17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Notification of Casualties to Next of Kin-dischargedservicemen.
-Has the Minister for the Army seen in the Sydney Daily Mirror a report in reference to a telegram received by Mrs. Orr, of Campsie, notifying her of the death of her son while in the Army? Will the right honorable gentleman examine this method of conveying such tragic news to next of kin?
– I have seen the report referred to by the honorable member. Themethod by which next of kin should he advised of the death of a member of one of the fighting services has been the subject of very careful consideration by the previous Government and the present
Government; the conclusion of both lias been that the method now adopted Ls the best in all the circumstances. Unfortunately, in the instance recited, the temporary telegraph . messenger whoso duty it was to deliver the telegram did not find anybody at home. He forged the signature of, the recipient, and placed the telegram under the door, to be picked up by the mother of the soldier upon her return home. The Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs dismissed him from the Service. The Campsie Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has suggested that the branch might be used in that district in future to convey such news to next of kin. That suggestion will be considered, in conjunction with any other suggestions that may be made on this very delicate matter.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the statement in the Sydney Sun yesterday that, according to a leading Macquarie-street pyschiatrist, the Army was discharging large numbers of nerve-case soldiers who should not ibc returned to civilian life until they had br:cn rehabilitated? Will he take immediate action to have the report investigated and inform the House why this is being done, if it is being done?
– I have not read the paragraph, but I shall immediately take up the matter with the Director-General of Medical Services of the Army, who on more than one occasion has assured me that men are discharged only after they 1, are ‘been medically boarded and that all cases needing further treatment receive it before discharge. If there is any case in which that has not been done immediate action will bc taken.
– Has the Prime Minister read this statement in the leading article published in the Melbourne Sun Pictorial on the 27th February -
Soon after Mr. Curtin turned to America without a pang, the suggestion was made that Mie Australian Broadcasting Commission should adopt an unfriendly attitude toward* J[r. Churchill. ls that statement correct? If, so, by whom was the suggestion made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Was it endorsed by the Government? Does’ the instruction, if given, still stand?
– In my view, the leading articles published by the Melbourne Sun Pictorial are notorious for their inaccuracy. On several occasions, I have directed attention to most flagrant inaccuracies, and have asked the editor to effect their correction. I do not know, nor docs the Postmaster-General know, the reasons which actuated Mr. Cleary in tendering his resignation. The PostmasterGeneral has informed mc that Mr. Cleary has resigned. As for the other part of the honorable member’s question, I know of no ministerial instructions to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of the manner in which its programmes shall be framed. I gave iki directions or instructions whatsoever to the commission. The only contact I have had with the commission was to assist in securing the release from the Army of ite general manager, so that he might return to his duties. There, is a reference in this leading article to Mr. Beasley, which I cannot follow. I have only to say that my regard for Mr. Beasley is much higher than my regard for the- authenticity for what appears in the Sim Pictorial of Melbourne.
– Has the Minister for Works seen a paragraph in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 27th February headed - “ Italian appeals on A.W.C. order”. The paragraph dealt with the case of one Orlando Alcorso, who describes himself as an aristocrat.- Will the Minister try to find out why this man, who is an ex-internee and a Fascist, was treated so leniently while other men, including Australians, are fined heavily for offences similar to that with which he was charged ?
– I have, read the paragraph. The man referred to was taken before a magistrate and fined. The penalty imposed has nothing to do with the Allied Works Council or with the Civil Constructional Corps. If undue leniency was shown the magistrate is to blame. However, I shall have inquiries made into the case.
– In view of the im portance of having an Australian migration policy which will meet with the approval of the Governments of Great Britain, the United States of America, and other friendly nations, has the Prime Minister further considered my proposal of last year for the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee to survey the position, and make recommendations to the Government regarding a long-range migration policy - a suggestion which the right honorable gentleman commended in this House? Will the right honorable gentleman, before the Government proceeds further with its migration plans, appoint such a committee, furnish it with all the available information, and ask it to report to the Government on the subject without undue delay?
– I shall consult with Cabinet regarding the series of questions asked by the right honorable member.
-Some time ago, I made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture regarding the problem of soil erosion, and submitted a draft bill embodying certain remedial measures. I pointed out that I was gravely concerned over soil erosion in various parts of Australia, and I urged that early action be taken by the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the States, to combat the clanger. I understand, from press reports, that the Minister has now taken action along the lines suggested. Will he inform the House what has actually been done, and the extent to which the Commonwealth and States will join in combating this national menace?
– The honorable member has been very active in urging that remedial measures be taken by the Commonwealth to combat soil erosion. Acting upon his request, and upon the requests of others interested, the Government called a meeting of the Commonwealth
Agricultural Council to discuss the matter, and at that meeting the following resolution was adopted : -
In order to deal with questions of soil conservation, it is the opinion of this council that strong and well-staffed bodies of State oflicers should handle the general work within State boundaries. In this work, States should be assisted by the Commonwealth in dealing with-
One representative of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture;
One representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research:
Seven other members, consisting of the chief of each State soil conservation service and of the Commonwealth soil conservation service.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to certain statements alleged to have been made by Mr. Frank Goldberg in an interview with a Los Angeles newspaper last December, wherein Mr. Goldberg is reported to have said that he was a goodwill emissary from the Australian Ministry of Information and is alleged to have made most derogatory remarks concerning Britons and British migrants to this country? Was Mr. Goldberg appointed a goodwill emissary by the Minister for Information to the United States of America? Has the Minister had inquiries made as to whether Mr. Goldberg was correctly reported ? If he was correctly reported, what action does the Government propose to take in the matter?
– I was advised by “ bush telegraph “ that the honorable gentleman intended to ask this question to-day. He was not the sender of the message.
– Order ! The House is not interested in how the Minister got the information. What is the answer to the question?
– Having been forewarned, I brought here certain papers dealing with the matter in order to disabuse honorable members’ minds of any idea that the question was asked with a view to rendering any service to me, Mr. Goldberg, or any one else. The facts are as I stated them last November. The honorable member VIa S not here then, does not remember the facts, or does not read Hansard.
– What are the facts?
– The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me what was the position of Mr. Goldberg in relation to his visit to the United States of America. I said then that this Government was in no way responsible for his trip. It had arranged no travel priorities for him, had paid no fares by steamer or rail, had paid to him no fees or expenses and had given him no sponsorship. He came to me in Sydney and said that he would be visiting America. He told me that he was the manager of a prominent advertising agency in New South Wales, and that he could be of some service to Australia’s war effort. He said that during his visit to America he would be addressing a number of Rotary Clubs and business organizations and would be glad to do a job for Australia in the matter of post-war trade, immigration and tourist traffic, as well as tell the American people about Australia’s war effort. He asked me if I could give him facilities. I told him that the facilities of my department in New York would be available to him as they would be to any other Australian of goodwill who wanted to serve Australia in America. The facilities which I made available to Mr. Goldberg are similar to those that I have made available to a number of Australian citizens, including the Reverend Canon Edwards, Headmaster of the Canberra Church of England Boys’ Grammar School, and the Reverend Dr. Benson, head of the Methodist Church in Victoria. I entered into no obligations with Mr. Goldberg, nor did I treat him differently from the manner in which
I had treated others. He promised me that after he had returned from the United States of America, he would present a report which I might desire to refer to the Government on the publicity methods of my department in America. I was anxious to avail myself of his services because of the criticisms uttered by a number of people that the Australian war effort is not being properly publicized in the United States of America. Under those conditions, Mr. Goldberg went to America. When he landed in San Francisco, he made a statement that he was an emissary of the Department of Information. I promptly denied that claim in the Australian press. Subsequently, he appeared in Los Angeles and made a statement which forms a portion of the question asked by the honorable member for New England to-day. When that statement appeared in the American press, the British Legation in Washington was advised and immediately got in touch with the Australian Legation in Washington. The Australian Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who was in Washington at the time, and the Australian Minister in Washington, Sir Frederic Eggleston, advised Mr. Goldberg that he was not to make any further statements or claims to represent the Australian Department of Information or to deliver any talks in which he used the name of the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Goldberg replied that the charges against him were false. T have a copy of the first edition of the Los Angeles Times, dated the 15th December, 1944, which differs in an important respect from a later edition of the newspaper printed on the same day. I have also a copy of the same newspaper published on the 19th December, 1944, which contains an article headed “ Australian Denies He Criticized the British “. The two concluding paragraphs of the article are -
Mr. Goldberg states that the way he was originally quoted, he was placed in the position of criticizing the Britishers. Nothing was further from his mind, he insists.
In asking the Tintri.es to correct the original story, which the Times does gladly, Mr. Goldberg adds that American migrants are welcome.
Of all the newspapers which were represented at that function, the Los Angeles
Times was the only journal that reported Mr. Goldberg as having made the statements alleged against him.
– Has the Minister a copy of the letter which he gave to Mr. Goldberg?
– I have a copy.
-Order ! The Minister will not be in order in answering an interjection, when he is replying to a question asked by another honorable member.
– I shall not offend again. Every possible action was taken by my departmental officers in the United States of America, and by the diplomatic representatives of Australia in America, to correct any impression which this report created. In fairness to Mr. Goldberg, I should mention that he did take action to repair the damage that had been done. I hold no brief for him. I did not know him until I saw him in my office in Sydney, and then I saw him on only two occasions. I accepted ‘him as a gentleman of good faith, and until I receive evidence to the contrary, I am quite prepared to believe that, in this instance, he was misreported. When certain affidavits arrive from America - I have been in touch with some members of his organization in an endeavour to ascertain the facts - we shall see just what he did say. I understand that in these affidavits, there is a declaration by the journalist who narrated this incident, that he had reported the whole affair in a breezy fashion. Apparently, it was far too breezy.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, in view of the necessity to secure a maximum production of feed crops in the coming season in order to increase fodder stocks which have been depleted by the drought, the Commonwealth Government has decided to continue the plan of guaranteeing growers minimum prices for oats and, other feed grains? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House what the guaranteed prices are and in which ‘States they will apply?
– The Commonwealth Government and the State Governments through the various State Departments of Agriculture are doing everything possible to encourage the growing of grains other than wheat in order to assist the stock feed programme throughout Australia. To this end the ‘Commonwealth Government has provided a guaranteed price for oats, feed barley and grain sorghum. The price for oats and feed barley is 3s. a bushel at growers’ sidings. Malting barley is grown under specific contracts and, of course, the price is much more attractive. Grain sorghum gives a most lucrative return to growers in the areas where it can be grown, and the guaranteed price for it is 3s. 7d. a bushel at growers’ sidings. The various governments desire to do everything possible to assist growers to produce as much fodder as possible.
– I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently whether or not steps had been taken to make supplies of wheat available to poultry, dairy and pig farmers, and, in reply, the honorable gentleman was good enough to say that the distribution of feed-wheat is on a quota basis, with users getting their fair share of the quantity allocated. As that answer does not satisfy the producers, who want to know what percentage of their normal wheat consumption they may expect to receive, I ask the honorable gentleman to state the percentage of normal requirements that is now being made available to those farmers, and when their full requirements are likely to be met? I point out to him that Permewan Wright and ‘Company, one of the largest distributors in my district, are receiving daily only from 50 per cent, to 70 per cent. of the wheat required.
– At the moment, it is difficult to assess the actual requirements of stock-feed, because they are increased by drought conditions and are lessened by spasmodic rainfall. A committee representative of all sections of the trade, and the Australian Wheat Board, has been formed for the express purpose of determining the basis for the allocation of the 38,000,000 bushels of wheat that has been made available, irrespective of the several million bushels provided specially for the use of starving sheep during the next three months. I am unable to say how much longer we shall he able to continue to provide feed for starving sheep if the drought does not break, because only a certain quantity of wheat oan be used for that purpose. The last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held recently in Melbourne, determined the quantities to be made available to each State for the period up to November next, and an expert committee in each State is dealing with the allocation of it. Approximately 13,000,000 bushels will be provided for Victoria, and it will be distributed on a quota basis according to requirements. The representative committee to which I first referred will do everything possible to meet the requirements of the different users as they are represented from time to time.
– Some two years ago an all-party parliamentary committee of exservicemen was appointed to make inquiries and to report upon repatriation anomalies. I understand that it did good work and that a request was made to the Government that it should continue to operate, but this was opposed at the time by the Government, or the Opposition, or both–
– Oh, no; the Senate objected.
– I was out of Australia at the time and do not know exactly what happened. At any rate the committee did not continue to act. As many complaints are being made about repatriation anomalies and the general administration of the department, some of which are well-founded-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question without comment.
– In view of the many grievances that are being ventilated in regard to repatriation, will the Prime Minister consider reconstituting the committee?
– I will reconsider it.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read in the Melbourne press the report that a meeting of several representative ex-servicemen’s organizations last Tuesday decided to ask the Prime Minister for the immediate appointment of a royal commission to investigate anomalies in the Repatriation Act and its administration, one speaker declaring in descriptive language that there were “ as many loop-holes in the act as in a woman’s laddered stocking “ ? If so, has the honorable gentleman any comment to make on the request, or does he consider that the administration of the act by his department is such as to render unnecessary the investigation suggested?
– I have not read the report. I have every confidence in the officials of my department. I have received hundreds of letters from exservicemen expressing appreciation of the good work that has been done by the Commissioners. Every consideration will lie given ito specific cases cited for investigation, and to suggested amendments of the act, some of which have been made recently by organizations of exservicemen. The object of the department is to keep the act right up to date.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures, as well as some other private organizations, will be represented at the San Francisco Conference next month? If so, will the right honorable gentleman consider providing for the representation of the Co-operative Consumers Society which represents about 350,000 families, particularly as the Imperial Government recognizes the importance of the cooperative movement?
– Only governments will be represented at the conference of the United Nations at San Francisco. No other bodies or interests of a sectional nature will be represented there.
As I have previously announced, the Ministers to attend the conference will be the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). The Australian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America (Sir Frederic Eggleston) will he in attendance, as will the head of the Australian Service Mission, LieutenantGeneral Sir John Lavarack, the Air Member of that mission, Air-Marshal R. Williams, the Naval Attache of that mission, Commander S. H. K. Spurgeon, and the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr. P. E. Coleman.
I have also invited, as assistants to the delegation, Senator the Honorable G. McLeay, Senator R. H. Nash, the Honorable J. McEwen, M.P., the Honorable E. T. Pollard, M.P., Mr. H. A. M. Campbell, Mr. J. F. Walsh, M:.H.A., Mr. 0. D. A. Oberg, Dr. Roland Wilson, Mr. W. McMahon Ball, Mr. E. V. Raymont and Mrs. Jessie Street.
– Will the Minister foi- Post-war ‘Reconstruction have prepared a statement of the .position in relation to housing, giving specifically the number of applications lodged and the number granted in the various States?
– I shall give consideration to the request.
– I have received from Queensland a telegram which states -
Chinese representative Unrra stated broadcast yesterday morning after war China could take all our wool.
Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any confirmation of this statement?
– I have not seen the statement; but, in common with the Government of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government would welcome any inquiries from China which might lead to the disposal of the large stocks of Australian wool that have
Mi-cumulated in London.
– Will the Treasurer ascertain and advise the House of the amount of premiums collected by the War Damage Insurance Commission, the value of claims settled, and the aggregate amount of claims still pending? Will the honorable gentleman also state the .policy of the Government in respect of the disposition of the surplus between premiums collected and claims settled?
– I shall set out in a statement the particulars for which the honorable gentleman has asked. I am not competent to state the policy of the Government, because that is the exclusive prerogative of the Prime Minister. However, I shall have the matter considered.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that thousands of farmers who desire to obtain tractors are not able to do so, -because imports are not yet sufficiently great and Australian manufacture has almost entirely ceased? Would it not be advisable to permit Australian firms who previously engaged in the manufacture of tractors to resume production, seeing that roller-bearings and other items not formerly available are now ‘being made in Australia ? Is the Minister aware that the lack of suitable agricultural machinery of this type is having a serious effect upon agricultural production ?
– The importation of additional tractors for agricultural purposes is a matter that will need to be referred to the Division of Import Procurement. The second part of the honorable member’s question refers to the manufacure of tractors in Australia. This involves the use of man-power, and we are doing our best to allocate the available man-power in such a way as to keep up production at tho highest possible level in all essential industries. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction in an endeavour to find a remedy.
– A rumour is current in the dairying districts that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture proposes to abolish the Dairy Export Control Board and the Dairy Equalization Committee, and to substitute for them a board nominated by the Government. Is there any truth in the rumour, and if so will the Minister afford representatives of the butter factories and others interested an opportunity to express their opinion?
– I am not aware of any proposed alteration of the existing status of the authorities mentioned. I assure the honorable member that if such a change were contemplated, the representatives of the dairying industry would be taken into the confidence of the Government, and full consideration given to their opinion.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently stated that he proposed to take over control of the Homebush Abattoirs in Sydney in order to ensure increased production and more efficient management. Can he yet say when this will be done?
– The matter is still under consideration, and negotiations are taking place with the Government of New South Wales. In the meantime, I , am not in a position to make a statement on the subject.
Aircraft Crash at Spring PLAINS
– Is the Minister for Air able to say when the public inquiry into the accident to the Stinson aircraft, near Spring Plains, will take place, and who has been appointed to conduct it?
– by leave- Immediately after I had read in the House last week the report of the departmental panel on this accident, I announced that a public inquiry would be held. The Premier of Queensland has been good enough to agree to release Mr. Justice Philp to take charge of the inquiry. The regulations under Part X. of the Air Navigation Act require that two assessors be appointed, one of whom must be a qualified pilot and the other an officer of the Civil Aviation Department. In accordance with the regulations, he will be assisted by two assessors, Captain Edgar C. Johnston, Assistant DirectorGeneral of the Department of Civil Aviation, and Captain Crowther, of Qantas Empire Airways. The following matters, in particular, are to be inquired into: -
I have also requested that the committee shall make such recommendations as it deems necessary or desirable.
– Will the Minister add to the terms of reference a request that the committee shall inquire into the suitability of the methods of inspection of all commercial aircraft so that no similar accident may take place in the future?
– No. I think the terms as laid down meet the needs of the situation, and are wide enough to allay any possible anxiety that may be in the public mind. Statements have appeared in the press which seemed to convey the impression that it was only after I had been questioned regarding the desirability of a public inquiry that I had agreed to the holding of one. That is not correct. Immediately after I read the report of the departmental panel I announced that a public inquiry would be held.
– I have been informed that officials of the Rationing Commission went to Bendigo and bought meat there without coupons, stating that they had not sufficient coupons to buy supplies for some of their relatives returning from New Guinea. Has the Prime Minister, to whom I address this question, in the absence of the AttorneyGeneral, seen the report in the Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that Mr. W. H. Taylor, an ex-mayor of Bendigo, and counsel for Gittens and Friswell who were charged with having sold meat without coupons, said of this case -
The prosecution had been obtained by falsity, and had been done in a gross and indecent manner. In his 40 years of practice he had never known anything as despicable as the procedure adopted by the Rationing Commission, and it was astounding that the Government would allow such conduct.
An officer of the commission gave evidence that she was given a ration book in a certain name, taken at random from the directory, and a 10s. note, the number of which had been taken. Does the Government endorse practices of this kind ? “Will the Prime Minister call for a report, and make a statement to Parliament?
– How much were the defendants fined ?
– They were fined £20.
Mr.CURTIN. - I regret very much that the Attorney-General is confined to his bed. I shall certainly have answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions prepared. I have only to say that apparently the magistrate heard the merits of this matter as well as the House.
– by leave - Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) warned the House and the Australian people that the carrying out of plans for the improvement of Australian standards of living and for the restoration of the civil economy could not he allowed to interfere with military commitments, since to allow this at the present stage would mean prolonging the agony of the war. This reiteration of the Government’s policy is underlined by the latest review of the Australian industrial man-power situation which has just been considered by the Government and which reveals a state of affairs so acute that the Government has been forced to reduce certain allocations of man-power which it had hoped would be supplied for civil industrial purposes by June of this year.
Last November the Acting Prime Minister announced that the Government had decided to make important changes in the allocation of man-power in the period July, 1944, to June, 1945, and that rural industry and housing would benefit chieflyby those changes. The approved allocations were made in the light of the decision which bad previously been made to release 45,000 men from the Army and the Air Force by June, 1945, and the Acting Prime Minister stated that a further review would be made at the end of 1944. A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced that, following this review, the Government had decided that for the present it could not approve of any additional releases of service personnel beyond the 45,000 which had already been directed.
In the light of this last decision the War Commitments Committee and Production Executive have made an examination of the extent to which the previous allocations of man-power for industrial purposes have been achieved and of the extent to which changes in the allocations to June, 1945, mightbe necessary. This examination showed that, OAving to circumstances which could not have been foreseen at the time, the maintenance of the war effort will not permit all the previous allocations tobe achieved in full, and War Cabinet, on the recommendation of the War Commitments Committee and Production Executive, has now approved a new set of manpower allocations for the period January - June, 1945.
It is clear that there has been a very serious deterioration in theman-power position as compared with the prospect which the Government had before it in November, 1944, when the original allocations of man-power for industrial purposes to June, 1945, were approved. This deterioration is accounted for chiefly by the following factors : -
As a result of these factors the new allocations of labour which the Government has now approved do not provide in many instances for the achievement of the targets which it was previously hoped would be achieved by June, 1945. Housing and rural industry will continue to benefit, but not on the scale originally thought practicable.
In the original allocations, it was intended that in the twelve months from July, 1944, to June, 1945, approximately 19,000 additional workers would be provided for site work in civil building, including the Government housing projects. Of this number, about 5,000 had been provided by the end of 1944, and 14,000 remained to be supplied in the first half of 1945. The Government has now unfortunately been compelled to reduce the allocation for these purposes during the period January to June, 1945, to 9,500. Plans for supplying manpower for the production of building materials and fittings and other activities connected with housing and the building industry have been adjusted to expand with the revised building programme. It was previously hoped to step up home building to 4,600 homes a quarter in the June quarter of 1945; it will now be possible to achieve a rate of only about 3,600 homes in this quarter. Amongst the allocations connected with the building industry is one of 1,000 men for public building and construction, other than the Allied Works Council, but this is intended to provide chiefly for the expansion of public building and construction connected with government housing projects, including work in connexion with extensions of public utility services to new housing estates. Labour for many other ‘State works will have to be found by diversion from existing State works.
Rural industry was originally allocated 21,000 men in 1944-45, of which 13,000 had been supplied by the end of 1944. Instead, of 8,000 remaining to he supplied only 4,000 have now been allocated. In making this allocation, account has been taken of seasonal factors which reduce the urgency of rural demands for labour in the next few months, in the hope that some better provision may be possible later in the year.
Although considerable amounts of labour were supplied in certain directions for transport and public utilities during 1944, it has been decided that maintenance and other essential needs in these fields are now so urgent that a further allocation must be made for JanuaryJune, 1945, numbering 3,000 men for land transport, 500 for stevedoring, and 1,500 for public utilities of various kinds.
Other allocations include 1,000 men to remedy acute shortages in certain industries controlled by the Department of
Supply and Shipping, including brushware, canvas, retreading, rubber, hollowware, cordage, tanning, &c. ; 1,000 for the provision of basic materials controlled by the Directorate of Materials Supply in the Ministry of Munitions, including wire, wire netting and other wire products, industrial chemicals, &c. ; 500 for health, hospitals, &c. ; and 2,000 for miscellaneous civilian industries. Each of these allocations represents only a fraction of important requirements.
A questionnaire circulated to manufacturers by the Secondary Industries Commission revealed that manufacturing industry required immediately some thousands of men for planning and beginning the execution of schemes for the conversion and expansion necessary to absorb servicemen and war-workers when the war ends.’ The Government recognizes the very great importance of early provision for post-war manufacturing conversion and expansion, but it has been possible to make only a token allocation of 2,000 men foi1 this purpose as an indication to the authorities concerned that every effort should be made to enable essential preparations to be put in hand as quickly as possible, where this can be done without, interference with the war effort.
Another allocation which the Government was most reluctant to reduce was the allotment of S,000 men to increase the production of manufactures for export under the control of the Departments of Munitions and Supply and Shipping. Whilst realizing the urgency of export demands on Australia which this allocation was intended to meet, including demands on behalf of the Netherlands East Indies, Unrra, &c, the Government has found it necessary to allocate only 4,000 men for this purpose in the first half of 1945. This allocation should permit the monthly rate of manufacturing for export in these fields to rise by about £350,000.
The chief sources from which manpower will become available to meet these allocations are nominated releases of personnel from the services - the remainder of the release of 45,000 men decided upon last year - and very substantia] reductions of the use of labour on war contracts for the- Australian services and the United States forces. If the allocations for high priority purposes are to be achieved, there will need to be a diversion of many thousands of nien from factories at present engaged on war contracts. The Government’s approval of man-power allocations, in almost every case substantially below important requirements in the field concerned, merely reflects the fact that total requirements in the period January-June, 1945, for high priority purposes were estimated to be 45,000 men in excess of the effective supplies of labour available to meet them. In these circumstances the Government had no alternative but to apply rigorously the principles stated by the Acting Prime Minister in November : -
We must concentrate our limited man-power supplies in those employments which will contribute most to the total war effort. Whore our plans are in the nature of definite commitments, they must be provided for to the maximum extent possible, at the expense of provision for requirements of lower priority.
As chairman of the Production Executive and as the presiding Minister of the War Commitments Committee, I was obliged to advise my colleagues that the allocations which I have just announced represent the most satisfactory general plan which could be laid down for the balanced use of the very limited supplies of labour which will be available in the next few months for Australian industry. As Minister for Post-war Reconstruction I regret the necessity to curtail previous plans for a limited restoration of civilian activities, particularly since this greatly increases the difficulties of the task of post-war reconstruction. But I realize, and I think that the people of Australia realize, that until victory be achieved the war must come first. No greater disservice could be done to Australia than to permit the use for other purposes of resources whose employment in the war effort could make a contribution to the shortening of the war.
Last night, the Prime Minister forecast in the House that by next June there would be a revision of the man-power allocation as between the services and industry; but he made it clear that this revision was forecast strictly on the basis that by then certain events would have happened which would warrant certain adjustments between the various capacities of the people of this country and the purposes for which these capacities should be used. In other words, some relief from the acute man-power position in industry may be possible in the second half of this year, but the adjustments which will occur will imply a change in the composition of the Australian war effort rather than a reduction of the total effort. The plain fact of the matter is that until J apan be finally defeated, it would be madness for Australia to contemplate any letting up in the war effort, since the development of. the war is such that the range of opportunities for the effective use of Australian resources to hasten the day of victory is continually increasing. No Australian will wish to let these opportunities slip through his grasp.
– In Canada and the United Kingdom, wives and widows of Royal Australian Air Force personnel are unable to obtain passages to Australia. I have referred this matter to the Prime Minister’s Department, but it is unable to indicate when those women will be permitted to travel to Australia. Will the Prime Minister ask the High Commissioners for Australia in the United Kingdom and Canada to allot to these women a definite priority so that they may know when they may bring their young families to Australia ?
– I know, of course, that in England, Canada, and the United States of America there ave wives of Australian personnel who are eager to come to Australia. I am also aware that some Australians, who are now the wives of Americans, are waiting in various Australian ports for passages to the homeland of their husbands. But I drew attention in my speech yesterday to the colossal burden on the tonnage which the Allies have at their disposal for the purposes of the war. We all are mindful of the humanitarian demands upon us to do our utmost to restore wives to their families and to provide for them transport which will enable them to establish their homes. But when the honorable member asks me to give them priorities over service personnel
– I do not ask for that. I asked the Prime Minister to request the High Commissioners for Australia in the United Kingdom and Canada to lay down a priority for these women.
– The priority is already laid down.
– They have been told that they cannot come to Australia for years. I can produce letters to that effect as evidence.
– I do not know that it will be a matter of years.
-A letter which I received from the Prime Minister’s Department to-day indicated that it might be years.
– The truth of the matter is that ships cannot be made available for these passages. Otherwise, the passages would be provided. Nobody need appeal to me to be energetic in providing facilities which will enable women to establish their homes, rejoin their families, or join their new families. I am most eager for that to be done, but the shipping under the control of the Commonwealth Government is quite insufficient to carry out the purposes that this Government has from day to day to discharge. At the moment, 50 per cent, of the tonnage now being directed in the service of the Commonwealth Government is obtained by .sub-charter from the British Ministry of Shipping. In this matter, the British Ministry of Shipping has extended great consideration to us. Of course, it is related to the basing of the British Pacific Fleet here and to other matters, but we have always had occasion to be grateful to Great Britain and the United States of America for allocating ships to us when they themselves really had urgent demands on the same tonnage. The primary reason why we are unable immediately to precipitate against the enemy the immense strength that we have in reserve is that our shipping resources are not equal to the demands that the war has imposed upon them.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service the following statement attributed to Mr. W. Wilson, secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union -
Whilst the union realizes the seriousness of the food position it is believed that there is ample labour available without using prisoners of war.
I ask whether this is the Government’s view of the subject, having in mind employment in the fruit-growing, dairying and pastoral industries? Will the Minister arrange that where prisoners of war are withdrawn from such urgent work there will be an immediate replacement by the man-power authorities?
– It is not the policy of the Government to withdraw such labour. The Government is not satisfied that man-power is available to meet all requirements. Government policy is that prisoner of war labour shall not be used to do work when. Australian labour is available for the purpose. When Australian labour is not available, prisoner of war labour will be used.
-Will the Minister for Air inform me whether it is a fact that a good deal of friction exists between the New South Wales Education Department and the Department of Air because the Royal Australian Air Force, which took over Lambton Public School some time ago, has now left it in a deplorable state? Not only has therebeen a good deal of destruction, but also buildings have been constructed on what was formerly the playing area of the children. The State Education Department naturally considers that the school should be returned in at least as good a condition as when the Air Force took possession of it. At any rate the buildings should be removed from the playing area of the children. Only one class-room is fit for use at present. Will the Minister make an investigation with the object of restoring the school to its previous condition?
– Lack of manpower is the reason why the school has not been restored. A good deal of correspondence has passed between the Department of Air, the State Education Department, and various other departments implicated in this matter. I appreciate the anxiety of the honorable member to have the school, which is in his electorate, restored to its previous condition as quickly as possible. The Public Works Department of New South Wales has been given full authority by the Department of Air to restore the buildings at the expense of the Commonwealth Government, to their former condition, but that department, like my own, has not the man-power available to do the work as quickly as is desired. My department would have been perfectly willing to remove the buildings in the playing area, but the matter comes under the control of the War Disposals Commission and probably the Allied Works Council will be required to remove them. These are complications which cannot be avoided. I do not intend to go into the subject fully at the moment for it would take too much time to discuss all the ramifications of it.
– The Department of the Interior has a staff of workmen at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Rathmines. Surely it could be used for this purpose.
– I do not know that there are any men on the Royal Australian Air Force station at Rathmines who could pick these buildings up on their shoulders and remove them. I assure the honorable member that I appreciate his concern in this matter, and I shall have a full statement prepared so that the honorable member and the public at large may be made aware of the facts.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been directed to a decision by a police magistrate in Western Australia to the effect that the National Security Regulations in regard to the issuing of priority permits for interstate rail travel are invalid? Has the honorable gentleman examined the subject or referred it to the Crown Law authorities with the object of taking steps to ascertain whether the Commonwealth has power to enforce the rail priorities system? Has he given any consideration to an amendment of the priorities system with the object of considerably easing restrictions on travel from State to State?
– I have seen the report referred to by the honorable member, and have conferred with the AttorneyGeneral with regard to it. Action is being taken in the High Court to challenge the magistrate’s ruling. The matter of relaxing travel restrictions is constantly under review. The Government and the Transport Department are anxious to ease the restrictions as soon as it may be practicable to do so, but with conditions as they are, I can see no immediate prospect of any relaxation.
Debate resumed from the 28th February (vide page 195), on motion by Mr. Fraser -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
May it pleaseyour Royalhighness:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, to extend to Your Royal Highness a welcome to Australia, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the’ Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- The debate on the Address-in-Reply provides honorable members with an opportunity to declare their loyalty to the British Throne, and their appreciation of the action of His Majesty the King in appointing his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, as Governor-General of the Commonwealth. I assure the Government that honorable members on this side of the chamber have heard with satisfaction the changed sentiments that are being expressed by honorable members opposite on this subject compared with those that were being voiced earlier in this decade.
On one occasion I heard one honorable member who is nowa member of the Government, refer to the ties that unite Australia and the Mother Country as “ ties of hand and foot “. We welcome the change of heart which is evident in honorable gentlemen opposite. Apparently, they are realizing at last that the ties which bind us to Great Britain arc the inheritance of a common tradition and history, the sharing as members of one family in family assets and responsibilities, and co-operation as partners in , a common business enterprise. They now realize that a hurt sustained by one member of the family is felt by all, just as a benefit received by one member of it is shared by all. It was indeed an encouragement to us to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) give expression yesterday to views on foreign policy that we had been hoping, for many years, to hear from a member of the Labour party. As I listened to the right honorable gentleman I could have closed my eyes and imagined that I was listening to my own leader reading a paper which he prepared in January last for the Summer School of Political Science, in the course of which he outlined what he believed to be the right kind of foreign policy for an Australian government.
The Speech of His Royal Highness referred to a number of legislative measures which the Government proposes to introduce during this session of the Parliament. It is noteworthy that although we are in the sixth year of the war, and although yesterday the Prime Minister and to-day the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) explained the very great domestic difficulties under which we labour as the result of the war, by far the larger part of the Government’s legislative programme concerns matters that have not arisen from the war, andare not incidental to it. The proposed legislation indicates that an attempt is to be made to use the difficulties of the war and the distractions of our citizens in order to implement some of the more solidly socialistic aspects of Labour policy.
A bill in relation to banking may be introduced next week. Honorable gentlemen opposite have always proudly declared that it was a Labour government which introduced the measure on which the Commonwealth Bank is founded. But they gloss over the fact - perhaps it has never been brought to their notice - that the founders of that bank laid it down at the time as a cardinal principle that it should be absolutely free from political controlDuring the last election campaign, the Prime Minister pledged himself against the socialization of any industry during war-time. The decision taken four months later, to maintain in legislative form the war-time controls of banking and to make the Commonwealth Bank subservient to the Australian Government, was a distinct departure from that pledge. It may be true, as the Government has claimed, that a campaign of protest has been inspired by the hanking institutions. All of us have had experience in this place of campaigns directly inspired by outside sources. We know that few of them have succeeded, and that most of them have been dismal failures. The Australian people desire to make up their own minds before communicating with their political representatives. I have been most impressed with the mass of thoughtful correspondence that has reached me. If my electorate is at all significant of the state of the public mind, the Government will find that il. is building up against itself a great wave of opposition, which eventually may engulf it. .
I pass to another feature of government policy which would appear to be a direct: violation of the pledge given by the Prime Minister, namely, the nationalization of interstate airlines, forecast originally last year by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). It is rather interesting to note that some of the first eagerness with which this subject was introduced in this House, seems to have evaporated. Doubts have been expressed., and there have been hints in the press of difficulties having been experienced; although apparently the Government, having been spurred by caucus during the week, is again proclaiming boldly its intention to proceed with its plans. The final shape of those plan? should prove interesting.
– Different wording was used in the Governor-General’s Speech from that which was first applied to the proposal.
– The expression “control “ is rather more ambiguous than “ ownership “. Doubtless, an explanation of the change will be forthcoming in due course.
The third matter mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech on which I propose to comment, is that of preference to ex-servicemen. It is on record that the Prime Minister, in order to impress his personal view on caucus, became visibly affected emotionally. No doubt the right honorable gentleman holds very strong views on the matter. We are glad that he does, because many honorable members who sit on this side have always held the view that, if justice is to be done and gratitude is to be shown to our serving men and women, the preference accorded to them must be complete and enduring. Preference is based on gratitude for services freely given, less sustained, and suffering endured, and it is based on justice, because of loss of opportunities for advancement in some trade and for the acquirement of an improved technique and additional skill, by the serviceman who left his normal civil occupa-tion. Those two profound sentiments form the basis of a preference programme. One can well imagine the Prime Minister desiring to have his view accepted by his colleagues. But it is a little more difficult to understand why a statute of limita,tions should be imposed on gratitude and justice. If there be need for preference - and all parties, and practically all sect-ions of the Australian community, agree that there is - why should a. time limit be imposed upon that need ? When the need has been met, let us decide whether or not the time has run long enough. So I can feel little sympathy with the Prime Minister, however much he may claim to be imbued with the best motives, if he is prepared to limit the fair dealing which should be given to our servicemen. I do not know of any time limit on preference to unionists. We have been told by some honorable members opposite that preferance to. ex-servicemen will be unnecessary in the post-war years because the Government will be able to provide an ample measure of employment and there will be work for all. If that argument be sound - and we hope that there will be work for all - why does it not apply equally to preference to unionists? I have yet to hear it suggested by honorable members opposite that all preference should be scrapped, and that every worker should be on an equal footing from the outset in the allocation of the jobs that are available.
I come now to the principal matter that I wish to discuss, that of man-power. It occupied a good deal of the time which the Prime Minister devoted to his speech, and has been the subject of a lengthy and detailed ministerial statement, which more properly might have been made during this debate. In it the Minister mentioned in considerable detail the proposals of the Government for the immediate future, prior to a review that is to be made in June, including modifications of estimates that were made last November.
The Prime Minister has developed a most disarming technique in dealing with domestic subjects. He speaks of global war, high strategy, and concerted policy. Sundry other grand phrases roll glibly off bis tongue. Having explained with sincerity and simplicity weaknesses that are apparent in our domestic economy, he proceeds to chide us, and to say that we must not take these things to heart; that other people are in very much greater distress; that we are far happier; that our people are not cold, hungry and thirsty, and do not lack shelter; and that, unquestionably, the majority of the people in Europe are to-day in that tragic situa-tion. I wonder what would have been the reaction of the right honorable gentleman if, during the depression years, the government of the day had replied to his criticism that it was not able to provide jobs for all and what he regarded as an adequate measure of food and clothing, by saying, “ It is true that all these things are very bad in this country. Unfortunately, however, the people of China are worse off, land the people of India are having a terrible time with plagues, famine, and heaven knows what else. “We are an extremely lucky community in that we have to endure only moderate hardship and distress “ ? The cases are parallel. Although the speeches of the right honorable gentleman may disarm some of his critics, others will want to delve beneath the surface in order to ifr. Holt. see exactly what is happening in Australia, despite the talk of global war and concerted strategy.
The problem of manpower is basic to a consideration of our domestic problems generally, and of Government policy. We knew at the outset of the war that we were to be denied many of the luxuries of life. As men and women were diverted from peace-time to war-time purposes, and priorities gradually were” established, many luxuries were withdrawn from our enjoyment. But it is more novel, and less to be expected, that the essentials of life in terms of food, clothing, and housing, should have been reduced to the level that we now find. I, and I am sure the Australian people as a whole, would not be critical, or abject at all to having to go short in some categories, were I and they confident that the best use was being made of the limited resources available to us; but I believe that I may fairly claim that the people are far from satisfied that that is the case.
I may make a useful contribution to the debate if I review the roles in which Australia has been cast since the beginning of the war. We all remember vividly the first years of the conflict. It then seemed, and we acted on the assumption, that our prime role in the war was to -constitute ourselves an arsenal in the Pacific. There seemed little likelihood that we should be able to send many troops overseas. In the first year, only one division was recruited, and we concentrated on the role of a Pacific arsenal. We expanded our munitions capacity, and were prepared to supply, as advised, our own needs and the needs of the British troops in this area, as well as a certain proportion of the needs of the people in the United Kingdom. Light ammunition sent from Australia was used against enemy aircraft in the Battle for Britain. Gradually, the emphasis changed’. We considered that we could make a greater contribution to the total armed strength. Finally, with the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour, and all that resulted from it, our position was changed to one in which we built up a vast military establishment. From that point, Australia developed to the stage of becoming first, a defensive and then an offensive base. More recently, we have been given to understand that our role has become, in substance, that of the larder of the. Pacific. We have to supply the needs of not only our own servicemen and those of America and Britain in this area, but also, in some degree, the people of Britain. That, briefly, has been the transition during the war years. I claim, that our economy has never been established on a proper basis, in keeping with the alteration of the role we have had to fill from time to time. In my view, there has been no proper adjustment of our service establishment from the time when we changed from a defensive to an offensive role, and simultaneously discharged all the other requirements imposed on us. I find it somewhat difficult to deal with this matter satisfactorily, because we cannot obtain accurate material from which to work, but I take that one figure which was cited with approval by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) the other night. He quoted an officer on General MacArthur’s staff as saying that there were 800,000 Australians in the various services; so we may use that figure for purposes of discussion here. That, of course, represents a very large proportion of Australia’s small population, and we are compelled to make some scrutiny of the purposes to which our man-power resources are being devoted. Statements made on the Government side from time to time suggest that the Government has abandoned all effective control over Australia’s man-power; that it is refusing to accept its proper responsibility, and is, in fact, failing to make a proper apportionment of the man-power available. We were told by the Prime Minister that we should not concern ourselves with matters that ought to be left to the Army chiefs. I am sure that no one in this House would wish to suggest what tactics should be employed in a military operation, but the broad distribution of our fortes, and the proportion of ‘our population which can he spared for military purposes, are matters which no government can ignore. Indeed, .they concern every member of this House. Although one does not question the gallantry of our soldiers, or the efficiency with which operations are conducted by our Army chiefs, I believe that there is room for considerable criticism regarding the size of our military establishment, and the fact that it has played so inconspicuous a part during the last twelve months. Shortly after the last war, Lloyd George said that be had been pressed by the Army chiefs at one stage to provide another 200,000 men. I Te refused, claiming that such a number would not have had any real effect upon the conduct of the war, but their withdrawal from civil life might have crippled the internal economy of Great Britain at that time. That is an example of how a strong Prime Minister was able to survey the whole field, and fix a proper balance between civil and military requirements. Therefore, he was in a position to resist the pressure brought to bear upon him by one section. It is natural that Army commanders should see their problems primarily in military terms. It is not. their job to obtain a full conspectus of the situation. They are probably not in a position to do so, and it is their responsibility to press for what they believe is necessary to enable them to perform the task with which they are entrusted. Therefore, I do not hold it against the military authorities that they have tried to get as large an army as possible, but I say that the Government has allowed itself to be influenced too much by their demands. Those demands have been satisfied at the expense of other sections of the community, and to a degree that threatens the efficiency of the very services which the chiefs are seeking to maintain.
We have been told that Australian forces must be used to clear the enemy from Australian soil. This statement was made by the Prime Minister and by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The phrase that Australians must be used to sweep the enemy from Australian soil rolls impressively off the tongue, and reads well in the newspapers. It is likely to be attractive in the constituencies, and one can imagine an elector, after reading such a statement on the front page, reaching the conclusion that everything must be for the best under this best of all possible governments - after which he turns to the back page to read the acceptances for the next race meeting. As a matter of fact, such talk is all nonsense. The Germans are still in occupation of the Channel Islands, and Churchill did not think it necessary to turn them out of there before planning campaigns which were more likely to contribute to the enemy’s ultimate defeat. He ignored their presence there, and hazarded everything on the North African campaign, and later embarked on the invasion of Europe, still without clearing the Germans out of the Channel Islands. I have no doubt that what our men are required to do in New Guinea is a most important task. It is something which ought to be done, but this is not a war in which we must necessarily perform here and now every important task. There is hardly any job contemplated inside Australia or out of it that cannot be classed as important, but we have very sensibly established a system of priorities. Surely we are not to be told that the highest priority for the Australian Army is to ferret, out the Japanese in New Guinea, and that the loss of our soldiers, in terms of casualties inflicted by the enemy, and from disease, is a. cheap price to pay for dealing with the enemy in by-passed islands, an enemy who constitutes no military threat to Australia, and who can be contained, in a military sense, probably from the mainland of Australia. We are told that the Japanese are colonizing the islands, and therefore constitute some sort of threat to us. I have not heard that they have brought to the islands agricultural implements, or flocks and herds. Apparently, they are confining their activities to the traditional eastern role of market gardening. The evidence before us does not seem to warrant the effort, loss of life, and the loss of opportunities which the island campaign involves.
Moreover, we have been given to understand that our policy towards Japan is the same as towards ‘Germany, namely, that we are to insist upon unconditional surrender. It is unthinkable that the terms of such a surrender would not include the withdrawal of enemy forces from the territories of all of the victorious nations. Therefore, if it be true that the Japanese in the islands do not constitute a direct military threat, if they can be contained without offensive action, then I believe that the Government has not paid proper heed to the order of priority in committing our men to this campaign.
In the case of the Air Force, the Government has an even more serious case to answer. I understand that in the Army establishment there are committees whose jab it is to see whether there is any wasteful use of man-power. Their decisions do not depend upon the consent of the commanders on the spot, but may be taken over their heads. It may be that the greatest waste of man-power in the Army is not so much in the establishments themselves as in the failure of the authorities to allot to the Army any task of importance during the last twelve months. In regard to the Air Force, however, it is the belief of many in this chamber that the administration is hopelessly top-heavy. It is seriously overloaded, as the men themselves are the first to admit. In fact, they seek one out spontaneously, and say that they have insufficient work to do, and are for that reason dissatisfied with their position. Recently, I had brought to my notice a comparison between our Royal Australian Air Force establishments and those of New Zealand. I do not want to cite figures relating to the strength of the Royal New Zealand Air Force or of the Royal Australian Air Force, either in actual numbers, or in squadrons. However, on the figures supplied to me - which I believe to be accurate - there are in the New Zealand Air Force approximately 2,000 men for every squadron while there are in the Australian Air Force 3,200 men for every squadron. If the Australian establishment were to be reduced so as to compare with that of New Zealand there would be a surplus of man-power which would eliminate any need for the kind of speech delivered here this afternoon by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). I do not know what the Government proposes to do about the matter, but unless it can convince the House that our Air Force establishments are not seriously overloaded, we cannot be blamed for thinking that they are.
I believe that the pruning of munitions establishments has been held up for too long, and has been on too limited a scale.
This is due primarily to political considerations which have caused men to be kept when they have become redundant because the Government has been reluctant to face the political problems which might arise if they were put out of work. Without going into details, I put that forward as a charge which I believe the Government must answer.
As a part of the general man-power story, the Prime Minister emphasized the fact that nothing could be done to improve the position until certain commitments into which the country had entered had been fulfilled. We understood that he was referring to military commitments. To suggest that we have entered into binding commitments which no government can alter, no matter how strong a case we have, is to make a mockery of the business of government. Our Government is in daily contact with the Government of Great Britain and also, no doubt, with the Government of the United States of America. If at any time it considered that a task assigned to us was not such as would make the best use of our man-power it would be free to offer its opinions and seek a modification of the arrangement.
While we have commitments in the military sphere, we also have definite commitments in other spheres. We have to ensure uninterrupted maintenance oi the supplies of essential foods, particularly meat and dairy products, promised to Great Britain. We are committed to ensure that Allied servicemen in this area shall be adequately supplied. [Extension of time granted.’] One could refer to other obligations if time permitted; but, whilst these commitments may not be of heroic character on paper, in a total war they may rank even more importantly than some of the other commitments in which the most fruitful use is not made of the resources employed. An interjector opposite asked whether we are not honouring those commitments? I say most emphatically that we are not. We are falling down in all directions. Fortunately for itself, the Government has the excuse to present, not to this Parliament, because we are not so easily duped, but to the people at large, that we have had the worst drought in the history of this country, or for many years.
– Have we not?
– Of course we have. We have a most acute shortage of wheat. It would not have been nearly so short had the Government not applied the policy, suicidal under war conditions, of refusing to grow wheat and of subsidizing the farmers to refrain from growing it.
– Does the honorable gentleman not know that wheat cannot be grown without superphosphate?
– I do not want to engage in a technical discussion with my bucolic friend. The story told by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in the press early this week was the most dismal to come in this war from a responsible Minister. He talked of alarming shortages here, crop failures there, and inadequacies in other directions. These shortages are the product not only of drought, but also the ineffective balancing of the man-power and women-power of this country.
– That existed long before the drought.
– Yes. The drought is a convenient excuse. We have only to look at the statistics to see how sensationally exports of meat and dairy products to Great Britain have dropped since the Labour party took office. I do not want to go over the ground again, but there was a report by an expert committee on the dairying industry on which this Government took no action for twelve months. Had it acted on the report when, it was made it would have got improved production. But it “sat on” the report for twelve months and then adopted most of its recommendations. I mention that only as an illustration. There are three principle causes of the shortages in the civilian sphere. The first is genuine. All round Australia, many factories and farms are understaffed and not able to give the- required production. To some degree that may be inevitable, although, if my general proposition that we could better balance the resources of our manpower were adopted, those shortages could be largely alleviated.’ The second one is-=-
– Yes. I come to the point made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). The second is reduced effort caused by failure to enforce industrial discipline in this country. We hear time and time again the word “ manpower “, never “ man-effort “. 1 wish the Government would think in terms of maneffort rather than the doctrinaire unit of man-power that the economists in me Post-war Reconstruction Department have evolved. If you get from 40,000 men the effort of 10,000 men you have on paper a man-power of 40,000 but an effective man-effort of only 10,000. A business man with a factory in Australia and another in America told me a few days ago that in his American factory the wages, in Australian currency, are three and a half times the average wage paid to the workers in the Australian factory, where wages are pegged, but that the output per unit is four times as great as from the Australian factory. One of the many weaknesses of the Government’s position is its refusal to think in terms of man-effort and its constant thinking in terms of working units of man-power. Consider the coal-mining industry, of which we have heard so much.
– -Not so much lately.
– Only because we have not had the opportunity. Last year in New South Wales coal production was down 1,113,133 tons on the figures of 1942. There was no incurable cause of that loss of coal production, because in that very State the western field had record production. It was in the other fields, the northern and southern, that great loss occurred. So, whatever factors operated, according to the miners to cause the loss there, operated with equal force on the western coal-field. Time and time again we have come up against the fact which the Government has never explained or challenged, that less than 1 per cent, of our industrial community - because there are about 17,000 engaged in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales, which is less than 1 per cent, of our industrial workers - has been responsible, since the outbreak of this war, for more than 50 per cent, of the total working days lost in the Commonwealth, and they are getting away with it still as they have got away with it throughout this war. It is not a condition peculiar to the whole coal-mining industry. We do not have it in Collie, Wonthaggi, Tasmania, Queensland, and the western coal-fields of New South Wales. It is an illustration of the failure of the Government to get the best returns from the man-power through its refusal to enforce industrial discipline. The third cause, which I think is important, is reduced effort through the lack of proper incentive. I have just mentioned a firm with two factories, one in America and one in Australia. It is a part of the true responsibility and the problem of the Government in war-time to get a maximum response from the people. It is not enough to have them fully employed. They must also be giving the maximum response. Any competent observer taking a proper view of what is happening in Australia would inevitably come to the conclusion that we are not getting the full response from any section of the community. because of the absence of an incentive which would produce that maximum result. It may be that human nature is culpable, but the lack of full response is indisputable and it is a part of the task of the Government to overcome it. I throw off any suggestion from honorable gentlemen opposite that some of these shortcomings are due to war weariness and the operation of vested interests. Why, no government in the history of the Commonwealth has done as much as this Government to establish or maintain the position of vested interests. It has eliminated competition and made it impossible for returned servicemen to get a foothold in the commercial community and challenge vested interests. Yet, we are told that they are one of the causes of the trouble. If they are, why is it that in the western coal-fields of. New South Wales and the coal-fields of Tasmania last year there was record production?
That leads me to my final comments. The problem of rehabilitation is urgent and already pressing upon us. The shortages to which I have referred are having their effect on those who are already coming back from this war.
Those men are affected not only by the shortages and difficulties in becoming re-established in the economic life of the community, but also directly in their domestic lives. The housing shortage was dealt with in detail last night by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Because of limitation of my time, I shall not deal with that problem in detail, but I impress upon the Government once again what this is amounting to. The returned serviceman cannot get a proper home to which to take the girl whom he married shortly before or early in the war and the young family which has probably come along during the war years. Even if the Government considers that it cannot at this stage spare man-power to meet the general ‘problem of housing, if it has any soul left or any sense of responsibility to the nation, it will do something spectacular to meet the urgent problem of those people who are in such a difficult plight to-day. Every honorable member has letters almost daily from the wives of servicemen or the men themselves who are utterly distressed because they cannot find a proper place for themselves and their families. The men come back because of wounds or sickness, unable to battle as other members of the community can. The housing of those men and women in a proper style should be considered by the Government and given the highest priority. It is an urgent social problem and also a part, of the war effort itself.
When we come to the treatment and training of the ex-serviceman the attitude of the Government is nothing short of scandalous and cruel. The attitude of mind towards these men and the cold formality of the departmental correspondence that passes to and fro, wre enough to make one disgusted that the Australian Government and departments can lie so heartless in their treatment of their fellows. Members of Parliament are accustomed to the language of departmental correspondence, and the cold efficiency with which stories are told in correspondence from departments to the person concerned may not trouble us; but to the man who has given service and been discharged because of sickness or wounds, it is a cold letter which tells him, not of the things he can do and get and what will be done for him, but of the things that he cannot get and what will not be done for him. I cite two cases very briefly which came before me recently. One young man, a baker before the war, served in the Middle East and New Guinea and was very severely injured by a bomb in New Guinea. He spent eight months in hospital and was subsequently discharged. His disability was assessed at 50 per cent, by the Repatriation Commission. So honorable gentlemen will see that he is in poor shape, obviously unable to carry on his peace-time work. He was able to drive a motor car, and, with his deferred pay and savings, he bought one. He applied to the authority in Melbourne that determines whether there are sufficient taxis and so forth on the road and issues licences therefor. Such a licence was issued to him. He has been held up for months and months because this Government cannot spare him a liquid fuel licence in order to operate in one of the few occupations for which he is fitted. Yet there is no shortage of petrol for official purposes or for training purposes among service units. V-wther extension of lime granted.]
That instance is typical of one particular class. The other is one which must be dealt with by this Parliament if the Government will not face it. I refer to the man who is discharged from the Army on medical grounds, but who is not able to prove that his condition is directly attributable to his war service. The present Government has never attempted to cope with this problem. When these men are discharged from the Army, they hunt around for jobs, and perhaps they are not able to do to-day the class of work that they did before they joined the Army.
I have in mind a man who had been discharged from the forces on medical grounds. In peace-time, he followed an occupation which involved a good deal of movement. During his period of -ervice in the Royal Australian Air Force, he underwent an operation; and in his view and the view of his civilian doctor the operation was not a success. He now considers that he can do only sedentary work. He lias applied to the Repatriation Commission for medical treatment and for an opportunity to undergo a course of training so that he may accept a sedentary job. Both applications have been rejected. He has been told that because the Repatriation Commission considered that his injury was not directly caused by his war service he is not entitled to treatment. Further, he has been notified that because his injury was not directly caused by war service he is not entitled to undergo a course of training. What does the word “ rehabilitation “ mean in this country if it does not mean that a man who has given years of service and who has sustained a disability during that period is to be given a proper opportunity to take up a peace-time occupation, whole in body so far as we can make him whole, and trained to do some kind of job suitable for his physical condition on leaving the service? That position has not been dealt with, but hundreds of these cases are occurring. The time will come when thousands of them will arise as men are discharged from the forces. According to the economists, the computed cost of killing a man in this war is £12,500; but apparently we cannot find adequate finance to ensure that ex-servicemen shall bc adequately restored to civilian life.
I warn the Government that it is dealing with the most explosive human material in the world at the present time. Hundreds of thousands of young men, who- have been trained to fight, will be restless and impatient when they return to civil life.- They may experience a. sense of frustration, because they are not able to make the kind of progress that they desire. They will not be able to understand all these constitutional niceties and departmental difficulties which may be raised in official correspondence with them. The kind of social revolution which Germany experienced with the Nazi party and Italy with the Fascist party will be like a picnic when we consider the numbers involved, and the state of mind of the men who have fought for years- in this war. The Government, must treat this as a matter of urgency and prime importance, and examine the man-power situation. If we are not getting the man-effort to-day that we should be, we must make more effective use of it and divert such of that strength as we can to build homes for exservicemen and provide proper training and medical treatment for them. The Government should also appoint field officers - men who can interview exservicemen personally - instead of sending them a coldly worded letter setting out what the Government cannot do for them. The duty of the field officers would be to approach the men and tell them what the Government can do for them. If the Government does not act now, opposition will overwhelm it and a condition of chaos, distress and bitterness will be created that will be a legacy for many years.
.- I desire to aline myself with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who moved the Address-in-Reply, in expressing loyalty to the Throne and in extending a cordial welcome to His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester and the Duchess of Gloucester. The sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will be warmly echoed throughout the whole of Australia, and Their Royal Highnesses will sense our affection and the genuineness of our welcome as they move among the people.
The Speech which His Royal Highness delivered at the opening of this Parliament, covered a wide range of subjects. It presented a picture of the war position, and, following precedent, foreshadowed the Government’s programme of legislation which will be introduced during this session. Despite the apparent diversity of subjects referred to, the main thread of constructive thought in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was the concom of the Commonwealth Government for the safety and welfare of our nation. The Speech expressed the determination of the Government to carry on the war effort of this country with all the power and resources at its command, in order to bring victory as swiftly ,as possible, and to accept our full share of any effort to establish collective security after this war. But the war is still by far the major effort with which the Government is’ concerned, and the GovernorGeneral’s Speech pointed out that Mr.
Churchill had mentioned that it was expected that the war with Japan would last for at least eighteen months after Germany had collapsed. Of course, the war with Japan concerns Australia very closely. It means that if we are to play our part until the Japanese have been defeated, the full resources of Australia must be used for some time to come, and the people of Australia may expect no relaxation of restrictions or any substantial variation of their standard of living until that time has passed.
The Prime Minister mentioned that this year there is a world-wide shortage of meat. That is undoubtedly true. I happen to be in a position to obtain reports on that subject, and there is no doubt that the world, particularly Great Britain, is facing a ticklish period this year regarding supplies of meat. Australia cannot send very much more meat to Great Britain. If we are able to maintain supplies at the present level, we shall be doing all that will be expected of us. The drought has seriously reduced the estimated output of meat in this country and in order to honour our contracts, Australia has reduced the civilian ration. That action., with other economies effected in commercial use, the strict imposition of controls throughout country districts, and the enforcement of proper weighing where previously we were unable to enforce it because of lack of equipment, will mean that Australia will make an overall reduction of its meat consumption by 10 per cent.
The Australian people may not expect, in the coming year, any relaxation of the present scale of clothes rationing. Some complaints have been received that the Australian people are beginning to feel, the pinch of rationing because we are now in our third year of rationing, but man-power is the factor governing the manufacture of clothing. Last year our stocks increased by approximately 5 per cent., but I regret to say that because of the loss of employees from the industry during the last few months - women have left for a variety of reasons - production is not being maintained at last year’s level. In expectation of the collapse of Germany and a relaxation of controls governing exports from Great Britain, we recently made inquiries for the purpose of ascertaining whether Australia could obtain a greater percentage of cotton goods from Great Britain in order to enable us to make a greater relaxation next year. The result of that inquiry does not encourage us to hope for an increase of supplies. The position in Great Britain is such that unless the manufacturers can obtain increased manpower, there is no hope whatever of increasing the export of cotton materials to Australia. It is doubtful whether Great Britain will be able to maintain supplies at the present level.
I desire to make the position perfectly clear because some people in Australia consider that Australian civilians are “ hard done by “. But when we consider that the British rationing scale would have to be increased by 40 per cent, to raise it to the standard of the Australian scale, we have very little to complain of.
– The heavy industries compare very favorably.
– The heavy industries in Australia compare very favorably with those in Great Britain. Employees in our heavy industries have been given special consideration in the issue of clothing coupons.
– The source of complaint is the difference of coupon value, which is important in relation to quality, not quantity.
– Every factor has been taken into account. Recently, the Rationing Commission of Australia was asked to supply to the Australian High Commissioner in London for presentation to .the British Government a comparison of our scale with the British system. Taking every factor into account, the best picture that we could make in Australia’s favour was that the British scale would have to be increased by 40 per cent, to bring it to the level of the Australian scale. We are very fortunate in that respect.
Comment has been made in the House concerning the unsatisfactory use. that is being made of the Australian Army. It has been said that our soldiers are engaged in what are, in- effect, mopping up operations only. I have spoken to members of the armed forces, particularly officers, oh this subject and they have -indicated to me that they are not satisfied with the role that has been allotted to our soldiers. Our men are rated among the finest fighting forces in the world, and it is not proper that they should be given a secondary Tole. It is quite apparent, of course, that where they are fighting they are not reaping the glory of war; in fact, I do not believe that proper credit is being given to them for the work they are doing. I do not wish to criticize the Government on this account. I accept the statement of the Prime Minister that our forces have been placed unreservedly at the command of General MacArthur, and that, in his view, they are being used to the best advantage. I have in mind also, the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that we may expect to hear of Australian soldiers fighting in the Philippines. Reasonably satisfactory grounds have been given for the use of our forces where they are fighting. I can quite understand that one force using different equipment and on different rations from another force should not. be transported over great distances in order merely to duplicate services unless that is absolutely necessary. General MacArthur has gloriously fulfilled his promise to return to Manila, and it is understandable that he should choose to use American troops in this expedition, but I think it may be said that with the recapture of Manila the tasks envisaged when the South Western Pacific directive was given has been largely fulfilled. I believe that the Government is alive to the facts of the situation, and that Ministers realize that the prestige of the Australian Army is at stake. I trust that before very long we shall hear that our troops are being engaged in a campaign of greater movement than that in which they are now being used, and that they will be able to go forward to revenge the loss of Singapore. I hope that they will go on to Japan itself. Our men deserve their proper place in the Pacific conflict, for they are first-class troops, and they should not be relegated to minor activities. If our Army is not adequately equipped the Government should take immediate steps to see that the most modern appliances are made available to it, so that it may go forward to the forefront of battle with a fair chance of victory. We oan then be judged by the results of our fighting.
Without question our men have been practically immobilized on the home front for a long while. This being so, I cannot blame members of the Country party, for pointing out, from time to time in this chamber, that primary producers have been working under very great strain and with inadequate man-power, and that, throughout this period, large numbers of the fighting forces have been practically unemployed. Obviously a large reservoir of man-power has been temporarily out of action, and this has caused dissatisfaction and unrest. Over-strained and over-worked primary producers may be pardoned for not understanding why this apparently stagnant pool of man-power cannot be temporarily directed to more useful and, in fact, essential work. One of the first reactions to this failure to use our manpower is dissatisfaction with, and apathy towards, the war effort. The discontent shows itself in many ways. Disrespect for war-time emergency laws is one of the worst reactions, and this has shown itself badly also in strikes. We have a wicked succession of strikes in one essential industry after another. There have been strikes in the meat and sugar industries, and in the coal and transport industries, as well as in other essential activities. All of these are having a very bad effect upon the morale of the nation This is being shown in a high percentage of absenteeism in factories and in the attitude of producers and manufacturers who, many of whom are not giving of their best to the war effort. There have been many complaints about prices control and other war-time legislation. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) gave some illustrations of this kind of thing yesterday and averred that the dissatisfaction with price-fixing, in particular, was seriously affecting primary production. The method of providing subsidies for industries is also causing dissatisfaction and manufacturers are transferring their operations from one sphere to another because of profit results. The consequence of all this is that we have an unbalanced production which is not in the best interests of the war effort.
One of the worst blots on the home front is black marketing and the wave of pilfering of cargoes on the waterfront. All this bids fair to sap the morale of the nation. The Government is not altogether to blame for the prevalent blackmarket operations, because it introduced legislation that provided drastic penalties against enemies of the State who followed such practices. That measure was passed through the Parliament with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, certain magistrates and judges seem not disposed to give effect to the penalties provided, and appeals against convictions in the courts for the infringement of the black market laws and of certain National Security Regulations, have been dealt with so leniently as practically to invite evil-doers to continue their operations. I declare without hesitation that the leniency of the courts in this matter has contributed in no small measure to the growth of the evil, and if the present attitude is adhered to everybody may come to disregard the law. As an illustration of the kind of thing I have in mind I shall refer to certain appeals against the rationing regulations. The offences in practically all of these cases were similar and had to do with selling rationed goods without the production of coupons. In one case a person was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by a magistrate. On appeal to the General Sessions the sentence was reduced to a fine of £20. Another person was convicted and sentenced by a magistrate to imprisonment for two months. On appeal the penalty was reduced to a fine of £10. A person convicted and sentenced by a magistrate to one month’s imprisonment appealed, and the penalty was reduced to £2. In another Cts in which a sentence of one month’s imprisonment was imposed the penalty was reduced on appeal to a fine of £1. What the Attorney-General said yesterday in answer to a question with respect to prosecutions under the Black Marketing Act is true. No offender is prosecuted unless the department is of opinion that the offence is serious and continuous. Normally, action is taken under the National Security Prices Regulations. If the evidence appears to be watertight, and shows that the offence constitutes a continuous flouting of the law, the Attorney-General, after receiving advice from the committee, carefully considers the matter in order to avoid injustice being done to small, or petty, offenders. Usually, in cases of this kind, information is lodged by a loyal member of the public. No officers are employed by the Rationing Commission in carrying out investigations ad lib. The authorities are guided in the first instance by information sent in by members of the public. I do not suggest that that is solid ground on which to base an argument, but such information at least constitutes an averment that a breach of the law is being committed. The police are then asked to investigate that information, and they, with officers of the Rationing Commission, obtain separate evidence. They do not accept the original evidence supplied by ordinary members of the public, but endeavour to obtain separate evidence; and should such evidence be convincing a prosecution is instituted. However, in spite of the care exercised in these matters, a man who was sentenced to imprisonment for three months on each of six different charges was allowed to go free on a bond of good behaviour, although, on appeal, his- conviction was confirmed. In many cases, convictions under the Black Marketing Act have been quashed by judges on appeal. Small fines and the remission of sentences will not deter persons of the class we are dealing with under the Black Marketing Act. I say frankly that I know that one can buy in Melbourne and Sydney anything he wishes to buy that is controlled, or rationed, provided he pays sufficient for the articles he desires, and takes the risk of being associated wilh crooks and gangsters. Despite controls one can buy anything at all from motor cars to cigarettes, and obtain them in large quantities. Very large quantities of goods which are being .stolen from the wharfs are being sold on black markets. I have already brought these facts to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral, but I 11OW wish to impress upon the Parliament that unless the courts uphold the laws made by this Parliament, these infringements will continue. I note with pleasure that the Government has appointed a committee of three Ministers to investigate the position. I hope that that committee will bring forward effective suggestions to deal with the present situation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Broadcasting Act - Report of proceedings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, dated 8th February, 1945.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Parliamentary Library - S. E. Barr.
House adjourned at 5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government has not entered into any direct contracts for the importation of grains or fodder from overseas,but has approved importations as follows, subject to supplies and shipping being available: - Maize, 2,000,000 bushels; oats, 25,000 tons; meadow hay, from New Zealand in whatever quantity it can be supplied. In respect of maize, the Australian Wheat Board is making every endeavour to locate supplies and to arrange shipping through the Ships Chartering Committee, but no details can be given as to the quantity likely to be Obtained or its date of arrival. The Division of Import Procurement has lodged a requisition for 25,000 tons of oats under the Canadian Mutual Aid Scheme, but it cannot yet be stated when supplies will arrive or whether the full quantity will be released. Some small quantity of meadlow hay has already been obtained from New Zealand and has been distributed in New South Wales. The shipment of several thousand tons had been arranged by merchants under import licence, but a quantity was lost by fire and recent floods in New Zealand, so that the likelihood of further shipments being obtained is almost negligible.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Army Inspection Branch functions within the Department of the Army. I have referred the honorable member’s question to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who is obtaining the information and will furnish a complete reply at an early date.
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Yes. Owing to the shortage of accommodation generally it has been customary to utilize for a variety of purposes the Cabinet Room in Sydney when not in use by Cabinet.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is there any condition included in contracts for the supply of mutton to any of the services which specifically requires ewe mutton?
– No; but the specification requires mutton to be of prime wether or ewe not more than four years old.
r asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The Commonwealth of Australia Table of Preference was first approved in 1905. On the6th August, 1940, when the President and Speaker occupied places 7 and 8 respectively on the table, alterations were made by adding the following: - 3a. The Prime Minister (or Acting Prime Minister). 4a. High Commissioners in Australia for His Majesty’s Governments elsewhere.
In September, 1944, place 6a - members of the Australian Advisory War Council - was added.
The question as to the order of precedence of the President and the Speaker in relation to members of the Commonwealth Cabinet presumably was decided upon when the Table of Precedence was first approved in 1905.
The only variation which has occurred during the term of office of the present Government is that affecting the Advisory War Council members. The Advisory War Council is not an unconstitutional body. It was created by a proper exercise of the powers of the Governor-General in Council.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Have any moneys from the Commonwealth National Welfare Fund been paid to the States for any purpose in connexion with the building or maintenance of public hospitals. If so, what amounts have been paid to each State and for what purpose?
– The Minister for Health and Social Services has supplied the following answer : -
No payments have been made from the fund for the purposes mentioned.
n asked the Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows. -
Transfer of Men to Darwin.
i. - On the 22nd February, Mr. Martens asked the following questions, without notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following answers: -
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked me last week to make a statement dealing with the shortage of rubber, and indicating the possibility of the existing prioritiesbeing reviewed, particularly in regard to new enterprises coming into the field of production. I stated that the present rubber position was worse than at any previous period, and I held out very little hope of improvement for some time. The time is appropriate to make a statement covering the present position and the probable future position.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has now authorized me to inform the House that the present position in regard to the production of tyres and rubber goods is extremely critical. The rubber industry is faced at the moment with three major problems, apart from the necessary genera] restriction of crude rubber supplies on account of the enemy being in control of most of the areas from which these supplies are obtained. They are -
The shortage of carbon black, an essential ingredient of tyres and other rubber goods;
The necessity for conversion to the use of synthetic rubber which will cause a reduction in output until additional” plant and man-power can be obtained; and
A general shortage of man-power.
Despite the efforts of the man-power directorate, it has not been practicableto maintain the labour strength of the tyre industry and, in addition to providing additional man-power to meet present deficiencies, nearly 500 additional men ure needed in connexion with the synthetic rubber conversion programme.
It is hoped that the carbon black situation will be rectified so that normal production can. be resumed in April, when, the industry will make its utmost endeavours to overtake the loss of output resulting from the carbon black shortage, and adhere to the production programme originally established for 1045. That programme provided for Hie allocation of r -slightly greater number of tyres to essential civilian motor vehicle users than (luring 1944. In view of the setback which the industry lias received owing to the lack of carbon black, it is highly improbable that this increase will be achieved, because Australia has very substantial commitments to the armed forces for tyres and tubes which must -be given preference.
As members are probably aware, a quota of tyres is mode available for distribution to essential civilian users. Each application for new tyres is very carefully examined in regard to essentiality, and applications from business people receive the samo consideration in regard to degree of essentiality as do those from other motor vehicle users. The solution of the .problem, excepting the war-time restrictions of crude rubber, lies not in revising the existing system of release or priority, but in increasing production, and that involves the use of additional man-power.
It is true that some motor vehicles which might bc regarded as essential cannot bo provided with now tyres, and to offset the effect of this the Supply Department has taken action to expand retreading and recapping facilities and to encourage the maximum use of such facilities; and, also, to put back into civilian use after reconditioning the maximum number of, surplus or discarded military tyres. Since April last the number of lyres retreaded, recapped and repaired has increased by 57 per’cent., and from September last to the 31st January nearly 10,000 surplus or discarded army tyres have boon distributed to retreaders for reconditioning and resale to essential transport users. Whilst the Supply Department and the Australian rubber industry can be relied upon to make every endeavour to increase production of tyres and other rubber goods, the Minister regrets that he can see no possibility of any substantial improvement in “ tha supply of tyres for civilian motor vehicles in the near future, and the maximum conservation of tyres and other rubber goods has, in. the light of recent developments, become even more important and imperative than previously.
With regard to the honorable member’s question as to when the changeover to the use of synthetic rubber would be sufficiently advanced to make an increased supply of tyre equipment available, 1 repeat that, until additional man-power and plant can be provided, the changeover to synthetic rubber will cruise a decrease in the production of rubber goods. This results from the slower processing of the synthetic material a.s compared with crude rubber. Already the rubber industry is changing over substantially to the use of synthetic rubber, and by the end of June it is expected that our normal consumption of crude rubber will be reduced by 25 per cent. By the end of December, 1945, we plan to have effected a reduction of 55 per cent, in our use of normal crude rubber by substituting synthetic rubber. There is no possibility of increased tyre supplies being made available during 1945 as the result of the use of synthetic rubber. The availability of tyres during 1946 will depend upon the success achieved by the rubber industry in changing over production during the present year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450301_reps_17_181/>.