17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 4.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Sonne time ago, valuable exhibits were removed for safety from the basement of Parliament House. In view of the keen interest which the general public has evinced in them in the past, and in the light of the improvement of the defence position, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether or not you will consider having them returned?
– I have not exact knowledge of who ave tin? custodians of these exhibits. I agree with the honorable member that they were a matter of very keen interest id visitors to Parliament House. . I shall consult with the proper authority in order to determine whether or not they may be returned.
– As you know, Mr. Speaker, each day _ a document entitled Totes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives is circulated. I ask you what procedure is available to an honorable member who desires to challenge the accuracy of any item in that record. May he raise the matter ou a question of order, or must he submit a substantive motion in order to deal with it?
– It is the duty of the Clerk of the House to compile and issue from day to day the Totes and Proceedings. Unrevised proofs of them are issued on the morning following the sitting to which they relate. Should an honorable member desire to challenge their accuracy, I suggest that he should mention the matter to me so that I may consult with the Clerk and the Assistant Clerk, both of whom keep records. If, as I anticipate might be the case, p. ruling given by a Chairman of Committees were involved, that gentleman also might bo consulted. The question is not one of order. A substantive motion, of which notice had been given, would be necessary if the matter were to be dealt with otherwise.
– An honorable member would not bc out of order in submitting a substantive motion, if the procedure which you suggest did not suit him ?
– That is so; that is the best safeguard. If a mistake had been made, it might be adjusted after a proper inquiry. On the other hand, the submission of a motion might have very far-reaching consequences, one of which might be that whilst an honorable member might have a perfectly legitimate complaint he might be over-borne by a majority of the House. I warn honorable members that the establishment of the precedent of moving for the alteration of records which are kept by disinterested officers of the House might be dangerous, in that, at some time or other, a majority of the House might find it convenient to have a record erased.
– I rise to order. I bring under notice an inaccuracy in the official printed Votes and Proceedings of the House of Repr esentatives. No. 28, dated the 15th March, 1944. I personally know that this record is incorrect, and contrary to the Standing Orders. I quote this passage -
Member named. - The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Martens) named the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
Question - That the- clause be postponed - put and negatived.
Mr. McEwen having left the chamber, and having returned and expressed his regret, the matter was not further proceeded with.
L was present during the proceedings, and did not hear put such a motion as “ That the clause be postponed”, nor did I see any evidence of the Temporary Chairman putting any motion to the committee. Under the forms of the House, it could not have been put between the period when the member was named and the committee had dealt with such an order of the Chair as would alone finalize the incident. It was finalized when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) urged the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to explain the episode and said that otherwise it would be his, the Prime Ministers, duty to uphold the authority of the Chair by moving that the honor- it bie member be suspended from the siM-vice of the committee. The records of the House claim that between the naming of the honorable member for Indi and the finalization of the matter, the question, “ That the clause be postponed “, was put and negatived. If, Mr. Speaker, you are not satisfied with my explanation, I urge that the Hansard reporter who was on duty at the time be culled by you to the bar of the House and directed to furnish a translation of the official report that was taken at the time, together with any check report which may have been made by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter.
Standing Order 39, which appears under the heading “ Order in Debate - Suspension of Members “, reads -
Whenever any member shall have been named by the Speaker or by the Chairman of
Committees, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair; or of abusing the rules of the House, by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or of disorderly conduct, or otherwise disregarding the authority of the Chair, then, if the offence has been committed by such member in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on the motion being made-
– That is the point - on the motion being made.
– The standing order continues - no- amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed, “ That such member be suspended from the service of the House”; and, if the offence has been committed in a committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall, on i motion being made, put the same question in a similar way, and, if the motion be carried,, shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of thecommittee and report the circumstances to theHouse; and the Speaker shall thereupon put the same question, without amendment, adjournment or debate, as if the offence had been committed in the House itself.
My point is that the Temporary Chairman claims that, in the period which intervened between the naming of the honorable member for Indi and the closing of the incident - and the remarks which the Prime Minister made last night show that it had to be closed, otherwise he would have to move for the suspension of the honorable member - he put the question, “ That the clause be postponed “, and that it was negatived by the committee. I disagree with him in that regard.
– Hansard shows that he did not put the question.
– I have already indicated that this is not a question of order. I have allowed the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to state his case in his own way. I point out to him that he is not assisted by the standing order which he has cited. There is nothing in the Standing Orders which would prevent the House from proceeding with business between the naming of an honorable member and the subsequent submission of a motion for his suspension. The honorable member seeks some assistance from his submission that during this interval no business should be transacted. That is not borne out by the standing order. It is clearly stated that Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the question, upon the motion being made. There can be no debate after the motion is made, but business can be transacted before the making of the motion. As I promised the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I undertake to consult with all the authorities on the matter - with the Clerk and with the Clerk
– And with Hansard ?
– Yes, with Hansard, and with the Chairman of Committees. Afterwards, I shall report to the House.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I have already ruled that no point of order is involved.
– I desire to speak to a point of order arising out of your explanation. It would appear from your interpretation of the Standing Orders that an interval could elapse between the naming of a member and the taking of subsequent action, and that during this interval the business of the committee could proceed. If that be so, then no restriction could be placed upon the named member participating in the business of the committee, and this, I submit, would be a negation of the intention of Standing Order 56, which is disciplinary in Character.
-The honorable member, I presume, has in mind the naming of himself as a particular instance.
– Yes, as an instance; but your interpretation of the standing order was not related to any incident in which I was involved. Yours was a general interpretation.
– I am convinced that my ruling is sound. The honorable member was named, and left the chamber. He might have gone outside the precincts of the House. He might even have got into a fast motor car and gone elsewhere. Is it contended that the entire business of the committee should be suspended until he could be captured and brought back to the build.ing ? Obviously, the standing order was drafted so as to permit business to be continued after its interruption by an incident such as I have described.
– With your permission, I should like to say-
– Order ! The matter has been discussed long enough. The honorable member has his remedy.
– I was within the precincts of the House all the time, as was known to the Chairman of Committees, who sent a message to mc.
– Seeing that no improvement has taken place in regard to sleeper accommodation on the Adelaide-Melbourne express, can the Minister for Transport say when relief may be expected?
– Since my Labour colleagues from South Australia brought, this matter to my notice it has been receiving attention. I hope next week to be able to make a statement indicating that the position has been improved.
– Some monhs ago, the Government took over 350,000 cubic feel: of cool-storage space in Melbourne. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say how much of this space is occupied by apples from Tasmania, and how much is likely to be made available in the near future for the storage of apples produced in Victoria?
– Matters relating to the provision of cool storage space have been attended to by my assistant, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). He has a record of all space available and has discussed the provision of cool-storage space with the applegrowers of Victoria. We are doing all we can to meet the requirements of growers. If there is any vacant space, the Apple and Pear Board will make it available to Victorian growers, because the board is just as anxious to serve the interests of the Victorian growers as is the honorable member himself.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yesterday announce a further advance on wheat in
No. 0 pool ? If so, what is the amount of the advance, to what does that bring the total advances on wheat in No. 6 pool, and how much does the advance represent in cash?
– Yes, an announcement was made that a further advance of ls. Treasurer upon the non-quota wheat in No. 6 pool. This brings the total advances on non-quota wheat up to 3s., and the amount represented by the latest advance is, approximately, £2,160,000.
Improvement of Quality
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen a statement in yesterday’s press by Mr. Boyd, the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, that unless the Government permits the manufacture of better quality cloth, all our efforts to popularize Australian woollen materials with the Australian public will be in vain because the public do not want single weft material? If so, will the Minister again urge the Production Executive to grant permission for the manufacture of cloth of better quality.
– My colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, answered a question on this subject the other day. He is taking the matter up with Cabinet, and will make an early statement on the subject.
Alleged Breach or Regulations at Bankstown.
– by leaveDuring question time yesterday the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to a matter which I had raised in the House by way of questions and on motions for the adjournment of the House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) interjected that the honorable member surely did not believe that Ministers wished to hide anything. I want to make it clear that I have not at any time suggested that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) or any other Minister desired to hide anything or to suppress the facts. There has been dereliction of duty on the part of some one associated with the Department of War Organization of In dustry. For three months I have been trying to have this matter thoroughly sifted. By letter and personal interview, I have placed before the Minister for War Organization of Industry facts which have been brought to my notice by my constituents. As far back as the 14th December last I sent to the Minister a copy of a letter setting out the facts sent to me by a body in my electorate in regard to a number of buildings already constructed in the Bankstown district by a man named Fitzpatrick. Since then, I have sent the Minister further letters and seen him personally. His answer has always been that he is having the matter investigated and is awaiting the report. In view of the delay and the lack of action, I now consider it to be my duty to seize the opportunity provided by the presence in the House of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and all the other Ministers to make the facts known to them as well as to all other honorable members. Apart from the fact that there has been a definite dereliction of duty on the part of some officer of the Department of War Organization of Industry, there has also been lack of collaboration between that department and the Attorney-General’s Department. I dealt with this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House last week, and in his reply the Minister for War Organization of Industry said that certain aspects of the matter did not come under his jurisdiction. I then asked him whether he would confer with the Attorney-General on those aspects, and he said that he would. On Friday, I asked him whether he had conferred with the Attorney-General. I do not know whether he misunderstood m.y question, but I did not misunderstand his answer. Again, yesterday, I asked the Minister whether he had received the report of the investigation. He said that he had, hut that he had sent it to the Attorney-General. I inquired of the Attorney-General whether he had received the papers. He had not. Perhaps he will say now whether he has received them. A little while ago, we had a similar illustration of the lack of collaboration between the two departments, in the matter of a certain swimming pool. The Minister for War
Organization of Industry said that no breach of the regulations had been committed in the construction of that swimming pool, but soon afterwards the Attorney-General, through the Department of Labour and National Service, instituted an investigation in the wake of which followed a prosecution and the imposition of heavy penalties, it being successfully contended, on behalf of the Attorney-General, that not merely the construction of the pool, but also the use of vital labour and materials, constituted the offence. The case with which I am now dealing is similar, in that labour end materials have been used. Yesterday the Minister told me that he had received a report. His words were -
I have received a report which shows that certain building operations which the honorable member has alleged constitute breaches of National Security Regulations were undertaken before the building regulations were given effect. I have referred the whole matter to the Attorney-General.
Yet, two months ago, I was told by the officials of the Department of War Organization of Industry in Sydney that they regarded this as a flagrant breach of the National Security (Building Control) Regulations under four headings. What has happened in the meantime? The Minister now says that his advice is that the National- Security Regulations do not apply, and were not in operation when the buildings were in course of construction. I know that in local government circles, and in the Allied Works Council, influences are at work to prevent this matter from being brought to light. I quite believe that in the Bankstown Municipal Council obstructions would be raised to prevent a successful investigation of this matter, but there are other sources of information which could he drawn upon ,by the department’s investigators.
– The honorable member has not told us what it is all about.
– I am coming to that Perhaps the honorable member was not present when I raised this matter on former occasions. On the one hand, two months ago, the construction of these buildings was regarded by departmental officials as a flagrant breach under four headings of the National Security Regu lations; on the other hand, the Minister said yesterday that there was no breach.
– That is not at all what I said yesterday.
– I rely on. Hansard for the report of what the Minister said. He says now that apparently there is no breach of the regulations, whereas two months ago there was in the opinion of the Minister’s own officers a breach under four headings. There is the additional fact that if the Minister was relying on information from, the local government bodies, perhaps the officials were precluded from getting the full facts. But I made it clear that there was definite collusion with officials of the council in regard to the matter, and the departmental officials have not interviewed the people who supplied the information which T sent to the Minister. Everybody in Bankstown knows about this matter.
– What matter? The honorable member received leave to make a statement; but he has not told us what it is all about.
– It is about a number of buildings constructed at Bankstown by a man named Fitzpatrick.
– Is the honorable member able to tell me whether a prosecution is pending in connexion with this matter ?
– No, it is not. That is just the trouble. In order to illustrate my point, I will show the Prime Minister some photographs of the buildings. My information is that some time ago Mr. Fitzpatrick-
-Order! The honorable gentleman was given leave to make -a statement, but it seems to me that he is taking advantage of that leave to repeat a speech he made here the other night, and that is not fair to the House.
– The Prime Minister and other honorable members have just asked for particulars.
– What does the honorable member .say is wrong with my administration ?
– I have already said. In the first place, I understand that this individual applied for permission to make additions, at a cost of £100, to a galvanized iron structure to house motor lorries. The Bankstown Municipal Council gave permission, and I understand that similar permission was also given by the Department of War Organization of Industry. The Minister can check me in that regard. The galvanized iron structure has disappeared, and in the place of additions that were to cost £100 a cottage and a large building have been erected The dimensions of the building are: 160 feet by 60 feet by 40 feet. It has 24 skylights, fibrolite walls, steel girders and expensive electric light fittings. The floor and a huge yard, involving many thousands of square feet, are of concrete.
Mr.- Menzies. - All to cost £100?
– -My information is that the estimated cost of the building was between £2,00~0 and £3,000. This is a flagrant breach of the regulations. The structure is big enough to house aircraft.
– I am eager to hear a short account of what the honorable gentleman desires to bring before the House. Is there some scandal in connexion with this matter?
– A flagrant .breach of the regulations has been committed in regard to the utilization of man-power and materials. The Minister informed mc yesterday that the departmental report stated that the National Security Regulations did not operate when the construction of this building began.
– I said ‘that certain regulations did not operate.
– According to my information, this building was constructed within the last six or nine months. During that period I brought the matter to the notice of the department. My information is supported by a letter that I received from the Minister for Labour and- National Service (Mr. Holloway) yesterday. I ask honorable members to note the contrast between the inquiries promised by the Department of War Organization of Industry and the expeditious investigation by the Department of Labour and National Service. On the 9th March, I expressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service my disappointment with the slow progress of the inquiries, and he asked me to put my complaint in writing. I did so. He immediately communicated with the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales (Mr. Bellemore) who received the letter on the 10th March. Within the next 24 hours Mr. Bellemore submitted to the Minister a full report of the results of his inquiries. I ask honorable members to compare the information obtained by the Department of Labour and National Service in 24 hours with the inactivity of the Department of War Organization of Industry. Mr. Bellemore said -
With reference to your inquiry relative to the labour used by Mr. R. Fitzpatrick, of Bankstown, for thu construction of a large shed, garages, &u., mid for the construction of a concrete road in Marion-street, Bankstown, in front of Mr. Fitzpatrick^ premises, i wish to inform you that inquiries have now been made into this matter.
It appears that Mr. Fitzpatrick is a contractor for grading, drainage work, and carrying, and that he employs a staff of between 20 and 25 persons as lorry and tractor drivers.
Mr. Fitzpatrick has informed this directorate that he employed his staff on the work of constructing the shed and garages for the lest six months during periods when they could not bo employed on their normal work because of wet weather, and that the roofing, electrical installation and steel frame-work construction was carried out by three separate firms on a contract basis.” Whilst it is not known whether his statement relative to the employment of his own staff only during wet weather, is correct, this directorate has no evidence to the contrary.
Honorable members can use their own judgment as to whether work of this nature, including a concrete yard and the transplanting of a residence, could have been undertaken in wet weather? The cottage in front of the building cost between £400 and £500, although the cost of the entire job was not to exceed £100. The double garage has a tiled roof and texture bricks - materials required for vital defence works - and two steel shuttered doors; the cost must have been between £200 and £300. The amount originally allowed was £27. The local government authority is involved in the construction of a concrete road past this residence. It was supposed to straighten out the road, but really runs at right angles to it. This is the only residence served by the new road.
– Who built it?
– The Bankstown Municipal Council.
– Is the council “ in the cart” with the Minister?
– The peculiar part is that this contractor supplied the sand and the metal.
– This is all very confusing to me.
– There is a more serious aspect. I have shown that approval was given for additions to the galvanized iron garage at a cost not exceeding £100, but thousands of pounds have been expended upon ‘the structure. Mr. Bellemore said that no permission had been given for the utilization of labour and materials for the construction of the road, which cost ratepayers many thousands of pounds.
– Mr. Bellemore is threatening municipal councils for using men to do a little kerbing and guttering work.
– It is to the credit of Mr. Bellemore that he required only 24 hours in which to make inquiries and take action in this matter. I have asked the Attorney-General to intervene because materials urgently required for defence work have been used in the construction of this building. This, man had not obtained a priority for the erection of this structure. My information is that these materials were intended for vital defence work and were dumped on the Bankstown aerodrome. This man has carted materials for these defence works. Certain of those materials were put aside one afternoon and his lorry carted them away to the site of his garage. That is why the building resembles an aircraft hangar more than a garage. The steel girders and walls are cut to certain standards. Even a crane that was being utilized on this aerodrome was employed in the construction of the building.
– When was all this done?
– Within the last six jr nine months, according to my information. I brought the matter to the notice of the Department of War Organization more than three months ago.
– I should still like to know what all this is about.
– The honorable member has raised the matter on two other occasions.
– Every one in Bankstown seems to know about it except those who ought to know and who ought to have brought it to the notice of the authorities. This man is flaunting it around Bankstown that he has influence in official circles and local government circles ; he feels sure that no proceedings will be taken against him. The honour and prestige of the administration are involved in this matter, and I have a duty to my constitutents to raise it in this House.
– Are any Labour members of this Parliament also members of the Bankstown Municipal Council?
– I do not desire to go into that aspect. I do not want to implicate any one else in the matter. All I know is that my information definitely implicates this individual, and residents of Bankstown and other places in my electorate are asking whether privileged people can “ get away with these things “ without being prosecuted. The people of Bankstown want the law to take its course in this matter. I have endeavoured to prevent the calling of a public meeting to discuss it, because I believe that it can be thoroughly sifted elsewhere. Now I have brought it to the attention of the House. The Attorney-General should make a full investigation of the circumstances. These materials were supplied from the Allied Works Council, and certain officials are very restive about the whole matter. An attempt has been made to bring influence to bear, and this vital evidence could be destroyed. Therefore prompt action is urgent.
– On a point of order, I have had a very insulting remark addressed to me by the Minister for War Organization of Industry. I ask that he withdraw it or that you, Mr. Speaker, take appropriate action.
– Are you responsible for whispers ?
– I did not hear any remark. I do not know whether the Minister made it or not.
– Ask him.
– I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to withdraw the remark. He called me a bloody bastard.
– Put him out!
– I ask that the remark be withdrawn. I will not take that from any man. I have my duty to perform just as the Minister has his to perform.
– I did not hear the remark. I ask the Minister whether he made it. If so, he must withdraw it and apologize.
– I did not make that remark; anything I said was personal to the honorable member.
– Order ! That cannot be said in extenuation of the circumstance. The Chair did not hear the remark.
Mr.Mulcahy. - I am sitting close to the two honorable members, and I did not hear it.
– It is difficult for the Chair to insist on the withdrawal of a remark which it did not hear. I have asked the Minister to say whether he made the remark. He has admitted that he did make some remark. Whether the honorable gentleman made the remark openly or not, it was quite unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw it and apologize.
Mr.Dedman. - The remark which the honorable member for Reid has attributed to me was not actually what I said to him. Whatever I did say to him I withdraw.
– The Minister should apologize.
– by leave - The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has distorted a number of facts in relation to this subject, and has practically insinuated that my department has been mal-administered in regard to it. I wish to place the facts briefly before the House, in a straightforward way. On the 14th December - I am accepting the date given by the honorable member - my attention was drawn to an allegation that there had been an infringement of the building regulations by an individual named
Fitzpa trick, who lives at Bankstown. I asked officers of my department in Sydney to institute investigations into this complaint immediately.
– How did the matter come to the Minister’s notice?
– Through a letter written to me by the honorable member for Reid on the 14th December. I have already explained to the House that the building regulations were drafted to cover certain types of building construction. Certain other types of building construction were not covered at all.For example, concrete work was not covered for a variety of reasons, nor was the erection of fences.
– What about swimming pools?
– Swimming pools were not covered, for adequate reasons into which I shall not go in detail. I wish to make it clear, too, that it is not practicable for my department to maintain a large staff of inspectors to travel through the country in order to ascertain whether the regulations are being obeyed. ‘or not. We take it that 80 per cent. or 90 per cent., perhaps, of the people obey the regulations.
– And the other 10 per cent. “get away with it”.
– Some “get away with it “, and some do not, because individual citizens like the honorable member for Reid, and other honorable members, and members of the general public, from time to time draw my attention to the fact that infringements of the regulations are occurring somewhere or other. One avenue through which we usually hope to obtain information of any infringement is the local municipal councils. The honorable member for Reid has made the allegation that the Bankstown Municipal Council is involved in this business. I do not know whether there is any substance in that allegation or not. If the allegation is true, it follows that one channel through which information would reach me in regard to any infringement of the regulations would not be open.
– I have said that.
Mr.DEDMAN - The honorable member brought the matter to my attention on the 14th December and an investigation was instituted immediately. As I have said previously in the House, it is not always easy to obtain information concerning the infringement of building regulations. First, evidence has to be obtained that a particular building now in existence was not actually in existence when the permit was given.
– - That is a physical fact which it should not be difficult to prove. If a building was not in a certain place on a particular date people would know of it.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) may say that it should be easy to prove such a fact; but in such an instance as this, of insinuation and allegations, it may be quite difficult to prove it. The point is that my departmental officers began their investigations at the end of December, just before the Christmas festive season.
– Do not drag Father Christmas into it-
– Probably not much was done until after the opening’ of the new year. As I have said, we have not a large staff of inspectors. With the limited staff at our disposal we have been doing our best to obtain information as quickly as possible. During the last three weeks, the honorable member for Reid has asked me a series of questions. I have assured him that I was having a report made to me, and that I would expedite it as much as possible. I took steps to have the deputy director in Sydney informed that I desired to have it at the earliest possible date. Two days ago, (he honorable member for Reid again asked me whether or not the report was available. I replied that, so far as I understood the position, it would be in my hands on the following day. Last week, the honorable member asked me whether or not I would refer the matter to the Attorney-General. In a statement that, he made on a motion for the adjournment of the House, he raised a nember of questions which did not come within my jurisdiction. I am concerned only -with infringements of the building control regulations. The honorable mem ber referred to the building of a road by the Bankstown Council. This matter has nothing whatever to do with either my department or any, other Commonwealth department.
– Does not the honorable gentleman control man-power and materials?
– No; I do not control man-power and materials. The honorable member made the allegation that certain material had been stolen from an aerodrome.
– As a Minister of the Crown, is not the honorable gentleman interested in such an allegation?
My. DEDMAN.- I have not said that I was not interested, but have merely claimed that the matter does not come within the jurisdiction of my department. The honorable member asked me whether or not I would confer with the Attorney-General. I did so, and that right honorable gentleman now has the matter in hand. The honorable member knew that when he rose to speak.
– I did not. I spoke to the Attorney-General yesterday.
– Two days ago, .in this House, the honorable member asked me whether or not I had conferred with the Attorney-General, and I replied that I had done so. I believe that it was at the end of last week that the honorable member asked me whether or not I would confer with the AttorneyGeneral. I wish to make it clear that the investigations have occupied some little time in order that the matter might be properly covered. I received the report yesterday, and advised the honorable member to that effect. I also stated that certain of the allegations which he had made were in relation to buildings which had been begun and completed long before the building control regulations had come into operation.
– That is disputed.
– I did not say that that was the position in respect of all the allegations of infringement of the regulations which he had made. In connexion with certain other buildings, it appears that there has been an infringement of the regulations.
– The honorable member did not say that yesterday.
– I did say that yesterday. I have the statement in front of me. The honorable member would appear not to understand ordinary English. There can be no question whatsoever of bribery or corruption, Or of anything that is unsavoury in this business, so far as the administration of my department is concerned.
– I have never made such a suggestion.
– The honorable member has insinuated it. The House heard what ho said, and I am quite sure can judge between us. Yesterday, I stated that the report had been received by me and that the matter had been referred to the Attorney-General. Everybody knows that that right honorable gentleman is an exceptionally busy man; he was in the House during the whole of last’ night, in charge of a certain bill. Is it to be thought that, because he has not had time to look through the papers-
– I have not yet seen the documents.
– My department has acted in a perfectly straightforward manner. It has conducted the investigations as expeditiously as it could. The integrity of its officers cannot be questioned.
– I have never suggested that it could.
– I have the utmost faith in their integrity. The report having been received and passed on to the Attorney-General’s Department, 1 am confident that my colleague will take action upon it.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation. I have not “at any time made, nor did I intend to make, any suggestion of bribery or corruption in connexion with the Department of “War Organization of Industry, or of the Minister personally. I thought that I had made it clear throughout that I have the highest regard for his prestige. I am quite sure that he would not be a party to collusion with officials of any other department, such as the Allied “Works Council, in regard to materials supplied to an aerodrome.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether Standing Order 295 contains a mandatory provision that -
A member calling for a division shall not leave the chamber and shall vote with those who, in the opinion of the Speaker, were in the minority.
Will you, sir, indicate whether, in accordance with that standing order, the votes of the Attorney-‘General and the Minister for Information, who called for a division last night on the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill 1944, have been recorded as votes in the negative? If not, do you not consider that you are bound by such provision, irrespective of whether the matter was brought to notice at the time or not, to rectify the Votes and Proceedings of this House in regard to the votes of the two honorable gentlemen whom I have named?
– This matter was referred to early this morning. The Chair does not propose to submit to crossexamination on the Standing Orders on matters not at present arising. I ruled last night that there was no point of order. Any point of order should have been taken at the time.
– I rise to order. Do I understand you to rule, Mr. Speaker, that the Standing Orders do not operate in a mandatory sense unless some question is raised by a member rising in his place in the House?
– At the time.
– I do not propose to go over ancient history in order to initiate a debate on the rights and wrongs of a certain matter that was raised last night. I ruled when the point was raised that the time was inappropriate. That is all I have to say.
– During the week the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) sought information concerning the circulation of Ilansard. I now supply to him information on the points which he raised -
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Sup,ply.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of the Opposition [5.29]. - I rise not to make a speech, but to raise a question on which, Mr. Speaker, I should be glad to have your guidance at some suitable time. Normally, the Ilansard report is issued to certain persons, including myself, in what we call a “fiat”. In the past, the “ flat “ has always been headed, “ Un revised and confidential, and not to be quoted from “. This morning, for the first time, the “flat” has reached me with a specially leaded double-column heading, which reads, “ Unrevised and confidential. This issue is for the immediate convenience and sole usp of recipients. As its contents have not been edited or checked, it is not to be quoted from or used in official files “. I shall be glad if you will advise us, at some time convenient to yourself, who is responsible for the putting of this new label on the Hansard “ flats “. Is it a matter subject to your direction, or to the direction of the officers of the House, or is it appended to the document by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter? If so, I should be happy to know by what authority. I am merely a searcher for inform a.tion.
– It is of no use asking’ me for information on the subject.
– I am not asking the Prime Minister for information. I have no doubt that he also is puzzled. I raise this matter now so that you, Mr.
Speaker, may enlighten us in regard to it later on.
– I think I can answer the right honorable member immediately. A limited number of these “ flats “ - about 90 1 think - are issued to the leaders of the parties, to Ministers, and to the principal officers of the various departments. Speakers of the House, and the Hansard department, have endeavoured in the past to limit the number of these copies and the number has been kept, as far as possible, to approximately 90. They have always been marked “ Unrevised and confidential “, for the obvious reason that they are only proof copies, and the speeches have not been checked by the person - who made them. Honorable members will understand that the reason for distributing these unrevised and confidential copies of proceedings i3 to meet the convenience of Ministers and leaders of parties.
– If they are uncorrected, I say that it is a breach of privilege.
-It is for that very reason that the copies have always been marked “Unrevised and confidential”.
– That is not enough.
– I do not know whether it is or not. I do not know for how long this has been the practice. Honorable members can understand how useful it is to party leaders and Ministers and heads of departments to gol these copies, so thai, there may be rapid consideration of matters raised in thiHouse. At the same time, the copies are marked “ Unrevised and confidential “ for the specific purpose of indicating that they have not been edited, and have not been corrected by honorable members themselves. Honorable members artaware of the limitations placed upon thecorrection of proofs by speakers. The point is that, although the proofs have been marked “ Unrevised and confidential quite recently quotations from the “ flats “ have been made in the House on a number of occasions, and the “ flats “ were in the hands of private members who were not entitled to them, because they had been issued only to the persons
I have mentioned. I have discussed this matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Personally, I gave no direction regarding the new heading which appears on the “ flats “. I think the heading might have been placed there by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter for the reasons I have already indicated, namely, to emphasize that they are unrevised and confidential.
– There is something more, also. They have not been edited by him, nor was it possible for him to go through them.
– I think this new; heading has been placed on the “flats”’ for no other purpose than to underline or” emphasize the fact that they are unre-vised and confidential, and that they ought not, in fairness to everybody, to be quoted from. I see nothing offensive in the new heading, and I apprehend that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) does not regard -it as offensive.
– Oh, no !
– That is the sole reason that motivated the Principal Parliamentary Reporter in placing the new heading on the “ flats “ - to emphasize the fact that they are unrevised and confidential.
– I do not know when the new heading first appeared. From the establishment of the Commonwealth, the practice was to supply a member with proofs of his own speech, and, so far as I know, no one else was supplied with a copy. If copies got into the hands of other persons, there was attached to them a red tab which stated plainly that they were unrevised, and were hot to .be quoted from. That was the practice until quite recently.
– Not until quite recently. These “ flats “ were coming to me, as Leader of the Opposition, as far back as 1935. I do not know how long the practice existed before that.
– Those were songs of yesterday. Mr. Speaker has been in the House for some time, and he knows very well that the “ flat “ Ls an old friend in a new guise. The point that my leader makes is this: Through the issue of “flats” speeches are now placed in the hands of persons other than those who made them.
– That is not the point.
– Well, I say that it is the point. The form of the notice which appears on the “ flats “ is of no importance. We are concerned with the fact that unrevised, unedited copies of speeches are being circulated. I have not seen the notice now appearing on the “ flats “, and I do not know what it contains, but the explanation I have given is quite a reasonable one. Naturally, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter has to take some responsibility for the form in which matter appears. He corrects obvious errors. He does not attempt to do more than correct such errors as arise in transcription, and so on. I can suggest nothing more than that you, Mr. Speaker, should exercise your authority, and refuse to authorize the circulation of the “flats” to more than a very limited number of persons. I heard you say that they were placed in the hands of heads of departments. Well, I do not think that they ought to be.
– It has been done ever since the time when I became Leader of the Opposition.
– Ever since the right honorable gentleman became Leader of the Opposition, but not ever since he became a member of Parliament.
– I do not know what happened in this regard before I became Leader of the Opposition.
– There were lots of things going on before any of us entered Parliament.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has raised a matter which is news to me, and I hope that, having raised it, the right honorable gentleman will listen to my view upon it. I understand from what he said that it is the practice to hand uncorrected reports of members’ speeches to leaders of parties in this House.
– Before the members themselves see them?
– Before and irrespective of whether the members have seen them, uncorrected proofs are given to other persons. Well, I take leave to protest against that practice as entirely improper and something of which I was not aware until the statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It would be very interesting to discover when this practice was introduced.
– At one time any one who wanted to see the uncorrected proof of a member’s speech had first to obtain his permission.
– Yes. The practice was that when a member made a speech it was not seen or allowed to be seen by any other member, whether a party leader or not, until it had been corrected, edited and passed by the member who had made the speech.
– Yes, unless with his permission, that was never done.
– Unless with his permission, it was never done. I have myself asked for “ pulls “ of speeches. I have asked for a “ pull “ of a Prime Minister’s speech when it dealt with a matter in which I was peculiarly interested or in respect of which I had to deliver an address in this House. I have asked in special circumstances the permission of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General or individual ordinary members as the case may be, for that permission, and permission was usually granted. I am frankly disquieted to learn that a speech, with all its imperfections awaiting correction, has been made available to other members.
– And to departments.
– And to departments! If that is so, of course all I can say is that, in my view, it is grossly improper. My experience is that the Ilansard reporters,’ being hampered by interruptions in the chamber and by the fact that they necessarily mishear or fail to hear some things that a member has said, being human, cannot do a job that is 100 per cent, accurate. In. those circumstances, it is disturbing to know that a speech which requires to be corrected, because it is not what the member has said, or in some cases intended to say. is handed to chosen leaders in this House as being in fact what he did say, when we all know from common experience that it is perhaps what he did not say. I should like to know when this practice originated.
– It has been in force ever since I have been here.
– -I should like to know when the practice was abandoned by virtue of which a member was required to give his consent before an uncorrected proof could be used in that way. It is quite improper that incorrect representations of what a member has said should be supplied to any privileged few in this House and I hope that the present practice will be immediately discontinued.
.- I am amazed at this practice. I have been a member of this House for several years, and I know that what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said is perfectly true, and that before anybody could get a “ pull “ of a member’s speech he first had to get the consent of that member. I do not know when this new practice came into being, but I am certainly opposed to it. On one occasion I had an argument in this House with my own party, and a “ pull “ of my speech was used at the conference of the Australian Labour party, before I had even seen it myself. How that came about I do not know; but, when I complained that I had not given my consent to anybody but myself seeing it, I learned that it was actually purloined by some one. On other occasions, I have been asked to consent to my speeches being looked at. The position is that I mak; a speech to-day and I do not get a proof of it until late to-morrow afternoon, but the “ flats “ apparently are distributed first thing in the morning to the Ministers.
– And to the leaders of the Opposition parties. It is grossly unfair.
– To whom?
– To the man who has made the speech.
– The “ pulls “ are never used.
– One of mine was used at the Australian Labour party conference. The fact remains that they could be used. Like the honorable member for Batman, I desire to know when this practice was introduced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made it clear that the innovation has not been made since he took office, because he was receiving the “ flats “ when he was Leader of the Opposition about three years ago. The House should be told who was responsible for the change. In my opinion we should immediately revert to the former practice under which no honorable member could see the “ pull “ of another honorable members speech unless he had first obtained the consent of the honorable gentleman who delivered the speech.
o.’51]. - I have no feeling whatsoever about this matter. So far as I can recall, I was appointed Leader of the Opposition in 1935. Whether “fiats” were available then, I cannot say; but they certainly became available to me because for some time, while I was Leader of the Opposition, I received “ flats “ each morning. I understood that “ flats “ were issued to Ministers and to the secretaries of departments. To that practice I raised no objection. I knew that they were confidential. I considered that whoever had been responsible for asking for the “ flats “ to be made available early to Ministers and departments did so only to expedite public business by enabling matters that honorable gentlemen had raised in the House to be promptly investigated by the departments. Otherwise, every Minister would need to have his private secretary in the House to take a note, independent of the Mansard report, of what honorable gentlemen say. If that course be insisted upon, we shall have to increase the accommodation of this building for the note-takers. If, on the other hand, the leader of a party or a Minister is not to be permitted to learn without delay what an honorable member has said except with his consent difficulties will arise. It is not always practicable to obtain that consent. If a speech is made on Friday, one cannot obtain the consent of the honorable member who delivered it until the following Tuesday or Wednesday. In any case, the member himself does not correct his proof for three or four days. I have had some experience in this Parliament. It is many years since I attempted to cor rect a Hansard proof of any speech that I made. I have found the reliability of Hansard beyond question. In fact, I believed that sometimes I did not speak so clearly as Hansard recorded me as having spoken.
– That applies to many of us.
– As the question of honorable members being misreported may arise, the public ought to be told, at least, my experience of the high degree of accuracy that marks the work of Hansard.
This matter under discussion is outside my province. The parliamentary reports are under the direction of Mr. Speaker. I have no doubt that a Minister or Prime Minister made representations to a former Speaker years ago for the issue of these “flats” in order to facilitate public business. If the House considers that the “flats” should not be issued to Ministers and leaders of parties, it will have its way; but the consideration of many matters which honorable gentlemen themselves are eager to have dealt with promptly will Hp. delayed, because they can only be handled expeditiously if the “ flats “ are made available.
– Hansard proofs and their distribution is not a new subject in this House even within my memory. Not long after I became a member of this chamber, some nine years ago. a fairly long debate occurred on the whole question of the availability of Hansard proofs to Ministers, leaders of parties and private members. Having come straight from the Parliament of South Australia, I pointed out that the practice of the State House was to issue to every honorable member a copy of the whole of the proceedings of the previous day. If any corrections were made by speakers, other honorable members were able to compare them with the original Hansard report.
During the debate to which. I referred, allegations were made that certain vital words or passages had been excised from speeches made by honorable members in this chamber. Whilst I have one or two recollections of these incidents, I shall not deal with them now. I uphold the view of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that if honorable members insist upon their speeches being word-perfect before they reach government departments the business of the country will be held up, because the departments will be prevented from giving proper consideration to the matters which honorable members themselves raise.
– That is the point.
– How does the honorable member account for .the fact that Ilansard always asks for the consent of the honorable member who made the speech, before it will make a copy of it available to another honorable member?
– Because the honorable member may desire to quote from the uncorrected proof.
– I cannot recall ever having been involved in a request of that sort. But there are 20 or 30 pressmen in the gallery, and they can write anything they like about us, and we have no redress. Regarding my experience of Hansard, I have no cause for complaint. A few days ago I Spoke for nearly 40 minutes upon the Government’s referendum proposals and I had to make only two minor corrections in my proof. The House of Representatives is a much more boisterous chamber than is the House of Assembly of South Australia, where I gained my first experience of parliamentary procedure. The State House was more like a Sunday school. Honorable members have little cause for complaint about the reporting of debates. At times I find it extremely difficult to hear what other honorable members are saying. Hansard is placed at the table in the centre of the chamber and must hear many of the interjections,’ by-play and noise that go on. All things considered, the parliamentary reporters do a very fair job indeed.
Regarding the availability of speeches, there is little to be said in favour of the proposal of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I know that he will pardon me for disagreeing with him on this point.
– The honorable member generally disagrees with me, so I pardon him now as. usual.
– When I raise a matter in this House, my object is to seek redress, and the quicker the Minister concerned has the subject investigated by his department the better it suits me. If we depart from this procedure, every Minister must have his own note-taker here. That state of affairs, apart from being practically unworkable, would be most expensive. It would not be a duplication or even a triplication; it would multiply the expense twenty times. Considering the accuracy of the parliamentary reports, honorable members have very little reason for concern.
– Is not a private member at a disadvantage in not receiving a “ pull “ of Ministers’ speeches ?
– That is the only point I desire to raise. I mentioned it years ago because I was accustomed to the practice in South Australia under which every honorable member received daily a copy of all the proceedings of the Parliament. There were 46 members of the House of Assembly, and each received a complete record of Hansard on the following morning, to peruse if he felt so inclined. I do not advocate the adoption of that practice at the present time, when supplies of paper must be conserved and the cost of printing must be kept in mind. I seldom had occasion to refer to the whole of the debates, but if an honorable member sub-edited his speech, I could examine the correction by comparing the amended speech with the original Hansard record. Occasions may arise when there will be a little difference between what one says in the heat of the moment in answer to an interjection, and what he may record in Hansard as his more considered view of what he thought he ought to have said in answer to it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I direct attention, now, to certain trends in agriculture in this country, which will be forced upon our attention before very long, and certainly as soon as the war ends. It appears to nae that we can look forward to facing several most important problems in agriculture within measurable time of the conclusion of hostilities. This is true also of other agricultural countries, generally known as the new countries. I refer to New Zealand, South America, South Africa and, to a lesser degree, the North American continent. Some lessons were learnt by certain countries from their experiences in and after the last war. One of these very vitally affected the wheat industry of Australia. During that war certain countries, including France, Germany and Italy, were forced to expand their agricultural activities. The result was that the export market which they had previously provided for other wheat-growing countries was practically eliminated. The United Kingdom alone remained a considerable importer of wheat. The lessons of the last war have been repeated during this war. I believe that when the fog of war clears sufficiently we shall discover that certain vital alterations have occurred in the agricultural economy of Europe. This has been indicated in our experience with the United Kingdom, the one country in the European zone with which we have been able to maintain practically untrammelled intercourse. I believe that we shall find after the war that a greatly reduced quantity of foodstuffs will be imported by the United Kingdom because so much more is being produced there. In this regard I commend to the careful study of honorable members, especially those who represent agricultural districts, a small book entitled Britain Can Feed Herself, by Pollitt. If the contentions made in that publication prove to be true, Great Britain, in the future, will not import’ two-thirds of its foodstuffs. This will mean that we shall be obliged to overhaul our agricultural industries. My view, which I submit for the careful consideration of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and other honorable members interested in agricultural industries, is that the situation in Great Britain after the war will vitally affect the future of agriculture in Australia. Our future will be affected also by the interpretation that may be given to the very important document known as the Atlantic Charter, which some honorable members seem to regard as a new Nicene creed. If that document is interpreted according to the meaning given to common English, we sha*ll witness, in the days following the war, a degree of free trade which has not been known in the lives of any of us, and it will make a strong impact upon our future agricultural policy.
Another important factor will be thi” “ wash-up “ in relation to lend-lease aid. Will Australia be a debtor or a creditor of the United States of America ? In either case, the situation will need careful thought. There can be no doubt that, as the result of the war, Great. Britain and other countries in Europe will have developed a far greater degree of self-sufficiency in agriculture than has been known hitherto.
The considerations that I have mentioned should be viewed in association with the “ tie-up “ of certain agricultural trends which are unmistakable in Australia. We have had evidence of them almost every day for nearly two and a half years, and they have created unprecedented conditions throughout the Commonwealth. During that period the most general call-up of men and women has occurred that this industry has ever known or is likely to know in our lifetime. This has had, and will still have, an important bearing upon the future of agriculture. Disturbances in the distribution of man-power become apparent very much more quickly in secondary industries than in primary industries. There are still some honorable members of this House who do not realize that, in the lust two or three years, the farms, dairies, stations, orchards and gardens of Australia have been kept in production very largely because of the activities of elderly people who had regarded their working life as almost finished. They have been aided in their work by juniors, too young for the call-up.
I raise these points not with any intention to criticize the Government unduly, but because I believe that they deserve serious and immediate consideration. Probably the members of the Government will submit statistics in rebuttal of some of my arguments, but every honorable member who is at all closely identified with life in our country districts will know that what I have said is true. We have witnessed the sale and dispersal of numerous dairy herds in the last year or two; the area put under fallow has been greatly reduced and fencing and maintenance of farms have not been maintained at anything like the required standard. All this has been due to the fact that the supply of man-power and materials has been inadequate. Of course, we all realize that man-power and materials are closely inter-related. Another stultifying factor in agriculture has been the reduced supply of artificial manures available to farmers. The combined results of all these handicaps may be staved off for’a time, but ultimately the situation will have to be faced and grappled with courageously. When manpower and materials are not available for use in secondary industries, those industries are quickly brought almost to a standstill. Primary industries are not affected so rapidly. Nevertheless, the lack of man-power and materials gradually assumes a snow-ball effect, and 1 am afraid that unless something is done promptly to meet the situation that is developing, disaster will overtake the food production programme of Australia, and the productive capacity of the various classes of land which we farm will be seriously reduced.
Perhaps the most serious problem is the lack of man-power. Most honorable gentlemen who were members of the last Parliament look upon me as one who was in favour of the greatest possible military participation by Australia in the conduct of the war
– Yes, the honorable gentleman would have had us send, division after division abroad.
– In 1939, when honorable gentlemen opposite did not want to send even one division of Australian troops abroad, I was in favour of sending at least five divisions. Many more divisions have been raised for service outside Australia since that time.
– Tell us what you said about Russia.
– I shall not. qualify a single word that I have said about Russia, and honorable gentlemen will .realize, when the peace conference is being held, that I have no need to do so.
– The honorable gentleman said that the Russians would not last six weeks against the Germans.
– The Russian showing against the Finns in the early days of the war justified that view. I do not want to discuss Russia at the moment, but I shall be happy to do so on an appropriate future occasion. I am not in the habit of qualifying statements which I make in this House. I stand by what I say. If some honorable gentlemen opposite would adopt the same practice it would lead to an improvement in the political life of Australia. If honorable gentlemen opposite are as ignorant of the trends of agriculture as they appear to be of the trend in the relations of certain Allied countries and Russia, it is a poor outlook for the agricultural industries of Australia.
The distribution of man-power in Australia, as I have always said, should be such as will lead to our making the greatest possible contribution to the successful conduct of the war. Some people, including some members of this House, seem to think that advocates of conscription, of whom I have always been one, believe that conscription means; grabbing people by the scruff of the neck and putting them into a uniform. That is not conscription. The essence of conscription is that every person shall do the job that he is best able to doin war-time. This country is organized: on a basis of compromise. Unfortunately, that policy has dominated Australia throughout the war period. In my opinion, too many men have been called up from the agricultural industries and put into various services, and I do not confine that term to the three fighting services, of which the Navy is very small.
– The trouble has arisen, not because of the call-up of men from the land, but because so many volunteered in the early days of the war.
– In that connexion, I am totally opposed to the policy that is now being followed. I. have never believed in the voluntary system. It was the policy of the Australian Parliament at the outbreak of this war, and I was obliged to accept it, but latterly it has not been the policy. To-day, we have a system under which the Government retains and exercises the right to call up every man and woman in the community for whatever work it considers that they ought to do. I am satisfied from past observations that too many men arc in the different services, including the Allied Works Council and munitions establishments. An investigation by competent persons would easily prove that tens of thousands of the men who are attached to the Army, the ground staff of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Allied Works Council, and the Munitions Department, would be better employed if they were transferred to some other avocation. Among the avocations to which they might be* transferred, I should certainly give to agriculture the highest priority, as being the most important and the most deserving of having additional man-power allotted to it.
– If a man refused to work on the land, what would the honorable gentleman do?
– I have ‘ declared myself a conscriptionist, who says that the Government should have the right to tell every man what he should do in the best interests of the country.
– Colleagues of the honorable gentleman last night objected that under certain of the powers which the Government seeks to have conferred on the Commonwealth it could obtain the authority to instruct all persons as to where they should be employed.
– There is no need for a referendum of the people to enable the Government to exercise such a power in time of war. During the 1914-18 conflict, there was no need for the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) to have a referendum, on the question of conscription; all that he lacked was the courage to put it into force. He took the meek, mild, and middle course of appealing to the country to give to him the authority to do something which he already had the power to do. Conscription in time of war is the only possible policy, and the Government is not prevented by constitutional limitations from giving effect to it. There is no lion in the path, if the Government wishes to proceed along it. It can do that, and it is doing it every day of the week. Thousands of men in this country, with or without their consent, have been called up and have been allotted to the Allied Works Council; they have been ?ent to the Northern Territory, northwestern Australia, Cape York Peninsula, and even New Guinea. That is just as much an act of conscription as would be an instruction to men to dig potatoes, repair fences, or sink wells.
– The honorable gentleman would not keep a man on his property for five minutes if he were an unwilling worker.
– I do not know anybody who would. I have been brought up on the gospel not of loafing, but of hard work. We hear too much in this country of the beautiful heaven in which we are to live after the war, with nobody working and everybody being well off. Viewing the agricultural position as I know it, I can say that when this war is over a very hard task will confront every agricultural industry, in the restoration of normal conditions in respect of repairs and facilities. That task will also confront the transport industries. Every one is aware of the deterioration of the railways system. There is only a limited volume of man-power and resources for employment in repair work. That will apply also in a certain degree to sea transport, and in very great degree to road transport. One of the things which I have noticed is the refusal of the Army Department to release certain vital tradesmen. A certain degree of success is being achieved, although I have not participated greatly in it, in securing the release of men from the Army for return to the land; but there seems to be reluctance by the man-power authorities to release men for saddlery establishments, blacksmith shops, and licensed road transport. If the agricultural industry is to function satisfactorily and successfully, repairs must lie maintained, men must be employed in blacksmithing and saddlery establishments, and drivers who can take charge of road transport, as well as mechanics to keep road transport in repair, must lie made available. These things are essential. I have a strong feeling that the proper degree of attention is not being paid to them. I fully appreciate the difficulties with which the Government is confronted. With a huge majority - a very large tail on the dog - mid several big problems, it may not be having an altogether easy time. Nevertheless, I put it to Ministers that the agricultural position must be investigated. A long-range view must be taken of some of the problems that may be likely to arise, and a somewhat shortrange view of the problems with which we are immediately confronted. Repairs und maintenance of the equipment of the farmer and the capacity of the Australian transport system, are very important. If these are to be maintained, man-power and materials must be released.
I could take the Australian, agricultural industries one by one, and, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will readily admit, disclose certain weaknesses in them, but t do not want to do that to-night. My object has been briefly to deal with the question generally, and once again to endeavour to impress on the Government the necessity for taking a fairly firm grip of the situation immediately, in order that we may not be faced with rather more acute situations than those with which we have had to cope in the not-far-distant past.
– I do not know that I have any very great grievance in which to indulge myself for a little while, except that I am experiencing a certain amount of fatigue from the fluctuations between last night’s ideal jurisprudence and the occasional interspersion of jungle law, during which we witnessed some examples of misanthropy. I should not be riding my hobby-horse with characteristic enthusiasm, were it not for the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is, I believe, about to go abroad, and there are certain matters relevant to the future of Australia to which his attention might well be drawn so that he may give adequate consideration to them upon his return. Since I last spoke upon the population problem in this chamber, the British Government has taken advanced action in the form of the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the subject of population. I do not participate often in the debates which take place in this chamber; I leave it to experienced members to discuss in their own way the problems that affect the wider aspects of Australian life. I am interested in their contributions, but am not altogether sure as to how accurate their observations may be. Probably that applies also to my riding of my particular hobby-horse. But I have devoted a .considerable number of years to an investigation of the Australian _ population problem, and am perfectly convinced - and could advance an abundance of reasons to prove - that the Australian flag could be hauled down within 50 years. It is all very well to pave our cities with marble. The first requisite in all our schemes is to have an adequate population for the protection and development of our country. During the last few weeks, I have caused some investigations to be made by the appropriate authority, in order to ascertain what has been the actual position during the last few years in relation to our population drifts. Yesterday, I received a graph which I shall ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard; it clearly illustrates just what is happening to the Australian population problem. One side of it shows the variation of the death-rate. In 1S60, the death-rate was approximately 20 per 1,000, and by 1940 it had dropped to approximately 10 per 1,000, the decrease having been gradual. The top line on the graph shows the birth-rate during that period. In 1860, it was approximately 43 per 1,000, but in the last year before the war it had dropped to 17 per 1,000. A rapid downward tendency has been manifest, and if it be continued the death-rate will exceed the birth-rate before many years have elapsed. The problem is a tragic one, and should engage our serious attention. If my friends opposite are earnest in their desire to expand and develop this country as our fathers wished it to be developed, we must first ensure a population that will be capable of developing and defending it. It is conceivable that within the next forty years we may have a population of about 9,000,000. I am speaking purely of the internal problem, because I see no reason why we should have an immigration policy; there are plenty of reasons why we should have immigrants, but there is no possibility of getting them. I am also actuated by a remark, made only last week by one who occupies a. very high place in. Australian public life, in which he appealed for a White Australia. I am in entire accord with the idea; but so as not to lose Australia, we may have to turn our attention to other matters. The Department of Health -only yesterday supplied to me very interesting figures which are indicative of population trends. Between 1881 and 1890 there were 43,483 persons who reached the age of 60 years, whilst between 1932 and 1934 the number was 69,950. From 1881 to 1890 the number that reached the age of 80 years was 10,438, whereas from 1932 to 1934 it was 22,223. We are maintaining our population purely at the expense of longevity. This graph clearly shows that if the birth-rate goes steeply down, if the deathrate is maintained, and if the longevity rate rises, eventually a very considerable proportion of our population will be in the old-age group. We have set out to build up an ideal social State. We are not the only people in the world whose aims are in that direction. If any one is prepared to inquire into what Great Britain is doing at the present time, he will find that whilst 40 years ago we probably led the world in our approach to social security, today we are lagging very considerably. I suggest, that while the Prime Minister is in Great Britain, he should inquire into what is being done in this direction.
The second report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services contains figures at page 12 which show that in 1939, out of every 10,000 of the population, 128 were in receipt of invalid pensions; and I point out that, in order to get an invalid pension, a person mustobtain a doctor’s certificate showing that he is incapacitated. In 1940, the year after war was declared, the number of persons in receipt of invalid pensions suddenly dropped to 84 per 10,000. The following year it dropped to 83, then it returned to 84, and this year it is down to 80. What conclusion are we to draw from that?
– The war made light jobs for them.
– That is perfectly true. In order to show that the figure of 12S for the year in which war broke out was not abnormal, I mention that, in the previous year, the figure was 125, for the year before that 122, and for the year before that 119. Those figures showthat either the doctors’ certificates were entirely wrong - and I have no desire to cast reflections on the members of my own profession - or that people notwithstanding their disabilities, are prepared to work in order to support themselves if suitable employment is offering. That is another matter to which we must’ devote our attention after the war. I have discussed this problem of population with a great many people, and I have always been amazed to find that most, of them are firmly of the opinion that they know all about it. I have studied it from the biological, the economic, the social and even the spiritual side, and I do not know the cause of our declining birth-rate, nor its cure. Having regard to scientific achievements since the outbreak of the war, and their effect in annihilating distance, I do not believe that 7,000,000 people can hold Australia. It is our duty as persons concerned for the welfare of our country, to ascertain if possible the inherent reasons responsible for our unsatisfactory birth-rate. We would do well to follow the example of the Government of Great Britain, and appoint a royal commission to examine the problem and endeavour to find whether the cause is social, economic or genetic. Some say that the low birth-rate is due to the lack of social security, but I remind honorable members that the people with the highest measure of social security are the most infertile. I believe that the low birth-rate is due to a combination of factors. If Ave do not solve this problem we shall pay the penalty in the loss of our country. If Sir Walter Kinnear’s figures are correct, and it is true that in 1972 40 per cent, of the population will be in the old-age group, and 20 per cent, in the child group, then 1 am convinced that the remaining 40 per cent, will not bc- able to carry on the economic life of Australia, and provide for its development and defence. I say emphatically that it cannot be done. The lower animals are able to reproduce their kind in a few years. It does not take long to breed a herd or a flock, but the human being takes a couple of decades to grow to maturity. Already, the gravest damage has been done, and remedies, even if applied now, could not take effect for a considerable time. Statistics collected in Great Britain show that, since 1918, the number of persons in the old-age group has doubled ; the number over 45 has increased by 75 per cent.; whilst the number of children of school age is the same as in the nineties, when the population was only 23,000,000. It is of no use splitting hairs over problems assorted with democracy, fascism or totalitarianism if we allow the population simply to destroy itself.
The problem of population is not a new one in Australia, and I believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) has even written a book on the subject. It takes a long time to get anything done here, and I need only cite our experience in regard to housing in support of that statement. In 1927, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was responsible for having passed by Parliament an act providing for the inauguration of a £20,000,000 housing scheme. I am certain that if the Australian people were given an opportunity to express an opinion through a referendum, 99 per cent, of them would favour a national housing scheme; yet, although that act has been on the statute-book for seventeen years, not one house has been built as a result of it. If seventeen years is not sufficient time in which to make a start on something urgently demanded by the people, and for which there already exists legislative sanction, how long will it take us to awaken the people to the danger of their own self-destruction?
– Has the honorable member any figures from 1860 onwards showing the average age of marriage?
– Those figures are available, and that is an important factor affecting the birth-rate. It may be said, for general purposes, that the fertile life of the human female is the period between 18 years and 38 years. Our mothers married at 18, whereas the average age at which females marry to-day is about 28. Thus they have only ten fertile years of marriage, and they have already lost ten best years. However, the declining birth-rate is not due to any one thing. It is due to a multiplicity of factors, including urbanization, genetics, and biological, social and economic considerations. The tendency of men right throughout history has been to become urbanized, and, by achieving urbanization, automatically to exterminate themselves. How otherwise are we to explain the extinction of all the great nations of the past? In the beginning, nil peoples were rural dwellers. Later, they herded in cities, and the result was always the same. We call ourselves civilized people, but having regard to our mode of national life, it is a grave misuse of the word to apply it to ourselves. If a man falls sick he goes to a doctor, who tells him that if he takes plenty of fresh air, and perhaps goes away to the seaside, he will feel better. The patient pays the doctor liberally for telling him what he knew quite well before, but he probably takes the advice. However, our economic system demands that when the sun rises people shall go indoors, and remain there almost until the sun sets again. We do even worse than that. We say that the population must be increased, but we expect young married couples in their twenties to bring up children while the husband is on the basic wage; then, when the husband is 50 years old, and the children grown up, we pay him twice as much, on the ground that he is experienced. This is our economic system! This is the barbaric atmosphere in which we live ! We go about with our noses in the air, and we call ourselves civilized.
– What does the honorable member suggest? Does he suggest that we should work at night?
– There, in excelsis, is an example of civilization. I understand that this is “ Grievance Day “. I am airing my grievance. I shall take every opportunity to direct the attention of this House to this vital problem affecting Australian life. It is all very well to turn it into a comedy, but we have an obligation to the Australian people to discuss every aspect affecting their lives, and, if there is anything that we can do towards the solution of the problem, it is our bounden duty to do it. That is where I begin and end. On both sides of this chamber we have cultured and scientific men capable of giving expression to all kinds of tilings. I am not so capable, but I intend to devote myself to this problem. It shall be my hobby-horse ‘ to ride from time to time in this chamber in order to point out the problem in the hope that something will be done to benefit the country which our forefathers hewed from virgin forest and made into a land which we should be proud to defend and maintain.
In regard to longevity, the following table ought to interest honorable members : -
In the period shown, out of every 100,000 -
I ask leave to have included in Hansard a graph setting out the rates of births, deaths, and natural increase of Australia for the years 1860-1937.
– Yesterday, when I made some observations about a matter raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) you, Mr. Speaker, rightly ruled me out of order, but the opportunity now presents itself to make those observations. The Government cannot allow the position to remain as it is. The charges that have been made by the honorable member against an unspecified person and unspecified departments are such that in other conditions a royal commission would have been set up before now. But, so far, no action has been taken by the Government, although three months have elapsed since the matter was first brought to the notice of’ the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) by the honorable member for Reid. We have been told that the matter is now in the hands of the Attorney-‘General (Dr. Evatt), but this House should not be satisfied with that statement. In the interests of the country, it should require much more information as to what the AttorneyGeneral proposes to do and. what will be the result of the inquiries into the matter. Honorable members representing Sydney electorates know that that city is seething with rumours which, if founded on fact, would appear to reflect grave discredit on the Government, and the charges that have been levelled by the honorable member are of such a character that the country will not rest satisfied until they have been thoroughly investigated.
– What rumours is the honorable member talking about?
– If the Minister for Transport had been present when the honorable member for Reid made his charges, he would know. From time to time, we hear rumours of rackets associated with many war-time Commonwealth departments. I have many instances brought to my notice, but when I ask my informants to make sworn affidavits on which I can bring the matters to a head in this House, they decline, lest they should be victimized. For the prestige of Parliament, something must be done to pin down these rumours and to establish what foundation they have, if any. Certainly, the case brought forward by the honorable member for Reid must receive the closest attention. Apparently, a permit was issued for £100 worth of work, but the honorable member displayed photographs proving conclusively that the buildings could not have been erected for less than £3,000 or £4,000, whilst the surroundings must have cost many thousands of pounds more. It is pertinent to ask whence came the labour and materials used to erect those buildings. The honorable member said that some of the materials closely resembled those used in the erection of the Bankstown aerodrome. I have heard rumours to that effect in Sydney, and I hope to be able next week to bring to the notice of the Government something more concrete which will cause the Government to do more than it apparently proposes to do in relation to the disclosures made by one of its supporters. We want to know, if the material is identical with that used in the construction of the Bankstown aerodrome, how it came to be used, because we all know that such material must be either purchased legitimately - and I do not believe that war materials have been offered for private purchase except on the issue of a permit - or acquired by some method that is not legitimate. Whence came the labour? Who authorized it to be made available? Were permits granted to employ men on the work? These are questions of more than passing interest. The charges of the honorable member would appear to give point to many of the rumours that one hears in Sydney, and it seems that at long last matters are coming to a head. Ministers and departments are involved. The Allied Works Council is involved. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and his department are involved. The Minister for War Organization of Industry and his department are involved. The member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for the State electorate which embraces Bankstown was asked to do something in respect of sand leases on the St. George’s River. Because he failed to do so, he was disciplined. I do not propose to say what the discipline was. Therefore, the State Parliament is also involved. The Government must do something to establish the facts and not indulge in intimidation in order to sidetrack the matter. I say that because the Minister for War Organization of Industry, when the honorable member for Reid was making his charges this afternoon, attempted to intimidate him by describing him in most unparliamentary language, such as would not be permitted to be used on any theatrical stage in Sydney. It is astounding that such language can be used in this Parliament by a Minister in order to browbeat a Government supporter. That is the sort of intimidation which makes citizens afraid to make disclosures. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Reid and demand a full inquiry into something of which everybody in the Bankstown district knows, but which is unknown, apparently, to the departmental officials who were sent to investigate it.
I am doubly interested in this matter, because of the disclosure by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that only fifteen war service homes, thirteen for men returned from the last war, have been built during this war. The reason given for failure to build more is the lack of materials, but it would appear that that lack did not prevent the erection of the structure to which the honorable member for Reid referred. Whatever materials and labour are available ought to be diverted to the construction of homes for men discharged from the fighting forces. That aspect, of the matter gives added weight to the demand that, instead of trying to intimidate a member of his own party by using foul and abusive epithets that count as insults in any company, the Minister for War Organization of Industry should do everything possible to ensure full inquiry into the honorable member’s charges. I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that, if honorable members, in the discharge of their duties to their electors, are to be intimidated by Ministers, the general public must feci that their welfare is insecure. In these circumstances nothing less than the closest inquiry, by a royal commission if necessary, will suffice to meet the requirements of the people and, I suggest, every honorable member of this
.- I do not wish to add anything to what I said earlier in regard to the matter which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has just debated. I have said sufficient for one day on that matter. I hope that when honorable members rise to speak on “ Grievance Day” they do so to bring forward real grievances and that the Ministers concerned will pay heed to what is brought to their notice. I say that because, on last “ Grievance Day “, I raised matters concerning the Department of the Army, but so far without result. I was. very interested to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser), when delivering his maiden speech on the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill 1944, suggest the setting up of an auditor-general of civil rights. Whilst I agree that some independent authority like that should be set up, I think that it should be an authority subject to the will of Parliament. I still advocate, particularly in connexion with Army matters, a standing committee to deal with grievances referred to it, in order that full .justice may be done to the members of the fighting forces. Certain cases which have come to my notice show that is vitally necessary. When Parliament re-assembled in February, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to 70 B class men who had been sent from northern units to Sydney to bc discharged from the Army for the purpose of engaging in the production of food. Instead of being discharged in accordance with the recommendation of their officers, these men were sent to other parts of the country. Comparatively few of them were released. When I raised this matter in the House, the General Officer Commanding Lines of Communication, Sydney, admitted that for three weeks during last December, the policy of the Government to release B class men for the purpose of enabling th’.m to engage in the production of food had, been suspended. I asked the Minister to inform me whether that action was taken on the initiative of the Army or at the instigation of the Government. I have not received an answer.
Three weeks ago, I referred to the treatment of other B class men. In a letter to me, a corporal pointed out that 200 B class men who were members of a northern unit, had applied for release, in accordance with the Government’s policy, for the purpose of entering rural industries. They complained that their applications were not being dealt with, and alleged that they wore not being forwarded to the proper authorities. Instead of being released, the men were given hard navvying work on the wharfs. When their health failed, they were court-mar ti ailed and fined. They were not allowed to appeal against the decision of the court. I asked the Minister to call for a report on the matter, but to date he has not replied to my representations.
I should like the Minister also to inform me who is the officer at Victoria Barracks. Sydney, responsible for dealing with applications for release from the Army. I am satisfied that these applications are not receiving the sympathetic consideration to which they are entitled.
– Most of them go through a machine.
– Many of the applications may not be justified, but, as few are being granted, something must be radically wrong with the administration.
Speaking upon the Government’s constitutional proposals last week, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro stressed the necessity for preserving civil rights. Two instances have come to my notice that add weight to the contentions of the honorable gentleman. Indeed, this matter should be investigated by a parliamentary committee. Edward William Keating, formerly of the Merchant Navy, was rejected on medical grounds when he attempted to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. He is now a greengrocer in business at Dee Why, New South Wales. On the 26th February two military policemen accosted him and pulled him roughly from his cart. They forced him to enter a military wagon and demanded the production of his identity card. He explained that it was either at his home or at his place of business, and asked the provosts to drive him there. Passing the Dee Why Hotel on the way to Manly, Keating noticed a. civil police man, grabbed the steering wheel of the wagon and caused it to turn into the kerb. He called to the constable to identify him. When the policeman did so, the provosts released Keating without apology.
– Where is the Minister for the Army ? He should be hearing these matters.
– Keating was incensed at his treatment and at the failure of the provosts to apologize.
– Has he a remedy?
– That is the point. Some tribunal or authority should be established to which civilians who have been wrongfully dealt with by the Army shall have recourse. Believing that the only course open to him was to publish the’ facts, he went to Smith’s Weekly, and told his story as I have outlined it. The newspaper recorded the details and was prepared to publish them. But the authorities considered that the revelation of these facts would endanger the security of the country and censored the article.
– Censored it!
– Keating had no redress. There was no tribunal to which he could appeal.
– Was the security of the country involved?
– The honorable member may determine that for himself because I propose to read the article -
Here is a War-time Pastoral Scene, More in the Sturdy Manner of Hogarth Drawing the Old Press-gangs, with a Setting at Deewhy, Northern Seaside Suburb ok Sydney.
Having pulled a local fruiterer off a. cart, two provosts are shown interrogating him, and when he has offered to prove his identity at his home or at his shop, provosts are shown refusing to go into either of these places with him.
Instead they are seen driving around the district with the fruiterer forcibly ensconced between them. Perhaps if the fruiterer had not had the luck and courage to see and attract the attention of a policeman, they might be driving about with him still.
Edward William Keating was rejected because of his heart when he tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force; nevertheless he served eighteen months in the Merchant
Navy, and when proved medically unfit for this service, also, he bought a fruit business at Deewhy, New South Wales.
Saturday, 26th February, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Keating was serving in his shop, when a man caine in and told him there were some watermelons in a field a little way along the road waiting to bc picked up.
Driving a borrowed horse and cart, Mr. Keating had gone 100 yards along the road, and was turning off Pittwater-road into Harbord-road, when a military truck pulled up alongside. “ A big sergeant jumped out,” said Mr. Keating, “and said, ‘Where are you going?’ “ I said,’ What the– has that got to do with you? ‘
Sergeant, a military policeman, ordered me off the cart. I refused to get off the cart. “ Driver of the. military truck got out, and the sergeant and the driver pulled me off the cart. “ One chap held me by the arm. I was not struggling. I was a bit flabbergasted. There were some cement burns on my arm. One ot the provosts asked what they were. I said they were old boil scars. Suggestion was that they were Army vaccination marks. They were three inches below where vaccination marks might be. “ I attempted to remonstrate with them. They said, the big sergeant and the smaller driver, that I was trying to stand-over them. “ They bundled me into their truck between them. They then asked for my identity card. I said I had left it at my business. I said, Drive me straight home and I’ll show you” my identity card.’ “ They said ‘ Righto, we’ll drive you straight home.’ “They then drove towards my home, but when in front of it they refused to pull in. They inquired where my business was. I told them. They drove slowly past my business. I asked them not to make me so conspicuous, driving me past my business slowly in a provost truck. Sergeant said to the driver, Drive just as you are instructed.’ “ I asked the sergeant to come into my business with me so that he could meet my mother-in-law. He again refused. “After the truck passed the shop, there was some discussion whether they should take me to Manly or to Narrabeen. They turned the truck and came back on the left-hand side of Pittwater-road, to Deewhy Hotel. I saw a policeman standing in front of the hotel. T called out to him. “ Driver said, ‘ Keep quiet.’ “ With that, I kicked up a row and struggled. I was hit a glancing blow on the head. But I wrenched at the wheel, and they had to pull the car into the kerb. I called out to the policeman. Sergeant also called out to the (policeman, who was some yards away. Policeman walked towards the car. “Sergeant told me to keep quiet; it was his say, he said. “ I said to the policeman, ‘ Do you know me?’ “Sergeant said, ‘ Do you know this man ? He has no identity card on him.’ “ Policeman gave my name and said I kept a fruit shop, and where it was, and that I had been there a year. “ I said,’ What right have thev to molest me?’”
Mr. Keating then asked the provost sergeant if he was satisfied. Provost said he was satisfied, but that Mr. Keating had been abusive when spoken to, and had not carried an identity card. Sergeant then said he would drive Mr. Keating back to his shop.
Finally Mr. Keating was driven back to where his cart was. “ Sergeant did not apologize,” Mr. Keating said. “He said he hoped there would be no ill-feeling. “ I told him there would be every bit of ill-feeling in the world. They drove away.”
Mr. Kcating’s question remains unanswered : “ What right had these provosts to molest him? Why, when he showed them his home and his business, did they not inquire about him there?”
Police constable is understood to have made a report on the matter.
The whole of that article, I understand, was censored.
– I cannot see how the publication of the article would affect the security of the country. I understand that Army censorship was responsible for suppressing it, but, in my opinion, the publication of such articles would have a beneficial effect on public morale, because civilians would know that they could obtain protection by appealing to the press.
-Why does the Labour party permit such things to continue?
– It is typical of what happened when the honorable member was Minister for the Army. The “Baron of Bardia “ knows nothing about it.
– The Minister is always offensive.
– The honorable member is trying to “ cash in “ on this story. He should tell the House how he secured the release from internment of his German brother-in-law.
– I will tell something about the Minister. He is a contemptible individual. Does the Prime Minister notice that the Minister is behaving in his customary fashion?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), I understand, is familiar with the case of Sergeant-Major M. J. Vowles, of Lidcombe. The matter was brought to his notice by one of my constituents, perhaps because the honorable member was formerly Minister for the Army and is a member of the Advisory War Council. There is no tribunal to which members of the Australian Army may appeal if they believe that they have been wrongly convicted. The facts of this case are contained in an article published in Smith’s Weekly -
Can Army reduce a Warrant Officer to the ranks and sentence him to detention on the evidence of a few joking words spoken in a Sergeants’ Mess?
Can Army accept the evidence of one doctor, that a skin disease is “self-produced,” rejecting all other medical evidence ; and later, after a great deal of hospitalization, discharge the soldier accused because he has the disease they said he didn’t have?
One soldier claims this was done to him, and that Army proposes to make no amends.
This case warrants a full inquiry by Army Minister Forde.
NX42262, M. J. Vowles, tells “Smith’s” he was seven years in the Militia and has been two and a quarter years in the Australian Imperial Force, where he rose to W.O.I. He went with a Field Ambulance Unit from New South Wales to Western Australia. “ I contracted a skin disease in June, 1942,” he Bays; “ and since then I have been in eleven different hospitals, under the care of nineteen different doctors, and seven specialists; five skin specialists and two psycho-analysts. I have had 22 different treatments, including dyes, pastes, creams, lotions, powders, pills, and six doses of X-ray therapy. I still have the disease. “ After I had gone through a number of these treatments, I was transferred to the Military Hospital at Perth. “ One day the talk in the mess in the Sergeants’ Wing turned on self-inflicted wounds. One man said, jokingly, that he knew a way of making the leg swell by injecting petrol under a kneecap. I said, ‘ I’ll be here for the duration; I’ll rub it with a brick or a towel ‘ - meaning the skin disease on my thigh. These jokes were a commonplace of the mess for some days. “Next thing I knew I was placed under open arrest and then tried by court-martial. T was charged with misconduct in that I delayed the cure of a disease by rubbing the affected area with a towel. There were six alternative charges, that I had made statements in the Sergeants’ Mess. “ At my trial, I was not allowed to produce the evidence of my medical history in the. report or statements of the many doctors and specialists who had attended me. My unit doctor was the only doctor allowed to give evidence for me. “ One skin specialist gave evidence that my whole skin condition was self-produced. Though my unit doctor was familiar with my medical history, the court-martial preferred the evidence of the skin specialist. “ I had not been given time to prepare my case, and I had been granted only two sessions of five minutes with my defending counsel. “ 7th April of this year I was sentenced to be reverted to the ranks, and given six months’ detention. I was stripped of my rank before 000 men, and sent to detention at Fremantle. “ At Fremantle I paraded sick to the doctor each day. He gave me aspirin until the eighteenth day, when he put some dye on my skin eruptions. Later I was moved to Kalgoorlie.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Army doctors have been indifferent or negligent in their treatment of this man?
– These are the circumstances that have been reported.
– The honorable gentle^ man is reading from a newspaper. He seems to have no personal knowledge of the facts.
– I have a letter from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) which I shall read a little later.
– I say, respectfully but firmly, to the honorable member that he is stating that the Army doctors have been negligent and indifferent in the treatment of this man. That is a scandalous accusation to make.
– I submit that the punishment to which Vowles has been subjected is out of all proportion to any crime that he has been charged with.
– The honorable gentleman is attacking Army doctors.
– The report proceeds -
A doctor who had formerly treated me in St. John’s Hospital, Kalgoorlie, put me into the Government hospital there; then an Army doctor took over, and sent me to the 118th A.G.H. at Northam, W.A.
There they put my arm in plaster, from shoulder to wrist. The disease cleared up temporarily, and I was discharged from hospital, back to detention, where I was allowed to sweep out mess huts.
My wife had written to Mr. Spender, M.P., who took the matter up with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in late May or earlyJune.
July 15th, I was released on suspended sentence and sent back to my unit.
Disease came out again after my return to my unit. After a month I was sent back to Perth to be medically boarded, -with an instruction that there must be a dermatologist on the board.
Late in September, I was boarded and given ii tentative discharge. I was transferred to X.S.W. Jj. of C, where the discharge was confirmed.
I ask the Prime Minister to take special note of the next paragraph in the report which reads -
Reason for my discharge, I understand, is nueuro-dermatitis and psycho-neurosis; and I understand further that it is “not due to misconduct “.
But I am to be discharged as a private, and not as a warrant officer, although in its reason for my discharge, Army itself confirms my defence at my court-martial, that my disease wag not self-inflicted. My medical history, both before and after the court-martial, is, of course, a complete denial of the charge.
I should mention also that at my courtmartial no evidence was called that I had been seen rubbing myself with a towel, although that was the main charge to be proved.
– The honorable member is still merely reading from a newspaper report.
– The report is such as to justify a complete investigation. The article concludes as follows: -
My trial was reported in the Sydney Sun with a heading “ Plan to Outwit Doctors “, and my name and rank. It is hardly necessary to point out how my wife and children will suffer equally with me from the publicity, unless the injustice is righted.
Of course, all my pay was forfeited from April 7th, when I was sentenced, until July 15th, when I was released on suspended sentence. Thereafter I was paid as a private instead of as a warrant officer; and I wasreduced to a drawing rate of ls. a day to make up the amount which Army had continued to pay my wife after I was sentenced. My wife also suffered from the reduced rate of pay, from W.0.1 to private’s pay. 1 understand that because of these deductions, I was still £45 in debt in my Army - account on my discharge, so that I shall receive only £20, if that, from my deferred pay of about £65.
In my seven years in the Militia and two and a quarter years in the A.I.F. my name lifts never been on a charge sheet until I was court-martialled this year, and I had never reported sick until June of last year.
I claim that Army has treated me unjustly. I feel I have every right to demand to be discharged as W.0.1, to have this acknowledged in the press, and to have all moneys involved made up to me.
If Mr. Forde has not inquired already into this case, he must institute an inquiry immediately, and if the facts are as Vowles has stated them, Mr. Forde can have no just reason for refusing his simple demands.
The facts of this case were brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army by the honorable member for “Warringah who, on the 8th February, received the following reply to his representations : -
With further reference to your representations of 10th December, 1943, on behalf of NX42262 M. J. Vowles,. 2/14th Lt. Fd. Amb. (private address 28 Frampton-street, Lidcombe) regarding his reduction in rank prior to discharge, and the amount of pay which he lost thereby, I desire to inform you that inquiries concerning this matter have now been completed.
Investigations show that ex-Pte. Vowles was, on 16th April, 1943, as the result of conviction by court-martial of a number of serious military offences, sentenced to be reduced to the ranks and to undergo detention for six months
The sentence of detention was suspended as from loth July, 1943, and the soldier, having subsequently been medically boarded and found unfit for further service, was discharged on 9th November, 1943, medically unfit and granted fourteen days accrued leave with pay. It will be appreciated that the loss of pay of which the ex-soldier complains naturally followed upon his reduction in rank.
Having regard to the serious nature of the offence it is not considered that the sentence was excessive, and it is regretted that no further action can be taken in the matter.
I submit, in all earnestness, that this case, and others like it, should be referred to an independent tribunal which hai no association whatever with military courts martial, so that persons who have been treated in this way may be sure that full justice will be done to them.
.- I support the representations of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) for an inquiry into the allegations of breaches of the building regulations by the man Fitzpatrick, at Bankstown. I realize that the honorable member for Reid will probably be dealt with rather severely for having had the temerity to bring this subject to the notice of the House, but now that it ha? been ventilated it should be referred to an appropriate body for complete investigation. The honorable member for Reid has referred to this subject four times in this chamber. He began his representations in a letter which he wrote to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) on the 14th December last. So far, he has had no reply to his requests. Photographs have been made available to-day which indicate that although farmers have not been able to obtain permits to replace broken-down milk bails and the like, this individual has obtained authority from the Bankstown Council to. build a garage 200 feet by 60 feet, 30 feet high, of steel girder construction. Without any doubt, the honorable gentleman has brought into question the administration of certain Commonwealth departments. I look at the subject chiefly from the point of view of the primary producers, and I ask why a structure of this description has been authorized in a suburban area simply to house a couple of motor lorries, whilst farmers, who are desperately in need of building materials for repairs on their properties, cannot obtain the necessary permits! The honorable member’s requests for an investigation have been side-tracked on every occasion, and I should like to know the reason why. I do not suggest for a moment that the Minister for War Organization of Industry, or any other member of the Government, is involved in the charges that have been made; but the administration of certain government departments is definitely in question. The Government of New South Wales is also involved, because serious allegations on this subject have been made in the State Parliament. In the interests of government prestige and the honour of public administration generally, I urge the Prime Minister to order an immediate inquiry into the charges.
– If the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) will make a specific accusation to me that the law has been broken, I shall institute an inquiry immediately; but I am not prepared to accept wild general statements, nor am I prepared to fish in any muddy pond in the hope of finding something.
– The honorable member for Reid has made the charge that a building 200 feet by 60 feet, 30 feet high, of steel girder construction throughout, with concrete floor and corrugated fibro sheet roofing, and with 24 windows in it, has been erected in Bankstown on the authority of ‘ the Bankstown Council for the construction of a building to cost not more than £100. It has been alleged that the building that has been erected would cost up to £3,000.
– If the accusation is correct, the Bankstown Council has something to answer. How could it pass such plans and yet approve of an estimated cost of only £100?
– That, is what we want to know.
– If my knowledge of municipal procedure is correct, the Bankstown Council would require plans and specifications of any building intended to be erected, and it would know whether the proposed structure would come within an expenditure of £100.
– The allegations to which I am referring have been made by an honorable gentleman on the Government side of the House and supported by the honorable member for Wentworth, on information from quite independent sources. When the honorable member for Wentworth referred to the subject yesterday, he was ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker, who said that the occasion was not appropriate for the discussion of such a subject. If the Government is prepared to shelter itself behind the contention that there is no responsibility upon it because certain offences have not yet been proved, then the public will clamour for the appointment of a royal commission, or the provision of some other means which will enable the truth to be arrived at. If it be suspected that a proper examination is being prevented, the demand for the fullest publicity will be widespread. I am not in a position to express any opinion on the facts of the case, and can be guided only by the statements that have been made in this Parliament, which is the proper place for the discussion of such matters. I have been impressed not only by the statements that have been made, but also by the knowledge that the people whom I represent are unable to obtain supplies of essential commodities, whereas those who do not need them so badly can obtain them in overwhelming proportion. The
Government would be wise if, instead of waiting for increased pressure, which will undoubtedly be applied in the event of its failure to act, it took the initiative and made an investigation without further delay.
– If the honorable gentleman, or the honorable member for Reid. will furnish a specific charge of an infringement of the law, supported by facts, I shall have the matter investigated.
– The matter goes further than that. The onus is on the Government to ascertain whether or not the law has been broken.
– The honorable member for Reid could not have done more than he did in this House this afternoon, when he cited a substantial number of facts which indicated that there are grounds for an inquiry.
– I have already investigated the man-power position, and have learned that no man-power whatsoever waa allocated to that particular work.
– There may be a satisfactory explanation; I am not qualified to say whether or not there is; but in view of what has already been said, it is the duty of the Government to investigate the matter to the fullest degree.
Yesterday, in response to an inquiry by tho honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) mentioned an agreement between the Ministers of Agriculture in New South Wales and Queensland, under which the Queensland Government undertook to refrain from growing rice in that State if the Government of New South Wales refrained from expanding the production of sugar within its borders. A letter which the Minister wrote to the honorable member for Wide Bay reads -
I acknowledge your personal representations regarding the growing of rice in Queensland. This matter has recently received detailed attention by my department, and for your information I would point out that for some years there has existed a gentleman’s agreement between New South Wales and Queensland to the effect that New South Wales will specialize in the production of rice and would leave sugar-growing to Queensland.
I represent one of the moat important sugar-growing areas in New South Wales, if not the major portion of the sugar industry in that State.
– In what way has cane production in that area been interfered with?
– It has not. However, within the last year or so, representations have been made to me by sugar-growers, particularly on the Richmond River, and I believe that practical representations have been made to the Minister personally, for the right to expand the acreage which they have under cane.
– I have not had anything to do with the expansion of sugargrowing areas. That matter, as the honorable member knows, is entirely one for the States.
– The sugar-growers on the Richmond River have been under the impression that they were prevented from increasing the acreage of cane planted, and even from harvesting cane already planted, because of restrictions imposed upon them, not by the Government but by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited; but it would appear from this letter which the Minister wrote to the honorable member for Wide Bay that there is a different explanation. I shall read the balance of it -
Your State is quite agreeable to this proposal, because it gives Queensland a practical monopoly in the production of sugar cane. Under the circumstances, it seems undesirable from the point of view of your own State to encourage the production of rice in Queensland as this would no doubt cause a breakdown, in the agreement mentioned.
If there is in existence an agreement between the Ministers of Agriculture in New South Wales and Queensland, under which the growers of the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales are to be limited in respect of the production of cane, I want to know something of its terms.
– Go and find out!
– The Minister tells me to find out. I can do so only by asking questions in this House in regard to the letter he has written, presumably as chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council. If an agreement has been entered into, and the Minister will say so, I shall be satisfied.
– Does not the letter say that it is a gentleman’s agreement?
– Order! The honorable member for Richmond must address the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to do so, but am prevented by interjections. If you, sir, permit interjections to bc made-
– The honorable member will continue with his speech; otherwise I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I shall have the greatest pleasure in resuming my seat, rather than be subjected to such treatment by the Chair.
.- A portion of the personnel of a certain division of the Australian Imperial Force, which considerations of security will not permit me to identify, but which has had considerable experience in the Middle East, including association with ii memorable siege, was granted 24 days’ leave in Australia and, at its expiry, a further eighteen days. These men are now receiving registered letters, recalling them from leave and cancelling the balance of that which was granted to them. I have received a long telegram from an indignant parent. I know that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), who has returned to Melbourne, also has received a telegram to the same effect. The sons of these people fought for a long period in the Middle East. The deeds of the members of this division, and of other Australian divisions which participated in operations in that theatre of war, redound to the credit of Australia to a greater degree than does anything else in this country, including its governments. These soldiers have seen little of their homeland, or of their homes. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to give the definite assurance that they will be permitted to enjoy to the full the leave that was granted to them. Men who returned to Australia at a later date are being granted 48 days leave, and are not being recalled. Thus, these men have a substantial grievance, which justice demands shall be rectified.
I have discussed with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the issue of the 1939-43 Sta<r, and I know thatthey are taking the matter up with the Government of the United Kingdom. I raise it now merely because there are aspects of it which I want to have taken into consideration, in order that the case may be strengthened. Recently I asked a question, upon notice, with a view to dispelling doubts as to who were eligible for this decoration. I found that a member of the ground personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force who went to New Guinea was eligible for the 1939-43 Star, and that an administrative officer or a non-commissioned officer of the Royal Australian Air Force ground staff in the Middle East was eligible for the Africa Star, whereas personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force, including the whole of the ground personnel of some famous squadrons which had been abroad for over three years - one squadron flew to Russia and with others has suffered casualties - ‘are not eligible for either decoration, although they are the first personnel who went abroad, having left Australia before Japan came into the war and troops were sent, to New Guinea. The anomaly is .an extraordinary one, and can have been caused only by an oversight. As the decorations have been granted in Britain, naturally they do not apply to service in the United Kingdom, because that is not regarded as overseas ‘ service there. But Britain is definitely “ overseas “ to dominion troops. Many Australians who have been wounded, killed or drowned have not been able to qualify for either of those decorations. I can cite a few instances. A ship on which there was ground staff was tor.pedoed in mid-winter in the Atlantic, and one of the few survivors was picked up from the sea 48 hours later. He does not possess the necessary qualifications to receive one of these decorations. Yet, an administrative officer in Cairo may qualify for the Africa Star and a member of the ground personnel or Army who has seen no action in New Guinea is able to qualify for the 1939-43 Star. Victims of torpedoings who have had to spend from fourteen to eighteen days on the sea in open boats cannot qualify, yet members of the Mercantile Marine who have been to sea for only six months and have done one trip through submarine-infested waters do qualify. All of the men for whom I am speaking have passed through submarine-infested waters. Personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force in Britain have been killed by machine-gun ‘fire, bombing, or cannon shell. The anomaly is so extraordinary that I am astonished that I have not received a much larger number of protests. When the position becomes more generally known, there will be an intense bombardment of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). The troops affected ‘belong to that section of the Australian Imperial Force which was left in Britain when the Australian Imperial Force went to the Middle East, and approximately 2,000 members of ground crews of Australian squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force in Britain. No. 10 Squadron - an Australian squadron - has served in Britain from the outbreak of the war. Crews which were sent to bring back Sunderland flying boats immediately entered into service in Britain, and have since flown millions of miles in that theatre. Some ground personnel of that squadron have made numerous flights. Within the last week, some of the Sunderlands have been brought to Australia. The ground staffs of that squadron, as well as squadrons Nos. 455 and 456, which have Australian personnel, are not eligible for these decorations, or if the personnel of No. 10 squadron qualify and others do not, the anomaly becomes more extraordinary. As the Prime Minister is going abroad, I hope that he will get all the facts he can to strengthen his argument in support of the claim for decorations for these welldeserving men, who have no opportunity to speak for themselves. The decorations should have been given to all men who served overseas, as was the 1914-15 Star. Unless this matter is adjusted some men, whose military service has been comparatively trifling, will receive the decoration, while others, much more deserving, will be overlooked. I wish the Prime Minister success in the representations which I know he is making.
I also wish to refer to a matter connected with the Volunteer Defence Corps. The members of this organization give their services voluntarily throughout the year, and undergo a great deal of training. At Christmas time they go in for six days and are paid, but the Easter camp this year is called for only five and a half days, and for this period, according to the regulations, they are not paid. All are old soldiers, who are relieving more active men for service in the firing line. This practice of calling them into camp for only five and a half days looks like a miserable evasion of payment to a handful of enthusiastic men. In an effort to save a few pence they are being denied justice and are being discouraged from undergoing training. This is a bad policy, just as is the policy of refusing leave to men of the Australian Imperial Force after it has been promised to them. This refusal of leave is causing great indignation among soldiers - men who do not go on strike, and who obey orders at no matter what risk or inconvenience to themselves. The Minister for the Army should give an undertaking that the leave will be granted.
Once more I call the attention of the Government to the inadequate prices offered to the owners of land resumed by the Government for Government purposes. I raised this matter some weeks ago, and the views I then put forward were supported by honorable members from both sides of the House, including the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). The Prime Minister was so impressed with the case made out that he promised that an investigation would be made. The Government has acquired some 600- blocks of land for the extension of the runways at the Essendon Aerodrome. Land has also been acquired for Government purposes in other States. Under the Lands Acquisition Act, the Government is empowered to acquire any property, but it is expected to do a fair thing by the owners. I do not know any of the people whose land has been acquired, but I have received sheaves of letters from them protesting against the way in which they have been treated. Now, the Prime Minister, after having promised an investigation, says that he was not aware at the time he made the promise, of the system followed in arriving at valuations, and he now thinks that the system is satisfactory. I maintain that this is not the proper way to treat people who believe that they are suffering an injustice, and whose resources are limited. Some of them may have bought the land in the expectation that it would increase in value, but, in the main, they bought the blocks in order to build homes on them. One block holder, a returned soldier from this war, and a demobilized soldier from the last war, writes -
The actions of the department savour very much of the actions of the countries against which wo are fighting, and I do not intend to let my block go at the price offered.
This man was offered only £15 for his land, and there are numerous instances of blocks being purchased at £100, whilst the department has offered only £15 for them as compensation. The owners of the blocks were so indignant over the letters which they received from the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) saying that that was the price and they would have to take it or, at most, offering an increase of a pound or two, that they formed themselves into an association, and appointed a deputation to wait upon the Minister in Melbourne. Honorable members from both sides of the House were invited to attend, but the Minister for the Interior, in a most cavalier fashion, admitted only those of his own political persuasion.
– He threw them out later.
– I understand that the Minister for Labour and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) was present. I have received letters complaining of the rudeness of the Minister for the Interior to members of the deputation. I maintain that citizens, in -such circumstances, are entitled to a courteous hearing. I was a Minister for six years, and I cannot remember ever refusing to hear a deputation, although I was called upon to hear many more than wait on the Minister for the Interior. I again ask that this matter receive the attention of the Government. The Prime Minister, in with drawing his promise to have the matter investigated, stated -
When I made my original statement on this matter I was not fully aware of the detailed procedure followed. As was indicated by the Minister, the Department of the Interior does not determine the assessed value of properties without independent advice. The amount of compensation decided upon is based upon the valuations assessed by valuers of the Federal Taxation Department and by sworn valuers in private practice in the district where the property is situated. If there is any large discrepancy between the taxation valuation and that of the private valuer, arrangements are made for the two valuers to confer with a view to discussing their respective valuations and submitting a final valuation to the Department of the Interior. In many instances, additional valuations arc obtained from other qualified valuers.
This system of valuation does, I consider, constitute an equitable method of dealing with the acquisition of land.
Let us see how the system works in practice. Various offers are made for a block, sometimes as many as four, and a sort of bargaining goes on between the department and the owner. In some instances, the amount offered was not sufficient to meet the unpaid instalments on the land. In one instance, a woman received from the department an offer of £55 for her two blocks, on which she still owes £80. In another case, the purchase price of the block was £100, and the owner was offered £45, although he still owes £45 15s., so that he may receive 5s., while the amount of £55 already paid will be a complete loss. A later case, since the matter was first dismissed was that of a Miss Malone who paid £150 for her block, plus £30 for roadmaking, plus rates and taxes since 1928, and she was offered £68. She was originally offered only £54, but when she declined to accept that amount, the offer was raised to £68. This is the sort of unfair letter that is sent to owners in such circumstances by the department -
In an endeavour to arrive at an amicable settlement in this matter, however, I am prepared to recommend to the Minister provided you will intimate your acceptance thereof an increase in the offer already made to £68 for an unencumbered estate in fee simple free from all mortgages, charges, liens and interest over or upon the land in full satisfaction of your claim.
The method followed by the department is incomprehensible. In fact, there appears to be no method at all. It makes an offer to some person who, it is thought, will not make a fuss. If the person complains, the department raises the offer by a few pounds. It may even raise the offer two or three times. The act requires the Government to take cognizance of the prices at which land in the vicinity has recently been sold. The records show that this district is developing rapidly. The reports of the Railway Commissioners indicate that the number of passenger journeys from North Essendon station has increased each year since the land was subdivided in 1924. For the year ended June, 1924, the number was 42,146 as compared with 410,478 for the year ended June, 1943. Paragraph c of section 2S of the Lands Acquisition Act states -
The enhancement or depreciation in value of other land adjoining the land taken or severed therefrom of the person entitled to compensation by renison of the carrying out of the public purpose for which thu acquired land was acquired.
The Minister’s attitude seems to be that the landholders should take action against the Government if they are not satisfied with the compensation offered, but I ask them to remember that most of these people are in poor circumstances, and ‘cannot afford to institute legal proceedings against the Government, Section 36 of the Lands Acquisition Act, which prescribes the procedure for the determination of disputed claims for compensation, is as follows: -
Subject to this Act,a disputed claim for com peitition may be determined as follows: -
By agreement between the Minister and the claimant; or
By an action for compensation bythis claimant against the Commonwealth: or
By a proceeding in a Federal or State Court on the application of the Minister.
It is under paragraph (a) that the Minister could equitably adjust this matter. I regret that I should have to bring this complaint to Parliament again. I do not know any of these landholders, but I know that many honorable members, including the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr.Scullin)have received letters from them complaining of their treatment. Just because they are not members of a pressure group, the Government should not push them aside. The Prime Minister should reconsider his attitude towards them, and not go back upon his original promise. If it is a fact that the department has called in valuers from the district, they must be out of touch with present values. An authority should be appointed, acceptable to both sides, so that the matter may be adjusted fairly. It is not sufficient to tell these people that their remedy lies in bringing actions against the Government.
.- From time to time some sad cases come to the notice pf honorable members of persons who are in a bad way in regard to their accommodation and housing. I take the opportunity presented by “Grievance Day” to bring to the notice of the Government the continuing problem of having persons badly housed and accommodated, and in doing so I shall mention at least two cases on whichI have had some recent correspondence. I refer first to a letter which I have received in the following terms: -
I called with my mother, thelate Mrs. Minnie Buchanan, and had an interview with you on the 27th January.Ithoughtitshould be brought to your notice the hardship and injustice my mother had to put up -with over the eviction from 25Keith-street, Clovelly, to the dreadful shack at 7. Ashley-street, Waverley. My motherafter twelve months of worry and distress was toldbyMr . Arnold, S.M., to quiton the 7 th February, theonly alternative she had was togo toAshley-street, which Mr. Wills described as. a suitablehouse. In reality it is a three-roomed shack witha steep ladderleading down from theso-called kitchen to the bathroom and lavatory. There is next to no water supply and altogether the place is not fit to be called ahouse. My mother was so upset when she realized what she had to live in that she died five days after moving in. She had a heartattack at 8 a.m. on the 12th February aud died the same day. The doctor who attended her on that day has previously attended her in December for bronchitis and he said her heart was quite all right then and that it was a disgrace that she should have been forced to live in the place the magistrate ordered her to move into and that in his opinion it was the indirect cause of her death. I don’t want you to think I am inflicting our troubles on you, but we were very grateful for the trouble you wentto in trying to help my mother and I wondered if something couldnotbe done to safeguard other families in the same state as we find ourselves. My father and sisters would be most grateful if you could let us know if there is anywhere we could apply to either buy for a small deposit or rent a cottage that is fit to live in.
So the letter goes on. That letter is indicative of many similar cases. In a matter touching the lives and happiness of people so intimately as this matter does, the Government ought to exercise very careful discrimination in permitting persons to occupy the places which they do. I mention that because there are to my knowledge in my electorate and, I believe, in the electorate of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and other Sydney electorates, numbers of big homes with many bedrooms occupied by only one or two people. There are other cases of persons who live in large homes because they have large families, but nevertheless have country homes occupied by only a caretaker. I suggest to the Government that in considering this problem of housing and accommodation it should take all these factors into account and that a careful survey should be made. If that were done, I believe that it would be possible for the Government to take over a large number of homes which are not fully utilized, and that the people who have suffered the hardship of living in premises such as those described in that letter, would benefit to that extent. I have received another letter which, besides touching on the matter which I have mentioned, indicates that the action which has been taken by the Government to keep down rents for accommodation and flats has not been so effective as it might be, because extortionate rents are still being charged for poor accommodation. A lady writes to me in these terms -
Cannot you in your official capacity do something about these menaces to society, namely, the landlords of flats in this area. I am paying £2 Gs. per week and paying on the nail for one bedroom, a so-called sleep out and a dining-room and kitchen. The bathroom is supposed to be private but the pilgrimage to Mecca has nothing on the folk who wander, at the landlady’s bidding into my private flat and use my bathroom, for which I supply cleanser and. disinfectant to say nothing of the labour Incurred. My husband is shiftworking on the graving dock and through this pilgrimage of people through the hallway has no rest.
In the interests of both the national morale and the war effort those kinds of things should not be permitted to continue. I suggest, therefore, that the Government at once appoint a person to make a survey of the actual housing accommodation available. If it finds thereby that some houses are not being fully utilized, and that other arrangements could be made, the persons who, by their labours, have the job of carrying on the war effort should be given first preference in that regard.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) regarding the sugar industry. An agreement made between the Governments of the Commonwealth, Queensland and New South Wales, which has been in force for about twenty years, provides that there shall be no diminution of the area put under cane in the Clarence, Richmond and. Tweed River districts of New South Wales. If there is extension, as there has been in recent years, of the total area in Australia for growing sugar cane, the sugar-cane farmers in those districts should be fully entitled to some share of the total increase. They most strongly resist any proposal that there should be any diminution of their acreage.
There is no question as to the limited man-power we have in this country, and the problem we have to face is how to make it go round. It seems to me that first we must save man-power in the Army to the greatest possible degree and secondly make the maximum use of the equipment available to the people who are trying to produce the food which this country needs so much. Thirdly, we must make new equipment available to compensate for the shortage of labour. The key to the whole labour situation, I believe, lies in the manner in which the system of Army control is being conducted. Only by altering that on the lines I have previously indicated shall we secure the best use of man-power and supplies and release the greatest possible number of men for the production of essential civilian needs.
The existence of the present form of control necessitates a double secretariat - one of 2,000 under the secretary of the Army Department, and one of about 1,000 under the Commander-in-Chief. In the handling of hundreds of thousands of men, their equipment, organization and supplies, bottle-necks are almost unavoidable.; but at least one of these two bottle-necks ought to be eliminated. The saving of man-power should begin at the front line which the flower of our young manhood holds. Every man there should be kept fully equipped, healthy and well-nourished. The lowering of the rate of front-line wastage assists in many ways: in fewer reinforcements being necessary, in fewer enlistments, and in the release of more men for the production of essentials. On the Army supply side, the present system involves great delays in requisitioning and securing material available, especially lend-lease. On the food supply side I have been informed that the American commissariat arrangements frequently permit of much more fresh vegetables and fresh food on the front line than apparently our men are getting in similar situations. The contrast between the preparation for recent attacks and the casualties suffered rather indicates that the present system reflect-; itself in the actual fighting supplies as well. A comparison between the landings at Cape Gloucester and Pin seh n fen supports this view. At Finschafen the casualties, killed and wounded, in the 9th Division were stated by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to be under 2,000. A war correspondent stated that the preliminary aerial bombardment before our landing was comparatively light, whereas at Cape Gloucester, even though there were fewer Japanese, 4,250 tons of bombs is said to have been dropped on to an area approximating that of Finschafen, and the American casualties were relatively much less.
At Finschafen, where air support in strength came belatedly, our men suffered heavily on the terrible Ridge of Satelberg. from which they retreated again and again, until their equipment was brought up to its final standard. In the early days of the war, when the total amount of equipment available for all theatres of war was very small, deficiencies were unavoidable. To-day, when much more equipment is available in all theatres, its absence must be largely a question of the handling of transport and supplies. It is a long way to Tokyo, and we must do much fighting and make many landings before we got there. The most efficient way of handling these problems should be determined immediately and put into effect as soon as possible to ensure ample supplies for every, emergency in every engagement. :;
That is what we can do on the ‘ manpower side. But we can help to ease the shortage of men by ensuring that equipment shall be- made’ much more readily available than at present, to those who need it for the’ production of food. I have received from City - Garage (Grafton) Pty. Ltd., which serves big undertakings in. the Clarence River District, which in turn supply- essential goods to the Commonwealth Government, a statement of its- position and a- request that it be made a reserve pool of the various kinds of equipment needed.1 The letter points out the difficulty : which country motor transport is experiencing in keeping in active operation because of the inadequate supply of- parts, tyres and fuel. It continues -
With regard to the replacement parts position, foreseeing . the . delaying result which the centralized holding and distribution . must have upon the releases from repair shops of: essential motor vehicles, we made an approacto the Controller in October last for registrati on as an intermediate distributor, believing that such registration, if made to the . minimum pf .suitable centres, would spread, stocks for quicker distribution, and yet’ “not imnecessarily ‘tie’ them up,- and - they would bo available for quick’ requisition between those centres, and Grafton .appears, to. ‘be one.:of the centres necessary for that quicker distribution.
We gave evidence pf our ability. and, ‘willingness to comply’ “with requirements’ of that appointment, but our ‘ approach did not meet with’- success, .vide letter from Controller E7613.9, 12th January, .1944; your recent remarks on this same’ subject has. encouraged us to seek the opinion of the most ‘important industries in this district, arid their - response indicates an urgent need - for some .measure of decentralization, and therefore.’ pf our further effort in that regard. :- <
Our approach has been hurried; made only to the principle motor transport: users in industries of most vital concern, the .accompanying copies of letters being from the. two principal butter factories, who depend upon the unfailing service of a . large number, of cream’ carriers, from the timber industry, in which they detail their activities and the number of vehicles operated, from the Clarence. River County Council which includes similar information, from the principal bus operators, and ‘ from four other members of the trade in Grafton and South Grafton to show that our appointment will be welcomed by the trade as helpful to them in the better fulfilment of responsibility in maintaining essential motor transport in active operation.
It is hoped that you will find this to be a matter to which you can lend your influential support, but in any case we are really seeking guidance upon how best to serve in the problems brought forward by you, and any work or responsibility which may be entrusted to us will be faithfully carried out.
I have received correspondence on this subject from all the principal industries in .the district. The Associated Country Sawmillers of New South Wales, which operates no fewer than 70 mills, handles 8,000,000 superficial feet of timber a month - nearly 100,000,000 superficial feet of timber a year, or one-third of the total quantity of hardwood produced in Australia. The City Garage (Grafton) Proprietary Limited services the trucks and tractors of these mills. As Grafton is situated 450 miles from Sydney, the importance to them of the appointment of an intermediate parts distributor in the Grafton district requires no emphasis. The two big butter factories at Grafton and Ulmarra support this application. They each have 700 suppliers, and nearly all the cream is carried to the factories by motor truck and motor lorry. They point out that the City Garage (Grafton) Proprietary Limited, as intermediate dealer or distributor, would be in a position to carry a comprehensive range of parts that would be of great advantage to the carriers. The garage operators in the Clarence River district, who maintain the motor transport qf this district, believe that the difficulty of obtaining replacement parts could be overcome by the registration of an intermediate distributor. The principal ‘bus operators in the Clarence River district also support the application. They point out that the essential services which they operate, depend upon the maintenance of costly vehicles on the road and that, in turn, depends upon the availability of spare parts. As honorable members are aware only one railway line serves this area. Twenty-five ‘buses are operated and are extensively used by persons who are unable to obtain tyres for their private motor vehicles. Finally, the Clarence River City Council has submitted to me important data in support of the application. The council, which conducts an electricity undertaking serving 10,000 customers, operates a fleet of 39 vehicles, consisting of 26 Fords, 10 Chevrolets, 1 Bedford, 1 Plymouth and 1 International. Apart from normal running repairs, the whole of the council’s fleet of vehicles is overhauled in the council’s garage in South Grafton. The necessity for maintaining these vehicles in good order requires ho emphasis. In the past the council carried a comprehensive range of spare parts, but since the introduction of parts control, has had considerable difficulty in purchasing replacement’s. It supports the application of the City Garage (Grafton) Proprietary Limited as an intermediate parts distributor. The Government should decentralize the existing reserves of equipment. Whether the spare parts be kept at Sydney, Newcastle or Grafton, they still form a reserve supply. The officer responsible for the control of road transport on the north coast has his office at Grafton. The establishment of a reserve pool in that centre would obviate the long delays that occur when essential services require spare parts.
A few weeks ago, I emphasized the necessity for providing in country districts ample supplies of ammunition for the destruction of vermin. Primary producers experience great difficulty in keeping their fences in proper order because of the ravages of dingoes, rabbits and hares. Although primary producers are able to obtain permits to purchase ammunition, they are unable to secure supplies of cartridges. S. Hoffnung and Company Limited, merchants, of Sydney, advocate the decentralization of supplies. Reserves of ammunition sufficient for three or four months’ requirements should be established in various parts of the State, and farmers should be permitted to purchase reasonable quantities. In that way, they would not be obliged to use petrol ‘unnecessarily in . returning to the town at short intervals . to replenish their supplies.
The -Government should seriously consider the advisability of constructing without delay an electricity transmission line between Brisbane and Newcastle in order that existing generating stations may be linked up, the intervening country served, and the maximum use made of the power. This scheme would enable us to stave off the disaster -that will otherwise -occur because of the difficulty of obtaining new generating plant. Although some -of these mammoth machines have been ordered, four or five years will pass before they can be installed. In some instances, Great Britain and the United States of America have not been able to accept orders. If these various undertakings could be linked up, primary producers and the residents of small towns would be able to overcome difficulties arising from the shortage of man-power by utilizing the electrical power at their disposal.
.- Although this is “ Grievance Day “, the Government must be very gratified that the debate, after extending over several hours, has not produced one complaint against the administration of any Minister; The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who will shortly leave for Great Britain, should be particularly satisfied with this evidence of the ability of his Cabinet colleagues. It is just as well to remind the people of Australia that they have a good deal for which to .thank this Government. Two years ago, it saved this country from invasion, and the people demonstrated their gratitude by returning the Labour party with an overwhelming majority. The Government is doing an excellent job on behalf of Australia and the Allied cause generally.
This debate affords me an opportunity to direct attention to several -matters that should be rectified. In my electorate, as in other electorates in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, the housing shortage is acute. People who desire to erect homes discover that the Department .of War Organization of Industry is unable, because of the exigencies of war, to release the necessary materials. I am. hopeful that existing regulations will soon be relaxed, and that people who urgently require accommodation for themselves and their families will have an opportunity to build their own homes. Last week, a man employed in a munitions establishment was ordered by the court to vacate the premises that he was occupying. He has a wife, three daughters and two sons. As the result of the magistrate’s order, the father and the two sons have gone to Bondi, the mother and two of the daughters live in the city, and the third little girl is staying with friends. Those conditions cannot be permitted to continue indefinitely, because they will do a great national disservice.
Many servicemen and their wives have been saving their money with the object of purchasing homes after the war. The wife of a soldier who i3 serving in New Guinea entered into a contract to buy a home, subject to the approval of the SubTreasury in Sydney. The departmental reply was that, unless she could’ get vacant possession and contribute £100 or £200 to the war loan, the sale would not be permitted. These restrictions should not be placed upon purchases of this kind. They are not investments. I urge the Treasurer to give sympathetic consideration to these genuine applications. The persons concerned have no money to invest in the war loans, after they have paid a deposit upon the purchase of a house. Usually, they have to borrow to finance the transaction. The particular application to which I referred has been forwarded to the Treasurer for review, and I hope that he will give it favorable consideration.
I trust that the War Service Homes Commission will lose no time in making preparations to resume the construction of homes on a big scale for servicemen who need them. There is no need to wait until men are discharged before putting such work in hand. I realize that the shortage of man-power and materials is a great difficulty, but it should be possible to do something effective in war service home construction even under present conditions. I hope that the Government will prescribe conditions of purchase that will make it practicable for men to complete the purchase of homes within a reasonable period. Recently we have been informed that some returned men who bought homes 25 years ago, after the end of the last war, owe more on them to-day than they owed when they signed their contracts of purchase. This is due, of course, to the depression, but high interest rates have also been a contributing factor. The interest rates on the homes erected for returned soldiers after this war should be such as will merely recompense the Government for keeping the accounts. The provision of war service homes on this basis would be real repatriation work.
I offer a protest against the call-up for Army service of men with five or six young children. Such men are still being called up, and it is a wrong policy. 3 know of one young man with four children, and expecting another, who was called up a few weeks ago, and recently we read reports in the press to the effect that one man with nine children and another with eleven had been charged with absence without leave. Such men should not be in the Army. If they volunteer for service they evade their proper responsibilities to their wives and families, and if they are called up compulsorily persons responsible for their call-up should be brought to book. Such men can do far better work out of the Army than they can do in it.
I trust that the appropriate Ministers will give careful consideration to these matters over which I “grieve”.
.- On several occasions recently I have raised in this House the subject of the release of Italian internees and their employment to the detriment of Australian nationals. I do so again without apology, because I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the attitude of the Government towards my representations. This subject lias caused intense feeling in Queensland, especially among the members of returned soldier organizations, and I direct attention to it again as a returned soldier member of this Parliament representing a Queensland constituency. When I spoke on the subject previously the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) was in the chamber. I informed him that feeling in Queensland was at, white heat because of the failure of the Government to take effective steps to deal with this situation, but. although the Attorney-General interjected while I was speaking, he failed to take an opportunity to address the House on the subject. I have since written to him about it, but his reply is quite unsatisfactory. The subject was discussed on the. 19th February at the conference of the Western District Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and strong protests were voiced against the release of Italian internees. It was requested that they be placed under Army control and employed at Army rates of pay. Mr. Knight, representative of the Toowoomba sub-branch, declared that Italians, who had been interned when Italy entered the war, had since been released and employed to the detriment of Australian nationals. He described the whole procedure as the work of politicians looking for votes, and emphasized that those responsible for the release of the men were not fit to be politicians. He asserted also that union organizers were aware of what was being done. That conference represented 3,000 returned men and its request that such internees should bc released only under Army control and employed only at Army rates of pay should be granted. I han received letters from 27 sub-branches of returned soldier organizations in Queensland on this subject, and I propose to quote extracts from some of them. The Manly-Lota sub-branch of the league wrote to hip as follows : -
I am instructed to bring before your notice thu following: -
This sub-branch strongly protests against thu policy and unfairness of the release and employment of Italian internees :ind allowing them to be employed in. civilian jobs at award and higher rates of pay, award conditions overtime, 4c, when thousands of Australian mcn are kept in the Army in employment battalions, base jobs. 4c.. at army rates of pay with no award conditions, overtime. 4c.
There is no objection to these people being put to work in the national interest, but they should be paid army rates of pay and conditions.
If men are needed in civilian employment, then let them release nien from employment battalions, bases, 4c, and give them the opportunity of obtaining the award rates, and replace them in the labour battalions with the aliens.
This sub-branch considers that the Government are simply riving; preference in civilian employment to Italian internees, and that this policy is deliberately allowing ex-internees to re-establish and entrench themselves in cushy jobs before the men in the force? can “jet a chance. . .
I might add that there is a growing feeling of “resentment among the Diggers, young and old, at this unfair policy in treating ex-internees and discrimination between them and old Diggers, whose age prevents them serving in the front line, but are unable to get these jobs.
The reply that I received from the Attorney-General was unsatisfactory, and I again bring the matter to the notice of the Government. In a letter which I received from him, the Attorney-General said -
All medically fit Italian aliens released from internment have been called up by the Allied Works Council for employment in the Civil Aliens Corps, where they receive soldiers’ rates of pay or the award rate, whichever is the less, and where they are subject to adequate disciplinary control.
Italian aliens found to be medically unfit for the Civil Aliens Corps have been sent to the man-power authorities for direction to suitable employment. It is obvious, therefore, that the alien ex-internees who have been placed in civilian employment are those 1101 medically fit for the Civil Alien Corps.
That means that only medically unfit Italian ex-internees are put into the Civil Alien Corps. Fit Italian ex-internees are placed in civilian employment at award rates of pay and are paid for overtime. I have addressed questions on this matter to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, but have received no replies. The questions which I asked were -
I think that on an important matter of that kind the Minister should have obtained a reply to my questions without delay. It is utterly wrong to employ Italian ex-internees at award rates of pay, with provision for extra pay for overtime, when our own soldiers receive only army pay for doing the same work. We should not give preference to Italian ex-internees over our own soldiers. When our men are released from the forces, this policy will increase the difficulty experienced in restoring them to civil employment. Mr. Kennedy, of the Toowoomba branch of the league, suggests that all of those Italians who have been released from internment and have been returned to their ordinary civil employment should be placed under army control and granted army rates of pay. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) pointed out that this was not considered practicable. A terse observation of that kind is an insult to the members of our fighting forces, and I renew my appeal for proper treatment of Australian soldiers. Italian ex-internees must be employed, as far as possible, but they should not receive greater advantages than the members of the fighting forces. The resentment at the action of the Government has spread to North Queensland. It is not confined to the electorates represented by members of the Opposition. The latest issue of Smith’s Weekly contains an article headed : “ Preference for Italians “. It states, inter alia - “ One has only to live in the North, in these semi-Italian communities, to realise the resentment .that is growing, particularly among those mothers whose sons are serving with the forces; and we feel that the present policy should be discontinued.”
Above is an extract from a protest by the Tully (N.Q.) branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League to G. W. Martens, Federal member for the district, regarding some Italians in North Queensland.
Attitude at Tully is wholly in keeping with the stand taken by the Leagues at Ayr and Toowoomba as reported in the March 4 issue of “ Smith’s.”
View expressed by the Tully League in its protest is: - “ The unfairness of releasing these aliens and allowing them to be employed at award conditions and higher rates of pay - overtime, &c. - when thousands of Australian men called up under proclamation (practically conscripts) are being kept in the Army in employment battalions, base jobs, &c, at Army rates of pay, with no award conditions, overtime, &c. “ This policy, we consider, amounts to preference to enemy aliens, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain - who, in short, are being granted preferential treatment at the expense of natural-born Australians.”
Among the instances of preferential treatment cited by the League is that of an Italian, who had been living in the north for 30 years, and was one of the earliest batch from the district to be interned. “This man,” it is stated, “has two wellgrown sons, both of military age. “ They were granted exemption from military call-up, because of the father being interned, and it was thought necessary they should remain at home to work the two sugar farms owned by the father. Since the release of the father neither of the sons has been called up. “ On the contrary, one is contemplating early marriage, and is endeavouring to buy a sugar farm in this area.” tu contrast with this and the consideration shown to other Italians, the League gives - among other instances - the case of the proprietress of a registered dairy, supplying 50 per cent, or more of the milk needs of Tully. “ Her husband,” it is explained, “ is a returned soldier from World War I., and is suffering from the effects of war service. “ The husband does most of the work on the dairy, assisted by members of the family not yet of military age. “ One son of military age has been called up mid has been serving for some time. “ Owing to the shortage of man-power and her inability to obtain assistance to carry on mi essential industry, the mother has, we understand, made application through the proper channels, for the release of the son from service to enable her to keep up Unnecessary milk supply to Tully. “This application has been refused.”
Tully League requests Mr. Martens to bring “ this very urgent question before the Houe*’,’1 and, if possible, the favour of a direct report by him as regards his presentation of the matter to his fellow parliamentarians.
That is a glaring instance of gross injustice to a woman and an old soldier husband who is trying to supply milk to the people of Tully. The mother and father made application for the release of their son, but the request was refused, although an ex-interned Italian alien was allowed to have his two sons to carry on his sugar farms.
According to the Brisbane CourierMail of Monday last, numbers of Italians who have been released from internment camps will be able to vote at the Queensland State elections on the 15th April. The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Maguire, stated that the internment of aliens alone was not sufficient for their names to be removed from the electoral roll, but they could be removed if they had been taken to an internment camp outside their district, and that fact had been reported to the local registrar. Mr. Maguire said that there were not. many such reports and few names had been removed. Further light is thrown on the matter by a statement published in the Brisbane Telegraph on the same day. which read -
A special plea in favour of the release of interned Italians so that they could re-enter rural industries in the North was issued by the
Minister for Works (Mr. H. A. Bruce) to-day. He has just returned from Canberra where he made representations to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that these men should lie released. He said the release of Italians would be instrumental in increasing the production of butter, sugar and tobacco, and thus provide foodstuffs that were urgently needed by Allied troops and the people of Great Britain, lie added that they would be much more happy in their homes and Australia would be relieved of the cost of their maintenance.
It is obvious that the intention is, not to assist rural industries but to obtain the votes of these Italians with a view to ensuring the return of Labour members to the State Parliament. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government is indefensible; it is prepared to sacrifice our own fighting men, by allowing Italian-; to obtain a footing in industry to’ the disadvantage of our fighting forces. I regard the whole matter as a scandal. This preference to exinternees, to the disadvantage of Australian servicemen, will be resented by everybody in Queensland. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has evaded the issue. I warn him that bitterness is felt by returned soldiers in Queensland, and that more will be heard of the matter if justice be not done.
– I regret that, at question time to-day, I had not an opportunity to make a statement in response to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) concerning the work of war photographers attached to the Department of Information. I sought, and was granted by the House, leave to make a statement in connexion with the work of the department generally. Unfortunately, the opening passage in that statement could have been, and wa.«. interpreted by the honorable member for Moreton as a reflection upon himself. I had not the slightest intention of reflecting upon the honorable gentleman. The statement was directed against press editors and proprietors, and certain globe trotters, who, within recent weeks, had been commenting adversely upon the work of the Department of Information. If my inadvertence has caused the honorable gentleman any mental distress, T apologize to him for it.
Last night in the Senate, criticism of the Department of Information was voiced by Senator Spicer.
– The honorable gentleman cannot answer that in this House.
– I base my statement upon a report which appeared this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald. Senator Spicer is reported to have said -
Certain books which freely circulate in America, containing unfavorable criticism of Australian Ministers, are not allowed here. I am willing to hand extracts from one book named From. STi/es to Singapore, by Cecil Browne, of which the only justification for censorship is the criticism of Dr. Evatt’s bitterly anti-English attitude. It does not show the Minister for the Army in a favorable light; it criticizes the Prime Minister and contains sonic adulation of Mr. Menzies.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is not anti-English; that charge is entirely unjustified. The charge that the censorship has in any way censored any book of Cecil Browne, or anybody else, is entirely without foundation. A certain number of copies of this book by Cecil Browne was sent to Australia, and they were bought up. The demand for the book could not be satisfied, because no more copies of it could be obtained from overseas and no publisher in Australia would undertake to publish it, for reasons best known to themselves, but maybe relating to the shortage of paper and man-power. That position is not peculiar to Australia; it obtains in Canada also. By a strange coincidence I, yesterday, received a copy of the book from a friend of mine in Canada, who said that it was out of print there. He had promised fo secure a copy for me when he was in Australia, and he fulfilled his promise. It would be well if Senator Spicer and others who have been told stories about the censorship and its actions would consult with officers of my department, or with me personally, because we can put them right on the facts. Certain honorable gentlemen have already approached me for the loan of this interesting book, and the list of applicants is growing. In it, criticism is directed against the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), to whom I shall lend it. in due course. If any honorable gentleman wishes to make a complaint in regard to the censoring of books or anything else affecting my department, I shall be glad if he will apply to me for the facts before making statements .publicly.
– I wish to bring under tho notice of the Government many factors that are operating against the food front, to the grave disability of those who are carrying on our rural industries under considerable difficulty. As a result of observations overseas, particularly in Britain, one is struck by tho groat effort that is being made in connexion with the production of food. In Britain, there are millions in the Army, and there has been a tremendous development of factories for war purposes as well as for the provision of necessary civilian clothing. The production of food has been increased by 50 per cent., and to-day two-thirds of the food that is needed is provided by farms in the United Kingdom. This makes one wonder why there is difficulty in Australia in meeting the position in relation to requirements of food. The great leaders of the United Nations arc straining every nerve to secure an intensification of food production. Britain needs what Australia is able to provide, and is ready to supply all the transport required. We must realize that our position has been eased !>y the great activity of Britain itself in the matter of food production. If this country does not bestir itself during the war, it will find that at the termination of the conflict other countries which have developed their production will stand in our way as suppliers of the world’s requirements. We should not only produce, but also call science to our aid in order to overcome these shortages, and, at the same time, afford manufacturers an opportunity to produce improved labour-saving machinery for usp on farms. Unfortunately, the production of farm machinery has practically ceased. To-day, farmers must wait for many weeks before they can obtain ploughs, milking machines, and engines for milking machines. In the drier areas, they cannot obtain windmills. I urge the Government to provide these articles as a first priority..
Owing to heavy military traffic, the roads in many districts in my electorate have been practically cut to pieces, but the local governing authorities cannot effect urgent repairs because their plant and machinery have been impressed, by the Allied Works Council. I have received a letter from the Maryborough District Local Authorities Association, which represents six local governing bodies, asking me to make representations on this matter. They point out that at least one grader should be made available immediately in order to enable them to effect very urgent repairs. I have already made that request to the Government, but I have not yet received a reply. The only council in the association with a decent machine is the Biggenden Shire Council. The Tiaro Shire Council has no machine in working order. The Woocoo Shire Council does not possess a machine at all, and the Burrum Shire Council has to make shift with a machine which is always breaking down. The Isis Shire Council has a machine which has to be very carefully looked after, and the Maryborough City Council has no machine at all. Those councils formerly employed nine, and sometimes ten, good machines continuously on road repair work. In the Maroochy district, local farmers have repaired roads with shovels in’ order to make them passable. These councils contend that, as the roads have been cut up by heavy military traffic, the Government should provide them with financial assistance to enable them to effect repairs, and that the Allied Works Council should make road-making machinery and ex Civil Constructional Corps workers available to them temporarily.
In many districts, farms are still being worked by aged people and youngsters. Owing to the strain under which they have been working so long in the absence of their able-bodied men who are now in the armed forces, they now find that they can barely carry on. I have in my hand a newspaper advertising the sales of . five farms in the one locality. In many districts, dairy cattle are being butchered. In view of the necessity to increase production on the food front, I ask the Government .to review the categories of Army Service personnel from which discharges are not permitted. These categories are -
Personnel medically classified A in units serving outside the Australian mainland.
I suggest that the present prohibitions applied in respect of classes 6, d and e could be relaxed with a view to transferring more men to primary industry. In one district in my electorate an aged blacksmith was advised that his son would be released by the man-power authorities, but that advice was cancelled. I point out that blacksmiths perform an indispensable service to primary producers.
I again draw attention to the serious effect of the shortage of motor tyres on primary production, and appeal to the Government to make more tyres available to producers. I need only cite the case of a farmer who has been obliged to place his motor vehicle on blocks because he cannot obtain tyres, and has now to convey his cream to the rail siding by other means, leaving his home to catch a train at 4 o’clock each morning.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was good enough to inform me that all labour required by the sugar industry in the Nambour district during the coming sugar season would be made available. However, growers doubt the earnestness of the Minister in making that promise, because last season the Nambour mill was unable to obtain anything like the permitted labour it required, and when an appeal for additional man-power was made to the Government^ 22 aborigines were sent to the mill from Broken Hill. Those aborigines proved to be useless, and their services had to be dispensed with within a fortnight. On their arrival at Nambour they were in need of clothing; and the management of the mill found it impossible to teach them the work which they were required to perform. In view of that experience I ask the Minister to give an assurance to the sugar-growers of Queensland that he will honour his promise to provide sufficient labour during the coming season.
Last season thousands of tons of sugar w as lost, following a heavy frost, because sufficient man-power was not available for cutting.
Fishermen in my electorate are still asking for release from the Army so that their boats and fishing nets may be put into use. Since the introduction of meat rationing the demand for fish has increased considerably. I urge the Government to follow the example of Canada and Great Britain, and release fishermen from the forces, so that they may win food for the people. I also advise the Government, when putting its housing programme into effect, to extend its benefits to the primary producers, and not restrict them entirely to city dwellers. The primary producers, perhaps more nian any other section of the community, deserve better living conditions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security ( Supplementary ) Regulations - Order - Lund acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Hobart, Ta sm a n ia.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Use of land.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1!)44 - No. 2 (Canberra University College Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
Tha following answers to questions vere circulated: -
t asked the Treasurer - upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’”? questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Black Market Liquor.
y. - Speaking on the motion for the adjournment on the 10th March, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the traffic in black market liquor, particularly in Sydney.
The honorable member’s remarks were brought to the. notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has advised that following instructions given by him, a special investigation squad was created to deal with the black marketing of liquor in Sydney. This action has met with a large degree of success and many successful prosecutions have been launched as a result of the squad’s activities. With regard to the honorable member’s specific reference to bottled beer, it is pointed out that there is no objection under the Control of Liquor Order to . the sale of bottled beer, and, with the exception pf price-fixing, the Commonwealth at present possesses no powers ofcontrol over its sale. The prohibition of the drinking of bottled beer in parks and other public places is a matter which comes within the province of the State authorities concerned.
n. - On the 1st March, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), asked the following question without notice: -
Is it a fact that a big percentage of doctors are practising in the city of Sydney? Is the Minister aware that because suburban doctors are overworked, many people taken seriously ill at night are unable to obtain medical attention? Will the Minister examine the position ?
The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer: -
I have looked into this matter and desire to inform the honorable member that a considerable proportion of doctors practising in the city of Sydney are specialists, fully occupied with hospital and consulting work and with the teaching of medical students.
Suburban doctors are overworked. This is well recognized by the State Medical Coordination Committee whose function, under National Security Regulations,is to watch the distribution of civilian practitioners and to ensure an equitable distribution of the available pool of medical men. With one-third of the youngest and most active, practitioners on service, civilians cannot expect the same ready availability of doctors aa in peace-time.
In Sydney, however, with reciprocal arrangements between doctors, the ambulance services, the suburban ring of hospitals, and the Hospital Admission Depot, it is not true that many people taken seriously ill at night are unable to obtain medical attention.
The situation remains under constant review by the State Medical Co-ordination Committee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440316_reps_17_178/>.