17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr.Speaker(Hon.J.S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House,at its rising, adjourn to
Thursday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr.CONELAN.- For the protection of young children, a Queensland law provides that paints used for surface painting in that State shall not contain more than 5 per cent. of lead.Willthe Minister for Munitions take steps to hare the supply of zinc to Queensland increased, in order to meet the requirements of this substitute for lead?
– I shall have pleasure inendeavouring to increase the supply of wine for the purpose mentioned.
– Inview of the recent announcement that the quality of the petrol sold on the Australian market is to be reduced, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state whether or not there is tobe a corresponding reduction of price?
-I understand that the quality reduction is tobe from 80 octane to 70-72 octane. I am not quite familiar with the distillation process involved in the production of a lower octane petrol; but if it means less distillation and the use of less lead, the question of the honorable gentleman calls for examinationby the department, and I shall ask that it be made.
High Court Decision
– The High Court yesterday gave judgment in a case in which the Treasurer’s right to require the purchase of bonds as a condition of consent to aland transaction was challenged. It is not clear from the necessarily abridged press report whether the High Court decided that the provision requiring the deposit of bonds was invalid because it was not a part of the regulations, or whether the court expressed the view that, even if it were part of the regulations, it would still be invalid. Can the Treasurer explain what the judgment really means, and whether an amendment of the regulations is proposed ?
– I am not very clear, either, as to what the position is. I understand that three judgments were delivered. One, which represented the opinion of two of the judges, including the Chief Justice, was that the regulations themselves were valid. Two other judges held that the regulations were invalid, while another two judges expressed no opinion at all on the question of validity.
– They all agreed that the Treasury was in the wrong.
– There was no unanimity regarding the regulations, but there was complete unanimity on the point that the conditions were not good in law - that, I think, is the correct term. I have spoken to the Solicitor-General, but I have had no opportunity, nor has he, to study the judgments. I shall have them examined, and an answer to the honorable member’s inquiry prepared. I might add that what was referred to during the hearing as a restriction was regarded by the Treasury as a concession.
Carnivals and Night Sports
– Can the Minister for Munitions say when it is proposed to lift the ban on the use of electric light for night carnivals and sports meetings?
-At a recent meeting of a Cabinet sub-committee held to discuss coal stocks I raised the matter of restriction on the use of electric light for carnivals and night sports meetings. I point out that, in view of the approach of winter it is necessary to build up stocks of coal. A very close watch is being kept on the position, and I can assure the honorable member that his suggestion will receive sympathetic consideration. Where electricity is being generated from black coal it is not so easy to relax lighting restrictions as when the current power is produced by other means.
– Has the Prime Minister received a telegram from the United Graziers Association of Queensland in. which it is stated that, because of the shearing dispute in that State, the industry is in chaos, and the shearing schedule is 3,000,000 sheep behind? If so, will the Prime Minister state what action the Government intends to take to deal with the situation?
– I have had such a telegram. As I have been engaged on other matters I referred it to the Department of Labour and National Service, and I suggest that the rest of the right honorable gentleman’s question be addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Has the Minister for Information seen a statement by the president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association that that association is non-political? Is the president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association the general manager of the Sydne Morning Herald? Did the Sydney Morning Herald omit from its news columns on Monday any reference to the tribute paid to the Prime Minister by Archdeacon Robertson? Did the Sydney Morning Herald in the same issue devote considerable space to the publication of a circular criticizing plans proposed for New Guinea and Papua by the Minister for External Territories?
– I did look in vain in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday for the tribute that Archdeacon Robertson deservedly paid to the Prime Minister and his advice to people like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to stop their organized campaign against the right honorable gentleman. I also noted that the Sydney Morning Herald omitted the statement by the Minister for External Territories. These omissions arc all a part of the policy of suppression, distortion and misrepresentation engaged in by the Sydney Morning Herald particularly, and other papers. I have noted from time to time the statement by Mr. Henderson, president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association that that organization is non-political, but its only effect on me has been to tickle my risible muscles. The gentleman referred to is the very person who on two occasions within six months last year deprived the people of Sydney of their newspapers.
Equipment Reports in Army Newspapers - Releases.
– Will the Prime Minister ensure the presentation of an impartial report of the debate on Army equipment in. army publications supplying a regular news service to the troops by instructing the Director of Army Public Relations (Brigadier Rasmussen) that no censorship of such reportswill be allowed except on the grounds of security?
– I am not the editor of the publication. I have been the editor of a newspaper and know that, regardless o f censorship or anything else, what goes into a newspaper is finally and irrevocably decided by the editor. I will not issue any instruction, because I do not believe any such instruction is necessary.
– The right honorable gentleman has not been reading these publications then?
– I have not, but, if it can be shown to me that the editor of an Army publication is guilty of bias and unfairness in respect of political matters or subjects of debate in this Parliament, I shall ask the Public Service Board, or some other authority, to conduct an inquiry, and, if he is found guilty, I shall say at once that he is unfit for his position; but while he is fit I shall not interfere with him.
– Will the Prime Minister ensure that in any review of the claims of members of the forces for release to industry, consideration shall be given to servicemen who have already been examined and recommended for discharge by man-power authorities?
-Certain categories have been prescribed as having priority for discharge. In addition there are numbers of other servicemen who are given preference for personal reasons. I do not want it to be assumed that there is no steady and constant discharge of men from the services. There is ; but each case must be dealt with on its merits and the plan as it now stands cannot be altered until a review is made, I hope, after June.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting-Minister for the Army have investigated the case of Q121115 Sapper Slade, A.R.S.? I am informed that Sapper Slade was released to industry in December, 1942, and was given permission to change his employment in 1944 because of sickness. He was recalled to the Army and served until he received his discharge - No. 81016- on the 13th July, 1944. Subsequently he was court-martialled and sentenced to seven months detention at the Grovely Detention Camp. If that information is correct, will the Minister take steps to rectify this injustice immediately?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to my colleague, the Acting Minister for the Army, for consideration.
Report of Mr. Justice Reed
– If the final report by Mr. Justice Reed on his inquiry into the Grovely Camp has been received, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say when it will be available for honorable gentlemen to peruse?
– I understand that the Acting Minister for the Army has not yet received the final report. However, I shall bring the honorable member’s question to his notice, and ask him to consider it as soon as the report reaches him.
Resignation of Mr. W. J. Cleary
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a recent report in a Sydney newspaper in which the former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. W. J. Cleary, is stated to have said, at a farewell gathering to officials, that “ because of certain happenings, he could no longer rely on the loyalty of some people whom he had trusted, and he felt that it was time for him to get out “. Mr. Cleary is also reported as having said that some months ago he had unsuccessfully sought an interview with the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister inform me why that interview did not take place? Has he any information to give to the House regarding the reason for Mr.Cleary’s resignation ?
– I know of no occasion upon which Mr. Cleary, or any other head of a great Commonwealth instrumentality who, after having submitted his representations to the Minister controlling the department, sought and was refused an interview with. me. As a matter of fact, the personal relationship between Mr. Cleary and myself has always been most courteous and friendly. I do not recall any request that Mr. Cleary has made for an interview with me. It could happen that Mr.Cleary sought an interview when it was impracticable for me to meethim, but, in that event, I should have suggested some other date. As to the reasons for Mr. Cleary’s resignation, I know no more about them now than I did when his resignation was announced.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform rue whether it is a fact that, whilst certain members of the Commonwealth Public Service are making a contribution to the war effort by working 81 hours a fortnight, although the normal working week is 36¾ hours, retrenchment is steadily increasing?
– I was not aware that retrenchment wasbeing made in the Commonwealth Public Service. Last week, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member forFawkner, I informed the House that the Government had decided, subject to the approval of the Public Service Arbitrator, and under certain conditions, to compensate officers who worked additional hours by paying them overtime rates. In working81 hours a fortnight, Commonwealth public servants are rendering a service which, I am sure, the community greatly appreciates. I regard it as wrong and improper for public servants who worked those long hours for a period, to be deprived of their employmentnow, and I shall discuss the matter with the Public Service Commissioner.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inquire, and advise the House, regarding the steps that have been taken, or are to be taken to allow Australian importers to import goods direct from overseas manufacturers instead of through the Division of Import Procurement?
– My own experience in this matter has particular reference to textiles. When I was in the United States of America, I found that many of our difficulties arose from the fact that we were working on a governmenttogovernment level, whilst other countries, such as Canada, were working through ordinary private trading channels, and were able to do better business than we had managed to do. I considered that the time had arrived for us to return to the system under which Australian merchants were permitted to order their goods from manufacturers in the United States of America.
Mr.Conelan. - What about Australian orders placed in Great Britain?
– My remarks are equally applicableto that trade, but I have not the same knowledge of it as I have of our business with the United State of America. However, I have made certain recommendations to the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs, and understand that, during his visit to the United States of America, he reached conclusions similar to my own. In my opinion, the alteration should be made without further delay.
– In view of the fact that the trade union movement is averse to the infliction of capital punishment, will the Prime Minister take up with the trade union executive the question of obtaining its permission to make representations to the States of the world for Australia to press for the death penalty for Hitler and the gang of ruffians surrounding him?
– The trade union movement of Australia has never expressed an opinion on the subject of capital punishment.
– Labour governments have never enforced the penalty.
– I belong to a State which has had a Labour government in office for more years than a Country party government is ever likely to be in office. In that State the law prescribes capital punishment for certain offences.
– But the law is never carried out.
Mr.CURTIN.- It is carried out.
– Then it is a very backward State!
– Thelaw on this subject is within the authority of the States. In some States where Labour governments are in office, capital punishment is the law, and in some other States, where Labour is also in power, it is not the law. I do not propose to make any representations on the subject.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in view of the fact that an acute shortage of doctors and nurses exists in some rural areas, he will askhis colleague to establish a pool of medical practitioners and nurses from which rural needs may be served ?
– This subject has been examined by the Social Security Committee of which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) was chairman. The committee made certain representations to the Government, and these were down for Cabinet consideration last week. Unfortunately that item on the business sheet was not reached. It is hoped, however, that a scheme will be evolved to meet the situation referred to by the honorable member.
Release of Personnel for the Royal Navy Air Arm.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that flying personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force have sought permission to transfer to the Royal Air Force for service with the Fleet Air Arm, because, among other reasons, machines are not available for them to fly with the Royal Australian Air Force? If, for this reason, or for any others, these men cannot continue flying in the Royal Australian Air Force, will permission be given to them to serve with theBritish Fleet Air Arm ?Will the Minister indicate the policy of the Government in this connexion?
– A similar question was asked me on this subject last week. I said then, and I say now, that certain individual members of the Royal Australian Air Force had apparently expressed a desire to become pilots with the Fleet Air Arm. The matter has been investigated, up to a point, with the result that it has been ascertained that ‘ we have no ships of a suitable nature for such training. Discussions have taken place between representatives of the Air Board and the British Fleet on this subject, but no decision has yet been made. I suggest that resort to the newspapers by some members of the Royal Australian Air Force who desire such a transfer is not the best method to get the matter settled. The honorable gentleman said that the Government had no policy on the subject.
– I asked for a statement of Government policy.
– The honorable gentleman is entirely wrong in saying that the Government has no policy, and he is in a position to know better than to ask such a. question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to page 787 of the 1944 edition of Who’s Who in Australia, on which it is recorded that Mr. J. S. Teasdale, who we know is the informant of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) on wheat matters, has been a member of the AustralianWheat Board since September, 1939? If so is that statement correct?
– The publication Who’s Who in Australia is a product of the Murdoch press, and like most publication? of that press, it is frequently inaccurate. My attention has been drawn to the biography of Mr. Teasdale in Who’s Who in Australia, and the statement which the honorable member has quoted in regard to his membership of the Australian “Wheat. Board is inaccurate. He was appointed to the Australian Wheat Board in 1939, but was either withdrawn, or withdrew, in 1942. He was re-appointed to the Board in 1944. I believe that he is the informant of the honorable member for Indi and other honorable members opposite who are conducting the campaign against the Scully wheat plan.
– Did the Minister for Information look in vain for a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 19th April, headed “The Record of Mr. Curtin’s Broken Pledges”? If not, will he read the article, take it to heart, and send a marked copy to Archdeacon Robertson ?
– I do read the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald. but most of the material which they contain I treat with disdain. That is the manner in which I shall treat the article referred to by the honorable member for Bendigo. I do not intend to insult a very worthy gentleman in the person of Archdeacon Robertson by asking him to read the editorial out-pourings of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr.GUY. - Will the Treasurer ascertain and advise the House of the date on which the committee that was appointed to inquire into the method of calculating the Commonwealth grants to claimant States last met, and the reason for the delay in the presentation of its report?
– I assume that the honorable member is referring to a committee appointed by the Government party.
Mr.GUY. - Yes, commonly known as the “caucus committee”. As it is using public money, its report should be public, and we should have it.
– That is an additional question which, in the circumstances, is out of order.
– No parliamentary committee is dealing with this matter. The body referred to is purely a party committee, and it will make a report to the party on whatever aspects it may choose to investigate. What a party committee reports to the party is not the concern of this Parliament. Public money is not involved.
– Who paid the expenses of the members of the committee when they visited Tasmania?
– They paid their own expenses.
– That, too, is an additional question.
– No money from the Commonwealth Treasury has been expended in connexion with the work of the committee; therefore, what it does is not the concern of this Parliament.
Sales Tax on Show Catalogues.
– As the Treasurer is aware, many pastoral and agricultural societies are resuming the holding of annual shows. These bodies are greatly perturbed at the amount of sales tax that is levied on catalogues and other printed matter which they require, and they ask for relief. I have been requested to ask the honorable gentleman to state whether or not their wish can be met; also, whether or not a refund can be expected of any tax already paid?
– I should imagine that the sales tax mentioned is being levied under aCommonwealth law, and that the granting of the request for exemption from it would involve an amendment of that law. I am prepared to examine the matter. I cannot hold out much hope of a refund of tax already paid.
– As parties of legislators from the Parliaments of Great Britain and the United States of America have been permitted to visit the battlefields in Europe, will the Prime Minister favorably consider a visit by members of this Parliament to theatres in which Australian troops are fighting?
– I undertake to give consideration to the matter.
Debate resumed from the 22nd March (vide page 775) on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: -
– In regard to the equipment of the Australian Military Forces, statements were made by the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) in the Senate on the 7th March, 1945, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), on his behalf, in this House on the 22nd March, 1945. As the House adjourned for the Easter recess on the following day, it was not possible to debate the matter before Easter. Accordingly, I moved that the Minister’s statement be printed. The Governmentwelcomes the fullest debate on this matter, for, as I said at the time, it. has no tiling to hide.
In view of the publicity which the matter continued to receive, I issued a public statement on the 5th April, .1945, following a report by the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces, General Sir Thomas Blainey, who had recently visited each of the operational areas.
I asked the Acting Minister for the Army to visit the operational areas, and ;ave to him an open letter to members of the forces, explaining his mission and inviting them to tell him anything they considered he should know. The Acting Minister for the Army has furnished to me two reports, one dealing with equipment - the subject before the House - and lie other on additional matters concerning the welfare of the troops which came to his notice. I shall table his report in. equipment. . Th.c matters referred to n the other report are being considered by War Cabinet, and by myself as Minister for Defence.
The essence of the criticism is, that Australian forces are not adequately equipped, and that the present operations should not have been undertaken in the circumstances. Some critics go further, and say that those operations should not be carried out at all, but that Australian forces should be employed in more offensive action elsewhere. .1” shall leal first with the latter aspect. I have explained previously that Australian combat forces are assigned to the CommanderinChief of the South-West Pacific Area in accordance with the terms of his directive, which was issued to him with the approval of the five governments concerned. Under that directive, each government retains the right to refuse the use of its forces for any project which it considers inadvisable. I mention this because it is fundamental to the Government’s agreement to General M’acArthur’s plans for the use of Australian forces. The directive also provides that the commander of the forces of each government hall retain the right of appeal, and freedom of communication with his government. This means that General Blame’ can put before the Government his views on General MacArthur’s plans for the use of Australian forces. In actual practice, the established procedure is for General. MacArthur to discuss with me the contemplated use of Australian forces, which 1 report to War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. General Blainey has direct access to me on matters relating to operations. The Chiefs of Staff attend all meetings of the Advisory War Council, at which they give a review of the progress of operations, and can be questioned on any matter relating rn their services.
Upon my return from London. General MacArthur discussed with me last June his contemplated . plan of operations. 1 said to him that I was anxious that the Australian forces should be associated with his advance, and that they should be represented in the operations in the Philippines. In saying this as the head of the Government, I was certain that 1 was expressing the overwhelming view of i hp Australian people. General MacArthur expressed his appreciation, and said that he would keep me fully informed of his plans, so that I should lie in a position to express agreement or otherwise. I shall explain later how our non-participation in the Philippines campaign was entirely due to the great and rapid success of the earlier phases of the operations.
Early in July, 1944, I reported my discussions with General MacArthur to War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. Both of those bodies considered that, in regard to the operations against the Philippines, there should be no variation of the existing assignment to General MacArthur of the operational control of the Australian forces. General MacArthur and General Blarney were informed of this decision. In July. 1944.
General MacArthur issued instructions to General Blarney, and stated that the advance to the Philippines necessitated a redistribution of forces and combat, missions in the South-West Pacific Area, in order to make available forces with which r,o continue the offensive. He desired the Australian forces to relieve the American forces, and to take over from them in Australian and British territory and mandates .in the South-West Pacific Area, and approved the strength of the forces to be provided in those regions. General MacArthur also asked that, in addition, two divisions should be made available for the advance to the Philippines. A time-table was laid down for those steps. The Government considered that it was both logical and appropriate that Australian forces should take over the islands which formed a part of our outer screen of defence- and which were mostly our territory. In addition, we would have two divisions for the spearhead offensive, and this would ensure the Australian flag going forward with that of the United- States of America.
On the 7th September, 1944, General Blaine) attended the War Council and outlined the re-distribution of land forces being made to comply with General MacArthur’s directions. In regard to operations, he referred to Bougainville and said that the Japanese were getting a fair amount of supply from the country itself. The Torokina perimeter had been an inactive area since it was established by the United .States forces. Their aim had been merely to establish a base, but General .Sir Thomas Blarney stated, that perhaps Australian forces would not be quite so passive.
On the 21st September, 1944, General Blame) again attended the War Council when there was a discussion on the part t.o be played by the Australians in New Guinea and adjacent islands. He indicated that large-scale active operations were not contemplated at present. Enemy strength and positions would be probed, and the extent of further operations would then be determined. The Advisory War Council considered it advisable that the public should be authoritatively informed as to the part to be played by Australian forces in these operations, and it was agreed that General Blarney should make a broadcast on this subject, including such information as to the strength and disposition of Japanese forces as might appropriately be revealed. In the course of his broadcast on the 26th September, 1944, General Blarney said -
In those territories, according to our latest information, some 90,0Od Japanese, bv-passe( in the advance, still remain to be dealt with - a largo enemy, you .will agree. But they are still 1K),000 Japanese, who will fight to the death. And large bodies of troops are essential to contain them in their present positions until such time as their destruction is determined upon and can be carried out.
On the 38th September, 1944, with the Chief of the General .Staff present, there was a further discussion of the role of Australian forces in future operations. On the 19 th October and the 16th and 30th Novermber, 1944, the Chief of the General Staff outlined the progress of the Australian forces in taking over fromthe United States forces. Operational control in all areas was assumed in November, 1944.
I atn .unable to furnish details of the operations orders issued by General Blarney to the commander of the First Army without divulging information of value to the enemy. I can say that they are prudent, and-, while seeking to preserve the aggressive spirit which is essentia] against the Japanese, stress the importance of keeping casualties to the minimum. Proposals for ‘ larger operations are subject to the approval of the Commander-in-Chief.
At meetings of the War Council from December, 1944, onwards, the Chief of the General Staff furnished reports on the progress of operations in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands. General Blarney has informed me that these operations were discussed fully with General MacArthur. He states that no specific instructions have been given by General MacArthur in regard to them. He adds that it would not be in accordance with the acknowledged system of command if all details of operations were submitted for approval, except when specifically required. This is confirmed by General MacArthur, who states that a local commander in such situations has considerable freedom of action as to methods to be employed. He has expressed the following views: -
T consider that the local missions have been carried out with skill aud energy and constitute an excellent accomplishment. I am of the opinion that the equipment of the troops is sufficient for the accomplishment of the assigned missions and that the provision of air transport has proven adequate. In all material ways, the enemy has been completely outclassed.
It has been argued that more passive measures should be adopted. On the other hand, opinions have been expressed that the liquidation of the Japanese along the lines being followed’ is the best way to free our forces from a prolonged commitment; to re-adjust their disposition to the man-power situations ; and to provide that our efforts in certain other directions will be more effective than they are at present. Some authoritative views have gone so far as to advocate that the whole of the Australian land forces should be employed in New Guinea, New Britain and Bougainville until the Japanese are liquidated. The Government accepts full responsibility for the operations that are being carried out. They are being conducted successfully, and, though war entails human costs in the form of the lives of gallant men, casualties are remarkably low. From the Srd November, 1944, to the 4th April, 1945, we have lost 317 killed and 1,394 wounded and missing, against 5,549 Japanese confirmed killed and probably 6,55S unconfirmed killed.
In the Philippines, the Americans are clearing the Japanese from the whole of the islands to free the native people, to obtain the use of the resources of the islands, and to free their forces from a prolonged and continuing commitment. We are following precisely the same principle, except that by the re-adjustment of our man-power position, we hope to produce a more balanced effort appropriate to this stage of the war. The Netherlands Government is also organizing its forces to participate in a similar liberation of the Netherlands East Indies. There is no difference of opinion between the Government and its military advisers on the use of the forces. The forces located in New Guinea and adjacent islands and those allotted for forward offensive operations are the strengths sought. and approved by General MacArthur for his plans in the South-West Pacific Area.
I now refer to the reasons why the Australian forces did not participate in the Philippines campaign. The original agreed plans for the use of the Australian forces in this campaign provided for an operation against Aparri on the north coast of Luzon, immediately preceding the landing at Lingayen Gulf. The developments of the campaign, however, made it possible to move directly against Lingayen, omitting the Aparri operation, with consequent material and vital saving of time. It was then planned to use the corps as the final reserve in the drive across the central plains, north of Manila, but the enemy weakness which developed in the tactical situation obviated this necessity. The position is best described in a letter from an Australian general referring to his disappointment that Australian forces had not participated in the Philippines campaign. He said -
Unlike many critics, it would be ungenerous of us to complain, because we have been successful beyond our expectations.
This is the answer to the criticism of the absence of the Australian Army from the forward operations. General MacArthur has been so successful that he did not find it necessary to call upon a part of our forces to undertake their allotted tasks. As a consequence, the critics focus their attention on the operations by the remainder of our forces in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons and assert, most unfairly to the gallant troops, that it is unworthy backyard warfare. Some critics even say that Australian forces should be employed in areas other than the South-West Pacific Area. My answer to this is that General MacArthur’s plans are subject to the approval of the combined Chiefs of Staff. They exercise general jurisdiction over the grand strategic policy, including the allocation of forces. It will be soon enough to talk about the wider use of our forces when the tasks in the South-West Pacific Area are completed. In the meantime, I am content to be guided in their use by the advice of the commanders who have to their credit an uninterrupted run of successes and victories.
I shall now deal with the criticism that the Australian forces are not adequately equipped for the operations in which they are engaged. I shall traverse the main conclusions of the Acting Minister’s report under each operational area.
In regard to engineer equipment in New Britain, the Acting Minister says -
The base areas were inspected, showing that equipment of all descriptions were available in quantity. Repair workshops were equipped with the regular machinery and the commanding officer of the engineers in the area expressed satisfaction as to the supply position. The general officer commanding stated that, as a preliminary to the use of heavy mechanical equipment, it was essential for working parties to prepare the way by survey and cutting paths and tracks in interior areas. He instanced, as an example, that a battalion of troops were operating on the north coast no more than 50 miles fromJacquinot Bay, but it was necessary to travel 500 miles by sea to relieve them with other troops or to supply them. There was a native track over the mountain ranges, and construction of a road was under review, butthis would be a major engineering problem of some magnitude and difficulty, and, with whatever equipment could be made available, would take a considerable time to organize and complete. The troops farther away in the fighting along the southern coast towards Gazelle Peninsula were moving forward too rapidly to make heavy engineering use possible, even if desirable. His main problem was getting essential supplies to forward areas by small craft, and not road construction.
The Acting Minister’s report on fighting equipment says -
The general officer commanding advised me that he was fully satisfied with the quantity and quality of the weapons of all natures pro vided for the fighting troops in this area. He stated that he had been with the fighting troops since the beginning of the war and could not ask for more suitable or efficient fighting equipment.
With reference to fighting equipment in Bougainville, the Acting Minister reports -
The general officer commanding advised me that never before in his experience had he been in command of troops as well equipped for modern fighting in jungle warfare as the troops under his command at the present time. He had every confidence, not only in the quantity, hut in the quality of the equipment which he thought could not be surpassed by any army in the world fighting under jungle conditions. He had seen the American equipment and definitely would not exchange the Australian equipment for it.
In respect of mechanical engineering equipment, the Acting Minister says -
There was a quantity of heavy engineering equipment available in the Bougainville area, which, taking the shipping problem both generally and locally into consideration, could not be improved upon. While roads were being extended, our fighting troops were up far along the coast to the north and. south, and it was necessary to supply them with their main reinforcements by sea and air. For the further prosecution of the campaign, additional mechanical engineering equipment for this area was on the way, and the general officer commanding assured me the position of supply was improving, and it would not be long before the full supplies of all his future requirements would be on the spot.
With reference to fighting equipment in. New Guinea, the Acting Minister says -
As in the New Britain and Bougainville areas, my investigations at Aitape show that the fighting equipment in the possession of the troops was sufficient in quantity and quality for the operations in which they were required to he engaged.
In respect of mechanical engineering equipment, the Acting Minister reports -
The mechanical engineering equipment in this area was of good quality, but the unprecedented shipping difficulties that were encountered in this area held up the despatch of certain of the equipment that was allocated to it. For its normal duties as an operational formation, the equipment of all natures available to the division at Aitape would have been quite adequate, but, owing to unforeseen circumstances of the weather and loading and unloading, the division was required to undertake duties that were definitely outside its normal functions, resulting in a heavy strain being placed on its plant and equipment. The elements also were against them, in that, quite unexpectedly, the coastal area that had been used by the Americans for some months after their original occupation without encountering any major difficulties in unloading cargo, suddenly developed a raging surf due to the incidence of trade winds, which made it impossible for days at a time to operate any cargo to or from the ships in the harbour. Combined with this, the rivers, as the result of unprecedented storms on the Torricelli ranges, became raging torrents, resulting in some streams rising overnight to the height of 20 feet, which, according to the natives in the locality, had never before been known by them. This resulted in bridges being washed away, and road surfaces being completely obliterated, while, in some instances, camp areas were submerged in the torrent, with unfortunate loss of life through drowning, and valuable equipment of all natures being carried into the ocean without any possible hope of recovery. At this time, the engineering units had completed nearly 53 miles of road along the coast, necessitating the construction of bridges over 35 large streams. Many of these bridges were washed away in the deluge, and, in one instance, a bridge that had been constructed over 100 feet in width with heavy engineering equipment, was found in the morning tobe standing on high ground, and the course of the stream deflected from an inland swamp to the sea over three-quarters of a mile distant. The engineer commanders stated that the destruction that occurred at this time over such an. extensive area would have dismayed and discouraged the hearts of any but the most intrepid engineers, but the boys rose to the occasion.
The position was further complicated by the fact that, after the arrival of: our troops at Aitape, the evacuation of a large body of American troops and their equipment for the Philippines campaign had to he given priority. The Acting Minister states that at one time 75 American ships were in the harbour, which greatly delayed the unloading of three ships with supplies for the Australian forces. I explained earlier that the releases of American forces for the offensive against the Philippines was vital to General MacArthur’s plans, which, owing to the resistance of the Japanese being weaker than had been anticipated, progressed ahead of schedule.
The Acting Minister’s report proceeds -
The throwing out of gear of the shipping arrangements, due to the circumstances above referred to at Aitape, resulted in many instances in unbalanced supplies. In the normal course, further ships would have proceeded in rotation to Aitape from the mainland with essential supplies of a balanced nature to complete the cargoes in the ships that had already arrived there. It would have been unreasonable for these additional ships with full cargoes, which were destined for Aitape, to have been permitted to journey to that area when it was known that it would result in their remaining at the port for an indefinite period, particularly when shipping was in such short supply. No further ships or cargoes were despatched to Aitape until it could he ensured that they could be handled in the port. Practically the whole of the complaints from the Aitape area could be attributed to this cause It was stated, for example, that engineer and other units had experienced some difficulty in maintaining their vehicles in service because of the shortage of spare parts.
I shall return to the question of shipping after dealing with the Acting Minister’s conclusions. To sum up, I quote the following conclusions formed by the Acting Minister : -
Fighting Equipment. - I feel, therefore, that I am justified in reporting to you that there is no substance in the allegations that have been made in regard either to the quality or the quantity of the fighting equipment available to the troops in all of the operational areas.
Mechanical Equipment. - As is contained in the report, it is my view that the quantity of mechanical equipment is in accordance with requirements of the Army in respect of the operations it is conducting. The labour of troops would be lessened if additions could he made in respect to the heavy mechanical equipment type, as distinct from fighting equipment, which, with the exception of New Britain, appears to me to be capable of expansion. I would point out that the Army has been undertaking the construction of a considerable air strip in New Britain from within its own resources, due to the fact that a Royal Australian Air Force “Works Squadron with its equipment could not be shipped from the mainland.
As indicated by the Acting Minister, the Commander-in-Chief has furnished the following comments: -
The requirements of any particular type of equipment must be considered in relation to the actual situation, which varies so much in each particular area of operations. For instance, if ample mechanical equipment of all kinds was immediately available in the forward areas, a well-constructed and paved roadcould no doubt be quickly completed. In the type of operations that we are carrying out, however, no such provision is necessary, and, in fact, would be a waste of resources to attempt. Suitable types of mechanical transport, such as the jeep and trailer, and the heavier six-wheel drive vehicles, enable us to operate in the forward areas without the necessity for any more than a cleared track. This requires very little mechanical equipment, and in most casesto bring this mechanical equipment forward would hinder the provision of more immediate requirements such as ammunition, supplies, &c. The relative importance of these requirements is not always recognized by junior ranks who comment on supposed shortages.
In regard to small craft, the Acting Minister’s conclusions were -
The amount of shipping has been inadequate since the beginning of the war. This affects the ability to make it available in the areas where it is required. In respect of the provision of small craft, the facts are that, immediately on my return. I consulted the CommanderinChief on this question, and he advised me to the following effect:-
In the provision of smaller types of watercraft for transport within the operational areas, it should be noted that General Head-quarters acceptedadefinite commitment for the provision ofthe necessary craft from United States resources, and this has been carriedout until quite recently. Australianproduced small craft are now becoming available in greater quantity, and are gradually relieving the United States craft in the area. The use of United States equipment in the areas in which we have relieved United States forces has also been provided for underthe arrangements for carrying out the relief and although an immediate shortage of Australian equipments may have been apparent, the requirements wereforeseen and the administrative commitments accepted by General Head-quarters.
The Acting Minister’s report continues -
I consider that the quantity of small craft available is insufficient, with the exception of New Britain where they have ample small craft to meet all their requirements. The reason for the shortage of small craft is due to the lack of shipping to convey it from the mainland to the operational areas, and not to the lack of provision of small craft itself.
On the lack of shipping facilities, the Acting Minister’s report says -
All the major difficulties that are being encountered by the higher command in the conduct of operations, in the provision of supplies, and any matters affecting reasonable amenities to the troops (which are a source of irritation to the troops) can be attributed to the shortage of shipping which is a world-wide problem, and transport facilities from the mainland of Australia to these operational areas, and, to a lesser extent, the absence of the relatively smaller type of craft which are essential to then transport them from the main base installations to the troops in the operational and advanced areas. The Government has been consistently pressing on the highest plane to meet this shipping deficiency.
I amplify the last sentence of the Acting Minister by saying that, throughout the war, therehas been no more vexed question for all the United Nations than the shortage of shipping. There has never been sufficient to meet all demands. In Australia we have done what’ we could to help ourselves by undertaking a construction programme in addition to extensive repair work and a large building programme of small craft not only for ourselves, but also for the American forces. The shipping position in regard to the needs of operational areas has been constantly before the Government since our troops took over from the Americans in November, 1944. Representations have been made to General MacArthur with a view to additional shipping being made available to the Australian shipping authorities from sources under his control, whilst negotiations are in progress with the British and United States authorities for the allocation of additional shipping capacity from overseas for Australian requirements. Also, as a result of negotiations which have been in progress between General MacArthur and myself, the forward movement of amphibious equipment will be accelerated and the continuity of their supply for further operational activities by our troops is definitely assured.
I referred earlier to therole of our forces in these islands; to the justification of the limited operations that are being undertaken; and to General MacArthur’s opinion that the operations are being skilfully carried out. Our forces have won successes and not- suffered reverses. They have inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and suffered relatively light casualties themselves.
– Has the right honorable gentleman the statistics of illness casualties ?
– I shall supply them later. The results, therefore, indicate that there is no justification for the allegations that the forces are not adequately equipped for the operations in which they are engaged and that the operations should not have been undertaken in the circumstances. While we make claims about our nationhood and status, I cannot but feel that we play down some of our great achievements. I think this was definitely the case during the first New Guinea campaign when the land forces in the South-West Pacific Area were predominantly Australian and saved the mainland from a direct assault by the Japanese. The same criticism can be made in respect of equipment. As I stated on the 5th April, 1945, the Australian forces are pioneers in the development of both personal and unit equipment, as well as drugs and medical treatments required in jungle warfare. The Australian Army pioneered in New Guinea the technique of jungle fighting whichhas been adopted since in all areas in which Allied forces have fought the Japanese. All these developments have been made available to all the Allied forces. They have been studied by many British and Allied missions, and Australian officers have been made available to instruct Allied forces in Australiandeveloped fighting technique and the uses of Australian-developed equipment and medical supplies. Yet critics assert that our equipment is poor in type, quality and quantity. I have certainly shown that these charges are unfounded. They are unfair to those responsible for the equipment and maintenance of the forces, to the gallant troops using the equipment, and to the peace of mind of their relatives at home.
In conclusion, I refer to the tribute paid to the troops by the Acting Minister. He says -
I desire to emphasize that I found far more to admire than criticize in the manner in which the Army, as a whole, is performing its job in
New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons. No praise is sufficient for the members of the forces who are lighting the enemy- in the forefront of the b.attle. They have three enemies to contend with - the jungle, the weather, and the Japanese - and while they exhibited the greatest bravery and tenacity in battle with the enemy, I sometimes wondered whether the jungle conditions, combined with the storms and torrential rains that in one night sweep away the work of months in the destruction of bridges and roads, is not the most formidable enemy of them all. For this reason, I think it would be correct to commend the engineer units equally with the fighting forces, and, as I have already stated, the men of the fighting forces wore voluble in their praise of the engineers. . The members of the Army .Service Ordnance and other service ‘ branches of the Army are also performing their duties efficiently in many places under the most difficult and trying circumstances. All troops of the fighting forces’ will, I feel sure, agree with me when I extend a special word of praise for the work of the bakeries section.
As the head of the Government, I wholeheartedly agree with all that the Acting Minister has said. I agree with ut,’ not because I have been to the battle areas, but because, as head of the Government, I have been able to bring to consultation the heads of the services whenever I have felt it desirable that I should see them. Since General MacArthur arrived in this- country, I have had the most intimate and’ constant association with him in the carrying out of the - directive which ‘ five governments have given to him. I have also had constant and intimate consultations with the Commander-in-Chief, General Blarney. I say to the House that governments and commanders can “be criticized. It is right and proper that this House should make the most careful, most minute and most meticulous examinations of the questions of how far the resources of this country are being used to support our fighting men; whether or not there has been any failure whatever, and, if there has been failure, what effect it has had in lessening the efficiency of our fighting men. There is no need for political hatreds or animosities to intrude into this subject, for the men who are fighting belong to all parties. The Opposition not less than the Government would be animated, I am certain, by the highest purposes in ensuring that our men are given the utmost equipment with which to fight. I claim for this side of the House no monopoly of concern for the welfare of our fighting men, but I will accept no charge of neglect of them.
– The right honorable gentleman will when he has heard me.
– Nor will I listen for one single moment to any assumptions that the officers of the highest status with whom I have been constantly in association have knowingly misled me. I refuse to accept any such accusation. I am certain that they do know. In any event, it is the responsibility’ of the Government and not of the Opposition, olof military commanders, to determine the role that the fighting forces shall be given, and the equipment that shall be made available to them. As head of the Government, I accept without reservation, that it is the primary duty of the Government to provide the maximum equipment, of which this country is capable; but war is a grim business, and the best laid plans often fail to mature. The enemy often has something to do with our lines of communication. From the beginning of this war, all the allied countries have been battling against the shortages which unpreparedness inevitably caused, not only in one of the services, but in all the services. That shortage we are manfully endeavouring to overtake; we overtake it when the enemy no longer will be capable of fighting.
I lay on the table the followingpaper: -
War - South-West Pacific - Report to the Prime Minister by the Acting Minister for thi; Army on his visit to Operational Area? (5th-16th April, 1945).
– In view of the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin) this afternoon, one wonders why tins debate has been delayed for so long - that it has been delayed there is no doubt. Notwithstanding the statement made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who represents the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser) in this chamber, prior to the Easter adjournment, and the subsequent statements of the Commander in Chief, Allied Land Forces, General Blarney, it is obvious that r ne Prime Minister was not satisfied. So lie took the opportunity to send the Acting Minister for the Army to the battle!”ronts in the islands to the north of Australia to find out whether these statements were correct. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister had not tabled the report of the Acting Minister for the Army prior to this debate, and so given to honorable members an opportunity to analyse it very carefully and to base their observations upon its contents. However, it has been tabled at the earliest possible moment.
I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the Australian fighting men when dealing with this matter. I believe that Australians are good soldiers not because of their equipment, but in spite of it, and it would ill become me to criticize these men, with some of whom I fought during the last war, and with others of whom I have been associated in the course of this war. For eighteen months, early in the Pacific War, I was a liaison officer with the American Base Forces in this country. That gave me an opportunity to meet and to study the officers and men who passed through that base. I. was able to hear expressions of opinion about the fighting, personnel, and heavy equipment of our own armed forces, compared with that of American servicemen. heard the observation of the practical soldier who had to use that equipment - not high ranking officers, who no doubt would wish to tickle the ears of a Minister who sought their advice. I do not wish to debate this matter with any heat. Notwithstanding interjections from the ministerial bench, I believe that this is a subject which can be discussed with due regard for the proprieties of this House. There is no reason why we should not speak dispassionately and objectively, although it is a’ subject about which a> controversy rages at present. We must explore thoroughly every aspect of thi* important subject and ensure that it shall be given the fullest. publicity. Because of the opinions that have been expressed by men who have served in the battle areas,, and by war correspondents whose job it is to record the circumstances and conditions in which our troops have to fight, there is a grave state of unrest throughout this country generally in regard to the equipment available to Australian troops, and in fact, in respect of the whole campaign in the islands to the north of this country.
Government members interjecting.
– Order !
– I shall not bediverted from my purpose by the interjections of honorable members opposite. I regret that I cannot join issue with them at the moment, although nothing would give me greater pleasure. Thefirst requirement, of this debate is that we should establish what type of operation is necessary against, the by-passed Japanese in New Guinea, New Britain, and Bougainville. Then we must consider what equipment is necessary for the warfare that is to be carried on against, the enemy. The Prime Minister has said that there are approximately 90,000 Japanese soldiers in the perimeter islands to the north of Australia. These soldiers have been by-passed. The Prime Minister has said also that 5,000 Japanese were killed in the five months during which Australian troops have been in action against, them. I remind the honorable gentleman that that still leaves 84,000 Japanese to be accounted for. That task undoubtedly will cost a great number of Australian lives. The problem that arises is should the bypassed Japanese be nibbled at in a piecemeal fashion by jungle patrols as at present; should they be merely contained : or should a major campaign be carried out against them? Some high-ranking American, officers have expressed the opinion to .me that as the Japanese troops in these areas are completely immobilized, and their lines of communication have been cut, they should be merely contained until the heart of Japan is smashed and they can be then accounted for either by surrender and evacuation to their homeland or in some other manner. Others say that a major campaign should be instituted. However, every person qualified to express an opinion with whom I have discussed this matter has condemned the present method of warfare in which good Australian lives are being lost in tackling what is in fact a major military operation. “What members on this side of the chamber would like to know is who authorized this campaign? We have been informed by the Prime Minister that General MacArthur asked that the Australians should take over certain areas. We accept that, but whilst the American forces have moved farther forward, the Australian forces have taken over the evacuated territories in only a minor role. They realized that shipping priorities were such that the necessary equipment could not be made available to them. Ordinary and amphibious equipment has been taken north by the American forces, and the Australians have been, left to carry on what was considered by the Americans to be a major campaign without the equipment necessary to conduct it on a major scale. It seems to me that we have to determine the sort of campaign we shall carry out. This Government has decided that it shall not be a major operational movement, and not a minor operation, except in certain areas. It is not to be a containing movement, but a spasmodic, nibbling action, as it has proved to be up to the present time, with a consequent great, loss of Australian lives.
I shall not discuss the scale of equipment in our war establishment tables, it may be said that the equipment is adequate, and that it is being supplied; but, if we compare it with modern fighting equipment, we shall find that we are engaged in a 1945 war with 1914 equipment. Indeed, some of the rifles manufactured, during the last war are at present being used in New Guinea, instead of a semi-automatic rifle suitable for jungle warfare. The old .303 rifle, which holds a maximum of ten cartridges in the magazine, but usually takes five, requires the operation of the bolt for every shot. The Americans, on the other hand, use a rifle that holds fifteen cartridges in the magazine and requires no bolt operation. This weapon is semiautomatic, and the soldier handling it can get off two shots to the Australian’s one. The old .303 rifle gives no indication when the last shot has been fired from the magazine, and many lives have been lost because men have not been aware whether the last cartridge has been discharged. Even the Japanese rifle has a device which indicates to the user when the last cartridge in the magazine has been expended and the magazine needs reloading.
– What rifle was used in the Middle East?
– I do not condemn the .303 rifle for normal warfare, for which it is as good a weapon as any of which 1 have knowledge. I am referring to the requirements of jungle warfare, in which it is necessary to get off the maximum number of shots as rapidly as possible. The unanimous opinion expressed hy all war correspondents of Australian newspapers and of high-ranking Australian and American officers is that our fighting’ men in New Guinea are not adequately supplied with either ordinary fighting equipment or with the heavy and amphibious equipment necessary in that class of warfare. This may be because the operations in New Guinea are not considered to be of a major character, and because heavy equipment is not available to our troops.
I listened with interest the other night to the broadcast by the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area, General Blarney, with regard to the equipment of the Australian troops. I do. not know whether he is aware of the true position with regard to the equipment in use in New Guinea, but he should be. If the information which is available to all honorable members is to be relied upon, the Commander-in-Chief has misinformed the Government; but it should* not be possible to bring such a charge against an officer holding such a high position of authority as that of General Blarney. I do not wish to criticize him unduly, but in my opinion the proper place for a Commander-in-Chief is with his troops.
– Does the honorable member make a charge against the General ?
– No other country, as far as I am aware, would tolerate a Commander-in-Chief directing forward operations from theFlemington racecourse. In reading the social news from time to time, one finds that, instead of the Commander-in-Chief being with his forces, he is an ambassador at large in Australia, and that only when criticism is levelled against him in this House does he find it necessary to prise himself away from his social activities and take a direct interest in the troops under his command. If the equipment of the forces is all that is claimed for it, there is no need for the General to play politics over the air and attack his critics, because the results will prove whether the equipment is satisfactory or. otherwise. Listening to his broadcast statement, however,I am inclined to think that the General” pro- testeth too much “. My investigations have convinced me that our troops have never been adequately equipped for jungle warfare, and I make this statement advisedly. The ordinary type of equipment has never been suitable or adequate for that kind of warfare. The 55th/53rd battalion went in 600 strong, and, after twenty days fighting, it came out with only 72 men. If the battalion had been supplied with all the necessary equipment available for that class of warfare,such a high percentage of losses would not have been experienced.
The Acting Minister for the Army (SenatorFraser) stated in the Senate recently that the basic weapons of the Australian troops were second to none. I have admitted that the . 303 calibre rifle is a good weapon under certain conditions, and that the Owen gun, which is suitable for jungle warfare, surpasses the American “ Tommy “ gun. The short 25 pounder, too, is excellent for that type of warfare. Apart from those weapons, however, our equipment is inadequate, and it requires more than we now have to carry on a successful jungle campaign. Australia has no bazookas. There is an instrument called a pita, but I doubt whether that is sufficient. A bazooka can penetrate 3-inch armour plate. It throws a rocket that is a little heavier than a hand grenade, and its impact resembles that of a 75 millimetre shell.
-That is for use against tanks.
– It is used for the destruction of pill boxes and fox holes, and it can penetrate 3 feet of concrete. It is also employed against the palm trunk emplacements erected by the Japanese. The Americans are using it for that purpose and also for tank warfare. Are the Australians equipped with flame-throwers? I claim that they are not provided with them, even to the same extent as the American troops. On the contrary, the occasions when they are used at all by the Australians are the exception rather than the rule. I shall now give to the House some observations made to me by Australian officers. One officer described the Australian campaign as a “policy of nibbling” which was costing many Australian lives.
– Will the honorable gentleman let us have the officer’s name?
– I shall not do so, for the same reason as the Prime Minister refused to give the name of an informant.
– Will the honorable member make it available to the Advisory War Council?
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) were to offer me a seat on the War Advisory Council I should respectfully decline the appointment, because I believe that it serves no good purpose whatever, but is merely used by the Government asa cloak to cover administrative deficiencies. Referring to an operation to capture Toll plantation in which Australians took part, an officer told me that although 36 Aus- tralian lives were lost, the only result was the capture of a plantation of no strategic value whatever. He told me that ten Australians had between them one Bren gun, one Owen gun, and a number of rifles. The officer in charge had a . 38 pistol with eighteen rounds. When an American officer asked to see the pistol he found two rounds still in it.
He asked why that was so, and the Australian officer said, “ That is what was issued to me”. The American officer then said, “You poor cow; you Aussies do not have anything”. Honorable members may know of the trouble that was experienced in connexion with the 38 pistol because the ammunition could neither be extracted nor ejected from it. A lot of money was expended and thousands of rounds of ammunition were manufactured in Australia, but the project had to be discontinued. Another officer who accompanied American forces on landings farther north said that the only thing which saved the Yanks was the number of automatic weapons issued to them. He went on to say: “If a like number of Aussies had been engaged in that operation, they all would have been wiped out, because they would not have had the necessaryfire-power”. Another officer said that although there was a. good road from Finschaven to Scarlet Beach, the Australians marched every foot of the way, and were three months on the journey, during which time they had no cover. He went on to say that during that period the American Army was equipped with tents, canvas stretchers, and jungle hammocks, and that when on patrol they wore non-skid rubber boots, whereas the Australian soldiers had boots with leather soles and whenever they came to a steep decline they had to sit down and slide because they could not stand on their feet. Honorable members can see in my office the non-skid robber boots issued to American soldiers and also the leather-soled boots issued to Australian personnel. An Australian officer who accompanied American forces said: “In the Admiralty Islands a body of fanatical Japs broke through seven interlocking defence lines. The following morning 150 dead Japanese soldiers were counted “. He went on to say that if the place had been defended by Australians, equipped as he knew Australians were equipped, they all must have been wiped out. He further said that at Scarlet Beach there was a single line of Australian soldiers equipped with rifles, 6 feet apart. They could not hold the position because of lack of equipment and had to be withdrawn later. There is no better fighting man in the world than the Australian soldier, but, unfortunately, our men are not given sufficient fire-power. When we are told that American forces would have seven interlocking lines of defence compared with a double interlocking line in the case of Australian troops, we havesome indication of the fire-power of the two armies. Another officer referred to the establishment of bases in New Guinea. I do not propose to make his name available to the House, but I give my assurance that all the officers whose remarks I am quoting to-day are responsible officers whose statements I believe to be true. This officer spoke of the great lack of heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, earth scoops, barges, amphibious jeeps, “ clucks “, and tractors. He mentioned that in the swampy country at Bougainville amphibious equipment is necessary. This officer went on to explain the need to equip with semi-automatic rifles men who engage in patrol work. He said that invariably the first man in a patrol was hit whenever contact was made with the enemy. Because of that risk, the leader of the patrol was changed regularly. He said that men on patrol did not have sufficient weapons of a semi-automatic type, and that for lack of such equipment many Australian lives had been lost. Jungle warfare calls for mobility combined with a maximum striking power. The Japanese realize this. I have seen some of their equipment and it is of excellent quality. The Japanese have more modern equipment, particularly automatic and semiautomatic weapons, than the Australians have.
– Rubbish !
– In addition, the personal equipment issued to them is better than that issued to our men.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– The Minister for Transport can see in my office the equipment issued to men of both the American and Australian Armies and the Japanese. American soldiers travel lighter than do Australian soldiers; yet they carry more things essential for their comfort, and they have greater striking power.
I invite honorable members to see for themselves in my office the equipment issued to soldiers of the respective armies. When I first proposed to bring samples of fighting equipment to Canberra I was advised that if I did so it would be seized and efforts made to trace the men from whom it had been obtained. In Sydney I approached an American commander and asked for pel-mission to bring American equipment to Canberra, but he told me that he knew of no way by which he would get back more quickly to the United States of America than by granting such permission. So there was no alternative open to me but to approach the Prime Minister. I sent him a telegram asking him whether be would make equipment available at Canberra for purposes of comparison, but he refused. Indeed, I have met with obstacles all along the line. We were told by the Prime Minister that everything was “ fine and dandy “ in New Guinea. I know quite a number of men who say that conditions are anything hut fine and dandy “. Here is an illustration of the obstacles that were placed in my way : When I failed, to obtain permission to bring equipment to Canberra, 1 asked the Department of Information to -supply me with photographs of equipment, and I was told that it would. Then the department suddenly discovered that the photographs could not be supplied in less than three weeks because of some -strange rush of work that had suddenly arisen. I then approached the Public Relations Branch of the Army. There, I was told, that they could make nothing available to me without consent of the Minister for the Army. However, when 1 approached the American . Army authorities with a request for photographs, I met with the utmost courtesy. They were proud of what they had to show. I have here photographs which illustrate the difference between our equipment and that of the Americans. An enlarged photograph shows some of the equipment used by the Americans for the invasion of Iwo Jima. When the Prime Minister tells us that our forces have all the heavy equipment they need, I refer him to this photograph. He will be forced to admit that our forces have nothing to match the equipment illustrated here. The Prime Minister has told us that the personal equipment of our men is satisfactory. I refer him to the second photograph, which was taken at Gona, 100 yards from the Japanese positions. It shows the sort of equipment which our men had there. It depicts men with a couple of billies slung around their necks, and they are wearing short gaiters as against the long gaiters issued to the Americans.
– The honorable member says that the photograph was taken at Gona, 100 yards from the Japanese position. How long is it since there were any Japanese at Gona ?
– Very well, then, here is a photograph which was taken at Bougainville, I ask honorable members to note how these men are carrying their bully beef in kerosene tins, and compare it with the K ration issued to the Americans. Honorable members will admit that this is not hearsay. I am showing them actual photographs so that they may judge the matter for themselves.
The statement of the Prime Minister was based upon the report of Senator Fraser, a report which will either be accepted by the House and the country as correct or regarded as so much whitewashing. The report was prepared by a Minister who, because he lacked, military experience, did not know what to look for, and when he saw something, would not know what it was. All he could do, as would be the case with any other man without military experience, was to ask questions and receive replies, but he. would have no way of checking the accuracy of the replies. Senator Fraser said that equipment was available in great quantities in NewGuinea, but I have here statements by men who ought to know what they were taking about. Senator Fraser was referring to engineering equipment, but the Sydney Sun of the 21st March last published an article by its war correspondent
– What does he know about it?
– He was on the spot, and recorded what he actually saw.
– Is he an expert?
– Well, he was a member of the Australian Imperial Force. This is what he said -
Shortage of heavy equipment among Australians on Bougainville and New Britain is only one phase of a dearth of supplies - it extends right back to the machine shops which keep the armies in the field.
Australian Imperial Force men who said this to-day, described the Australian Military Forces as the greatest scrounging organization ever built upby a modern nation.
Two engineering craftsmen, a gun fitter and an enginefitter from the Lae area workshops made these points -
The workshops had no material with which to repair 25-pounders needed in the front line, and anti-aircraift guns required to protect concentrations against Zeros. To repair the guns craftsmen took oxy-welding torches down to a Japanese boat - the Kyoto Maru - which had been beached at Malahang Beach afterbeing bombed and cut steel plates from her side and wrenched bronze fittings from the engine-room. They toiled to repair the guns in workshops beneath notices which warned them that scroungers were saboteurs and that heavy penalties would be imposed for the offence. [ Extensionof time granted.]Here is what Gordon Holland wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald -
The supply of engineering equipment to Australians provides one of the most marked contrasts with American standards. Lack of landing barges and unsuitable beach points along the Aitape coast made construction of roads essential to maintaincommunications with the fighting units. All types of war supplies had to be carried over (10 miles of coastal road. The paucity ofbulldozers, graders and other road-making equipment in a forward area where communications had to be gouged out of the jungle and old Japanese tracks conditioned and widened to permit supplies being brought forward restricted the infantry’s advance to 1 mile a week.
A road had to.be cut out of the hillside nearMatapua 2 so that supplies could be taken forward. Infantry newly out of battle, under an engineering section, slogged with picks and shovels for several days, chopping away at the hillside, and graded the roadby hand when it could have been completed in half the time and with half the labour had adequate engineering equipment been avail- able .
John Scarlett wrote, in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 20th of this month, as follows: -
An engineer major told Senator Fraser the standard issue of bulldozers was out of proportion to the long distance covered by the Australian advance.
The major said that only by “ cannibalizing “ their own trucks were they able to keep transport on the roads. This was because sufficient spare parts have never been available. Senator Fraser emphasized to all troops with whom he talked in operational areas the Government’s inability to obtain shipping. Senator Fraser told an engineering major that lack of shipping had made it impossible to move four or five thousand tons of heavy equipment from Australia tobattle areas.
I point out that the Prime Minister made no reference to that matter, although the despatch passed the censorship and was published in the press. My information is to the effect that our men engaged in establishing bases have bulldozers, but they are light ones. If they are put up against a tree, they back away. The American bulldozer ploughs through it. The Australianshave 5-yd. scoops, whereas the Americans have 12-yd. scoops. Our graders are not of a useful type. The roads constructed by the Americans are properly made whereas those constructed by the Australians are not. All these deficiencies pyramid, to the disadvantage of our forces.
My next comment is upon the statement ofthe Prime Minister on the report furnished by the Acting Minister for the Army in regard to shipping. Senator Fraser drew attention to the fact that ships could not get to Aitape, and that supplies could not be taken through the surf because the necessary equipment was not available. This substantiates my statement that the necessary equipment is not available, because when the Americans have to pass through surf in order to land on a beach, they use the amphibious jeep, the duck, and the amtrack. We have not the equipment that is needed in such circumstances.
Mr. A. E. Dunstan, Sydney Daily Telegraph war correspondent, has reported in these terms -
The value of up-to-date equipment wasstrikingly illustrated while I was at Aitape.. Off-shore lay a ship loaded with petrol and supplies which could not be got ashore - except in a dribble - because we had no suitable craft to unloadher. True, there was one boat, but it could not get through the surf when it was rough - and the surf at Aitape usually is. The ship had been lying off Aitape for seven weeks. It had on board 10,000 drums of petrol urgently needed for air operations in support of the Army. During the time I was at Aitape, they managed to get off 400 drums in. three days. Inability to get the drums off had been compelling the Royal Australian Air Force officers to take careful stock of their petrol position every time they went on a strike.
An officer told me that the Australian troops are relying entirely on an American barge company. We have a few barges which do not stand up to the work, and when the American diesel barges leave shortly we shall have none that is capable of meeting requirements. Yet the Acting Minister for the Army, because he has been informed by one or two officers that “ everything in the garden is lovely “, tries to convince us that the information furnished to him is first-rate and correct! It is neither.
The Prime Minister has said it is well known that there is a world shortage of shipping. That is not preventing the American forces from obtaining the maximum of equipment that they require to carry out major operations; they are provided with all the shipping that they need. The landing at Iwo lima furnishes proof of that. The Monthly Review of Statistics issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics shows that £15,693,000 worth of consumer goods entered Australia in 1942-43, and £15,055,000 worth in 1943-44. If shipping is available to bring to Australia goods of a luxury class, and is not likely to be provided for the transport of the equipment that is required by our troops in New Guinea, the position is indefensible. In the light of the statistics, all statements in regard to insufficiency of shipping fail completely to carry conviction.
– Does the honorable member know by whom the shipping is allocated ?
– I know that if the High Command decided that Australia should be given priority in regard to shipping for the transport of war equipment, that shipping would be provided. It should not be utilized for the transport of millions of pounds’ worth of luxury commodities.
The information placed before this House is not satisfactory. The feeling is growing among the Australian troops that they are engaged in secondary operations and. are being equipped correspondingly. Australia is not being given priority in the transport of the equipment that it needs, or the consideration that it would receive were it engaged in a major operation. Any person who has studied the matter can only assume that Australian troops are engaged in secondary operations. If such be the case, we ought to be told, and the Government ought seriously to Consider whether Australian lives should be imperilled in operations of that nature. Either there should be a major operation against 90,000 enemy troops, or those troops should be simply “ contained “. The Government must be held responsible for having consented to our men being engaged in these operations merely for the sake of “ putting up a’ front “, without the necessary amphibious craft or heavy equipment. History will ‘show whether the Government has been misinformed by the High Command, or was aware of the real position but was not, prepared to take the requisite action to rectify it.
I have said sufficient to make it clear that I am not satisfied with the statement of the Prime Minister, or with the information furnished by Senator Eraser. Nor will the public be satisfied. What has been done can be regarded only as a complete “ cover up “ by the Government. The Acting Minister for the Army hu? fulfilled, according to his light’s, the task entrusted to him. But he has not had the experience that would enable him to make an intelligent report to this Parliament. The object of his mission was to support the statements of the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Land Forces. The public will be satisfied only with a report based on information gained at first hand by a group of members of this Parliament, who are returned soldiers. I admit that getting close to the fighting line would do some honorable members a lot of good. There are members of all parties who are capable of investigating the- matter thoroughly, because they know what information to seek and where to obtain it. They could make a report which would satisfy the people as to whether or not our troops are adequately equipped, and could advise the Government as to what steps should be taken to make good, any deficiency that may exist.
Mr.CHAMBERS (Adelaide) [5.10].- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made many statements, but all of them are ‘based on supposition. He told us that he had served in the last war, and he spoke of many things that happened in that conflict. I address myself to this subject as one who served for two and a half years in this war and took part in the early campaigns in New Guinea.
– As a fang extractor !
– I do not desire to mislead any honorable member. I left Australia as a member of a medical corps, t he Third Field Ambulance. During my sojourn in New Guinea I was as close to the actual scene of hostilities as any member of our fighting forces. For the whole of the period I was in New Guinea I was, as much as any other member of those fighting forces, subject to air raids, and attacks by the enemy. Therefore, I have as much right to express an opinion on this matter as has any one who has seen active service in this war, whether in an Infantry Battalion or in a Medical Field Unit. In December, 1941, after the Japanese entered the war, a convoy left Australia conveying 5,000 Australian soldiers to New Guinea. Many of those men had had very little military experience when they stepped ashore at Port Moresby. It is amusing to hear critics of this Government finding fault with the equipment issued to Australian soldiers to-day, particularly when we recall the conditions when those troops arrived in New Guinea in 1941 ; and, of course, those honorable members who now condemn this Government, were supporters of the previous government, which was responsible for those conditions.
– But should not the equipment be better now?
– Yes, and it is infinitely better than it was in 1941. The honorable member for Wentworth said that some soldiers were using . 303 rifles. In January, February and March, and evenaslate as August of 1942, our troops in New Guinea had hardly any rifles at all.
– Does not the honorable member know that? the previous government had sent all available rifles to Great Britain?
– The point is that the soldiers in New Guinea did not have sufficient rifles. Shortly after those men landed, the Japanese began toraid Port Moresby and adjacent centres. For a considerable period our forces in that area did not have even one ack-ack gun. The Japanese were able to bomb those troops just when they liked. The previous Government supported by honorable members of the Opposition was responsible for that lack of equipment. Therefore, I am disgusted to hear them now make these charges against the present Government. It is to the credit of this Government that, since it assumed office, it has utilized Australian industry to the greatest possible degree in order to provide adequate equipment for our troops. The honorable member for Wentworth has displayed certain photographs. I wish that those photographs could be exhibited in King’s Hall for all to examine. Obviously, the honorable member has produced these pictures in an effort to deceive us. He said that in one picture would be seen only two bulldozers. Where, in any part of the jungle country of New Guinea, would it be possible to utilize the array of these machines which he declares should be made available?
– Look at the back of the picture.
– I am looking at the front of the photograph. Obviously, the photograph has been taken in jungle country in which it would be impossible to supply any great number of bulldozers. The honorable member produced another photograph which shows Australian soldiers crossing a stream in New Guinea. When he handed that photograph across the table he said, “ You will see Australian troops carrying bully beef in kerosene tins “. That picture shows 40 troops, but I can see only one of them carrying a kerosene tin; and the presence of that one kerosene tin can be easily explained. The soldiers are given their ordinary service equipment, but any one familiar with conditions on active service in country like that shown in the photograph, knows that the lads go round and gather what extras they can. When they get the opportunity, they obtain extras such as food, and as likely as not, carry these extras in a kerosene tin, or any other receptacle suitable for the purpose. I remind honorable members opposite that the troops in New Guinea had very little food early in 1942, mainly because of the failure of governments which they supported to make adequate provision for those supplies. It is not so strange that lads should carry such extras as I have mentioned, particularly food, in kerosene tins when crossing a stream.. I also remind honorable members opposite that iti New Guinea in 1942 there were no roads and no bridges. It was impossible in those days to utilize motor transport. However, I do not hear any honorable member opposite deploring the lack of military equipment for which the Government which they supported was responsible. None of them condemned General Blarney, or the lack of equipment existing, in 1941. Now, however, when our position is secure they believe, apparently, that they can be brave and make out that they have been responsible for our present security. Our people and our soldiers know better. They know of the deplorable state of affairs which existed in this country in 1941-42 because the preceding Government had let them down. They know what the position is to-day. Although the honorable member for “Wentworth spoke at considerable ( length he did not cite a single authority for his statements. He said that some American officials had told him this and that. I have spoken to hundreds of Australian soldiers who have returned from New Guinea during the last twelve months, and they have told me that the most up-to-date equipment was issued’ to them. The speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) this afternoon contains irrefutable evidence that our troops are issued with adequate and up-to-date equipment. That is one reason why our casualties are so light. I object to the statements of honorable members opposite that our troops are now merely engaged in mopping-up operations. I know what the conditions are in New Guinea, and I know that not one honorable member who has actually experienced the conditions under which our troops are now fighting in New Guinea would dare to stand up here and describe their operations as mopping-up. What I am saying is based on personal experience, not supposition. The Prime Minister instanced three difficulties - shipping, jungle and weather - associated with the equipment of the Australian soldiers, but should have said that the fourth was the Opposition in this Parliament. The three instanced by the Prime Minister cannot be prevented, but the fourth can. At the last general elections the people all but eliminated it and they will complete the job next time. Honorable members opposite do themselves no credit in condemning General Blarney. They did not condemn him when their very lives were in jeopardy in the early days of the war; nor did they then condemn the Australian equipment because they were responsible for it; but we now hear comparisons between the Australian and American equipment. We could not expect equality of quantity, because the United States of America has vast numbers of people compared with whom we are only a few, but I believe that the quality is equal. Sufficient answer to the Opposition’s talk about “ mopping up “, about Australian troops not doing what should be expected of them, and about lack of equipment is the statement by an interjector, “ We are winning this war “. Our troops’ victories would have been impossible had they lacked equipment. I can conscientiously say that from former comrades-in-arms all over New Guinea I have not had one word of crticism of the equipment provided by this Government. My final word is that the Opposition’s criticism of the Australian soldiers, who are doing a. splendid job, does it no credit.
– No more vital matter could be debated in this Parliament than this Government’s failure to equip Australian troops in New Guinea and the other northern islands where they are fighting a most difficult campaign in almost impenetrable terrain, and I am very glad of this opportunity to debate it because Parliament is the only place where it can be effectively debated. The equipment of our forces has been the subject of discussions in newspaper columns and over the air, but, thank God, within these four walls, we are untrammelled in bringing this matter right before the public eye, because our parliamentary privilege protects us against suppression. What we are debating now is not the report of the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), but the answer given by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the 2nd March last to a question asked the previous day by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). I am sorry that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has not been able to remain to listen to this debate because, before proceeding to deal with the matter of the equipment of the troops, I wished to ask him three questions in view of his invitation to the troops in New Guinea to tell the Acting Minister for the Army the whole story, not only about their equipment, but also as to how they thought their difficulties might be straightened out.
– Ask them at question time.
– No, because I have often found that questions are unanswered or meet with evasive replies. In the right honorable gentleman’s absence, I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to give me a plain “ yes “ or “ no “ to three questions. The first is whether he will give an undertaking that instructions shall bo issued, through the secretary of the Department of Defence, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area, General Blarney, that there shall be no inquiry, inside or outside the Army, as to the identity of soldiers from whom 1 have derived the information that I intend to place before the House. Will the Minister give me an answer to that question ?
– Order! The honorable member is inviting interjections which are disorderly.
– I am asking the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction questions which I would rather put to the Prime Minister. If the Minister considers that he cannot answer that question, which has a vital bearing on discovering the truth in regard to the alleged shortage of equipment, I ask him to send for the Prime Minister in order that I may put it to him. Mr. Speaker,
I ask you to put the question to the Minister, because, apparently, he refuses to answer, although I merely ask that the soldiers who have given information to members of the Opposition be treated in the same manner as those who gave information to Senator Eraser. The Minister’s refusal either to answer me, or to send for the Prime Minister in order that he may, will, despite the cachinnation of the sorry, dishevelled Government supporters, create a bad impression among the people of Australia.
The second assurance which I seek from the Minister is: Will the Government ensure that there shall be no victimization of any suspected personnel? Will the Minister answer that question? It is a plain blunt question, and demands a plain blunt answer. The Minister usually does not lack inspiration when he replies to questions. If he does not desire to reply to it, will he send for the Prime Minister, because this matter is vital to the lives of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea ? The Minister apparently is tongue-tied ; he does not seem; to be able to give me the assurance that I seek.
My third question is: Will the Government issue instructions that there shall be no censorship, within or without the Army, of letters addressed and posted at civilian post offices in Australia to soldiers serving in camps, not being detention camps or military prisons, within the Commonwealth of Australia? Will the Minister answer that question?
– I shall ask the Security Service to consider it.
– What threat to national security can there be in allowing to pass uncensored the private correspondence of a soldier, written by his relatives or friends in Australia, to a camp within the ‘Commonwealth, not being a military prison or detention camp? I am glad that the Minister answered my third question. His reply shows the sort of things that are going on in some sections of the Army. I asked those three questions for a definite purpose. Through fear of some internal gestapo in the Army many soldiers will not tell the true story to the people’s representatives so that they may tell it in this forum of the nation, the only place in the Commonwealth where no restriction is imposed on freedom of speech. The “ ranks of Tuscany “ will probably burst into laughter again when I .say that letters received by soldiers in camp in Australia, posted in civilian post offices in Australia, are being censored. The soldiers are terrified.. They believe, and I believe, that these letters are subjected to an internal censorship within Army camps. I am glad that some high officials of1 the Department of the Army are listening to this debate. My only regret is that some high Army officers are not present, so that they may assure the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is wriggling like a worm on a fish hook, that these things are not being done. A few days ago, I received a letter from an Army officer who is serving in Australia. He wrote : “ Whatever you do, do not write to me on paper bearing the crest of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Write on plain paper, and do not sign your name”. Because of the conditions which he believed existed, he would not sign his name to his letter. I know that gentleman, and I believe that ho is perfectly reliable and trustworthy. Despite the fact that the Government will not give the undertakings that I sought, and has one method of treatment for soldiers who tell their story to the Acting Minister for the Army, and another method of treatment for the men who tell their stories to members of the Opposition, I intend to expose the terrible conditions which exist in the battle areas north of Australia. The urgency of this matter has never been realized by the Government. The matter was raised, first, in the .Senate by Senator Mattner early in February, and in this chamber by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) on the 21st March. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction replied to the honorable member for Deakin’s question on the following day. The matter was urgent because soldiers’ lives were involved. If the statements about the position in the northern -battle areas were correct, the -situation required- immediate remedy in order to save valuable lives. Many of the soldiers fighting in those areas are the sons of Anzacs. Will Ogilvie, in a poem in London Punch, in 1915, described the Anzacs as the “ bravest things God ever made “. The lineal heirs of those Anzacs may rightly adopt the title for themselves. I brook no contradiction when I say that our Australian troops are still the “bravest things God ever made”. But because they -are brave and have the hearts of lions, should they be asked to fight like Zulus, with assegais? Should not they be given the modern equipment that they require to tackle their bloodthirsty and treacherous foe in the jungles of New Guinea ? Unfortunately, one month’s delay has already occurred since first this matter was raised in this chamber. During the debate last Thursday, when I attempted to discuss the lack of equipment available to Australian troops, the honorable member for Bourke. (Mr. Bryson) asked me whether I was a new military genius. I have never posed as a military genius. I know little about the finer points of military strategy except those that one knows from his own common sense. But I will say this, and possibly it does not apply to the honorable gentleman, that no one knows of war who war has never seen. Let the honorable member snigger, and laugh, and howl at me! War is a dreadful thing - when seen at close quarters. He will not understand the horrors of war .by going to motion picture theatres, or examining pictures distributed to honorable members in the course of a debate, or by reading newspapers and periodicals. Even books such as Zola’s La Debacle, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and his terrible stories of the Siege of Sebastopol, and Henri Dunant’s story of the Battle of Solferino, which was one of the bloodiest scenes of carnage in the history of the world, cannot convey to the reader the real horror of war. When a person goes to the cinema, he sees the sights of battle on the screen, and hears the roar and noise of battle through the amplifiers; but the soundstrip cannot convey to the nostrils the smell of battle and the horrible stench of corpses. In the last war I was, at first, a stretcher bearer. On my arrival in Egypt, I was drafted to No. 1 Australian General Hospital, at Heliopolis, as a wardsman. Only ten -months previously the building had been a casino, the centre of probably the most fashionable gatherings in Europe. At night, diamonds had flashed and glittered among the fashionablydressed crowd, and gambling and gaiety of the type which some people find very attractive held sway. But, as a wardsman, I heard not the music of a jazz orchestra, but the groans of wounded and dying men. [ shall describe some scenes that are etched upon my memory in such a. way that they will never disappear. I remember night after night attending to men-
– What has that got to do with this war?
– Does not the honorable gentleman realize that men are wounded and die in all wars? Does he not understand that I am describing actual experiences? I have in my mind one Australian soldier, from Melbourne. [ assisted every night in dressing his wounds. He had one great hole about 3 inches in diameter in his hip-joint, the blackened bone of which could be seen. He was slowly dying of gangrene, and he ultimately passed away in my arms. He lied because of inadequate equipment to bring wounded men back from Gallipoli to hospital. I have in mind, also, a great, strong man of the South Wales Borderers in the 29th Division. He suffered from blood poisoning and died slowly, in terrible agony, because of inadequate medical equipment for treating such cases.
After my experiences in the hospital in Egypt I went as a stretcher bearer to Gallipoli and saw stark death in the trenches and on the beaches. In war men die not only from bullets, bayonets and shell fire but also from disease. It is not a pretty sight to see, as I have seen, men dying from dysentery or dying while they are on the latrines. I think of the conditions that existed on the Aquitania as she brought away wounded and sick men from Gallipoli. I saw ten corpses a day passed over the side of the vessel. My final reference to my own experience relates to actual combat in the battle of the Somme. I submit this vignette to the House in order to show the necessity for providing absolutely the best possible equipment for our troops. I have in mind a small’ place where some of the hottest fighting of the Battle of the Somme occurred. I remember going forward to look for an observation post, and I came across a mass of corpses of men lying head to toe. They had been shot down three or four days earlier, and there had been no opportunity to bury them. It was a cold morning and the dead men still had the white rime on their chins. That was not a pretty sight.
I do not desire such experiences to occur unnecessarily in New Guinea. There is enough inevitable suffering in the dreadful drama of war without adding to it by failure, on the part of governments or persons in authority, to t;ike every possible step to ensure that equipment shall be available, and that lives shall not be lost unnecessarily.
In discussing this subject I realize that I am addressing an audience far larger than that immediately before me. I 3ny to the mothers of Australia that I believe on the evidence submitted to me, and that presented to the House this afternoon, that there has been the grossest mismanagement in New Guinea. I say to the mothers of Australia what was said by probably one of the greatest of Englishmen, Ruskin, in an address on “War” delivered at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich about the middle of the last century, and published in his volume The Crown of Wild Olive, that the women of England and pf Europe, if they would make a stand, could put a stop to all wars. I hope that the mothers of Australia will make such a stand that they will cause the members of this Government to cringe and whine and shake in their shoes for having sent our men to forward areas without proper and adequate equipment.
No troops can fight without proper equipment and without the means to prevent unnecessary suffering. On 1)he 22nd March the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) denied without any equivocation whatever, and the Prime Minister has also denied this afternoon, that there has been any shortage of equipment. In case honorable members are a little short in their memories, I shall refer them to the Hansard report of the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Unlike some honorable members, I shall not delve into the pages of old Hansards. I am concerned, at the moment, not with past experiences, but with the necessity to do everything possible to preserve the lives of the Australians fighting in New Guinea. I shall read extracts from the Minister’s speech in order to refresh their minds.
The honorable gentleman said on the 22nd March-
I have consulted the Acting Minister for the Army, and now state that the Australian military forces are fully equipped according to the establishment and equipment tables-
I ask honorable members to mark those words carefully. Later in my speech I shall give details which will demonstrate beyond question that that statement was false. I shall refer to Australian troops in parts of the New Guinea area which the Acting Minister for the Army did not visit. I have studied the honorable gentleman’s itinerary, and therefore I know that he did not visit those areas, where it was very dangerous indeed to go.
– That is just what we would expect from the honorable member
– It is a filthy remark.
– It is the most unworthy imputation I have ever heard in this House.
– The statement of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction proceeded - which have been progressively expanded and brought up to date throughout the war, and particularly in the light of operational experience in jungle warfare. These equipment tables have been designed to save man-power, as well as lives which otherwise might be unnecessarily expended in operations against the enemy.
I ask that that remark also be noted. The Minister went on -
The provision by the Government for the equipment of our forces has no “pinch-penny” basis. On the contrary, the best and most modern equipment for tropical warfare is being provided twice and even thrice, so that whatever contingency may arise the troops will have adequate reserves and replacements upon which to draw.
That is the story which the Minister told to the House on the 22nd March. It differs somewhat from the statement made this afternoon by the Prime Minister, in whose speech there were certain admissions. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction stated, without any reservation or equivocation, that there was no shortage of equipment, and he spoke on behalf of the Acting Minister for the Army, the Commanding Officers, and the heads of various departments. He went on to say -
The first, and probably the most important, factor is that of terrain.
Later the Minister said -
For instance, in the swamps and razorback of Bougainville, where our troops in five months have recaptured one-third of the islands by swift drives north and south much tilling in of swamps and cutting down of hills would have been necessary before heavy equipment could be moved forward sufficiently to be of reasonable value to our advance. . . Similar conditions exist in the Aitape area of New Guinea.
The honorable gentleman said further -
From that statement one would think that this type of equipment could not be used in any of the terrain in which the Australian forces are fighting. Quoting a correspondent writing from Bougainville the Minister went on to say -
This sort of joh could only be done the waxit is being done, even though it is the hard way.
The Minister said also -
Australian troops, however, benefited by such circumstances in November last when a purely Australian base was established after the landing of an Australian force at Jacquinot Bay, New Britain.
Then, in the picturesque language which his countryman Robert Burns might have used, the Minister said -
There, swiftly, competently and effectively, they carved out a base making extensive use of mechanical equipment, and their headquarters area does not lose in comparison with the American equivalent.
I shall have something more to say about these matters, but first I should like honorable members to bear clearly in. mind the Minister’s claims - twice or thrice the equipment necessary; war equipment tables continuously brought up to date; the swift carving out of a base with the extensive use of mechanical equipment ; and favorable conditions at Jacquinot Bay. I could tell the Minister how much equipment there was at Jacquinot Bay for the first few weeks. The Minister said further -
The Commonwealth Government does not and will not neglect the needs of Australia’s fighting men.
So mindful has the Government been of Australia’s fighting men that very few Ministers have ever visited the forward areas to see the conditions for themselves.
Then the Prime Minister himself said -
In his speech to-day the right honorable gentleman went even further. He said that he was completely satisfied from the report of the Acting Minister for the Army that the Australian troops were fully equipped. The evidence which 1 shall adduce will show that there is quite a lot wrong with the equipment of our troops in the northern battle areas. My first quotation is from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st March. In that journal, John Scarlett, a New Guinea war correspondent, stated -
It is only the guts and push of our frontline troops which have enabled them to overcome the obstacles that confronted them for so long.
Everywhere in forward areas, improvisation is the order of the day.
That was not written in November, 1944.
– Does the honorable member call that evidence? Would it be admitted as evidence in a court of law?
– It is as good as the evidence of the Acting Minister for the Army.
– It would be considered better evidence than that of a witness who treated a court with contempt by refusing to answer questions as the Minister for PostwarReconstruction has done.
– I am not in a court of law.
– The Minister ought to be. The correspondent wrote further -
Many tent shelter halves are not waterproof.
Surely that is definite evidence. If the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction believes that Mr. Scarlett was lying, let him prosecute the correspondent for having made untrue statements. Let the Government use some of its sleuth-hounds of the Criminal Investigation Branch as they have been used recently in circumstances to which I need not refer. The correspondent continues -
It is to be hoped new model watercraft expectedsoon are an improvement on the early models in heavy surf.
An American barge skipper told me recently while we watched Australians unloading his bargeas it shuddered and tossed at the edge of the usual big surf, “ Our guys would cry from here toFrisco under these conditions “. That was not a crack at his own troops. It was a tribute for our men from one competent to criticize.
Then Mr. Scarlett tells his own story, and surely this must be accepted as evidence because he uses the personal pronoun “ I “. He says -
Yesterday I stood by the surf at the mouth of a flooded river. With the water swirling to their shoulders infantrymen were towing and pushing a raft to the opposite bank. The raft was made of big logs lashed to 44-gallon drums to float it.
They had loaded it high with kits belonging to others who had already waded across. Big breakers thundered on the black beach, and as the spread of the waves gushed over the sand pits and up the river mouth the men were hard put to control their raft.
An engineer officer said, “ I’ve got floating equipment for only a 100-ft. gap, and we’ve crossed 30 decent sized rivers”.
Perhaps the Minister will say also that this statement is not evidence -
He added that over 70 miles of road he had seen only four bulldozers. A 30-mile stretch was worked by one grader drawn by an outofdate tractor.
Yet the Minister claims that in these areas the terrain is unsuitable for the use of mechanical equipment! The Acting Minister for the Army could have bought his whitewash in Australia and saved the country the expense of transporting him to and from tie battle areas. There are some honorable members opposite, such as the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), who have had some association with the road-making activities of shire councils in their own electorates. They know quite well that if any modern shire council were so recreant to its trust to the ratepayers as to endeavour to carry on its job with inferior road-making equipment, the councillors would go out of office at the next elections just as honorable members opposite will lose their seats at the next general elections. [Extension of time granted.]
As further evidence of the necessary equipment which our forces lack, I shall quote from an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th March last, under the heading “A.I.F. lacks necessary equipment”. The war correspondent in this case is Gordon Holland, who has just returned from New Guinea. Probably that is the reason why his article was published, instead of being lost in the amazing intricacies of our censorship system.
He says -
Troops are forced by circumstances to improvise. A cavalry commando unit at Aitape reconstructed almost all its signal equipment with scrounged materials. The signal sergeant remarked, “ I don’t know what we are going to do now that the Yanks have gone! “
Lack of landing barges and unsuitable beach points along the Aitape coast made construction of roads essential to maintain communications with the fighting units.
The most equipment ever seen working along the 60 miles between Aitape and the forward infantry was five bulldozers and throe graders.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– During my earlier remarks, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seemed to complain that my observations were not first-hand evidence, because they were based on statements published in the press, although the writers had made themselves responsible for them. I now propose to furnish evidence supplied to me by fighting men from the battlefronts in the north who have just left the combat areas. I shall endeavour to please the Minister by supplying him with further facts, and I hope that he willbe convinced of the truth of the terrible story about the lack of equipment on the New Guinea battlefields. I shall refer first to the report by the Acting Minister for the Army, and the itinerary which he followed in his visit to the north. Any comments I may make as to where he went and where he did not go cast no reflection on his personal courage, because I believe that it is as good as that of anybody else. As far as I can ascertain, the Minister’s visit was a personally conducted Cook’s tour, and it was arranged by the Army authorities, but the Minister was unable to visit the forward areas where the rank and file have to carry on the war against the Japanese under almost intolerable conditions. To quote the words of General Blarney in his broadcast a few nights ago-
It is war at its worst, and in theworst country imaginable. It is the jungle war of the last three years, fought in swamps, over precipitous razor-back ridges, along stormbattered beaches.
The Minister left Laverton on the 5th April, and went straight through to Amberley. He spent the 6th and 7th April at Mareeba. On the 8 th he was at Nadzab and Jacquinot Bay. On the 9th April, also, he was at Jacquinot Bay. On those two days he seems to have spent 2 hours 25 minutes in. that area, in which he may have visited the front line. Beyond that brief period there was no possibility of hisbeing in the front line. On the 10th April he was at Soraken, and he seems to have visited the front line for 90 minutes. On the 11th April he was with a certain general, whose name, for security reasons, I shall not mention. On the following day, the Minister visited Nadzab, Lae and Aitape. On the 13th April he was at Aitape, and on the 14th April at Moresby. On the 15th April the Minister returned to Brisbane, and he was back at Laverton on the following day. Reading the Minister’s itinerary one finds that almost the whole of his time at the front seems to have been spent with generals, and not with the rank and file who are suffering from the shortages of equipment.
I shall refer particularly to the statement in the Prime Minister’s report concerning the shipping difficulty at Aitape, and also to what the Acting Minister for the Army reported in that regard. It is only fair to let honorable members know that any trouble through the congestion of American shipping in the port when the Americans were moving forward to Philippine bases took place in November, 1944, and can be no excuse for the disgraceful conditions in the Aitape area in March, 1945, four months later.
On page 1 of the Minister’s report he made the following statement about equipment : -
I discussed with the general officer commanding the general situation and sought hie views on the equipment position. He repeated without any suggestion on my part the statement* that had been made by the general officers commanding at Atherton, New Britain and the Solomons, that during the whole of his experience in the Middle East and Australia he did not know of any division that wag as well and as suitably equipped as hi*-
T ask honorable members to mark the concluding words - when it proceeded to Aitape to perform its operational task in that area.
He does not say that the division is well equipped to-day. There seems to be a most extraordinary state of affairs in this area. I have not seen the like of it in any other army, and I served in the Australian Army in the last war and also in the British Army. There seems to be a most extraordinary fear among members of the Australian Array, from high officers down to the lower ranks, with regard to the divulging of information. I shall read an extract from a letter which I have received, and f hope that its contents will be conveyed to the people of Australia. It is from the mother of a captain in the Army. She wrote to me on the subject of leave to the men in Bougainville and New Britain, and stated -
I am sure you will not divulge my name or my son’s, particularly his unit or rank. He seems very worried I wrote to you and seems to think he might get into serious trouble if it were known.
That captain and his mother, and others right up to the rank of general, are afraid that they will get into trouble if they tell the truth. Here is an extract from a letter received, by Senator Mattner -
Apart from the shortages mentioned by you, it seems unbelievable but true that we cannot procure a replacement of shirts worn out on tropical service due to weather conditions. Perhaps shirts are being kept in reserve for another job.
I shall now bring forward another instance of how the Australian troops have been treated with regard to equipment. The Torricelli Range was among the places which the Acting Minister for the Army did not visit. The Minister stated that the troops have eqipment according to the war establishment. He declared that they had, not twice, but thrice the requirements, and. that whatever contingency might arise they would have adequate reserves and replacements on which to draw. I hope that the mothers of the men whose lives have been wasted in the battles of New Guinea will harken to what I am now about to say. I shall describe the lack of equipment from which the men in the Aitape area arc suffering. I am prepared to mention the dates when these shortages were being experienced, and they were as late as March. [Further extension of time granted.] The first example I shall give relates to No. 22 wireless sets, which ure used in in tra-di visional communications. From the quotation I read from General Blarney’s report about saw-tooth mountains in the Torricelli Range, and the rain forests through which our men have to travel, one realizes that it is most important that there should be the fullest equipment for intra-divisional communication. Otherwise the runners would have to go through this terrible terrain and run grave risks of being sniped. In any case the climbing of those mountains would entail the utmost physical strain. I am informed that the .divisional war strength of the wireless sets referred to is 65. I am now referring to the Aitape area, and in the middle of March the number of effective sets in the division was only 15 out of 65.
– Who said that?
– That was said by a man who was in the division, and who returned to Australia on leave. I shall not give his name because the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction refused to give me an undertaking that members of the forces who came to members of the Opposition with information would have protection. Let the Minister himself find out whether the statement to which I have referred is true. He should not depend on reports submitted by General MacArthur or some other high officer. The people he should believe are men in the battle line who have returned to Australia and have told the truth. I 9wear before God that I believe these men to be telling the truth. Yet the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has read a statement that twice and even thrice the equipment necessary has been made available to the troops, whilst the Prime Minister has declared that the Government takes full responsibility for saying that there is no shortage of equipment, and that it has nothing to hide.
The next shortage to which I draw attention will interest you, Mr. Speaker, for it is a shortage of boots for the troops. This seems to be a funny story, according to some members opposite, but it is not at all humorous from the point of view of the men who suffer from a shortage of footwear on the Torricelli Range. In one unit, before patrols were sent out, boots had to be taken from men who were not required for chat patrol, and were worn by men detailed for that duty. The reason was the great proportion of boots which were so worn that it was impossible for men to patrol in them.
– They were gum boots.
– They were not gum boots but the ordinary leather boots. The people of Australia will want to know why, in the sixth year of the war, Australian soldiers are not supplied with the boots that they need.
Mr.Chambers. - What are the Japanese doing in that area ? They must be having a walk-over.
– I come now to the supplies of shirts and trousers. I presume that no honorable member will deny that it is necessary that men fighting in battle areas shall have shirts and trousers. In March, 1945, just before the unit was relieved, an order for more than 500 shirts and trousers was submitted, but fewer than 50 trousers were received, and of that number less than 25 per cent. conld be used because they were so ill-fitting. Shirts and trousers do not come under the heading of heavy equipment.
I shall refer now to the mechanical equipment needed by the troops. A division which went to Aitape had its own transport vehicles, but it was short of spare parts. A report which I have received states that American forces had a lot of surplus transport vehicles there, including a number of jeeps. Tyres and batteries were removed from those jeeps by the United States troops, and then the vehicles were taken out to sea and dumped; the result was that our men could not obtain spare parts from them. I do not know whether any honorable members on the Government side regard that as efficiency, but I am informed that that is what took place. I am also told that huge piles of stores, including wireless sets, were burned at Aitape by the Americans either late in October, 1944, or early in November of that year. The materials in those wireless sets could have been used by our men, but for some extraordinary reason they were destroyed by fire. According to the information supplied to me, some of the instruments had not been taken out of their cases. I am also told that the jeeps belonging to one unit were out of action for about two mouths because of inability to obtain spare parts. Had the American equipment not been dumped at sea, spare parts could have been obtained from the jeeps among it. Perhaps tie Minister will answer that charge, or better still, he may agree that a parliamentary committee, consisting of members of all parties, shall go to New Guinea to find out the truth or, perhaps, like jesting Pilate, he will merely ask, “What is truth?”.
I refer again to No. 22 wireless sets. I am informed that there were no sets in reserve in the division. The Minister speaks of “ twice and thrice the equipment table “, but the facts, as reported to me, show that there was no such equipment at all in reserve. Australia’s youth is pitched into battle by the Government under such conditions.
I think that it will be generally admitted that grenades are necessary for fighting. Early in 1945, a unit which was fighting against the Japanese in a forward area asked for Mills 36, 4-inch grenades. The regimental quartermaster said that only 500 such grenades were in reserve for the whole division, a quantity that would be exhausted by a small unit in a few hours of fighting. Consequently, the troops of that unit could not get any grenades. It may be said that the Japanese did not have grenades, but is that any reason why our men should not have had them? Will the Minister say that 500 grenades for a whole division is twice and thrice the equipment table?
Most people will also agree that ammunition is necessary for the waging of war. The unit to which I have referred asked for ammunition, but could not get it because of a shortage of aeroplanes to transport it to the troops. Early in 1945 a relief unit brought 100 rounds per man and 250 rounds for the automatic weapons, as well as two grenades per man. The brigade asked that ammunition be sent by aeroplane as natives were not available to act as carriers, and the nearest dump was some days’ march away. It took nearly two days to get permission to have the ammunition sent by aeroplane. That is the kind of thing that is taking place in New ‘Guinea, the kind of thing that the Government defends. Lt is significant that the Acting Minister for the Army did not go into the Torricelli Range.
I shall now refer to transport difficulties. I am told that there are two Douglas C 47 aeroplanes to supply the division, and also that there is a shortage of native carriers because the Army authorities will not agree to employ the number required, and cannot feed them. Recently one unit, before it pulled out, was waiting for aeroplanes to drop the next meal. There was no reserve of food or ammunition. Yet the Minister speaks of “ twice and thrice the equipment table “ !
On the subject of native carriers I shall quote what the Prime Minister said to-day as one reason for the New Guinea campaign. The right honorable gentleman said -
Iti the Philippines the Americana are clearing the Japanese from the whole of the islands to free the native people, to obtain the use of the resources of the islands, and to free their forces from a prolonged and continuing commitment. We are following precisely the same principle.
I am informed that the most thickly populated as well as the most fertile part of New Guinea is the area south of the Prince Alexander Range and the Torricelli Range, and north of the Sepik River. The Japanese are living on the gardens that they have taken from the natives whom they have intimidated and made to work for them, but I am told that if we will feed the natives and their “ Maries “ they are willing to work for us. We do not receive their help because of our inability to supply rations to them. Any strategic plan which envisages help from the natives cannot be carried out if the natives cannot be fed. A unit comprising approximately 300 men would need 150 native carriers in very rough country, yet the Army will allow only 30 natives, of whom one must be a “boss boy” and two others for the representative of Angau. That leaves only 27 natives available to do the carrying for the unit. The only way to get the necessary labour is either to submit faked ration returns, or for the unit to share its own rations with the natives. All that the natives need is bully beef and biscuits. The Prime Minister speaks of the Government’s noble aim in respect of the natives, but his Government cannot feed them properly because they have made no transport arrangements to do so. And still the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction speaks of “ twice and thrice the equipment table”!
The country in which the unit to which I have referred is fighting is like the green hell of the Grand Chacao of Paraguay, or the dense rain forest country in Northern Australia, or the worst country in New Guinea. In such country it takes sixteen men to carry a wounded person on a journey occupying five hours. Will honorable members opposite shriek with laughter when they hear that? Owing to the shortage of native labour, due to our failure to feed them, the troops have had to carry out their own wounded men. My friends tell me that if we do not employ the natives and feed them, they betray us to the Japanese and lead the. enemy to our positions. Yet the Government has said that one reason why we are waging war in New Guinea is to release the large island population that is being held under starvation conditions by the Japanese! The New ‘Guinea campaign would appear to be waged to satisfy the personal vanity of certain members of the Government, and others. How hypocritical is the Government’s profession when we realize that not only are we not releasing the natives from the Japanese, but that we are -actually causing -them to stay with the Japanese even though they are starving. I have been told that American barges were the only ones at Aitape, and that they were manned by United States personnel and were not under the direct control of our forces. I am also informed that fairly recently, three ships were lying off Aitape for nearly a fortnight because there were no barges to unload them. [Further extension of time granted.’] The people of Australia should know what is going on in the north. There are plenty of aeroplanes on our civilian air routes in Australia, but they are for civilians. The men who are fighting in the north are forgotten by the Government, but not by their loved ones. I am told that the Sepik natives are intelligent and understand war, but they tell our men thai there are not sufficient Australian troops, and they are angry with us for not feeding their starving women and children.
In isolated areas Auster Cubs were used for getting out men who were suffering from serious stomach wounds and could not be treated at advanced dressing stations. This service operated for about a fortnight. The planes were withdrawn about the 25th March, although, I am told, men were urgently in need of treatment at that time. My friends believe that the Cubs were sent to either Moratai, or the mainland. The point I make is that when those machines were urgently required, they were not available. Although it was said that Moths were to be sent to this area no plane had arrived when my friends left that area. Consequently, men suffering with stomach wounds were carried over rough tracks hy sixteen carriers, the journey taking five hours or even longer. My friends have been told that only one Liberty ship a month is allocated for Aitape. They believe, although they are not certain, that this would just meet ordinary normal maintenance. From another quarter, I am informed that a division requires 1,000 tons of supplies a day for all purpose.?. I have a recollection that the war supply tables put it at 15 cwt. a man a week. If these statements are true, the logistic plan for this campaign has broken down, and, consequently the strategical plan cannot be carried out. This means that the objectives mentioned by the Prime Minister this afternoon cannot be attained until the present position is remedied. Earlier, I referred to the supply of canvas gaiters. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st March, John Scarlett supported the testimony I have received from my friends on this subject. Any one who has spoken to soldiers upon their return from New Guinea will agree that the view of the men is that the ordinary canvas gaiter is useless, and that a special type of gaiter is required for troop? operating in that area. Up to two years ago gaiters of the type issued to the United States forces were used and they were very good, but they were withdrawn and gaiters made to a new Australian design were substituted. My friends understand that these gaiters have been in production for twelve months, but they .say they have not yet been issued to the troops in the forward areas. They say that when the Australians were there, the only way our mcn could get gaiters was to obtain them, from the Americans for beer or money. I have not referred to the lack of any heavy equipment which it might be contended could not be utilized in jungle warfare. I now refer to the supply of machetes which are essential for jungle warfare. They are used for slashing the light scrub and kunai grass to clear pathways. They are not expensive. I am told that they cost a’bout 3s. each at Port Kembla where they are manufactured. My friends- say that no machetes are available in the New Guinea area. A unit of 900 men whose war establishment entitles them to 450 machetes could muster only 50 over the last three months. The unit indented these from Divisional Ordnance, but were not successful in obtaining them. That is the story that has been told to me on the subject by men who have returned from New Guinea, many of whom I have, known from their boyhood.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in his statement dealing with the establishment of a base at Jacquinot Bay, New Britain, said -
There, swiftly, competently and effectively they carved out a hase making extensive use of mechanical equipment and their headquarters area does not lose in comparison with the American equivalent.
Let us see exactly what equipment was used at Jacquinot Bay. The fact is that the area was covered by undeveloped coco-nut plantations and jungle. For six weeks-, only one bulldozer was available, sud for ‘amphibious operations the landing craft was so- inadequate for the first two months that the ships could not be unloaded fast enough to supply small outposts. I understand that it was proposed on the 1st December, 1944, to move some thousands of troops forward from Jacquinot Bay to operations- against the Gazelle Peninsula, and that that operation wa3 delayed foa- six weeks because sufficient transport and landing craft was not. available. In view of that fact, how c»n the Minister declare that, all essential equipment was at, hand at Jacquinot. Bay? He has indulged in a fairy story -which would probably make old Grimm turn in his grave with envy. Nothing that the Prime Minister, or the Acting Minister for the Army, or the- honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has said will convince the people of Australia, that there is not something very wrong indeed with regard io the manner in which this Government is carrying on the war to the north of Australia so far as the equipment of our troops is concerned. The position must be rectified immediately. Parliament should nominate, and the Government should appoint, a joint committee of members and senators, and this committee should leave immediately for the northern battle areas to investigate the position thoroughly. This committee should not be contented to go. on a Cook’s tour conducted by people who themselves are open to charges in the matter. 1 suggest that it should go to the Torricelli Mountains and investigate the charges made by troops operating in that area. The Government is responsible for the prefect state of affairs and must render an account in respect of that campaign to the electors. I believe that the statements I have made to-night are true. ‘Should what I have said be borne out as the result of an investigation by a committee of the kind T have mentioned, it is the bounden duty of the Government to resign, and place before the people the single issue as to whether it is- properly equipping our armed forces, or whether it is wasting the lives of our soldiers through its failure to do so.
, - The issue now before the House is whether our troops who are engaged in operational areas to the north of Australia are adequately provided with equipment. If those troops are adequately equipped, they will be carrying out the tasks allotted to them with a minimum of casualties. If they are not so equipped, their casualties, undoubtedly, will be correspondingly greater. Consequently, this is one of the most important subjects which this House has debated for a long time. Since that is the case, it would have been more appropriate had this debate, so far as the Opposition is concerned, been initiated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). However, what do we find?. The two Opposition members who opened the debate to-day are the two most irresponsible members of this House. If a ballot were taken of all honorable members to determine which two honorable members could be least relied upon for their veracity, those two honorable members would head the list. If the press were asked to decide, and for once were to give a truthful answer, as to which two honorable members they place least reliance on with regard to statements made in this House, it would name the two honorable members who have initiated this debate. However, my strictures upon the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) go beyond the term “ irresponsible “. In the statement that he made to-night alleging that the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) was afraid to go to certain areas-
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member for New England was guilty of the most contemptible, despicable, mean and dastardly action that I have ever seen perpetrated in this House. He outraged the feelings of every decent-minded member in this chamber. It is probably well known that three sons of the Acting Minister for the Army have served in the fighting forces during this war. Unfortunately, one of them has paid the supreme sacrifice. The second is a prisoner of war of whom very little news has been heard, and the third is serving in the Army. Consequently it was despicable and contemptible for the honorable member for New England to say that the Acting Minister for the Army was afraid to go to certain areas.
– I rise to order. I cast no reflection upon the Acting Minister for the Army.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member cannot make a personal explanation while another honorable member is speaking.
– It is true that both the honorable member forWentworth and the honorable member for New England are returned soldiers of the last war. It is also true that the honorable member for Wentworth has, for a period in this war, strutted about in uniform like a shop-walker in an outfitting establishment for gigolos. Neither of these two honorable members has visited the battle area to the north of Australia.
– Because we were stopped by the Government.
– Neither of them, so far as my knowledge goes, has had any experience whatsoever of mountain warfare, or warfare in tropical areas.
– That, of course, is a lie.
– I said, so far as my knowledge goes. I also am a returned soldier. I have had both training and practical experience in mountain warfare in tropical areas. I have visited the areas under discussion, including Aitape.
– And the Torricelli Mountains ?
– Yes. Since the honorable member has mentioned the
Torricelli Mountains, I may say that I believe it to be true that the Acting Minister for the Army also visited that area - which is a refutation of what the honorable member has said. These two honorable members, without any qualifications which would make them judges in this matter, have brought forward what they term evidence of the existence of deficiencies in relation to equipment. What is the nature of that evidence? The honorable member for Wentworth said that a high-ranking American officer had told him so and so. I forget whether the honorable gentleman said that this high-ranking officer had told him, or that he had been told that a high-ranking American officer had said so and so. In either event, a high-ranking officer who would be so indiscreet as to say the things which the honorable member has attributed to him, would not be fit to be a high-ranking officer.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct.
– To a member of Parliament ?
– I did not say anything about the honorable member for Wentworth. What I am saying is, that any army officer belonging to any nation - in this case to one of our allies - who had been so indiscreet as to say what the honorable member for Wentworth has attributed to him, would not be fit to be a high-ranking officer. In any case, the honorable member did not bring forward any evidence of his actually having made the statement.
– That is plain nonsense.
– What other evidence did he bring forward? He read statements from press correspondents. It is well known that press correspondents in this war, and particularly in the Pacific zone, have endeavoured to force themselves into different areas against the wishes of those directing operations. From personal knowledge of military matters, I say advisedly that press correspondents in this war have done a great deal of harm.
– Some of the statements are those of not only high-ranking American officers but also high-ranking Australian officers on active service.
– Order! The honorable member had an hour and a half in which to put his case, and must now be quiet.
– I would not place any reliance whatsoever on statements made by press correspondents who, all along, have been antagonistic to those who have been directing operations in the South-West Pacific Area. The honorable member for Wentworth also quoted statements alleged to have been made by the rank and file.
– By officers and the rank and file.
– Again, he brought, forward no evidence whatsoever that those statements actually had been made.
– Had I given the names, what would have happened to those men?
– If the allegations of deficiencies in relation to equipment were true, would not honorable members on this side of the House have received some letters on th,e subject, from their constituents?
– They have, and are not game to use them.
– If honorable members on this side of the House had received such letters from parents of men in the fighting services, would they not have brought the matter to the attention of the Government, at the caucus meetings at which members of the Opposition sneer so often ? Yet, not one Government supporter - and that includes myself - has received one letter from a constituent making complaints about deficiencies of equipment. I also, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, have a great many contacts among returned soldiers. Not long ago, I visited two branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and discussed with it.he members of them the question as to whether or not there were shortages of equipment, and I did not receive any indication whatsoever of any member of those two branches having received any communication about the matter. So that it would seem to be curious that, the honorable members for Wentworth and New England can quote so many letters and statements alleged to have been made by members of the rank and file of the fighting services.
– Why did not the Minister agree to the request of the honorable member for New England in regard to persons whose names might be mentioned?
– I am not. here to answer questions. The honorable member for Wentworth produced, a number of photographs. I had a look at them. They prove absolutely nothing. He showed a big photograph of a beach on which a great deal of equipment was being landed. I witnessed an exactly similar scene of Australian equipment, being landed when I was up there. The weakness of the honorable member’s case was so great, that he was reduced to producing a photograph of Gona. All honorable members know how long ago it is since operations were in progress in the vicinity of Gona.
– I could not procure information from the Minister’s department in less than three weeks.
– I understand that the honorable member has a room full of samples of equipment of different kinds. Evidently, he has sorted it out, for purposes of display, just as a shop-walker would sort, out his wares. I also understand that photographs have been taken of those samples of equipment, and have been reproduced in the Sydney press. 1 am advised by army officers that equipment of those types, the photographs of which have appeared in the Sydney press, is all obsolete and was discarded months ago.
– I challenge the Minister to have a look at it, and then repeat that statement.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated his case in his own way, and the Minister did not, interject once. The honorable gentleman is not entitled to carry on a continuous fire of interjections. He has given and. he must take.
– Let us look at the nature of the allegations, as distinct from the type of evidence that has been brought forward. The honorable member for Wentworth stated quite explicitly that the troops in certain areas were short of small arms of certain types. He mentioned . .45 calibre revolvers and submachine guns. As a returned soldier, he ought to know that there is such a thing as maintaining a balance of fire-power within units. This matter is dealt with quite adequately in paragraph 34 of the report of the Acting Minister for the Army. I cannot do better than quote it-
At Torokina a demonstration was given to me on active service lines of infantry platoons on patrol, showing how the balance,of weapon fire had been preserved by a proper allocation of Bren gun. Owensub-machine gun, rifle, grenade and rifle fire. The generalofficer com- manding advised me that the troops have a liking for the light sub- machine gun, but if these were supplied, it would throw the firepower of the sections out ofbalance and, tactically, would be unsound.
All of the individuals in a section, a platoon or a company cannot be armed with small arms of the one type; there has to be a certain number of each type. Merely because every individual has not a .45 calibre revolver or a sub-machine gun, is not to say that the troops in that particular area are not properly equipped.
The honorable member went on to say that the troops ought to have been equipped with certain up-to-date appliances, such as bazookas. I think he also mentioned flame-throwers. For certain purposes, there are alternative weapons which can be used ; and in some instances these alternative weapons are better from an all-purpose point of view than would be, perhaps, a weapon of another character. For the purposes for which the Americans in other theatres have used bazookas and flame-throwers, the Australian forces have been equipped as an alternative with trench mortars. This matter is adequately dealt with in paragraph 58 of the report of the Acting Minister for the Army, from which I now read -
Flame-throwers in jungle warfare are particularly vulnerable and can only be used for special tasks. The commander on the spot is the only one who can decide when these weapons should be used, and, so far in the operations undertaken, very little opportunity has arisen for their employment.
P.I.T.A. Weapon (British equivalent of the American bazooka).
A pool of 300P.I.T.A. weapons (the equivalent of the American bazooka) was held by First Australian Army prior to the commence ment of the present operations and were available for use. However, the weapon is primarily designed for a tank attack role and the fuses of the bombs at present held by the Australian Military Forces are not suitable for a general purpose role (i.e., to engage soft objects such as bunkers and soft earth). This applies equally to the American bazooka.
A general-purpose fuse has now been developed in the United Kingdom and 50,000 bombs which were ordered many monthsago are now awaiting shipment ex United Kingdom.
The point is that, as an alternative weapon, the Australian forces have been equipped with the trench mortar, which is a better all-purpose weapon, and serves the same purpose as the bazooka.
The honorable member for Wentworth then discussed heavy engineering equipment. In that regard, I have myself had some interesting experiences as a soldier. When I was fighting in a campaign on the north-west frontier of India a year or so after the last war, there were those who said that if tanks and other modern equipment were brought to that area it would be possible to clean up the tribesmen very quickly. Well, the equipment was brought there and tried, but it proved to be a complete failure. Mechanized equipment designed to move freely in open country is quite useless in mountainous country such as that on the north-west frontier of India, and that country is similar to much of the country over which the Australian forces are now fighting in New Guinea. Again, J say that I have been there, and I have seen the countrywhere our men are fighting.
– Would not transport planes be of value there?
– They would be of no value at all in that country.
– Would they not be useful for dropping supplies?
-The honorable mem- b er spoke of transport planes, and whenI answer him he begins to talk about dropping supplies. Transport planes are generally used for the transport of troops, not for the transport of supplies. The honorable member for Wentworth com- p ared Australian equipment with that of the Americans. The role which our troops are filling in New Guinea to-day is totally different from that played by the Americans whenthey were there.
When I was in Aitape, all the Americans were doing was to hold- a limited area surrounded by a defensive perimeter. Our troops, on the other hand, have advanced beyond the perimeter, and are pushing the Japanese back into the Torricelli Mountains. .It is true that in the .area immediately around Aitape the country is comparatively flat, and therefore -suitable for the use of heavy mechanical equipment, but such equipment cannot be used .in the advance through the Torricelli Mountains.
I observed when I was there that when heavy engineering equipment was required by our troops it was made available to them on the same scale as to the Americans. I visited two areas in the north. I landed at Hollandia, which had, at that time, been in our possession for three weeks. Immediately after the Americans landed there they sot to work to reconstruct the air strip, which had been badly dam-aged in the taking of the place, and within 24 hours of the construction corps beginning the work the strip was in operation. That was a magnificent achievement by the Americans. It was paralleled by the Australians some time later at Tadge, in the Aitape area. “Within 24 hours of their taking possession of the air strip they had it repaired, using the same kind of equipment as the Americans had used. Members of the Opposition say that our men lack such heavy equipment, but if that were so they would not have been able to repair this air strip in such ft short time.
I turn now to the statements of the honorable member for New England. Of course, he repeated many of the allegations of the honorable member for Wentworth, and to those I have already replied, but he added one or two of his own. Actually, he was so hard up for arguments with which to support his case that he had to descend to a discussion of the shortage of shirts. Tt is quite, true that there were occasional shortages of such things. There were also shortages among the civilian population. It must be obvious that, having regard to the difficulties which confronted our forces at Aitape, there may have been periods when there was a shortage of supplies. The honorable member for New
England mentioned machetes, alleging that the Americans were equipped with them while our .men were not. The truth is that .the machetes were manufactured in Australia to the order of my colleague, the former Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and supplied to the Americans by us. He brought samples of these knives to a meeting of the Production Executive over eighteen months ago. Our troops are equipped with them in the same way as the Americans are. They have a special purpose, which is to cut kunai grass. If the honorable member had been to New Guinea he would know that this grass grows only in certain areas. In other areas the country is covered with jungle, including comparatively heavy timber, and there machetes are of no use at all. The weakness of the case put forward by the honorable member for New England is demonstrated by the fact that he was reduced to quoting Sepik. River natives as an authority for the statement, that wc did not have enough troops in that area.
Having discussed the evidence adduced by the two members of the Opposition who have spoken, I now propose to offer some evidence in rebuttal. In the first place, we have General MacArthur’s statement, submitted to the Prime Minister himself, that he is satisfied that all the troops in the areas under discussion are adequately supplied with equipment - and all the troops, including the Australians, are under General MacArthur’s command.
– That assurance was given after the Minister’s statement was tabled.
– That is true, but that does not invalidate the argument, and does not affect the value of General MacArthur’s statement. The Opposition has alleged that our troops are inadequately equipped, and that allegation is completely answered by the statement of General MacArthur that they are adequately equipped. We also have the statement of our own CommanderinChief. General Sir Thomas Blarney. In case some honorable member opposite may say that we ought not to pay any attention to General Blarney, and particularly lest the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should be tempted to make such a statement, I propose to quote what the honorable member for Warringah said when he was Minister for the Army. It is reported in Hansard of the 25th June, 1941, as follows : -
The real question is whether our troops were, as an infantry division, properly equipped. As to this, the Government must depend upon the advice ithas received from General Sir Thomas Blarney, General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East. Upon him, I am sure honorable members will agree, complete reliance can be placed. The information received by the Government is that the condition on which it was stipulated our troops should be employed was. in regard to all essential equipment, fulfilled. In respect of such vital items as 25-pounder artillery and anti-tank 2-pounder guns, they were completely equipped.
Thus, we have first of all a complete and unqualified denial by General MacArthur, who says that there is no lack of equipment. Then we have the statement by our own Commander-in-Chief, General Blarney, to the same effect. Then, in the report of the Acting Minister for the Army to the Prime Minister, it is recorded that in all the areas which he visited every officer, from the commanding officer downwards, whom he interviewed, said that the equipment available to them was completely adequate. If I were to go through the report, paragraph by paragraph, it would be seen that the commanding officers of the many formations visited by the Acting Minister for the Army all said to him, without qualification, that the equipment which they had at their disposalwas complete and adequate.
The honorable member for New England said that the Acting Minister for the Army interviewed officers only, and did not give the rank and file an opportunity to make any statements on the matter. First, is it suggested that every one of those commanding officers, right up to the commanders of divisions, to whom the Acting Minister for the Army spoke, was so spineless that he would not have said that there were deficiencies of equipment, if that were so, merely because General Blarney had made the statement that they were fully equipped ? If honorable members opposite do say that they are making a charge against every officer interviewed by him. But it is not true that he did not meet and talk with large numbers of the rank and file. I have read his report, and I have had the benefit of long talks with him since his return. I was naturally very interested in this question. He mixed freely with the troops, without having any officer in his company, and, with the exception of one unit, one section as a matter of fact, at Aitape, he found no proof whatever of the allegations made by Opposition members. I said earlier that it was remarkable that no member on this side of the House had received letters complaining about the shortages of equipment, but. just before this debate began, there was handed to me an unsolicited letter from a student at Moore Theological College. Sydney, in which he says -
A news item in yesterday’s press referred to a statement by Mr. Harrison concerning the individual Australian soldier’s lack of equipment.
As a recently discharged member of the
Australian Imperial Force with overseas service I wish to say, that, in my opinion the Australian soldiers are very well equipped indeed, and their weapons compare favorably with those of our Allies.
At no time did I hear Australian soldiers complain about the quality of their weapon and equipment.
But, however long I may talk onthis subject, there is in the casualty lists at the end of the Acting Minister’s report a stronger proof than could be adduced by any honorable member in a lengthy speech of the complete falsity of the allegations made by the Opposition. From time to time great emphasis has been laid on the fanatical fighting qualities of the Japanese, and we believe that is true. Had our soldiers been illequipped the casualties suffered by them would have been high compared with those suffered by the enemy; but let me restate what has already been stated by the Prime Minister. Casualties inflicted on the enemy from November last to the date of this report total 5,549 killed in the three areas - Aitape and But, Bougainville and New Britain - compared with 371 Australians.
– Killed or counted dead ?
– Confirmed as killed. In addition there were 6,558 Japanese believed killed. Can it be said that an army formation ill-equipped could have had so few casualties as 371, and at the 3ame time have inflicted such high casualties on the enemy? That is the most complete and damning answer to the allegations of honorable gentlemen opposite.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) attacked me for impugning the courage of the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser). I did not impugn his courage.
Government Supporters. - You did.
– This is my personal explanation, not that of interjectors on my left.
– The honorable member is correct.
– I did not impugn his courage. If anything I said before the suspension of the sitting could have conveyed that impression I removed the ground for that belief when I resumed my speech after dinner. On no occasion did I impugn his courage, and I am well aware of the great sorrow that he has suffered in this war.
.- As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said, this debate raises two important questions. It is a debate which I hoped would not engender so much heat, but with the points that have arisen I shall try to deal dispassionately. The first refers to the use to which Australian troops have been and are being put, and the second, which is minor compared with the first and on which I shall not spend so much time as on the former, involves the equipment that has gone forward to our men in New Guinea and Bougainville. It is particularly to the first question that I desire to address my remarks. Lest it should be thought from the recital given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) - I know that it was not intended that it should be, but it may be thought - that because certain matters went before the Advisory War Council every member of that body was in agreement with the method under which our troops are at present committed, I want to examine the question against the back ground of the total war effort of this country. We know that we have very large commitments all of which cannot be met because we have insufficient manpower to meet them all. We know, therefore, that we are pressed very hard to meet the requirements of the months ahead. We know that we have about 600,000 men in the armed forces of this country. With the war moving rapidly to its end in Europe and far from our shores so far as the vital areas where the conflict will be resolved are concerned, the question is whether our troops are being used to the best possible advantage. I know that it can be said that any nonmilitary man who advances a view on these matters is an armchair critic, but I am fortified by the dictum of many years ago that strategy is after all fundamentally a matter of clear thinking, and I, therefore, advance my views without apology for the fact that I am not a military man. It is important for this House to consider, not whether commanders in the field are to commit our troops this or that way, but what is the total man-power of the country and what are the requirements to which it can best direct its attention in order to make the best use of the limited man-power available. I regard that as the fundamental question . for the Government and, ultimately, for Parliament to consider, and am not prepared to surrender the determination of these matters, as we too readily are these days, into the hands of either military men or experts who control departments. For my part, it seems that for a long time we have failed to realize that the ment sent to engage in a conflict to the north of this country are a large body and that behind them there is another larger body to supply them. The vital question is whether our men are being used to the best possible advantage. That was the first question raised by the Prime Minister. It is a question which should occupy the attention of this House. The Prime Minister said that in those northern islands we were employing the same strategy and engaging in operations similar to those in which General MacArthur’s forces are engaged1 in the Philippines. But is that so? A little examination, I think, will reveal that the two campaigns are not comparable. On the one hand, we have in the northern, islands large numbers of Japanese who must be dealt: with at some time or other.. A subsidiary question is, at what time? Substantially, they are very well equipped and capable of a stout and determined resistance. However, they are in an area which every one- of us must recognize as not vital to the immediate determination of the conflict, against the Japanese. Having said that, I hope that it will not be urged against one, as it. was in a tortuous broadcast! statement by a. certain gentleman recently, that those who in any way criticize the use of our troops are necessarily criticizing the troops themselves. Every one will agree that I a-m not criticizing, the troops. I am concerned with the problem which affects the whole country, not a minor matter of whether there are sufficient shirts or bulldozers.
– Does this not appear to the honorable gentleman to be an afterthought, in the light of many of the things that he has said ?
– No. If it is to be alleged’ against me at any time that what I say in this House is not consistent with what I have said elsewhere I will terminate my membership of the body to which he refers.
– The honorable member approved,
– I did not I will not have that statement put into my mouth. The records of the Advisory War Council will show that, because the opinions; of each member are recorded.
– I thought it was. a secret body.
– Order! This appears to be a triangular contest.
– The Minister is trying to close my mouth by the usual manoeuvre of saying that what I am now saying is inconsistent with what I have said elsewhere. I am seeking to deal objectively with the problem. To the north of this country there are large bodies of Japanese, and our troops, so far as I can learn, are engaged on a progressive offensive to defeat them. In what way is what was said in the Advisory War Council, as revealed by the
Prime Minister; comparable with the conflict taking- place in the Philippines? It must be perfectly obvious that the Philippines will be the main base for the malor offensives against the Japanese homeland and the Chinese mainland. If one keeps that fact prominently in mind, he must realize the futility of comparing the operations in the Philippines with the operations in New Guinea, Bougainville and. New Britain. I am not convinced by the. argument that, because something is- being done in the Philippines, it is the proper thing to do in the New Guinea area. It is true that the Japanese troops must be contained in the islands to the north of Australia. After the enemy in New Guinea had been overwhelmed by the brilliant strategy of General MacArthur, we were told that the Japanese were to bc left to “ wither on the vine ‘*. I think that I am correct in saying that that phrase was used by General MacArthur himself. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) also liked it. Incidentally, he was the originator of the phrase “ mopping-up operations in the islands to the north of Australia “.
– It was criticized in a broadcast recently.
– That point, is easily forgotten. The Japanese troops’- in the islands to the north of Australia were to be left to “ wither on the vine “, and it must be obvious to any one who studies this matter objectively that whilst the Japanese must be contained there and prevented from doing any harm, they do not constitute a real threat to the safety of Australia. Nor does their immediate elimination have any vital bearing on the rapid and ultimate determination of the war.
In July, 1944, the Prime Minister, on his return from overseas, had a discussion with General MacArthur, in which it was agreed that Australian troops should take over areas that were then occupied by American troops. What was the position at that time? As the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction said, the Americans had established substantial bases in various parts of the South- West Pacific Area and Australian troops proceeded to occupy them in accordance with this arrangement. In July, 1944, the Prime Minister said that General MacArthur had issued instructions to General Blarney, stating that the advance to the Philippines necessitated a redistribution of forces and combat missions in the South-West Pacific Area in order to make available forces with which to continue the offensive. He desired the Australian forces to relieve the American forces and take over from them in Australian and mandated territory, in the South-West Pacific Area. In September, 1944, General Blarney attended a meeting of the Advisory War Council, and outlined the redistribution of land forces which was being made to comply with General MacArthur’s direction. General Blarney said that the American aim had been to establish a base and added that perhaps Australian forces would not be quite so passive. General Blarney said also that large scale active operations were not then contemplated. Enemy positions would be probed, and the extent of further operations would then be determined. Last November, the Chief of the General Staff outlined, the progress made by the Australian forces in taking over from American forces and the operational control in all areas was assumed by Australians in that month. When I returned from abroad shortly afterwards, I commented in this House upon the two matters about which I am now speaking. The first was whether Australian troops could be better employed elsewhere, and I asked whether they should be used in the Philippines. The Prime Minister said that he was not able t’i furnish details of the operational orders issued by General Blarney to the commander of the First Army without divulging information of value to the enemy, but he added -
I can say that they are prudent, and whilst seeking to preserve the aggressive spirit which is essential against the Japanese, stress the importance of keeping casualties to the minimum. Proposals for larger operations are subject to the approval of the Commander-in Chief.
I ask: What are those larger operations to be? It is true that for security reasons we should not discuss them in detail, but only in broad outline. However, what impresses me as important is this: Is it intended to eliminate 90,000 Japanese, using the Australian troops that are now opposed to the Japanese, or is it intended to employ additional troops? In my opinion, the proper course is to contain the Japanese troops in the islands so that they cannot possibly break out, and when the war against Japan is ultimately brought to a conclusion the garrisons in the islands will either surrender, because Japan will have capitulated, or be crushed by overwhelming forces directed against them. That is only common sense, and if any other course is to be adopted, I record publicly my opposition to it.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the campaign in the islands to the north of Australia?
– I am not opposed to the type of campaign to which the Prime Minister referred, namely, offensive probing, but I am not aware of the full extent of the operations. The point has arisen as to whether the Commonwealth Government now proposes to dispose of the 90,000 Japanese troops in the islands, or contain them in the islands, or ultimately crush them with overwhelming; forces. This matter is vital to Australia. The Government has large numbers of men in the services. It is futile for members of the Opposition to declare that what they allege is true, and for the Government to reply that their allegations are completely false, because every one knows that the administration of the Army and the other services is capable of improvement. I do not make that statement in criticism necessarily of service Ministers. -As a former Minister for the Army, I know the difficulty of maintaining control over all the things that can happen in a department. However, this Parliament is the forum where attention should be directed to these matters, and the discussion should not necessarily become a political debate. We know that some Australian troops who are now in New Guinea have served in the Army since the outbreak of war. and that tens of thousands of A class operational troops who have been trained for from two to four years have never been outside Australia. That arrangement does not convince me that everything is satisfactory in the Australian Army. Regardless of who is responsible, those are questions which must be faced.
It does not convince me that those in control of the Australian Army are beyond criticism. Some of the troops, to whom I referred, left families of young children at the outbreak of the war. The men are now older, and their families are growing up. They have seen very little of their homes for five years. At the same time, thousands of well-trained troops, with considerably less service than those men, have never been outside Australia. Who is responsible for that? I am not concerned with fixing the blame. I merely draw attention to the fact ; and the fact cannot be disputed. The best use has not been made of our man-power in the Army, as is evidenced by the example that I have cited. It is futile for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to assert that everything is satisfactory in Army administration, just as it is futile for me to defend allegations made without foundations. These matters merit the closest attention of honorable members. More and more, we are drifting to a stage where the word of a military adviser is accepted without question.
– What is the view of the honorable member, in the light of the successes in the Philippines?
– My remarks this evening deal with the position of Australian troops in the islands to the north of this continent. I have said all that I desire to say regarding a comparison between the campaign in the Philippines and the campaign in New Guinea, Bougainville and New Britain, and their immediate effect on the conduct of the war. One must qualify one’s words, lest they may be quoted against him at a later date, so I place on record my unbounded admiration of our troops in the New Guinea area.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, said that the employment of Australian forces was governed by a directive issued by General MacArthur. That is true. But that directive was issued shortly after Japan entered the war, when General MacArthur came to this country. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since that period, and I consider that the time has long passed for a redrafting of the directive. General MacArthur is now so far from Australia that he cannot have any real knowledge of what is happening in the islands in which Australian troops are serving. I have the greatest respect for General MacArthur, and for his magnificent efforts I have nothing but praise. However, the war has moved away from Australia, and the directive governing the service of Australian troops should now be reframed. This Parliament must determine, by discussion, whether it considers it proper that 90,000 Japanese in the islands to the north of Australia should be disposed of now. What is the argument in favour of it? I cannot imagine that any one will assert that those forces, because of their very presence in those islands, constitute a real menace to Australia, so long as they are contained there. I cannot imagine that any one will contend that their immediate elimination will have a direct bearing on the ultimate end of the war. I cannot imagine any reason for disposing of those enemy troops at this juncture, other than that we must protect the natives in the New Guinea area. That appears to me to be of less importance than the major consideration of where our troops may be employed to best advantage. More than any one else, the Prime Minister realizes the importance of Australian troops serving overseas. He indicated that he had made it clear to General MacArthur that he desired our troops to serve in the Philippines because, as he remarked in a speech twelve months ago, our voice at the peace conference and our prestige as a nation will be conditioned by our performances in various theatres of war.
– What rot!
– That is what the Prime Minister said.
– Are not the casualty lists large enough to satisfy the honorable member? If the honorable gentleman wants more slaughter, he should be in it.
– I have been trying to deal with this matter objectively, but I do not expect to be permitted to do so now that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has entered the chamber. The Prime Minister informed General MacArthur that he desired Australian divisions to be employed in the Philippines campaign. Subsequently, he explained why Australian forces had not beenused there. I accept unreservedly his explanation ; but I contend that it is important to ask whether our troops are playing a vital part in the ultimate conclusion of the war. If they are not, the time has arrived when we should reorientate our war effort.
– After what happened in Crete and Greece, the honorable gentleman should be the last one to talk on this subject.
– I take it, that he is aware of much more than he has indicated.
– I necessarily am, but I am seeking to put fairly the facts thatI think can be fairly put to the public.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman could not be thought to be drawing a wrong inference from the knowledge he possesses?
– I believe that that may be clone at times but I am putting the situation to the House as fairly as it. can be put.
We have to consider several vital subjects, some of which are becoming more and more important as the European war nears its end. One of these is how we can best use our man-power. That subject, must be faced. I believe that there must be a redistribution of the contribution to be made by the several powers to the war in the Pacific. I believe, also, that on examination it would be found that a substantial reduction of the armed forces of this country could be justified. This subject is extremely important but, as the Minister for Transport is interjecting, I shall say at once that I do not expect him to understand the case that I am submitting. It is most important that our man-power shall be used to the very best advantage, and that may not necessarily be in actual warfare. The question of the best use of our man-power has become of transcendent importance, and the Parliament and Government must give attention to it in the light of the approaching termination of hostilities in Europe.
I listened without interrupting the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. It. seems to me that the Government, in its approach to this subject, must neces sarily rely upon the advice tendered to it by its expert advisers. It is not easy for a member to check up on information submitted to him by his advisers. Governments, therefore, must do their best to obtain reliable advisers and, having obtained them, rely upon the advice they tender. It may be fairly said, however, that it does not necessarily follow that. Government advisers, however honest and competent they may be, must necessarily be right all the time. I have followed this debate with close attention and it appears to me that, on one hand. the Government has said, “ Everything is all right with the Army “ and, on the other hand, it has said, “Everything if all wrong with the Army”. I have every admiration for the Acting Minister for the Army, who has submitted the report to the Prime Minister, but it may well be that it was not practicable or possible for him to make a proper check on the allegations that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It is quite possible that there is something to be said for the allegations and something to be said for the Government attitude.
– The honorable member likes to have a bit both ways.
– The Minister for Transport believes that everything that is said on behalf of the Government must be right. I do not suggest that everything that is said by honorable members on this side must, necessarily be right. . I am not always right myself, though 1 expect the Minister for Transport is quite convinced that he is always right. On what I have heard, and on evidence that has been submitted to me, I consider that there is room for an independent inquiry. The allegations that have been made concerning equipment have not been based on mere hearsay. I believe that a substantial part of the criticism of honorable members on this side is thoroughly justified. Although the Government must rely upon its advisers for information on this subject, we, on this side of the chamber, have sources of information which are reliable.For instance, I have received certain information from a gentleman in whom I place the utmost confidence.
– Did not the honorable member cross-examine LieutenantGeneral Northcott on this subject?
– Does the Minister desire me to tell the House the results of my cross-examination? I consider that I have said, fairly, that no matter who the Government advisers may be, or how competent they may be, they are not necessarily always right. It would be quite impossible for any one person to answer from his own personal knowledge all the allegations that have been made.
– Was the Minister referring just now to something that took place at a meeting of the Advisory War Council ?
– I rather gather that he was doing so. Statements can be made against us in connexion with the business of the Advisory War Council, but our mouths are closed when it comes to making a reply.
– They can bark at you, but you cannot bark at them.
– That is so. I intend to submit to honorable members certain statements that were made in a letter that I have received on this subject. In order to show that the writer has dealt with the subject fairly and dispassionately, I shall quote the introductory paragraph of the letter. It reads -
I hesitate to tread on this dangerous ground, because the fact that in any given instance our equipment is not as good as the American is no proof that ours is insufficient, for instance, the Americans have a mechanical post-hole digger for sinking holes for poles to carry signal wires, while we dig our holes by picks and shovels. But in many cases the mechanical equipment is not warranted, because there is not the quantity of work to justify it. Further, it is often not possible for us to buy or ship the equipment we would like to have. Nevertheless, there are some cases in which lack of equipment is indefensible.
It is strange that I should find such a marked, parallel between the allegations that have been made by honorable mem: bers on this side of the chamber and the contents of this letter. The writer shows, in the remarks that I have just cited, that he has approached the subject in a genuinely unbiased manner. He con cedes that there is something to bc said for the Government’s attitude in regard to heavy equipment. He proceeded as follows : -
In November, 1944, there were no bottles for insect repellent available in New Guinea. The repellent is a most important anti-malaria precaution and troops are bound to use it every two hours between sunset and sunrise, except when they are under mosquito nets. When a bottle became empty it was necessary to take it to the quarter-master’s store and have it refilled from the bulk supply. If a bottle was broken it could not be replaced, and as one is ordered to carry bottles always after dark, breakage’s are common.
That may seem to be a small matter, but many small matters make a big aggregate. I have cited that passage because it deals with allegations that have been made in the House, and for which the Acting Minister for the Army has said that there was no foundation. The writer of this letter has shown that there is foundation for the complaints. He went on -
In November and December, 1944, there were no anklets or gaiters available in New Guinea. These are essential as a protection against mosquitoes and scrub typhus mites, and are ordered to be worn at all times by all ranks. Yet I have seen men whose gaiters were worn out or the straps of which had broken, quite unable to replace them.
In November, 1944, the issue of shirts and trousers was reduced to two per man. Thi* is a serious thing in New Guinea, because the heat and dirt make it essential to change at least once a day and yet rain may make it impossible Co dry washed garments for three or four days on end. The reduction in the issue was also accompanied by an order that men with more than two shirts or pairs, of trousers were to return the surplus. This is a serious thing in New Guinea, where skin diseases are prevalent.
The next subject dealt with is small craft, and in this regard the ActingMinister for the Army had to make some admissions. The writer of this letter said on this subject -
Small craft were always a serious problem,. Tn November, 1944, when the Americans were moving out, the Australian Army was given the responsibility of maintaining the signal! line between Lae and Finschhafen. It runs, along the coast and crosses so many rivers, creeks and swamps that it can only be maintained by using launches or barges or some form of small craft. We had to borrow small craft from the Americans to enable out signallers to keep the line in order.
I come now to the question of the supply-dropping parachutes. On this subject the writer said -
Supply-dropping parachutes have always been short, and in November and December, 1944, the position was so bad that the dropping of supplies was seriously interfered with. In an endeavour to remedy the position, special teams of parachute repairers were flown urgently from the mainland to make serviceable any which could possibly be repaired. As I mentioned to you previously, this was what made it so exasperating to see them used as ceilings in officers’ messes and in the club at Lae. [Extension of time granted.] Mr. Beasley. - I would keep off that officers’ mess if I were the honorable member, for it is not too “hot”.
– I am quite prepared to rely on my informant on this subject. It is significant to me that although I gave specific instances of wastages of material and man-power when I spoke three weeks ago, and my statements have been met by denials, these have been of a general character, and have not touched the details.
– That is coming. The honorable gentleman will be “knocked over “ on that too in a few days time.
– I hope that the Government is concerned in something more than knocking things over. If that is the only function it is discharging, the people will knock it over when the next elections come round. It is quite obvious to me that Ministers are so overstrained that they are unable to meet fair criticism, for they reply either with abuse or with mere denials which do not deal with the facts.
I have said that there are two vital matters which must be dealt with promptly. One of these is the general question oft the use of our troops and man-power. I have said what I have to say on that subject. The other is the provision of equipment. I have had nothing to say on equipment hitherto, and I have listened to this debate with close attention. I am convinced that the situation is not as good as the Government paints it, and that there are sufficient grounds for an inquiry. I do not see how this subject can be lifted from the political plane otherwise than by the adop tion of the suggestion of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that a committee of members of both Houses should be appointed to visit New Guinea to make an inquiry on the spot. If the Acting Minister for the Army could visit New Guinea for this purpose, I can see no reason why a committee of honorable members should not also be able to do so. This suggestion was made some time ago, but was rejected by the Government. The truth about the allegations that have been made can be ascertained to the satisf action of the public and whatever uncertainty there is on the subject can be removed only by an independent inquiry. I therefore support the suggestion of the honorable member for New England that a committee representative of all parties be appointed to visit New Guinea to make a thorough investigation as to the truth or otherwise of the allegations.
-A most interesting position has arisen with regard to this debate. A comparatively short while ago, the Opposition launched an attack upon the Government in regard to the campaign upon which Australian troops were engaged in New Guinea, New Britain and in the Solomons. The basis of the attack was that our forces were engaged in “moppingup “ operations - a charwoman’s job. That allegation was canvassed thoroughly in this chamber, but subsequently it became unpopular with the press and with the Australian soldiers themselves. The Opposition then shifted its ground, and prepared a new attack in which it was aided by press correspondents, who allegedly had information that Australian troops fighting in the islands to the north of this country were inadequately equipped. One honorable member opposite said to-day that this debate had been delayed too long, and that the whole question should have been discussed thoroughly at the earliest possible moment. Last week, an endeavour was made by the Opposition to have this discussion given priority over all other Government business. In these circumstances it was strange, indeed, that an attempt should have been made before the House adjourned last Friday to postpone the resumption of the sitting until Thursday of this week, so that honorable members could be in their electorateson Anzac Day.
– The Opposition did not request that adjournment. That is an absolute falsehood.
– It is commonly reported in the lobbies to-day that an approach was made to the Government by Opposition members to postpone the meeting of the House this week until Thursday. That action is ample evidence of the Opposition’s view of the importance and urgency of this matter. This debate now appears to be not a genuine attempt to draw the attention of the Government to alleged weaknesses in the equipment available to Australian troops in the South-West Pacific Area, but rather a stalking horse for political purposes. It is clear that with the Opposition the question whether or not Australian troops are adequately equipped has mainly political significance. I do not suggest that everywhere in the northern battle areas where our troops are deployed, every man is supplied to the most minute detail with all the equipment needed in these important operations. Because of supply difficulties it is only tobe expected that there will be occasions on which some equipment will be in short supply. However, the Government is just as anxious as is the Opposition to see that our troops are adequately equipped, and just as anxious to see the Japanese driven out of New Guinea, New Britain and Bougainville, as it was to ensure the success of our soldiers on the Kokoda trail in 1942, and so to prevent the Japanese reaching Australian soil. Obviously, it is in the interests of the Government to provide all the equipment that can be made available, so that the task of clearing the Japanese out of those islands may be carried out in the shortest possible time. We are all interested in that aim, many of us personally, because relatives and friends are engaged in the fighting. It is quite true, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said, that honorable members on this side of the House have not received complaints from members of the fighting forces about shortages of equipment. Indeed, the re verse is the case. I could quote from a letter written by a soldier to his father some time before the question of the shortage of equipment was raised in which he mentioned the wonderful bridging equipment, constructed by Australian workmen, that had arrived in New Guinea. The soldier spoke of the enduring qualities of the bridges constructed with this equipment. Unfortunately, in the big floods which occurred recently, some of these bridges were washed away and now the soldiers have to cross streams by improvised methods. The same flood also washed away much valuable equipment, including personal belongings. That is the other side of the story.
I do not propose to deal with this question at great length. The speech made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was remarkable. I have been in this chamber now for more than a decade-
– The honorable member will not be here much longer.
– Fortunately, that matter is in the hands of the electors of Bass and not of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony).
During the many years that I have been a member of this House I have never heard such a remarkable outburst as that of the honorable member for New England, who, in unparliamentary language, accused supporters of the Government and the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army of breaches of public duty. He did not state his complaints in a reasonable and dignified manner, but made assertions based on statements which had been passed on to him. He was even prepared to take an oath regarding the truth of statements on matters which were not within his own knowledge. He knows in his heart that he was merely trying to start a political hare, in the hope that the people would follow it, and that political injury would be done to the Government and its supporters. This action on the part of the Opposition in drawing attention to the equipment of the Australian fighting forces is belated. When the previous Government was in office it adopted such a hesitant policy that the Curtin Government was returned to power. lt is hardly necessary for me to place on record once more the achievements of the Australian troops in the South-West Pacific Area. That has already been done by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who has told us of the large numbers of Japanese who have been killed and the comparatively small numbers of casualties among the Australians. Obviously, that result could not have been obtained by ill-equipped troops. General MacArthur is in complete control of the operations and on him rests the responsibility of determining where and how our troops shall be employed. He has expressed complete satisfaction in that regard. General Blarney has also declared that the equipment of the land forces under his control is satisfactory. A visit to the battle areas of New Guinea by a party of members of this Parliament would enable them to obtain first-hand information regarding the conditions under which the troops are serving. That would allay any fears that may still lurk in the public mind regarding the supply, of equipment. The wisdom of adopting that course, however, must be determined by the Government.
There is little or no substance in fact in the arguments adduced by members of the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) referred to reports about the importation of luxury lines, but statements of that kind do not prove that Australian troops are experiencing a shortage of equipment because of shipping difficulties. In the early days of the Menzies Government, petrol rationing was introduced because trouble was experienced in obtaining sufficient shipping for the importation of petrol from overseas, yet at the same time whisky imports increased. It would be unfair and a gross exaggeration to say that Australian troops have not fought as they might have done because they have had insufficient equipment. The campaign in New Guinea is proceeding according to plan. Few Australian casualties have occurred and the enemy is being destroyed. I have heard no complaints about the conditions there so far as the equipment of the troops is concerned. On the contrary, the information that has reached me is that the position is satisfactory.
I have heard one complaint about members of the Engineering Corps having been on service for long periods without leave, but that difficulty is being overcome as rapidly as possible. Members of the Opposition first complained that the Australian troops are engaged merely in mopping-up operations, and then they alleged that the troops have insufficient equipment. There is little, if any, foundation for the charges made. [Quorum formed.]
– If any evidence were required of the uneasiness of the Government at the criticism which has been levelled against it, that evidence is found in the reply of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who indulged in a aerie? of personal attacks on Opposition members who had initiated the debate. He referred in belittling terms to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Such remarks are clear evidence that the criticism was getting home. All that the country require? is the truth in respect of the adequacy of the equipment provided for Australian fighting men. Many citizens have relatives in the areas which have been referred to in this debate, and there legitimate concern on the part of the public generally as to whether the statements which have been made both inside and outside the Parliament have any substantial foundation. Reports of lack of equipment have come from many different sources; they have not originated in the minds of those honorable member? who have expressed their views in this chamber. The charges which have been made here are founded on statements by soldiers in battle areas, and by war correspondents and others who may be said to have some knowledge of the subject. When numbers of people in different places make similar complaints, and tender the same kind of evidence, it is proper that the charges should be sifted to the bottom so that the Parliament and the country may know the truth. I do not believe that the truth will be obtained by the means which the Government is taking to ascertain it, because, after all, the chief aim of the Government is to justify its own. conduct of war operations. If further evidence be required of the Government’s uneasiness as to the substance of these allegations, it can be found in the series of statements which have teen, made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers in regard to this matter. When the charges were first made the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said, on the 22nd March, that there was no shortage of equipment, but that, on the contrary, the requirements “ had been, met twice and thrice “. On the 5th April, the Prime Minister made a statement, in which he quoted from a report by General Blarney supporting what the right honorable gentleman’s colleague had said. On the 6th April the Prime Minister sent the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser) to various battlefronts to ascertain the facts. That action does not indicate that the Prime Minister was really convinced that things were satisfactory. On the 15th April General Blarney, in what was ostensibly a broadcast speech in support of the third victory loan, dealt with the criticism levelled against the authorities in connexion with the equipment of Australian troops. On the 20th April, after the Acting Minister for the Army had submitted his report and General Blarney had made his broadcast, the Prime Minister was still so uneasy about the situation that he made a further statement, in which he referred to a report which he had obtained from General MacArthur. It will be seen that since the 22nd March there have been five different statements by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in an attempt to satisfy the people that all was well in the matter of the equipment of Australia’s fighting forces. If the Prime Minister is so uneasy about the situation as to take all the steps that I have enumerated, members of this Parliament, as well as soldiers and their relatives, have justification for their uneasiness. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction made some scathing remarks about certain war correspondents. He belittled the statements of those men to whom the people of this country look for news from the various battlefronts. Of the accredited Australian war correspondents on the various battlefronts, 70 per cent, are either former soldiers or have been taken out of the Army to act as war correspondents. Most of the men who have criticized the equipment of Australian troops have served in battle areas as soldiers. The Prime Minister has very properly set out the position in his statement to-night. He said that the issue resolved itself intotwo questions; first, to what extentshould we be fighting in New Guinea, Bougainville and the Solomons; and, secondly, are our troops properly equipped to do whatever job is required of them ? In respect of the first question, I support the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who pointed out that 90,000 Japanese are bottled up in the three areas mentioned. They are completely immobilized. They have no planes, or shipping, and are unable to obtain further supplies. However evil may be their intent, they cannot harm Australia in the least. They are bottled up in those areas for the duration of the war. Even should we abandon those areas entirely - I do not suggest that we do so - the Japanese there are, to use a term used by General MacArthur, completely “ immobilized “. Therefore, we ask, should we send our troops into those areas and liquidate the enemy by force almost immediately, or as soon as it is possible to do so, or should we allow them to remain there to die off by disease, or until they are obliged finally to surrender? Let me put this aspect of the position to the Government. We are in a very bad way for man-power in this country. Our food production has fallen. Our secondary industries are short of men; and we are unable to meet our commitments, not only to our Allies, but also to our own people. Yet, seeing that Australian forces are not engaged in any other offensive at the moment, we have 600,000 men in uniform to contain 90,000 Japanese in those three areas. Those Japanese are practically our prisoners. Probably 100,000- of our men in uniform are actually engaged in the islands mentioned, whilst the remaining 500,000 are employed on the mainland. Therefore, we are holding 600,000 Australians to combat 90,000’ Japanese.
– That is not true. Let the honorable member ask his Leader,. whois a member of the Advisory War Council,whether his statement is correct.
– If my Leader had to divulge any secret of the Advisory War Council, I am afraid that I would not get any information as easily, perhaps, as honorable members opposite are able to, obtain information from Ministers. At the same time, I am thankful to the Minister for his interjection because we are unable to obtain any information from the Government.
I now wish to reply to the speech made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction who so blithely threw out challenges and discredited the evidence tenderedby honorable members on this side of the chamber. By what means can members of the Opposition obtain information if, first, they are debarred from visiting the battle areas; secondly, they are not supposed to obtain information from highofficers because of the dangerof indiscretion on the part of such officers ; and, thirdly, they must discount statements by those in the ranks ? In these circumstances from whence are we to obtain information? The information we have submittedcomes from quite a number of sources. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction quoted the only endorsement he had been able to obtain of the Government’s action. This was a letter from a gentleman who is now a theological student in a college in Sydney. I shall go a little farther. I shall read a statement made by a gentleman who has already completed his theological studies. He is the Reverend J*. Howe, a former Army chaplain. He was with the Australians at Bougainville, and his statement was recently published in the following form in the press under a Perth date line of the 15th April: -
PERTH, Tuesday : A former Army chaplain, theRev. J. Howe, who was with the Australians on Bougainville, said the men there didnot havethe supplies they needed. His own regiment went into action with broken- down jeeps and trucks which had been condemned in New Guinea.
An officer had told him he saw in Australia signal equipment two years in advance of anything on Bougainville.
An engineer had complained of a shortage ofengineers’ stores and said he had seen the required material in Australia in great heaps at depots.
In the early stages of the campaign there was no bulldozer for making gun positions and no tractors for the guns. The latter were hauled up the beaches by trucks already condemned.
The men felt that they had been hardly done by in the matter of equipment when they knew it was in Australia.
That is a statement by a padre Who was recently in the Army. But many other complaints with respect to lack of equipment of Australian troops have been ventilated in the press, including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Launceston Examiner. We receive these complaints from as far afield as London, Perth, New Guinea, Sydney and Launceston, yet the Government says that there is no substance in them. The London Times, which I cite not as a complete authority but only as furnishing further evidence of the widespread belief that the Australian soldier is fighting without adequate equipment, in a leading article in which it reviewed the gallant campaigns of the Australians in New Guinea, New Britain and Bougainville, said -
They have had a multitude of difficulties - a serious shortage of sea transport, appalling weather, great natural obstacles, a stubborn foe, and an almost complete lack of mechanical equipment which the American army regards as indispensable. But their valour and initiative is overcoming them all.
Their valour and initiative are taking the place of bulldozers, tanks and other mechanical equipment.
We want to know what the soldier in the line has to say. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that not one member of his party had received a single letter of complaint from a soldier in any theatre of war. Apparently, the men do not consider that they can have their troubles rectified by writingto honorable members opposite. Therefore, even those of them who support the Labour party are writing to members of the Opposition in the hope that something will be done. I received only this afternoon a letter fromthe father of a soldier.
– The letter was written by the honorable gentleman to himself.
– It could not be written by the Minister for Transport, because he has never been near enough to the front line to realize what difficulties the troops are encountering. The letter says -
The following excerpts from a letter received to-day from my son in the front line in New Guinea may be of interest, in view of the discussion set down for Tuesday next: -
We are very tired and have dug my hole (for Bren gun post) and re-erected my tent five times in three days. Yesterday were told we had 48 hours’ break. Shortly after (half an hour) it was decided a better camp site was SO yards away, so the day (of rest) was spent in again doing the same thing. Why, we don’t know! Food is improving - for two days running a plane has actually come along with fresh meat, potatoes and onions. ( Why can’t this happen every day?) We all had a laugh when we saw w.here Mr. Forde says we are the best-equipped troops in the world. Maybe they have it, but the equipment never seems to find its way out of Australia. Just one little flame thrower here would save us lots of casualties.
– We would be saved a lot, too, if we had one here.
– This continual interruption by the Minister for Transport is designed to prevent me from reading & letter written by a soldier at the front. The honorable gentleman has never .been near the front line in a combative capacity. The least that he can do is to give to the men who are at the front, and have no other means of stating their case to the people of Australia, an opportunity to have it presented through their representative in this Parliament. The letter continued -
They demonstrated them to us in Aussie, and then must have put them back in their cases to prevent rust!
– What is the name of the writer?
– I have no doubt that the Minister who asks for the name of the soldier would be very glad to learn it, in order that his “ sleuths “ might “ put the boot “ into him in every possible way. That is the kind of chivalry which we would expect the honorable gentleman to show. The soldier’s father, in a postscript to his letter, said -
If you use above, please don’t mention names.
That seems to be a subject for mirth to honorable gentlemen opposite, who are not game to produce evidence, and will not consent to members of the Opposition visiting the battle fronts in order to obtain information. They laugh at the fear of a soldier that he will be victimized if it is known that he has written to his f ather on matters of this sort. Despite the attempt of Governmen members to howl me down, I am determined to read the postscript. This is what it says -
If you use above, please don’t mention names, as my sous say comment, brought home, reacts to their detriment.
For that reason, I shall not mention the names. That is the kind of freedom of speech that we have in this country. The fear of victimization is not confined to the privates in the Army. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction suggested that generals in the field, tie general officers commanding, and the officers of units, had such little courage and backbone that they would not make complaints to the Acting Minister for the Army. What happened to those generals who stood up to General Sir Thomas Blarney? Every one knows exactly what would be the fate of an officer who said anything contrary to a statement put out by the Commander-in-Chief. We know what happened to LieutenantGeneral Rowell, Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack, and Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay, and other officers do not want to suffer a similar fate. If the Minister had the degree of courage which he says that generals in the Army ought to have, he would act at times contrary to the will of the Government caucus.
– That does not alter the fact that .the honorable gentleman is accusing subordinate commanders of lack of courage.
– I propose to show from the report of the Acting Minister for the Army the source of all his information. He went to operational areas on the authority of the Prime Minister and broadcast to the troops the request that they should appear before him and tell him their story. He assured them that everything would be all right; they could speak to him in confidence. Yet his report does not mention the name of one soldier whom he interviewed.
– Why should it?
– Paragraphs 7, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 34, 50, 57 and ‘65 of the report all contain mention of the General Officer Commanding and the brigadiers with whom the Acting Minister for the Army talked, yet there is not a single reference in the whole of the report to a conversation with any man in the ranks. That, in itself, is evidence in support of the belief that the men with whom he talked told him not to mention their names, for the reason that they feared victimization. Or _ perhaps the honorable senator favoured the same kind of society as Ministers who recently were peregrinating in London. So far as one is able to gather from the social columns of the press, they consorted with no less than a duke or a duchess.
– What is wrong with that?
– There was a time, before the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) was elevated to the Ministry, when he would have considered such persons very poor company. The attitude of some Government supporters seems to indicate that they have little desire to obtain accurate information. This is a matter which should not be made a political football, and in order to remove it from the arena of party politics, I suggest that the Government should arrange for a parliamentary committee, representing all parties, to visit the battlefront and find out for themselves what the conditions are. Either the Government has something to hide or it has not. If it has nothing to hide there is no reason why it should prevent members of Parliament from visiting the forward areas. We know that members of the American Congress are to-day visiting European battlefields and other areas where American soldiers are engaged. It is not very long ago since five American senators visited Australia and the northern battle area in the course of a tour which took in. all the American battlefronts. They visited New Guinea, where our own members of Parliament are not allowed to go, and upon their return to the United States of America they reported to the Senate. If it is good enough for the Americans to send their parliamentary representatives thousands of miles in Liberator aeroplanes to visit the battlefronts, it ought to bc possible for members of the Commonwealth Parliament to visit areas just beyond the tip of Cape York. It is strange that while members of the Commonwealth Parliament are refused permission to visit operational areas, Bob Dyer and his concert party are permitted to go, and arrangements are made for the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakehurst, and his lady, to visit the troops. If that can be done it ought to be possible to arrange for members of this Parliament to visit and interview troops on the battlefront so that they may inform themselves of conditionsthere. Why is this permission refused? Apparently it is refused because there issomething which the Government does not want members of the Opposition to see.
– The honorable member should realize that every member of Parliament who goes to the battlefront prevents a soldier from returning to Australia on leave.
– If men are being: denied leave for lack of transport, then there is a story to be told in that connexion, and I propose to tell it.
– The honorable member wants to make the position worse by sending members of Parliament up north . on joy rides.
– The Government could do much, more in the way of providing amenities and leave for the troops if it acted with determination and used some imagination. The fact is that a good many members of the Government are not pulling their weight. There isalmost a constant procession of Ministers going abroad. As fast as one comes back another goes. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) had just returned from the United States of” America when a delegation went over to New Zealand. I sympathize with those Ministers who are bearing theburden of administration - and I do not mean the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) or the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Those who are bearing thebrunt are undoubtedly overworked, and they are not able to give their attention to matters which are vitally affecting - Australians. [.Extension of time granted.]’
I have obtained, information, regarding, deficiencies of-“ equipment from men whom I firmly believe told me the truth. They are in a position to know the truth. They came to me, not for political reasons’, but because they thought, that somebodyought to do something; about it, and because, they believed that I, as their, representative- in this- Parliament, was the proper person to hear their story. My informants are officers^ and if. the Acting Minister for the Army accuses them of betraying a trust by speaking to me as they did, he can. have it that way. If there is no way in which members of the forces can reveal what they believe to be wrong, if. they are not allowed to bring such matters, to the attention of their parliamentary representatives,, then there is an end to freedom.
– I said that it was indiscreet for a high ranking officer in the service of an ally to make insinuations about our services.
– The statements which I am about to make can be checked by the Department of the Army, because r propose to mention the names of corps and divisions. I believe that the commander in the field should have authority to spend money upon obtaining what he regards as necessary equipment. At the present time he is - limited to the expenditure of a. certain amount: - I do not know just how much, but it is something less than £1,000. I know of instances in which purchases which would not have involved the expenditure of £1,000 could not be made by a commander in New Guinea upon whom rested the responsibility for’ the success of, an action. He had te send to Land. Headquarters: in Melbourne for- authority to purchase such things as gaiters and atebrine. I have here one of the standard atebrine tins issued to all Australian troops, Atebrine, as honorable members know, is a.) drug used, for the control of malaria. Troops, are supposed to carry a supply of this drug in all circumstances, and to prevent it from becoming wet. It is practically a military offence to be without, atebrine, and the tin I now produce is a sample of the container in which the- troops have to carry it. On the other’ hand, the Americans are issued, with, a neat, screw-top container made of bakelite. Well, the Australian commander in the area wanted 10,000 containers of the- American type. That would not have cost more than a- few hundred pounds. To order them he had to send to Land Head-quarters, Melbourne. When he got an answer after waiting weeks, he was told that the tins used by the Australians- were good enough. The Minister can check that statement and’ find whether’ it is true or not. For the construction of” a telephone line from Nadzab to Lae,- the Second Corps desired to obtain some post-hole daggers and post-erectors f rom the Americans. Those hole-diggers- and post-erectors- are rather marvellous. They make post holes as easily as a hole is made in cheese, and up go the- poles:
– Even if the country is hard1 rock, as that country is ?’ I have seen it.
– The best person to determine whether the country was suitable for the use of that equipment was the commander in the field who requisitioned for the equipment to do the job. It’ took so- long for the authority to purchase the equipment that when it did arrive the work had, been done with Australian sweat and brawn. That is what, the Australians are supposed to do - use sweat and brawn !
– That statement is quite untrue-, because the commander on the spot has the authority to spend the -money involved without referring to any one.
– From my information, what the Minister says is quite untrue.
– I am a. member of the Advisory War Council and ought to know.
– And the Minister should not make statements contrary- to the information given to me by a staff officer. What he wants to know is their names in order that they may be victimized.
– I do not; but, does, the honorable gentleman consider that, he ought to take the word of an officer who would tell him. that?
– ‘Well, I do not. I have a higher standard, of ethics than hia..
– The staff officer who told me that Australians had to use muscles, sinews and sweat, because he could not get authority from Melbourne to purchase post-hole diggers on the spot from the Americans, did a national service. He has betrayed no secret; it is well known to every one. But that is only, a minor item. Another instance is that the Second Corps wanted 10,000 gaiters of the American type, which gives much better, protection in swampy country against mosquitoes and other pests. First Army Head-quarters agreed to the proposal, but had to refer it to Land Head-quarters, Melbourne.So long did consideration of the requisition take that when approval was ultimately received the Americans had disposed of the gaiters elsewhere. Yet. the Minister has the audacity to make what I know to be the incorrect statement that the commanding officer has. the authority to purchase. If so, he was unable to exercise it, because the troops did not get the gaiters, in spite of the nominal amount of money involved. I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of my information, and I have been told that the procedure in these matters is that the Commander of the Second Corps at Bougainville has to write to the First Army Head-quarters at Eae which communicates with Land Head-quarters, Melbourne, which says “ Yes “ or “No”, or asks for further information.
– How long does that take?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman how long it takes. Land Head-quarters, Melbourne, then communicates with Advanced Land Headquarters at Hollandia. I understand that if the answer is “Yes”, Advanced Land Head-quarters then approach the American Head-quarters, which used to be at Bougainville, but is now at Leyte, to issue instructions to supply. That is the procedure through which the commander has to go to get simple things like gaiters or atebrine containers. The Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) smiles, and I do not blame him. The procedure which has to be gone through would make any one smile. After all that procedure had been gone through Australian troops were denied 10,000 gaiters because of the necessity to adhere to it.
– And! the Minister defends it-!
Mr.Dedman. - The honorable member for Richmond is treating the whole business as a farce.
– I am glad of that interjection. I agree that the account I have given would be farcical but for its truth. I challenge the Minister to make full inquiries, and then make a statement as to what is the procedure.
– Suppose that there are two divisions in a. corps and that the commander of one says, “ I want American gaiters-“, and the other says, “ Our own are better than the American “.
– And suppose that through the ineptitude of this Government our troops have to go into the jungle bare-footed. The American authorities are willing to deal with corps commanders direct, from what I am told, but they are obliged to adhere to the “ red tape.” imposed by the Australian authorities. They would gladly supply atebrine containers, gaiters or items of equipment like that mentioned by the honorable member for New England, but cannot because of the Government’s senseless methods. A lot was made by the Minister of the fact that we have the requisite quantity of mechanical equipment in. New Guinea and other theatres of war according to Army entitlement andso forth. The Minister maybe correct that we have a number of vehicles, including jeeps, in those areas, but80 per cent. are practically worthless, so worn out that they are not even fit for repair.
Mr.Dedman. - What evidence has the: honorablemember to substantiate that statement?
– The Minister would very much like to get, hold of the evidence.
Mr.dedman. - We should like to.
– He would also very much like to get hold of the private soldier who wrote to his father; and a staff officer who told me things, but I suggest that, if he wants the evidence and the Government is sincere in its determination to get to the truth in this matter, it will not lightly deny the request of the Opposition that a parliamentary committee be sent to the area.
– I should prefer to allow additional men to get home leave from New Guinea.
– That is the first time I have heard the Minister express very much concern as to whether our troops get home leave or not.
– I visited Australian troops in the islands to the north of Australia for the purpose of discovering how they were faring.
– It is difficult for the Chair to maintain order if the honorable member for Richmond provokes interjections.
– I do not desire to provoke any resentment among honorable members opposite, but I do desire to present the case as I see it, because I believe that my charges are true. If my statements are provocative and incite the Minister for Transport and others, [ shall have to put up with their interjections. According to my information, and. I have every reason to believe that it is correct, about 80 per cent, of the equipment of Australian troops is worn out. [Further extension of time granted.] I .now desire to refer to some statements that have been made in connexion with the Aitape campaign. The Minister, who has been there, will be able to verify the accuracy of my remarks. Aitape has no wharfs and there is an open roadstead.
– That is correct.
– The Aitape landing was made in November-December.
– The landing was made months before that.
– By the 6th Division?
– That is a different matter.
– I am not referring to the landing made by American troops. The 6th Division landed at Aitape in November or December, having been despatched there from the mainland, but adequate arrangements were not made for base supply facilities. Consequently, it was necessary to fly to Aitape, at the expense of normal supply-dropping operations, such commodities as tea, sugar and fruit juices. Will the Minister for Post war Reconstruction inform me whether that statement is correct? He is silent. The 6th Division relieved the Americansat Aitape, and the Americans took with them their equipment, including tractors^ bulldozers and “ ducks “. Will the Minister inform me whether that is correct? After all, he has been there. Because of the lack of proper water transport such as small craft, ships laden with supplies were delayed in the open roadstead for from five to six weeks. One of the shipswas the River Derwent. Will the Minister inform me whether that statement iscorrect?
– I have become weary of informing the honorable member that all his information is incorrect. In deference to the wishes of Mr. Speaker- I have ceased to interject.
– I desire to have on record the statement of the Ministerdeclaring that what I have said is incorrect. I am informed also that with such barges as were available, we could not get supplies to the beach and furthertrouble developed owing to the swell. The small craft tend to broach side on. because of the surf, and the best method of overcoming that difficulty is to employ powerful D.8 type tractors, placing onewith a cable at the bow of ,the barge and another with a cable at the stern, keeping the cables taut, or in some oases, tohave a tractor pulling the barge and’ “ revving “ the engine astern in order to keep the craft from broaching on thebeach. At Aitape, we did not have those tractors for that particular job. The.Americans had taken them away, and no provision had been made for replacing - them. The result was that valuable shipping - 50,000 tons - was delayed in Aitape roadstead for from five to six weeks, and we were not able to get our supplies ashore. The only way in which we were able ultimately to unload thevessels was- when the Americans, using their barges and tractors, did the job for us. Those statements call for investigation. From time to time, the Minister forTransport and the Minister for Information criticize the lack of equipment in tb, Greece and Crete campaigns. A few years ago, they complained about delays in manufacturing Bren guns. I propose- to tell the House something about Bren guns. This weapon should be capable of firing between 30,000 to 40,000 rounds before it becomes unserviceable, but the Bren guns in the forward areas were giving out after 600 rounds, and the troops were losing confidence in them. “When an examination was made, it was discovered that the striker was . 002 inch too long. This serious fault, which jeopardized the lives of many troops, should have been discovered in the process of manufacture, and the Government must take responsibility for sending to the troops in the forward areas, whose lives depend on their efficiency, weapons which were incapable of performing the task for which they were designed. I realize that some honorable members opposite- not all of them - like to discount what has been said ; but they will have an opportunity, if this debate is continued on Thursday, to express their views on this subject. I should like the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) to go on record either as an interjector or as the maker of a speech on this subject.
– Why is the honorable member stone-walling?
– The honorable member for Griffith was one of those who granted to the honorable member for Richmond a further extension of time, so he must be prepared to listen.
– I now desire to compare the respective diets of American and Australian troops.
– What about the Japanese diet?
– That is a very fine interjection from the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Would he like to see the Australian soldiers fighting on the kind of food that is given to the Japanese troops? The diet of the Australian soldiers includes bully beef, baked beans, M. & V., “goldfish”, blue boiler peas, tinned carrots, tinned swedes, tinned cabbage, dehydrated potatoes and dehydrated eggs. It would be interesting to know if during his tour of the northern battle areas the Acting Minister for the Army asked the Australian soldiers what they thought of their diet, and how they enjoyed it. More interesting still would be their replies. It is true that these foodstuffs are very nourishing. They have the full calorific content required to sustain life and provide energy,but they are unpalatable and monotonous. Our troops believe that they are entitled to more fresh rations from this country. One excuse offered by the Government for its failure to supply fresh foodstuffs is that shipping is not available. I have made some inquiries in that regard, and I am reliably informed that there has not been any deficiency of shipping required to meet the needs of members of the forces. Shipping authorities state that they have been able to provide transport whenever it has been required, whether fora ton of beef or for a bulldozer. The question that the Australian people are entitled to ask is, “If the Americans are able to feed their troops regularly on fresh meat, vegetables and other foodstuffs why are our troops stationed beside the Americans not receiving the same consideration ?”.
An Honorable Member. - They are getting fresh meat.
– They have had fresh meat twice since this matter has been raised. Perhaps Parliament should be in continuous session for the benefit of the troops. No doubt, various honorable members opposite will speak from public platforms at Anzac Day ceremonies to-morrow extolling the qualities of our fighting men and emphasizing the sacrifices that they are making in New Guinea. It would be of much more benefit to our soldiers if honorable members opposite directed their efforts towards providing fresh foodstuffs and better conditions for them. That fresh food supplies can be provided! for the troops at the battle fronts has been demonstrated. On Christmas Day, all but 1,000 of the 80,000 men serving in those areas received a Christmas dinner consisting of fresh turkey, plum pudding and various other palatable foods. The 1,000 men who missed this special treat on Christmas Day received it on Boxing Day. If that can be done at Christmas time as a goodwill gesture, obviously the organization must exist for the transport of these goods, and could be used more regularly. [Further extension of time granted] I regret that I am detaining the House at this late hour, Mr. Speaker, but the responsibility for that lies withthe Government, as I have been refused leave to continue my remarks at a laterstage. Another excuse given for the lack of fresh foodstuffs in the New Guinea battle areas is that there is insufficient air transport available. I have been informed by troops thatabout tea. Douglas aircraft could transport to the battle fronts 50,000 lb. of food a day. That quantity would make a vast difference to the menu of our troops. Nodoubt it wall bestated that theair- craft necessary to carry out this work are not available. I am informed, how- ever, that the Americans have recently brought into service in large numbers a type of aircraft superior to the Liberatorsformerly used for this work, ward that hundreds ofLiberators are to be found out of service on northern air strips, which I could mention, parked wing-tip to wing-tip. Surely, the ‘Commonwealth Government could makesome arrangement with the American authorities to acquire these aeroplanes (either by purchase or under the lend-lease agreement. Some of the aircraft have been used as bombers and possibly would require alterations to carry out transport work, but that is a minor matter. The supply of tents for the troops may seem to be a matter of minor importance to people who have comfortable roofs over their heads, but it is of great importance to the troopsin the forwardareas. I am informed that, although representations have been made to headquarters in Australia that tents will not last more than six months in the tropical climatesof the islands to the north of Australia, there is a constantshortage oftents. In January the fighting men in New Guinea had their issueof shirts reduced from three to two each. Shirts do not last for a long period in the northern areas owing tothe effectsof perspiration. There is a great contrast between the treatment of Australian troops and that of the Americans quartered near them. The American soldier has no difficulty in obtaining a newshirt from the quartermaster’s store, but when an Australian soldier takes a worn shirt and asks for its replacement by a new article he may be toldthat the old shirt is stillrepairable,consequently he wakes sure that when he nextsubmits it for replacement it is so torn that it is definitely beyond repair. The men in thefieldsay that a great deal of theclothing equipmentwhich is repairable should be sent back to Australia insteadof the soldiers themselves having todo the labourious workof repairing it with needle and thread. The men in the forward areas requirewater-proof boots,and the boots ordinarily issued to Australian troops are among the best in the world. Whenthey have beenhalfsoled, however, they are no longer waterproof, and arequest has come frommen in the forward areasfor an improvement in regard to this important detail.
There is an old adage that where there is smoke thereis fire.Sufficient criticism has been advanced to-night by members oftheOpposition on the subject of the equipment of the troops to showthat the matter warrants more consideration by the House than appears to have been given to it. Independent statements have been submitted quite voluntarily from individuals in London, ‘Perth andSydney. If theGovernment earnestly desires to clear up the doubt regarding this matter it should not appeal to General MacArthur, General Blarney or the Acting Ministerf or the Army whose reputation is possibly involved,but toa committee of members of this Parliament or some other reliable and independent authority. If the -Government seriously wishes to preventthe shortage of equipment and the supply of necessary food from being a contentious matter it should agree to the proposalof theOpposition that a parliamentary committeebe appointed to visit the battle areas.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Sheehy) adjourned.
The following papers were presented.: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator &c. -1945 -
No. 13 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Unionof Australia.
No.14 - Amalgamated Postal (Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 15 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No.16 - Arms,Explosives and Munition Workers’Federation of Australia.
No. 17 - Arms, ‘Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No, 18 - Arms, Explosives andMunition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 19 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’Federation of Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (177).
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 88-90.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
6; 1944, none.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
How many applications for permits to build homes were received in each capital city by the Department of War Organization of Industry in the years 1942, 1943, and 1944?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The number of applications received in each capital city for permits to build homes is as follows: -
The figures quoted represent the applications made tobuild in each State. No record is maintained of applications to build in re spect of capital cities areas, but it is estimated that approximately 50 per cent. of applications emanate from capital city areas.
y asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions as as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister representing the. Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied by the Minister for the Interior: -
n asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As explained by the AttorneyGeneral in reply to the honorable member’s question on Sth March, certain Italian exinternees have been released for work in north Queensland. In all such cases, the DirectorGeneral of Security was satisfied that the Italians concerned are no longer a security risk. With the changed situation of the war, the high priority given by the Food Production Executive to sugar workers and the acute labour shortage to meet man-power requirements a number of Italians were released from service in the Civil Aliens Corps for engagement in caue, cuttingandat the end of the season were redirected to employment in other avenues of primary production by the manpowerauthorities in north Queensland. It is assumed the second part of the question refers to the Cairns Prohibition Order. If this is so, the prohibition contained therein operates against all persons; thus both Australians and aliens are excluded from returning to the area specified in the Order except under the authority of a permit issued by the Department of the Army. So far as Security Service is concerned, noalien of any description is recommended to the Army for a permit except under circumstances of a compassionate nature, and then only if he is not a security risk.In conclusion, Icanonly repeat the assurance previously given to the honorable member by the Attorney-General, namely, that the first consideration in all these cases is the preservationof the security of Australia.
Australian Army: Equipment. mr. Abbott asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Array, upon notice -
n. - The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
It may he of interest to the honorable member to know that Laeis the head-quarters and the mainbase of theFirst Australian Army and cannot, by the greatest stretch of the imagination,be deemed to be a battle area. The northern buttle areas referred to by the honorable memberare: New Britain, 375 miles distant from Lae; Solomons, 550 miles distant from Lae; Aitape, New Guinea, 450 miles distant from Lae.
My main purpose in visiting Lae was to confer with the general officer commanding First Australian Army, and immediately after lunch on myarrival at Lae I was in conference with him for some hours. Subsequently. I visited a number of the base units including the hospital and conferred with the men. J also visited the Men’s Club at the time of the evening meat and spoke to a number of men there and subsequently visited the members of the Australian Army Nursing Service.I have no apologies to make for my activities at Lae or any other area which I visited.I consider that, in comparison with men serving in actual battle areas, the men at the base at Lae are reasonably well off and should have little cause for complaint.
;White asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1-3. In the case of briefs to members of the Junior Bar, returned soldiers are briefed very freely but it would involvea very lengthy research to ascertain the number of returned soldiers and non-returned soldiers, respectively, briefed by the Commonwealth in the various States during the past three and one-half years. So far as the Senior Bar is concerned, regard is had primarily to the suitability of the particular counsel for the ease involved. If the question has been asked with a view to eliciting whether there has been any discrimination against returned soldiers, I can assure the honorable member that there has been no discrimination whatever.
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions’ are as follows: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows : -
Directions have been given for a review of the productionestimates which will be carefully examined by the Government in conjunction with allocations which have already been made this year.
Any announcement concerning action contemplated by the Government as a result of its consideration of the position will be made in due course.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 April 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450424_reps_17_181/>.