17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture whether or not the inquiry concerning the tobacco industry has been completed? If so, when will the honorable gentleman be able to indicate the conclusions that were reached ?
– I have been informed by the Director-General of Agriculture that the report of the committee which conducted inquiries throughout Australia in connexion with the tobacco industry is practically completed, and that he will hand it to me not later than next week. When I receive it I shall advise the honorable member of its contents.
Examination of Aircraft
– Is the Minister for Air able to state his intentions concerning the recommendations in the report of the departmental panel in regard to the method of examination of all aircraft at present in operation?
– The departmental panel made certain recommendations with respect to the examination of parts of air frames of Aircraft, and I believe that they will prove advantageous. They are now being considered, and I shall sanction the adoption of whatever methods will ensure a more complete examination than so far has been made - if such be possible - and the achievement of a higher degree of safety, in order that any anxiety which the honorable member or the public may have will be allayed.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to take any steps for a review of the order of precedence, so that the unfortunate incident that occurred at, the State dinner last night may not be repeated in future?
– I am not responsible, nor is the Government, for any unfortunate incident that has occurred. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the order of precedence has been varied very seldom. The relationship of officers of State, officers of the Parliament, Ministers, and the heads of the Services, to each other, was basically and broadly laid down in 1905. In my judgment, the modifications since made have not been of substance but have been minor. Some of them have been made necessary by the fact that other countries have raised the status of their representation in Australia since the order of precedence was originally drawn up. I have no feelings in the matter. I am satisfied that the relationship which the officers of departments and the citizens of Australia have to each other in their right of approach to the King or to the King’s representative, has been governed by precedent and tradition in this as in other countries. The relationship between the British Parliament and this Parliament is more or less fixed in the Standing Orders and in our parliamentary practice. But there are distinctions. In Great Britain there are Ministers of State who are not members of the Cabinet. That is not, and never has been, the case in this country. I did not originate this matter, and I do not regard it as necessary, in order to effect the right of the Government of this country, to make any changes other than those that may be consequential on the development of the country and our relations with other countries. That, I believe, has been the rule which my predecessors have operated.
-I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, as reported in the press this morning, you did not attend the State dinner held at Parliament House last night, and whether your reason was that there had been an alteration of the order of precedence, the effect of which was to place the office of Mr. Speaker below that of a junior Minister, despite the fact that Mr. Speaker is the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Parliament? Will you, sir, make a statement concerning the status of the Parliament’s chief officers?
– It is true that I did not attend the function last night. Nor do I propose to attend any functions that may be held in the precincts of this House until an alteration has been made of the practice which has been adopted. I shall confer with the President of the Senate, whose ideas coincide with mine, on the making of the statement suggested by the honorable gentleman.
- Mr. Speaker, if and when your one-man strike in the interests of the prestige of your office is successful, will you further uphold the dignity of your high position by wearing the robes of office?
– I do not know that this is a matter of urgent public importance; but the honorable member may rest assured that, whether the strike ends successfully or not, I will not wear the robes.
– Owing to the great hardship which small storekeepers experience because the quantity of petrol allotted to them under the rationing scale is insufficient to enable them to compete with large emporiums in the delivery of their wares, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain whether or not they are suffering an injustice, and, if so, take steps to rectify any anomaly that may appear to exist?
– The order and quantity of supplies to the traders mentioned by the honorable gentlemen were laid down about three years ago. It may well bethat since then circumstances have arisen which cause injustice tobe done to small shop-keepers and traders. Having that in mind, I shall suggest to the Minister for Supply and Shipping that, particularly in Adelaide, he might ask the Liquid Fuel Control Board to make a review and submit a report on the point.
WAR DISPOSALS COMMISSION.
– The Minister for the Army has written to me relative to the sale of saddlery to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps. His letter stated that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission had now approved of the sale, by the Army, of the saddlery in question at retail prices; and added that he could find no substantiation of the statement that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps had been offered saddles at £10 each, as no previous authority existed for any Army authority to make sales to the actual user. The right honorable gentleman then mentioned that the prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner for saddles complete were £3 13s. 4d. to the merchant, £4 8s. to the retailer, and £5 10s. to the user. When a troop of the Volunteer Defence Corps is disbanded, will the right honorable gentleman permit any member of it to retain a saddle in his possession at the price fixed for the wholesaler, rather than compel its surrender to the pool of the War Disposals Commission, and its purchase by the former holder at a priceapproximately £2 in excess of that charged to the wholesaler?
– The disposal of surplus or obsolete equipment of the Australian fighting forces is a matter for the War Disposals Commission. The value of such equipment totals millions of pounds. The matter cannot be handled between the Army and individuals. The commission was established in order that the disposal of the equipment might be efficiently controlled. I shall give consideration to the representations of the honorable gentleman.I point out, however, that if exceptions were made to the general principle, complications of all sorts might arise.
– Certain makers of motor car components are concerned at the fact that, under the lend-lease arrangements, the importation of complete vehicles is depriving them of orders, and they visualize the dispersal of their trained operatives. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs examine the lend-lease arrangements in that regard, and ensure that the Australian motor car industry shall not be jeopardized by wholesale or careless importation?
– It is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to foster and encourage Australian industry.I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister state (1) On whose recommendation Mr. O. D. A. Oberg, chairman of the Employers Federation, was selected as a delegate to attend the San Francisco conference on behalf of Australia? (2) Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, for some time, this gentleman has spoken regularly over certain New South Wales commercial radio stations, viciously attacking the policy and legislation of the Commonwealth Government and advocating that the people should vote against Labour candidates at the next Commonwealth elections? (3) Is it a fact that these radio sessions are sponsored by the Institute of Public Affairs? (4) In view of the opposition of Mr. Oberg to the Labour party, and his avowed intention to try to have it defeated at the next elections, why does the Prime Minister regard him as a suitable person to be invited by the Government to engage in a mission of the nature of the San Francisco conference?
Mr.CURTIN. - No recommendation was made to me in regard to Mr. Oberg. I selected him because I considered that, as he holds the view which the honorable member has indicated, it would be a good thing to include him in the delegation as the representative of that view, which is held to some extent in Australia. I do not consider that the ideas which Mr. Oberg holds in regard to this Government are any different from those that are held by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen).
– Will the Prime Minister state what are the qualifications of Mrs. Jessie Street to represent Aus- tralia at the San Francisco conference? Has she been selected because of her social position, or because she is a defeated Labour candidate? Why was she given priority in selection over the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and Senator Tangney, who might well be expected to be of much greater assistance to the women of Australia ?
– I considered the names of quite a number of women, in order to ensure the selection of one who would be capable of giving excellent assistance to the delegation in dealing with certain aspects of the matters that are to be dealt with at San Francisco. I regarded Mrs. Jessie Street as a very competent and cultured woman, one who has a broad view which is shared by a large section of the people of Australia, as was shown by the fact that she was chosen by a great organization to be a candidate for Parliament, and polled very well. I do not regard success or failure in politics as having any bearing upon a person’s qualifications for service to the Government or to the people of Australia. It all depends on the capacity in which the service is required. There were several persons who might have been considered. The two lady members of the Commonwealth Parliament are the first of their sex to be elected to it, and I considered that it wouldbe wrong to ask them at this stage to give up their parliamentary work in order to attend the conference. I invite the honorable member to say which of them he would have chosen.
Transfer of Labour
– Has it been brought to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service that there is a considerable amount of loafing going on these days in munitions works, and in other establishments engaged in war undertakings? Will he say what he proposes to do about it. and in particular whether it is proposed to transfer excess labour from such establishments to other factories engaged in essential work where labour is in very short supply?
– No, I do not know that a considerable amount of loafing is going on in Government factories. I do know that the output of the factories is carefully checked by the Minister and by the management, and if there was any s lacking it would quickly be detected. As for the second part of the honorable member’s question, the transfer of labour from one factory to another, or from one part of a factory to another part, is going on all the time.
-A few weeks ago I directed the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the shortage of oats and oaten chaff in Brisbane, and I asked that oaten chaff should be imported from Tasmania. Can the Minister say whether arrangements have yet been completed with the Tasmanian Government for the release of oats and oaten chaff for export to Brisbane?
– This matter has received the constant attention of the Director-General of Agriculture. As a matter of fact, the shortage of fodder throughout Australia is acute. Our efforts to import maize have been defeated by the quarantine regulations.
We have instituted a system of priorities, and the first priority is for feed for colliery horses on the northern and southern coal-fields of New South Wales. A survey has been made of the available fodder in Australia, and this has revealed a grave shortage. Such supplies as are available are being distributed according to a priority system through the agency of the State Departments of Agriculture.
.- I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
In view of the fact that Easter occurs at the end of March, I have consulted with the party Leaders and Whips in this chamber, and with members of the Senate, and. I find that any recess which was not sufficiently long to permit members from distant States to spend some time in their doctorates and at their homes, after travelling under difficult conditions, would not give general satisfaction. Therefore, I propose that this House shall continue to sit on three days a week- - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - up to, and including, Friday, the 23rd March. I propose that the Parliament shall then adjourn until Tuesday, the 17th April, when I shall ask the House to siton four days a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that there exists a serious shortage of wire, wire netting, and steel fencing posts, and that this is having the effect of reducing the production of food? Is it correct, as has been stated in the press, that there is considerable waste of labour in munitions factories in New South Wales, some of which are engaged in making handcuffs ? If so, will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, with a view to transferring the labour so engaged to more useful employment?
– I am aware of the serious shortage of wire and wire netting, and everything possible is being done to afford relief to those who require such materials. I have already said that the shortage of labour makes it impossible for us to do as much in this direction as we would like. As for the making of handcuffs, I remind the honorable member that: it was the Lyons Government, in 1938, which gave the first order to the factories associated with the Munitions Department for a consignment of handcuffs. In those factories there are the necessary tools, fixtures and gauges for the making of these articles. Such handcuffs as are being made now are to fill urgent orders from the defence authorities.
– Can the Minister reprc-.ent.ing the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that the free medicine scheme will come into operation on the 1st July? If so, have arrangements been made to bring hospitals under the scheme ?
– It has been decided that, if no exceptional difficulties arise in regard to man-power, this legislation shall come into operation on the 1st July. Friendly societies, and those controlling hospital dispensaries, have been consulted, and are co-operating with the Government in putting the scheme into effect.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report in the press that the Agricultural Council has recommended the setting up of an Australian whaling industry in order to provide fats which might take the .place of cereals and proteins in short supply owing to the drought? Is the report accurate, and does not the Minister think that there ‘are quicker and more effective methods of redressing the shortage?
– The matter was discussed at the Agricultural Council, and the Director-General of Agriculture suggested that an investigation might be made, seeing that we were short of protein meal for poultry. It was only a side issue, however, and was not regarded very seriously.
New South Wales Pension
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of a statement in the New South Wales Parliament by the Minister for Mines, Mr. Baddeley, in which he complained that a breach of faith had occurred over the release in Canberra of a report dealing with the Miners’ Pension Fund? Will the Prime Minister investigate the complaint in an endeavour to learn from what places besides caucus leakages occur?
– I have not seen the newspaper report, but I am aware that the Premier of New South Wales supplied to the Commonwealth Government for its information a report which was circulated among Ministers. I regret to say that, somehow or other, a very accurately paraphrased account of that report appeared in a Sydney evening newspaper. I cannot understand how the contents of the report were divulged. I offer my apologies and regrets to the Premier and Government of New South Wales. I have tried to find out how the leakage occurred, but so far I have not been successful. That is all I can say about the matter.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen press reports that, at the direction of the meat control authorities, Queensland’s surplus stock of bacon, running into a big tonnage, is being sent to Sydney for the civilian population, although, in the past, Queenslanders had received a smaller ration than residents in the south, and in 1943 got no bacon at all? Will the Minister explain why this is being done, and will he take immediate steps to ensure the distribution of any surplus bacon amongst Queenslanders, who have experienced short supplies of food for some time?
– I shall have full inquiries made, but, as far as I tun aware, the distribution of bacon and ham has been as equitable as is practicable in every State of the Commonwealth. Perhaps there is a bigger demand by the services for the tropical-cured ham of Queensland than for the mild-cured ham of the southern States. I have discussed this matter from time to time with the Meat Controller in an attempt to ensure equitable distribution, and I shall take it up with him again to ensure, as far as possible, that Queensland shall be treated in the same way as every other State.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report in the Sydney press to-day that the Federal Executive of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia carried a resolution protesting against the proposed limitation of preference in employment to ex-servicemen to seven years, and demanding that it be unlimited? Has the right honorable gentleman received a protest? Before the proposed legislation is brought before Parliament will he give representatives of the league an opportunity to state their case for unlimited preference?
– Representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia have had several consultations with me in the last two years. They have also been kind enough to formulate specific proposals by way of a draft bill, to which the Government has given full consideration. Since the announcement of a time limit of seven years on the preference legislation f have had a telegram from the General President, Sir Gilbert Dyett, that the organization objects to the time limit. I have acknowledged that. The bill will come before Parliament this session, and Parliament will decide whether the Government’s proposals shall be carried or not. and I have no doubt that some subsequent parliament will also be able to deal with the matter if it so desires.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the acute shortage of superphosphate is detrimentally affecting food production in this country? Now that the navies of the United Nations control the seas, can he say whether it will be possible in the near future to release Nauru and Ocean Island from Japanese occupation?
– That matter has been raised on several occasions for my consideration. It is not necessary to say where it has been raised. I have taken it up and had it considered in a. way which would admit of action being taken. But the strategy that ha? been decided upon is such that it is not possible to allocate the task forces which would be required for the purpose indicated by the honorable gentleman. Quite recently, in the clearest way, I hope, having regard to all the economic considerations, not only for Australia, but also for our allies, that arc involved in improving the food production of this country, I have had the matter raised again. The Government is entirely mindful of the importance of the matter raised by the honorable gentleman.
Debate resumed from the 1st March (vide page 250), on motion by Mr. Fraser -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech he agreed to: -
May it please Your Royal Highness:
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, lo 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.
Mr. COLES (Henty) [11.61.- With victory assured and the certain anticipation of peace, international relationships assume urgent importance. Out of sheer gratitude Australia, ought to give willingly and quickly such assistance to the administration of Unrra as lies within its power. We have had much talk at conferences about Unrra, but very little has gone out of the country to relieve the distress among peoples in need. We should not take the attitude of the well-to-do housewife who will not aid a needy neighbour because she considers her reserve stocks are insufficient. Our altitude should be, in the real spirit, of Australia, to share what we have with those who have not. We could send from this country manufactured goods to aid the distressed even though that might be interpreted as being equal to the exportation of man-power which is so scarce. I approve of the Government’s policy of extending our diplomatic representation in foreign countries and hope that it will he followed by a policy designed to foster reciprocal trade which brings mutual benefits and i< the finest medium for promoting lasting friendship and understanding between countries. As one of the little nations, our dependence on the friendship of others more powerful has been recently demonstrated. Australia would have been severely mauled, if not overrun, by the Japanese but for the timely intervention of the United States of America. Only the hand of Divine Providence caused the Japanese to direct their campaign in a way that allowed the United States of America time to assemble a naval force in the South -West Pacific to meet and stem the sweep of the Japanese fleet through the Coral Sea. The lesson of that naval action and the strength transmitted to the allies through lend-lease should be kept in mind forever I y us and should govern our approach to international conferences dealing with world security, such as that shortly to be held in San Francisco. Until the outbreak of this war, Australia firmly believed that the strength of the British Empire was a bulwark against attack; lui t we neglected to pay our share of the cost of that defence, leaving that obligation to Great Britain. That policy requires drastic alteration. Surely the fright, we had has shocked us rudely enough to make us realize that we must make our full contribution in men and mirney to the provision of an efficient imperial defence policy. We must also ma in tain a. strong and friendly liaison with the United States of America and other Pacific countries, founded upon the trust imposed by a common responsibility and interest in the Pacific. One question hound to arise will be bases for the United .States of America, upon which we look as a. foreign nation. Let us be realistic in our approach to that matter.
If, in the interests of mutual defence, the United States of America desires bases for which it has shed blood on the islands forming Australia’s northern perimeter, or even the mainland itself, we should gladly and freely grant them. In advocating that, I am advocating a policy not of generosity, but of selfishness. It would bo as much in our own interests as in the interests of the United States of America. The same argument also applies to peaceful projects such as international airlines. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has just made a. report, to this House on the Chicago conference at which, as was evident from his statement, the suggestions made by him on behalf of the Government were not acceptable to Great Britain, the United States of America, or any but very few other participating nations. It is quite obvious that the major aircraft manufacturing !ountries will demand the right to establish civil air routes for the sake of the knowledge and efficiency gained by the experience of operating them. In my opinion, Australia should open its door and grant terminal facilities and services to any nation that desires to establish an international air link with this country. In that way, we should derive considerable benefits and knowledge that come from frequent contact with other peoples, and, in addition, we should secure the finest international air services available at the lowest possible cost to Australia. It is to our own selfish interest to co-operate with other nations, rather than adopt the shortsighted policy of denying to them the use of terminal ports, as we did to PanAmerican Airways. As a result of that unfortunate policy, air mail to Australia was delayed at least one day, and sometimes longer, because it had to be carried an additional 900 miles to Hew Zealand. The sole purpose was to allow another company to obtain a portion of the mail fee. That is a shocking example of a government serving special interests to the detriment of the interests of the people. Although Pan-American Airways pioneered the Pacific air route, we shut our door to it. That policy should never be repeated. The Government should not put the interests of a company before those of the people.
When dealing with international matters, Australia should be coldly realistic. Let us agree to accept only such responsibilities as we know, by proven performances, we can discharge, whilst at the same time ensuring the standard of welfare of our people. In our high standard of living, we have something for which we must fight if we desire to preserve it. Our standard of living is equal to that of the most progressive, countries. The greatest contribution which we can make to improve world conditions is to set an example here. It is futile for our Ministers and representatives to make high sounding, idealistic suggestions for others to adopt, particularly on such subjects as full employment and the Standard of living. We must have intercourse with other peoples, regardless of what their internal standards may be. As a small country we should be most careful about the amount of insistence that, we place on these subjects. We shall be judged, not by promises or ambitious hopes, but on a high rate of production and delivery, and ;i continuity of good living conditions; and the continuity of good living conditions and a high rate of production can result only if we have happy and peaceful relations in our industries at home. We cannot expect to have peace, harmony and prosperity within our country if we continue to “ square off “ into distinct camps, each pledged to the attainment of a separate goal and determined to wreck the industrial machinery if it does not. get its own way. In that attitude lie only failure and misery. It has always been the feeding ground for the growth of tyranny, wherever it has occurred. I do not propose to cite specific instances ; every one knows them.
As I said earlier, we have built something precious in Australia on the ideal of freedom and self-government. It is an edifice of trust, and is based on trust. We have been prepared to fight against totalitarian nations for the purpose of preserving that, edifice. We must never forget that we have an ideal of freedom, and we should think very deeply before we endanger it by ill-advised and hasty acts in, this Parliament. In my opinion, the defiance of the expressed will of the people by the Government, as is proposed iff. (‘0/l«. by the nationalization of interstate airlines, will shake public confidence in constitutional government in this country, and the Government will be very ill-advised to pursue this policy. Whatever the expected benefits may be - and there are expected benefits - such action in the face of the result of the referendums in 1937 and 1944 would be politically immoral and must be so judged by the electors.
I welcome the announcement by the Government that its policy is to relax war-time controls over private business transactions as soon as the need for them has passed ; but I find it difficult to reconcile this assurance with another statement in the Governor-General’s Speech. Legislation will be introduced “ to make provision foi’ the regulation of the banking system generally along the lines which war-time experience has shown to be desirable in the national interest”. Not knowing what the Government’s intentions are in this regard, I shall make no further comment on them at this juncture. [Extension of time granted.]
Finally, I should like to suggest, as a contribution towards post-war planning, that what is sorely needed in Australia is a Government-sponsored round table conference between the representatives of management and the trade unions, with an independent chairman, to discuss the subject of full employment, ‘ including working conditions and rewards. I make that suggestion because many anomalies exist in the present system of controlling working conditions in Australia. As the result of appeals to the Arbitration Court and to wages boards, we have all sorts of differing conditions under different awards; and those differing conditions undoubtedly create a field for discontent and strikes. If Australia is to be a prosperous nation, we must at some period eliminate that source of disharmony. The objective of such a conference should be the recommendation of uniform laws to be enacted oy the States for the purpose of providing not only continuity of income hut also incentive for every one who is willing to work, with protection for those who are displaced, by changes in industry or other causes. If such a conference could establish a common Australian objective on a basis of free contributing enterprise, we may achieve such an era of industrial prosperity and harmony that people from other countries will be attracted to Australia for the purpose, of enjoying its benefits.
– This debate originated in the Governor-General’s Speech, which was interesting for various reasons. A portion of it contained w resume of war cables which we have read from time to time and, as such, received attention. In addition, the Speech referred to several matters of domestic policy that we shall find much more interesting as the session proceeds. I do not desire to deal with domestic policy at the moment, because this subject will attract plenty of attention in the fullness of time.
The trend of the debate in this House has aroused any interest. Members of the Opposition have remarked repeatedly that this Government is not concerned with the conduct of the war, devoting four-fifths of its time entirely to domestic policy.
– Rubbish !
– My statement is true. Any visitor listening to the debate; that have taken place in this House would bc impressed by the fact that whereas honorable members on this side of the chamber have concentrated their remarks on matters such as the disposal of Australian forces and international conferences that will shape, world developments after the war, honorable members opposite have directed their attention wholly to domestic policy. They are concerned almost exclusively with the implementation of the policy of the Labour party, and an observer in this chamber could, not help noticing that fact. Although I may comment later on current political topics, I propose to devote my remarks to-day to infinitely mure important matters.
First, I shall deal with the disposition of our forces. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that the Government is responsible for this decision ; but there is an ever-growing feeling in the public mind that our forces arc not being used to the maximum and. that the number of combatants within our forces is not sufficient, relatively speaking, to the total number of personnel. Although, the Government is responsible for the disposition of the forces, honorable members undoubtedly have the right to state whether, in their opinion, that disposition is effective and covers a field which, in the national interest, will be ultimately to the benefit of Australia. On another occasion, the Prime Minister said that Australia had surrendered a portion of its sovereignity to General MacArthur when wc placed our forces at his disposal for operations in the South-West Pacific Area. In his wisdom, General MacArthur diverted our troops to a secondary role. He decided that our soldiers- shall be used not in major operations, but purely for mopping-up centres of resistance within territories adjacent to Australia. I believed that the tendency to use Australian troops to fill a secondary role had been overcome. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) had stated that our forces were to be employed in the Philippines campaign. Subsequent developments lead mc to believe that our troops have been “ by-passed “ in that regard. The Prime Minister stated also that until we had fulfilled the terms of the directive issued to General MacArthur, he had no intention of taking further steps regarding the disposal of our forces. He declared quite plainly that Australian forces should be used first on Australian territory. He made no apology for that. But I draw attention to the fact that whereas Australia has always been a part of the original directive, the Minister for the Army made it clear that, a section of the Australian forces would be used in the Philippines. Has the position altered to-day? Is it not still possible for us to proceed with the clearing of Australian soil of the enemy and therefore of potential danger, and at the same time place some of our armed forces under British command for the relief of Malaya, Burma, and Java? Australian military prestige has always been high, but it is likely to suffer unless our forces are closely identified with major combatant operations.
The Prime Minister has told us that he regards the making of friendships and the creating of goodwill among nations as a major element of external policy. Does the right honorable gentleman not realize that we could make friends, increase our national prestige, and satisfy our national honour by making Australian forces available for major operations in Malaya. Java and other Asiatic countries? This can be done notwithstanding the South-West Pacific directive and the national obligation that rests upon us to free our prisoners of war who are still in enemy hands. No greater service could be performed by Australia in the interests of national goodwill than for Australian troops to take a prominent part, in the campaign in Asia and the Netherlands East Indies. By making Australian forces available for such service we should be doing our utmost to restore those countries to their former control. We surely look forward to an expansion of our economic and trade contacts in the East, after the war. This should bc a matter of concern to us, even from the selfish point of view. I believe that Australian soldiers operating in thos.:, areas would bc most powerful agents to that end. Now that our men are not being used to the degree that we have expected in Hie Philippines, surely it is not too much to ask that some of them should be placed under British command for service in Malaya, the Netherlands East. Indies and other parts of Asia.
I wish to discuss for a few moments, in a general way, the circumstances under which certain international conferences Iia ve been held, and may be held, in the future, foi- it is a matter of great moment to Australia. I consider that in this connexion the rights of this Parliament have been completely disregarded by the Government. Agreements have been made at such gatherings, concerning which the Parliament, as such, has not been consulted. I refer first to the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement 1944, the provisions of which may well be of vital consequence to this nation and substantially affect its economic structure. The Opposition was not given an opportunity to express its views on the agreement, and it does not even now know to what Australia has been committed. Surely it is only fair that the Opposition should he consulted on such a matter. Parliament should have been permitted to discuss the agreement before it was ratified. 1 turn now to the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. We were told, at first, that this was to be an entirely informal gathering; but we learned afterwards that decisions were taken which may commit Australia to the provision of armed forces for overseas service in certain circumstances. Parliament should have been permitted to debate that subject, but the Government, entirely disregarded that necessity.
– The Parliament can trust this Government.
– The trouble is that we cannot trust the Government. Some time ago the Prime Minister declared that no action would be taken by the Government, to socialize industry during the war. Later a. referendum was held for the purpose of securing more power for the Commonwealth. The people indicated clearly that they did not trust the Government, and would not vest greater powers in the Parliament. But what has happened? The Government is proceeding with legislation designed to socialize interstate airways and nationalize the banking system. Some honorable gentlemen who support the Government arc attempting to force the Prime Minister to widen the scope of these socialization activities so as to include certain other key industries. In view of these circumstances I say that neither the people nor the Parliament, can trust the Government.
The Minister for Air recently attended an international aviation conference in America. The degree of failure of that conference to reach agreement might have been reduced had the Government consulted the Opposition on the subject, for honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber could have made constructive suggestions.
Whenever international conferences are to be held arrangements should be made for prior conferences of representatives of the British Empire so that Empire delegates could participate in the international gatherings with a common Empire plan in mind. I was rather amazed to hear the Prime Minister say earlier this week that although Empire representatives would’ meet prior to the San Francisco Conference with- the object of” considering, a common Empire plan, the delegates’ would subsequently attend the San- Francisco- Conference under conditions’ which would leave them completely free to express their own views. Ii say to the right honorable- gentleman that if he wishes to keep the British Empire intact he- should’ sot only’ support the plan- for prior Empire consultation with a view to ironing out difficulties and diversities’ of views-, but he should also take steps to ensure that Empire representatives Will speak with one voice at the subsequent international conferences-. There should’-be an Empire bloc at the 3am Francisco Conference. Any other procedure will tend to destroy the unity of the Empire. We’ need- unity in all the conferences that- will- be held before the war ends, a’s- well as- in- all the post-war conferences. Australia should regard- itself- as a member-‘ of’ the family of British nations. Unless all’ Empire countries adopt that- attitude there will he a- danger’ of< the Empire disintegrating. Either we are members of one family or wo- are not,, and the1 sooner the point is determined the better f or all.
The Minister for External Affairs made some remarks ‘iti’ the course of his speech - about foreign” relations- generally. In discussing this’ subject I do not desireto be tied down to the Polish- issues.
– -The honorable gentleman should not rush in where angels fear to tread;
– The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) rushed in to ‘publish a. pamphlet on banking, but we can afford to look leniently on- that action-, for he has- since withdrawn the publication. In -his- apologia the Minister for External Affairs referred to the remark of the Leader- of th’e Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the Atlantic Charter provided! that territorial changes must be subject to the freely-expressed will of’ the people-.’ The Minister for External Affairs- said the. Grimea Conference came to agreement on the- Polish boundary question which met the very point mentioned by. th e, Leader of ‘the Opposition. In this connexion- we> must- remember, however; that there is a Polish Government in Lon-
don, which has disagreed with the proposed Polish boundaries, and there is a’ puppet Lublin Polish Government, whichhas agreed with’ the proposed’ new boundaries ; but neither” of those authorities is in- a position- to express’ the will of the Polish- people. My view is1 that until such- time as; the Polish people are able to indicate- their wishes- no action should1 be taken to fix the boundaries of Poland. I1 do not’ know whether the Commonwealth Government itself has an opinion on- the Polish boundaries issue. I remind the Minister for External Affairs of another’ provision of the Atlantic Charter referred to by the Leader of the OpposiMon namely,. that the Governments which subscribed to’1 the Charter” did not seek- anyaggrandisement, territorial or” otherwise. We understood that national boundaries would’ not be determined until the end of the’ war. I did’ not know until1 the Yalta Conference was Held whether the Russian Government’ had subscribed to the Atlantic- Charter, but we have since been informed’ that’ it does subscribe to it. Unfortunately, however, not only the Russian’ Government, but” also all the oth’er signatory governments have abrogated the Charter. They did so’, of course; when they reached their decision’ on the P61ish boundaries. In my’ view that was not a strictly honorable decision. Oh the broad facts, as we know them, we can-come to no other conclusion than that this charter has-been abrogated in the interests of one of the great Allies against those of a smaller nation. I may be wrong. If I am, it is due entirely to the fact that this- House has- never been informed’ by the Minister foi’ External Affairs as to the facts. If the Atlantic Charter becomes a real liver instrument, . matters relating, to foreign affairs will press more and more on the domestic, life of - Australia. It is apparent’ that this Parliament, instead of interesting, itself in the domestic policy of a i Labour government, and dealing, with .purely “parish-pump” politics, will have-to inform its mind more and more upon .matters which affect countries outside Australia,-, and consider their possible effects- on t the economic life of “ this country. Because of these- considerations; I- support the appeal bv the Leader of ‘the1 Opposition (Mr; Menzies) for th’e- appointment of a Foreign Affairs Committee of members of both Houses, which, would be regularly advised in relation to matters that are vital to us.
The Prime Minister speaks in full, flowing periods, hut is not so politically dense as to be unaware of the importance of what underlies his seemingly harmless phrases. In this debate, the right honorable gentleman made this comment -
I seu in Australia no sign of anybody being absolutely short of food, clothing or even housing. But I make comparisons with other countries which have been ravaged by war, and 1 ask myself: “Am I warranted in prolonging their privations by taking men from the armed services of this country for the purpose of building more homes, when the population of this country, however badly housed, is, fortunately, housed, because our great cities have been “spared the terrible battering which othegreat cities have had to endure?”
– A realistic statement.
– The right honorable gentleman says, ‘broadly, to this Parliament and the country, that we should base our standards on those of other countries that have been ravaged by waa1. That is perfectly idealistic. What is our position compared with -that of the United Kingdom? The right honorable gentleman says that our people have houses, food and clothes. That is quite true. What he did not say was that there is an immense man-power wastage in most of the government departments, which, with industrial strikes and absenteeism, constitutes the gravest reflection on Australia’s national effort. Nor did he say that pillaging had reached record dimensions .on the wharfs, forming the basis of black-marketing operations; that we have horse-racing and other professional sport of all kinds; that our night clubs operate practically without hindrance; that black marketing abounds; and that there is general apathy towards the fulfilment of our commitments in the war. Let us be realistic, not idealistic. Let us place the matter in true perspective. That can be done only by making comparisons with another country that has not been ravaged by war. Australia has been criticized because of a deficiency of which I am heartily ashamed. Let us consider the conditions in the United States of America, the country to which the Prime Minister looks “without any inhibitions “. The American authorities have imposed a complete ban upon not only horse-racing, but also trotting and greyhound meetings, and they propose to ban professional sport completely. The employees affected have been diverted to the services or to essential occupations.
– Does the honorable gentleman agree that horse-racing should be banned in Australia?
– If the honorable member will read in Hansard speeches on the subject that . I have made in this House, he will learn what my attitude is in that regard.
– The honorable gentleman should answer “ Yes “ or “ No
– I believe that, if the Government sincerely desires to treat the war in a global sense, it cannot be content with half measures.
– That is not an answer to my question. The honorable member is not game to say whether or not he agrees that horse-racing should be banned in Australia.
– I ask the honorable member for Adelaide to be patient for a moment.
– Answer the question. “Yes” or “No”.
– if the honorable member will be patient, all questions will be answered in due course. Dealing with the expenditure on horse-racing, Professor G. L. Wood, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, University of Melbourne, said last September -
The expenditure per head on the training ot children in our schools for their vital work in the future is a mere fraction of the expenditure upon the training of useless racehorses for the weekly orgies that must cause the raising of eyebrows even in mental asylums.
In the United States of Amenca, $2,000,000,000 was wagered on horseracing in 1944. That illustrates waste of money and. man-power that should be devoted to the war effort. My answer to the honorable member for Adelaide is, that if Australia proposes to have a total war effort - in which I believe - all other matters, including horse-racing, must be made subservient to it. I hope that my ‘honorable friend is satisfied with that answer. He may feel inclined to ask me whether or not I consider that all night-clubs should be closed.
In the United States of America, they have been compulsorily closed at midnight, with the result that another 50,000 persons have been made available for war work. In Australia, on the contrary, night-clubs may continue to operate all night. It is well that the Prime Minister should draw attention to the sufferings of people in the United Kingdom. If he considers that our standards in regard to housing, food and clothing, should be comparable with those of the United Kingdom - I take it that he does, because that was the effect of his statement - what is he doing to achieve that object? If it be necessary to limit our needs so as to make them comparable with those of the people of the United Kingdom, why does he not take steps to that end, and endeavour to supplement the food and other necessaries that are available in Britain? On the 26th September last, he admitted that although Australia was able to supply Great Britain with 228,000 tons of meat in 1938-39, the allocation for 1.944, which at first was 200.000 tons, had had to be reduced to 178,000 tons. In the dairying industry the annual milk production, he said, had fallen by 137,000,000 gallons since 1938-39; and the production of butter, which in 1938-39 was 203,000 tons, was estimated to be only 145,000 tons in 1944. Those reductions, I point out, could not be attributed to the drought. The position today must be considerably worse. Although the Prime Minister has a full knowledge of the facts, his Government has not lived up to the obligations into which Australia entered for the supply of food to the United Kingdom.
We have heard and read from time to time statements concerning the surplus man-power in the services and essential industries. Those statements have not been lightly made; we know that they are correct. There is not complete liaison between the Man Power Directorate and the services, but on the contrary the one tries to “pass the buck” to the other. The Man Power Directorate endeavours to obtain releases from the Army for essential industries. Army officers in non-combatant service, in an effort to protect their own positions, try to keep the staff that they have. We know that the services are inflated. [Extension of time granted.) These difficulties can be overcome if an effective liaison be established between Man Power and the services; or, alternatively, if arrangements be made for a thorough comb-out of surplus staff in munitions factories and government departments. If this were done, we could supply to the United Kingdom the food required there. I remind the Prime Minister ‘that high-sounding phrases will not get the job done.
I have here some figures which indicate the favorable position of Australia in regard to rationed foods as compared with Great Britain. They are as follows : -
In addition, imports into Australia each month under the heading of food, beverages, tobacco and clothing, are valued at £1,048,000, of which 67 per cent, comes from Great Britain. It cannot be claimed that such goods are essential for our war effort. Bather do they come, for the most part, under the heading of luxuries, yet Britain, the country which has been bombed and blasted is supplying us with these goods. If they are being supplied under the reverse lend-lease system, then let us, under that system, buy goods which are essential to our war effort.
Arrangements are now being completed for the production in Australia of Mustang aeroplanes, a machine which has already been superseded in Britain by the type known as the Tempest. No doubt, if we were to start getting ready for the production of the Tempest machine now, it would, by the time we could begin production, be superseded by somekind of jet-propelled machine. I suggest that if the Prime Minister wants to get more man-power he might take some of the men now engaged upon the production of out-moded aeroplanes.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was kind enough tosupply me with a publication known as Facts and Figures of Australia at War, which contains some information bearing upon the rehabilitation of men discharged from the services. According to this publication, of the 57,488 males discharged between November, 1943, and September, 1944, only onethird were sent to rural industries. An attempt was made to classify the remainder into such broad groups as food production, factories, building construction,transport, communications, commerce and finance. By the admission of the authorities themselves, there were 19,587 male personnel discharged during those ten months who could only be classified as having entered factories and other industries. The House is entitled to ask just whathappened to them. Evidently they have drifted into all sortsof industries, and in a great many instances, their present occupations will do little to effect their rehabilitation in civil life. This constitutes a severe indictment of the Government.
Conflictingstatements havebeen made by Government spokesmen onthe subject of preference to soldiers. The Prime Ministermade one statement, which was countered by the Labourparty outside Parliament, andwas modified again by the decision ofcaucus. Now, preference is to be limited to a period of seven years after thewar, although there was no mention ofany limitationby the Prime Minister in his first announcement. Surely thatlimitation is not just to men who have givenfive, sixand perhaps seven years oftheir lives to the service of their country.During thattime, they have been absent from industry, and have lost efficiency. Is this the preferece which the Government proposes to give to unfortunatemen who may have to remain in hospital for as long asfour years aftertheir discharge fromthe Armyat the end ofthe war? In their case the period ofpreference willbeonly threeyears.
Consideralso the wary discharged men are given the run-around by the various departments when they seek to be rehabilitated. When a man is discharged, he is taken up bythe man-power authorities and sent to the Rehabilitation Committee, which says, “ Yes, you ought to go in for some kind of vocational training “. Perhaps that does notsuit him. He wantsto go into business for himself, and for thathe requires assistance. The DepartmentofWarOrganization of Industry gives hima permit,and sends him tothe Department of Import Procurement for permission tobuy the machinery he requires. Then he comes backtothe Repatriation Department for the necessary grant, and there he is told that because he was not in industry before he wentto the war hecannotbe given a grant of money to enable him to go into industry now.
Then take the case of the man who is prepared to go in for a course of vocational braining. Hefinds that practically all the big unions are closed against him. He cannot become a member ofthe Metal and Munitions Unionor the BootTrade Employees Federation or any of the engineering unions. Only the minor unions are open to him, and one of those he may enter as a dilutee. The principle applied in the case of dilutees is last on, first off, so that hisposition there is not particularly secure.
Asa matter of fact, this talkof preference to returned soldiers is all poppycock. It does not seemas if the Government is sincere inwhat it proposes, and if it isnot sincere, Ministers should cease mouthing preference to returned soldiers, and frankly admit that they believe only in preference tounionists. Letthem say that, unless discharged men are prepared tojoin unions, they will not get into any trades, let alone receive preference. Unless the Government is prepared to pay more attention to matters of primary importance ; unlessit is prepared toact in accordance with the Prime Minister’s statement that we are engaged in global and total warfare ; unless the Government is prepared to bringdown legislation which will make Australia the country forwhich our men havefought, a land fit for heroesto live in ; unless it adopts a policy designed to enable Australia to play its part worthily among thenations ofthe world; unless it is prepared to forget about its schemes for nationalization and socialization of industry,Ihave no doubt that the people will deal very effectively with it when it seeks a renewal of its mandate.
– It is obvious that for party political purposes, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) set himself out to decry Australia’s war effort. He suggested that the Government had fallen down on its job, and that the people of Australiawere not living up to what was expected of them in the war effort. He charged the Government with putting party politics before the country’s interest. I remind him that, when the party of which he is a member was in power, it continually put politics before the country’s welfare. Because of their bickering and quarelling among themselves, because of contentions among Ministers as to who should have certain portfolios, the war effort was relegated to the background. When thechange of government came, the new Prime Minister inspired the whole country to a supreme war effort. Unity and inspiring leadership were put into the Australian war effort. I much prefer the views of impartial authorities on the part Australia is playing to the party political vapourings of the honorable member. I refer him to the opinions expressed by General MacArthur, the Commander-in-Chief in the South- West Pacific Area who, if not personally in touch all the time with what was doing here and there in Australia, had officers at meetings of the Supply Council, meeting representatives of the Munitions Department, and the Supply and Shipping Department, and going into the production and productive capacity of Australia. This is what he said -
No nation in the world is making a more supreme war effort than Australia.
He is more competent to give an impartial opinion than is the honorable member. I do not say that the Prime Minister or any other Minister is completely satisfied with what is being done.
It is absolutely impossibleto get perfection.
– To that extent then the Minister for the Army disagrees with General MacArthur.
– I do not. He said-
It is rapidly gearing tofull capacity. It is utilizing its resources to the utmost.Its effort isuniversalandembracesequally all classes andall parties. It is unanimous and completely supported me in my military command, and the harmony andco-operation between Australians and Americans in this area are inspirational.
Australia’s war effort had been one of the miracles of the war. For a country of 7,000,000 people,with tremendous transport problemsand 800,000 people in uniform to act as a supply base and springboard for my successful campaign iswhat I regard as miraculous. This was largely accomplished through a spirit of co-operation, mutual understanding and respect between the heads of the Australian Government and myself and staff, by devotion to a cause and willingness to sacrifice for that cause.
He realizes that there are imperfections here and there, as there are in the United States of America. There are industrial stoppages in America, and frequently in Great Britain, and because of which neither country could claim 100 per cent. efficiency ; but comparing the part we are playing with that of other nations in this titanic struggle, I say that there is no nation with a greater record of achievement than Australia. It ill becomes the honorable member for Wentworth to decry the war effort of this country.
– I do not. I am decrying the way the Government is handling it. The people are all right.
– The people, after nearly two years of experience of this Government, had the opportunity at the last general elections if they were not satisfied to turn us out of office; but we were returned with a record majority in this chamber and a majority in the Senate.
– For the last time.
– The honorable member himself only scraped home by a few votes from a woman candidate in the “blue riband “ Conservative constituency of Wentworth. There is a lot of criticism of the shortage of man-power. We all deplore that we cannot supply all the numerous demands for additional manpower. As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) pointed out in his statement yesterday, the labour available for high priority work between January and June this year will be 45,000 short of requirements.- That will cause hardship, suffering, inconvenience, and loss to sections of the community; but, if this country had sufficient manpower to meet the demands of all employers and the fighting sevices, we should not be engaged in an all-in war effort. It is possible that the problem will be eased in the second half of this year, but we are bound by the statement of the Prime Minister that re-allocation of man-power as between the services and industry cannot be made before next June. It would be throwing dust in the eyes of the Australian people to say that we can solve the acute man-power problem. Australia is irrevocably committed to the continuance of an all-in war effort until complete victory is achieved in the Pacific as well as in Europe. The armies, air forces and navies cannot continue in active operation without considerable wastage and reinforcement of man-power. It is very easy to say critically that thousands of men here and there are not being adequately used. I do not believe that. I do not believe that any student of political questions to-day really believes that thousands of men are not being fully utilized. I have heard it said that many thousands could be discharged from the Army without loss of striking force, but honorable members overlook the fact that special committees are combing base establishments and lines of communication areas for surplus men mIld women. Men who were B class and are now A class, for example, are being sent as reinforcements in forward areas. One committee is known as the ‘Cheetham Committee and the other is presided over by Brigadier Locke. They have found, here and there, surplus man-power which they made available for more active work. I do not say that the Army organization is perfect and that there is not some slight surplus here and there, but those committees are on the job all the time tracking them down.
The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has come in for some criticism that large numbers of people in munitions factories are not occupied. No one could have given more time and thought to this question than he, and many thousands of people have been made available from munitions factories for other employment. Because of changing conditions of the war, because the war was not fought on Australian soil, we do not require the shells and other munitions in the quantities which it was thought would be required. So there had to be pruning of the activities of the munitions factories, and the labour surplus was made available to the fighting services, primary industries, and high-priority secondary industries.
A lot has been said in criticism, of the Government’s foreign policy, but it can be truly said that no other Australian Government in the last twenty years has given so much thought to foreign policy and our relations with other countries. I pay tribute to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) for his great application to, and able discharge of, this very complex responsibility. It is not our fault that a number of comprehensive statements made by him in this Parliament were not fully debated.
– Whose was the fault?
Mi-. FORDE. - In many cases honorable members opposite had appointments in other places and left, Canberra at the time set apart for those debates. In the very nature of things, the foreign policy of this country must always be in harmony with that of the British Commonwealth as a whole. Our foreign policy in time of war, I believe, must comprise a series of relationships with other countries designed to expedite the victory that the fighting forces are seeking. In the course of his eloquent speech the Prime Minister referred to the forthcoming conference on world security at San Francisco and the preliminary talks that will be held between the representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and Dominions. We welcome those talks and we shall be glad to participate. I very much appreciate the honour conferred upon me by the Prime
Minister and the Government in appointing me to represent this country. Countries cannot always have their own wayif they wish to live in amity. There was a tendency in Australia, in past years, to be isolationist. That attitude was not confined to Australia; a number of the democracies suffered from the same complaint. There was la feeling while peace reigned that there would be no return to war and that each country could live in a watertight compartment and be preoccupied with itself in expansion and development. With other countries, Australia has learned a lesson which I hope will be remembered for all time. There is a price which the world must pay for peace and for collective security, and Australia will have to .pay its share, whatever it may be. The British Commonwealth of Nations is an exemplification of the practicability of such an association, for it offers w. demonstration of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom trusting each other with perfect friendship and understanding and showing a readiness to give as well as take.
The aims of the Government’s postwar policy in regard to national security are an adequate defence policy, development of the maximum co-operation among members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the establishment of defence and security policy on an all-party basis in order to ensure its continuity. It is useless to have a policy which will be chopped and changed. People must recognize that, in order to ensure peace, there must be a readiness to provide adequate defences for this country. As to our participation in collective security, the future of the world organization will be considered at the ‘San Francisco Conference. The maximum achievement will be the creation of adequate machinery to provide security, and the future peace of the world will depend upon the effectiveness of the structure that will be built at that momentous conference.
During this debate, some honorable members, when referring to the partbeing played by Australian forces in the South-West Pacific, have failed to realize the difficulties of the terrain in the islands to the north of Australia, and the heroic deeds of our gallant soldiers. I was very surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that Australian forces had been allotted the secondary role of mopping up by-passed areas. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to it as a “ charwoman’s part in the war “.
– No one minimized the difficulties. We drew attention to the theatres in which Australian troops were being employed.
– The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that the Australian forces are committed to a role that was agreed upon in a directive from five governments to General Douglas MacArthur, the CommanderinChief in the South-West Pacific Area. The Prime Minister of Australia agreed with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America regarding what Australia’s striking power should be. Until those commitments have been carried out, the obligations into which the Commonwealth Government has entered cannot be varied.
– What are they?
– For security reasons, I cannot state publicly the number of divisions fighting in New Guinea to-day, other than to say that the forces are very substantial, but I am prepared to discuss the matter privately with the honorable member. The striking power of those forces is very formidable. Honorable members must not overlook the fact that about 100,000 well-trained, well-equipped and well-conditioned Japanese still remain in the islands from the Solomons across to Dutch New Guinea. The casualty lists from day to day cause us to realize that Australians are losing their lives, and are enduring the tortures of hell in disease-infested country.
After the initial battles, the Americans were transferred to more distant fields, and some nation had to be responsible for mopping up, cleaning out, driving into the sea and annihilating 100,000 fearless fighters of the Japanese Army. They could not be allowed to remain in the islands. Acting on the advice of its military experts, the Commonwealth
Government decided to commit Australian troops to the cleaning-up of Australian and British territory.
– Why is that necessary ?
– In the opinion of our expert military advisers, it is necessary; and I agree with them. If the Government took the advice of every civilian whether he be a member of Parliament, chairman of a progress association, chairman of the Liberal party, or chairman of the Labour party, on matters of military strategy, only chaos could result. I was glad to hear the speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). No one could accuse him of being a supporter of this Government, but he is an intelligent man and. a member of the Advisory War Council. He is well informed on this matter. He said that he could not accept the term “ mopping up “ as an accurate description of the work upon which a considerable portion of the Australian Army is engaged. He displayed a real appreciation of the difficult task allotted to our troops, and expressed the hope that the nation would not accept the derogatory description of the functions of our forces that had been given to them by some American newspapers, and that we should not fall into the habit of looking upon the work of our troops as being nothing more than mopping-up operations, or garrison duty. Those terms were applied to the task of our Australian forces by some honorable members opposite. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters are decrying the part which is being played by our Australian troops in the islands to the north of Australia–
– For political reasons.
– That is not so.
– Some honorable members opposite are trying to make out that some decision of this Government is responsible for Australian troops not being fully employed. They contend that our forces should be sent to Burma or the Netherlands East Indies because, in their opinion, the troops are not being fully extended in New Guinea. Some one must annihilate the Japanese in the islands of the South-West Pacific. They are fighting on Australian territory. Could we ask the Americans to drive them from those islands, while we sent our troops north to American territory? Surely it is the prime responsibility of Australia to drive the enemy out of New Guinea, the Solomons and other contiguous islands under our control !
Mr.Scullin. - What do members of the Opposition consider should be done?
– They contend that our troops should be sent to Burma under the command of Lord Louis Mountbatten, although 100,000 Japanese remain in islands adjacent to Australia. Those Japanese are now producing large quantities of food locally in order to relieve demands on their shipping. They also have large quantities of equipment and ammunition. The sooner we can restore the civil administration in the rich territories of Papua, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and the Solomons, the better it will be for Australia and the British Empire. I invite honorable members to read the views expressed by a war correspondent, Mr. Fred Aldridge, in the Sun Pictorial newspaper, Melbourne, on the 17th February last -
There were 16,000 Japanese on Bougainville Island. They would be destroyed by the Australian troops, he believed, in the next few months. He also saw the graves of 10,000 Japanese slain by the Americans from whom the Australians had taken over. The task would be tough and Australian blood would be spilt.
Apparently the task would not be tough enough to satisfy some honorable members opposite, who contend that our troops should be sent to other theatres where the campaigning is harder and the casualties are higher. Mr. Aldridge said -
The destruction of 16,000 Japanese soldiers anywhere is not a cheap holiday. The Japanese on Bougainville are well fed, well disciplined, and high moraled, and their equipment is splendid. They are not a hungry rabble philosophically awaiting destruction.
The war correspondent added that Australian troops on Bougainville had read in some Australian newspapers that they are engaged upon a mopping-up show. Mr. Aldridge said that because the troops are Australians and have a deep sense of humour, most of them are amused, but some of them are not, because they still think of the mounds and graves beneath which their mates are buried. Mr.
Aldridge stated also that one soldier said to him, “ This business of mopping up an organized army occupying nine-tenths of the island is just a ‘woolly dog’. When it comes to mopping up, the Japanese just will not co-operate”.
The House will agree with me that the task of exterminating the Japanese troops in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons is no side show. The job calls for heroism and endurance of the highest order. The House will also agree that the task should not be left until later in the war, but should be undertaken now. The sooner wc restore civil administration in those territories, the better it will be. At the beginning of the war with Japan, Rabaul was regarded as one of the key points in the defence of Australia. It is still strongly held by many thousands of Japanese. That Rabaul was not more adequately defended is a charge which cannot be laid at the door of this Government. The fact must be realized that Australia sent - I believe rightly - an expeditionary force overseas, and there were not adequate numbers of trained personnel and sufficient equipment in Australia to defend this country. The task of holding Rabaul was entrusted to too few men of the Australian forces, and they were overwhelmed. To-day, many thousands of Japanese are still in the Rabaul area, which is eminently suited for a great naval base, and it must be regained at the earlier possible moment. The Leader of the Opposition admitted that it is right that the Philippines should be retaken primarily by American military strength. Why, then, does the right honorable gentleman not give due credit to the Australian Army for its part in liberating Commonwealth territory? Does he want Australia to ask America, Great Britain or Russia to send troops to New Guinea and the Solomons, -while we send troops to Burma or China? I contend that our responsibility is, first, in the islands for which we are responsible near home.
The memories of some honorable members must be very short. Last year, some honorable gentlemen opposite strongly criticized the Australian Army and its administration. The burden of their complaint was that certain divisions were being overworked, and were being thrown into battle on every possible occasion. Now those honorable members contend that Australian troops have been allotted a puny task of mopping up, and should be used elsewhere on difficult and dangerous tasks befitting soldiers of their calibre. Only three weeks ago, I was able to inform the public that the Australian Army to-day is employing, or is ready to employ, more formations of troops than have ever been used or been available for use in any theatre of operations either in the last war or in the early stages of this war. The complaint that Australian divisions have been overworked is not heard to-day, because the Australian Army has been, refitted and rested. At present, there are large numbers of troops who have served continuously with the forces since the outbreak of war.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the criticism by honorable members opposite regarding the use that is being made of the Australian fighting forces at the present time. In that regard I support the Prime Minister, who has explained’ that the course adopted was decided upon by him in consultation with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America and the Chiefs of Staff. It is true that the grave threat of invasion to Australia in the early days of the war against Japan meant that Australian Imperial Force troops from the Middle East were sent into action in New Guinea without a long respite. I think that the first of our men who came back had only about seven days’ leave before they were sent to New Guinea. That was after less experienced Australian troops had dealt very effectively with the Japanese at Milne Bay. The period was one of great crisis for the Australian fighting forces. It was a time when our people were fearful of the power of the Japanese both to strike at Port Moresby by land - that is, over the Owen Stanley Range - and to attack it also from the Coral Sea. It was in these circumstances that the Australian Imperial Force divisions from, the Middle East were sent up to the fighting in New Guinea. They drove the Japanese back over the Owen Stanley Range. They fought their way on and down to Buna, Gona, and Sanananda. They covered themselves with glory, and the gratitude of the Australian people had no bounds.
During this time, and afterwards, the Australian Army was re-organized, and, later, American formations largely took over from Australian troops the fighting in operational areas to the north. Subsequently, we in our turn again took over from the American troops in order to clear the Japanese out of New Guinea, and out of all the territories of the Commonwealth, or territories that will be controlled by the Commonwealth as soon as the enemy is wiped out. [Extension of time granted.] Only last year we were hearing complaints that the Australian Army, or at least a very large part of it, was overworked, and was engaged in too much fighting. Now we have an exactly opposite complaint. The complaint is as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, and I shall use his own words -
I should be very happy indeed to have my own mind put at rest on this matter, and there are hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who would be very happy to feel a complete sense of satisfaction that our Australian forces were, at this moment doing their best work in this war.
To say the least, the choice of words by the Leader of the Opposition is unfortunate. His statement leaves the emphatic suggestion that the Australian forces are not doing their best, and are not being used to do the work with which they should be entrusted.
– That is entirely wrong. The Leader of the Opposition did not say that the Australian forces were not doing their best.
– Those were the words used, and quite a number of honorable members opposite have fallen into the same mistake. But now the right honorable member suggests the setting up of something in the nature of a foreign affairs committee of the members of this Parliament so that all honorable members might be able to learn something more, not only regarding war strategy, but also as to what is contemplated at conferences abroad, and with respect to the post-war reconstruction period. The Leader of the Opposition has the habit of taking up new hobbies. Indeed, the Australian Advisory War Council was his baby. As Prime Minister he requested honorable members now on this side of the House to select a certain number from among their ranks for appointment to the council.
– At the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition at that time.
– The present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, decided to establish the Advisory War Council, and he invited the party to which I have the honour to belong to he represented upon it. He extolled the virtues of such an organization, and he said that it would enable members of the Opposition to become conversant with what was going on in connexion with the war effort. With the change of govern ment he remained for some time on the Advisory War Council, and the Prime Minister welcomed his co-operation and advice. But at a very critical period in the war, when his advice - if it was only half or one-quarter as good as honorable members opposite claim - would have been invaluable in the deliberations of that body, and when, indeed, he should have continued to make his services available in the interests of the nation, the right honorable gentleman walked out. He walked out of a body which, to say the least of it; was a firstclass information bureau and could have kept him well posted. Regularly, weekly or fortnightly, the Chiefs of Staff put their whole story before the Advisory War Council with respect to such vital matters as the general progress of the war, war commitments, reinforcements required, obstacles to be met with and overcome, and the hardships to be endured by the troops.
In December, 1941, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that the Government had decided that the best method of effective co-operation in the present crisis was to increase in certain respects the authority and functions of the Advisory War Council, and he added that in future its functions would cover the following : -
The Leader of the Opposition accepted that. He was given an opportunity of obtaining the latest information on international matters. Now he wants some other body to consider these questions; but have we any guarantee that he would not walk out of the suggested foreign affairs committee, or external relations committee, or whatever it might be called, when - for party political reasons - it would suit him to do so just as he walked out of the Advisory War Council at a critical period of the war, and just as he walked out of the Lyons Ministry at a very critical period?
– And as he walked out of his own party.
– Yes, as he walked out of his own party, and became the leader of the conservative rump of the Opposition, which has now thrown overboard the high-sounding name it took upon itself some years ago, and has gone back to the 50-year-old name given to the conservative forces in Australia in those days, namely, the Liberal party. I repeat, that the Prime Minister set out the functions of the Advisory War Council. That body was duly established, and practically every newspaper and all the leading men throughout Australia have expressed their satisfaction at the manner in which the council has functioned. The establishment of the council was acclaimed as a very good move in that it would give selected members of the Opposition an opportunity of being kept abreast of the progress of the war. Commenting on a statement of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), the leader of the Australian Country party, who paid a healthy tributeto the value of the Advisory War Council, the Melbourne Herald said -
All intelligent observers of the results of the activities of the War Council will agree with Mr. Fadden’s assessment.
The Sydney Morning Herald stated, with respect to the council -
The War Council has proved to be a valuable means by which the Labour party can,not only give its advice to the Government in formulating Australia’s war policy, but also, where unanimity must be deliberately sought, can voice any objections in a spirit of cooperation rather than in an atmosphere of party strife.
– That was true at the time.
– It is equally true today, and I pay tribute to honorable members of the Opposition who have remained upon the council, and have given of their best by way of advice and suggestion. In connexion with the deliberations of the council those honorable members called upon their best experience as members of a former war cabinet, and they rendered excellent service to Australia. The article in the Sydney Morning Herald proceeded to state that the cooperation which the Leader of the Opposition at the time (Mr. Curtin) had given to the government of the day had not only won the appreciation and gratitude of all, but had greatly enhanced his own prestige. The present Leader of the Opposition, however, purely for political purposes, withdrew from the Advisory War Council and he was strongly condemned by all sections of the people for so doing. He merely remained so long as it suited him politically. When there seemed to be rocks ahead, and he might lose some opportunity of gaining party political kudos by playing the party game or advantage for the political machine, with which he is associated, he decided to walk out. I emphasize that his action was strongly condemned. The Melbourne Herald stated that the decision of the right honorable gentleman and his party was as inexplicable as it was regrettable. Now we find him advocating the creation of another committee to consider international relations, whereas that was one of the functions of the Advisory War Council, out of which he walked purely to gain some party political advantage. The Sydney Morning Herald stated -
By deciding to withdraw from the Advisory War Council the U.A.P. claims to have regained freedom of action in Parliament. In the absence of proof that such freedom ever was lost, or even seriously compromised, the claim must be regarded as of dubious validity.
That newspaper proceeded to state -
Other considerations apart, it is highly imprudent of the U.A.P. to have jettisoned the means of giving full national character to Mr. Curtin’s work abroad.
Now, with respect to the Australian forces, the Prime Minister rightly stated that the whole of those forces were assigned to General MacArthur, CommanderinChief in the South- West Pacific Area. He accepted entirely the principle that the disposition of our forces was the political responsibility of the Government. The Government, and the party on this side of the House, stand on that statement. There has been criticism because of the fact that there have been periods of inactivity in the comparatively recent history of the Australian Army. That state of affairs, however, is characteristic of all armies in time of war. There are periods in all wars in which the fighting forces are not fully engaged. There are periods of too great activity, and there are times of relative inactivity when the men themselves suffer from boredom. That was said to be largely the condition in England for some time before the opening of the socalled second front. In connexion with the Canadian Army also there was much criticism because the forces of that dominion did not figure in the headlines very prominently, and there was criticism as to why they were not undertaking some new and successful engagements. These periods of relative inactivity are due to the need for organization and preparation for campaigns ahead.
During this debate, there has been mention of the statement that I made some time ago that Australian troops would be employed in the Philippines. At the time, I knew that that was to be the position, and I made the statement after consultation with my military advisers. That was then the intention. I want to make it quite clear that nothing has been done by the Australian Government to withhold Australians from participation in the campaign in the Philippines. Estimates by generals or commanders, of what is likely to occur in a prospective battle, do not always prove to be correct. Sometimes, the task proves to be too difficult; that occurred in the Middle East, on occasions. At other times, it proves very much more easy than had been anticipated, with the result that fewer troops are needed; that is what happened in the Philippines. Changes have occurred in the strategic position there, because of the brilliant successes achieved by General MacArthur and the troops under him. Then, too, the shipping position is far more difficult to-day than it was when 1 made the statement about the employment of Australian troops in the Philippines; that is known to members of the Advisory War Council. Australian forces in the South-West Pacific Area are under the command of General MacArthur, and, with the approval of the Australian Government, may be employed in his theatre of operations wherever he may direct. There is no doubt that the Japanese regarded Leyte as a key position, and in trying to reinforce it lost tens of thousands of men, who were sent to the bottom of the sea. Their army was destroyed-, and their means of rein1 forcing it was cut off, due to the superiority of the allied air forces. On this account, General MacArthur discovered that he could proceed to invade and conquer additional islands in the Philippines ahead of schedule.
T’he Leader of the Opposition has said that a division, or perhaps two divisions, of Australian troops might be transferred to the Burma campaign, and help in the rescue of the Australians who were captured at Singapore. We all realize the importance of rescuing the men who were captured at Singapore. No Australian can rest until the survivors of the 8th Division have been released from their captors. Thousands of relatives in Australia yearn for reliable information about those prisoners of war, and some intimation as to when they may be released. The position in relation to the transference of a portion of the Australian Army to another command was correctly stated by the Prime Minister in this House yesterday, when he said that the present 11.,e of the Australian forces had been fixed by agreement with the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and that he did not propose to make any alteration of that assignment without the consent of thos© two leadens of allied nations. [Further extension of time granted.) The Leader of the Opposition, in public statements, has agreed that, matters relating to military strategy should be the exclusive concern of those who are in command of. the forces. That is a dictum with which the right honorable gentleman has generously concurred in the past. Yet, in stating that divisions of Australian troops should he transferred to a command other than that of General MacArthur, for their more extensive, use, he is disregarding the practice of acting in accordance with what is required by our military advisers, and in fulfilment of the contractual obligations into which this country has entered. He now says that we should send two divisions of Australian troops to Burma, apparently without regard to the requirements of the South-West Pacific Area, and without, knowing what commitments have been entered into, or realizing that their despatch to Burma might delay the rescue of the 8th Division in Malaya and Singapore; because he does not know what strategy has been decided upon in that regard. He wants the Australian Government to split the Australian forces between two separate commands. He has admitted that he docs not know the facts; yet he walked out of the Advisory War Council, where he had an opportunity to learn them, and is fanning what he regards as a passing breeze which might give some stimulus to the sails of his political ‘barque.
I have read in the newspapers certain criticism by Senator Mattner in regard to an alleged shortage of equipment in the Australian Army in New Guinea. The honorable senator is reported to have said that there were grave shortages of, and serious defects in, that equipment. All that I have to. say in reply is that such a general statement is a most extravagant one, which confuses the condition of affaii’9 in 1941-42 with the very different position to-day. No one will deny, that when Japan came into the war Australia was unprepared to defend New Guinea, because of insufficiency of trained forces, inadequacy of equipment, and the absence of our striking forces in the Middle East. This occurred only a couple of months after the present
Government came into- office.. The blame for the inadequacy and complacency which had characterized the Administration during the- previous five years could not be laid at the door, of the present Government. Immediately it assumed, office, definite and drastic action was taken to call up from civilian employment an additional 300,000 persons for the armed forces, and a further 300,000 for the production, of arms and munitions with which to equip them. That was done, not without, a lot of soul-searching and great anxiety on the part of the Ministry and its supporters. It ha.d to be done if this country was to be saved from disaster. It is absolutely wrong to allege that there are shortages in New Guinea to-day comparable with those that existed at the beginning of the war with Japan, when Senator Mattner- was in New Guinea. All military leaders admit that the Australian Army is to-day a very well-equipped and efficient fighting force. Not only has it the most modern equipment for the warfare in which it is engaged or is likely to be engaged but, what is more, equipment specially evolved within its own ranks for this class of fighting, particularly the short 25-pounder gun, which has been accepted as superior in many respects to certain equipment that is used by other armies. It is grossly unfair of Senator Mattner to give in the Parliament a factual basis to this “ grape-vine “ report. He does a great disservice to those who are in command of the Australian Army, which is supplied with anything in the way of equipment for which it asks. No one knows that better than the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). As a result, the cost of the war to Australia has been mounting by millions of pounds a year, and last year it totalled approximately £575,000,000. There is not a scintilla of truth in the statement that equipment was destroyed in New Guinea because, the Australian Government would not accept it from the Americans on a lend-lease basis. Such a statement is absolutely fantastic. From time to time, of course, there has been a shortage of heavy road-making equipment, not because of any fault of the Australian Government, hut because of the impossibility of obtaining adequate supplies at the time, due to a world shortage. I have gone into this matter carefully with those whose duty it is to control the position in relation to equipment. They supply the needs of the Army in New Guinea, which they frequently visit in order to have consultations with the commanders.
I say advisedly that it is unfair that criticism relating to the quality and efficacy of the Australian Army’s equipment in 1941-42 should be printed and published in terms which might imply chat our forces are similarly handicapped even at this much later stage of the Pacific war. I am informed that, when the Australian ImperialForce was in the Middle East, it was entirely dependent upon British resources for its earthmoving equipment, of which the basic item is the tractor ranging from 40 horsepower to 120 horse-power. On the return of the Australian Imperial Force to Australia in 1942, it brought back all its up-to-date equipment and took it north to New Guinea. On its return in 1942, one mechanical equipment company was formed in anticipation of it being sent to the Middle East. To-day we have a number of these mechanical equipment companies, and others are in process of formation. The quantity of mechanical equipment behind the corps of Royal Australian Engineers has already increased at least tenfold since the present Government has been in office. Tractors and associated plant are in short supply throughout the world. It has not been possible to build our requirements at a greater rate than has been done, and our allotment is determined, after endorsement by General Head-quarters, SouthWest Pacific Area, by C.M.A.B., Washington, which allocates supplies in terms of world priority. Because of world shortage we have had to use varying types of tractors, which has greatly increased our maintenance problems, whereas the forces of the United States of America, the major producers, have been able greatly to standardize on one type. In general terms, the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers is now approximately 80 per cent. equipped, and has never been in a better position in that regard than at present. To mention one item alone, the supply of tipping trucks on four- wheel-drive chassis, the bodies of which are produced in Australia, has greatly improved.
There has been an improvement from month to month of the equipment position generally, and Ican assure the House that the Government is doing all it can to build up and supply mechanical equipment to the Army and to the other armed forces. Immediately on taking office, it decided to avoid, as far as humanly possible, a repetition of the experience in the Middle East. We know what happened in Malaya and Singapore because of the inadequacy of equipment and the absence of an air umbrella. I am not blaming any particular person for what happened. Regarding Landing Vessels Transport, we had placed our order in the United States of America and were allotted our requirements in accordance with overall world priorities, as determined by C.M.A.B., Washington, and endorsed by General Head-quarters, South- West Pacific Area. The initial requirements of “ ducks “ have been received, and some time ago further orders which wereplaced have been approved.
The artillery equipment at Port Moresby in 1942 was obviously not of the most modern type, but statements as to its unsuitability are not true. There were no 25-pounders available at the time at Port Moresby, but when I was there I saw 25-pounders being used on the Kokoda trail. From January to July, 1942, there were the 18-pounders and the 4.5-in. howitzers mentioned, which were the standard equipment at the time, also the two 6-in. guns mentioned. The 18- pounders and the 4.5-in. howitzers were in an entirely satisfactory condition. The 18-pounders were allocated for beach defence, for which purpose they were very suitable. The commander of the artillery regiment at Port Moresbyat the time has been examined, and he states that the guns, except the 6-in. weapons, were taken for normal-range shooting, and that the accuracy and general state of the equipment was up to standard. He further declares that the allegation that emergency calibration was necessary, and that the range drums bore no relation to the range, was completely untrue. He also says that the ammunition was of a type suitable for the guns. There is no restriction upon field commanders taking over United States equipment, if operational requirements necessitated it, and they have been informed accordingly. However, it is useless to take over obsolete equipment for which maintenance cannot, bc secured. The Government has never refused any request for funds for the procurement of modern equipment which experience has shown to be necessary for the successful prosecution of the Army’s allotted tasks in the South-West Pacific Area.
Certain criticism has been offered, both in this chamber and in the Senate, of General Sir Thomas Blarney, and I, as Minister for the Army, suggest that all honorable members should be absolutely fair and realize their responsibility when entering upon a personal attack on the man who happens to be CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces, and who has a difficult and onerous job. No matter who controls the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force he has to make many decisions and it is impossible for him to please everybody. It is well for honorable members to keep in mind that when the entire command of the Australian Military Forces, with regard to both operations and administration, was placed under a Commander-in-Chief with direct responsibility to the Government, the enemy was attacking in force close to the mainland of Australia, and it appeared that lat any moment the mainland itself might be invaded. In those circumstances it was resolved to- appoint one man who could make decisions promptly. The enemy might have to be pushed out at any point on the Australian mainland, and a man was selected for that job who had been chosen by the previous Government as the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force, which went overseas and made an imperishable marne for this country. [Further extension of time granted.] The security and integrity of our homeland demanded that the appointment should be made immediately, and. when the Government appointed General Sir Thomas Blarney to this command, the appointment received approval throughout the Commonwealth. I speak for myself and the Government in stating that there was every confidence in the capacity of General Sir Thomas Blarney and the gallant troops of hi? command at that perilous time. These successful actions planned by the CommanderinChief and his efficient General Staff, in the majority of which the CommanderinChief himself participated., combined also with the successful operations of our gallant ally, resulted in the elimination of the enemy from the area; immediately adjacent to Australia. They preserved the integrity of our homeland and the homes of our people from desecration, and from the destruction that has, unfortunately, befallen so many countries in Europe and in the Pacific.
Now that the danger is past and we are enjoying the contentment and happiness of a nation free from any possibility of attack, it is surely the height of ingratitude to forget the dangers that were looming so heavily then, and the fears that were in our minds, and subject the leader of the Australian Army to the bitter criticism that has been hurled at him in certain quarters, both in this House and in the .Senate.
The Prime Minister, in his statement to the House a week ago, said that, by June, certain events will have taken place which will involve a revision of the manpower allocation of this country as between the services and civilian industry. The changes that are taking place in this war as a result of the enemy being thrust back from these shores may thus, in due course, require consideration by the Government of a re-organization of’ the composition and command of the Australian Military Forces. In view of the successes which have attended the operations of our troops to date, I and the Government must strenuously refute any charges that may be made either in this or any other place which will reflect either on the command of or on the Australian Military Forces, whose operations against the enemy have been so successful. In the meantime, the plans and strategy underlying the operations in which the Australian Military Forces are at present participating are the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief, and I am quite sure that the same success will crown these operations pf the Australian Military Forces as has been .the case iff. the past.
There is nothing immutable in -the set-up of the machinery for higher direction in any of the services. The history of this set-up throughout the war has been one of change to meet a varying strategical position. It was not laid down at any time that the existing set-up should continue for all time, and it is for the Government to decide if and when the time has arrived to make a change.
The Australian Government has not lacked enterprise in its approach to the problem of the higher command. It was a party to the appointment of General MacArthur as the supreme commander of the naval, land and air forces in the South- West Pacific Area. It was the only appointment of this nature in any theatre of war> and proved to be most successful. Furthermore, it met with the whole-hearted approval of the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. I should be failing in my duty as Minister for the Army if I did not state fairly the good work which the Commander-in-Chief is doing and has done. He is Commander-in-Chief, not only of the forces in the field, but of all the Australian forces. This makes it necessary that he should keep in touch with head-quarters in Australia as well as with the forward units. It is also necessary for him to consult with the supreme commander in the South-West Pacific Area, General MacArthur, from time to time. In short, I consider that the criticism of General Blarney was grossly extravagant and most unfair, and, while pleasing Japan, would offend every fair-minded Australian.
.- [ voice my appreciation, which I am sure is shared by the people of Australia, of the expressed desire of His Majesty the King to promote unity throughout the Empire, and between the United Kingdom and Australia in particular, by sending to tins country as Governor-General his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. I was gratified by the Prime Minister’s speech in which he pointed out the need for national unity. He confined the idea to po?t-war defence measures, but I go further, and say that there should be absolute unity at this time. The opinions of the Prime Minister on this subject have undergone a marked change. Five years ago, he was an isolationist, but, with the responsibilities of office and the pressure of the war, his opinions have changed, until now he is in favour of the Empire speaking with one voice. He can now afford to voice his real opinions. He has attained the highest position in his party. He has led it for many years. He led it to victory at the polls, and he is now leading a Labour Government. Therefore he is able, without fear or favour, to say what he believes. That being so, it was particularly pleasing to hear him express gratitude to the governments which preceded him. That was in marked contrast to the attitude of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). Nobody but a moron could believe that the lS-pounder guns which were used in the defence of Port Moresby had been manufactured during the year that the Labour Government had been in office. Everybody knows that it takes from four to five years to get the plant and machinery ready for the making of such guns. Every reasonable person knows that it took years of preparation, even before the outbreak of the war, before it was possible to manufacture aeroplances in Australia. Even the Minister for the Army admits that our men came back from the Middle East well equipped, and any one who thinks at all must realize that the equipment could not have been produced in so short a space of time as one year.. At the beginning, we were in the same position as England and the United States of America, and even Russia - we were not ready. Everybody knows that but for the aid received from Great Britain in 1941, and from Great Britain and the United States of America in 1942, the Russians could not have successfully resisted the Germans, or eventually staged a comeback. If we wish to see into the real mind of the Labour party and the Government, we should turn,, not to the speech of the. Prime Minister, who speaks with moderation and restraint, but to the speech of the Minister for the ArmiT- md we should also -study those pasts .of the GovernorGonoral!s Speech which deal .with the Government’s domestic policy. Australia has only ,just passed through .a .period of ibo direst peril, and the situation is still so serious that the Prime Minister tells ils that we cannot afford to release 4,000 nien for home-building - although the Minister for Munitiqns (Mr. Makin) admitted thftt a considerable number of men were making handouffs. ?t .a itimo when we caniiQt spase .rnan to plant the crops and to dp essential work the Government proposes to treat Australia as a kind of guinea-pig for socialistic experiments to bo .conducted in the laboratory of war. Instead;, Australia is a -veo-y sick ^nation. It .is ti Bed. almost to death with the strertuousness and duration of its war effort- The nerves pf the people are on edge because of the irritating controls inseparajble from war. Many are illnourished because pf war-time rationing, decline of food production and the ‘breakdown of distribution. Australia is a country tom with .-anaiBGoy in the trade union movement; it is feverish with suspense aibout the danger of its loved ones, .and despondent at the deferment of its hopes of an early conclusion of tihe war. A nation in this condition, yet making a tremendous .effort to nerve itself to engage in the final climax of its war effort, needs rest from avoidable worry, ample food, ^abundant water, and electric power to give labour-saving amenities on the farms and competitive efficiency to the factories for the post-war struggle. But none of these things is mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. Instead, despite Australia’s desperate plight, the Government declares that it will perform a number of unnecessary major operations on vital parts of its national economy which have functioned efficiently and well during the war. If these operations are necessary at all, tha time to do them is surely not during war-time, but when the patient has recovered from its shock. Take, for instance, civil aviation -^-Australia’s aviation industry h-as performed a wonderful job in pioneering aviation, not only in Australia, hut also in making an Empire connexion, opening up the outback, and linking major country towns. At the outbreak of war, when Australia was in danger of invasion, our aviation industry gave invaluable assistance in carrying -troops and supplies, to repel itho .Japanese. The Government admits that the teeth of the aviation industry are growing -strong - even though, so far, they are milk-teeth; but it intends to pull out the teeth of the aviation industry and to give Australia a caucus-made set of nationalized aviation teeth, regardless of whether they may fall out of Australia’s head, just as the prospective passenger may fall out of the nationalized aei-oplane. But in the design of a progressive Australia, second teeth will .grow; so why should we take this step now in the midst of wai”?
The same may be said in connexion with banking. Despite all the parrot cries about the failure of the existing Commonwealth Bank, and the Australian banking system, the war job has been dpne in a way which challenges comparison with any other banking system in the world. War loans amounting to £1,500,000,000 have been raised most smoothly; the taxation levy has been raised; private industry has been kept moving; no excessive profits have been made py private banks, which every one admits have co-operated 100 per cent. Before the war ends, at a time when our main object should be to keep moving everything that even looks like being efficient, the Government intends .to make radical changes - to divide the nation again when the crying need of the nation is unity. When every avenue that can help us should be wide open and fully explored, the Government proposes to limit and control strictly all existing economic avenues except its own favoured one.
The Government’s intention suggests to me, as a surgeon, the performing on a patient with a healthy alimentary tract a gastrostomy operation and a shortcircuiting of the bowels to ensure that all the feeding, as well as the evacuation, will he artificial. Possibly, the patient will live, though not as comfortably or efficiently as if he were using all his natural accessories. But why should we interfere, at this juncture of our national life, with our natural evolution and functions ? These operations on a healthy patient are not without danger ; and, on a sick patient, they may easily cause death or persistent illness.
While the Government purposes to do these unnecessary major operations on our economic systems that are .working at least as well as those in competing countries, it fails to deal with at least three major factors in which we are demonstrably at a disadvantage. I refer to the generation of power ; the conservation and use of water; and the production of food. Without the first two, we shall not gat the third. Ample food is the basis of individual happiness and national health, and of permanent international peace. In Australia, ample food is not merely necessary to our own life, to relieve our present fever and symptoms, but also to enable us to help our starving allies and enable us to compete in the post-war world.
Electric power, ample food and water are so essential to the maintenance, of the modern State that they must survive almost unaffected by fluctuations in the state of trade. Immunity from trade shocks increases with the growth of the use of electricity for domestic and lighting supplies. The wider its use in the community the more stable the employment in the industry. This is most important from the point of view of a policy of full employment of the nation and gives claims for the highest priority in the expenditure of man-power and materials.
I propose to examine what other countries have done to gain their outstanding position in regard to power, water and food. I shall use Canada and the United States of America as illustrations for the generation of power and the conservation of water, and Great Britain for the production of food. If we follow their example, as far as circumstances permit, we shall not be making rash experiments, but have a definite pattern of successful progress to follow. Their progress shows the immediate urgent need in Australia of three institutions - a Federal Power Commission, a Federal Water Conservation Commission, and a single Ministry of Food. These should plan jointly a continuous programme to make up our deficiencies. A definite sum of at least £100,000,000 should be allocated, by the Sir Earle Page.
Government to enable that continuous programme to be carried out under the highest priority of man-power and materials during the next ten years.
Canada and the United States of America are countries of approximately the same size as Australia, and have problems and opportunities similar to our own. Let us examine power production needs first: At present we have in Australia about 2,000,000 electric horse-power of generating capacity installed to serve 7,000,000 people. This generates 6,000,000,000 units a year. About £100,000,000 has been invested in electric generating plant. Canada, with a population of from 11,000,000 to 12,000,000, has invested over £500,000,000 in electrical generation. Its generating capacity is over 10,000,000 horsepower, which generates approximately 40,000,000,000 units a year. That is to say, Canada, with less than twice the population, has five times as much capital invested in the generation of electricity, and produces more than six times as much electricity. The result is that it has become the fourth industrial nation in the world. The United States of America, with a population of 130,000,000, has invested £6,000,000,000 in electric generating plant. Its total investment in railways is £7,000,000,000. Australia has £3.80,000,000 invested in railway.’ and £100,000,000 invested in electrical development. The immense manufacturing production of America comes obviously from this concentration on placing electric horse-power behind its man-power. Incidentally, it is able to give, over the widest circle, all the modern facilities and inventions that electricity has brought in its train. In New South Wales, I find that 90 per cent, of the total electricity is generated and consumed in an area of 2,000 square miles. The remaining 308,000 square miles of New South Wales, which has half the people, consumed only 10 per cent, of the total generated in the State. In fact, 700,000 people, or more than one-quarter of the total population of the State, have no electricity at all.
Immigration to Australia is not likely to be very attractive to Canadians or Americans, or even Europeans, while this condition persists. The methods that both Canada and the United States of America have adopted to raise themselves to the present standard are therefore worthy of our study and imitation. Both those great areas have established a Federal Power Commission which controls and guides the whole job of electrical development. Its officers and engineers make continuous surveys of the fuel and water-power resources at the disposal of the nation. They are continually planning the co-ordination and best use both of existing power stations and those that may be developed. Each country gives very substantial assistance to rural development.
In Ontario, for instance, the commission, pursuant to its policy of promoting agriculture, which is recognized as Canada’s basic industry - as it is Australia’s - contributes, in the form of “ grants-in-aid “, 50 per cent, of the initial capital cost of distribution lines and equipment. In 1930, in the midst of the world depression, the Government passed legislation providing for advances up to £250 to actual owners of farm lands and premises in rural power districts for the installation of electric wiring and purchase of equipment and providing for the fixing of low maximum charges for all classes of rural service. In the United States of America the Rural Electrical Association has been formed, and given a grant of $100,000,000 for the express purpose of co-ordinating and cheapening services and making available electrical equipment to rural, and especially outlying, districts. Many States have passed laws imposing a small levy - say, one-hundredth of a penny per unit - on all electricity generated and consumed in such States and for the purpose of ironing out differences in costs in reticulating sparsely settled communities as compared with big cities, and enabling a flat rate to be charged.
The results of these policies in both countries have been first, to increase enormously the consumption of electric power, and thereby cheapen the cost to every consumer; and in the second place, to stimulate enormously the manufacture of electrical consumption equipment, such as radiators, electric stoves, kettles and motors of all sorts, with the consequent creation of a huge field of employment which did not previously exist. In the third place, it has tended to bring conditions, comforts and standards of living of country people more into conformity with those of the general community. Australia has no chance of either competing in the markets of the world in the sale of its goods, or of attracting migrants, unless it applies a similar policy. In my view, the immediate target in Australia should be to develop inside the next ten years at least a generating capacity of 6,000,000 horse-power, or treble our present generating capacity. All the power stations of this system should - at any rate i;i eastern Australia - be linked by highvoltage transmission lines. Such interconnexions will .allow many savings in power costs and enable the various systems to share, each other’s reserve capacity, thus reducing the total amount of capacity required for dependable operation. The larger total demand on the combined systems should make possible a- fuller use of the more economical generating stations. The larger number of customers served- by the combined systems may result in a relatively less maximum demand for which each system must provide capacity, because the demands on the separate systems may not occur at precisely the same time.
Where hydro-electric stations are involved., interconnected systems can take better advantage of the reliability, flexibility and operating conveniences possessed by generating stations with ample reservoir capacity. In the planning of necessary additions to capacity, the cooperating systems can take advantage of the best sites for new low-cost steam electric stations. The only advantage which Australia derives from its lack of progress in electrical development is that it has practically a blank sheet on which to work out a national system of dependable power supply at the lowest possible cost and with the greatest conservation of the. country’s energy and resources.
For the defence of Australia, we require a population of at least 20,000,000, and that number of persons would need at least 20,000,000,000 units of electric energy. That, in turn, would necessitate an iron and steel industry capable of yielding’ up to 5,000,000. tons of pig-iron and. a similar . quantity of steel, per annum… To* meet the- demands of industry, the coal mines would be called upon to supply 4.0,000,0001 tons of coal’.. Associated with, the iron,, steel, and coal mining industries would be the chemical industries to deal with by-products. Such a development would reduce the coat of coal to consumers,, and provide many of the articles which we now import. The future’ which I visualize would also necessitate- engineering workshops consuming 1,OO0-,OO0 tons of steel,, and electrical engineering plants capable of producing up to 500,000 kilowatts of generating plant each year. There would also be textile plants and factories to convert wheat, hides, and tallow intto. manufactured products. In addition, tha canning industry would be enormously expanded to process fruit and vegetables for our people, whilst the transport system - rail, road, air, and sea. - would be1 enormously extended for the purpose of handling this production. Rut the whole plan must be based on a weLL-organized agricultural industry, capable of yielding sufficient food and raw materials to. maintain this stouBtnre.
For the primary producing industries, there are three indispemsables : First, a guaranteed paya.ble price; secondly, electric light and power; and, thirdly, running water for homes and1 stock and for a certain amounit of irrigation. The present drought conditions emphasize that, to date, we have not conserved enough water for our stock or for irrigation. Many farm-houses and rural villages and towns are without domestic water supplies. Yet the offices of every State Government have for years contained plans for programmes for the construction of dams and the provision of substantial water supplies. Those projects have never been carried out, because of the absence of a continuous financial plan. If we desire adequately to populate this country and to defend it, we must devise a continuous programme for water conservation and use. I believe that the Government of New South Wales has plans for water conservation and irrigation, the estimated cost of which is £30,000,000, but money is not available to implement it. Money should be> provided to conserve water, which is now running to waste.. But a continuous plan of works is valueless unless it is supported by a continuous plan of finance..
We shall’ never- have that continuous programme, of works unless we link the rapidly reproductive electricity undertaking with the most slowly and often indirectly reproductive undertakings associated with irrigation. This method has been adopted by the Tennessee Valley Authority and by the seven States that control the Boulder ©ann, and will be followed by those bodies that will control thp Grande Coulee Dam i’Q the- west of the United States of America’. The Tennessee Valley Authority has expended over £10Qi,000,!000 over a period of ten. years m an area as- large as England. The Boulder Baan generates about 2,000,000 horse-power,, or as much as we have in Australia, for the use of seven States on, the ColoiiadiO’. The Giraand-e Coulee Daam has developed 2v750,.QO0 horse-jMDwei;-, which is 750,00.0 hoirse-power more than Australia has developed. In the United States- of America, hydaro-eleeteics and. ftnel power widertakings, are linked with the water conservation programme. The advantage of having a continuous programme is that, despite the war, Canada andi the United States of America did not suspend their electrical development. By eomparison, Australia, hesitated and then halted its electrical development. Last yeai-, Canada installed in Quebec a plant of 1,000,00,01 horse-power, one-half as large as. Australia’s, entire horse-power. The savings of suoh a continuous programme in time and money arei almost incalculable.
In the first three years of the war, the annual electricity output of the United States of America increased from 1.30,000,000,000 units to 190,000,000,000 units. In 1940, the United States of America installed an additional 5,500,000 kilowatts, compared with 1,600,000 in 1938. Unfortunately, in Australia, electricity has been the Cinderella of all public works. For every £4 spent on railways we have spent only £1 on electricity; whereas the United States of America has expended £6 on electricity for every £7 expended on railways. In consequence, America has- ‘been able to turn the scales, in this supreme struggle. The experience of Germany has been similar. Through its electrical development, Germany has managed to build! up huge munitions reserves and: to continue the war-, despite tremendous hammerings from allied bombers and the deprivation of overseas supplies by the effective allied naval and air blockade.
Electrical development is also of enormous value because it creates employment. First, employment is given in the construction of dams, generating plants and transmission lines and then in the installation of electricity in homes and on farms. Employment is also created in factories engaged in the manufacture of electrical equipment. If we have ample supplies of electricity in this country, we shall attract new industries. Many of these industries would be able to draw current under off-peak load conditions, of which advantage is not taken at present. For instance, the Sydney County Council sells only 38 per cent, of the current which its undertaking could generate. Under the Clarence Gorge scheme, 5S per cent, is sold because there is a better load all round the clock. With a greater diversity of industries, the Sydney County Council could sell 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of its potential output, with a resulting lower cost. The cheapening of the cost of electricity in this way opens up new demands which previously were not possible. In Great Britain it has been found that the use of electricity under off-peak load conditions has enabled power lines to be extended to slum areas and current supplied at only one-fourth or one-fifth of its previous cost. In Great Britain, almost every county, no matter how rural its life may be, is able to provide electricity for nearly every home. Large tracts of country which previously were inaccessible so far as electricity is concerned, have now been brought within range of an electricity service. An important result of this has been that demand for electricity has become more evenly disrtributed over all sections of national activities. When there is a steady demand for electricity in the homes, on the farms, and: in essential industries, the electrical industry becomes more and more immune to slumps,, and at the same time its load is better distributed both over the day and over the year. Even if some industries do curtail their activities or cease production altogether because of economic conditions electricity still has to be generated, otherwise the entire life of the nation will be brought to a standstill. During the last depression, it was noteworthy that in Australia the electricity industry was less damaged by adverse economic conditions than any other industry for which trade union figures were available. To give a typical example of the manner in which the electricity industry creates local employment, I refer again to the Clarence Gorge hydro-electric scheme. The opportunity to establish that undertaking on a full-scale basis at this juncture is due to the fact that owing to greatly increased industrial activities in Brisbane during the war, an additional 50,000 kilowatts of generating plant is needed to satisfy its immediate requirements. The Brisbane City Electric Light Company, which has a franchise to supply rural southern Queensland, has just been given permission to increase its capital by £21,500,000. If the Clarence Gorge scheme were not proceeded with, that £2,500,000 would be spent outside Australia on the purchase of steam generating plant. On the other hand, if the scheme were carried out, £5,000,000 would be spent in Australia on labour and materials for the construction of the dam, the hydro-electric works, and the transmission lines, and £2,500,000 would be spent by the Brisbane City Electric Light Company on local labour and materials to provide the reticulation and distribution facilities. It is most important that, as soon as the war is over, we should have an abundance of work for our people. Water conservation and hydro-electric schemes provide employment in such a diversity of callings that I consider they should have the highest priority. In addition there is the intrinsic value of these projects to the country. The damming of the Clarence River at the gorge offers a unique opportunity to provide water and power at a relatively cheap rate. A dam 220 feet high will impound 3,400,000 acre feet of water, at a coat of roughly £4,000,000. This compares favorably with other great projects, such as the Hume dam, which impounds 1,250,000 acre feet with a wall of 200 feet, and the Burrinjuck clam, which impounds 770 acre feet. Both of these dams cost more than the estimated cost of the Clarence dam. I remind the House that the Clarence Gorge dam would be a substantial undertaking, in fact, almost as big as the Assouan dam, which until the United States of America started the construction of its huge reservoirs, was the largest dam in the world. The inflow into the Clarence dam is constant because of the physical character and the extensive scope of the Clarence watershed. Records taken over nearly 40 years indicate that 3,000 cubic feet of water a second could be taken for power purposes from a 220-ft. dam on the Clarence over a period of three of the driest consecutive years On record, without the water in the dam being lowered by more than 20 feet, provided the dam was full at the beginning of that period. This is due to the fact that even in the driest years there is considerable rainfall on some part of the Clarence catchment area in nearly every season.
The Clarence River County Council’s undertaking is a typical instance of the value of such projects in creating local employment. The annual cost of generating electricity is roughly £40,000, and the revenue derived from its distribution is £1S0,000, which is spent mostly on labour. Lismore, a customer town, buys approximately £25,000 worth of electricity a year. The electrical industry in that district, supplying stoves, refrigerators, household appliances, agricultural motors, &c, has an annual turnover of £500,000, which is spent mainly on local material and labour. I believe that if we are prepared to spend £100,000,000 over a period of ten years on power projects, we might easily obtain an additional national income of £1,000,000,000 for expenditure on reproductive employment. Much has been said about the introduction of a Commonwealth-wide housing scheme; but how can there be a complete housing scheme unless cheap electricityis supplied to run the modern amenitiesrequired in homes. The provision of electricity is an essential preliminary to such a scheme. Important though hydroelectric schemes may be from the point of view of creating employment, they are even more important from the point of view of food production in this country. The effect of increased electrical development would be to arrest the decline of rural population with its attendant diminution of food production. Electrical inventions have revolutionized domestic conveniences and intensified the contrast between rural and urban conditions, amenities and standards of life. Their general extension through rural communities would tend to lessen this contrast. Unfortunately most Australians are living in a fool’s paradise in regard to food production. Because of our extensive exporis of food many people have the impression that the number of people that could be fed in this country is almost limitless. In normal times we were exporting 100,000 tons of butter annually, and between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000 bushels of wheat; but when one comes to examine our export figures closely, one finds that production must be extended considerably if we are to develop this land and make it self-contained so far as food is concerned.
I propose to speak now with respect to the production of meat, butter, and canned and fresh fruits. A relatively small increase of the population of Australia would necessitate a marked increase of the production of food to enable us still to be self-supporting, and an even greater increase of food production would be essential in order to maintain our present level of exports. The total prewar production of meat in Australia was roughly 1,000,000 tons a year. Seven million Australians consumed annually 750,000 tons, which left 250,000 tons for export. If we had an additional 3,000,000 people in this country we should be short of meat, and should have nothing for export. To maintain pur exports and feed an extra 10,000,000 Australians we must double our present meat production. Before the war, our butter production averaged over a number of years 200,000 tons.’ This year, unfortunately, our total production of butter has been halved to 100,000 tons. Before the war we consumed 100,000 tons, and exported that same quantity. With a population of . 20,000,000 people, Australia must double its .present dairy production in order to feed that population and maintain its pre-war export of 100,000 tons. After the last war the Australian producers doubled their production of butter, and I am convinced that we can do the same again.
Of both canned and fresh fruits we exported half and consumed half the total production. If we trebled our present population we should be hopelessly short of being self-contained with respect to fruit supplies. We must go in much more extensively for the development of fruit-growing. That would lead eventually to the settlement of many more people in our country towns and, indirectly, many more workers would be required in the f actories of our industrial centres. Australia must imitate Britain’s war-time methods, which increased food production, satisfied the industrial workers, stabilized prices, and gave general prosperity to the farmers and satisfaction to the consumers. I wish to emphasize that Australia will never be able to feed an expanding population - quite apart from the maintenance of exports - unless we markedly increase our production. As Britain intends, to follow its war-time practice for at least ten years after the war ends, and. as it is our greatest single market, we would do well to adopt British principles here. These principles secured ample production by guaranteeing payable prices to farmers. At the same time consumption prices were subsidized to enable all citizens to have food sufficient for health, at reasonable prices. We should come into line. We should guarantee payable prices to our farmers. We should subsidize prices to consumers. And we should take selective action in this regard; that is the way in which Great Britain has been able to provide children with free milk, and mothers with cheap milk - milk” at the flat rate of Id. a pint. By that broad general policy alone can we maintain our national health. (Extension of time granted.)
The experience of Great Britain has taught that country not to fear food surpluses. A commission appointed in the United States of America in 1940 revealed that in that rich and great country - having the greatest income of any country in the world per head of population - 40 per cent, of the people were living on less than enough food to keep them in health. We, here, need not fear food surpluses. With so much malnutrition in the world, however, international organization and negotiation must be created to deal effectively with all those classes of food that are capable of being transported either in their natural, their dried, or their canned state. There must, of course, be direction from national or international sources as to the quantities and classes of foods grown, but, as England has shown, the final control can and must be exercised by the farming industry itself. The people who know their own job of primary production must have the final direction.
We are unfortunate in that the coal resources throughout Australia are badly distributed geographically, and that there is such scarcity of water supply.. Out limited water power possibilities in Eastern Australia, however, are situated between our coal measures and are in close proximity to the major contemplated water storages for irrigation purposes. To handle these in the most effective way, and to meet the great deficiencies of electric power, water, and food, the Government should take action, as I have emphasized, by the appointment of a federal power commission, a federal water conservation commission, and a ministry of food. This is most urgent in Australia, particularly seeing that we are at war. The three authorities should determine jointly a continuous programme of £100.000,000 for power and water development over the next ten years, and this huge sum could be very wisely spent. I have already pointed out that in New South Wales alone there are, on the stocks, water conservation schemes amounting to £30,000,000. and the officers concerned in these huge undertakings know where a’ like amount could be spent with great profit to Australia if the staff were available to plan and the money could be provided to execute. All the other States are in like case. Such a joint programme would ensure practical decentralization by the combination of water and fuel power development. New coal seams could be opened up. This would permit of the adoption of new methods of winning coal and of the construction of new types of attractive mining towns.
When I was in America and paid a visit to the Tennessee Valley Authority at Knoxville, I was informed that, whereas an early dam had cost £4,000,000, and four years had been occupied in its construction, a later dam of relatively the same size had been completed in ten months, and had cost only $4,000,000. This was due to the use of equipment and personnel that had been acquired and utilized in the building of, preceding dams. Even the casual labourer becomes a skilled workman in the course of a continuous programme. The effect of a continuous programme in that country is seen in the steady growth of its power activities during tine war. [Further extension of time granted.] A joint programme drawn up in this country by a federal power commission, water conservation commission, and ministry of food, would ensure practical decentralization by the combination of water and fuel power development.
I have referred, in passing, to the hope for the building of attractive new mining towns in the coal areas. There are two things that tend to break my heart as I go about the country. One of these is the rotten housing conditions in many isolated parts of our country, and the other is the bad housing position in our mining towns. Permanent provision of amenities as well as work in such places would bring about more decent conditions, and, I believe, would greatly help to solve our present industrial difficulties. The reports of the three bodies which I have named would indicate where regional authorities should be set up - if necessary irrespective of State boundaries - to execute and control local development on the spot.
The Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the States, should determine at once its future policy with regard to the provisions of finance and general assistance to the different types of projects. I would suggest that the head works- for water and power and the main transmission lines should be assisted on the basis of the old migration agreement - the Commonwealth to find half the interest and the State one-third of the interest for the first ten years of the capital cost. Justification for this assistance is found in the fact that in connexion with the Victorian water schemes experience has shown that income taxes from new production equal, after a period, the interest and sinking fund on the whole expenditure. In addition, federal aid to rural electrical extensions should be, as in Canada, in the nature of a 50 per cent, straight-out grant-in-aid. The State should continue to make available, as is done in both the United States of America and Canada, loans at reduced rates of interest for the actual connexions of farms and houses, and for the purchaseof consumers’ equipment.
So far as regional water supplies areconcerned, I would urge the reintroduction of the Federal and State scheme of the 30’s - that is, of assistance over the first ten years by the payment between them of three-quarters of the interest on capital expenditure. The Commonwealth should determine that these undertakings shall have the highest priority in regard to finance, materials and man-power,, because of the employment they will provide, their effect on food supplies, and the imperative necessity to . have these amenities in connexion with all housing projects. When the war is over, the State governments will have a tremendous task in overcoming the lag in all their otherpublic activities. Many programmes will become “ bogged “ if these two vitally important factors involving Federal and State co-operation are not dealt with by special authorities on the spot. Thoseauthorities should be given the definiteassurance that there will be no break in the provision of money, men and materials for a continuous programme.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Breen) adjourned.
Royal Australian Navy : Java Sea and Sunda Straits Battles; Loss of H.M.A.S. “Perth” - Canberra: House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife - Repatriation : Housing and Rehabilitation; Pensions Entitlement - Bush Nursing Hospitals: Taxation. Mr. MAKIN (Hindmarsh. - Minister lor the Navy, Minister for Munitions, and Minister for Aircraft Production) [3.51].- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
Marking the third anniversary of the Java Sea Battle, and of the subsequent engagement in Sunda Strait in which H.M.A.S. Perth was lost, I wish to inform the House of the main incidents in both actions, so far as they are known to date. This reconstruction is .based on reports compiled by the Naval Board from a variety of sources. The heavy Allied losses in the Java Sea Battle, and the fact that the only Australian ship taking part was sunk a day later, have made the task of compiling the reports long and complicated. Fortunately, new light has iheen thrown on the subject by four of the personnel of Perth who were rescued from a Japanese transport torpedoed while en route from Singapore to Japan late last year. These four are the only personnel of Perth who have been rescued. Their story, coupled with information pieced together from other sources, indicates that the Australian cruiser fought its two last actions with a courage and tenacity worthy of its gallant war career and of the high tradition of the Navy.
Of the Allied force which took part in the Java Sea Battle, the only ships which survived were four American destroyers. It has now been established that Perth sustained neither damage nor casualties in that action; but, with the American cruiser Houston, she was sunk in the early hours of the 1st March, 1942, in Sunda Strait.
The Allied shi ps in the Java Sea Battle were two S-in.-gun cruisers - H.M.’S. Exeter and U.S.S. Houston; one 6-in. cruiser - H.M.A.S. Perth; two 5.9-in. Dutch cruisers - H.N.M.S. De Buyter and Java; and nine destroyers - H.M. ships Electra, Encounter, and Jupiter;
U.S. ships John D. Edwards, John D. Ford, Alden, and Paul Jones; and H.N.M. ships Kortenaer and Witte de With.
It has been estimated that the initial Japanese force consisted of five cruisers and thirteen destroyers. One enemy 8-in. cruiser and one destroyer probably were sunk by gunfire, and another 8-in. cruiser and a destroyer were damaged.
On the evening of the 26th February, the Allied ships sailed from Sourabaya, under the command of Admiral Doorman, Royal Netherlands Navy, flying his flag in H.N.M.S. De Ruyter. Their objective was to intercept a Japanese convoy reported to be approaching north-eastern Java. One of U.S.S. Houston’s gun turrets already had been put out of action by enemy air attack, but she sailed with the remainder of the force, and acquitted herself with distinction in the subsequent engagements with the enemy. Enemy air attacks on the following morning were unsuccessful, and in the afternoon the Japanese cruisers and destroyers were sighted. The Allied force at once increased speed so as to engage the enemy, and the 8-in. cruisers of both forces opened fire at 30,000 yards. The light cruisers and destroyers followed suit as soon as range permitted. Perth’s second salvo hit a Japanese destroyer, and the enemy flotilla retired into a smoke screen. When the smoke had cleared, one enemy destroyer was on fire, and it is thought that she sank. At that stage, too, Perth came under very heavy fire from the rearmost of the Japanese heavy cruisers. About an hour later, H.M.S. Exeter was damaged by an 8-in. shell, but was furnished with a smoke screen by Perth and the destroyers. The Dutch destroyer Witte dc With, screening Exeter, beat off a Japanese destroyer, scoring hits with two salvoes. In the meantime, H.N.M.S. Kortenaer, torpedoed amidships, broke in two and sank within a few minutes. The flagship then led the cruisers in an attempt to get behind the enemy and attack its transports, and the Allied destroyers launched a counter-attack. In bad visibility, H.M.S. Electra probably scored hits on an enemy destroyer with four salvoes; but Electra herself was hit and slopped. Her guns were silenced one by one, and she sank about 6 p.m. Perth, emerging through the smoke, was unsuccessfully attacked with torpedoes by enemy destroyers, and then joined issue with a Japanese S-in. cruiser. The opening salvoes of the Australian ship scored direct hits, and subsequent salvoes also found their mark. When her target was last seen, it was on fire and stationary, with its bows in the air. It probably sank. Darkness had fallen when H.M.S. Jupiter was torpedoed on the starboard side. She was immobilized by the attack, and sank about four hours later. Throughout the night enemy aircraft shadowed the Allied force. Shortly before midnight, however, Perth had another success, when she scored hits on an enemy cruiser with’ at least two salvoes. At this stage a double disaster befell the Allies, when the flagship H.N.M..S. De Ruyter and Java were lost, apparently as the result of torpedo attacks. With the Allied cruiser strength reduced to his own ship and the damaged Houston and knowing that the enemy still had at least four cruisers and twelvedestroyers, in addition to those forces, other than the initial one, which had entered the area, as well as a strong air reconnaissance, the commanding officer of Perth. Captain H. M. L. Waller, D.S.O., R.A.N., had no alternative but to order the withdrawal of what remained of the striking force.
H.M.S. Encounter and the damaged Exeter succeded in reaching Sourabaya, as had the four American destroyers and the Dutch destroyer Witte de With, Exeter and Encounter sailed from there on the night of the 2Sth February, «n route for Colombo, but the last message from them came next morning, when Exeter reported that she had sighted a force of enemy ships. Witte de With was bombed and sank in Sourabaya harbour. Meanwhile Perth and Houston threw off the enemy by a feint, and reached Tandjong Priok, Batavia, on the morning of the 28th February. After embarking fuel and additional fire-fighting equipment and rafts, as well las 4-in. ammunition, the two ships sailed together that night, to endeavour to pass through the confined waters of Sunda Strait during darkness, en route for Tjilatjop. About 11.30 p.m., about three and a half hours after leaving Tandjong Priok, Perth signalled that she had sighted a destroyer near Sunda Strait. Later, she amplified that signal to one cruiser. That was the last message received from Perth and Houston. From that stage, the story is taken up by the four Perth personnel who have been interrogated. The action was fought at night, and, naturally, the story of the four survivors is concerned primarily with what happened on board their own ship. It bears out the conclusion which had been drawn by the naval authorities, that the two ships had been sunk in a surface action against numerically superior enemy forces. It also substantiates the assumption originally arrived at by all who know the Navy’s ways, that Perth and Houston held on grimly, and went down fighting to the last. It was after 11 p.m. when one of Perth’s lookouts reported a dark object on the starboard hand, and a few minutes later the Australian cruiser’s forward turrets opened fire. The action lasted about one and a half hours. The numerical strength of the enemy is indicated by the fact that enemy gunfire came from several bearings, and that at some stages Japanese destroyers passed so close to the cruiser that they could be engaged with machine guns.
Apart from making the maximum use of her gunfire, Perth was able to fire eight torpedoes during the action - four to port and four to starboard. The exact effect of these could not be gauged, but next morning three enemy transports and one converted aircraft carrier were seen down by the stern and practically beached. Despite the overwhelming strength of the enemy, Perth was not hit until about twenty minutes after she opened fire. The first shell to strike her passed through her forward funnel and exploded, carrying away a seaboat and doing considerable damage to the port pom-pom and flag deck. Thereafter she suffered numerous hits, losing her aircraft and its catapult and crane, as well as the starboard pom-pom on the flag deck. About that time, and with only ten minutes between them, two torpedoes struck the ship on the starboard side, the second in the forward engine room.
Some time later, a third torpedo hit was received - this time on the port side, aft. From the time of the first torpedoeingPerth was hit repeatedly by gunfire, from several bearings, and she finally sank at 35 minutes after midnight on the morning of the 1st March. U.S.S. Houston is reported to have sunk shortly afterwards.
The fate of Captain “Waller is not known. He is reported to have been seen on the bridge, uninjured, after the second torpedo struck the ship. He gave the order : “ Stand by to abandon ship “, and, later, “ Abandon ship ; every man for himself “. Perth had a distinguished career in this war. She began her good work in the West Indies and carried it on in the Middle East, where allied soldiers from Greece and Crete knew and admired her fighting qualities. Captain Waller and his men brought that heritage with them when they went into action in the Java Sea battle, and in the darkness of Sunda Straits; and it was a heritage which they did not betray. In both these actions they left their mark on the enemy and their ship went down fighting against overwhelming odds. The rescue of four of Perth’s company from the Japanese has at last thrown some light on the cruiser’s final heroic service. Lt is a story of unflagging courage and devotion to duty. Though its end is tragedy, it is a story of which Australia and the Allies may well be proud.
At the outbreak of war, the Royal Australian Navy was composed of two 8-in. cruisers, four 6-in. cruisers, five destroyers, two sloops and three other vessels. The present strength of the Navy is two 8-in. cruisers, one 6-in. cruiser - Adelaide having reached the end of her effective life - eight operational destroyers, including six on loan from the Royal Navy, two sloops, three infantry landing ships, over 50 corvettes, approximately 70 Fairmile motor launches, and approximately 170 miscellaneous craft. The price of Admiralty service is not small. Twenty-one vessels have been sunk. The waters of the Mediterranean have closed over Nestor, Waterhen and Parramatta. Closer to Australia, Perth, Yarra. Sydney, Vampire and Canberra were lost in gallant actions.
The Allies have thrilled to the story of the Timor guerrillas, but for reasons of security it has not been possible to give details of the ships which supplied and succoured them. It has not been previously announced, for instance, that H.M.A.S. Voyager was lost through navigational hazard when landing troops on Timor. This vessel, another of the historic “ Scrap-iron Flotilla “, had a fine career in the Mediterranean, and it was an ironical twist of fate which led to her stranding in a precarious uncharted anchorage. A Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, escorted by a fighter, spotted the stranded destroyer, and, although the bomber was shot down by Voyager’s guns, a heavy aerial attack precluded any possibility of salvage. Fortunately, no lives were lost, and the following day the entire ship’s company was taken back to Australia by two corvettes. Three months later H.M.A. Corvette Armidale, engaged in a similar operation, was the victim of a vicious attack, and sank within minutes of being hit by aerial torpedoes. Japanese aircraft also accounted for two storecarriers - Patricia Cam, which was sunk off Wessel Island in January, 1943, and Maroubra, which was destroyed by nine Zeros at Millingimbie in May, 1943.
Marine casualties have resulted in the loss of the corvettes Wallaroo and Geelong, the minesweeper Goorangai, the store-carrier Matafele, M.L.’s 827 and 430, and two naval auxiliary patrol vessels. In Sydney Harbour the former ferry H.M.A.S. Kuttabul was sunk by torpedo during the abortive midget submarine attack. Despite these losses, some of which have not previously been announced, the strength of the Royal Australian Navy, is now vastly greater, if not in fighting vessels certainly in other ways, than it was at the beginning of the war. The part that its offensive units hare played is well known, from the North Sea to the Philippines. Its smaller units - the escort, survey, anti-submarine, minesweeping and other vessels - have provided cover and opened the way for convoy after convoy sent against the enemy. Its officers and men are in every conceivable type of ship in every corner of the globe.
The arrival in Australian waters of ships of the British Fleet, bringing with them some Australian units which had previously operated -with the Eastern Fleet, emphasizes further the extent of the Royal Australian Navy’s commitments. It is a reminder that His Majesty’s Australian ships were present at the raids on Sourabaya, Sabang and Padang; t’hat during the recent advances by allied armies in Burma, continuous support was ‘given by Australian destroyers which bombarded the Japanese positions in the Mayu Range; and that among the crews of British submarines operating in the Ear East and in British aircraft carriers can be found Australian naval men. It is also a reminder that officers and men of the Royal Australian Navy have consistently been in action with the allied navies in European waters, in command of landing and assault craft, and in the crews of all types of vessels from battleships to motor torpedo boats. Indeed, six young Australian midshipmen are to be found .on board Sir Bruce Fraser’s flagship now in the Pacific.
It is noteworthy that the two most highly .decorated officers of the Royal Australian Navy - -Acting LieutenantCommander L. V. Goldsworthy, G.C., D.S.C., G.M., R.A.N.V.R., and Lieutenant H. R. Syme, G.G., G.M. amd Bar, R.A.N.V.R. - received their awards for duties performed while serving with the Royal Navy. .La the South- West Pacific the great strides made by General MacArthur’s forces have been assisted in no small degree by the Royal Australian Navy. All types of ships, from the task force units of cruisers and destroyers to escort vessels, surveying units amd landing craft vessels, have been in the forefront of the fight, and not without damage and casualties. The recent gazettal of one O.B.E., eight D.S.C.’s, one D..S.M. and eight Mentions in Despatches for officers and men of the Royal Australian Navy Survey Service, is, according to the London Times, the largest number of such awards ever made simultaneously to such a comparatively small service. It can be claimed with justice, and not without pride, that where the war at sea has been fought, from the outbreak in September, 1939, to the present day, there have been representatives of His Majesty’s Australian ships.
A signal has just been received from the Commander-in-Chief, British Pacific Fleet, in the following terms: -
I wish to express my great appreciation of the work carried out in Sydney on ‘behalf of the British Pacific Fleet. I fully appreciatethat the Naval organization in Sydney was never designed for servicing such a largenum’ber of ships at one time, but hard work,, keenness, and forethought have provided facilities comparable with a much larger port, organization. Storing, provisioning, fuelling,, ammunitioning, berthing, boat services, mails, transport, communications, book distribution,, wireless telegraphy and communication fittings, and similar services, have all reflected great, credit on the officers concerned. I wish particularly .to call .attention to the dockyard work carried out, which has .exceeded all expectations.
Will yon please convey my thanks to theArmy authorities who helped so much by providing transport, .and to the G.P.O. for their telephone services.
This .signal reflects great credit .on the management and workmen at the naval establishments in .Sydney and elsewhere,, and I voice the appreciation of the Houseand of the country for .the splendid work, which is being 4?ne by all associated with naval activities. No words of minecould possibly he adequate to convey theadmiration and gratitude of the Australian nation for this imperishable’ record of service and devotion of themen of the Royal Australian Navy.
..- I desire .to reply to the statement madein this House on Wednesday night by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who represents .the Ministerfor the Interior, in answer to certain charges which I had made concerningthe treatment by the Department of theInterior - and that means by the Government - of the wife of a prisoner of warby serving upon her notice to quit her dwelling. In the course of his statement, the Minister made some serious chargesagainst Mrs. Pedvin, the woman concerned, which for a moment confused me because they were at variance with the information which had been supplied’ to me. I have since gone into the matter more fully, and I am convinced that the information supplied to the Minister by his officials was a distortion of facts, and the matter now calls for a full investigation. In his statement,, the Minister maligned this persecuted woman - and I .use the term “ persecuted “ advisedly. He said that she was in neceipt of certain income “which she had not disclosed, and then he added - 1 am not trying to -make the case against tins woman worse than it is.
The implication was that if .all the facts were disclosed it would be evident that she had perjured herself, or at any rate had acted, in a discreditable way. He has certainly made jthe case against his officials worse than it was by the way in which he used the brief with which they supplied him. The officials refused to restore Mrs. Pedviri’s ‘rent ‘concession because, they alleged, her income had increased following her husband’s rise in rank from that of sapper to that of corporal. At -that time, no mention whatever was made of any income which the husband was supposed to be obtaining from property. 1 showed that Mrs. Pedvin’s allotment from her hush and had not been increased as a result of his promotion, because this could be done only by the husband making an application to increase it, and as he was a prisoner of war it was virtually impossible for him to make an application. As ,a matter of fact, the o^y increase o’f income received .by Mrs. Pedvin was the general increase .granted by the Government to’ all dependants of soldiers. Therefore, the allegation of the department -was proved to be wrong. Then, without any warning, .the officials shifted their .ground, and said .that Mrs. Pedvin was nol entitled to .a rent .concession because her .husband was the owner of considerable property -which was proiliucing income. Mrs. -Pedvin, in a statutory declaration made in March, 1944, said - (Fhc totm! allotment to my son .and ‘myself is £8 flUa. a .fortnight. There is no other source of income.
I have here a statutory -declaration made by Mrs. Pedvin yesterday ‘afternoon. It is as ‘follows: -
I, ‘Mary Emma Pedvin, of Griffith, Australian Capital Territory, -do solemnly and sincerely .declare - 1..0n the 28th February, ,1945, the Honorable :H. P. Lazzarini representing the Minister for .the Interior, stated in the House .of Representatives that -my husband owned substantial “properties lin Sydney from wlkich income is derived, and that such income was not shown in a statutory declaration made by mc in applying for rent concession.
I now repeat my declaration of the lOtb March, 1944, namely -
The total allotment for myself and my son, Brian Arthur, 14 years, is £8 15s. per fortnight. There is no other source of income.
That is the answer to the lying allegations put into the hands of the Minister by the officials of his department. This alleged income from property was never mentioned until the department was “ put on the spot “, and required to justify its treatment of the wife of a prisoner of war. I -believe Mrs. Pedvin. I do not think that she is lying. If she is she can be dealt with ; but I believe that she is telling the truth. I place no credence in the unsupported evidence of the officials of the Department of the Interior. Apart from their discreditable action ‘in serving a notice to quit on this woman, the officials and the Minister have acted throughout in such a way as to reflect seriously upon the Government and upon the Public Service. In no part of the harsh correspondence which they directed against this sick woman - and she is sick - was there any mention of income which the husband was supposed to ‘be receiving from property. I am ooncerned that a Minister of the Crown, apparently without seeking any information from the woman herself, should support the allegations made against her. During the discussion on Wednesday night, the -honorable member for New (England (Mr. Abbott) interjected to ask if Mrs. Pedvin were receiving ‘income from property, and the Minister replied, “‘Yes’”. Moreover, he suggested that that income was considerable. He implied that he could state the amount if he wished to, but that he refrained from doing so out of consideration for the woman’s feelings. The Minister now claims, since the particulars of this cruel case have been exposed in the press, that it “was never intended to proceed with the eviction order ; that it was issued only wiSi the idea of frightening Mrs. Pedvin into paying arrears of rent. We’ll, I can assure the House that it certainly succeeded in frightening her. I am informed that the heartless letters which Mrs. Pedvin has received have greatly aggravated her illness. It says much for the sorry pass to which this Parliament has been brought by the arrogance of bureaucratic officials that we should have to listen to a Minister of the Crown giving his endorsement, first, to an act of terrorism, and, secondly, to a misuse of the legal processes of the Commonwealth. I use the word “ terrorism “ advisedly, because if there were no intention to proceed’ with the eviction, why was the notice to quit issued except to terrorize this woman? I emphasize that this notice was issued at the time when the
Government announced its intention to provide for preference to returned soldiers. Its concern for soldiers could better be demonstrated by action now than by promises for the future. I do not know whether the soldier in question has heard of this action on the part of the department for which he formerly worked, and of the treatment of his wife and child bv his former colleagues. I remind the House that this man enlisted from the Department of the Interior, where he was paid a salary of over £500 a year. He accepted a sapper’s rate of pay which, with deferred pay, is about £5 8s. 6d. a week, including allowances to his wife and child. In other words, he sacrificed half his income to get into khaki and fight; instead of receiving £10 a week his income is only a little over £5 a week. That is the way that the Minister for the Interior has treated an employee of his own department; that is how this man’s defenceless wife and child have been cared for in his absence ! It is time that some one in this House exposed an Administration which -exhibits such a callous lack of sympathy as has been displayed in this instance. [ am concerned at the use which the Japanese propaganda agents may make of this and any similar cases. The Japanese have their own methods of disseminating news to prisoners of war, and cases such as this cannot but cause the cruellest suffering to the men in their hands.
– The honorable member is lending his aid to that cruelty.
– I am lending aid where it is required. Bather than see this woman evicted, there are indivi- duals in this community, as well as organizations such as the local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the Legacy Club, who will subscribe the miserable £21 for the recovery of which this despicable action is being taken. If the Government does not intend to send the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia to Singapore to rescue the Seh Division, it at least should show more consideration to the women and children whom men of the 8th Division have left behind.
.- The last few remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) have no relevance to the merits of the case that he has submitted to the House. It was a most uncalled for observation. The Government is most eager that those men who have been captured by the enemy shall be released at the earliest possible moment; but only by victory against the enemy will that be possible. All possible steps to defeat our enemies - both Germany and Japan - are being taken, under the direction of those to whom the responsibility has been assigned. What the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) has narrated to the House this afternoon is an exemplification of the heroism, gallantry, and devotion which are being shown by the Australian people, and the Government will do its utmost to ensure that all steps will be taken to bring to the earliest termination the sufferings of those who now are prisoners of war. It appears that there is conflict between what the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has said, and what the honorable member for Richmond has said, and I agree that that conflict ought to be resolved. If officials of the Department of the Interior have either misinformed or misled the Minister, they should be dealt with. They are officials of the public administration, and I should imagine that their loyalty, conscientiousness and integrity are not less under the present Administration than when other governments were in office. The Standing Orders preclude any business being done until the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply has -been disposed of, but, because of what has been said, I propose to consult with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with a view to setting up an unofficial committee of this House to investigate the statements that have been made in respect of the notice to quit which has been issued to Mrs. Pedvin, and the circumstances in which it was issued. I shall consult with those leaders as to the terms of reference to such a committee, which I suggest should” consist ofl four members of this House who have served with the forces, with myself, or my nominee, as chairman, [n my opinion, it would be terrible, indeed, if an injustice were done to any woman whose husband is in a prisoner of war camp anywhere in the world. The Government will be no party to such an injustice, and insofar as an injustice has been done to this woman, it will take steps to remedy it. Another aspect of this case is that people cannot be allowed to owe money indefinitely to the Crown. I do not say that this woman has not met her obligations, but, apparently, there is in existence an accountancy statement that she is in arrears. Even so, it may bc she is in that position through no fault of her own. If she does not owe money to the Crown, it would appear that a mistake has been made. If, on the other hand, the circumstances which the department had in mind give ground for the action that has been taken, the department at least has a case which ought to be made available to this House. I do not see any reason for obtaining sworn testimony, or for other formalities. As I have said, T shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party with a view to the selection of two members from the Opposition benches to act on the committee, and I shall select two members from this side. If I can spare the time, I shall act as chairman of the committee; if not, I shall nominate another Minister, who will not be the Minister for the Interior, to act as chairman. I want to see either that the department is vindicated, or that this woman’s claim for better treatment is established beyond doubt. If she establishes that claim, she most certainly will receive better treatment.
I wish now to refer to the statement which the Minister for the Navy has given to this House as to the heroism of men belonging to what is, in the nature of things, the silent service. The shipmost conspicuous in this narrativeis named after the capital city of the State from which I come, and many young men who are relatives of residents of Western Australia served upon that ship. Captain Waller was well and favorably known. No more distinguished officer ever served this country. It is a matter of regret that, on occasions we arenot able immediately to inform the public of the circumstances in which men have given their all in the service of their country, but this afternoon we have had a description of gallantry which, in keeping with the unsurpassed history of the British race, must be an inspiration tons all.
.- TheMinister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) related a story of gallantry and devotion to duty in keeping with the great traditions of the British Navy, the American Navy, the Dutch Navy, and the Australian Navy. It should inspire us toa greater national effort. There was in the Minister’s narrative something that transcends the minor political mattersabout which we contend here. I hope that retribution will soon overtake theJapanese, and that there will be an early liberation of the Australian prisoners in their hands. I am confident that the traditions of the Navy will be maintained right through until victory is achieved.
I should have preferred that the House should have adjourned on that note immediately after the Minister’s speech, but, like the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I realize that private members do not have much opportunity to discuss matters which they regard as important. Therefore, . late as the hour is, I hope that the House will bear with me while I discuss two matters about which I exhort the Government to do something positive. I refer to the housing and rehabilitation of servicemen, and I hope that Ministers will heed what I say. There is much planning and talk about rehabilitation, but very little achievement. I understand that, about 200,000 men have been discharged from the three services’ during this war ; yet only 2,000 of them,, those of junior age, arc receiving, any vocational, training. There’ are many obstacles placed in the way of servicemen. If a man endeavours to set himself up in business, the Post-war Reconstruction officials tell him. that there is no scope in that business; Or, if he does buy a business he cannot get coupons with which to obtain supplies,, and he is sent from department to department until he gets a feeling of complete frustration. He is thwarted, and feels that he is not wanted.. It is- high, time that there was a merging of departments that deal with ex-servicemen. After the last war, they were the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission, but- now- the Repatriation Department has degenerated into a “Pensions and Medicine Department “, and vocational training and other matters concerning’ ex-serv-icemen have been handed over to other departments, so that vocational training and many other worthy- activities are lost in a’ maze of overlapping departments.- I do not condemn some of the officials-, who are doing’ a very, fine joh in- trying’ to carry out’ decisions,’ but there’ is a- lack of’ cohesion higher up. Dotted along the treasury bench arp Ministers dealing with some aspect or another of the rehabilitation of ex-rservicenien. There- should be one Ministeri to i take this matter in hand and. put it on a: better basis. Many officials of< the Repatriation Department seem to have become mere slaves- to regulations.I have on other occasions mentioned several’ instances of this, and I am reluctant to refer to them again. But since iprisoners of war have been mentioned to-day, I must’ point out that’ many who’ were prisoners in the last war find, difficulty, because of ‘ casualties and the passage of time, in locating witnesses of the disabilities they suffered. Therefore, they find it hard te establish a: claim. A Queensland man of my acquaintance suffered flogging- and; great hardship’ at the- hands of the Turks, as we know many of: our1 men1 are suffering to-day at the hands of the Japanese. He was. a 100 per’ cent, repatriation pension case. When he died in a remote country hospital, his death was- certified as7 being, due to some disease. When his widow applied for a pension she was- told that his death was not due to war causes. He had been a man of ‘ sound physical condition, but his sanity and physical condition had been- undermined by. his war service and: the harsh treatment that he received’ in a Turkish prison camp. Although 1 stated that Ii had. known him in captivity and knew something- of what he had suffered, the application by the widow .was rejected by the department in a roneod paragraph to the effect that as nothing further’ of relevance had been forthcoming, the case could not be re-opened. What is the use of: entitlement tribunals and’ the like, members of which- draw good incomesfrom the Government, if> they do not’ take the attitude that! they are there to find the measure of disability,, not to resist the claims of widows who cannot prove their cases- immediately? There is much- that- is- wrong: with the Repatriation Department in that regard. I could cite many other cases. A man loses two -sons within a few weeks. The Repatriation Department sends- a form which he believes- means1 that he and his- wife- will- get’ something; to compensate for the loss of’ the allotments that they- received while their - sons- were aliv.e. Ultimately, a policeman comes along: and applies a means test, and if it is found that each is- receiving. £1 19s. a week or has* a capital of, I think; £400, they are not- eligible for- anything. So their- state ofl life changes- completely from the state of moderate comfort in which they lived from the: allotments- or the money that their sons contributed before their- enlistment to one of penury. It is time the system which applied before the depression was restored. I have pressed for the establishment of a; committee, of refeurned-soldier members of this’ House to go into these matters. I’ was encouraged’ by the Prime Minister- (iMr. Curtin) when he- said, that he would’ consider my suggestion’. I hope- that* there will bc much more than consider tion. There are many anomalies, as’ all honorable members- know-. The people>on whose behalf I- speak are not pressuregroups which can threaten the Govern^ ment; they are just ordinary- citizens- who meekly go before the Repatriation Department and, if their claims are refused, rarely bother any one again. I hope that the House will support the establishment of some committee to make an end to these evils. There is too much rivalry between departments in respect of rehabilitation. We should ensure that there shall be more achievement and less talk.
.- I direct attention to what is generally regarded by people in country districts as an unfair application of taxation to hospitals. Throughout Victoria we have 67 bush nursing hospitals, and they give great service. There are not enough public hospitals of the larger type to cater for country residents. That I think can be said of every State. So we have these institutions established on the self-help basis, but, instead of giving them encouragement, the taxation authorities levy on them heavily. I refer to the matter of pay-roll tax and entertainments tax. When an entertainment is conducted for the purpose of raising a little money, taxes are the biggest item of expense. This situation greatly discourages voluntary workers who desire to help their district and, in doing so, lift from Commonwealth and State Governments some of the financial responsibility for providing hospitalization. The Treasury officials base their decision on a technicality, which, they assume, disqualifies these bodies. According to the ruling, the institutions are not public hospitals, because they make a charge and collect a fee where they can. For that reason, they are not permitted to conduct entertainments without paying tax. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Birchip Bush Nursing Hospital. It is written in simple terms and I propose to read it to the House. I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is not present to hear it.-
– He is attending a meeting of the War Gratuities Committee.
– I hope that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) will bring this letter to the notice of the
Treasurer, who, I am sure, will see the logic of this protest. The letter reads -
I had hopes that the Federal Government would have realized our position by now, and had granted us at least some relief from the Taxation Department decision to tax entertainments run in aid of Bush Nursing Hospitals, at the same rate that private persons or companies are rated on entertainments run for .their own profit. It has become so important to our well-being, that I must ask you to once again interest yourself on our behalf and to try to obtain some relief for us.
I have taken the liberty of mailing to you under a separate cover a copy of the annual report of the Bush Nursing Association. I am of the opinion that it would give you a very good idea as to our aims, &c. You will see that there are G7 hospitals scattered throughout the State, and in parts where the Government could or would not provide hospital facilities. They must at least relieve the Government of a certain amount of responsibility. The number of subscribers to those centres number 10,099 persons (families are counted as one). Last year 19,135 cases were treated at the Bush Nursing Hospitals. Approximately S.000 of that number were members, which makes at .least 27,234 people vitally interested and dependent upon BushNursing Hospitals.
Mr.’ Chifley has shown by his answer to your query of February, 1944 (I saw a copy of it in Ilansard) and by correspondence of his relating to the same subject, that he either does not want to know or does not know the true facts of the working of Bush Nursing Hospitals. He told us to pass the tax on to the people. In a place such as Birchip, it takes us all our time to run the hospital without, a loss. Everything is done honorarily, and many personal sacrifices are made to enable the hospital to carry on. Last September we ran a ball in aid of the funds and after asking the people to give up their time to work for the success of the ball, and to provide the necessary foodstuffs, &c, the Taxation Department did better than the hospital. We are taxed on the number attending the entertainment, but we have to pay for the hire of the hall and the music and other extras out of our portion. After asking the people to work and provide for such an entertainment, it does not give much heart to see a large portion go in taxes. Again, it is not fair to ask them to pay the tax in addition to the normal entrance fee after providing the entertainment. Last financial year we made £250 in entertainments, but so far this year we have not done anything in that direction.
At present we are trying to finance our new hospital scheme. Work will commence on it in about three weeks and we expect it to cost us £5,300 before we are finished. We received financial assistance from the State Government and the Victorian B’ush Nursing Association. As a result of a public appeal we raised £1,200, which was a very fine effort considering the bad season that we have just gone through. At present we are faced with a deficiency of £R00.
Mr. Chifley stated that we are not public hospitals, which is correct in some ways. Our object is to provide hospital treatment near to the homes of the people at. as cheap a rate as possible. Membership for a family is only a few ponce per week, a fee that any one can afford, and treatment is given to members at absolute minimum cost. If a person who is not a member is in need of immediate attention no hospital would, or could, turn them away, and treatment is given without’ any cost. You will understand that our financial resources are limited, and we could not afford to carry chronic patients without pay for long, but they are treated and looked after until they can” be removed by their friends or relatives 10 a public hospital. If a person has been a member and is in need of treatment which they cannot pay for, an attempt is made to carry them. 1 draw attention to a very serious anomaly. In two States, the Treasury has seen fit to exempt this class of hospital from the obligation to meet the pay-roll tax ; but in Victoria no such exemption is granted. The letter illustrates this point -
For some reason or other, Victoria seems to be getting the worst of it as regards treatment of hospitals of the Bush Nursing type. The Bush Nursing Hospitals of South Australia and Now South Wales, and which we maintain, ure very much inferior to those of Victoria, receive a government subsidy, and are also exempt from pay-roll tax, which Victoria has to pay. South Australia is also exempt from entertainment tax. The Victorian Bush Nursing Hospitals pay £S0O a year in pay-roll tax. The large private hospitals at East Melbourne, which cater for the rich alone, and who make no secret of the fact that they make profits, are also exempt from pay-roll tax. Why Victorian Bush Nursing Hospitals should be singled out is very difficult to understand.
A neighbouring town of Birchip, and a place which is almost twice the size, has a Bush Nursing Hospital. They did not support that hospital and the venture was not a success. They applied to the State Government for a public hospital and their request was granted. They are to get a £20,000 hospital and the Government advanced them £10,000 towards the cost. Now they are allowed to run entertainments free of tax, to buy goods free of sales tax, and will be exempt from pay-roll tax. They are even permitted to come into our district and run entertainments and beg money. If every district did not make the necessary effort to support their local Bush Nursing Hospital, and the Government were forced to provide hospital accommodation, T feel that they would become somewhat embarrassed.
Believe mc, Mr. Wilson, we at Birchip, and 1 believe the same applies in other districts supporting a B*ush Nursing Hospital, are very bitter against the Government’s lack of appreciation of what we are doing. They are in error that much that it is very hard to understand that they have refused to do something to assist us before now, but I am of the opinion that the true position would only have to be understood for us to gain some relief. If we could be placed on a modified scale it would assist us and we would not feel so badly done by.
That letter is an instance of the feeling that is quite general and quite justified in the country districts of Victoria, and I sincerely trust that the Treasurer will give his personal attention to this matter and will not be dominated by Treasury officials whose only object is to maintain receipts. The Treasurer should see the justice of granting some relief to these organizations, which are endeavouring to help themselves but which, instead of being encouraged, are being penalized.
– in reply - I assure the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the suggestion he has made in regard to the merging of certain- Commonwealth departments dealing with the housing and rehabilitation of servicemen will be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin).
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson.) has raised the matter of the taxing of bush nursing hospitals. I have listened with care to what the honorable member has said, and I am sure that there is a general sympathy with these institutions because of the excellent work which they are doing. I shall have the earnest appeal by the honorable member for the rectification of the anomaly which he claims exists brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. - 19.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21.
House adjourned at 4.53 p.m.
The follmving answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Building Regulations: Theatre Construction ; Housing. Mr. Francis asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
So that members of the fighting services will not be debarred from entry to the Department of External Affairs by reason of their war service, will he see that a suitable amendment to the present entry age is made, to ensure that those who would have been eligible to apply but for the war will not be debarred on discharge or demobilization?
Dr. EVATT. - When recruitment is being made to the Department of External Affairs, every effort is made to ensure that members of the fighting services have opportunities for entry. Service men and women up to the age of 25 years have been eligible for diplomatic appointment as diplomatic staff cadets, and when such appointments are contemplated all three services are fully circularized. Of the nineteen male cadets appointed in the years 1943 and 1944 the majority were servicemen who had seen overseas service. I shall see that when the time comes for further diplomatic staff selections the possibility is considered of raising the age limit in order to allow for the entry of persons of the category which the honorable member has in mind.
t asked the Minister for Externa] Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What progress has been made with the Commonwealth’s campaign to arrest the spread of the buffalo-fly and to exterminate that pest in Queensland and the Northern Territory?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are asfollows : -
t asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What was the number of working days lost through industrial disputes during each quarter of 1044: (a) in Australia, (6) inNew South Wales, and (o) in the coal-mining* industry of New South Wales?
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Prime Minister, vpon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied to the honorable member.
Coai.-siikikci Industry : Pknsions Scheme.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wak Housing Trust.
y. - On 22nd February I promised to obtain information for the honorable member for Balaclava on the following questions: -
The answers to the questions are as follows : -
Until recently, the primary object of this body (and its predecessor) was not to build houses, but to provide accommodation in places where it was urgently needed for war purposes by the most economic means available from Chu point of view oi man-power and materials. Consequently, the trust activities extended far beyond the building of houses, and included the erection of a large number of war workers hostels, the provision of slccp-outs adjoining existing premises, measures to promote and assist the subdivision of existing houses, and many special arrangements in connexion with the temporary accommodation of war workers, such as people engaged in flax-growing, and many other miscellaneous but very essential activities.
Queensland 180 Xew South Wales . . 1,231
Victoria 073 South Australia 407
n . asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will tlio Government permit n mort open market for gold than prevails at present!
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is a? follows : -
Under existing conditions and the necessity’ to control oversea* funds for the purposes of our war economy, it is essential Unit nil gold be delivered to llie Commonwealth Bank and an open market for gold cannot be permitted. There is no open world market for gold at present.
y.- The answers to thp honorable member’s questions ore a* follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked th.Treasurer, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450302_reps_17_181/>.