17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and road prayers.
– I have received from a constituent a letter in which he complains of a form of intimidation having been employed against him by man-power officers at Bondi, or by the Army, in that they had directed him to employment in the tramways service, notwithstanding the fact that he had been granted exemption from the Army. He says that he was told that he was to be called up for the Army, but that that would not occur if he was prepared to work in the Tramways Department. Hewas informed that he had until 10.30 a.m. on Saturday, the 14th April, to make up his mind as to whether he would go into the Tramways Department or be called up for the’ Army. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether or not it is the practise of his departmental officers to adopt Gestapo pressure taetics inorder to meet emergency man-powerrequire- ments?
-Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to debate the matter by saying that Gestapo pressure tactics have been adopted. He may merely ask the Minister’ whether or not he approves of what man-power officers’ are doing.
– Does the Minister approve of what man-power officers are doing, when they indulge in intimidation of this kind ?
Mr.HOLLOWAY.-Ifthe facts were as the honorable gentleman has stated them, I would not approve. All honor- able members know that the transport services are very much in need of manpower relief. The Man Power Directorate has had to make a specialcomb-out of otherhighpriority industries, in order to obtain men who are suitable for transport work, and thus afford immediately cba relief that is needed in New South Wales and Victoria. Their action is quite proper and legitimate, because the necessary number of. men cannot be obtained quickly enough except from the fighting services. Some men. have been transferred this week from other occupations to the transport services. That is quite legitimate, because they are being sent to work of a higher priority than, that on which they were previously engaged, and they must be fit nien for transport work. Out of 128 men from the Army submitted for transport work, only 27 proved suitable. The policy of the man-power authorities Li to take physically fit men from occupations of lower priority and put them on transport work, hoping that other men less physically fit can be obtained to replace them. I am not making any apology for that - it must be done. However, I assure “the honorable member that if the matter is being put to the men in .he way lie has suggested, the Government will not stand for it.
– As the State Departments of Agriculture are in charge of the distribution of bran and pollard, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture request them to conduct an immediate survey of the distribution of those commodities, in order to ensure that areas which have benefited from recent rains hall not receive supplies at the expense if districts that are still suffering from the effects of drought? Representations that have been made to me suggest that some modification of the existing distribution might be beneficial to the Commonwealth’s food-production plans.
– The distribution of bran and pollard is under the control of the State Minister for Agriculture, and with that activity we combine the distribution of feed-wheat. The work is done by a committee which represents the State Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This committee is working effectively, and I have received the wholehearted co-operation of the New South “Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr. -Graham. Groat difficulty has been experienced in discriminating between various areas and States, and particu larly in providing for the need* of poultry farmers. I am convinced that the committee is making the distribution as effective and equitable as possible.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture arrange for an officer of his department, or for a State officer if the State Department of Agriculture is acting a» his agent, to visit the Parramatta district to investigate the serious condition of the poultry industry owing to tha lack of wheat and other poultry feed. When I mention Parramatta, I have is mind also Dundas, Pennant Hills, Eastwood and Liverpool.
– I admit that the position in regard to feed is most serious, not only in tho Parramatta district, but right throughout Australia. Wheat u now practically the only kind of feed available at all, and that is in short supply. Because of the disastrous drought, other kinds of poultry feed are not obtainable. I assure tho honorable member that we are doing the best we can in the circumstances. Only recently, I was interviewed by a deputation of poultry farmers from the very districts mentioned by the honorable member, and I think they are satisfied that we are doing our best. I can, of course, get the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales to make an investigation, but I think the ground has been hilly covered. It has been arranged, that where poultry fanners have had to reduce their flocks because of the feed shortage, the Commonwealth will purchase the birds that have to be disposed of, provided the quality is satisfactory.
– I have received a letter from the Council of the LauncestonParents and Friends’ Association, a body which interests itself in the schools of Tasmania. They state that sixteen country schools and kindergartens have been closed because of a shortage of teachers. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service do anything to ensure that sufficient teachers shall be provided to enable the educational standards to be reasonably maintained ?
– This is a difficult problem, because teachers cannot be trained at a moment’s notice. There is a shortage all over Australia, and at the present time there is a deputation of teachersin Canberra to discuss the matter. I understand that more than 8,000 teachers are in the services. Some of them could be released, but the pro- cedure is that an employer must be nominated, and, strange to say, in some States the Public Service Commissioner will not act as employer for this purpose. The position in Tasmania, as in other States, will be looked into. The only way to get trained teachers is to get them back from the services. I shall have a discussion with the Public Service Commissi oner to see whether the real trouble is the difficulty which I have mentioned. If so, it might be possible to afford some relief.
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has arranged for the establishment of export committees to advise the Government on methods to develop Australia’s post-war trade, will he consider the immediate publication of a journal similar to the CanadianCommer- cialIntelligenceJournal as the means of providing information for industry on the Government’s plans and on advice tendered on marketing matters by oversea representatives?
– The honorable mem- ber’s suggestion will be sympathetically considered.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether so many obstacles are placed in the way of Australian war correspondents securing informationin the front line and in the way of their despatches reaching their newspapers within reasonable time, and so much censorship is imposed that, their jobs are being rendered the most difficult of all war correspondents of any Allied’ army? Is it a fact that outstanding Australian war correspondents have been obliged to resign from the Australian service and join other services, notably the British? Is this treatment of war correspondents, apparently by the Commander-in-Chief, in line with the disparaging remarks made about them by the Minister in this House on Tuesday?
– Whilst I do not believe there is any substance in the allegations made by the honorable member in the guise of a question, I shall refer the matter to the Acting Minister for the Army for reply.
Lithgow Small Arms Factory - Pencil sharpeners.
– I refer the Minister for Munitions to the following advertisement which appeared in the catalogue of a Melbourne firm selling office equipment : -
Here is another product that Australia has shown she can build supremely well. This pencil sharpener is built to precision standards in one of Australia’s largest and most efficient engineering plants.
– What is the name of that plant?
– It is the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. The advertisement added that the first supplies of pencil sharpeners will be available in June.I ask the Minister to inform me why a munitions factory, at this period of the war, is making pencil sharpeners. Is there a surplus of employees, or a lack of orders, or is this a convertible pencil sharpener which will make up for some of the existing deficiencies in army equipment ?
– I am not aware that the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow is manufacturing pencil sharpeners, butI shall make inquiries and inform the honorable member of the result.
– On the 20th April,I asked the Prime Minister a question upon notice regarding the date of a letter which he received complaining of censorship leakages. The matter from that letter was quoted in Parliament by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction on the 22nd March last. At the same time, I asked the right honorable gentleman whether the letter of complaint had been brought to the notice of the Chief Post and Telegraph Censor, Colonel Ettelson, with a request for a report on the allegations, and also whether the letter of complaint was brought to the notice of the parliamentary committee appointed to inquire into the operation of the censorship. As the Prime Minister has failed to reply to the last two portions of my question, in the written answer supplied to me, I now ask the right honorable gentleman (a) Did he refer the letter of complaint to Colonel Ettelson, or the parliamentary committee for investigation and report; and (b), if not, why did he not do so?
– Speaking from memory-
– The right honorable gentleman has had ample opportunity bo make himself conversant with the facts.
– I think that at the time I received the communication, the parliamentary committee to which the honorable member referred was not in existence. I had received a complaint from the general manager of a bank, and I had that matter investigated.
– Investigated bv whom?
– Order ! The honorable member has asked a question and he must await the answer. He is not in order in keeping up a cross-fire of questions.
– The honorable member has been a Minister, and knows how these matters are handled. It is not necessary for him to place me in the witness box every time he asks me a question, as though he were a professional cross-examiner. I am becoming weary of this man who has the voice of a bull, and the mind of a troglodyte.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me as to whether or not the letter of complaint which he received on the 17th August, 1943, from a bank manager, regarding alleged leakages through the censorship, was referred by him to the Chief Post and Telegraph Censor, Colonel Ettelson, for report? If not, why not?
– I have no objection to the correspondence between myself and the bank manager being tabled in the Parliament. The papers will reveal what took place at the time. I cannot recall whether or not the matter was referred to Colonel Ettelson. If the honorable gentleman will place a question on the notice-paper, I shall supply the fullest information.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, M.P.
– As the custodian of the rights and privileges of honorable members of this House, I desire to bring to your notice, Mr. Speaker, that last Monday the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported an anonymous Army spokesman as having said -
Major Cameron is a comparatively young officer whose name has been on the active service list for most of the war. Despite this hehas not been outside of Australia since the war began.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether such a statement does not amount to an interference with the rights and privileges of a member of the House, in that an official Army spokesman has reflected publicly upon the actions of anhonorable member? Will you, sir, confer with the Minister for Defence in order to ascertain the identity of the Army spokesman, and who authorized him to make the attack, and to see that he is warned against similar breaches in the future ?
– The question has little relation to the duties of the Chair. The Chair can take cognizance of criticism of that description only when it relates to the manner in which a member discharges his parliamentary duties. An honorable member’s military career has nothing to do with parliamentary privileges or with the Chair. The remainder of the question may be directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army.
– The statement quoted by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Melbourne Age and other newspapers.
Will the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister foT Defence, ascertain the name of the official Army spokesman ? ls he not Brigadier Rasmussen, personal public relations officer of General Blarney? Does he approve of the Commander-in-Chief, through his publicity officer, the official Army spokesman, snaking attacks upon either members of Parliament or members of the community and questioning their personal courage, especially when it is remembered that the person attacked in this case was in the Army and under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief to be sent wherever he directed him to go.
– I do not know why questions of this kind are addressed to nic. I agree with the assertion that the honorable member for Barker has a youthful mind. It would be utterly hopeless to attempt, to ascertain from any newspaper the source of its information. Therefore, it is not practicable for mc to ask the Age or the Daily Telegraph where it got its information. The editor would simply refuse to (cil mc. That this news was supplied by the Public Relations Officer of the Army may be true, but the statement still rests on an assumption. [ know that there is a Brigadier Rasmussen, who succeeded Brigadier Knox in the Public Relations branch of the Army. I think it is utterly unjust to assume that he is acting as some kind of a propagandist of the personal or professional repute of General Blarney. I do not think that the Commander-in-Chief would need any such defender. The number of “ Government spokesmen “ referred to in the newspapers since the war began is legion. There used to be a “ spokesman “ for the Government, but I could never find him.
RELEASE of Personnel fob the Royal Navy AIR Arm - Spitfire Squadrons-
– In reply to a question addressed to the Minister for Air recently by the honorable member for Balaclava, the Minister stated that it had not been found possible to accede to a request by the Royal Navy for pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force to be transferred for service with the Fleet Air Arm, as there were no facilities available rin Australia for training pilots in this branch of the service. I now ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the request envisaged only pilots with considerable flying experience whose changeover to the Fleet Air Arm could be effected easily with the facilities now available in this country? I also ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the number of Royal Australian Air Force pilots in Australia is ample not only for the needs of our service, but also to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy?
– I have been asked several questions on this subject recently and I have replied, not only to the honorable member for Balaclava, but also to the honorable member for Warringah, that the matter has been the subject of discussion between representatives of the Royal Navy in Australia and of the Royal Australian Air Force. The facilities to train pilots for the Fleet Air Arm do not exist in Australia at present. Notwithstanding suggestions that have been made in the House by interjection, it is impossible to train pilots on land for Fleet Air Arm purposes. The question of whether such facilities will be provided rests with the British Admiralty rather than with the Royal Australian Air Force. In reply to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, it is true that wc have an ample number of pilots available in Australia at present for any service for which they may be required. It is not the intention of the Government that such trained pilots shall remain idle any longer than is absolutely essential to absorb them in active productive duties.
– Has the Minister for Air seen a statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph by Mr. Dunstan regarding the inactivity of certain Spitfire squadrons in the north? Is it a fact that both Australian and British Spitfire squadrons have been inactive for over a year and that the Americans have asked for their services in other parts? In any case, can he not let these fliers, who are thoroughly dissatisfied with doing nothing, have the opportunity to get into action again?
– I do not know of any dissatisfaction among pilots because of alleged inactivity. I do know that nine questions submitted to me on behalf of the Baily Telegraph included requests for specific information as to the disposition of our forces. I do not concede the right of the press to ask questions relating to the disposition of our forces, which is under the High Command. The statement bythe Daily Telegraph that only 15 per cent. of the Royal Australian Air Force is in operational areas is as wrong as all the consistently irresponsible statements that it makes about the Department of Air. I pay no regard to them and I ask the people not to do so either. .
Equipment - Alleged Waste of Manpower and Material
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question, and. by way of preface I should like to refer to a distorted and untruthful report-
– Order ! The hon- orable member may not debate whether rhe report was truthful or not.
– The article appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday under the heading “ Troops Lacked Heavy Equipment”. Will the Prime Minister give consideration to a suggestion that the people of Australia be told the true story about Army equipment over the national broadcasting stations? As certain Australian newspapers have decided that only their side of any story shall be published, will the Prime Minister also consider the desirability of broadcasting the truth whenever newspapers misrepresent the facts of important government issues.
– I have not seen the report, but I shall not interfere with the manner in which Australian newspapers present their news to their readers, whether the news concerns Parliament, murders, or sporting events. They have complete discretion, within the law of libel and blasphemy, to publish what they desire to publish and to suppress what they desire to suppress. This right is in accordance with their age-long tradition and practice. I do not propose to interfere with them at all, and I am not in the least concerned about the effect of their misrepresentations, because
I know that ultimately the truth will prevail.
– Has the Minister for Information noticed the significant omissions from the newspaper reports of Tuesday’s debate on Army equipment?I refer particularly to the Prime Minister’s statement that General MacArthur had communicated with him stating that tha equipment was sufficient, and that General MacArthur’s operational plans for the conduct of the Pacific campaigns now being undertaken by the Australian forces were subject to the approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, who exercised general jurisdiction over grand strategic policy, including the allocation of forces. In view of these significant omissions, and’ the need for the people to be accurately informed on such vital national subjects, will the honorable gentleman consider approaching the Australian. Broadcasting Commission and the commercial broadcasting stations with a view to an arrangement being made for disseminating reliaible news of parliamentary proceedings?
– In common with most honorable members, I had noticed these significant omissions by considerable sections of the press of this country. I had. also noted the gross and shameful distortion of the Prime Minister’s remarks by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. in the heading it had given to its report of the right honorable gentleman’s statement. That newspaper, on this occasion, sank to even a lower level than it customarily occupies. The suggestion that the Australian. Broadcasting Commission and commercial broadcasting stations might be requested to arrange that the debates in this Parliament shouldbe fairly and fully reported-
– They could not publish more government propaganda than they now publish.
– The implication in that interjection is unfounded. Nobody has had a fairer deal from the Australian Broadcasting Commission than has the Leader of the Opposition. If he considersthat he has not had a fair deal, let him say so, not sneer and make insinuations.
-Order ! The Minister’s remarks must be in reply to the question asked by the honorable member f*r Wannon.
– Having dealt effectively with the Leader of the Opposition
– Order ! The Chair will have to deal effectively with the Minister if he does not obey its direction.
– I shall never incur your displeasure, sir. The suggestion of the honorable member for Wannon has merit. I shall ask my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to investigate . the matter of allotting more time to parliamentary proceedings in the news services at 7 p.m.., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., so that the people may be adequately informed of what takes place, in view of the policy »f suppression and distortion that is practised by the press barons of this country.
– by leave. - As the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, I lay on the table the following paper: -
War - South-West Pacific - Report to the Prime Minister by the Acting Minister for the Army on alleged waste of manpower and materials for Headquarter’ s accommodation at Lae, New Guinea.
La the Sydney newspapers on the 29th March, 1945, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a number of allegations in regard to Army administration, including a general charge of unwarranted waste of manpower and materials in the provision of accommodation at the Lae head-quarters of the Second Australian Army. At the lime, a statement was. made by the
Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) replying, in a general way, to she charges made toy the honorable member for Warringah, who immediately repeated his allegations and brought forward further facts which, he stated, had come to him “ from a very responsible source in which he had the utmost confidence “.
In view of the serious nature of the honorable member’s statements, the Acting Minister for the Army, on his visit no Lae, made a special investigation of this matter, and submitted a report to the Prime Minister. In the House on the 24th April, 1945, the honorable member for Warringah returned to the attack and stated that it was significant that, although he had given specific instances of waste of materials and manpower when he spoke three weeks ago, and his statements had been met with denials, these had been of a general character and had not touched details. It is, I suggest, unfortunate for the honorable member that he should have made his statement, because, at the time, information was in the hands of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) which proved quite conclusively that there was no substance in the charges. 3 leave it to the House to judge whether the evidence which has ‘been furnished by the Acting Minister for the Army in support of the statements contained in his report is not sufficient in itself to prove beyond any doubt that the “ very responsible source “ in which the honorable member has the utmost confidence has completely misled him.
In the House on the 24th April, 1945, the honorable member for Warringah alleged that there was a shortage of supply-dropping parachutes, and. suggested that this might he attributable to the use of such parachutes as decorations for the officers’ hostel at Lae. The Acting Minister for the Army, in his report, stated that only four of these parachutes have been used in this mess, and that they were not as new as wai alleged by the honorable member, but had been declared to be unserviceable after -consistent use.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement which the Acting Minister for the Army (Mr. Dedman) is now making is in reply to certain allegations by the honorable mem!ber for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and to thos* allegations the Acting Minister for the Army replied on Tuesday night. I asktherefore, whether he is in order in making a second statement in reply to them.
-The Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army has- tabled a paper and asked for leave to make a statement, at the same time giving the House clearly to understand its subject. The House unanimously granted that leave. I cannot see that the Chair can limit the scope of the statement once the House has given the Minister permission to make it.
– With regard to the charge that waste and extravagance occurred in the provision of an elaborate mess for officers of the Australian Military Forces, it is interesting to observe that on the 31st March, 1945, the Argus, of Melbourne, printed an article con:tributed by an English lieutenant-colonel under the heading “ Easy-going Australians “. In this article, the officer condemned the lack of reasonable amenities in officers’ messes in Australia, and stated, “ Look at the standard of Australian methods. They do not compare with the English Army”. In further condemnatory remarks in regard to Australian officers’ messes, the English officer is reported to have stated that it was positively pathetic in the forward areas to walk from an American mess to an Australian mess. The Americans would have ice, chocolate, electric light and concrete paths, and the whole area would be sprayed to eliminate mosquitoes and flies, whilst in the Australian officers’ mess one would be lucky to get a hurricane lamp and luckier still if it were not obscured on the inside by dead flies and on the outside by live mosquitoes.
Senator Fraser has informed me that the remarks of this English officer are far-fetched in the extreme, in that in all areas which he visited, including those in the front line, he found that Australian camp areas were as comfortable as was possible in the circumstances, and every precaution possible had been taken to eliminate the mosquito pest. In one camp area visited in the Soraken peninsula, which had been occupied by the enemy only ten days previously, and where officers and men were living under the same conditions, Senator Fraser was impressed by the manner in which our lads had sought to make their camp attractive by the provision of rusticfenced gardens, with plants of many-hued foliage obtained from the jungle, thus indicating that the morale of our men, and their pride in themselves, >are still undiminished.
While ho was present in the areas forward from But, Senator Fraser found that Australian Beaufort planes had sprayed the jungle for some days with mosquito-repellant mixture which, he was informed by the Army medical authorities was proving very effective, and would remain so for a considerable period after spraying. It was resulting in- almost the entire elimination of the mosquitopest in the area. Similar action was being taken in all other areas. Indeed, the ‘Government has in its possession evidence to prove that the Australian! Army methods for the treatment of all forms of jungle diseases place it in the forefront of all other armies in grappling with this problem. It is also the policy of the Government to provide all reasonable amenities, comforts and accommodation for all members of the fighting forces, men as well as officers, wherever they may be located, but, as stated by the Acting Minister for the Army in his report, there are physical obstacles which have to be contended with, and the allegations of the honorable member for Warringah only serve to prove how well the Government is contending with them.
It would seem from the publicity which the honorable member has given to the matter of amenities for Australian Army officers at Lae that he favours the provision of mess facilities for Australian officers more like those so incorrectly stated to exist by the visiting English Army officer, rather than the reasonable measure of amenities and accommodation, though on somewhat austere lines, which is shown in Senator Fraser’s report to have been provided for these officers at Lae.
Statement by Dr. Evatt.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report published in to-day’s press that it is doubtful whether Dr. Evatt had conferred with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) prior to hisstatement to a hastily summoned conference of Australian, Canadian, British and American press representatives, in which he foreshadowed many amendments of the constitution of the world security organization, and demanded a close and critical analysis of other subjects included in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals ? Will the right honorable gentleman assure the House that, before the Australian delegates commit themselves to any serious, amendments of those proposals, not only will they conf er, but, in addition, this Parliament will have an opportunity to. discuss the important matters of national security and the preservationof, the British Empire as these may be affected by international agreements? Will he also direct the Australian delegates to make it quite clean that under any military commit- ments. of a. regional character entered into by, Australia, its maximum military assistance will, be- limited to the territory prescribed under, the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943 ?
-Ishall not ask the right honorable gentleman to state whether or not; he vouches; for the accuracy of the report, as that would make it impossible for meto answer hisquestion. I have not had. any communication: from the. Deputy Prime Minister to the effect thathewasnot consulted! by theMinister for External. Affairs., What thelatterhassaidisinaccordwith viewsthathadbeenreachedbythe Government and,I understand, in the “ family” discussion. If the right honorablegentleman and the country will study this- matter carefully; they will see that the Minister for External Affairs isopposing, not the carrying: out of decisions that may be made- by the world organization for security, but that one country shall have the right to veto a decision of the rest of the. partners- to world security. He. has. stated a: case against the right of veto. Veto of what? Of the: decisions of a: world securityorganization. I see nothing wrong with a declaration off that description.
– Hasit come to the knowledge of the Minister for Information that a talking film with thetitle The BellsofRemembrance has been prepared by his department and circulated to, theatres in the city of Adelaide only, for exhibition on V-Day - whenever that may be? Will the Minister inquire as to whether or not it is possible to permit copies of the film to be shown also in suburban and countryareas, especially if it can be arranged simultaneously with its exhibition in the city; because not’ everybody inSouthAustraliawillbeabletovisit the electorate of the honorable member for Adelaide on the one day on which it is exhibited?
Mr.CALWELL.-Suchafilmhas been prepared by my department, and hasbeenmadeavailableto city theatres. The cost of its production wasconsiderable. An additionalexpenditure of at least £2,000; would be needed to make it availableforexhibitioninthesurburban districts of the capital cities of Australia ;andifthe country districtswere included, the extra cost might; amount to several more thousands of pound’s. However, the matter will) be further investigated.
– A report in this morning’s press states that asub-committee of Cabinet has discovered that the output per- worker has dropped sharply in recent months. I ask the. Minister whether; if a subi-committee ofCabinet has made sucha discovery,: it has formed any estimate of the average percentage reduction of, output per worker, and will he say whatmeasuresthe Government proposes to take to restore to employersand. employees the incentive to produce?
Mr.HOLLOWAY.-I should be very sad if. I thought that there was- any truth in the honorable members state ment. I. can assure him thatI know nothing, of the appointment of, any such. Cabinet sub-committee, or of any report on. the subject.
Mr.RANKIN.- In view of the reported statement of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) at San Francisco yesterday; that many American firms had already established Branches in Australia, and that the Australian Government woulddo everything possible to encourage such investments and justify the confidence of American companies in the development of Australia, will the Prime Minister state what his attitude would be to any American company desiring to establish airlines in Australia?
Mr.CURTIN. - The attitude of the Prime Minister to any American company will be expressed in the law of the land.
Motor Vehicles and Tyres
– With regard to the sale or proposed sale of surplus military trucks by the War Disposals Commission and the shortage of tyres and petrol, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply consider, in view of the urgent need for food production, granting to primary producers a higher priority for the purchase of the commodities named?
– The Minister for Transport tells me that a committee has been set up for the purpose of screening supplies in order that they may be made available to people with the higher priorities, and in that regard primary producers are on the top.
LandSettlement of Ex-servicemen.
– Since the Commonwealth Government has to provide the money for the settlement of exservicemen on the land after the war, is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction satisfied with the progress made by the States in the selection of land and the class of land provided?
– The settlement of ex-servicemen on the land has been discussed at Premiers conferences between representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments. Three States insisted upon acting as principals and the other three decided to act as agents of the Commonwealth. Agreements are being prepared for presentation to this Parliament for ratification. Whilst I am not altogether satisfied with the progress made in the selection of. suitable land, I am aware of the many difficulties. The Commonwealth is endeavouring in co-operation with the States to select suitable land as fast as possible.
Debate resumed from the 24th April (vide page 1076) on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: -
Equipment of Australian troops - Ministerial Statement.
.- Like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) I had hopes that this debate would not develop in the manner it has. I am surprised at the depths to which some honorable members can sink in their endeavours to gain political advantage at the expense of people who have magnificently served this country. Opposition members have got into such sorry straits in this debate that the ringmaster, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), now intends to come to their assistance. The Prime Minister stated that the Government accepted full responsibility for providing our forces with adequate equipment to combat the Japanese. If any blame were attributable to the Government, I would be prepared to accept my share of it. But our troops are infinitely better equipped than they would have been if the anti-Labour Government had continued in office. When it proved itself incapable of conducting the war successfully, it was rejected, first by this House, and subsequently by the people of Australia. To quote an expression used by the Leader of the Opposition a few days ago, the anti-Labour Government in 1941 “ lacked the common touch “.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), as usual, turned a complete somersault. A few weeks ago, he declared that Australian troops in the New Guinea area were engaged iu “ mopping-up operations “. In his opening remarks on Tuesday, he endeavoured to put himself right with them, because they had reacted strongly to his description of their role in this war. When the Acting Minister for the Army visited them, he gained the following impression : -
They felt generally that their hardshipsto jungle warfare, their difficulties, and the tougb fighting conditions, were not properly appreciated on the mainland, and deplored the fact that they were being used as the butt for attacks in Parliament.
They have not been attacked by members of the Labour party, who are convinced that our troops are fighting as valiantly and effectively as are the soldiers of other allied countries. According to the Acting Minister for the Army, our troops also asked for a more reasonable attitude in giving publicity to their achievements and difficulties, and for a greater appreciation of the fighting capacity of the enemy. That request is well-founded. In tuy opinion, the lack of an adequate number of Australian war correspondents is the only reason why our soldiers do not get the publicity which they so richly deserve. The honorable member for Wentworth produced several photographs which, he said, proved that American soldiers have far better equipment than is supplied to Australian soldiers. Before I became a member of Parliament, I had the responsibility for ensuring that certain war materials were manufactured for our troops.
– That was when the honorable member was not on strike.
– I have never participated in a strike. I have never gone on strike in this chamber as much as the honorable member for Bendigo has. The hours which I have spent in this House far outnumber those which the honorable member has spent here.
– Then the honorable member must have been a raraavis among the munitions workers.
– When an honorable member is speaking, I pay close attention to his remarks. My attendance here is most regular. However, the honorable member for Bendigo will not succeed in diverting me from my purpose by a series of interjections. Our munitions establishments have gone from one success to another, just as our troops have done, to ensure the safety of Australia. I hada glimpse of the photographs which the honorable member for Wentworth produced, and I should welcome an opportunity to examine them more closely.
– The honorable member may see them whenever he desires to do so.
– One of the pictures showed equipment being landed on a beach. As every one knows, all that equipment was not intended for one spot.
– That equipment was being landed at Iwo Jima.
– Those supplies would have been dispersed to many areas’. One of the smaller photographs portrayed two soldiers only 100 yards behind the front line. The South Australian newspapers have published pictures of troops at their devotions only 100 yards behind the firing line, who did not have as much equipment with’ them as did the men inthe smaller photograph exhibited by the honorable member for Wentworth. The honorable member also complained that he did not receive a copy of the report of the Acting Minister for the Army before the House assembled on Tuesday. In that respect, he was in exactly the same position as we were. But a few weeks ago, he assured the House that he possessed all the necessary information to prove that our troops lacked adequate equipment. When he rose to speak on Tuesday,he asked for a copy of the report of the Acting Minister for the Army for the purpose of criticizing it.
– I was entitled to receive a copy of the report.
– According to reports in the South Australian newspapers, the honorable member intended to bring into this chamber a great array of equipment for honorable members to see. Why did he not do what he undertook to do! I should also like to know what right the honorable gentleman had to equipment which belongs to the Commonwealth, and which, it would seem, should be in the hands of members of the services? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has revealed why the equipment was. not produced in the House as promised, for he has told us that it waa quite obsolete.
I have no desire to delve into the past, but the fact that members of the family of every honorable member of this chamiber have been included in war casualties at some time should cause all of us to resist every attempt to misrepresent facts in relation to this war, or to malign the character of persons in authority. In any case, the public is not likely to be hoodwinked by such conduct, and people who indulge in these practices mark themselves as traitors to their country.
During the last election campaign the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) addressed a meeting in the Adelaide Town Hall at which I was present. He told us, incidentally, that if his party were returned to power taxation would he reduced by half. I was quite ready to receive anything that was coming to me in that way! The right honorable gentleman also had something to say on that occasion about Army equipment, but when a returned soldier who had participated in the campaign in Greece challenged him to say who was responsible for sending our men to Greece with an average of one rifle for five men the right honorable gentleman hedged by observing that persons who made such statements were Communists.
-But was the statement true?
– I was present at the meeting , and the honorable member for Barker was not present. I regret that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) saw fit, in his speech on Tuesday, to make a most cowardly attack upon the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser).
– That is untrue.
Mr.SHEEHY. - I admit that the honorable member subsequently rose in hisplaceand wriggled like a worm on afish-hookinordertogetoutofhis difficulty. The making of such a statement about an honorable gentleman who is ran ex-servicemanofthelast war was most unwarranted. Ishall say no more about it, however, except to point out thatin addition to serving his country with distinction during the last war the Acting Minister for the Army, who is Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services,has done much to help his country during thiswar by arranging forlarge quantities of that black magic we callpenicillin tobe manufactured at theCommonwealth SerumLaboratories inorder to save the lives ofservice personnel. His effortshavebeenso successful that quantities of penicillin are now available forcivilian use.The Minister and the officersassociated with him inthisfine effort deserve the most cordial thanks of the whole community.
A good dealhas been said by honorable gentlemenopposite about the desirability of arranging for a committee of members of the Parliament tovisit battle areas. It might be imagined that only honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber are interested in this proposal, but Government supporter are equally desirousof an opportunity to visit forward areas, and they have requested that arrangements ; be made for that pur- pose, so that first-hand information may be obtained about exactly how ourservice personnel are faring.Let me remind honorable members opposite that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who is not a member of any of the political parties represented in the House, said a few weeks ago that never at any time during the war had the Opposition co-operated as little as the presentOppositionwasco-operating with this Government in connexion with the war effort. Its attitude is in marked contrast with that ofthe present Prime Minister when he was Leaderof the Opposition. While the present ‘Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he paid high tribute to the efforts of the then Leader of the Opposition to assist theGovernment in a war effort, saying that noman could havedone more in that regard.
I desire to refer to some remarks made on Tuesday by the honorable memberfor Richmond (Mr. Anthony). He,said that, our troops were -not receiving supplies offresh food. I have received advice from Aitape and ‘Hollandia in regard to fresh -food supplies which indicate that thehonorablegentleman’s assertions are not true. My authority - andI am willing to give the name ofthewriter of the letter to any honorable member - writes that the troops ure receivingfresh food supplies whenever it is possible to land them.It has been said, also,that aircraft were not available for our men in the Aitape region as quicklyasthey should, havebeen after thelanding.I havebeen advised that between the landing at dawn on one morning and the coming of dawn on a second morning aircraft were landing and taking off from the airstripsconstructed for immediate service. These are facts. Those men did not do that workwith their fingernails; they had the necessary equipment. The information that I have has been supplied by an only brother, to whom I have written regularly. I have asked him whether my correspondence to him has been opened and interfered with, and he has told me that he has received it as I had sent it. Honorable members should ensure the correctness of any statements they make, and not arrive at conclusions on supposition. My informant had no wish to tell me a “ fairy tale “. Surely honorable members are aware of how difficult it is, in tropical climates, to .maintain a continuous supply of fresh food to troops in forward operational areas ! As the information which I possessed indicated that supplies of fresh food had been arranged, I made further inquiries and ascertained that, as the Acting Minister for the Army has stated in his report, the weather, surf, rough seas and shipping at Aitape presented considerable difficulties. However, it was possible occasionally to supply fresh meat and other foods to the troops in that area. It says much foi the hardworking members of the Army Service Corps that, despite the difficulties they had to overcome, they were able to do £0. Far too little praise has been given to members of the Army Service Corps, Army Medical Corps and other auxiliary services, for the work that they are doing in difficult and trying circumstances. It does not suit honorable members opposite to consider the matter in that light; because, if praise were given where it was due, adverse criticism of the ‘Government would be nullified. Thus the services that are rendered in the Army are belittled and ignored. The Acting Minister for the Army has informed me that, prior to his arrival at Aitape, a large cargo boat with refrigerator space had arrived there. It is hoped that, weather and tides permitting, fresh meat and other foods will be available in that area in future.
Let us now consider the position at Bougainville. The shipments of fresh foods in refrigerated cargo to this area have been -
December 1944. - 100 tuns vegetables equivalent to 9 days for the strength then in that area.
January 1945. - 181 tons, consisting oi 9 days vegetables, 3 days butter, 3 days meat, 30 days hospital meats.
February 1945. - 485 tons, consisting of 18 days vegetables, 17 days butter, 15i days meat, 30 days hospital meats.
March 1945. - 411 tons, consisting of 9 days vegetables, 20 days butter, 1SJ days meat, 30 days hospital meats, 98 tons cooled stored, consisting of eggs, fruit and a small proportion of green vegetables for hospital and other supplies.
All rations are issued on the same basis to officers and other ranks, whether in hospitals or messes. These facts furnish a complete refutation of the charge that fresh foods are not supplied to our troops wherever possible.
The honorable member for New England made the very serious allegation that Au£ tralian wireless sets are defective. I have endeavoured to obtain information on the subject. The Acting Minister for the Army has advised me that the General Officer in Command of the Australian division at Aitape, who has a complete and practical knowledge of Army and civil communications, has informed him that he was proud of the achievements of his signals units. He has also advised me that all the official reports from the Aitape area indicate that communications in and from that area have been adequate. Approximately 1,350 miles of cable and jungle wire, and 750 wireless sets of types ranging from “ handy-talkies “ to 300-watt seta, are available in the area. This is a complete answer to the irresponsible statements of the: honorable member for New England. Here again, praise instead of criticism surely is due in full to the men of the Army signals units; yet it is withheld by members of the Opposition, purely for party political purposes. The facts supplied to me in regard to Australian Amy wireless instruments should make all Australians proud of the Army’s achievements. I hope that the Australian public, at least, will give the credit that is due. Honorable members on this side of the House have never endeavoured to withhold credit from anybody, irrespective of bis political beliefs. The only American equipment with a performance comparable to the Australian wireless set, No. 108 Mk. III., is still .the subject of considerable discussion in relation to ite suitability or otherwise for its required role, as it employs very high frequency transmission, which is generally accepted as impracticable under dense jungle conditions. The Australian wireless set No. 22 is considered the equal of or superior to comparable American instruments. The most recently developed American set is only now being distributed to the American forces. The honorable member for New England scoffs at the No. 22- set, yet it is essentially Australian in design and construction, and was produced for the use of our forces in forward areas. Australian combatant units, including those operating in New Guinea, have expressed unstinted praise of its outstanding performance. The honorable member for New England said that it burnt out in the heat of the tropics. I have never heard such a ridiculous statement by a man who holds a responsible position. In addition extensive trials and tropical teste have been conducted independently by American signal laboratories, whose findings have been highly laudatory, particularly in reference to its resistance to tropical conditions. The Port Monmouth Laboratories of the United States Signal Corps, reporting on the No. 22 set, said -
Considering that the equipment was subjected to humidity cycling for a period of C8 days and that the equipment wa£ not encased for ten of those days, the performance was excellent. Design features for tropic proofing are considered responsible for the excellent performance. [ do not think that anybody in the world would attempt to belittle a statement by such a great soldier as General MacArthur. Speaking of Australian wireless receivers, he said -
Those of Australian manufacture have proved superior to the American ones for use in Now Guinea because of their special construction to meat tropical conditions. [.Extension of time granted.] I assume that tho Ministry of Supply in the War Office, London, must have expert knowledge of the quality of Australian wireloss sets. This is what it has said -
It is most important that the part played by the Dominion of Australia in design and production, as well as in the field, should be fully appreciated.
Again, from General Head -quarters, India -
Equipment adopted by Australia should be considered acceptable for operations in this theatre, except for special armaments which it may be necessary to try out in India before final adoption.
Thus, it becomes evident that there exists no foundation for the criticism advanced by some members of the Opposition. I say to honorable members, and to the people of Australia, that the attack made on the Government in regard to the equipment of our fighting forces is neither more nor less than a fifth column drive in an attempt by some persons to gain political advantage by undermining the morale of the people. This Government has done a grand job. It has saved Australia. Had the Labour Government not been in office we should all now be the serfs of the Japanese. I remind honorable members that the war slogan of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), when he was Prime Minister, was that we should carry on business as usual.
.- The Minister representing the Minister for the Army said that the subject now under discussion was, perhaps, one of the most important that Parliament could debate, and I share his opinion. There is not a home in Australia which is not directly affected by the policy of the Government regarding the disposition of our troops in the north. Seeing that the Government recognizes the vital importance of the subject, I was astonished to learn from the Prime Minister that the debate on it was to be concluded this evening. The Government proposes to allow the House only two days in which to debate a matter of great urgency and importance affecting our forces and the public generally, but it proposes to allow unlimited time for the discussion of the banking legislation, a matter of no great urgency. This seems to indicate the absence of a proper sense of proportion, a lack of realization of the importance of the issues involved. 1 am sure that the public will resent the decision of the Government to curtail this debate. Session after session the Opposition has been frustrated in its attempts to institute a full-dress debate on these important issues, and it was only the other day, when the Prime Minister introduced the subject by tabling a paper, that we were given our opportunity. I hope that the Government will not persist in its expressed determination to curtail the debate. Every honorable member should be given a full opportunity to express his opinion in his own way.
The fundamental question, as the Prime Minister himself recognized, is whether the campaign in the islands to the north, upon which our troops are engaged, is justified at all, and to this question I propose to devote the major part of my remarks. However, I propose first to deal with a few minor issues, though they are not unimportant. The first relates to the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney. I regret that it should be necessary to discuss the position of the Commander-in-Chief, but events in which he has been involved make it inevitable that this be done if we are to have a full and frank discussion. This obligation on us arises partly from the action of the Government, and partly from the action of the CommanderinChief himself. Let me first place on record my own very great admiration of the Commander-in-Chief. He entered this war with the reputation of being an able and experienced soldier. Prior to that, he had had experience as an administrator, and his outstanding qualities made him an obvious choice for the task of leading Australian troops into war. His record during this war has, if anything, enhanced my admiration of him. fie has displayed great vigour of mind and capacity in administration. I believe, contrary to the opinion of some of his critics, that he has been most assiduous in the discharge of bis many and varied duties. He is, I am convinced, the best man available to occupy the senior military position, in the Commonwealth.
Having made my position clear on that point, I say now that I nevertheless believe that there are some criticisms which must be directed in this House at certain recent actions in which the CommanderinChief has been involved. The first relates to his use of broadcasting facilities made available to him by the
Australian Broadcasting Commission so that he might make an appeal on behalf of the victory loan. I am sure that he himself will realize now that the making of a speech of a political character was not a proper use of the opportunity afforded him for a specific purpose. His action in this regard is further evidence of the fact that even the wisest of men, when goaded by cheap and sustained criticism, of a personal kind, may be guilty of an error of judgment. His errors in this regard are no greater than those of some of his critics who have endeavoured to malign him. The action was not, of itself, of any great importance, regrettable though it may have been.
More serious, from the point of view of honorable members of this chamber, was the suggestion in the broadcast that honorable members had been guilty of reflecting upon the courage and capacity of our own troops engaged in operations in the north. There is no justification for suggesting that, we have been guilty of anything of the kind. I have listened to the debates, and read a good deal of what has appeared in the press, and I know of no reference by any honorable member on this side of the House which, could be taken as a reflection on the courage of our troops who are applying themselves to the tremendously difficult task assigned to them. Nothing which we said should have been interpreted in that way, or was capable of such an interpretation. An attempt has been made to fasten such a charge upon us because of the use by the Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Menzies) of the phrase “ mopping up “.
– The phrase “charwomen of ‘the Pacific” also was used by a member of the Opposition.
– That phrase was an application of the expression “mopping up “. It is interesting to note that the term “mopping up” was first used, so far as I can ascertain, in the description of operations in the islands, by General MacArthur himself. In a communique dated the 13th August, 1944, he said, referring to operations at Aitape, “ Our ground forces report an additional 1,057 Japanese killed and eighteen captured in final mopping-up operations “. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) also used the expression a little later when describing operations in the islands. Nothing said by members of the Opposition reflected on the difficulty of the task confronting our forces. We merely contended that the role which our troops were playing was, by its very nature, a secondary military role, no matter how difficult it might be.
A third charge against the CommanderinChief is that he should not have entered the political domain in order to make his answer. Personally, I do not desire to criticize him on that ground, because of the circumstances leading up to the broadcast itself. It is true, as his critics have said, that, in a democracy, the heads of great departments - and, in n sense, the Commander-in-Chief is the head of a great department - should refrain from entering the political arena. Ministers in charge of their departments are able to reply to criticism directed against themselves or their senior officers or the administration of the department. That being so, the normal practice of leaving to Ministers the task of replying to criticism is sound ; but it is clear from statements issued by the Government that the Commander-in-Chief was required to do something more in his broadcast address than is usually required of heads of departments. The Prime Minister himself said that, in order that the public might know just what was involved in the operations in the north, and the justification for them, the CommanderinChief himself should relate in a public broadcast the details of the campaign and the reasons for it. This he did in. a broadcast which he made on the 30th October last, and which was reported in the press on the 31st October. So we have the Commander-in-Chief becoming, in effect, the official government spokesman to justify the campaign on which the Government had decided. Therefore, perhaps, in keeping with that role, he replied to the most recent criticisms advanced against the campaign. Is Parliament competent to criticize the broad policy laid down by the Government? I think that without argument we can answer in the affirmative. No honorable member would contend that we should endeavour to intervene in military matters wherein strategy and tactics are involved; but it has always been recognized that the broad questions of where our troops are to fight and what their proportion shall be to the population are the responsibility of the Government, and it accordingly becomes the duty of Parliament to criticize and make constructive suggestions which they consider have a bearing on the decisions that the Government makes. This debate has at least had the effect of making clear to some extent just where the responsibility lies, because the Prime Minister has accepted full accountability for the decisions that led to the present operations. Whilst members of Parliament, in making criticisms labour under one .serious disadvantage, they have, T think, a compensating advantage. The disadvantage is that they cannot know all the facts upon which the Government bases its decisions, but against that the private member is able to maintain a more direct contact with the internal economy of the country in time of war, 1,-f’cause he is not in such an active role as either members of the Government or heads of the services. Therefore, as the reviewer is able to point out the defects and merits of a play more clearly than is the player, so those who see the broad picture of Australia’s war-time obligations may be able, on this question of a proper balance of the distribution of men and materials, to give a more balanced view than can Ministers and commanders. The primary responsibility for the campaign has become more clarified as the debate has proceeded. When the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) was Acting Prime Minister he created the impression, 1 think knowingly, that this campaign directly followed on commitments entered into with President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. In support, I quote from the stock Tetter which the Minister for the Army is in the habit of sending to honorable members when applications are made for army releases -
The present commitments entered into by the Prime Minister after his meetings with Mr. Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, render it impossible at the- present time to effect further discharges from the Army in excess of the 30,000 agreed upon to’ be released by the 30th June, 1945, in addition to normal wastage on medical grounds, &c. There will, however, be a reconsideration of the manpower problem as soon as the present commitments’ are carried out.
Lt is clearly indicated there that the Government had become committed to those overseas leaders. Later it was indicated by the same authority that the campaign followed upon a direction from General MacArthur, and, in other quarters, it was suggested that General Blarney himself had been responsible for persuading the Government to embark on. these operations-, but, from i lie Prime Minister’s statement, it now becomes clear that the Government itself made and accepts full responsibility for the decision. It i& proper that we should ask what is the objective of this campaign. Ft is interesting in that regard to notice the attitude of General MacArthur as. indicated by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman put it to us that General MacArthur was taking his own troops out after having held the outer perimeter of the areas concerned, and had asked us to take over. There is no indication in anything the right honorable gentleman has said that there was a re- I nest or instruction from him that we should engage in offensive operations in order to liquidate the 90,000 Japanese estimated to remain in the areas involved. I f we look for more detail as to the objective, we come back to the statement made by General Blarney on the 30th October last in which,. at the request of the Government, he was to explain the necessity for the campaign. That statement is reported in the Age of Tuesday, the 31st October, 1944, under the headings -
C.-in-C. Estimates Them at a Quarter of a Million.
If itf Task to Expel Them.
The body of the article contains the following passage : -
The task, of the United. Nations, would not lie completed until every Japanese was rooted out, and no one with any experience of the enemy would suggest seriously that the cleansing of the islands from Japanese pollution was going to ibc an easy task. It would without the slightest doubt mean hard fighting and casualties.
So it appears clearly from what General Blarney said that there is a vast number of Japanese in the north - 250,000, with 90,000 in the particular area which he referred to as -
The comparatively short arc which extends from Wewak in British New Guinea to the Solomons through’ New Britain and New Ireland . . .
The Commander-in-Chief added1 -
These Japanese may be denied the means of continuing that aggression which carried them almost to the shores of this country two years ago,, but they are by no means impotent, and all our experience is that they will sell their lives dearly when the United Nations undertake the- task of exterminating or expelling them
So apparently the objective of the Government was the liquidation of those troops because they were colonizing the islands, and, although not able to continue their aggressive movement towards Australia, they were not impotent. As to the colonization that was going on, no one can take that seriously. There is no evidence, as far as I know, that the Japanese have been supplied for very many months except in limited quantities brought by submarines. There is no suggestion that they have been supplied from Japan with agricultural equipment or have dairy herds. In other words, if there is any colonization going on, it is very primitive. What then has been the result of the campaign indicated by General Blarney? According to the Acting Minister for the Army, in five months of fighting, during which tens of thousands have been tied up either in operations or in supply, we have accounted for little more than 6,000 killed of the 90,000 Japanese referred to. What has been the cost to Australia of that campaign ? I refer to the report of the Acting Minister for the Army. We all entertain great respect for him, and we can accept that he set out as fairly as he could to give us a picture of what he saw oi had presented to him; but I suggest that honorable members examine his report very carefully, and if they do, they will reach the conclusion, I think, that, in making out a case for the Government on the matter of equipment, he has, at the same time, made out a most damning indictment of the Government for having undertaken the present campaign at all. I am going to refer to passages which struck me, as I read the report, as indicating the terrible conditions of climate and terrain under which the men had been asked to fight. I turn first to paragraph 19, which deals with New Britain. The Acting Minister quotes the general officer commanding that area -
To a large extent he stated that the requirements in the area had been largely met, as the Japanese troops were almost completely confined to the Gazelle Peninsula, which had been the main Japanese base for the whole of the Southern Pacific Area. They were well fed. well equipped, well led and heavily entrenched in the area.
The next reference to which I direct attention is in paragraph 27, “ Bougainville “-
Brigadier Stevenson, who was formerly with the 6th Division overseas, and also LieutenantGeneral Savige, spoke in terms of the highest praise of the enthusiasm, loyalty and efficiency of their troops, and deplored the references and insinuations that the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions were the picked troops and the others second-rate. They both stated that they would not ask to he given any other command, and the conditions of fighting in the jungle and the Japanese determination to die fighting, made the combination a more strenuous, exacting, exhausting and bitter type of warfare than any that they had experienced in the Middle East.
In paragraph 30 the Acting Minister states -
Japanese troops in Bougainville were well supplied with artillery and infantry weapons and other items of fighting equipment, and with all reasonable supplies and rations for individual needs.
Then in paragraph 31 -
The Japanese were by no means; a rabble, and in all engagements to date, captured orders had given information of soundly organized defensive systems, intelligently planned, and manned with troops determined to fight to the death, and it was only by our troops being well on their toes and exercising every care, and being possessed with that element of greater initiative and efficiency, that they had been able to outpoint the Japanese.
I now come to paragraph 53, dealing with the New Guinea Area -
The elements also were against them, in thai 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 a 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.
Thu 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.
Further reference to Aitape occurs in paragraph 66 of the report, a portion of which states -
The performance of our troops against the enemy under most exhausting and disheartening difficulties of terrain and storms was magnificent, and has again proved that they are the most magnificent fighting soldiers in the world.
In the Acting Minister’s summing-up in paragraph 71 he says -
No praise is sufficient for the members of the forces who are fighting the enemy in the forefront of the battle. 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 raine that in one night sweep away the work of months in the destruction of bridges and roads, are not the most formidable enemies of them all.
I invite honorable members to consider those statements together. A great deal of imagination need not be exercised to realize the tremendous difficulties and hardships to which tens of thousands of Australians are now being subjected. It is true, as the Minister pointed out, that the casualty lists from enemy action are comparatively light, but there is a significant “omission from the report of any reference to casualties from sickness. No reference is made to the invalidism that will afflict tens or hundreds of thousands of Australians for the remainder of their lives as the result of years spent under the rigorous conditions experienced in the northern areas. That cost to the men themselves is being made greater for all of them by reason of the fact that they are being deprived of normal social life, and are suffering an enforced absence from their homes. In view of the results which have been achieved we should ask ourselves whether the cost is worth the price we are paying. That is only the beginning of the cost, though, in terms of human suffering and hardship, it is possibly the greatest element in the total bill.
Looked at from other angles, however, we see how that cost is increased by what is happening in Australia itself. The cost to the country in terms of money - and this cannot be ignored - is tremendous. It is having the effect of not only crippling Australian citizens, but also adding to our future burdens which will make the re-establishment of our fighting men all the harder to effect. That cost represents the use being made of our vast forces, of whose exact sine we can only form a shadowy estimate, because we cannot get precise information from the Government. Those forces have been stated in a reference approved by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and coming from an officer in General MacArthur’s command, as being 800,000 in all the services. A statement was made by Mr. Eltham, Director of Reconstruction Training, that the total personnel affected is 900,000. That gives us an indication of the tremendous number of Australians involved. “We may perhaps estimate the Army’s strength at between 500,000 and 600,000 men and women, and that represents a huge subtraction from the national effort of this country, lt is probable that at the stage of the war when Japan was threatening us directly with invasion this vast subtraction of men and women power from the economy of the country could be justified as a proper defence measure, but having regard to the changed war situation, and the commitments into which we have freely entered with our allies for the supply of foodstuffs and for essential war materials, it represents a gross subtraction from the national effort which should not be allowed to continue.
We are failing in almost every commitment we have undertaken. In respect of foodstuffs we are not, .as far as I know, furnishing the full quantity of one commodity which we have under taken to supply to the people of Great Britain and our other allies. To say that in terms of relative importance the operations in the north at present outweigh those other considerations is to present a totally false picture of the direction in which our responsibility lies. I ask the House to have regard to the objective which has been indicated to us. No suggestion has been made by any responsible government spokesman or military leader that the Japanese to the north of Australia represent a military threat to this country to-day. No answer has been made to the claim from this side of the House that with a very much greater economy of effort we could contain the Japanese where they are, save Australian- lives, and increase the Australian war effort in other directions. The reason why no answer has been made to that contention is that it is completely unanswerable.
– I make no such claim, but it is clear from what he has said that he himself regards the role of the Australian troops as a containing one. The policy of the United Nations is unconditional surrender, and if that means anything it implies that the defeat of Japan will involve the return to that country of Japanese soldiers from whatever part of the world they may be occupying, including the islands to the north of Australia. [Extension of time granted.] To put the matter at its worst, the Japanese at that period were not prepared to withdraw from, any occupied territory, there would he no debate about deficiencies of equipment for the task which could then be carried out. We could bring the full weight of the naval, air and military forces available to the Allies against the Japanese at that time, and with a greater economy of life and suffering than we are now forcing upon the Australian troops. A realistic assessment should be made immediately by the Government, of the price that is being paid for the meagre results being obtained in the present campaign and of the likely uses to be made in future of the Australian forces.
– And send it to the enemy.
– I do not suggest that. Knowing something of the attitude of the UnitedStates of America up to the present, and a perfectly understandable attitude it is having regard to the attack launched upon America by Japan, I believe that a very limited use will be made of Australian military and air forces as the campaign moves closer to Japan itself. Because of that there is no justification for maintaining under Army direction and within the Army and the Air Force the vast numbeT of men and women who are at present in those services.
If the Government accepts the view, which I say is the only realistic one, that a large use of our air and military forces is not likely to be made as the campaign moves farther north, there should be a review, not in June, nor two or three months hence, but immediately, of the present establishment strength of these forces with a view to a substantial reduction. “We were told that shipping was the key to the present problem withregard to equipment in New Guinea, and that such shortage of equipment as the ‘Government has admitted is due to the shortage of shipping. Does the Government imagine that the shipping position will improve so rapidly that we shall be able to move hundreds or thousands of men farther north during the next few months or the next year ? The course of the war in Europe will not improve the shipping position, because it will be necessary to move vast bodies of Allied troopseither home or to the Pacific theatre. A movement of supplies on a vast scale, and of prisoners of war, will be necessary. Those and other demands will be made on the shipping resources of the United Nations, so we shall not have a great deal of shipping available for the purposes of our own Australian forces.
The present debate will have served a most useful purpose if it compels the Government to realize the wastefulness of the present campaign, and the fact that the terrible price we are now paying for limited gains makes an expansion of the present effort in New Guinea unjustifiable. There should be an immediate cessation of offensive operations, and we should he content to contain the enemy where he is. Only in that way will the Government restore a proper balance to the war effort of this nation, and spare the young manhood of Australia untold suffering and hardship for many months; such a price which would not be justified in the eyes of any reasonable group of men in control of the affairs of the Commonwealth.So the case made out by the Opposition does not rest merely on deficiencies in equipment. That charge is serious enough, and enough has been said in the course of this debate to show that there are deficiencies which should be remedied. In my view the overriding issue is the strategic one, and sufficient has been said to convince the Government that there is not the slightest justification for the maintenance of the present policy. That policy should be reviewed immediately.
.- The speeches of members of the Opposition have confirmed my original opinion that this debate would develop into a purely political discussion and a political attempt to discredit something of which we are very proud. I suppose that it is very rare - almost unknown in military history - for an army to inflict defeat upon itself; but I have never seen such a. defeatist attitude and such tremendous outflanking movements to the rear as those adopted by members of the Opposition since they ‘began this debate. Very fearful they are, and very annoyed they are, that they started this business. It is very difficult, when one has been absent from the House for a day, to obtain a true estimate of the position. In this morning’s newspapers in Sydney, I read one story. Reading the Hansard proofs in Oanberra, I discovered another story. Being by no means an innocent man, I conclude that there has been some collusion between the Opposition and its particularly favorable press.
Let me examine how this sham battle arose. In the first place, I remember some discussion taking place about our troops in New Guinea, and it was alleged that they were engaged in mopping-up operations. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) asserted that that was not their proper role, and that they should be despatched to Burma. He considered that the campaign in the New Guinea area could have little significance in the development of the war against Japan. Then, suddenly, when that one did not seem to go off all right, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) discovered that a major campaign was being conducted in New Guinea, and that our forces there were tragically short of equipment, although they were killing Japanese as rapidly as possible. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Either the campaign in the New Guinea area consists of a series of mopping-up operations) or it is a major campaign, and the troops lack adequate equipment. One of those propositions cannot be correct. The honorable member for Wentworth has survived several ‘ battles. This is: his second battle for Wentworth. I recollect, vividly that he fought his: first battle at the last election, and I wondered whether his present activity has resulted from the fact that bis political opposite number is now absent in San Francisco. However, the honorable member will recall that I spoke to him in one of the corridors of the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney and said that it was regrettable to play politics with the subject of the equipment of our troops in New Guinea. The honorable member replied, “ You ‘ gave it ‘ to us, and now we are going to give it ‘ to you “. Unfortunately for themselves, members of the Opposition are not able to “ give it “ to the Government, because the Government is supported by facts. We have the judgment and strategy of soldiers behind us.
– Is the honorable member a strategist?
– If the honorable member for New England will keep milling around in his paddock, I shall deal with him later. The subject of the equipment of our troops in New Guinea has been raised for the purpose of creating a feeling of uneasiness in the minds of the people of whom we should take the greatest care. As men of judgment, I hope we can debate in this chamber the deficiencies of this and that, and we oan listen to reports and point out where their weaknesses- lie. But what kind of reaction has the word “equipment” upon 1ihe- people of Australia? Members of the Opposition, and. their “Dr. Goobbels “ in. the news-manufacturing bureaux in. Sydney,, know that the word “equipment” has a wider significance than bulldozers and heavy machinery for New Guinea. They know that to the mother whose son is fighting in the New Guinea area, andi, in fact, to all people in Australia who have relatives engaged iu the islands to the north,, the word “equipment” may easily mean their food, the atebrin which saves many of our soldiers from death, and their clothing. They have used the word “equipment” as a political instrument to bring into this- chamber an unwarranted fight. Their charges are not substantiated by high-ranking officers and the Acting Minister for the Army.
The honorable member for Wentworth ran around Sydney like a two-gun man from Chicago, with a sub-machine gun in his band and a couple of grenades in his pocket. He promised to stage a tremendous display of equipment in King’s Hall. I suggested that he should include pictures under the heading “ Before and After”, showing equipment issued to our troops when the United Australia party was in office, and their equipment when the Labour Government finished the job. I received no answer to that suggestion. The honorable member for Wentworth was a good soldier. We know that. He has told us so himself. I believe that the honorable gentleman was: a good soldier, but be has bad certain lapses from grace. A few years ago, he had a slogan, “Up, guards, and’ at ‘en “. The House will remember that occasion when the New Guard in New South Wales tried to take advantage of the plight of starving men and women. The honorable member for New England was also a good soldier, but he has been completely romantic in telling- his story. He has been shrieking and screaming in this House about the difficulties besetting our soldiers, and he called on his Creator to bear witness that his word’s were true. The honorable member has not been to New Guinea. Other honorable members who have taken part in this debate have not spoken from a first-hand knowledge of conditions in the
New Guinea area, so they must rely on what they believe is authentic information. By bringing the Deity into this discussion, and making loud proclamations, the honorable member for New England indicated that his material was not good, because there is a sound, jury in this chamber which will study basic facts, and the people too will sift them.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is playing a difficult role in this battle of equipment. For some weeks, he has been trying to sneer himself into the ranks of the Liberal Party, and he has been rattling around like a tank out of ammunition about lack of equipment, but he had no solid basic facts on which to rest his contentions. Of course, even in bringing up a platoon, some deficiencies may occur temporarily, and it has been frankly admitted that in the landing at Aitape and in certain features of the campaign on Bougainville and perhaps in New Britain there occurred some of the trifling deficiencies that are inevitable in war-time. Do honorable members opposite believe that in England D-Day went off without a hitch? As every one knows, there were reasons for the deficiencies in the New Guinea area. With the Americans landing in the Philippines sufficient shipping was not available to move all of our equipment, and honorable members opposite should not blame the Labour party for the high tides in New Guinea, or for the storms that prevented the landing of equipment. At least, the Labour Government had the equipment for the troops, whereas the United Australia party Government did not. As I pointed out earlier, members of the Opposition have changed their views regarding the importance of the campaign in the New Guinea area. Originally, they said that our troops were engaged in a series of mopping-up operations, and. they contended that the Japanese, having been by-passed, should be left until a later period of the war. If that policy had been adopted, hundreds of thousands of miles of Australian territory would be left in Japanese hands, whilst Australian troops would be fighting in Burma, which is not even included in the South-West Pacific command. It is debatable whether that change of strategy is good or bad. However, member* oi the Opposition then changed their ground, and suddenly discovered that our troops were fighting a major campaign in the New Guinea area, and lacked adequate equipment. Evidently that idea originated in ‘the fertile mind of the honorable member for Wentworth. But most honorable members opposite have different stories to tell. They all are attacking the situation differently. They know perfectly well that they do not like this subject, and would like the debate to end quickly.
Certain specific statements have been made. According to one school of thought, Australian troops should be withdrawn from New Guinea. Those who hold that view evidently overlook the fact that we are dedicated to the care of 1,000,000 natives in New Guinea. That responsibility devolves upon us as the result of our mandate from the League of Nations, and because the Commonwealth Department of External Territories controls Papua. When the Japanese menace in New Guinea was very real, the “ fuzzy-wuzzy “ was a hero, and people wrote poems about him. Art we to leave the natives to the destructive forces of the Japanese? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) declared that the Japanese were not colonizing New Guinea. The fact is that the Japanese are living in the lusher parts of New Guinea and are denuding the gardens of the natives. Native women are being raped, and native men are starving. If, in future, we are to hold a mandate from an organization similar to the League of Nations or if we are to hold up our head in respect of the care of the native races, we must not leave the “ fuzzy- wuzzies “ to the Japanese, just on the whimsy of some politician. We must see that the Japanese are driven from the islands and that the natives are allowed to live in the peace and moderate comfort to which they were accustomed before the Japanese overran them. If we do less than that, we shall lose for ever the white man’s prestige in New Guinea. We may tell the natives that the Japanese have been by-passed; but the Japanese continue to eat the vegetables in the gardens of the natives, and are rearing a horde of half-caste children in the villages. We may assure the natives that at some unspecified time in the future, when the war is finished, we shall send ships to take the invaders back to Japan. Even the natives would laugh at that story, -because once the Japanese “ go bush “ and their armies are broken up, those men will be refugees and have to he “ smoked out “ again. They know that they will not be wanted in Japan, and that they will be doomed to starve in the jungle. It would be merciful to “ smoke out “ the Japanese and kill them rather than allow them to continue their depredations in New Guinea. We are dedicated to free the natives from them.
Reference has been made during this debate to the responsibility of the press. As I said earlier, we have to consider what is said in this House, and the repercussions on the people of Australia. This would be a very poor Parliament indeed df, for political purposes, we used it to cause misery to the mothers of this country. They are already suffering from the very fact that their sons are on active service. When reports of debates in this House are published we should expect them to be fair and accurate. What is alleged to have been an attack on press correspondents was made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). He referred to their “ rush “ tactics in obtaining news in the Army. They are perfectly justified in getting the best news they can, in worrying the “ brass hats “ for their stories, in going as near to the front line as they can with safety, and in trying to force their way back for the purpose of getting their messages through to the mainland so that the public may know what our troops are doing. They are justified in doing everything that the job calls for. But let us see what happens at home. The Melbourne Argus, on the 25th April, Anzac Day, in reporting the debate in this House on the equipment issue, published the following headline, “ Prime Minister Denies Army Short of Equipment”. That appears to be a fairly reasonable statement of what occurred. The Melbourne Age, on the same day, published this heading, “ Mr. Curtin Re plies to Army Criticism. Troops Adequately Armed for Jungle Operations.” But the Sydney Daily Telegraph published the following bold headline, “ Troops Lack Heavy Equipment - Admission by Curtin “. As a former pressman, I think that we have come to the end of the road with this newspaper. The people of Australia are following this debate with the keenest interest and are anxious to see what results from it. They are trying to estimate the value of the various contentions put forward by honorable members. The Sydney Daily Telegraph published the heading that our troops lacked heavy equipment when the rest of the newspapers of Australia were honest and decent enough te give a reasonable report of the debate. It is time that the editor of the Daily Telegraph was brought to the bar of this House to explain his repeated, dangerous, scurrilous, and, in some cases, highly treasonable misstatements on vital matters. Is it necessary, at this stage of the war, to increase the anxiety of the common people by raising false issues? Is itnecessary that the press of this country should use its freedom to misrepresent the facts day by day? It is tragic that what happens in this National Parliament is not made known to the people because of the studied misrepresentation that is practised in some quarters. This fact was brought home to me clearly earlier this week. Because I had duties in my electorate on Anzac Day I was not present in the House on the first sitting day this week, and therefore, I had to rely on newspaper reports of the proceedings When I read the Hansard report, and compared it with what appeared in the Daily Telegraph, I found that they were two entirely different stories. If those people who read the Daily Telegraph will read also the factual report given by the reporters at the table, they will find that two entirely different accounts of the proceedings in this House are given. Regardless of the political party to which we belong, or of other allegiances, we must admit that if the facts as to what happens here cannot get into the newspapers, the freedom of the press is a farce. Some members of the Australian Journalists Association have said that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should not have said what he did say about war correspondents, .but I suggest that that body should first put its own house in order, and deal with the Daily Telegraph, which on such a grave issue as the equipment of Australian forces has misrepresented the facts, and thereby spread terror and dismay among the people. I admit that that terror and dismay are likely to diminish each month, because the people are beginning to realize that misrepresentation has taken place, and they are not likely to be fooled all the time. One of the most serious aspects of the discussion in relation to the equipment of the Australian Army is that a newspaper has abdicated its position as a fair recorder of facts. I regard that as one of the most serious things which this debate has revealed. The trifling allegations regarding lack of proper equipment for our troops in New Guinea-
– The honorable member was not here, and does not know what was said.
– I am fully aware of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) said; his remarks’ contained the usual amount of froth and bubble, and had no substance in fact. In regarding the factual report I observed that the honorable gentleman took a long time to get going, and that he resumed his seat with amazing alacrity because of the weakness of the case that he had endeavoured to present.
– If the honorable member had been here doing his duty he would have known what I said.
– So far as the Government has any charge to answer, it can claim to have done a magnificent job in New Guinea. Of course, there are reasons why the Opposition must flog the dead horse of controversy, but to select Army equipment for its purpose was to turn the gun against itself. It was a good Australian gun manufactured by Australians under the direction of a Labour government, and the counter blows showed that good use was made of it. The Opposition has not made a case against the Government in regard to the equipment of the Australian forces, (t is true that there have been some temporary shortages of equipment, but those shortages have not justified disturbing the people of Australia and the fighting soldier, especially when the charges made cannot be substantiated. I suggest to Opposition members that tha next time that they wish to attack the Government they should bring forward solid facts instead of presenting to the House ;i lot of nebulous statements. Another grave aspect of this matter is that Opposition members have used army officers to supply them with information for their charge against the Government. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who, I regret, is not now in the chamber, said that. I made the allegation tha f. in association with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he had approached high-ranking officers.
– That was a deliberate untruth.
– If a private soldier approaches a. member of Parliament on any matter affecting his military service 1m. is disciplined, “but privileged officers can come to Sydney and meet their friends- who are politicians, and “ cook up “ something which looks like a plo against either the Government or Afap Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Land Forces.
– That is a deliberate untruth.
– Officers have been known to deal most firmly with men under them who discuss Army matters with members of Parliament, hut they are prepared to tell other members of Parliament stories about alleged deficiencies of equipment which, when analysed, proved to be without foundation. The whole challenge seems to have been a hasty and illconceived plot with no real significance; and the small attendance of members in the chamber to hear the debate indicates that that is the judgment of the House.
.- The Government has not issued a direction that any man who gave information to the Acting Minister for the Army (SenatoFraser) would be guaranteed immunity from disciplinary action. Any man who is fighting for his country, whether he he an officer or a man serving in the ranks, and honestly believes that there is something wrong with army supplies, or with the weapons with which the troops are expected to fight, should, in my opinion, be free to put his case to a member of Parliament without fear of the consequences. After he has done that, the responsibility rests with his parliamentary representative to inquire into the matter; and should that representative believe that the statements made to him are correct, he should then raise the matter in the proper place. That is his duty, because the lives of men depend largely upon whether the equipment issued offers to them a reasonable chance of success when they meet the foe. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a paltry statement when he said that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and others got among their officer friends and obtained information from them with which to attack the Government. I belonged to an Australian Imperial Force unit most of the officers of which had been promoted from the ranks. That was my own experience. I object to the cheap remarks of the honorable member for Parkes; it is disgraceful that any member of this Parliament should say such things.
I do not agree with honorable members on this side of the House in regard to a number of matters that have been raised in this debate. In my opinion, much of what has been said in regard to army equipment has been brought forward by a section of the Army and of the people of Australia in an attempt to serve their own interests. I believe that the Australian CommanderinChief made a serious mistake when he made a broadcast speech which was definitely political in character. I was disappointed with, that speech, because I have always believed in General Sir Thomas Blamey ; I have served with him and under him. I do not know of any one who could take his place.
– There is no one.
– I think that I have a little more knowledge of this subject than have most members of this House, not excepting the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). I know General Blarney to be a proved strategist, both in the war of 1914-18 and in this war; he alsois a tactician of the first order. I remind the House that he has had many successes, and I shall give some of the reasons for them. First, General Blarney has great soldierly knowledge and ability. Secondly, he was sufficiently courageous to deal ruthlessly with people who at one stage of the last war showed that they had no soldierly knowledge, and no sympathy with soldier’s problems. Thirdly, he dealt ruthlessly with our American Allies. Americans like to have their own way, and they take a lot of handling. They are inclined to be arrogant and to take what they want, leaving the other fellow with what is left. General Blarney has shown great ability not only as a soldier and an administrator, but also by his capacity to deal with outsidesections. For those reasons, I have been definitely behind him ; and I believe that we cannot possibly improve the present situation by substituting some one else for him. Although I do not believe that the fault lies with the Commander-in-Chief, I consider that there are grounds on which the Administration can be attacked in relation to army equipment. I have had a good deal of experience among serving soldiers in this war and in the war of 1914-1918. I have been told by serving men - some of them my own relatives - on whoseword I can rely, that the ammunition, rifles, guns, and equipment issued to Australian soldiers are equal to, or better than, anything in the world. But they also say that there are many deficiencies, and that many other things are still necessary. That applies particularly to the requirements of the engineering and transport sections of the Army, where there are still some grave shortages. One man, whose word I do not doubt, told me that at Aitape a ship containing vital supplies remained unloaded for five weeks because the Australian Army did not have a vessel suitable to carry equipment from the ship through the surf to the shore. Honorable members know that high tides and heavy surf constitute a difficult problem on many Pacific islands. Australian- made amphibious craft suitable for landing stores and equipment on such beaches had been sent to the Philippines, as were some of our cruisers, frigates, and other light craft. I believe that those vessels were sent to the Philippines because General MacArthur was of the opinion that the by-passed areas would be manned only by small forces, and that the great bulk of the Australian fighting men would assist to strike at the heart of the Japanese Empire, [n spite of the unexpectedly early success of the campaign in the Philippines, the Government should not have undertaken the ^present campaign in the islands to the north of Australia until it had supplied the equipment necessary to ensure the success of the campaign with the lowest possible loss of life. I believe that it decided upon that campaign because our men were approaching the line to the north of which die Australian Imperial Force could serve, but beyond which the Militia could not be sent.
– That is a base insinuation. It is without the slightest foundation.
–The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) does not like it when the acid test is applied. I, and many other people, believe that that was the main reason why the Government preferred to employ our soldiers in the present campaign in the northern islands in spite of the fact that it did not have the necessary equipment available. The Government realized that should the members of the Australian Imperial Force proceed much farther north a very awkward political situation would arise, because the 3rd and 5th Militia Divisions, which had been fighting side by side with them, would not be able to continue the advance beyond the delimited area. On reaching a certain line, the Militia divisions would have been told that they could not go farther. If, as the Government says, these troops have adequate essential equipment, why does it refuse to allow a member of any other party in this Parliament to visit these operational areas? If it has nothing to hide, it should be only too pleased to facilitate visits by representatives of other parties. Many honorable members on this side of the House are competent to speak on the problem of military equipment; but none of us is allowed to visit operational areas in the north because the Government believes that we might obtain certain information which would possibly react against it, although its disclosure would be in the interests of Australia and of the men who are serving this- country in battle and to whom we are indebted for the fact that to-day we remain a free people. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that he was astounded at the action of honorable members on this side in playing down the achievements of Australia’s forces. That charge, of course, is not true. We on this side are very proud of our gallant soldiers, who have represented this country in battle in not only New Guinea but also all battle zones on the field, in the air and on the sea. No other navy has achieved a grander record in this war than the Australian Navy. What it lacks in size is compensated in quality. No one will deny that.
– The Navy, apparently, has good equipment.
– The Navy is very well equipped. Practically all of ite ships were produced in British yards, and sent out here fully equipped. Our naval personnel have been thoroughly trained at our own naval college; they have had experience in the Royal Navy, and are imbued with its- grand traditions. However, this attack is directed against the Government in respect of the equipment of our troops now operating in the islands to the north of Australia. Every honorable member realizes that our troops Who fought in Africa lacked certain essential equipment. Honorable members do not need to be reminded of the reason for that position. Following the disaster at Dunkirk, Great Britain was fighting for it® very existence, and we rushed to the British forces all the equipment we then bad. available. Honorable members opposite claim that the present Government has been solely responsible for equipping our Army, and for the fact that Australia was saved from invasion. This Government inherited a tremendous legacy from its predecessor.
– Too right we did!
– Nevertheless, when the preceding Government went out of office it had undertaken the construction of munitions factories throughout the
Gomanonwealth. I believe that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) will admitthat many of those factories had been completed and equipped before he assumed office.
– Over £250,000 was expended on the construction of munitions works at Bendigo.
– The bulk of our munitions was produced after this Government assumed office.
– Of course, I should hardly think that the Minister would simply sit down, and fail to utilize and add to the factories which had been constructed by the preceding Government. A tremendous amount of work was done in this field by the preceding Government before it went out of office.
– All I know is that there was a very serious shortage of equipment for our men in some of the earlier campaigns.
– And I shall tell the Minister the reason why. That position was due to the attitude adopted by certain people in this country, notably certain members of this Parliament. Speaking in this House on the 16th November, 1939, some time after the outbreak of war, the present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said -
I am firmly of the opinion that, irrespective of how long this war lasts, the boundaries of Poland will not be restored to what they were prior to the commencement, of hostilities. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is to adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), namely, that instead of carrying on this stupid conflict that cannot bring benefit to the workers of any country, an effort should be made at the earliest posible moment to summon a conference of the major nations for the purpose of ending it.
At, that time, Germany had overrun Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland. The Nazis were right at the peak of their success. In those circumstances the only peace that Great Britain couldhave made with Germany would have been acceptance of a condition of subservience to the victors. Speaking in this House on the 12th October, 1939, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) said -
Personally, I would not spend three pence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
Those remarks explain why Australia at that time was inadequately armed. Honorable members opposite were opposed te expenditure on defence.
– The preceding Government must have taken their advice, because this country was defenceless when it went out of office.
– That remark is not convincing, coming from a member of a party which abolished universal military training.
– And for how many years did the Government which the honorable member supported have an opportunity to reintroduce universal training, but failed to do so?
– Do I have to remind honorable members that a very senior Minister in the present Government did his only soldiering when he was arrested because he refused to do military training, and was imprisoned at Queenscliff!
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks to the question befor« the Chair.
– To-day our men ar« not so well equipped as they should be. They are short of heavy equipment.
– Whence did the honorable member get that information?
– From many soldiers, not from blatherskites.
– Disappointed soldiers!
– No ; I obtained it from soldiers who to-day occupy prominent positions in our armed forces. I should be prepared to give their names but for the fact that, if I did so, they would he persecuted. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) refused to give an undertaking to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), that if the latter disclosed the names of his informants, they would have immunity from disciplinary action. Out forces now in the north are shoTt of equipment, particularly for engineers and pioneers, who are using picks and shovels to do work on whieh the American forces would employ bulldozers. I believe that there is a shortage of landing craft, and I do not think that our troops have even had the support that they should have received from our own naval units, because ships of the Royal Australian Navy have been engaged on what General MacArthur considered to be the main job. I have no objection to that; but I do object to Australian troops being asked to carry out this task entirely without support, lt is a great pity that this should have occurred in view of the great reputation established by Australian troops in the last war, and nobly upheld by their successors in this war.
– The honorable member apparently is making his Anzac Day speech now !
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has no right to make an Anzac Day speech, because he does not even support the principle of preference to ex-servicemen. In our Australian Imperial Force we have some of the best storm troops that the world has ever seen. They could write glorious pages of history in fighting against enemy forces to the north of this country, and more important still from the point of view of our people, in fighting to release from enemy prisons the men of the 8th Division who were captured by the Japanese in Malaya, and other Australian soldiers who have been made prisoners during the fighting in other Pacific territories. That is the job that these men want to do; yet men of two Australian Imperial Force divisions have been kept in Queensland for twelve months, eating their hearts out. I do not suggest that these men have any desire to be killed fighting the Japanese, but they joined the Army to do a job, and, so far, for political reasons, they have not been given an opportunity to do it. Had this task been undertaken by Australian troops the Government might have suffered embarrassment, and an awkward political situation might have been created for honorable members opposite. We all are wry proud of our fighting men. We believe that it is our duty to ensure that they shall be equipped in the best possible manner. The fact that war loans are being fully subscribed by the Australian people despite their knowledge that this Government is wasting a lot of money, is clear proof that the citizens of this “Wintry know what they owe to their fighting men, and are prepared to back them to the utmost by making available all the equipment that they require to deal with the enemy and achieve victory at the earliest possible moment.
.- This debate arose out of criticism of alleged deficiencies iu the equipment of Australian troops. Owing to your leniency, Mr. Speaker - I was going to say reputation for leniency, but I do not think you have that - you have permitted the discussion to wander slightly.
– Order! I draw the attention of all honorable members to the fact that the original statement made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on behalf of the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) dealt specifically with the equipment of the Australian forces. The debate upon that statement was adjourned on the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), f have before me a copy of the speech made by . the right honorable member when he tabled the report noon this matter made by the Acting Minister for the Army, and moved that the paper be printed. The right honorable gentleman devoted approximately the first ten minutes of that speech, not to the adequacy or otherwise of Army equipment, but to the more general subject of the disposition of Australian forces. I must take cognizance of that fact. It was an indication to me that the Government desired that the scope of the debate should be enlarged, and I do not propose to limit the right of any honorable member to debate the wider issues.
– I was merely endeavouring to intimate, Mr. Speaker, that it had struck me that you had allowed the debate to develop somewhat on the lines of criticism of the General Officer Commanding and of the Government, matters which I do not think were covered by the Prime Minister’s speech. However, I shall accept your ruling. -Speeches in this debate have been devoted substantially to criticism of the type and area of operations now being carried on by Australian troops, and to the specific matter of equipment. Comparisons have been made between the quantity of equipment used by United States forces in their particular operations, and that used by Australian troops in the campaign in which they are now engaged. Mention lias been made of specific items of machinery, and heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders, barges and ships, but bo far, in making these comparisons, not one honorable member has thought fit to compare the operations in which our forces and American force’s are engaged or to determine whether these forces, in their respective theatres of operations, have been engaged on constructional or merely maintenance work. That is a governing factor in the allocation of equipment. Because of that discrepancy in the remarks of honorable members, I refuse to attach any weight to the inferences which have been drawn from these comparisons. In my view unnecessary fear has been instilled in the minds of relatives of Australian fighting men l>v this exaggeration of what, after all, have been admitted to be temporary shortages. I am satisfied from the report of the Acting Minister for the Army that these temporary shortages were unavoidable1, and were beyond the control of any General Officer Commanding or any government; they were brought about by an act of God.
– It is just as well that the honorable u’«mber did not have to suffer these temporary shortages in the front line.
– I have been temporarily deprived of equipment and even water in the front line, and I know that these shortages are unavoidable until communications can be established and deficiencies remedied.
– Are they unavoidable ?
– Yes. When the Australians took over the Aitape area - that i* the area to which this discussion chiefly relates, because there has been little complaint about conditions in other areas - there were certain deficiencies. It has been admitted that because, in their evacuation of this area, the Americans took with them all their amphibious equipment and heavy gear for a job which General MacArthur considered to We more important than future operations at Aitape, tho Australians had some difficulty in obtaining transport to bring in the equipment which they re quired. That may have been avoidable, and I am not attempting to defend any muddle that may have occurred; but on top of that, unprecedented storms occurred in this area, and what up to that time had been a reasonably calm landing beach was turned into a raging surf for days on end, with the result that landing operations often had to be suspended. Another effect of the weather disturbance was that patrols which were relying upon air-borne supplies had to suffer severe shortages because all aircraft were grounded. For five days it was impossible for any aircraft to take the air. It has been alleged that aircraft had been taken away from this area; that charge is ridiculous. The Acting Minister’s report states that torrential rams caused the rivers to rise 20 feet and washed enormous quantities of heavy equipment out to sea. That equipment was irrecoverable. Instead of criticizing our forces because of these difficulties, we should be praising and admiring their ingenuity in making the best of what they had. If there were any foundation for these charges the reflection would be not on the Government, but on the officers in command of these operations. It has been assumed by the individuals who have made the charges that the officers in command of troops in these areas basely deserted their men in the field and did not make any attempt to supply them with equipment which was available in base areas. I have been in New Guinea and I know that our troops are in good condition. They are well officered and they trust their officers, who are responsible men, just as some members of this House were responsible officers in the last war. They did not let their men down deliberately in those days, and their successors are not doing it now. They are endeavouring to carry out their job to the best of their ability. They have been through the jungles themselves, and they know the hardships that their men are suffering. Our fighting men of all ranks are playing their part. I accept the statements of General MacArthur, General Blainey, and the General Officer ‘Commanding in these areas, that the equipment available to our troops is adequate and of the right type for the operations in which they are engaged. To assume that the Americans would leave in these areas, for use in a minor or liquidating operation, the enormous quantities of amphibious equipment and materials of all kinds which they brought with them for special operations, particularly landings against an entrenched enemy, where resistance in force would be encountered, is absurd in the extreme. I have no patience with people who, sitting in their homes made safe for them by the American forces, as well as our own men, criticize the action of the Americans in taking this equipment with them. I believe that the Americans intended originally ito leave more equipment in New Guinea for these operations, believing that the campaign would be on a larger scale than it is to-day, but the success of their operations farther north was so much greater than they had expected that they needed the equipment for their own use. Are we going to squeal because our operational commanders had to cut the coat according to the available cloth and reduce the scale of the present operations? The campaign is being well carried out. The casualty figures that have been quoted prove that there have been no major mistakes.
– What is the objective of the campaign?
– The objective is to clear the Japanese from land that is under the general control of Australians. I heartily approve of the fact that, with the smallest possible number of casualties, we are gradually eliminating those enemy forces, and not leaving them to be taken away in safety later. We must kill them if we can. The United States of America is not leaving one pocket of Japanese troops in its territory in the Philippines, and we must not leave any Japanese in our territory. If we have any brains at all, and any thought for the future of this country and our children, we shall ensure that history will tell that, when the Japanese marched against Australia, they were eliminated to the last man. We must not allow it to be reported to posterity that we could not push them back, that they established themselves in our territories, and that we did not have the courage to put them out, but waited and let them go home so that they could attack us again, as Germany did after the war of 1914-18. An undefeated nation will have an undefeated will, and will rise and take up arms again. I do not agree that out troops engaged in this campaign are without necessary and proper equipment.
– The honorable member said that they were. He said that the Americans took equipment away because the campaign was not big enough.
-I did not say that.I said that the equipment allocated to our forces was adequate for the operations planned. There was a temporary setback at Aitape due to weather. That ir on record. Our casualties at Aitape were 164 killed, as against 3,000 Japanese known killed, and 3,198 assumed killed. That does not indicate to methat there was any appreciable deficiency in our equipment. Our soldiers have the material with which to kill the Japanese. They experienced difficultiesbecause of weather conditions which made thelanding beach at Aitape unusable. This stretch of the coast had been favorable for landing operations for months, but al the critical stage a raging sea developed from very unusual causes. Honorable members will recall that three American destroyers foundered at sea in a terrible gale at that time. Were the Americans short of equipment becausethey did not have those destroyers?
– The honorable member knows that there are84.000 Japanese still to be liquidated.
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) it one of the best conducted members of this House. He has sat in the chamber throughout this debate, and I have not heard him interject once during the speeches of other honorable members. He is entitled to receive the same courtesy as he accords to others and I insist that he shall receive it.
– I am not impressed with the arguments of honorable members who claim that our troops are Short of equipment. Setbacks may occur in the best-planned campaigns under the most favorable conditions. When plans are upset by an act of God, there will naturally be complaints that, for a period, the soldiers did not have sufficient equipment, clothing, food and ammunition’. When supplies are temporarily interrupted, the men do not know the cause, and they blame somebody higher up in the service. That is an army prerogative. I have been a soldier, and [ know that the man who does not complain is not a good soldier. The casualty lists show that there has been no major error in the conduct of the New Guinea campaign. There have .been minor deficiencies of equipment and the importance of these has been deliberately exaggerated. I do not know why; perhaps it has been done for political purposes. These discrepancies should not have been magnified so greatly as to strike fear to the hearts of the parents of our soldiers. The importance of our light casualties should he stressed in order to show that General Blarney and the officers under him have had the welfare and safety of our troops in mind throughout the campaign. During this debate, a number of ex-soldiers have told of their experiences in order to show that this war is very different from the war of 1914-18. In the last war I went into an attack at Cape Helles on a plain as open as the lawns in front of Parliament Souse at 4.30 in the afternoon. We were slaughtered; our casualties were more than 50 per cent, of our total strength. That sort of thing does not happen in this war, because our military leaders concentrate on protecting the lives of their men. Some honorable members have endeavoured to create the impression that officers of the Australian forces have a callous disregard for the lives of their soldiers. I refute that suggestion on behalf of those gallant men, who cannot come here to defend themselves. I am assuming that critics on the other side of the House consider that our military officers must be held responsible for mistakes because the Government has no direct control over operations. They consider that, if the military command had sufficient equipment under its control, it must be held responsible for any shortages. I assert that it has accepted its responsibility and, has not let the men down one iota.
– If one of the honorable gentleman’s shop-walkers let him. down, would he discharge that man?
– No, I would not sack him. There is no substance whatever behind this attack on the military command. T ask honorable members and the Australian people to judge the campaign by its results and not by intermittent growls from some members of the forces. Two points are at issue in this debate. One relates to equipment and the other to the need for our forces to be fighting in the New Guinea area at all. I have been in New Guinea three times during this campaign. I went there first in 1942 with the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). We went as far up the line as we could go when the Japanese were on this side of the Owen Stanley Range. With a couple of AvroAnsons we flew to Milne Bay and had a look when the Japanese were in thai area. Our forces were desperately short of every sort of equipment in those days. They lacked aircraft and ships. There were only four barges at Port Moresby, and they lacked every kind of four-wheeled transport equipment. Bulldozers were so scarce as to be museum pieces. I saw Australians stripped to the waist making roads with picks and shovels. They do not have to do that to-day. They have the quantity of equipment laid down for their divisions. Since 1942 we have had the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, and Japan has been swept from the seas. It had absolute command of the seas in those days and we were unable to ship the equipment needed by our troops. To-day, however, our aircraft can carry multitudinous types of American equipment to our men in the battle areas. Material is flowing in to our forces under the lend-lease agreement. The Americans themselves use the same equipment and our supplies have been built up and improved. In 1942 our men were new to jungle warfare. Some of our soldiers wore uniforms that were camouflaged with green paint, which rubbed off and caused rashes. To-day we have specialized equipment, properly balanced fire power and special gear for every purpose. It is a story altogether different from the story of the campaign in 1942. Our men are in good shape and the Japanese have been driven back into pockets where they are practically immobilized. I do not belittle in any way the danger of jungle warfare, whether from disease or enemy action. I know the area in which our hoys are fighting, and I have walked along some of tho trails in New ‘Guinea. I should not like to tramp along those jungle trails for more than a few hours at a time, even if I could come hack to the officers’ mess afterwards and have a hath. To go on patrol not knowing when the clouds will close down and prevent supplies from being sent through by air is a grim business. I have every sympathy for our men.
This debate has been inspired because same honorable members believe that there is something wrong with the conduct of the campaign, but I am satisfied that there is nothing fundamentally wrong. There are a few minor grievances which can be set right. I bear n<> malice against those honorable members who initiated the debate, because I believe that they did so honestly and with the best of intentions, but I remind them that Australian forces have been victorious in all of their major engagements in New Guinea. Australian soldiers were not required in the Philippines as originally planned, and therefore there can be no criticism of the Government or tho General Officer Commanding on that ground. Our troops were earmarked for service in that campaign; the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that two divisions would be sent there. But the Philippines campaign was not so difficult as had been anticipated, and our soldiers were not needed. Consequently, they were employed for the time being where it was considered they could be of the greatest use. They were sent to take over operational areas from the Americans in order to eliminate those pockets of Japanese forces still left on the islands of New Guinea. Those enemy concentrations must be eliminated. Historians must not be allowed to record that we could not get rid of the Japanese. We must throw the enemy out, and the sooner we do so the sooner can we rehabilitate the plantation owners of New Guinea. That is a worthwhile job. Other nations are doing the same thing. Russia has not marked time in rehabilitating its people in the areas formerly overrun by the enemy, and the United State» of America will leave no pockets in the Philippines.
– Great Britain did not stop to eliminate the enemy in the Channel Islands.
– That is a different matter altogether. British troops had more important work to do. It has not been shown that there has been any neglect On the part of our High Command in its grand strategy, or that there is any reason why our troops should be used in any other area. I have no doubt that they will be used elsewhereultimately. and I urge the Government to press for the employment of our troops further afield when they can be used to strike at the heart of Japan. There would be no advantage in sending troops from New Guinea to Burma or Malaya in order to relieve Indian or Chinese troops when the facts show that those troops are winning their campaigns. Burma and Malaya aro just as likely as New Guinea to fall into the backwaters of the struggle, and operations now being conducted there may not be any more effective on the outcome of the main struggle. If our troops are to be engaged on more risky work than the present New Guinea campaign, let them be sent where they will strike direct at the life lines of Japan and be of some importance in the strategy of the whole war. I have covered the important points raised in this discussion. The duty of this Parliament has been fulfilled in debating the subject. The statement of the Prime Minister on the report of the Acting Minister for the Army (Mr. Eraser) is a complete refutation of the charges of alleged shortages which have been made by some honorable members. As the result, a message of comfort should go out to the people of Australia along the lines of that report. I regard the Acting Minister for the Army as a man eminently suited for the task of preparing a report, because his sympathies arc definitely with the rank and file of the Army. He has one son a prisoner-of-war in the hands of the Japanese, and another has been killed. I am content to accept his report as being unbiased; if it were anything else, it would incline to the interests of the Soldiers.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-. - This debate has pursued a rather interesting course, and has given rise to two quite separate problems, one of “which, no doubt, bears on the other. The first problem is that of equipment, and on it speeches have been made by several honorable members on this side of the House Bm,d certain honorable members opposite. The second problem is that of tie right use of the Australian Forces. Although the first problem is affected by the second, it is to the second that I want to direct my attention. I have not made any statement on the matter of equipment, nor do I propose to attempt to say anything useful in regard to it, because I confess that the whole of my knowledge of it has been gained by listening to the debate. That is no reflection on the debate, but rather shows that it has served a very useful purpose. It is a proper and good thing that when campaigns are in progress, there should be in the National Parliament, a discussion as to whether or not Australian troops are adequately equipped. All honorable members who bring to the notice of the House information on that matter, are entitled to the thanks of the House and the Government. I am bound to say, as a listener to the debate, that in my opinion it has been extremely useful. I heard and read with great interest the report of the Acting Minister for the Army ((Senator Fraser). I consider that it is a good and honest report. It relieves my mind on a number of matters about which, otherwise, my mind would have been troubled. But the net impression left on the mind by a consideration of the statements that have been made on both sides of the House, the reports by the Acting Minister for the Army, and the contributions by the General Officer Commanding, is that, subject to one or two points, the Australian forces are adequately equipped for the task that has been assigned to them. I have said, “subject to one or two points “. There, of course, I refer to what the Acting Minister for the Army - quite candidly, I consider - has mentioned in his report. There is a shortage of heavy mechanical equipment, and of light water -craft. The reasons for the shortages have been stated. All that I say about that is, that whilst I, as a member of Parliament, accept the statement that these shortages are due to lack of shipping, it would be a very great mistake if anybody in Australia, and particularly anybody in this Parliament, considered that that gave us u complete alibi; because shortages of equipment may involve two things - first, an intrinsic shortage of tonnage of ships; and second, a failure to employ ships continuously. As to the first, nobody in this House will blame any Government. The shortage of shipping in the world is due, not to the wicked deeds of any Government, or to the failure of any Government to understand the importance of the matter, but to circumstances which now arc quite historic. In Australia, however, we cannot yet feel satisfied that we are using the ships that we have, as continuously as they should be used : because, at this moment, ships are held up in great ports in Australia for reasons which do no credit to the realism and patriotism of the Australians concorned.
The Acting Minister for the Army, in his report - and this is the foundation of what, the Government puts before us - agrees that we might, with great advantage, have more heavy mechanical equipment. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), said so in his speech. That point is conceded and the deficiency is explained by shipping problems. It is also agreed in the report that we might, with very great advantage in the present operations, have more light craft. That point was made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) - and it is now conceded, but explained. So the debate has been very useful, because it has sifted out the real nature of the deficiency and has elicited some statement as to the reason for it. But I do not propose to direct my attention to the problem of equipment, because, as I have said, my information on the matter is limited to what I have learned in the course of this discussion. I have referred to that aspect largely for the reason that the Prime Minister said very sensibly - and it was a statement which I thought might be made by the head of any government in time of war - that the matter of equipping troops was not one in which any side in Parliament could claim a monopoly of interest. The right honorable gentleman said in the plainest terms that it is not a party problem. I quote his own words -
Thereis no need for political hatreds or animosities to intrude into this subject, for the menwho are fighting belong to all parties.
That is gloriously true in this country. The right honorable gentleman added -
The Opposition, not less than the Government, would be animated, I am certain, by the highest purpose in ensuring that our men are given the utmost equipment with which to light. I claim for this side of the House no monopoly of concern for the welfare of our fighting men. [ refer to that essentially wise observation by the Prime Minister, merely for the purpose of pointing out that so much did I agree with it that it had not occurred to me that the problem was one to be threshed out solely on party lines. So I was astonished, later, when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) began his speech by endeavouring to make a great point of the fact that the debate had been opened on this side by two honorable members, neither of whom was the leader of an Opposition party. I can say with perfect certainty for my colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), as well as myself, that it had not occurred to us that there was some party issue, or that some party capital was to be made. Honorable members on the Government side know me well enough to admit that if there is a party issue in this House, I am the last man to depart from the battle.
– And then the right honorable gentleman will be carried out.
– The Minister for Air is quite right in what he says.
– It might be a party issue without the right honorable gentleman being a party to it.
– Very seldom is the Treasurer metaphysical. He is being metaphysical now. I am not going to discuss a subject on which, as I have said, my information is limited, but I am going to say something aboutthe other phase of the matter. It becomes perfectly clear to everybody, upon a perusal of these reports and the speech of the Prime Minister, that the sufficiency or otherwise of the equipment of the Australian Army must be judged entirely by first asking, “What is ite job? “ If the Australian Army were at this moment designed for first-class operations of a major kind, involving landings in hostile country - the kind of job that has been done by the American troops in the Philippines - then I venture to say that no honorable member would fail to agree that the equipment which it has must be immeasurably improved. That, I think, is common ground. You first ask, “What is their task? What is it they have to do? As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) pointed out, in what I regarded as a very fair statement of the case, if you have a limited objective, which is supplementary to work previously done, then you will content yourself with Limited equipment. So, the major problem here is this: Are the Australian forces at present, and have they been for the last few months, performing a major function? That, matter was discussed on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I inflicted on the House some observations about it, and other honorable members on this side also spoke about it. We developed a view. That view was, that the Australian forces should be employed on some major task, other than the one to which their attention is now directed. That, quite palpably, is a matter on which there are two opinions, each of which is legitimate. I am not quarrelling about that. I happen to entertain the strongest possible view that it is wrong to use the Australian forces - which, we are told, number hundreds of thousands of men - in operations in those islands which seem to me to have no relation to any first-class strategic objective in this war. The honorable member for Henty - to quote an honorable member who has put the opposite view, not without force, though I do not agree with him - said that it is of great value to Australia that our troops shouldbe used for the elimination of those Japanese who had come into Australian territory. That, of course, is a legitimate argument. But it is an argument which, I venture to say, relates rather more to our national pride in our territories than to the ultimate winning of the war on the grand scale.
The Prime Minister used some expres- sions that are significant, and I propose to mention them. He quoted from a statement by General MacArthur. It is quite clear that any statement by General MacArthur is entitled to be read and. heard with profound respect in this country; there need be no argument about that. General MacArthur said this -
I considerthat the local missions have been carried out with skill and energy, and constitute an excellent accomplishment. I am of opinion that the equipment of the troops is sufficient toward the accomplishment of the assigned missions,and that the provision of air transport has proved adequate.
That is a very carefully considered observation by General MacArthur, and he was at pains to make it clear that the missions which are being undertaken by the Australian forces are local missions, and that, for the purpose of local missions, the equipment is, in his view, adequate. Later on, the Prime Minister himself referred to the same matter -
I referred earlier to the role of our forces in these islands, to the justification of the limited operations that are being undertaken and to General MacArthur’s opinion that they are being skilfully carried out.
When the honorable member for Henty was addressing himself to the matter this afternoon, I rather thought - of course, I may be wrong - that he was about to refer to the operations of the Australians against the Japanese in the islands as “ mopping-up “ operations, but he paused, and used the expression “ liquidating operations “.
– I was about to say “ minor operations “.
– All right, we will not quarrel about a word. To use one phrase, they are limited operations; to use another, they are operations for the liquidation of pockets of resistance; to use still another, they are mopping-up operations. The honorable member would, as a soldier, be the first to agree that “ mopping-up “ is a term which describes the nature of the operation, and not its intrinsic difficulty or danger. What we are doing in the Pacific islands is, in the strategic sense, eliminating pockets of resistance by-passed by the principal force. The principal force, for the purpose of thedrive against Japan, has been the American force. The Americans established a bridgehead at Bougainville, a very large bridgehead, if it may be described as such, in New Britain, and other bridgeheads in other places, and then passed on. If they passed on with the equipment especially designed for invasion, I have no quarrel with that. One can be thankful that they invaded successfully, and passed on; but the task of our forces is essentially that of dealing with by-passed bodies of Japanese who are not, of themselves, capable of aggressive action against Australia, but whose elimination is thought to be desirable in accordance with some general strategic plan. The honorable member for Henty will agree with my statement of the case, and he also agree with the strategic plan. I confess to the gravest doubt as to its wisdom. I said during the debate on the AddressinReply that I would feel better if our troops, instead of doing something which in my uninformed opinion, could beleft until after victory had been achieved were engaged in a real drive against the enemy - for example, in Malaya or the Netherlands East Indies. That is a matter upon which opinions differ.It is a proper matter for discussion inthis House, because the strategic use of Australian forces, as every ministry has insisted in the course of this war, is a matter for high political determination. It would be pathetic for any government to say that it had not the right to determine the zones in which its forces could be employed, and I am bound to say that the present Government, in exactly the same way as its predecessors, has insisted that that matter is its responsibility.
Ever since this subject was discussed during the debate on the AddressinReply, when the expression “moppingup “ was used, there has been the most spectacular campaign of misrepresentation of what was said by honorable members on this side of the House. Indeed, when I listened to some ofthe things’ that have been, said, and read same of the things that have been printed, I began to wonder whether it was- a fact that we, on this side of the House, had really invented the expression of “ mopping up “. It is not without significance that every time some spokesman for the Government has, since then, mentioned the activities of the Australian Army, he has gone out of his way to say, “ these are no mere mopping-up operations”. When I said to one energetic member of my own staff, “ I thought I had heard that expression before the debate on the Address-in? Reply,” he said that he would look the matter up. He did so, and found that during the period from the 8th September, .1942, until the present time, General MacArthur had, in no fewer than 56 communiques’, described similar operations as mopping-up operations. The honorable mem!ber for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) touched on the matter the other day in the following question, to which he still, I understand, awaits an answer: -
Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister lor the Army, before the debate on Army equipment next Tuesday, obtain a statement showing in what sense the CommanderinChief in the South-West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur, uses the term mopping up “ ; and particularly in what sense he used it in the communique on the 7th June last when he referred to scattered mopping-up actions along the New Guinea coast? In what sense was it used on the 3rd August of last year when he referred to final mopping-up operations in the Aitape area, where our troops arc still engaged? What did he mean ‘ in the communique of the 16th February last when, referring to the Solomons campaign, he said - “ For all strategic purposes, this completes the campaign in the Solomon Islands “ ?
The question has not been answered, but the citation from General MacArthur’s communique is vouched for, in which he says, “ for all strategic purposes, this completes- the campaign in the Solomon Islands”. Those words were used, not by an amateur, but by a master of the military art, a man who has lived all his life in the middle of military practice and activity, and a man who is, incidentally, no mean judge of the use of the English language. This is the man who says, “ for all strategic purposes, this completes the campaign in the Solomon
Islands That is exactly what was said by honorable members on this side of the House. When we talk about mopping’-up operations, we may be talking about something that is merely .tactical in its quality. We may mean that positions have been established, and that our f orces are merely engaged in mopping up a few isolated members of the enemy forces who have been by-passed.
– But they are launching counter-attacks.
– Well, it would not be the first time that isolated members of a force, cut off in a general advance, have launched counter-attacks. The point is that members of the Opposition have discussed this matter, not in a tactical but in a strategic sense. We say that dealing with pockets of resistance in the islands is, strategically, a mopping-up operation, and General MacArthur confirms this. In the 56 communiques to which I have referred he repeatedly used the same kind of expression. Judging by the casualties recorded, and* the gains from time to time announced, I would be the last to say that, because a soldier is engaged on mopping-up operations, he is doing something easy. Nobody has ever said that. Let us get back to a basis of reality. Does any honorable member seriously think that any other member of this House believes that it is an easy job to be fighting in Bougainville, or New Guinea or New Britain? Of course it is not. It is common ground that these men are doing something infinitely difficult, and almost infinitely dangerous. It is common ground in this House that wherever Australian soldiers fight, they fight as the bravest men in the world might fight. Those matters are not at issue in this Parliament. We may be divided on all sorts, of matters,, but there is no division regarding the courage and resolution and resourcefulness of the sons of Australia who fight for Australia. Members of the Opposition have- said repeatedly that the real issue that has to be determined is whether these brave men, who fight under such, tremendous difficulty, could be better employed on some other task. That is a question which ought to be. capable, of discussion ia the National Parliament and in a clear atmosphere. It is essentially a problem for government, and in time of war everything which is a problem for government is a problem for Parliament. When any honorable member, no matter where he sits, says, “ I want to say something on this matter “., he is not merely asserting a. right; he is performing a duty. It is in that spirit we should approach this matter. I am not going to repeat what I said previously about the use of our forces.
– The right honorable gentleman suggested that they might be used in Burma.
– I did. I do not propose to retract what I said.
– I just wanted to know.
– Let there be no mystery about it. The Minister knows, and I do not care who knows, that at that time in 1942 when Australian forces were being returned to Australia I was in favour of intervention in Burma.
– And they would have been annihilated.
– All right, the Minister may say what he likes. I have no retractation to make of the view [ .took, .because I have believed all through that we shall serve our greatest purpose in this war against the Japanese by having assigned to us not a minor role, but a major role in defeating Japan where the Japanese live and in relieving from Japanese control Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies. But I need not repeat all that. It is all clear enough.
– It has proved to be wrong strategy.
– I do not happen to agree with the honorable gentleman, but that will not interrupt the course of our harmonious relations. The Minister thinks he is right and, oddly enough, I think I am right.
– Move on. Nineteen fortyone was a bad period for the right honorable gentleman
– That is very interesting. I am happy to be reminded by “the honorable gentleman about that, because a night or two ago, when the honorable member for New England (Mr.
Abbott) was delivering a speech on the question of equipment, my old friend, th*e Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), was recapturing by degrees some of his old form. For a moment I thought he had gone right back into Opposition, because, when he was in Opposition, he was a holy terror, but ever since he has been in office he has not been a terror, although he has been pretty holy. He looks at us across the despatch box like an archbishop pronouncing the benediction. But the other night, when the honorable member for New England was at work, I could see sparks flying from him. He will not mind my mentioning this. I said to him, “Do you know. what all this reminds me of? “ Although he knew, he said, “ No After all, yon must give the other man a chance. I said, “ It reminds me of exactly what you fellows used to say about ns regarding the Greece and ‘Crete campaigns We were terrible people in those days, and I remember with a great deal of interest that on that occasion we were able to produce the word of the General Officer Commanding, oddly enough Sir Thomas Blarney, who said that the Army was adequately equipped for the task it was performing, and you could not get any one on that side of the House to agree with such an utterance. ‘So the wheel turns!
I am not. going to repeat the argument on general strategy, but I am going to make a reference to one matter that 1 think calls for consideration in this House, and that, is the broadcast mad« by Genera] Blarney, the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian, land forces, which ha.already been alluded to. I refer to this with a .good deal of reluctance.
– The right honorable member looks like it.
– I refer to it with reluctance for reasons which the honorable gentleman will understand better when he has heard them. The CommanderinChief has made a broadcast in the course of the loan campaign. A great ‘leal has been said in the press aud elsewhere about General Blarney of late and I feel some responsibility to say something myself. I remind the
Mouse that he was appointed to the command of the 6th Division by the Government of which I was Prime Minister. J remind- the House that be was appointed as General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force by the Government of which I was Prime Minister. I remind the House that it was during the regime of the same Government that he was appointed, very meritoriously iu my opinion, Second-in-Command of all the British forces in the Middle East. [Extension of time granted.] I refer to these facts because they will remind the House that the general has enjoyed the confidence not only of this Government, but also of its predecessors. I regard Sir Thomas Blarney as an extremely distinguished soldier. I regard him as a man who has done great service to Australia. T am not in any way disposed to associate myself in any way with any attacks upon him. I must say this, and I speak here for myself, that if the whole of this question of appointments had to be gone over again in the light of everything that L know now, I would re-appoint him as General Officer Commanding. I have no particular use for regarding generals as if they wore “ Aunt Sallys “. Australia has been very well served by its generals in this war and in the last war. When 1” see their names in this war from time to time, I cannot help feeling that we are extremely fortunate to have men of such ability and ‘ determination. All that I say with no reservation. Sir Thomas Blarney is a distinguished Australian and a distinguished soldier, and I should hardly have believed that a man so gifted and so- able could have committed so elementary a blunder as to make the .broadcast that he made, avowedly for the loan, only a few days ago. Generals are soldiers serving this country. There is one test to be applied to them by any administration, as I am sure my friends on tho treasury bench will wholeheartedly agree. You either trust your senior generals or you sack them. There is no middle course. I am not in favour of appointing a man, and then whittling away his authority and putting him on the defensive in public about what he is doing. But if even the most distinguished general chooses to enter the political arena with a broadcast of thekind that General Blarney made he invites criticism, and I am going to offer some. But I emphasize that my criticism/ will be of his views as a self-appointed politician and in no sense of his skill,, courage and determination as a general.
– Does the right honorable gentleman not think that he should have hit back at his attackers?
– I am not conscious of having made any attack on Sir Thomas Blarney, and I am not conscious of this Opposition having made an. attack on him. If some criticism is madeof a political kind, the person to answer it is the political head, not a servingsoldier, and, if the political head chooses to stand aside and let the serving soldier conduct his defence, by that very act hemakes him unwillingly or unwittingly a politician. The broadcast was made on. the 16th April, and it began with some words with which no one will quarrel. Then he said this -
But for those troops themselves I have something to say to you: It is this: In no other country have the achievements of a successful army been so belittled as iu Australia.
I am not at all sure that that is not true,, but, if it is true, why is it true ? Who wrote down the achievements of the Australian, soldier in New Guinea? Was it any nhan in Parliament? Of course not. Thetmi th is that in communique after communique, in that campaign, we heard about allied troops, but we did not hearabout Australian troops, and many people went for a year under the distinct impression that our troops in New Guinea were a mere fraction of thetroops engaged. If ultimately justicewas done to the magnificent deeds done by the Australian troops in New Guinea, it was largely to the credit of those war correspondents who have been so abused in the course of this debate, because, if Australia had been left to the bare, cold words of the communiques, Australia might even to-day have been uninformed of what Australian sons have done in New Guinea. General Blarney continued -
It was different three years ago, when thethreat of Japanese invasion was very read; when Australian soldiers were fighting desperately to halt the Japanese. It was different even when those same soldiers halted! the Japanese and turned him back along the long road to Tokyo. Then they were the nation’s saviours. The armchair strategists-
He refers to these people frequently-
– That is where the right honorable gentleman comes in.
– Exactly. I am one of them. For the first time in my parliamentary life the Minister for Transport and I are in agreement. Every member of this House who has performed a public duty by offering a view on the right political direction in this war is at once labelled an “ armchair strategist “. The broadcast went on -
The armchair strategists - though fearful - were content to leave the saving of this country to the men who did save it. But now those same amateurs lose no opportunity to publicize their view - without regard to the effect these may have on the self-sacrificing; (Torts of the troops who are fighting the same battle against the same enemy and in the same, type of country as three years ago.
Then the general said -
They have advanced little, if any, from the ignorance which characterized their panic of 1042. [ am bound to say, as one who had a fairly close view of the events of 1942, that I saw no panic among those who now advocate a larger, different role for the Australian forces. It is a gratuitous insult to men engaged in public affairs, and discharging their duty to offer public opinions, to say to them that they were in a panic in 1942. Then, and this to me is the general’s most amazing statement, he said -
They seemed to have learnt, however, that this country will not tolerate any direct attack upon the individual soldier.
Nobody in this House can or will honestly say that he has heard any attack upon the individual Australian soldier. Australia may be a country with imperfections, but no man here can attack the courage of the individual Australian soldier and expect to survive. Yet the trusted leader of the Australian Military Forces thinks fit, by this grievous error of judgment, to make a broadcast in which he suggests that those who are saying that the Australian soldier should have a different role are in some way reflecting upon the Australian soldier. Honorable members on this side, like honorable members opposite, or many of them, have the strongest- personal reasons for never reflecting on the courage of Australian soldiers. The general proceeded -
So they wrap their barbs in other material.
Later on, he said -
Three years ago they were prepared to concede - generously enough in their view - thai the Australian infantryman was fighting a magnificent buttle through an impossible country. “ Generously enough in their view “ ! To what sort of pass have we come when it can be said of honorable members on this side of the House - for they are being referred to - that in their opinion they were being generous when they said that the Australian soldier was fighting a magnificent battle? That is not only a gross error of judgment; it is also a gratuitous effront to responsible public men in this country. I feel that all the more because of the profound regard 1 have for the great service rendered by General Blarney in two wars.
– That criticism by the general is not more than the Opposition has directed against him.
– This speech I ami entitled to take as referring to myself. 1 think you will agree, Mr. Speaker, thai 1 am entirely entitled to regard this speech as directed to people including myself. Later in the broadcast, the general ridiculed the strategic point of view which has been put forward by the Opposition, by saying almost with contempt about us -
Now they suggest that we should leave this enemy fruit to wither on the vine.
When did I first hear that expression? Not in this broadcast, and not in any speech made by me or any of my colleagues. I seem to remember it being used on the other side of the chamber. J seem to recollect that when the Americans had hit, landed and established a bridgehead and airstrip, and had passed on, we were told then and told repeatedly that “the fruit would now wither on the vine “. The general imputes that phrase to us, just as after a century of fighting the phrase “ mopping-up “ has been treated as a political invention of this side of the House. Then he went on -
It is no mopping-up to those Australians who have to fight it.
– He ought to know that.
– The Minister who interjects will agree that nobody would suggest for a moment that this was a trivial operation for the men engaged in i t. Of course it is not. I venture to say that in the history of warfare many thousands of men have gone to- their death in mopping-up operations. Many thousands have been killed in operations against troops who had no hope, and therefore fought with the courage of desperation. “Whoever supposes that mopping-up operations are easy, comfortable, simple things, or a “ pushover “ ? They may be desperate affairs ; but, in the strategic sense, there is a world of difference between a campaign which is a major thrust against the enemy where he lives, and a campaign which is- designed to clear out pockets of resistance of an enemy which has been by-passed. I can only suppose that the general allowed some criticisms to weigh too heavily on him when he made this broadcast, because I have a profound respect, for him. He said -
That enemy is not the hungry, ragged, illsupplied rabble that some would have you believe, but a determined, aggressive, wellboated, well-clothed, savage fanatic, sub-human and knowing only the doctrine of kill or be killed.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction may, of his own sweet will, personally attack the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whose courage and loyalty ure entitled to profound respect. Nobody knows that better than I do. He may say what he likes about him, but does he imagine that my Deputy Leader stood up iu this. House to ask for more and more equipment for Australian soldiers because lie thought the Japanese were a hungry, ragged and ill-supplied rabble, or because lie- thought they were fed, clothed and supplied and must be fought with the best weapons as well as the best courage?
I deplore the making of that broadcast. I hope that I have made it clear to the House that I refer with reluctance to a. statement made by a man to whom this country owes a great deal, and to whom I, as war-time Prime Minister of Australia for two years, owe more than I can repay.
– Has he no right to reply to criticism?
– If it is political criticism it ought to be answered in a political place and by political people. Technical, military criticism could be ignored just as safely by the general as my honorable friend opposite could ignore the criticism of a layman regarding a legal matter. But above all these things, no Commander-in-Chief, occupying the place he does, and exercising the authority and responsibility he has, ought ‘ft come into the political arena wit!: such an ill-judged and intemperate speech as that to which I have referred.
I say to the members of the Government that there is a great deal of discussion about the position of General Blarney. It is said by some people that he ought to be more frequently in the operational areas. It may, for all I know, be said by some people that he ought to be more frequently at administrative headquarters, where he could attend to such problems as leave, recruitment and equipment. The truth about his duties is not yet sufficiently known to the people of Australia. As I understand the position, he is responsible for the Army from the moment of recruitment right up to the operational use of it. In those circumstances it is clear that he must be in Australia a great deal of his time, just as for much of his time he will be in operational areas. In order that there shall be no avoidable ambiguity about a notable soldier, I suggest, to the Prime Minister that a statement should be made explaining what the position is and what his duties are. As I understand them, his duties involve his presence, not only in New Guinea or- Bougainville, but also in Australia, and from time to time in Melbourne. If that is so, I shall be the last to complain that he has enough sense to refresh himself from time to time with entertainment or exercise or anything else. But the doubt needs to be cleared up by an authoratitive statement. I am not looking- for some ambiguous argument about him, or some false picture of his duties or position in the Australian Army. I am not seeking to criticize his handling of his problems, which must be infinitely more difficult than my own, or those of any other member of this House, but I express my profound regret that he should have departed from a position of great authority and respect in order to engage in a political controversy in which he should not take part, for which his qualifications are not clear, and in which he has, unfortunately, employed intemperate, unjust and misleading language.
[8.56’J. - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has sought to repair much of the damage which has been done in the course of this debate by honorable members on his own side. He has tried to divert discussion from the subject of the equipment of the Australian forces to an entirely different matter, for he realizes how untenable is the argument that has been advanced by the Opposition. In many respects he has passed strictures upon the members of his party, because he realizes how unjustified are the accusations that have been made by them with regard to equipment, and how seriously they will react on the minds of the men serving in. the fighting forces. The right honorable gentleman has challenged the character of the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces, and his position as leader of the Australian Imperial Force and the other allied land forces in the South- West Pacific Area.
– What have I said about his character?
– I was not referring to character in the personal sense. The right honorable gentleman sought in his best court-room manner to indicate to this House that he had every confidence in Genera] Blarney, and that the Government led by him was directly responsiblefor the appointment of that officer, he lias, by the words he has employed, endeavoured to bring to the notice of the people of this country certain actions by the general which lie considers to be contrary to the best standards of conduct which a man in that position should maintain. That statement by the Leader of the Opposition cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. I consider that General Blarney is entitled, and possibly it is long overdue, to some statement in rebuttal of much of the criticism, that has emanated from public men and newspapers in this country regarding the campaigns in which our troops have participated and the war-time effort of Australia. General Blarney is not called upon to apologize for any of his statements, and- his- actions in the field, as the leader of the Australian Army, leave nothing to be desired. He is also helping to formulate plans for the destruction of the enemy. Therefore, it ill-becomes honorable members opposite to cast any doubt upon the ability of this high-ranking officer. If Australian troops had met with a series of reverses, we might have some justification for challenging the wisdom of leaving the present- command undisturbed; but General Blarney has proved his great ability to guide our troops in the most perilous operations. As honorable members are aware, the campaign which is being conducted in the New Guinea area involves the most difficult type of warfare that any troops can be required to undertake.
Honorable members opposite also questioned the role that Australian troops are fulfilling at present. By. some strange reasoning, they desire that Australian troops shall be engaged in fighting in every territory but those in which Australia has a direct interest. They do not appear’ to recognize that an obligation devolves upon Australia to dispose of the enemy in the territories for which this country is responsible. Our security is constantly endangered if the Japanese are permitted to remain one moment longer than is necessary in the New Guinea area. Do honorable members opposite forget that 90,000 Japanese still remain in the islands to the north of Australia? The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to convince us that those troops can be dismissed from our minds. He asserted that they do not offer any threat to the security of this country, and, therefore, may be ignored while we wage a major operation elsewhere. The presence of those 90,000 Japanese is providing Australia with a major problem. They are mingling with the natives, and the half-castes will inevitably present an unfortunate threat to the security of Australia.
– Less than twelve months ago, honorable members opposite were reproving the Government because the British flag was not sufficiently prominent in the Pacific.
– That is so. Because we now seek to remove the Japanese from the New Guinea area, the Opposition is dis- satisfied with the role allotted to Australian forces. Honorable members opposite contend that the Japanese should be left in the islands to the north of Australia. How long should they be left there? Some honorable members contend that the Japanese should be permitted to remain there until after the conclusion of hostilities, when they would bo compelled to return, to Japan. If the removal of the enemy is left until then, I feel sure that, particularly if an anti-Labour government is in office, no attempt will be made to remove them. They will be left in the islands to provide cheap labour for some of those who seek to exploit those islands The best course that we can pursue now to protect not only our immediate but also our future security is to liquidate our enemies in the New Guinea area. l”f it is not our responsibility to undertake that task, whose responsibility is it? We cannot ask any other nation “to do a job that we are not prepared to do ourselves. That outlook is characteristic of the un-Australian attitude which honorable members opposite have adopted on many matters. They realize that they made an unfortunate selection of a subject when they attacked the Government on the supply of equipment to our troops. In my opinion, they initiated the debate for two purposes. The first purpose was to endeavour to destroy the high esteem in which the general community holds this Govern.ment’s war effort. Honorable gentlemen will recall that the Australian public endorsed the war administration of this Government at the last election. In addition, its policy has been supported by the troops, themselves. The second purpose is to endeavour, subtly, to destroy the prestige of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). As the Minister for Munitions, I have attempted to ascertain whether their criticisms had any foundation. Up to this moment, they have not produced one substantial instance of shortage of equipment. Every one else who makes a survey of Australia’s war effort, particularly our industrial effort., is loud in his praise of our splendid achievements and the wide diversity of our production.
I desire to allay any fears that the relatives and dependants of our troops inlay have, after reading reports of this debate, that some slight justification might exist for the criticism of shortages of military equipment. Consequently, 1 propose to indicate the extent to which materials have been provided for our troops. If I mention the value of various items supplied since the commencement of the war to the 31st March last, the public will be able. to appreciate what has been done on the home front to support our soldiers, who are facing thihazards of war in order to ensure the security of this country. The following items have been provided :- £130,000,000 worth of ammunition; £50,000,000 worth of clothing; £60,000,000 worth of weapons; £40,000,000 of equipment; £130,000,000 of motor transport and armoured fighting vehicles; £50,000,000 worth of general stores and camp equipment; £30,000,000 worth of engineers’ stores’ and equipment; £6,000,000 worth of medical stores and equipment and £13,000,000 worth of water-craft - a total of £509,000,000. Those figures may relieve the mind of some people, and convince them of the falsity of the accusations made by honorable members opposite.
A grave disservice is done to this nation and to the morale of our troops by initiating a debate upon such slender and paltry evidence as the Opposition was able to adduce. But one of the most remarkable demonstrations that I have seen in this Parliament during the last 25 years was the exhibition which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) gave on Tuesday when he directed a series of questions to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The honorable member realized that he had a poor case to present, and that he would be exceedingly embarrassed’ if he were called upon to produce evidence in support of his criticism. Therefore, he directed three questions to the Minister, as follows: -
The honorable member endeavoured to obtain from the Minister assurances that no Minister could possibly give. From the outset, the honorable member was aware of that. By adopting that method, he was able to avoid giving details about the source of his information. Consequently, it was impossible correctly to assess the value of any evidence that he produced.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) founded his criticisms on the lack of equipment which is now obsolete. Therefore, honorable members can realize how slender were the reasons for the decision of the Opposition to initiate this debate. However, a few criticisms were uttered which call for a reply. During this debate, Opposition members have said that the weapons issued to Japanese and American soldiers are far superior to those with which Australian soldiers are supplied. Special reference was made to the Japanese submachine gun. It may interest honorable members to know that, so far, no Japanese type sub-machine gun has been encountered in the South-West Pacific Area, although a small number of out-of-date German machine guns have been captured. One hesitates to make comparisons between Australian and American equipment, but it is necessary to do so because of the eulogistic references that have been made to the American carbine to the detriment of our own weapons. The American carbine was introduced by the forces of she United States of America primarily to replace the pistol, which was formerly issued. The carbine is a semi-automatic weapon which fires a very light bullet; it lacks the range and the penetrating power which is characteristic of the Australian rifle. “ Notwithstanding the sneering references that have been made during this debate to the Australian .303 rifle, I am advised that the power of penetration of a bullet from that weapon is a considerable advantage in the jungle, where foliage and undergrowth abound. Competent Army authorities say that in jungle warfare the Australian .303 rifle is still one of the ‘best weapons of its type in use by any army. The Australian. Army has not adopted an additional weapon, such as the American carbine, as the tasks performed by the carbine are more effectively carried out hy machine guns and rifles. Moreover, the carbine would require special ammunition. Members of the Opposition have indulged in caustic criticism of the Australian practice of not equipping infantry officers and specialist personnel with pistols. Such personnel usually carry a rifle or sub-machine gun, not because pistols are not available, but because the carrying of a pistol makes an officer too conspicuous as a leader. It was soon found that- the discerning Japanese quickly realized that an opponent with a pistol was an officer, and the result was that the carrying of a pistol frequently involved the death of the officer concerned. The Government believe? that it has an obligation not to expose officers and men to greater risks than are unavoidable. It is a pity that members of the Opposition did not ascertain the facts before, for political reasons, they 3et out to endeavour to show that the Australian Army has neither equipment nor common sense. The charge that there is a shortage of grenades in the Australian Military Forces is denied. I am informed that at no time during this war has there been a shortage of the grenades to which reference has ‘been made during Ohe debate, but that, on the contrary, large reserves are held in forward depots in the New Guinea area for immediate issue as necessity dictates. In addition, Australia has released nearly 1,000,000 of these grenades to other dominions, and 100,000 of them to our Allies in the South-West Pacific Area, during the past two yeans. Is any further evidence needed to show that Australian equipment, like Australian soldiers, can stand comparison with the equipment of any other army? That the equipment provided for our fighting men has lacked neither quality nor quantity is shown by the fact that the number of Australian casualties is light compared with the number of enemy personnel which our troops have accounted for. Honorable gentlemen opposite will regret, their action in initiating this debate, which not only has meant that a great injustice has been done to Australia, but also has caused disquiet to many people who already are anxious concerning their loved ones. The strain upon the people should not be accentuated for political reasons. This attempt to discredit the Government is part of a campaign which has continued during the last six months, and has been fostered by the press of this country, which has based its attacks on the Government on statements made by newspaper reporters acting as war correspondents. Despite the efforts of the Opposition to inflame the public mind, the war record of the present Government will stand to its credit; the achievements of this country will be something of which future generations will te proud. The Government has no apology to offer, but it claims that it is the bounden duty of every loyal citizen to recognize that his country demands that he shall be a good citizen, which means that he shall support to the full the members of the fighting services, and not attempt to belittle the part that they are called upon to play for- the security and future well-being of the world.
.- 1’ have only two things to say regarding the speech of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). The first is that his statement relating to a previous government was answered by the present Prime Minis”ter (Mr. Curtin) within a fortnight of his assumption of the office of Prime Minister, when the right honorable gentleman said -
Through their membership of the Advisory War Council, most Ministers of the War Cabinet were familiar with Australia’s war effort, and, since assuming office, the Government has made a broad review of the situation with the Chiefs of Staff and CommanderinChief, Far East. The Navy was at the highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by notable exploits of some of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army was well trained, and itf equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force has been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire scheme. The equipment of the Air Force has also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly. . . I wish to reassure the Australian people that the Government is alive to all eventualities of the situation, and some time ago all necessary precautionary measures for the defence of the Commonwealth and its territories were taken by the services.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is the vile statement that if the parties now in Opposition were again in office in the Commonwealth they would keep the Japanese in the Pacific Islands for the purpose of obtaining cheap labour. The surest way to make certain that Japan will attack Australia again is not to attack Japan in its home territory. In this connexion, I draw attention to what the people of Britain dic! when that country stood alone against the enemy. On the very day that France capitulated, British aeroplanes bombed the Ems-Dortmund Canal, and. when Italy entered the war British bombers attacked Turin and other places on the Continent, because the British authorities knew that the best form of defence was to attack the enemy.
The motion and the statement of the Prime Minister have lifted this debate to a discussion of Australia’s war effort and the factors which constitute it. The military equipment of our Army cannot be discussed properly unless we have in mind the high strategy of the war, and put things in their right perspective. That involves considerations of such matters as the probable duration of the war, Army administration, supplies of food and other materials, man-power - in fact, our whole contribution to the allied cause. Recent letters from both London and Washington show that the authorities there have already begun to look beyond the war in Europe to the war in the Pacific. In both Britain and the United States- of America war production is being reviewd;demobilizationisbeingtented;andarrangementsarebeingmade totransferfacilities,materials,andequipmenttothePacifictheatreofwar.The authorities realize that the time hascome for a complete review of the whole war situation, particularly in respect of. supplies and. man-power.. One great benefit which this debate to will confer is thatitemblesustofocusattentionon those important issues. I desire to make it clearthat the motion is not an attack ontheCommanderinChiefoftheAustrailianMilitaryForces,GeneralBlamey. TheOppositionbelievesthatheisthe victimoftheGovernment’sadministra tivesystem,underwhich,inadditionto beingCommander-in-chiefofthe fightingservices,GeneralBlameyhasmany administrativedutiestoperform.A fewweeksagotheStandard,aLabour newspaperinSydney,saidthatevery dailynewspaperinAustraliahadbeen condemingGeneralBlamey,butafter inquiryitwasfoundthatthecondemnation of theCommander-in-Chiefwasnot justified.someattibutedhisdifficulties tothefactthathewasnotafreeagent, butwasactingunderordersoftheHigh Command, whilstr he; had to face other difficulties arising under the system adopted by the Government. In a speech in this House last year I drew attention to. tha unnecessary loss of life among our troops in Kew Guinea owinglargely to inadequatepreparations for attack, and inadequatepreparationsagainstdisease, as well as confusion caused by faulty administration.Igottheimpression at the time that the Prime Minister agreed withthe views I then expressed regarding reform in Army administration, and I thought that it would not be long before stops would be taken to change the wholeadministration of the Army with the result that when fighting progressed beyond the equator we should not find General Blarney shouldering many of the responsibilities which he still retains. But his; duties, at. present impose so much travelling upon him that he has become almost; a rival in that respect to Mr. Churchill. Indeed, one might say that as a. traveller he rivals the mythical wandering Jew. In such circumstances it is impossible for him to handle all of the affairs coming within his control. As members of Parliament, weknow that whenwebecomewearly from travellingwefninditdifficulttocarryout high official duties; General Blamey should; likes General MacArthur, remain ascloseaspossibletothefiringline, or remainatahead-quarters.
Certain deficiencieshavebeenadmitted by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) particularly with respect toshippingandamphibious craft. Honorable members on this side Have pointed tb shortages of other equipment which adversely affect the morale and safety of the troops; I do not propose to deal with that aspect of the subject. Iammoreanxioustodiscoverwherethe responsibility for these deficiencies lie. In order to do. so, I propose to. direct several questions to the Prime Minister for the information of the general public-. First, isthe high strategy, of the campaign in the Sout-West Pacific Area to rout out the nests o£ Japanese?It is admitted that they are unable to injure Australia, or our communications. Is this policy dictated by the Chiefs, ofStaffs or General MacArthur, or General Blarney, or by the Government itself, either directly, on indirectly, by the limitations of operations imposed upon our Militia divisions, under legislation passed in 1943; Secondly; whichever of these authorities be responsible for this highstrategy, has provision been made for sufficient forces, equipment and drippingto carry out the whole operation? lt is stated that 90,000 Japanese remain in the areas in which our troopsare now operating. From past encounters with the Japanese it has been the- experience of both American and Austiralian. forces that the Japanese die hard. They always die fighting. The only way to ensure the minimum casual ties amongst ourtroopsisto provide overwhelming attacking forces in order to despatch the enemy as quickly as possible. Therefore, the authorities responsible for such operations should make- ample provision in every respect.Thiswarisbeingbought as a global war by the United Nations, whether battles are to be fought in Europe, Asia or the South-West Pacific Area. Australian air-men are fighting over Europe just as our soldiers are fighting in the New Guinea area; and American, British, Dutch and Russian forces are fighting iu almost every theatre of war. Therefore, whatever the job to be done, it is essential that sufficient allied troops representative of all of the United Nations be allocated for that job. One can only conclude that when such a procedure is not followed the job in hand cannot be deemed essential or of the highest priority. That, perhaps, is the conclusion to be drawn from the fact that Australians alone are now dealing with the Japanese in the islands to the north of Australia. The third question I put to the Prime Minister is : If the high strategy of the campaign in the New Guinea area is being determined by the combined chiefs of staffs, who control the detailed strategy of the campaign? Are these details and operations submitted to General MacArthur for his approval, and then to the Chiefs of Staffs? If this be so, is the responsibility for the provision of the necessary shipping and equipment, entirely that of rho combined chiefs of staffs or is it carried by General Blarney and the Australian Government? If these operations are regarded as essential by the ‘Chiefs of Staffs, and adequate shipping and equipment are not available for the full operations, why do we not concentrate on one or two objectives at a time instead of many? Surely, it is wiser to concentrate on fewer operations at present because time to-day is not so pressing a factor as it was three years ago. We should overwhelm one strongpoint at a time. By such means we should be enabled to strike with overwhelming forces against each point of resistance. If the shipping position is a? bad as the Prime Minister has indicated, there can be no justification for attacking many points with inadequate forces. Rather should we adapt our attack to the transport at our disposal. I disagree with the contention that we must employ unnecessarily large forces iu order to rout out the Japanese from these islands as soon as possible. If it i3 necessary to attack with twice the strength of the enemy in order to keep our losses at a minimum, it would appear, on the figures given, that we shall need to employ 180,000 soldiers in these operations against 90,000 Japanese. Should we allocate so large a force to this job it is obvious that when the time comes we shall not have sufficient soldiers available to join the spearhead of attack upon Japan itself. I repeat that the only way to make certain that Japan shall respect Australia in the future is to adopt the old British maxim, that is, attack the enemy in his homeland and thereby give him an unforgettable taste of the terrors of war. We must prepare at least to make a good showing in the ultimate attack upon Japan, itself. Australia and the United Na tions are no longer fighting against time, as well as the enemy, as was the case during the early years of the war. Our efforts then were directed towards stopping the advancing Japanese. The worst thing that can happen to the Japanese now in those islands is that they will not get back to Japan in time for the general slaughter which must take place in their homeland. In fact, time, which, in the early stages of the war, was fighting against us, is now fighting for us, because it is obvious that the enemy remaining in the islands to the north of Australia are seriously short of supplies. This fact is confirmed by reports of cannibalism on the part of the Japanese in those areas. Apparently, they are suffering from intense hunger. They are reported to be living on all kinds of roots. Many of them are said to be living just like bushrangers would be obliged to do.’ This is clear from the diaries of prisoners. Where the Japanese can live off the land, and the country is flat and able to be cultivated, such areas are most suitable for the use of “bulldozers and modern equipment, including tanks.
We must settle the problem of the wisest use we can make of our manpower in order to end the war at the earliest possible moment by striking at the heart of Japan. At the same time, we must carry out all of our obligations to our Allies and our own people in order to make certain that conditions in this country are maintained at such a standard as will enable us to obtain the best results. My final comment on this aspect is that if seasonal conditions prevent, us from using shipping to land equipment why not defer the offensive at such places until seasonal conditions are favorable. “Why not attack those points where the prevailing winds are favorable for amphibious operations? If that is not possible, it seems to me that instead, of leaving our men- without adequate supplies of food and equipment, it would be far better to postpone the present operations until seasonal conditions are favorable. There is no doubt that the Air Force and the Navy control the approaches to Rabaul. The more the Japanese attempt to reinforce their outposts in that area, the less strength they will have for their main thrust and resistance. Is it suggested that we must reduce Rabaul before we set about preparing to participate in the final attack upon Japan itself? We must review our operations to date, and resolve not to repeat mistakes. What was good strategy two years ago may not be good strategy in the present circumstances. Above all, we should determine upon the quickest way to win the war, because every week it continues must seem like a year to Australians who are prisoners in Japanese hands. By following that course, we shall also save milliona of pounds for every day by which the war is shortened, which . will enable us more quickly to undertake programmes of public works in order to ensure the ecOnOm] C welfare of our own people in the immediate post-war period.
It is very interesting to follow the discussion in the press with respect to the lack of publicity given to Australia’s war effort at present. A few days ago t had as a travelling companion an independent press observer, who discussed with me the relative war efforts nf Empire countries. He was of opinion that Britain’s war effort had been superb since the outbreak of hostilities, and had not slackened in the slightest. Although New Zealand’s war effort had been smaller than- Australia’s, it had. remained more consistent. He said that Australia’s war effort had been most spectacular during the first two and a half years of the war, but during the last two and a half years Canada had made the moat spectacular effort of the Empire countries. That gentleman reflected the general opinion of the press of the world, which is not influenced by the domestic situation in this country. Yet, honorable members opposite continually allege that the Government in office in this country during the early stages of the war had failed to prosecute our war effort to the maximum. In those days, Australian soldiers were fighting in practically every theatre. Lieutenant-General Sir Iven MacKay led the Australians into Bardia. Our besieged garrison in Tobruk held out for nearly a year, the Australian 9th Division was a decisive factor at the battle of El Alamein, and the 7th Division distinguished itself in the Syrian campaign. Always, Australian troops were in the headlines of the news. The same may be said of our gallant Navy. Australian ships have served in the North Sea, destroying submarines and E-boats, in the Mediterranean where H.M.A.S. Sydney sank the Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of the fastest cruisers in the Italian fleet, and also served in the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. Similar distinction has been gained by our airmen. They fought in the Middle East, first of all with poor equipment, then with better machines, and finally with the best aircraft in service. As the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) can testify, they won decoration after decoration, some men winning awards even three or four times. Australian airmen formed a Sunderland Coastal Command Squadron at the very outbreak of war, and since then they have guarded the sea-lanes in the Bay of Biscay and destroyed many submarines which menaced allied shipping crossing the Atlantic with valuable cargoes of food and essential war material to sustain the efforts of the gallant British people. Australian fighter pilots fought, over Great Britain and other air crews flew bombers over Europe. 1 noticed when I was in London that when the Royal Australian Air Force blue was seen on the streets, people almost cheered, so fine was the record of these men. In that manner the exploits of Australian fighting men were given prominence in the press of the world. Frequently, in order to impress upon the people of the world that Great Britain was doing its share of the fighting, the British Prime
Minister had to make special mention of the casualties that bad been suffered by British troops. When did Australia’s name start to disappear from the headlines? When this Government assumed office and adopted a self-centred policy of holding Australian fighting men for service within its own territories. The Australian Imperial Force divisions were recalled from overseas and were not even permitted to stay for a month or two in Burma where they COuld have altered completely the course of the war -against the Japanese. They -could have held Rangoon until General Alexander’s troops were able to reach, that centre. Had that been done, the Burma-road could have been kept open and the vast reservoir of Chinese man-power mobilized to aid the Allies. Instead, ‘China was virtually bypassed by the -Japanese and isolated hy the cutting of the Burma-road. It was stated that the Australian, troops had to bo brought back to this country immediately so that they could go into action against the -Japanese. Actually, “five months elapsed before “they went into action in -New ‘Guinea. Fortunately, with extraordinary sagacity, General Alexander was able to take the British infantry and an armoured division which were in Burma right back from Rangoon to Assam. He put up an epic figh’t. There Would not have been any need ‘for that long retreat had the Australian Imperial Force divisions been available to hold Rangoon for the two months before General Alexander could get there. A -fortnight after the fall of Singapore, the advice Of the military authorities ‘was that a large-scale Japanese invasion of Australia was only remotely possible so long as te retained undisputed control of the -Coral Sea and the air above it. In May, 1942, the Coral Sea battle was fought and the Japanese naval force destroyed. As the Prime Minister has said quite recently, from that date onwards there was no longer any real danger of a large-scale invasion of Australia. There was no reason to consider the evacuation of Port Moresby or Townsville. In August, 1942, Allied naval vessels fought a victorious battle with the Japanese navy off Guadalcanal, and combined operations were successfully undertaken against the - Japanese at
Milne Bay. From that time on we should have been settling down in this country and establishing a balanced allocation of man-power. Although the -Government and seine people did panic at the outbreak of the Pacific war, with the result that essential primary and secondary industries were denuded of vital “manpower, balance should have been restored by the end of 1942, or at any rate, toy the middle of 1943. Any military observer could see that the Japanese had been held and were certain to be forced back. There should have been a complete review of this country’s position with a view to bringing about a balanced war effort immediately ; but that was not done. What is the position to-day? I shall deal for example with one industry, namely, the dairying industry. Compared with production in the last year before the war, (he output of milk last year decreased to 200,000,000 gallons. Butter production has fallen from 210,000 tons to 140,000 tons a year, and our exports to “Great Britain have been reduced from 110,000 tons to 40,000 tons. The result is that the British ration of this commodity is seriously endangered. There has been a similar deterioration in the output of many secondary industries engaged in essential war production. Most of these had been started by the previous Government. Annexes were built even before tho war in the Pacific started. For instance, .the aircraft factory in which Wirraway machines were made ‘was commenced in 1935- four years before the outbreak of war; yet one hears ‘it said that tills Government was responsible for the production of all essential war equipment. It was -stated by one Minister that the guns used, by the Australian forces in New Guinea had been produced as the results of the efforts of this Government. Hearing such utterances one would think that guns could ‘be produced in three or four months ‘instead of three or four years. In this country to-day we are now devoting considerable man-power to the manufacture of certain equipment which could be obtained . much more readily overseas, especially as the war in Europe seems likely to conclude at an early date. The men now engaged on the production of this equipment should be diverted to other essential work, and so establish a better balance for our national life.
Mr.Calwell. - Why has not the right honorable member told all this to the Advisory War Council?
SirEARLE PAGE. - I have. I can quote the dates on which I made statements in this House and to the Advisory War Council. It will be recalled that when the Prime Minister invited me to return to the Advisory War Council in February of last year, I stated that a condition of my return to that body as an independent member, was that there should be a review of the man-power position in this country and that the Advisory War Council should have a more definite voice in the consideration of this matter. That assurance was given by the Prime . Minister and honoured. After the right honorable gentleman returned from Britain last June, 40,000 men were discharged from the services, many of them rural workers, but the time for another review has arrived. In this debate, the Prime Minister has said that as soon as possible the whole man-power position in this country will be reviewed in the light of the new war situation in Europe. I trust that when that is done my requests will be considered. My advice to the Government on this matter has always been constructive. I have always endeavoured to point out where man-power could bo best used. In any future allocation of man-power our first consideration should be food production.
I regard this debate as most important. This is a subject which should be debated without heat and without passion. Every memberofthis House has at heart the welfare of Australia’s fighting men. We may differ in our approach to these problems, but we all share the hope that the war will be brought to a successful conclusion as soon as possible and with the smallest possible loss of life from disease or from any other cause. To that end, I urge the Government to examine closely and immediately factors oyer which it can exercise control. The Government cannot of course control the higher strategy of the war. When I was representing the Government in London, I tried to impress the Australian point of view, no matter what may have been the original conceptions of a problem. To-day, whatever may be the opinions of the British or American Governments, we should voice our own ideas and fight for them through thick and thin if we believe them to be right. I would support any Government which took that action, because in that way, although we may not be able to get all we might wish for, we are bound to meet with some success. [Extension, of time granted.] There are certain matters over which we have entire control, and one of them is man-power. We can tell the governments with which we are allied exactly what we think as to the number of our men that ought to be available for the military effort, and the number that we require for the provision of food, clothing, and the other things which they cannot obtain readily elsewhere. Because of the immensity of our manufacturing resources among the United Nations, we should not be satisfied with parity of equipment for our soldiers, but should aim at superiority.
Mr..WARD (East Sydney-Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) [10.0]. - This debate arose out of the charge by members of the Opposition that the Australian forces now engaged in the northern battle areas are not properly equipped, but it has since taken rather a peculiar turn, because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) no longer claims that those troops are ill-equipped, and devoted his speech to an examination as to whether or not the Government has failed in the task of using the armed forces to the best advantage. If one were to judge between the performances of the Government and the Opposition, there could be no doubt as to the result; because, when honorable members apposite had control of the Government benches, the Australian troops had practically no equipment. Those honorable members now agree that our troops have equipment, but claim that it is not of the proper kind. They say that it is not equal in quality to that used by the troops of other countries, and that there is a lack of shipping to carry sufficient supplies to the men who are engaged in forward operations. Ever since the present Government took office late in- 1941, the succession of defeats that had been suffered by our arms gave way to a succession of victories, and our troops are still victorious in their conflict with the Japanese. Let us examine the position that existed late in 1941. Members of the Opposition, are using this matter only for political purposes. They hope that the public of Australia has forgotten what the position was when we assumed control late in 1941. It was most fortunate for the people that a Labour Government then came into power in Australia, because otherwise we would not be talking to-night about mopping-up operations at Bougainville and in other parts of the Solomons, but probably about Japanese mopping-up operations inside Australia. I listened with great respect to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. He did not say that our troops are illequipped for the operations in which they are engaged but, as a matter of fact, indicated that they are very well equipped for the part allotted to them. I was rather interested in one of his remarks. Quoting a statement by General MacArthur, he said, “ “We must pay the most profound respect to what General MacArthur says. He has been a soldier all his life, and nobody in Australia would challenge a word of what he said in regard to military matters.” I am very pleased to have that admission by- the right honorable gentleman,’ because I recollect quoting a statement by General MacArthur which was not so readily accepted but rather was denied by him. If honorable members will turn up the report of a previous discussion in this chamber, they will find that I said that the Christian Science Monitor had published on the 18th March, 1943, the report of an interview with General MacArthur, after he had been in Australia twelve months, from which this is an excerpt -
The .disclosure that Australia was so defenceless a year ago that its defence plans were laid for a defence line as far south as Brisbane, was made to-day by General Douglas MacArthur. Air-fields in this vast country were few and far between, while in the threatened part of the country strategic roads and railways did not exist. At that time, the role of Port Moresby was to hold the enemy, to enable mainland defences to be brought into action.
That is the General MacArthur to whom the right honorable gentleman referred tonight. I have waited for a long time to obtain from him an admission that, when he and his party were in control of this Parliament, there was in existence a strategy which provided for the abandonment of large sections of Australia, and the concentration of the very meagre forces which they had at their disposal for the protection of the more populous and industrialized portions of the continent in the southern areas. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), in the discussion from which I have quoted, made a statement in regard to the position which existed at the end of 1941. He said that there was no first-line aircraft which could be used against thienemy. We had one aircraft, but it was generally towed into Martin-place and other parts as an inducement to the people to invest in war loans. There were no aerial torpedo bombs. We had anti-tank guns, but had we been compelled to use them they could have fired only fifteen rounds, because no more ammunition would have been available to them. There was one week’s supply of field artillery ammunition. Thus, even the meagre forces that we then had would have run out of this ammunition after one week in action. We had only 20 per cent, of the light automatic guns which our troops required. Our petrol supplies were at a dangerously low level.
I make no defence of General Blarney. He is a military man, and is well able to defend himself. On a number of occasions, he has directed attention to various matters that were not attended to by the last Government, the members of which were very apt. to quote him, when it suited them, with regard to the position which existed in the Middle East. The Leader of the Opposition tried to have a stab at the industrial workers, as he usually does, by conveying the impression that any delay which occurred in the delivery of supplies to the Australian troops was due to the failure to use to its fullest capacity the shipping resources available to us. What was the position when the right honorable gentleman had control of the destinies of this nation? Did we then make full use of our shipping resources?
I well remember that when a personal friend of the Leader of the Opposition, Brigadier TJ. E. Cohen, a director of a. number of Australian breweries, was in the Middle East as Amenities Officer, plentiful supplies of beer went from Australia, while the troops were short of equipment and the shipping should have been utilized to transport what was needed. That is admitted by everybody to-day.
– That is scandalous.
– I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava that it was a scandalous state of affairs. Does he contend that the troops in the Middle East were fully equipped, or that their arms were equal to those by which they were opposed? A friend of mine who served in the Middle East informed me of the state of affairs in relation to equipmentHe told me that, on one occasion, before the men went into action, they were given a “ pep “ talk by the officer in charge, who, because they were new troops, said to them : “ If you see one plane, don’t become alarmed, it might be ours; but if you see two planes, run for cover, because we have not two, and they will belong to the enemy”. If honorable members want to talk about the proper use of shipping, lot me take their minds back a little further. Do they remember that when it was well recognized in this country that Japan was our potential enemy, and our shipping was being used to take scrap metal to that country, to be manufactured into munitions for use against us, our industrial workers went on strike in order to prevent its despatch? What did the then Government - the present Opposition - do? They were prepared to coerce Australian workers into sending shipments of war materials to a potential enemy. The right honorable in ember said, “ Let us deal with this matter in a non-party way”. Then he tried to show that the Government had failed in its direction of military operations. Honorable members opposite have switched the debate to the question of where the Australian forces should be used. What are they complaining about? Are they dissatisfied because the Australian casualty lists are so small? Do they complain because the Australian commanders have succeeded in keeping the casualty rate as low as possible? Opposition speakers have said, “Let our troops take part in a major engagement with the enemy”; yet every major attack must result in largely increased Australian casualties. I thought that we were in this Avar to win it. I thought that we were one of the United Nations, and that there would be no thought, therefore, of using the achievements of our troops as something with which to bargain at the peace conference. Are honorable members concerned about the lives of Australian troops, or with the fact that their achievements may be used as talking points around the peace table? I confess that I am most concerned about the welfare of our troops, and those who are in charge of them have demonstrated their a’bility. I suppose the right honorable member for ‘Cowper (Sir Earle Page) feels that he is qualified to pose as a military strategist. On one of his many trips abroad he informed the world, and Australia in particular, that there was nothing to worry about, because Singapore was impregnable. He now hopes that the people have forgotten that ridiculous statement, and he puts him- . self forward as one qualified to criticize and advise the Government. I remember that it was the anti-Labour Government which preceded the present Government that advised the British authorities, before Japan was at war with this country - but when every one knew that it was only a matter of time before it would be - to close the Burma Road, and refuse supplies to our Chinese allies. Again, the right honorable member for Cowper said that, so long as Port Moresby was held, there was no danger. But why was it held? It was held because the Labour Government insisted upon bringing back the Australian Imperial Force from abroad. The Japanese were within 30 miles of Moresby when they were turned back. What about Rabaul? We now know that Rabaul was held by a few ill-equipped and ill-trained troops - and this refers to the officers as well as to the men - whose mission it was to delay the enemy until the then- Government could marshal a .section of the nation’s forces to defend Australia along what has come to be known as “ the
Brisbane line”. The fact is that honorable members opposite panicked when the Japanese were moving south.
The right honorable member for Cowper said that there was no need to hurry the return of the Australian Imperial Force, that they were here for five months before going to New Guinea. They were not here as long as that before going north. As an example of the right honorable member’s capacity in military affairs, he would have thrown those men, equipped as they had been in the Middle East, and without training in jungle warfare, into action against the Japanese in New Guinea. It is evident that he is not concerned in the least about the lives of Australian soldiers.
When the Labour party took office, the Government declared that it would not repeat the mistakes of- the campaigns in Greece and the Middle East when Australian troops were sent into battle illequipped. It declared that, whenever Australian troops went into action, they would be fully and properly equipped Surely honorable members opposite have not forgotten what happened in Greece. Do they forget the boot scandal during the term of office of the Menzies Government? Do they not remember that an attempt was made to displace a boot inspector named Gill because he refused bo pass inferior boots? Have they forgotten .that, when our troops fought their way down to the beaches in Greece, many of them were without boots because the inferior boots with which they had been supplied had fallen off their feet? Our BrOOm used to pray for the coming of eight :so that they would have protection from the aeroplanes of the enemy. They rarely saw an aeroplane belonging to the United Nations in the air. With machine guns mounted on lorries they tried to fight off enemy dive bombers. Honorable members opposite were quite prepared to throw Australian troops into a hopeless battle. Our forces were thrown into Greece merely as a gesture, and without any hope of success. Let honorable members listen to what some of the newspapers had to say on this subject din-ring one of the brief periods when they told the truth. Here is an article which was published in the Sydney Sun om the 22nd April, 1941 - “ There were never any illusions about the probable outcome,” declares the London Daily Mail, referring to the Greek campaign. That campaign is being represented to us as the fulfilment nf a moral obligation to a gallant small people which had dared to stand against the European bully.
Nobody in the Empire would wish to withhold really .effective aid to a nation which has excited our admiration and pride.
But if the statement made by one of the well-informed American sources, and appearing in our cables to-day, is correct, that we sent only three divisions, then all we did was to make a gesture with a tragic outcome that could never have been in doubt.
The London Daily Mail tells us there were never any illusions about the probable outcome.
There never could have been any illusions if only three divisions were sent to meet the whole ‘weight of the combined German and Italian armies, and to face overwhelming superiority in planes, tanks, guns, and numbers. “ There were never any illusions.” What more damning indictment could there be of the sense of responsibility which inspired this disastrous adventure?
As a military adventure, it was madness. As a political gesture, it was stupid, because it was doomed to fail.
– It saved Russia.
– Does the honorable member seriously maintain that the throwing of three divisions into a campaign in southern Europe saved the great Soviet Republics from defeat? Such a statement is too ridiculous. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), when Russia first came into the war, said that Russia would not last six weeks. Now the honorable member for Balaclava says that because we threw those three divisions into southern Greece and sacrificed them we saved Russia from absolute defeat. I cannot accept those statements. It is -only a feeble attempt at justification of a most calamitous campaign. Now let us consider what the right honorable member for Cowper had to say. I have already indicated that he said that Singapore was impregnable. On the top of that he talked about the accomplishments of his government in the manufacture of Wirraway aircraft. Why, Wirraways were obsolete long before the Malayan campaign occurred and Australian airmen flying them were shot down almost as they left the .ground by
Japanese’ pilots in Zeros with twice the speed1. That shows the outlook of the right honorable gentleman! Those are the gentlemen who now try to tell the Government how to- fight the war. They say, “Let us moye the troops farther north “. America, too, has some armchair strategists who, according to American newspapers, are referring already to the present operations in the Philippines as “mopping-up” and urging that the remaining Japanese forces be merely held so that the bulk of the American forces may be used to strike light at the heart of Japan. I consider those in control of the troops best able to- advise as to how and where they should be- used. I will not be a party te using Australian troops as a political football. I remember that the Leader of the Opposition, in one speech, wanted Australian troops to be used in other theatres of war because he said that would have great significance, at the peace table. He would, sacrifice Australian lives to gain, a bargaining point. I have had replies to letters that I have sent to members of the forces and it is quite true that they have complaints, not so much about equipment as about food and leave, and I think that everything possible must be done to improve the quality and variety of their food and that we must also be prepared to go as far as we can in assisting them to get adequate leave. The Leader of the Opposition made some references to the broadcast made by General Blarney. I do not agree that the leader of the Australian Military Forces should engage in public attacks upon public men, but I well remember that when General Blarney made a statement against a member of this Government no members of the Opposition protested. It is only when General Blarney makes a broadcast containing strong statements involving Opposition members that they begin to squeal. I repeat that I disagree with the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces entering a political argument; but I listened with interest to his broadcast which was a very good one, because what he said applied to the Opposition members very well’. Whatever the
Opposition may say about General Blarney’s broadcast - -whilst they may have felt hurt - they cannot argue that it was of assistance to the enemy. But that cannot be said about many statements of the Leader of the Opposition who, on one occasion, when addressing the Australian Summer School of Political Science- at ‘Canberra, appealed to the Australian nation, at a time when we were hearing about the- atrocities inflicted on Australians held prisoner, to treat our enemies kindly. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is always alert, convoyed the information to the Parliament that the Leader of the Opposition had actually been commended by the Japanese for his realistic attitude.
– Over the Japanese radio !
– That is true, over the short-wave radio from Japan. Evidently those who said’ that our troops- were not properly equipped have gone back into their shells. The Leader of the- Opposition would not have participated in this debate had he not seen that his forces were being destroyed by speakers on the Government side. He came in to try to retrieve the position. At the outset he said, “I am not going to question the Government or the OemmanderinChief in regard to the equipment in the forward areas. It may be, and I accept the word of General Blarney that it is, adequate for the task that our troops have to perform”. Who should determine- that? Surely not the Opposition, because when it was” in power we suffered defeat after defeat in Greece; Crete and the Middle East. Not because our troops were not equal to their foes iti courage and fighting ability, but simply because they had not the equipment or facilities to meet them on level terms-. Th Greece they had practically no air cover. They had a few tanks, but 70 per cent, broke down before they reached the fighting area. That was the kind of equipment which the Menzies Government waB sending forward. When we took over there were not enough ordinary rifles- with which to train, the men in camp. I was told that -the officer supervising’ their training would draw a square on the ground and say that it represented a gun carriage. That was the legacy that we had from the Opposition. I remember Senator Foll who occupied one portfolio or other - I have forgotten which - in the Menzies Government saying, when some workers, as a protest against the price of beer, declared it “ black “, that strong action must be taken against them because, as he said, if they did not drink beer the Government would suffer a serious loss of revenue and would not be able to continue the war. Evidently his view is that to win the war, we should urge the Australian workers to drink more and more beer. That shows the capacity of Opposition members when they were the Government. As far as this theatre of war is concerned, if the Labour Government had not brought our troops back from the Middle East to defend New Guinea, Australia would have been occupied and could never have been used as a base for offensive operations by the United Nations forces. Our troops under this Government held the position until the more powerful and populous nation of America could send forces into this theatre of war. The Australian troops in forward areas are still performing a valuable task. I am not a judge of quality or quantity of equipment, but I have spoken to troops. They say there are difficulties in unloading supply ships. One officer who returned only a few days ago from Aitape said that they had had ships waiting for long periods to unload, because the locality was similar to Bondi Beach with a heavy surf running, and thus there were difficulties in getting equipment ashore, but now that they had moved forward and had a more suitable location for landing supplies, that difficulty would be overcome. This debate was initiated by the Opposition deliberately for political purposes because it knows that this Government is determined not only to assist in every way to win this war, a task ‘ almost completed, but also to develop this country and give to the people generally, and our soldiers particularly, the social justice to which they are entitled. The Opposition is now seeking power again because its members want taxes upon the wealthy to be reduced, and this will not be possible if social service benefits are to be extended. They will resort to any expedient. They even attack the Prime Minister. For a long period members of the Opposition did not criticize him, and the newspapers unanimously supported him ; but suddenly a change of front occurred. Although it is well known that the right honorable gentleman is in bad health the newspapers and the Opposition now continuously attack him, because they desire to destroy the present Government. It would have been a sorry time for the people of Australia had a Labour Government not come into office in October. 1941, and it will be a sorry time for this country if this Government does not remain in power for many years in the post-war period., in order to give to the people the fruits of victory which they have won by their sweat and sacrifices.
.- We have heard a characteristic speech by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), reeking with extravagance and dripping with political venom. I do not intend to attack any individual or talk on a political level. What the Minister has talked about is history, and political history at that. I regret to hear any reference to the absence of air cover for our troops in Greece and Crete. Whom does the Minister blame for that? Does he complain of the gallantry of the men of the Royal Air Force, who were exterminated almost to a man? At that time Great Britain was inferior in air strength everywhere. What happened in Greece and Crete occurred- even in Britain itself though there they were victorious. Every British city and town had. the experience of inadequate air cover, because for years Hitler had been building up the Luftwaffe. Labour parties throughout the world had opposed rearmament, but nobody can truthfully say that I have not advocated adequate defence and practised what I have preached. It happened to be the Royal Air Force, and not the Royal Australian Air Force, which had to provide air cover in Greece and Crete, and it had to do it from a. great distance.
– The Minister attacked tho Menzies Government.
– I was not a member of that Government. The Luftwaffe’ was supposed to be invincible, but it was eventually defeated by the fighter boys of the Royal Air Force. Now Germany is being paid back tenfold with the weapons it chose. One should not deplore the fact that our airmen took great risks and fought against overwhelming odds. Britain, whatever the odds, has always won the last battle, and is doing it again.
T do not intend to speak about the equipment of the Australian troops. 1 do not claim to have sufficient information on the matter, although I have heard from reliable sources of a great waste of machinery which would be of much use to us to-day. I have heard of jeeps being driven into the sea. I believe that the Americans have destroyed equipment which might have been handed over to the Australians, had the machinery for handing it over been easier of operation; but there are difficulties about taking over equipment, and frequently Australia has been the loser on that account. I find it difficult to believe that the Australian troops would have preferred to fight in the by-passed areas where they are employed at present rather than advance with the American forces, but it is quite a distortion to allege that the Opposition has in any way deprecated the gallant efforts of the Australians. I am a friend of General Blarney, and I have never criticized him in this Parliament, but 1 regret that he should have said that attempts had been made to defame our troops. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has clearly shown that no such accusation was intended from any section of the House.
The criticism offered by the Opposition is that valuable lives are being lost in areas where nature would complete the victory. Malaria alone would. take a heavy toll of the by-passed Japanese forces, and the fact that comparatively small bodies of the enemy cannot be reinforced or supplied with equipment, and have no air cover, is sufficient reason why they should be left where they are until Japan is defeated. It is regrettable that valuable Australian lives should be lost in fighting the Japanese in well-defended island positions. It would be better if our troops were engaged in concert with their brothers in arms, the Americans, in any major actions to which they might be assigned. We have heard a great deal about the horrors of German prison camps and about Japanese brutality, and I trust that Australian troops will soon be used to release the dwindling 2S,000 Australians in Malaya, which should be one of our main objectives. We should be pushing on through the Dutch islands towards Malaya instead of using our troops for what are admittedly minor campaigns in places which will ultimately be evacuated when Japan is defeated.
– Then the honorablemember has no confidence in General MacArthur ?
– The Minister should not distort my meaning. I am an admirer of that great Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces in the South-West Pacific Area, but I think that we have not been told the whole truth regarding the operations to be assigned to the Australian troops. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) should have said that the Australian Army would live up to its Anzac traditions. It did not balk at any difficulties in Gallipoli, France, Palestine, Syria, Libya, Greece or Crete, and our troops should be in the van with our American allies, as the New Zealanders and South Africans have been. If it is the major campaign that honorable members opposite allege, why is it that by some mischance men have been forgotten in the matter of a decoration? I have met survivors from- the sunken Japanese transport. They spent six days in the sea, and during their captivity they suffered unspeakable barbarities and starvation. Yet, unlike members of the Royal Australian Air Force who went to New Guinea, or merchant seamen who crossed enemy waters once, or have been six months afloat, they cannot wear a ribbon on their chest to show that they have served.
– Order! The scope of the debate is fairly wide, .but not so wide as to include the question of medals and ribbons for certain members of the forces.
– If this is a major campaign as the Government alleges, I ask Ministers not to forget the men who are now prisoners of war, or the men who have been repatriated. They should be placed on the same footing as other troops who have been awarded decorations for their services. That is an unforgivable omission, and I cannot understand how it ever occurred.
– Does the honorable member pit his judgment against that of General MacArthur?
– General MacArthur’s judgment was not involved in this matter. General MacArthur has actually awarded a medal to war correspondents, but the services of some of our soldiers have not been similarly recognized. I have no doubt that the war correspondents sympathize with them, and desire them to be suitably rewarded..
I was led into those channels by the fiery speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), and I now desire to make some observations on Royal Australian Air Force equipment. Now that the Empire Air Training Scheme has terminated, an urgent need exists for a complete re-organization of the Royal Australian Air Force. This scheme, to which the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) paid eloquent tribute recently, was undoubtedly the most successful Empire experiment in history. Thousands of young men from Great Britain and the Dominions were trained partly in their own countries and finally converged on Great Britain, where they were distributed amongst squadrons and fought in many parts of the world, from Iceland to New Guinea. The huge training establishment which exists in Australia should now be considerably curtailed. What I am about to suggest should be regarded as a genuine desire to assist towards achieving higher efficiency, and saving man-power and money. Many members of air ‘crew, who nawe distinguished records of sen-vice, and others who have just completed their training and were looking forward to going abroad, have been told that they must accept ground duties or be discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force. The Minister informed us that 1,500 members of air crew were detailed to pick fruit ; others were given dead-end and humiliating tasks, such as labouring work, or unloading ships, when waterside workers would not or could not work. As the Empire Air Training Scheme concluded and personnel were withdrawn from Canada and Great Britain, the demand for air crew was not so pressing; but I desire to suggest a few ways in which air crew may be employed. We have a splendid Air Training Corps for youths between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years. Many thousands of them joined the Air Training Corps, and later became members of air crew under the Empire Air Training Scheme. Members of the Air Training Corps are still being told that they may enter the Royal Australian Air Force as air crew, but that the number will be limited. This is an inexplicable position. Whilst trained air crew are being told .that they must remuster for ground duties, the Royal Australian Air Force continues to accept young men at the age of eighteen years for training as air crew. Members of the Air Training Corps should not be misled. They should be told that there are openings for them only in ground musterings.
Throughout Australia, there are many superfluous Royal Australian Air Force schools. For example, many Initial Training Schools could be closed, and their valuable buildings, if the establishments are in the vicinity of towns, cou’ld be used temporarily to house civilians who are unable to obtain other accommodation. On the administrative side the staffs and personnel are excessive. Yet the Royal Australian Air Force will release men only with the greatest reluctance. .As far 418 passible all administrative jobs should be earmarked for former members .of air crew. I desire to suggest a way in which many trained air crews, particularly those with good records of service, may -be absorbed. The honorable member for Flinders ^MrRyan) .and T have asked questions about tb« Fleet Air Aria which is now oper ating in Australian waters and which. bas asked Australia to supply pilots. The Royal Austraiian Air Force lias replied.,. I understand, that the pilots will be provided if the Fleet Air Arm will undertake to. train them.. So far as. I am able to ascertain., those training facilities aw not available here, but they are available at Pearl Harbour. The Royal Austraiian Air Force should encourage young airmoa to join the Fleet Air Arm as many young “ Australian? joined the Royal Air Force during the last war. Great names that come readily to mind include, that of Sir Peter Drummond, who, unhappily, was killed recently. During the last war, he served as a, private in the Australian Imperial Force before he joined the Royal Flying Corps, Another wellknown name is that of Air Vice-Marshal De Crespigny. Others are the late Air Vice-Marshal McClaughry, Air ViceMarshal Mitchell, Air Commodore Guilfoyle, Bustred, and many in lower ranks. If the post-war establishment were tentatively fixed, the Government could invite numbers of air crew to join tho permanent Royal Australian Air Force- I have received from the Minister a letter stating that that suggestion will be given effect.
– It is now being done.
– .Only to a small degree. The arrangement should also include ground personnel.
– How do those remarks apply to the alleged shortage of equipment?
– They are introductory remarks, which will have a great bearing on the subject of equipment and manpower. The Government is wasting money on certain aircraft, and certain units are not active because of their equipment. Before I conclude my remarks about the post-war establishment, I suggest that the Government should introduce a pensions or retirement schema for the higher ranks, so that over-age or inefficient men may be eliminated with a view to improving the efficiency of thu force as a whole.
Definitely, there are idle squadrons in Australia to-day. During this debate, honorable members have directed their attention to the Army, as if the Army were the sole instrument for waging war.. The Army, Navy and Air Force are essential to, one another.. One of them cannot be a decisive factor in a campaign, but requires the assistance pf the others. In northern, Australia we have squadrons to which veteran fighter pilots are attached- For more than a year th,ey have not done anything. to=day, I asked the Minister for Air a question based on a report appearing in a Sydney newspaper about those squadrons, and’ he said that he had never received any protests about, those personnel having nothing to do. I” have received complaints from them, as have other honorable members.. Sq also have many officers in the Royal Australian Air Force,
– All the protests seem to be lodged with honorable members opposite.
– -There are young men in this country who came here from Great, Britain after having fought in Europe as members of the Royal Air Force, They say that, although, they have been in this part of the world for more than a year they have not yet seen a. Japanese, have not fired their guns in anger, and have done scarcely any flying-
That is the story that they send home, to their people in Britain. What applies to them applies to other squadrons also ; for many units there is no. war pf any magnitude, These men would fee proud to take their aircraft into battle. If the answer is- that there are not sufficient aircraft for them to use, or that the Spitfire is npt suitable, there should be no difficulty about getting the machines required. The Spitfire is a splendid high-altitude fighter, but if more Kittyhawk? are wanted, they can surely be obtained. During this debate reference has . been made to shortages of such articles as shirts and boots for soldiers, and of bulldozers, jeeps, and other mechanical equipment, but the provision of aircraft and the use to which airmen are being put should not be overlooked. ‘Squadrons should not be kept idle through lack of aircraft pf the right type when the machines required can be obtained from the United States of America or the United Kingdom. The Minister for Transport made a number of wild statements; he should know that at the time to which he referred Hudson aircraft were available. There are in Australia many light bombers which have not been used. The Ventura is a good serviceable aircraft, but it has not been used. What .is the reason? At the same time as Australia obtained Ventura aircraft, New Zealand also obtained similar machines which were put to good use in the Solomon Islands. We have numbers of personnel who would be glad to fly these machines rather than click their heels in . depots where they have remained for many months. Australia has done a good job in the manufacture of Beaufort bombers. These machines have served a good purpose, but they are not front-line machines now, and they originally had certain defects. Many irresponsible statements have been made regarding various aircraft, such as the Mustang. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) said that £650,000 was to be expended in jigs and tools for Rolls-Royce engines, of which 100 would be made in Australia, but I understand that the wrong jigs and tools were obtained. It may not be generally known that there are three types of Merlin engines. It is questionable whether we should have continued with engines of that type, because with the introduction of jet propulsion they are outmoded. That is the opinion of Mr. Hudson Fysh, an undoubted authority on aircraft, and other authorities, and was the text of my question to the Minister. The Government proposes to manufacture in this country 50 Lancaster aircraft, and to import 200 RollsRoyce engines from Great Britain for them. Is it wise to use our manpower to make four-engined bombers in this country, seeing that no Lancasters are likely to be completed in Australia before the war ends? I agree that the Lancaster is the most easily made bomber, and still the best; but is it wise to set out to make machines which will not be used, and to expend money and utilize man-power in their manufacture? The Minister has spoken of the mass production of engines and Mustang aircraft and. has been in the habit of making frequent exaggerations of what is being done. Some machines of this type have been imported and are being assembled in this country, and are being claimed as Australian made, though it is, of course, intended later to manufacture them here. Within Australia between 30,000 and 40,000 men are employed in the aircraft industry. In this country we have made various types of trainer aircraft, such aB the Moth and the Wirraway. The Minister for Transport spoke of the Wirraway as a fighter, but it is not a fighting machine. When Australia set out to manufacture aircraft, a general purpose machine was manufactured ; an American machine - the NA33 - was copied for training purposes, and it has proved valuable. I support the statement that the aircraft manufacturing industry should be established in this country, but I doubt the wisdom of using over 30,000 men in this way. The foundation of aircraft manufacture in Australia was laid by the Lyons Government, but it is time that there was an inquiry into its activities. After over £1,000,000 was wasted in an attempt to make an Australian bomber, the work had to be discontinued. I am an enthusiastic supporter of Australian industries, but I do not agree that we should attempt to make everything here when up-to-date machines can be obtained from other countries. It is difficult to keep up to date in design and manufacture in service aircraft. We should at least send experts to Britain and the United States of America for the latest information, so Aat money shall not be wasted in making machines of the wrong type. Honorable members have, no doubt, seen in the press recently advertisements by Australian agricultural implement manufacturers complaining that they cannot get man-power for the manufacture of agricultural implements. These advertisements give the names of about twenty agricultural implement makers, who, according to the Argus of the 7th April, say -
Unless additional man-power is made available to us there will be an acute shortage of machines and implements which must result in failure to produce sufficient foodstuffs to meet the requirements of the armed services and civilians.
Whilst the implement manufacturers say that we cannot supply sufficient foodstuffs to the fighting services unless more man-power is made available to the industry, the Government permits considerable man-power to be locked up in the aircraft industry, some of it being engaged in making machines which are obsolete and others which will not be completed before the war ends. The Government should appoint either an expert committee to examine the man-power requirements of this industry generally, or a royal commission to investigate the position thoroughly. I do not blame the Minister for Aircraft Production in this matter, because he has just taken over that office. One can only conclude that the Government is not aware of the waste of manpower now locked up in aircraft production. The Beaufort machine in its early stages was not satisfactory, and although those difficulties have been rectified, that machine is not so good as the Ventura, many of which are now idle in this country. I ask the Minister to inquire into the reorganization of the Air Force with a view to effecting a saving in man-power by a readjustment of personnel and a better utilization of squadrons and aircraft. Many of the existing training schools could be closed and further building stopped. Yet work is proceeding on a huge stores building at Tottenham which will not be completed before the war ends. That building is estimated to cost many thousands of pounds, and is one reason why there is a shortage of materials for housing. All of these facts are related to the difficulties which arise in the field and need urgent attention.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Drakeford) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- A few weeks ago the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made certain suggestions to the Minister for ‘the Army (Mr. Forde) in an effort to improve the procedure now followed with respect to the granting of compassionate release and compassionate leave. He suggested that such applications should be considered by a body independent of the military authorities. The Minister promised to give consideration to that proposal. In the light of the case which I shall now bring to the notice of the House, it is extremely desirable that the present method of dealing with such applications be improved. I have in mind the case of a soldier who enlisted at the age of nineteen years and has now served in the forces for five years. He has seen service in the Middle East and in New Guinea. Since he joined the Army he married, and his wife had the misfortune a fortnight ago to lose her first child. This man has submitted to me and to the military authorities a medical certificate certifying to the serious state of his wife’s health, and also a death certificate confirming the death of the child. He submitted full proof in support of his application. However, I have received from the military authorities a reply to the effect that this man’s application could not be granted, the last paragraph of the letter reading -
The question of granting this soldier compassionate leave has also been considered, but as his unit has indicated that such leave is not concurred with, this likewise cannot be sanctioned.
By serving in the armed forces for five years that soldier has made a tremendous contribution to the country’s war effort. It seems remarkable, therefore, that he should be refused evena week’s leave in the circumstances set out in his application. I am advised that his unit is still in Australia. Therefore, leave for a short period would not have interfered with its movements. This man has borne the brunt of battle for five years. He has an unblemished military record. The loss of their child has been a severe blow to this couple. I have had brought to my notice previously similar cases in which release has been recommended from this end, but such recommendations have been overridden by the commanding officer. I urge the Minister to look into this and similar cases.I suggestthatsuchapplicationsshouldbe refusedonlywhenthecommanding officercangiveverygoodreasonsfor rejectingthem.Indeed,thewholesub- jectofthereleaseofmenwhohave servedforfiveyearsshouldbeconsidered inthenearfuture.Therejectionof thisman’sapplicationinthecircum- stancesIhavementionedwillhaveavery detrimentaleffectuponhisideaof “soldieringon”when,afterfiveyears unblemishedservice,heisrefused aweek’sleavetoattendtothe needsofhisfamilyinthesevery specialcircumstances.Ishallgive totheMinisterthenameofthe soldier,andIaskthatspecialcon- siderationbegiventothiscasewhichis mostgenuine.Indeed,itisonlyoneof manysimilarcaseswhichhavebeen broughttothenoticeofhonorable members
Withrespecttothedesirabilityofre- leasingmenwhohaveservedforfive yearsinthearmedforces,Iurgethat specialconsiderationbegiventothe claimsofsuchmeninthefuturere- allocationofman-power.Anymanwho hasbeenonactiveserviceforfiveyears hasmadeagreatcontributiontoourwar effort.Thosegiveyearsaresomeofthe bestyearsofhislife,andforthatperiod hisfamilyhasmadeconsiderablesacri- ficesowningtohisabsensefromthehome. Therefore,Weareobligedtogiveparticu- larconsiderationtothereleaseofsuch men.Iadmitthatthisproblempresents certaindifficultiesbuttheGovernment mustovercomethosedifficulties.
Questionresolved inthe affirmative.
House adjourned at11 . 9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: - coal-miningindustry.
MrRankinasked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.. Hashe read the newspaper reports (a) that on the12th April more than 300 mine worker at Corrimal did not work because onemanlosthiswatch;(b)thatMr.Watt, K.C.,representingtheAttorney-General,said ofapit-topmeetingatMountKeiraonthe 6thAprilthatitwasastateofanarchywhich shouldnotbepermitted;and(c)thatthe CoalCommissioner(Mr.Mighell)saidonthe 18thAprilthattheCanberracodehadfailed? 2.Ifso,inviewofthesestatementsand thealmostdailystrikesthathaveoccured intheindustryforweekspast,willhesay whataction,ifany,hisGovernmenthastaken againstthestrikersconcerned? 3.ArethepublicandtheAlliedNationsto assumethatthesituationiscompletelybeyond theGovernment’scontrol? 4.Ifnot,whatactiondoestheGovernment intendtotakeagainstthecoal-minersinvolved instrikes?
Mr.Curtin - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Ihavenotreadallthenewspaperreports referedto, but will do so. 2.Seeanswerstoquestions1and4. 3.No. 4.ThemachineryprovidedbytheCoalPro- duction(War-time)Actisadequate.The CoalCommissionerauthorizesthetakingof proceedingsinwhatheconsiderstobeappro- priatecasesandwillcontinuetodoso.Itis truethatneithertheCommissionernorthe Governmentissatisfiedwithpresentproduc- tionalthoughproductionforthefirstquarter of1945issome165,000tonsbetterthanfor thesameperiodofthepreviousyear. tariffzoningproposal. sirearlepageaskedthePrime Minister,uponnotice-
InviewoftheproposaloftheTreasurer todivideAustraliaintozonesforincometax purposesonaccountofisolationorunduehard- ship,willheexaminethepossiblity,both adminstrativeandconstitutionalofmaking similarzonesfortariffpurposes,especiallyin outbackandisolatedareas,thecitizensof whichareengagedalmostexclusivelyisexport industries.
– On the 15th March the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction the following questions, upon notice -
The answer to the honorablemember’s questions isas follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 April 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450426_reps_17_181/>.