics.
Those are not my words. They are the reported words of the honorable member for Fawkner. If that is his opinion of his own party, then I say that the Labour Government has every right to the powers for which it is asking.
One honorable member opposite asked what was meant by the proposal to give the Commonwealth power in respect of employment and unemployment. I say that it means just what it says, neither more nor less. Perhaps if it had been proposed to give the Commonwealth power over unemployment and employment, honorable members opposite would have been more enthusiastic, because they must have an army of unemployed before they begin to think of providing employment. It is also proposed that the Commonwealth should have power to legislate for the control of monopolies. Man has produced many good machines, but, unfortunately, the machines have turned against man. The monopolies and the combines are in charge of those machines. I have seen men kept working in certain industries as only galley slaves would be driven. They were threatened with dismissal, and when some of them had been dismissed the remainder were driven harder than before. When big powerful companies can make profits ranging from £600,000 to £1,000,000 a year, and tell their employees that there are more men outside waiting to take their places, it is time this Parliament had wide powers over monopolies. Australia cannot advance unless it undertakes great public works, and, if it becomes necessary to pay a slightly higher price for labour than has been paid in the past, we can rest assured that we shall help to purchase a strong and virile nation.
.- I have not been surprised at the arguments advanced by some members of the Opposition. I am not disturbed at the fact that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in his usual cunning way, tried to “ get away “ with the contention that a referendum should not be taken in time of war. I recall that a referendum was taken during the last war, when he was Prime Minister. If the archives of the Prime Minister’s Department were searched, I think that a dossier would be found dealing with my attitude on the matter at the time. No more disturbing element could have been introduced than when, on two occasions, the right honorable gentleman tried to foist conscription on the people of this country. I have no doubt that he has not forgotten the reception which the people of
Warwick accorded him because of his conscription proposals. The Warwick eggs led to the establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force. I have always supported the holding of referenda for the purpose of seeking wider powers for this Parliament, because I believe that it should be clothed with plenary powers. If the people were given an opportunity they would vote for far greater powers than those sought in the present hill ; but, in view of the fact that certain decisions were reached at the recent Convention at Canberra, the Government has decided to ask the people to confer the powers determined at that gathering. I have no doubt that as a result of the proposed referendum this Parliament will at least receive some .additional powers.
The right honorable member for North Sydney was not sure whether he supported the Government or the Opposition on this bill. He deplored the fact that the Government intended to hold a referendum during the war. An amendment has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) with a view to the withdrawal and redrafting of the bill. The Opposition has adopted an entirely party political attitude. I see no sound objection to the granting to any government, irrespective of its political colour, of all of the powers that the Commonwealth requires, because, within three years the party in power will be forced to seek re-election, and, if the powers had been abused, it will be dealt with by its masters on the broad franchise of adult suffrage. I recall that the Leader of the Opposition, after a visit overseas, stating on his return to Australia that he had come back to participate in the diabolical game of party politics. I listened to a recent address by him which was broadcast through station 2UE, and the manner in which this clever lawyer “ put over “ certain statements was certainly diabolical. He tried to lead the people to believe that the present Government had all of the powers that it required but had been too cowardly to use them. I point out that the party to which the right honorable gentleman belongs was in office for many years, but did little to alleviate unemployment after the last war. According to the Sydney press, when large num bers of troops were marching through the streets of Sydney after the outbreak of the present war, and the attention of General Sir Thomas Blarney was drawn to their ill-fitting uniforms, he remarked, “ Wait till they have had some good tucker and plenty of exercise and then you will see how well the uniforms will fit them “. If the powers now sought had been enjoyed by this Parliament during all the years when the Opposition was in office, why did it not use them? The United Australia party has changed its name again, and it will have difficulty in future in finding ,a suitable name. It may have to link up with the Democratic party or with a section of the Australian Country party.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that before the end of the period of five years from the termination of hostilities, a conference should be held to decide what further powers should be conferred on this Parliament, but I maintain that the people should be invited to endow the Parliament with the additional powers required and that no further conference is necessary. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) conferred with representatives of the miners’ federation regarding the position of the coal-mining industry, his policy was one of appeasement. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) desires the Government to consult further with representatives of the States. I claim, however, that just as further conferences with the miners’ representatives with regard to coal production would be of no avail, so also would it be useless to confer again with representatives of the States with regard to the powers proposed to be given to this Parliament. The members of the upper houses in the State legislatures represent vested interests, and it would be foolhardy to expect them to agree to the powers asked for by the Commonwealth. In 1919, the Queensland Parliament abolished its upper house by means of legislation initiated by itself. When the matter was before the Privy Council, Lord Haldane asked the Queensland AttorneyGeneral at that time, Mr. Ryan, whether legislation providing for the abolition of the Legislative Council of Queensland had been agreed to by the upper house itself,” and as the reply was in the affirmative the abolition had to be authorized. Yet at that time the Jeremiahs were saying, “ If we wipe out the upper house we shall have no check on hasty legislation “. When our opponents ask us to request the States to reconsider the matter, I am highly amused. Imagine the “great voice of Tasmania “ being again invited to speak! The population of Tasmania barely exceeds the number of persons in my electorate, and the island is not much larger than my electorate, yet the voice of Tasmania in the Senate is as powerful as is the voice of New South Wales, despite the disparity of population. For honorable members opposite to urge the Government to ask the States to reconsider their attitude towards the Commonwealth Powers Bill is utter humbug. Ever since the Government announced its intention to hold the referendum they have been playing the diabolical game of party politics. They are urging the people to oppose an extension of Commonwealth powers even for the limited period of five years. To support their campaign, they accuse the Labour Government of getting ready to introduce the socialization of industry. Sometimes they amuse me; at other times they really annoy me. Imagine the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford consenting to any proposals that would lead to the socialization of industry! Imagine the tricky Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, doing anything that would lead to socialization ! He is the clever politician who was able to play the Labour party against the ultra tory United Australia party, and when those tactics ultimately failed, he played the United Australia party against the Labour party. He is the shrewd gentleman who declared that if the other States were prepared to agree to the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth, Victoria would also consent. Those are the persons whom honorable members opposite ask the Government to approach again with a request to reconsider their former attitude. It would be futile to do so.
This Parliament should be vested with complete powers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition declared that he did not believe in unification, and left it at that. That the policy of the Labour party has been unification has been held against us for many years. If unification means one Parliament to attend to national affairs, with the division of Australia into provinces or cantons, I am ‘ a unificationist. The Senate and every State Parliament as we know it to-day should be abolished. Before that is done, a scheme of local government will have to be evolved; but that system would be much more intelligent and effective in the immediate interests of the people in matters of local government than would the exercise of direct control by this Parliament. If the majority of honorable members believe that the House of Representatives should be enlarged, I shall not object ; but, above all, let the people know what we mean when we talk about the abolition of the State Parliaments, and the establishment of one national House of Parliament. The sooner the Government makes up its mind to tell other sections of the Labour party in the .States what it means by the abolition of the State Parliaments as we know them, the better it will be for the party. I believe that the people would not hesitate five minutes about granting to the Commonwealth a wide extension of powers if they knew what was involved. It is just as stupid to govern north Queensland from Canberra as from Brisbane. Every State has a capital city, and the parochial policy is to bring everything within each State to its capital city. Tasmania has two “ capital “ cities, Hobart and Launceston, which fight like Kilkenny cats for official recognition. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria; Adelaide is the capital of South Australia ; Perth is the capital of Western Australia ; Sydney is the capital of New South Wales ; and Brisbane is the capital of Queensland.
I heard some honorable members mention that they had recently returned from Queensland. What they meant was that they travelled a distance of 56 miles from the border of New South Wales to Brisbane. They saw no more of Queensland than that small area. The sooner this Government is vested with full responsibility for attending to national affairs, the sooner it will make provision for members of this House to see this Commonwealth. Although I have been a member of the House of Representatives for years, I have not had an adequate opportunity to see this vast Commonwealth. Had I taken three months’ vacation and sailed around- the coast in a dinghy, I should have acquired some knowledge of the coastline and some of the capital cities, but that would not be seeing Australia. Through lack of transport, honorable members have not had an opportunity to learn about this Commonwealth. After the war, we may have a greater opportunity to see for ourselves and get a proper realization of its possibilities.
The Commonwealth should be clothed with the powers contained in the bill as early as possible. Unfortunately honorable members opposite cannot resist the chance to play at party politics. When the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was addressing the House, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), interjected, “What attitude did you adopt when certain matters were referred to the people?” The Minister replied, “ On no occasion have I done other than support the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth “. The honorable member for Parramatta promptly collapsed. He gave it up as a bad job and appeared to regret that he had interjected. No honorable member opposite will tell the people the truth about this proposal. They will play party politics and try to persuade the people to vote against the Government’s proposals, claiming that they do not believe that the Commonwealth should be granted these powers. Unfortunately, some members of the Labour party outside this Parliament have stated that they would be prepared to vest the Commonwealth with the proposed powers if they could be certain that a Labour Government would always be in office. That attitude is deplorable. It is not an Australian outlook. Many things may have been done in this Parliament of which I did not approve, but the fact remains that the Commonwealth Parliament should possess complete powers. I see no reason why the people should vote against these proposals. Had the Govern- ment departed from the agreement reached at the convention in 1942, the position’ might be different ; but the only alteration is the amendments proposed by the Attorney-General to make sure, if that were necessary, that the Labour Government shall not do some of the things which the United Australia party has been doing throughout its existence.’ For example, honorable members opposite have emphasized the necessity for housing the people. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) described the lack of housing for ex-servicemen as a “ frightful condition of affairs “. Being very young, he might not know better, but I assure him that the United Australia party has had ample opportunity since federation to improve the position in that respect. It had sufficient money with which, to embark upon a grandiose housing policy, because labour and materials were available, but it made no attempt to house the people. For a number of years an anti-Labour government in New South Wales kept thousands of young men on ‘ the dole. They were underfed, ill-clothed and badly housed. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) stated that many of them had the opportunity to volunteer for service in the Australian Imperial Force. Every one knows that many enlisted in order to get a square meal, proper clothes, and a few shillings with which to assist their parents to provide for other members of the family. On the last occasion that the English XI. was in Australia, I attended a test match in Sydney. When play ended for the day, my wife and I. were walking along a street and we heard some conversation between young men and women. The young women said to the young men, “ Are you going to join up ? “ The young men replied, “ We shall join the “ B “ Company “. My curiosity was aroused, so I asked them what they meant by the “ B “ Company. They replied, “ We shall be here when they go and be here when they come back “. They are not here now. Doubtless some of them enlisted and were killed in action whilst defending this country against its enemies. Those lads were not properly fed, housed or clothed. The better we feed our people, the better citizens they will be. If they are able to earn a reasonable living, they will fight for their country. I am pained when I hear some honorable members opposite sneer at that class of young man. The coal-miners have not been given a fair hearing in this House by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) - the “ miner “ from Vaucluse - will be at a loss for something to speak about when the coal-miners go back to work, and he will not be happy when he has no chance to abuse them. I remind him that the coalminers have fathers, sons and brothers at the war, and, therefore, they do not go on strike without good reason. I also remind him that other sections of the community, notably that section which members of the Australian Country party claim to represent, are threatening to take direct action should the Government’ fail to increase its subsidies in respect of certain primary commodities. Therefore, none o,f us can afford to criticize any section of the community. Instead of abusing the coal-miners, honorable members opposite should give a thought to the activities of certain sections of the community whose activities are to the detriment of this nation. Honorable members opposite have not uttered, one word of protest against the action of landlords and estate agents in Sydney in charging rentals from £6 6s. to £8 8s. a week for one room. Honorable members opposite represent- those interests in this House. I urge the Government to investigate the high rentals being charged in Sydney, particularly to allied servicemen. I know that at Bondi rentals as high as £8 8s. a week are being charged for rooms, and up to £12 12s. a week is being charged for cottages which, prior to the war, were let at £2 10s. a week. Persons who exploit the people in this way are thieving from the community. They are using economic pressure to extort high rents from allied servicemen, and should be gaoled. I ask the Attorney-General to arrange an immediate investigation into this matter. I have no doubt that similar activities are taking place in each of the capital cities. These unscrupulous propertyowners, and their agents, do not hesitate to defraud allied servicemen whom they have practically at their mercy. They are out to get rich quickly. We can imagine the feelings of allied servicemen who are exploited in this way, particularly in view of the fact that they have come here to help us defend this country. On their return home they will resent the fact that they were exploited in this fashion. This exploitation is a disgrace to Australia. I trust that the Attorney-General will take action immediately to have this matter investigated. Should his department be unable to take appropriate action, I ask him to draw the attention of the State authorities to the matter with a view to forcing propertyowners who offend in this way to realize their obligations to the nation in time of. war.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
Man-power for. Municipal WORK - Medical Services : Army and Civilian Needs - Building Restrictions : Alleged Breach op Regulations at Bankstown.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) a matter which vitally concerns thousands of residents in the Municipality of Drummoyne, situated in my electorate. A similar state of affairs exists in many municipalities in Sydney. The Drummoyne municipality embraces a complete State electorate. In it reside about 8,000 families, and its total population is, approximately, 34,000. Owing to the shortage of man-power, the council has been obliged to curtail its refuse and garbage clearance to a weekly service. I need hardly emphasize the importance of this service from the point of view of the health of the community. The contractor who performs this work previously employed eight men, but following call-ups by the man-power authorities, he is now obliged to carry on with four men, and has been placed in such straits that he employs a girl relative to drive one of his lorries. This small staff is working very long hours to give even a weekly service throughout the municipality. After the refuse has been left for so long a period it decomposes to such, a degree that the council’s health authorities, and medical officers resident in the municipality, have expressed the view that the health of the community is thereby seriously endangered. The Drummoyne Municipal Council has also brought to my attention the fact that owing to the inadequacy of the present service, some refuse is being dumped in parts of the municipality, with the result that the danger of disease is increased. The council asks that sufficient man-power be made available to enable it to remedy the present state of affairs. Last September I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to release from the services three men who were previously engaged in this work, but so far I have not been advised that these men will be released. They are B class men, and, therefore, are eligible for release. I understand that they are prepared to return to their former occupation. In order to carry on work of this nature men must be active, young, and more or less physically fit. It cannot be done by middle-aged or older men. The majority of the men available are those in middle age or past it, whom it is impracticable to transfer to this work. Those whose release I am seeking are well within the categories of those eligible to be released from the Army. Although I realize that the Army cannot be made a reservoir for essential civilian services to draw upon, the Minister might, in this particular instance, give serious consideration to my request, and at least expedite a decision. I have been advised by the town clerk of the municipality that many complaints are made of the existing state of affairs, which is considered to be a menace to the health of families in the extremely large area concerned. At the same time it is not fair to aldermen doing voluntary work in municipal councils to be criticized for a state of affairs which, owing to their inability to obtain additional labour, they cannot rectify. I urge the Minister to take immediate steps to ascertain whether the three men whose names I have communicated to the Minister for the Army can be released. If he does succeed, he will be doing a great service to the people of the municipality.
– I wish to refer briefly to the shortage of doctors in the metropolitan area of New South Wales, particularly in my electorate. With winter approaching, serious conditions may develop at any time owing to the lack of sufficient medical personnel in the suburbs of Sydney, and also in country areas. In the more crowded industrial areas, and in the electorate of Parkes, there is a very acute shortage at the moment, and it is reasonable to take my electorate as representing a fair cross section of the community in this regard. In Croydon Park, for instance, there is a shortage of doctors. There are medical practitioners on the rim of the subdivision, but they are scattered. Some have been picked out here and there for service with the armed forces, leaving great gaps which are not covered by any medical practitioner. The position, instead of improving, is deteriorating rapidly, I was told recently of one doctor who, when telephoned to by one of his patients, replied: “If you want to see me on a personal call, to-day is the 6th March, and you may do so on 21st March ; if not you will have to come to the health queue “. A practitioner who has been the family doctor of film and fiction in the electorate for 24 years, and has done everything from removing an appendix to conducting a complicated brain operation, joined the Army two years ago feeling that bis services were required, but he says that all he does is to act as a sort of clerical assistant to other doctors. Other medical men in the Army will admit, if questioned, that they have been very far away from patients so far as important operations or surgical skill are concerned, and have been more or less clerks and orderlies. The delivery of bread and milk in the suburbs is zoned, but the doctors are not. There are in Macquariestreet, which is known in the profession as the golden mile, no fewer than 250 specialists. Some zoning should be done there, and there should be some subdivision of what I call the guinea coast. I speak seriously on this matter, however, because of the difficulties being experienced in the suburbs. The suburban medical practitioner is practically beaten.
He cannot keep up with the 24 hours a day pace of the calls made upon him, including the additional calls of tired men and women in war industries. After about one-third of the doctors of Australia have answered the call of the fighting services, about 2,400 remain in the whole of Australia to attend the civilian population. One in every six of these is a specialist domiciled in a city. It is reasonable to assume that if the cities have these men the suburbs must do without them. In normal circumstances the specialists do a splendid job. They still do a good job, but the position is different. Everything is brought under man-power control, and it is time that we thought seriously of decentralizing the professional men in Macquarie-street in order to provide more medical services for people in the suburbs, and particularly in the industrial areas. In the country, with even fewer medical men available to cover large areas, the position is still more dangerous. Without putting too much emphasis on the matter, I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to ascertain whether it is possible to have some doctors released from the Army, seeing that many of those now in the service are not doing a very heavy job. Many doctors in special hospitals, and also others in the Army, are overworked, but many others will freely admit that they are not doing anything. It has been found possible for the Air Force doctors to work on a parttime basis. In some areas they are allowed to treat civilian patients. The Department of the Army decided to allow that also, but for some reason the plan was dropped. Where a military camp is situated, and doctors are available, it would be an immense help if ‘they were made available to treat the civilian population. I suggest to the two Ministers concerned that they should take a serious and urgent view of the position, in the hope, first, of releasing doctors from the Army: secondly, of zoning the doctors in the community, or, thirdly, in the last extremity to decentralize the professional men of Macquarie-street, and spread its specialists throughout the length and breadth of New South
Wales so that we may be prepared to meet any epidemics that may arise. No man has at this stage, when we are fighting a common enemy, the right to seek to monopolize what he considers his preserves. The worker and the professional man generally have thrown everything into the pool, but there are still little waves and ripples of privilege ‘Which we must dissipate before we secure a total war effort. In view of the possibility of the health authorities being faced with epidemics in the coming winter, I urge the responsible Ministers to consider seriously the propositions that I have put forward.
.- On the 14th December last, at the request of certain organizations in my electorate, I brought to .the notice of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) information concerning flag- , rant breaches of National Security Regulations in regard to buildings in Bankstown by one named Fitzpatrick. Since then I have written to the Minister on various occasions, and have also spoken to him several times. Last Tuesday I adverted to certain aspects of the matter, and asked him if he would confer with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), seeing that he had told me that they were not within his jurisdiction. He promised to do so. On Friday I asked him if he had done so, and he said that he had. I do not know why he gave me that answer, because I have always found him very straightforward and fearless in the administration of his duties, but there seems to be some lack of collaboration between his department and that of the Attorney-General. The Minister told me to-day that he expected to get a report on the matter to-morrow. I am not so much concerned with whether any action is to be taken, so much as with when it will be taken. Two months ago the Minister’s own department in Sydney expressed the opinion that there were flagrant breaches of National Security Regulations in relation to this matter under a number of headings. What concerns me is what has happened in the meantime, and what obstacles have been placed in the way to delay action in this matter? I know, and the Minister for War Organization of Industry knows, that certain influences are at work in an endeavour to block proceedings being taken, because more than one person is implicated. For that reason it seems to me that there should be immediate collaboration between the Attorney-General and the Minister for War Organization of Industry in regard to this matter. I point out that two months ago, whereas the Minister for War Organization, of Indus-, try said that no breach of the National Security Regulations was involved in the construction of a swimming pool on certain private premises, shortly after the matter was brought to notice, prompt action was taken by. the Attorney-General and prosecutions were launched, resulting in the imposition of heavy penalties on a number of people. That also was a question of the illegal use of man-power and material. In the case of the buildings to which I am now referring, authority was given for additions to one structure - a galvanized iron building - at a total cost of £100 ; but now we find that the original structure has disappeared entirely, and in its place there is a building costing several thousands of pounds. Also a cottage has been bodily removed from another district to this area. A permit was given to build a garage which was to cost £27, but instead a building costing £200 or £300 has been erected. In addition there are large concrete yards. However, the most serious aspect of the matter, according to the information that has been supplied to me, is the fact that the material which has been used for portion of this work was intended originally for a defence undertaking in that vicinity. I have passed that information on to the authorities. I am told that certain materials were intended originally for an aerodrome in that locality and that as the result of collusion with officials of the Allied Works Council, materials, which included such items a3 steel girders of such dimensions that they obviously were meant for a large building of the hangar type, were used in this work. It is apparent that no private individual could have had a priority to obtain such materials. . Expensive electric light fittings and other equipment costing far more than the sum in respect of which the permit was given have also been installed. I cannot remain silent while these things are going on in my own electorate, and while many of my constituents are being refused applications to build homes which they urgently require. Only last week I brought under notice the case of a war widow who lives only a mile from the buildings to which I have referred. Her husband was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force and his death left her and her six children destitute. She has not yet received a pension from the repatriation authorities ; in fact, it was refused. The people in that district want to know why it is. that unfortunate people such as this, widow are left to carry on as best they can, whilst at the same time rackets are being operated by more, fortunate members of the community.
I urge upon the Government also the necessity to inquire into the larger question of the cost of undertakings generally that are being carried out by the Allied Works Council, particularly in New South Wales. I have inf ormation to the effect that many of” these projects are costing double and even treble the original estimate. This matter involves many millions of pounds, and. calls for the serious attention of the Government. I have no wish to detract from the valuable work which the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps performed in the early stages of the war with Japan. We are very much indebted to the workers of the Civil Constructional Corps and to the administra.tive authorities for what they achieved, particularly in the construction of vital aerodromes in our northern areas before the battle of the Coral Sea; but that is no reason why rackets should now be operated in connexion with certain undertakings. Figures which have been supplied to me show that there is something radically wrong and that an independent inquiry is called for. I use the word “ independent “ advisedly. About a year ago, I brought to the notice of the Government certain circumstances relating to the construction of a dock. The Minister concerned called for a departmental report, and the matter went no further. I am satisfied, however, from the information that I have received since, that there is something radically wrong with that project. It now appears that it will cost more than three times the original estimate. I understand that the supervising engineers, or experts who have come from Great Britain, are being paid on a percentage basis - I understand that they are receiving 6 per cent, on the cost of the undertaking - that means, of course, that if the dock costs £10,000,000, as I am reliably informed it will, these experts will draw a total fee of £600,000. Surely that is something which calls for close investigation. There are many other undertakings, particularly in New South “Wales, which are costing double or treble the original estimate. I have received certain information in regard to fictitious invoices and loads of material being booked up more than once. These matters are so important that even a royal commission may ‘be warranted. The War Expenditure Committee has not sufficient authority or facilities to inquire promptly and fully into these matters, and I urge the Government to take steps to ensure that that committee, or whatever other body is set up to do this job, shall be! clothed with proper authority to deal with the matter thoroughly and promptly.
I cannot understand why there has been delay in regard to the matter of the Bankstown building to which I referred originally. Strenuous efforts are being made to throw a cloak over the entire incident in an endeavour to prevent any proceedings being taken. Three months have now elapsed and that is ample time to permit the consideration of whatever evidence may have been available. There are individuals in official positions as well as local government circles who are concerned with this matter, and I urge the Minister for War Organization of Industry to confer with the AttorneyGeneral without delay.
.- The shortage of doctors to meet civil medical needs and also the requirements of the fighting services is constantly under the notice of the Director-General of Medical- Services. Some time ago a medical co-ordination committee was appointed in each State to act in conjunction with a central medical co-ordination committee in Melbourne. These bodies are constantly reviewing the whole situation. In accordance with a policy approved by the central committee 200 doctors of more than 40 years of age have been discharged from the Army to help meet civilian medical needs throughout the Commonwealth. Their places have been taken in the Army by graduates from the universities. It has been said that the Army has too many doctors, but I remind honorable members that the Army must be prepared to meet any eventuality. There are times when Army doctors work 20 out of every 24 hours daily. At other times they are not so busy. The Army establishment, however, must be prepared to deal with heavy casualties at short notice. Doctors taken into the Army organization cannot be expected to function efficiently within a few days. They need a certain training in Army routine. Unfortunately I cannot hold out much hope that sufficient doctors can be released to meet all civilian needs in any normal way; that will not be possible until after the war is over. Doctors are required, not only in the Army, but also in the Air Force. Many medical practitioners have volunteered for service and have done, and are doing, splendid work at great personal and financial sacrifice. I know of many men who have surrendered lucrative practices and are serving in the forces as captains or majors. Recently I visited some Army hospitals at our outposts and I was surprised to find so many high-ranking specialists from Macquariestreet, Sydney, Collins-street, Melbourne, and Wickham-terrace, Brisbane, who, in those hospitals, were giving services to stricken soldiers which would be far beyond the financial reach of many people in civilian life. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has rendered a service to his electorate in directing attention to the needs of the situation. I shall bring his representations to the notice of the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services and everything possible will be done, in consultation with the Central Medical Coordination Committee in Melbourne, and the State committees, to relieve the situation. I hope that before very long it will be possible to discharge a substantial number of additional doctors from the Army.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) has referred to the shortage of men for dealing with refuse in various municipalities. Every effort is being made to avoid any danger to the health of the general community that might arise through refuse being left unattended in thickly populated areas. Considerations of safety in this regard are constantly in the minds of the man-power authorities. A committee representative of the municipal association, municipal employees federation and the man-power authorities has been appointed to deal with any disputes that arise over staff needs and also to meet hardship cases. Last week the Rand wick municipal authorities asked me to meet a deputation on this and other grievances. I was able to short-circuit the matter by arranging for the deputation to discuss the whole subject with the Deputy Director of Man Power in Sydney. I would be willing to make a similar arrangement for the Town Clerk of Drummoyne to meet the Deputy Director of Man Power on Monday to consider the situation in that area. The health of the community must be safeguarded and if there is a danger to health arising from the presence of garbage in a thickly populated area owing to an insufficient number of men it’ must be rectified. I assure the honorable member for Martin that everything possible will be done to remedy complaints in this regard.
The Minister for the Army has referred to the difficultieswhich have arisen owing to the shortage of medical practitioners to meet civilian needs. I shall consult the Director-General of Health to-morrow to ascertain whether there is any maldistribution in regard to our medical services, and I shall also ask the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) to give attention to the honorable member’s representations.
– By next month a considerable additional number of doctors should be released from the Army because by that time examination results will have made many more young doctors available for service.
– That should relieve the situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No. 7 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (33).
National Security (Shearing of Sheep) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Horse Racing in Northern Territory.
Australian Army : Release of New Guinea Personnel.
Gun Ammunition Production Directorate.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
With reference to the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to Newnes and Baerami shale oil proposals, dated the 10th Juno, 1943 -
What further developments, if any, have occurred concerning the Baerami field?
If no developments have occurred, is it proposed that the Public Works Committee should investigate the possibilities of the Baerami field and make such investigations the subject of a further report, as previously indicated ?
Does the present condition of petrol supplies within Australia obviate the need for the adoption of the United States of America mission’ s proposals for petrol production from local shale oil deposits?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440314_reps_17_177/>.