17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayer?
Craftsman L. V. Ma lee - Discharge of Medically Unfit Personnel - Leave -Court-martialofPrivatesL. james and F. Travers.
– Last session, I referred to the lack of consideration that had been shown to Craftsman L.V. Malee, a young inventor, by the Army Inventions Directorate. I have notsince heard anything further about the matter. Will the Prime Minister instruct the Acting Minister for the Army to make inquiries and advise me of the position that has been reached in connexion with an invention by this young man, the ideas concerning which were somewhat conflicting?
– The matter willbe brought to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army.
– I have receiveda letter which contains these statements -
Many chaps whohave had five years’ service and been medically down-graded have been posted to base units which are to serve outside Australia.
As for medical examination of chaps who have had more than their share of illnesses, I have never heard of it. I don’t think the Military Authorities would dare give a thorough medical examination toall long-service personnel. Quite a lotare anxiety state cases, and one cannot doubt that this unnatural existence is lending to a lot of other mental cases. Several of the chaps here bear nasty wounds of their encounters with the enemy, and it nearly makes you weep to think they will all have to go out of Australia when there are thousands who haven’t been outside the country. I think our Government could take a good look at New Zealand, and carry out a scheme similar to theirs, whereby they give the men the opportunity of a discharge after three years’ active service and replace them with those in protected industries and young men who have attained military age.
Will the Prime Minister ask War Cabinet seriously to consider granting to all members of the fighting forces who have completed four years’ service, nnd have had combat experience, the right of discharge, or of re-enlistment if proved medically fit after examination?
– The subject, in general, has been receiving consideration, and some of the suggestions outlined have been examined in detail. I hope to be able to make a statement to the House onthe general subject in, probably, a fortnight’s time.
– The Minister representing the Minister for the Army, in a statement that he tabled yesterday, referred to a review of leave conditions in. respect of men who had not had leave although they had served for eighteen months in tropical areas. Will he now state whether or not special consideration has been given to those members of specialist units who have served for more than two yoars in snch areas without having hnd any leave ?
– I am not aware as to whether or not special consideration lias been given to personnel who nre in that category. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army, and obtain a reply for the honorable member.
– Has the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army seen the report of the court-martial of two members of the Australian Imperial Force - Private Leslie James and Private Frank Travers - on the charge of desertion? It has been stated that they are under a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment. That may be untrue; I do not know. Will the Minister watch the case, and see that a tolerant view shall be takenof what they did, because, according to their statement, the inactivity of their unit in New Guinea-
-The honorable gentleman having admitted that he cannot vouch for the correctness of the report, his question is out of order.
– May I ask the remaining part of the question?
– The honorable gentleman may reconstruct his question.
– I shall do so. These men were recommended for decorations for gallantry, by the American forces with which theyserved. They fought gallantly in the Philippines and, I understand, reported to the CommanderinChief of the Australian Land Forces when he visited that theatre of war. In view of all the circumstances, including the fa«t that they left their unit because of their keenness to get into the fight, and had earlier fought in Greece and Crete, will the Minister sec that a tolerant and indulgent view ‘will bo taken of their action, and that they will not be deprived of the decorations for which they were recommended by the American forces, from whom they received every assistance in their enterprise?
– I hope that the Minister will be as indulgent as the Chair has been.
– 1 have not read the press report to which the honorable member has referred. As I merely represent the Acting’ Minister for the Army, obviously I have not seen the official report of any court-martial, but I shall draw the attention of tho Acting Minister for the Army to the matter, and ask him to inquire into it.
- Mr. H. J. Summers, a war correspondent, in a letter published in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, stated -
Too many nf my colleagues lie under while crosses in Europe nml the Islands for me to allow the Dedman defamation of »’:ir correspondents to go unanswered. Some have escaped death but “ill carry the scars of war nil their lives. One called on me Inst week After five and n half mouths in hospital recovering from u vile form of dermatitis, and after having had a fragment of shrapnel removed from behind an eye. He. like every other war correspondent, accepted front-lino duty voluntarily and went everywhere unarmed.
In view of the fact that Australian war correspondents have risked their lives in order to present a front-line story of the war to newspaper readers, will the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction make a public apology for the slur that he cast upon thom during his speech in the debate on Army equipment?
– I have read the letter from which the honorable member has quoted. In the statement that I made in this House last week, I did not impugn in any way the personal courage and bravery of war correspondents, but merely said that they had done & great deal of harm during not only tho New Guinea campaign, but also other campaigns in this war. I am still of that opinion.
– With reference to the attack made upon the honorable member for Barker by an unnamed Army spokesman, I draw the attention of tho Prime Minister to the following paragraph, which was published to-day in the Sydney Daily Telegraph: -
Mr. Curtin knows quite well that the nowapapers regent the need to quote anonymous1 “ spokesmen “, nml tlo so only because the administration binds them to use this ridiculous formula when it is not prepared to take responsibility for statements before it is assured of a. favorable public reception. We have no objection to revealing the name of the spokesman on this matter, provided both Mr. Curtin nml the spokesman agree.
In view of that statement, will the Prime Minister now agree to the disclosure of the name of the spokesman, and confer with the Acting Minister for the Army in older to secure the agreement of the spokesman to that course of action?
– I direct attention to a question on the notice-paper for the 3rd May, and I submit that the question now asked by the honorable member for Richmond is out of order.
– The grounds on which the Prime Minister has challenged the question are substantial. The question on the notice-paper for the 3rd May. in the name of the honorable member for Bendigo, covers practically every point dealt with by the honorable member for Richmond.
– I submit that my question is different from that on the notice-paper. I asked the right honorable gentleman, following upon a statement made by him yesterday that he was noi (permitted to disclose the identity-
– I did not say that. My statement was that no newspaper would disclose the source of its information.
– I asked the Prime Minister whether he would agree to the disclosure of the name of an anonymous spokesman, and inquire whether the spokesman would agree.
– I still cannot see any identifiable difference between the fourth paragraph of the question of which the honorable member for Bendigo has given notice, and the question submitted by the honorable member for Richmond as to whether the Prime Minister would inform the House of the identity of an unnamed spokesman.
– I asked for his agreement to the disclosure of the name.
– Obviously that is dependant upon his answer to the question on t;he notice-paper. If he knows the identity of the spokesman and will not disclose it, that will furnish an answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Richmond.
Alleged Misreporting- Freedom of the Press - Ethics Committees.
– Is the Minister for Information aware -
That, on the 14th April, the New South Wales Country party conference in Sydney carried a resolution protesting that the Sydney Morning Herald’s report of a conference address constituted “ a deliberate abuse of the powers and privileges of the press?” The subject of the resolution was a report of sis lines which a speaker claimed “ was not a true and accurate and verbatim report of his address “, and “ definitely conveyed a misconception? “
That, at the Coal Commission on the 20th April the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, denied the accuracy of a Sydney Morning Herald report of earlier proceedings, claimed that it reflected on the management and control of Coalcliff colliery by himself and Mr. Jack, and demanded that the investigation by the Commissioner be suspended until the report had been retracted?
That Mr. Justice Davidson sympathized with Mr. Mighell’s attitude to the report, and expressed the hope that the press generally would publish the facts1 in justice to the two men concerned ?
That the Sydney Morning Herald published a correction and apology four days after Mr. Mighell had first drawn attention to the distortion and inaccuracy, and on the same day published an editorial suggesting that “freedom of the press” should be incorporated in the peace treaties ?
If freedom of the press is to be incorporated in the peace treaties, will the Minister take appropriate action to see that it shall not include the kind of freedom in which, apparently, the Sydney Morning Herald believes, as is indicated in these two incidents?
– I am aware of the numerous sins of omission and commission, committed by the Sydney Morning Harold, which the honorable member for Grey has recited. It certainly would appear to be somewhat ridiculous that a newspaper which could be guilty of all those offences should talk of the incorporation in the peace treaty of a provision for the freedom of the press. In the view of all right-thinking Australians there is not, never was, and never will be while capitalism lasts, such a thing as freedom of the press except for those who control the press.
– Has the Minister for Information any knowledge of the formation of ethics committees to preserve the ethical standards of Australian newspapers? If so have these committees been formed by newspaper proprietors or by the .Australian Journalists Association, and what is their function?
– I understand that members of the Australian Journalists Association, being appalled at the manner in which newspaper proprietors behave with regard to the dissemination of news, did through their organization establish ethics committees in each State, and suggested to the proprietors that these committees should have some right to discipline proprietors and others who do not correctly report the news. The story is a sad one, because in some newspaper offices the proprietors refuse to allow decisions of the ethics committee of the Australian Journalists Association to be displayed on a board. In one case they said that their ethics were even higher than those of the journalists; in another case they said it was unnecessary to do that. The problem of dealing with newspapers and their standards is one for consideration by the
Parliaments of the- States. Perhaps one of these days State- legislatures will make the newspapers of Australiabehave decently.
Mr.ADERMANN.-Has the Minister forCommerce and Agriculture received thereport ofthe committee which inquired intothetobaccoindustry ? If so, when may we expect him. to; make a. statement concerning, the conclusions at which the committee arrived?
– There was. a. little delay in obtaining the signatures of the members, of the: committee prior to the. preparation of. the final report. I hope that the report will reach me next week. I shall then advise the honorable member of its nature.
-Willthe Prime Minister obtain from his colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, information, as to how the honorable member for Parramatta. was. permitted to commence a. project at Narrabeen, New South Wales; from his colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture information as to how the honorable member obtained agricultural mechanical equipment for this project; and from his colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service, information as to how the honorable member obtained manpower for this project?
– I am not quite sure that the honorable member’s questions affect the public administration. If they do, the information will be supplied.
Mr.DALY. - As expert advisory com mittees- have been established to assist the Governmentto plan, for the development of postwar trade and because of the prevailing interest in connexion with the matter, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a detailed statement, indicating the progress thathas been’ made with the Government’splans for. the restoration of trade and the publicizing of Australian products overseas?
– Is the Minister forMuni- tions able to announce the names of the personnel of the Aluminium Commission ?
-I shall make the announcement later to-day.
Mr.CONELAN.-Has the Minister for Information perused the columns; of the Sydney Daily Telegraph this, morniing, and.found no referenceto the fine speech, made; by the honorable, member for- Henty yesterday? If he has,.will he take steps: to prevent this discrimination by conferring with the PostmasterGeneral, with a view to having the debates in this Parliament broadcast?
Mr.CALWELL. - I shall. deal with the latter, part of the question first, because it is of the greater importance. I shall be only too happy to confer with the Postmaster-General, and’ ascertain whether in his viewitis feasible for debates in this Parliament to be broadcast. I am sure that the people of Australia would benefit from suchbroadcasts. As to the first part of the question, the honorable member for Henty is only another victim of the press campaign that still persists.
– Has the Prime Minister read a press report that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Cooper, disclosed in London that he had conducted negotiations with theDominions Office regarding the establishment of a migration scheme, and that he favoured a plan for free passages for ex-servicemen and assisted passages for others desiring to come to Australia? As- the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, who is on his way overseas, doubtless has migration as one of the reasons for his mission’, and as the Minister for the Army (Mr.Forde) has talked about migration in Great Britain, does the Commonwealth Government regard migration as a national problem, or is it content to allow Commonwealth Ministers and State Premiers- to go- like commercial travellers- to the Government of Great Britain seeking prospective migrants? ‘Oan . te ragiblt honorable gentleman infoaan jne whether he has yat . reached a . decision awarding any suggestion ..for -the . appointment of an allparty committee on migration?
Mr.CURTIN.- -I lame -not . read ithe report TDienliioned, bait I -can -ajppi’ociate that State Premiers -would -naturally discuss migration proposals in ILondon. I ihaive no doubt that ‘similar action would bc taken by a great n-irrn.ber’Orf Australians wh-o -visit the United “Kingdom. ‘It is most natural that the heads ‘of gowern- ments would -d-iscuBS with Ministers of State -and oiiber interested persons ‘in the Hn-rted (Kingdom fthe practicability <of ; a varrioty -of migration schemes. That has happened time ‘and again. As to the conoludhrg port -of the question a’bout -the appointment ‘of an ‘all-party committee on emigration, I am not -yet in a position to -reply ‘to the <su’ggesti©n, but I <shal!l ‘do *so as soon as possible. Owing tto a variety -of -ew-‘cramstanees I have overlaoWl Bhe matter, and I ‘admit culpaibility ‘in that regard. I : intended to discuss -with the rigjlrt honorable ‘gentleman some aspects -of his proposal, (but unTortnnately I -have not ‘been ‘able to ilo so.
Reportby Professor Copland
– Will the Prime . Minister inloon the House wlta* prompted Ms decision to lay on ithe table the report by JPxofessoT Copland- on economic conditions . in . the . United Kingdom, . the United . States of America, and Canada ?
Win he . explain the . apparent inconsistency in ialdiiig that . report and refusing . to table . the Jensen report on . second:ary Tuubistries and tie report ©f the Jjifcer-tdepaiitarierLtaJ . Gonuurittee on . Aviation.?
– I Irabled ithe ^oi-t of the -economic oonsuLtant bo ithe Government because I thought -it was of general interest ito the ‘country..
– H-ns the Minister “for ‘Commeroe >and Agriculture rea’d the iBfca’fcern’ent in . the press yesterday in which the New -South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Graham, was areporitrjfl ‘to hia we . ‘said that fod-dser supplies in that State had irBaicihed a critically . low lewel-? bt . was also stated ihsct ithe Government crf . New South Wales -had . asked the >Gommoniw.eal’bh . Government tto import stocks of tfodden- ur-genitly Ir.ora tasmania, New -Zealand a-nd ^Canada. Iri view -of the refusal -of -the Djwiiimonweaith .Governiment during the -laat £Ouple crf years ito irelease . -adequate man-power . and eqau’p nvent : for . the iaranimg . conirmunity -to enalble ait : to rpmo.fl.uBe ithe . reqirisite supplies of fodder, -will Tthe Minister now take u,p with Cabinet the serious position which has arisen in a’espect of fodder, so that. Australia itself . may produce the supplies needed in this country . instead of having to import them from Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere?
Mr.SCULLY. - I -hawe xeacl -the . report iKefenr-ed to. The Minister for Agricul tni’B –in New South Wales frag been most helpful in ‘flhe matter, but I -should like the honorable (member to tell the House bow t&odder could ‘be grown without rain.
– Will 1ihe Minister for ‘Commerce . and Agriculture ta”ke up with the “Department of Agriculture in New South Wales the need for expediting the issue of penmits for -.the transport of ha,y to drought-stricken areas-? I have been i rucking hay ‘for the last two or three weeks, and have experienced great flJfficii’lty in obtaining permits. Apparently fhe troii-ble is of . a red tape nature.
Mr.SCULLY.- The Minister for Agrieultuire -in New South Wales ‘discussed the matter with me prior to the introduction of ‘the regulation providing for fhe issue of permits. He ‘said that nt wonld . have the regulation promulgated Ijccau-se a -great deal tff fodder was “being TranspoTted ito ‘destinations where its consunrption was not ‘in ‘the general interest of flbe camm unity. ‘I am -aware tnat -fame difficulty has -arisen, -and I s%a”ll endeavour to -arrange that -fodder conjngned’to proper -destinations is dealt with expeditirfusly.
– The honorable member is referring to timber, galvanized iron, and such materials?
– Those materials are controlled by the Materials Division of rhe Munitions Department. My colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and I have discussed the matter, find he has placed it on the agenda for consideration by the Production Executive. We are much concerned about it, and are anxious to give such homebuilders the same priority in regard to materials as is given to the Government.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether there is a prospect of reasonable supplies of wire netting being made available in the near future? Many farmers are suffering from the ravages of rabbits, and are unable to obtain wire netting of a suitable kind.
– I am most anxious that increased supplies of wire netting shall be made available to primary producers. We have the facilities for manufacturing more netting, but so far we have, been unable to get enough Al class labour to do the work. As the honorable member must understand, first- class man-power is required in the fighting services, and the kind available to us is not, unfortunately, of the kind suitable for the heavy industries. I am taking the matter up again with the Minister for Labour and National Service with a view to obtaining enough labour to relieve the existing shortage of supplies.
Debate resumed from the 26th April (vide page 1151), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: -
– This debate seems to have covered fields not at first contemplated. All the agitation in the press prior to the debate beginning was based on allegations that there was a shortage of equipment for use by our troops serving overseas. That, I understood, was to be the principal point of the attack. The Government was to be criticized because of its alleged failure to provide the equipment needed to enable our forces to perform the task allotted to them. The debate has proceeded to the accompaniment of a good deal of bluster on the part of honorable members opposite, but they have failed to produce any convincing evidence to support their contention that the Government has been at fault. The report of my colleague, the Acting Minister for the Army (SenatorFraser), completely disposed of the allegations against the Government. However, as a service Minister, I know that it is not possible for any government to provide all that is required all the time in every place where it is needed. We know that the exigencies of war are responsible for shortages from time to time, but it has been conclusively proved that there has been no general or substantial shortage of a kind likely to hamper the men in their operations against the enemy. Some honorable members opposite must by now be feeling somewhat guilty because of the uneasiness which they have caused in the minds of relatives of servicemen by suggesting that the Government has failed to equip the men properly.
-So the Minister is absolutely satisfied?
– My satisfaction in the work which the Government is doing has onlybeen increased by the ineffective efforts of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to belittle it.
– Is the Minister absolutely satisfied on the subject of equipment ‘(
– I have not said that the position in regard to equipment is absolutely satisfactory, and to assert anything of the kind would be absurd. I have said that it is impossible at all times to provide all the equipment necessary in every place, but I repeat that there is no general shortage. Having listened to the Opposition’s frontal attack on the Government, and then to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr, Menzies), I could not help coming to the conclusion that the attack had been planned without his knowledge. Had he looked around while he was speaking, he would have seen that most of his few supporters had vanished from the field. The debate was on a pretty low level until the Leader of the Opposition spoke, having been dragged down to that level by those of his supporters who had spoken before him. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition did not come into the debate until it became necessary to rescue it from the depths into which it had descended. The whole campaign against the Government was vamped up by the press of New South Wales, and the attack was led from New South Wales, which has a great horror of the possibility of the country being led by a Victorian Prime Minister. The newspapers persistently attack the Government for its alleged shortcomings, leaving altogether out of consideration the effects of the war. Like the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), I have visited the forward areas, and I regard myself as privileged in having had that opportunity. I have talked to the men. There were no newspaper reporters present, but there were war correspondents, and they were anxious to discover the reactions of the men.
– Has the Minister received any letters from the men containing complaints about equipment?
– Not one. The honorable member for New England seems to have received them all. The men must regard him as the general recipient of complaints, a belief in which, apparently, he encourages them, but I should prefer to regard him as the waste- paper basket”. I have not received any letters of complaint from the men. A few letters have been sent to me which indicate that there is not complete satisfaction. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction among the men on the ground that they are not more actively engaged, but in war there must always be periods of inactivity. At such times men become bored, and some of them send letters to gentlemen who prove themselves sympathetic, such as the honorable member for New England.
– But has the Minister received no such letters?
– The honorable member for New England has repeated that question several times-. It is evident that he is merely being obstructive.
– No doubt the honorable member for New England is disturbed in his mind because he must realize that he failed completely in his attack upon the Government, and he is now trying to justify himself. I have visited the men in forward areas, and know how they feel. Generally speaking, they would like a more active role. That is readily understandable, bin what they desire cannot always be given to them at the time when they want it. The point raised by th Leader of the Opposition regarding the use of our forces is a matter for general disputation, but I, as a service Minister, have had to rely upon the advice tendered to me by those who undertake the responsibility of planning the campaign.
Some reference was made during the debate to a shortage of aeroplanes, but little was advanced in support of the charge, and it can be dismissed as having no substance in it. Indeed, one has the feeling that the whole attack was merely a political venture designed to discredit the Government, and to damage the reputation which it has established over a number of years. I reply to the charge that there has been a shortage of aircraft, not because I think the charge in itself merits serious attention, but because, if it were not answered, uneasiness might be caused in the minds of the relatives of servicemen. During the debate, references were made by some honorable members to transport difficulties, and to the kind of transport aircraft available in the Forward areas. The honorable member for New England said that he had been told that there were two Douglas C.47 aircraft available to supply one Army division, and that recently one unit was waiting for aeroplanes to drop the next meal. I ask honorable members opposite, who have seen service, whether they could always rely upon getting their dinner promptly at 12 o’clock. It is true that when I visited the forward area it was not possible to rely upon getting meals at any fixed time, but it is also true that meals were always provided of a kind that: gave general satisfaction. In the Aitape area, two Douglas G.47 aircraft are maintained all the time to meet the special air transport requirements of the Divisional Commander, who also has a complete transport squadron upon which he. can call at anytime; It has been Used whenever necessary to carry food to the forward areas, and to supply troops wish food smA ammunition. I also emphasize the fact that the local commander can use the aircraft of the transport squadron at any time for any purpose. I’d addition, Lines of Communication aircraft ply on the ramie from. Aitape to- the mainland
The honorable member few New England also mentioned the withdrawal, of Auster aircraft, but I paint out that they wace detached and transferred foi employment <m active operations else- wk.-e.re>.. In order te meet the situation (-treated by the transfer of the Auster aircraft, Tiger Moth, aircraft were modified am,d forwarded to the Aitape area. 6oreows, ins order to ensnare that sufficient machines shall he available, additional Tiger Moth aircraft are being modified to take stretcher cases out of isoluteal) places-. These machines wild’ be despatched to forward areas, as soon as
– “What was thu1- date- on which they «r rived’?
– I have not the dates witta une-. I do- no* suggest- that there have1 not been days when aircraft Iia ve nor been available when- wan-ted, but 1 anr making no’ admissions as to defeats. I re-fate the trifling charges which have been levelled against the> administration hr. saying tha-fc supplies- of suitable air craft have been sent regularly. No complaints have reached me from the men or their commanding officers. It would appear that the only complaints on this are those which have reached the honorable member for New England.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that he had been informed that the Americans had recently brought into service at Aitape large numbers of aircraft of a type superior to the Liberators formerly used. He also said that hundreds of Liberators arc to be found out of service on northern airstrips, and he suggested that arrangements should ‘be made to acquire those machines, for transport purposes, either by purchase or under lend-lease arrangements. My department is fully .aware of the existence of unserviceable American? Liberator airframes in New Guinea, but inquiry has not revealed that serviceable Liberators have been discarded ‘by the United States forces because of the introduction, of a new type of transport aircraft. It is understood that the Liberator aircraft on the airstrips fo which be referred could not economically bc- repaired on the site, although parts of them are being used for- salvage repairs. That rs in accordance with the usual American, practice. lit view of those facts, it would! he uneconomic- to takeover those unserviceable’ aircraft and marie them available as transport machines, particularly in- new of the- targe amount )r technical1 work which would Re required 6o- convert them1. I assure honorable members that our transport aircraft strength *rs being maintained1, and indeed’, fs being augmented continually by the use of new aircraft front overseas-, which are being put into service- as soon as possible after arrival’. I am aware of the value of transport aircraft in war opera.tions, and1 tha-t the more- of such machines we can obtain, the more satisfactory will be the service that can be- provided. There is, however, a tremendous’ demand1 throughout the- world for transport aircraft, and’, consequently, the machines available are allotted on- the- basis of the needs of a’H areas, in-eluding those inwhich our forces’ are operating. Recommendations arc- made by experts-, and on their advice allocation is mode* Possibly/, there is room for difference of opinion. n to the number of squadrons and bombers which should be available in different areas, but the whole global campaign is taken into account when making the allocation. In my opinion, the plan decided on is being carried out. There is no indication whatever that the Royal Australian Air Force baa failed in any of the tasks allotted to it because of shortage of machines. Statements in letters by men who have not a complete knowledge of the facts are not evidence that the Government has failed to do its job properly. I am astonished that the honorable member for Richmond should base charges on correspondence of that sort. Had he sought information from me, he could have obtained it.
– I obtained my information from officers who had come from operational areas.
– I shall not give n free advertisement to those sections of the press which have made unfounded allegations, based, it is said, on information obtained from high-ranking officers. T often wonder who is the person who speaks on behalf of the Royal Australian Air Force. I have no knowledge as to who he is except that he is alleged by a certain newspaper to he a high-ranking officer. As there are not many such officers, I expect to discover who this person is if he is not merely a figment of news-paper imagination.
– Who is the ‘Government spokesman for the Royal Australian Air Force?
– He may be the same high-ranking officer who ,gave the information on which these charges have been based. I fully appreciate that those honorable members who have raised these matters in the House -were not, and could not he expected to be, aware of all the circumstances. It is unfortunate that their informants should have placed before them information in a form which cannot he regarded as other than misleading; it certainly is not in accordance with the facts. The information which I have now given to the House should remove any anxiety which may have existed in the minds of honorable members generally.
The honorable member for ‘Balaclava (“Mr. White), “who is recognized as one who takes a great interest in the Department of Air, has raised a number of matters, most of which had to do with aircraft production, which does not come under my control.
– -My remarks related to equipment.
– The honorable gentleman suggested that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the inactivity of the Department of Aircraft Production, but that is not a matter with which I can deal.
– An inquiry might save millions of pounds.
– If a royal commission were appointed to inquire into the information supplied to honorable mem.bers opposite in order that they might present a case against the Government, 1 am of the opinion that the inquiry would continue for a long time before discovering anything substantial.
– What is the position in regard to Mosquito bombers?
– The honorable member for New England made a tremendously long speech, but apparently he did not say all that he now wishes he had said, and accordingly, he desires to add to his speech by means of interjections. His speech was probably the most lengthy speech that has been delivered in this chamber £or a long time.; but had he included in- it the .additional items to which he now wishes -to refer., his case would have been made even weaker. The honorable member for Balaclava mentioned Ventura aircraft of which he said no use was being made by the Royal Australian Air Force. Australia has a number of these aircraft but they are now regarded as obselescent; they certainly are not first-line aircraft. Spare parts for them are difficult to obtain. Numbers of these -aircraft are bold in operational areas, and the remainder are distributed in various stations and non-operational areas. I “believe ‘that the honorable gentleman mentioned the Fairbairn aerodrome at Canberra in this connexion.
– There are. some tff these machines -at Canberra, hut they belong to an Allied nation. With regard to bombers, I point out that, a plan ha.s been laid down, and that the Air Board and the Department of Air are adhering to it. Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava said that no single defence arm - the Navy, the Army or the Air Force - could hope to win battles by itself, but that a balanced force was necessary. Just as we must have a balanced force as a whole, so we must have a balanced Air Force, with machines suitable for various requirements. That is the way that we are proceeding. The plan may not suit the honorable member for Balaclava, but it is believed tobe the best way to fulfil our part in the struggle.
– Is the Minister satisfied that fighter squadrons should remain in Australia?
– I am not accepting the suggestion that they are remaining in Australia, nor shall I give the percentage of squadrons serving outside Australia, despite the temptation to do so. The published statements on these are quite incorrect. I am convinced that the fighter squadrons which are being utilized outside Australia are being disposed to the best advantage by those whose responsibility it is to allocate them to the various areas. The honorable member for Balaclava also referred to the type of Merlin engine proposed to be built locally and indicated that it was not of the latest type. I assure the House that the type which is being manufactured here is the 100 series, Mark 102, which is the latest Merlin engine for military aircraft, and is suitable for such aircraft as the Lancaster and the Mustang and the Mosquito.
– The latest tvpe is the 120.
– The information furnished to me is that the type proposed to be produced locally is the latest Merlin engine formilitary aircraft, and that it fits in with our construction programme. The honorable member also referred to Mustang aircraft and said that the first of these machines would not be ready until after the war. I now inform him that the first of the Australian-built Mustangs will be flying within one week, and that there is every reason to believe that the approved schedule of manufacture will be adhered to thereafter.
– I said that Australianbuilt Lancasters would not be ready till after the war, and that the parts of Mustangs were being imported for assembly here.
– The position in regard to Mustangs is as I have stated. The honorable member said that. 200 engines for Lancaster aircraft were being imported and would be assembled in Australia. The arrangement which has been entered into is a great compliment to Australia in that British manufacturers have asked us to make Rolls Royce Merlin engines. After the war Australia will be the only country outside Britain which will be manufacturing such engines.
The honorable member referred to a number of other matters to which I shall refer briefly, although they are not of great importance. Among such matters he mentioned the buildings at Tottenham. The buildings being constructed at Tottenham are for the purposes of tin1 main air force stores depot in Victoria for war and post-war purposes. Every effort is being made to complete the depot as quickly as possible. As honorable members know, storage facilities for the purposes of war departments have been totally inadequate in all States, and that, accordingly, makeshift arrangements have had to be resorted to. That has caused considerable inconvenience and has been most uneconomical in the use of man-power. The construction of the Tottenham buildings will not only result in more effective control of stores and storage, but will also enable a reduction of man-power to be made, as well as the release of some buildings for other purposes. I see no cause for criticism in regard to that project, nor can I see how the building of stores at Tottenham relates in any way to the printing of a paper which deals with equipment for personnel serving at the fighting front.
– The material could be used to build houses.
– If the honorable member wishes to make charges against the Government in respect of housing, such charges could be answered as satisfactorily as the charges already made have been answered. At present, large quantities of stores are kept in temporary structures which are not satisfactory. I have dealt with the matters relating to my own department.
The honorable member for Balaclava also dealt with a great many matters connected with aircraft production. The Minister for that department is now, I >im glad to say, back in the House. If the honorable member thinks that these detailed matters are important enough, lie can raise them with him and if he does he will get a complete answer to every one of them. I do not propose to deal with them because they do not concern my department, and I have not been able to obtain any information which would ‘be satisfactory to the honorable member or to any other honorable member who ha3 raised the subject. But I do agree with the honorable member for Balaclava that we should endeavour to carry on the aircraft industry in this country. Just how we shall he able to do that within our limitations has not yet been decided, but the honorable member need have no fear that this Government will fail to do everything necessary to keep it in operation. The honorable member also referred to surplus personnel. I do not know what that has to do with the provision of equipment. It is possible, however, that there are surplus men in some places. For months past, and even now, that matter has been given thorough attention. It would almost seem that the honorable gentleman is clairvoyant, so accurate is his anticipation of events. He has made a number of suggestions’ which I think he must realize are already being gone into and on which decisions are being made. I hope that the Air Force will at no time carry surplus personnel, because the manpower requirements of the country in other directions are so acute that surpluses in the services must be released as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister now say something about the Fleet Air Arm which a lot of boys told me they want to join. Facilities exist for their training at Pearl Harbour.
– I have already dealt with that matter on three or four occasions, but, if the honorable member requires it, I shall furnish a little more detail. Approaches have been made by the Royal Navy authorities here for a monthly quota of Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilots, particularly for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm purposes. As I have indicated in my replies toearlier questions on this matter, the Royal Australian Air Force has no facilities for the training of such personnel for deck landings and the like, which are obviously of vital importance. All details of the proposals are still the subject of discussion between the Air Staff and the Royal Navy representatives here, and every action will be taken to meet, as far as possible, the Royal Navy’s requirements, provided the Royal Navy can undertake the conversion of the fighter pilots for Fleet Air Arm purposes. In the event of Royal Australian Air Force personnel being provided, it is desirable that they should- retain theirAustralian identity, and no difficulty in that direction is anticipated.
– That satisfies me.
– I am glad that some one opposite can be satisfied, because the Opposition has set out on a campaign to create in the public mind the idea that the Government has failed in its duty;, but that has been completely disposed of. Every one in Australia with an independent mind will agree that the Opposition has completely failed in ite attack and that the attack has no substance whatever.
– Hope springs eternal.
– I have no doubt that it does in the honorable member’.” breast, but it is not likely to be realized. I have never listened to a debate in which so much noise has been made with solittle substance behind it. The next time the Opposition decides to launch an attack on the Government it ought tosee that there is powder in the gun as well as in the magazine, so that it shall not demonstrate to the people, as it has done on this occasion, that its hope of” ever regaining the treasury-bench is soremote as not to cause us or the peopleany anxiety.
]11.3:6i]i Had bte Minister fir. Air. followed and not: preceded me he; would, not li awe closed hia speech as he did. The House? andi the country.’ are indebted to the members on> this side wlio) have participated, inn thi* debate. Particular credit must he given bo» the1 honorable member for New- England (Mir: Abbott) the- honorable1 member- fen- Richmond (Mr:. Anthony.).’, the honorable: mem,bel fan Wentworth (Mr. Harnison) right honorable member.- fon.- Cowper; *(Sir Earle Page)-,** and tha* honorable member fon Bandigo (Ma. Rankin/)” Tie right honorable member fon* Cowper made: a most constructive speech. The: Govern? ment is; unduly optimistic, if it is- satisfied with the; equipment of our troops. My speech willi danh with, two.* phases-; first, the operational: uses off om- troops and; secondly their/ equipment. In: regard to the? first. I direct attention: to- the remark-as I made in my speech on the Address-in-Reply on thoi nom-employment of our tr,oops. Those- remarks- have greater force, to-day The- Government cannot hove: it bath ways. It must either employ our. troops- or- release them- for industry:. We. know that, tha two divisions, that were to. have taken: part. in. the Philippines: campaign, w.er.er happily not needed”,, so expeditious, waa the. f alL of the foe.. When all” is. said, and done;, the recapture of the. Philippines was the. responsibility of. the. American, troops and the American Government,, although,, if our troops had’ .been needed,, they were available. I want to make that, quite plain, because, there has been not only misconception; but also” misrepresentation in- connexion with that matter. General Douglas MacArthur particularly wanted two Australian! divisions to take- part- in the- invasion of the Philippines, and* those divisions were allotted tff- him, but’ the campaign was so- expeditiously conducted that our troops- were> not- called upon. That left those- troops available- for* other assignments. I’ do. not- join with those who” believe that we- can- .be apathetic and dwell in smug1 complacency about- the existence of 90,000 Japanese- troops1 in New- Guinea and t’lie neighbouring islands, and1 I remind those- who have dealt lightly with that matter that New
Guinea, might he likened to a- suburb.- of north Queensland: find- that the existence ofl 90,0.GO> enemy troops1 adjacent, to Queensland), ato Australia’s, front door, should nott be treated lightly. The- distance fa-om Cairns to. Rabaul, is exactly the distance from Brisbane- to. Melbourne. Therefore, the existence of 90,,000 hostile people in that area cannot, be dismissed casually. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government to.clean out’ New Guinea as soon, as possible. These aw many reasons for. suet a campaign. The first’ is file danger which tlie Japanese constitute to Australia. I’ know i’f will lie said’ that they are isolated and’ that a great- body of water separates New Guinea from the mainland. But the fact, remains that tire longer- we leave the Japanese in- New Guinea to mingle with tlie-native population, the more acute will te- the- threat to our White’ Australia policy. We also have a responsibility to the people who- pioneered* and1 developed New Guinea and: dwelt there before* the Japanese invasion-. Pt nr Australian territory and’ tlie people who lived there are our own1 kith and kin-. My complaint is: that- the- Japanese a-rc not being* annihilated’ quickly– enough to- ensure- the rehabilitation of New Guinea The 90,000 Japanese constitute approximately four divisions-,, a. force which cannot he-treated lightly: It must also be remembered- that Rabaul, was– the- central-‘ supply, base for the: whole? Japanese- Pacific Army and that- tlie Japanese have large stores-. Unease ; although, they; are isolated,, it is- no use saying: tha-fr they -will, stane. and wither on. the vine. So. Australia- has a duty.. The alternative to -making; a thorough effort: to clean, out tha: Japanese is- to. contain^ them; which means-, that we must always: have garrison, troops there wlm would rum the1 risk of’ being slaughtered, by the. surviving Japanese. Therefore;, the- responsibility, on Australia i3- obvious.. New Guinea must he freed from the Japanese. as: rapidly, aa w.e. can manage* to remove, the threat to. onn own safety and rehabilitate, the area. General Blarney has estimated that about, 250,0.00 Japanese troops still remain between the Philippines and Australia as a disciplined,, organized’ and’ armed force. Th. the arc. extending from Wewak to the Solomon Islands through New Britain to New Zealand, there is an estimated1 total of S0,000 Japanese troops. They have been by-passed in the general advance, ft is indeed unfortunate that the term “ mopping up “ has been used to describe the operation of annihilating them. It was used by General MacArthur on several occasions and it was repeated by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), but it is an inept description. The 250,000 by-passed Japanese constitute armies which have to be dug out, and Australian forces should be made available to dig them out, particularly from New Guinea. If that is not to be our policy, we have too many men in uniform who have been idle far too long. We must resurvey the position and either employ those men in the way I have indicated or restore them to industries so sorely in need of them. Demobilization must start right away or we must set about the task with sufficient strength to annihilate the foe. I repeat that the Government cannot have it both ways It canno.t keep our men in the forces in idleness and thereby keep them out of industry. They must be employed one way or the other. Our task is to clean up New Guinea and release our men imprisoned in Malaya and elsewhere as quickly as possible. That is our duty. Our men must do it. The Government itself, as I shall now show, has tacitly admitted that the task which confronts our forces is a minor one, and I consider that the case with regard to the employment of our forces depends upon the status .of the campaign, according to the Government’s interpretation. The Government has decided, that service in the campaign in the islands to the north shall not entitle a soldier to receive a service ribbon. This is in marked contrast to the recognition of service by troops in the Middle East and that accorded Allied personnel who serve in the South- West Pacific Area. Australian soldiers who serve in the battle areas to the north are not entitled to receive the 1939-43 Star. Apparently, such discrimination reflects the Government’s real opinion of the importance of the campaign. For instance, a galley cook on a transport which has conveyed officers and men to New Guinea is entitled to wear the 1939-43 Star. But a member of the Australian Imperial Force on the same troopship may win the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, or the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal, but if he has not been in any other theatre of war, he will not ‘be entitled to a service ribbon. This discrimination has had a very bad psychologi cal effect on the troops concerned. However, it reflects, apparently, the Government’s real assessment of the importance of these operations.
The uneasiness among many of our men due to long periods of idleness is not in the best interests- of the nation, or of the individuals themselves. The immediate Tole to be allotted to our troops should be clearly defined. Should they not be needed immediately for the purposes for which they enlisted and were trained and equipped, they should be demobilized, and used as quickly as possible to reinforce our dwindling manpower in industry. Last night the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) emphasized the seriousness of the position on our food front. He showed clearly that our food position is deteriorating at a dangerous rate, due principally to lack of man-power to produce sufficient food, not only for our own civilian population and fighting services, but also to meet our obligations to Allied forces and the Motherland. 1 have listened with the closest attention to the debate concerning the present equipment of our forces. As a member of live Advisory War Council I was soured that the equipment position is satisfactory. Obviously, I, and my colleagues, must accept that assurance just as the Prime Minister himself must accept the assurances given to him by the Government’s advisers. However, after listening to this debate I am convinced that the position is not so satisfactory as such assurances would indicate; and I shall produce further evidence in support of that already produced by honorable members on this side. Parliament and the nation are indebted to the honorable members I mentioned earlier for having ventilated the facts, and given to the Government an opportunity to clear up doubts on the matter. The press has been full of reports on the subject by war correspondents who have been able to obtain information at first hand. Therefore, honorable members on this side have every justification for raising the matter in the House. In doing so, they carry out their duties as trustees for the people. Bearing in mind the sources of their information, they must give some credence to it. They conscientiously ‘believe that that information is true; otherwise they would not have referred to the subject. Therefore, it is unfair for Government supporters to say that members of the Opposition have brought forward these complaints merely with a view to gaining some political advantage. They obtained their information from highly placed and responsible officers in the fighting services; and they have discharged their responsibility by ventilating such complaints.
– Does the right honorable member suggest that the advisers to the Government are not responsible officers?
– No; but I repeat t.hat, in the light of the evidence produced in this debate, the equipment position is not so rosy as we were previously assured. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) must have entertained suspicions. Apparently he was not satisfied with the assurances given to him, because he sent the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) on a most urgent mission to report on the position. That action on the part of the Prime Minister is in itself some evidence of doubt in his own mind; otherwise he would not have sent the Acting Minister for the Army to the battle areas to ascertain the facts at first hand. Furthermore, the report of the Acting Minister for the Army also provides evidence that things are not as they should be, because it definitely admits lack of equipment, particularly heavy equipment, this shortage being attributed to lack of shipping. I shall say something about that aspect later.
Various complaints have been made to me personally. I am not one of those who give credence to everything they hear. I insist upon being supplied, with concrete evidence, because it is the experience of honorable members generally that many people who come to them with complaints have no better evidence than hearsay. I do not propose to produce that kind of evidence. I realize that there are two sides to every question. However, I believe responsible officers, because no officer wants to see his men ill-equipped. That Ls his responsibility, and, indeed, we are fortunate in the quality of our officers in both this war and the last war. However, only this morning I received a letter from an officer whom I know particularly well. He was a school mate of mine, although, of course, he was much younger than I. In civil life he was a solicitor in Mackay. He rose from the ranks to a commission. This is what he writes in a letter to me -
I am in a forward area. Mr. Fraser has not been here. He may have visited other units. It may be interesting to inquire how far lie got past base sub-area.
To-night I learned that, as the result of a motion sponsored by you. there would be a debate in the House on Thursday next. ] have formed the opinion that the matter will now become a political party issue and that the Government will be out to justify the status quo and that you will be on the opposite side of the fence. As I am certain that all the right runts on your side, I am writing to put you in possession of facts which may not have come to your notice and which I feel the Australian people ure entitled to know.
T wish to make it quite clear that I make these statements quite openly - that I have no objection to being quoted - that I am prepared to substantiate any statement of fact that T. may make, that I am prepared to justify any opinion which I may express. This letter should reach you within one week from now. If it does not, it would be interesting to know the reason.
This letter is dated the 18th April -
Firstly and without the slightest doubt, the Australian Army as evidenced here is not well-equipped. 1 do not hold myself out as an expert in things military, hut after five years or thereabouts of service in Libya. Egypt, Palestine, various parts of Australia, and now in New Guinea, 1 feci that 1 am justified in expressing an opinion. Merely for the purpose of giving my military background, I can inform you that I have served successfully as a private, lance-corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, lieutenant and now captain, with, inter aiia., the 9th and Oth Australian Divisions.
Clothing, &c. - On the 28th February, a brigade in this area in contact with the enemy requisitioned for shirts, slacks and boots required to replace items worn out or destroyed, &c, in that month. Up till yesterday, not more than 25 per cent, had been supplied. The equipment was not available. To-day, information came to hand that supplies had now arrived.
That is since this debate started in this House -
On information supplied by the staff office! responsible, this shipment would represent an entitlement for two months, i.e., February, March, or March-April. As April now approaches its end, it will be seen that in another month wo will he behind again. The result of this shortage is scandalous and a disgrace to Australia.
I give you, out of a multitude of examples, two typical instances. This morning I was at a battalion head-quarters when a fighting patrol returned. One member of that patrol had on a shirt (the only one he has) which was ripped from the neck opening to the bottom. Both knees were out of his trousers, and the trousers were literally in rags. The padre in the same battalion is on his last pair of trousers. He has no scat in them.
Tent shelter halves (in civvy language small tents) were issued for trial months ago - about six months. They were found to be not waterproof. They have not been replaced.
Fancy sending to our troops in New Guinea tents that were not waterproof! The letter continues -
I could go on with comments on gaiters, boots, socks, hats, but it would be only overstressing the obvious.
Fighting Equipment. - If you compare the war equipment table of an infantry battalion in .1.940 and in 1945 you will see that there have been additions. What would be of interest to you is the extent to which these additions have been supplied. The Minister for the Army may be able to tell you (neither I nor any one I know can) when and where flamethrowers have been issued to. and used by, Australian troops in action. They have been trained in their use. I have it on the statement of at least one battalion commander and other officers that they would be of inestimable value here and would result in a substantial saving of Australian life.
Transport of Supplies, &c. - In New Guinea, carriage to forward areas is dependent upon native carriers. The number of native carriers which can be employed is limited by the air transport available to supply the natives with food, &c. There are not sufficient aircraft transport (Kai bombers) available to permit of the employment of natives to the extent required. A responsible officer told mc that his company could have occupied a position without opposition ten days ago. The advance would have ‘been tactically sound but he could not, in the circumstances obtaining here, get his supplies forward. To-day that position (a key one) was occupied after stubborn resistance for several days and after Australian casualties have been caused. For security reasons I probably cannot tell you how many Kai bombers we have. The Army Minister can.
Aircraft Support. - It is trite and obvious to point out that ft modern army works in close co-operation with aircraft. The aircraft we have here are obsolete in design - they are not now in production - they were designed for general reconnaissance aircraft - they were not intended for, and unsuitable as, close support craft. We want close support here. They cannot give it to us. The crews are magnificent and most co-operative. They have our deep and sincere sympathy.
Supplies for Sick. - Diseases common to, and prevalent in, this area require liquid diets, of which fruit juices are a staple item. They should be on issue. There are none available for is:-uc. To-day two battalions bought from the canteen from their regimental funds fruit juices to supply the advanced dressing stations. The divisional commander was not empowered to make such a purchase to make up items available from the canteen, but deficient in the normal army supply channels.
– That gives the lie to the Minister’s statement.
– Honorable members accept those statements as if they must be true?
– Does not the Minister believe the word of a front-line soldier ?
– I am prepared to show the original letter to the Minister if he desires to see it.
– Does the right honorable gentleman believe what is written in the letter?
– I believe it, because 1 know the writer. I would not use the letter if I did not believe that its contents were true. I have received a good deal of correspondence which I have not used, because I could not vouch for the genuineness of the writers; but I can vouch for the man who wrote this letter. It continues -
Criticism of the equipment is not a criticism of the troops. They are, as ever, magnificent, and a credit to their country. They are deserving of the best - they get little better than the worst. To compare our equipment with that of the Nip is wilfully to evade the real issue. Nips here have been isolated from their bases for about twelve months. Equipped as well in 1941 we would be better than the Nips. But the better our equipment, the less the casualties. I say unreservedly that it iB my firm opinion that there have been unnecessary casualties due to inadequate equipment.
Landing Craft. - Here to depend upon landing craft to unload our supply ships. There is a lamentable shortage of them. One ship was held up in the harbour for two and a half months because of this shortage. I could elaborate, hut surely it is sufficient.
I could go on and on ad nauseum, but every example I quoted would be merely a further item to support my general contention. I hope this arrives in time for you to use it. I repeat that what I say now I intend to say publicly, and keep on saying if and when I return to Australia. If you get the time I would appreciate a reply. Kind regards. (Signed) Captain W.F. Lee,QX18513.
The Minister will note that I have given the name and military number of the writer.
– Persecute him now.
– Did he write to a member of the Labour party?
– He said that he wrote to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who represents- his constituency.
– Yet honorable members opposite declared that they had never received any complaints from troops about their equipment!
– I have the greatest respect for the Acting Minister for the Army personally, and for his integrity andtrustworthiness. I also have the greatest respect, after very close association with him, for the Secretary of the Department of the Army, Mr. Sinclair, who accompanied the Acting Minister on his visit to troops fighting ia the islands to the north of Australia. Those two gentlemen did a fine job, and deserve every credit for it. If any criticism is to be levelled, it must be in respect of the rapidity and scope of the inquiry which those two gentlemen undertook. Obviously in the time allotted’ to them, they could not expect to examine every detail. That fact must be clear to honorable members from the letter which I read. My informant stated that the Acting Minister for the Army had not visited his sector. I am not criticizing the Acting Minister ; I merely point out that on his hasty and hazardous trip, he could not possibly make the thorough investigation which, apparently, the complaints I have received warranted. The Acting Minister emphasized that the shortage of equipment was due to the shipping position. He said -
The amount of shipping has been inadequate since the beginning of the war. This affects the ability to make it available in the areas where it is required. In respect of the provision of small craft the facts are that immediately on my return I consulted the CommanderinChief on this question, and he advised me to the following effect: - “In the provision of the smaller types of watercraft for transport within the operational areas, it should be noted that
G-.H.Q. accepted a definite commitment for the provision pf the necessary craft from U.S. resources, and this has been carried out until quite recently. Australianproduced small craft is now becoming available in great quantity, and is gradually relieving the U.S. craft in the area. The use of U.S. equipment in the areas in which we have relieved U.S. forces has also been provided for under the arrangements for carrying out the relief, and although an immediate shortage of Australian equipment may have been apparent, the requirements were foreseen and the administrative commitments accepted by G.H.Q.”
I consider that the quantity of small craft available is insufficient with the exception of New Britain where they have ample small craft to meet all requirements. The reason for the shortage of small craft is due to lack of shipping to convey it from the mainland to the operational areas, and not to the lack of provision of the small craft itself.
Honorable members should note particularly that the lack of small craft was due to the lack of shipping to convey the small craft from the mainland of Australia to the operational areas. The Acting Minister proceeded -
All the major difficulties that are being encountered by the higher command in the conduct o£ operations, in the provision of supplies and any matters affecting reasonable amenities to the troops ( which are a source of irritation tothem) can be attributed to the shortage of shipping, which is a world-wide problem, and transport facilities from the mainland of Australia to these operational areas, and to a lesser extent, the absence of the relatively smaller type of craft which are essential to then transport them from the main base installations to the troops ia the operational and advanced areas.
The Government has been constantly pressing on the highest plane to meet this shipping deficiency.
Honorable members must agree that the cause of the shortages which the Acting Minister brought to the notice of the Government was the lack of shipping and delays in Australia in loading and unloading the available vessels, resulting from general inactivity on the waterfront. This matter is most serious. I have compiled a diary of industrial trouble asso ciated with the waterfront which is based on reports in the Sydney Morning Herald’, as follows-: -
February 1. - Bock dispute in Sydney.
February 5. - Members of the Building Workers Industrial Union, which embraces the Carpenters and Bricklayers Unions, walked off the job because members of the Shipjoiners Union at two dockyards would not join their organization.
February 8, Dockyard strikers-, observed1 tlie direction: of the Trades and Labour- Council to return to work and to refuse to handle any work done by members of the Shipjoiners Onion.
February 12.. - Industrial trouble was again apparent on-, tlie Sydney waterfront - at dockyards, among waterside workers and at Pyrmont Cold Stores.
February 10. - Because of! a dispute, 800 wharf labourers’ in Sydney, hi defiance of their own union, refused jobs on overseas ships with the result that several vessels were delayed.
February 10. - Inter-union dispute between the’ Building Workers Industrial Union and tho Shipjoiners Union- extended, to wharf labourers. At Newcastle,, wharf labourers refused to work on certain ships.
February 18. - Eight ships engaged on vital war work were held mp in Sydney at tlie weekcud because of waterfront disputes. Servicemen worked as wharf labourers-. One vessel was without labour at all.
February 19. - Although Judge Kelly held in Hie Federal Arbitration Court in Melbourne Chat members of tlie Building Workers Indusl rial Union had no right to refuse to work with members of the Shipjoiners Union, three ships were held up in Sydney because of the dispute between the two unions. Two ships were manned by servicemen. [Extension of time granted.]
February 21. - Six hundred and fifteen boilermakers and ironworkers on strike at Morts Dock because they allege seven members of the Shop Committee had been suspended while they were discussing union business. Seven hundred men short on tlie waterfront and servicemen continued to work, on two ships.
March 20. - According to the secretary of the Shipjoiners Union, Mr. Nicholls, 180 members of his union who offered for work at a man-power office were unable to procure any because firms who wanted these men were afraid other unions would declare their jobs “ black
March 27. - During the week-end, eighteen priority ships, which required from 800 to 900 wharf labourers, were held up in Sydney for :>2 hours because of the Sydney tram strike. Several of the ships carried supplies for operational areas.
April 0. - Labour shortages on the waterfront in Sydney this week were 1,130 men on Monday, 1,230 on Tuesday, 1,200 on Wednesday arid 1,200 yesterday.
April 7. - No cargo will be handled at Port Augusta for fourteen days because of a dispute between the shipping companies and members <»f the Waterside Workers- Union.
April 10. - A dispute about starting time resulted in 230 men refusing to work on tlie Sydney waterfront yesterday. In Melbourne, men refused to work a ship. The vessel was required to load service cargo after its discharge, but it has been immobilized.
April 11. - An ugly situation developed on tlie waterfront in Sydney yesterday when unemployed members of the Shipjoiners Union demonstrated against starting dockets being 1 issued to members of the Building- Workers Industrial Union. Four hundred wharf labourers at Sussex-street, Sydney, refused to work because, they were: not given an 8 a.nr. stating time.
April 1.7. - Five ships were held up yesterday because the New South Wales Labour Council Disputes Committee declared two waterfront firms “ black “ tlie- ban affecting about 500 members of waterfront unions. Apart from the dispute, there was. a shortage of 1,100 wharf labourers-.
April 19>. - Industrial disputes stopped urgent repair work on eight ships and the loading of two ethers in Sydney yesterday. Another five vessels were unable to obtain any wharf labour and sixteen wore worked short-handed. Wharf labour was- 1,200 men below requirements’. Two shipS were- carrying operational, cargo and another a hu-ge proportion of service cargo. They were worked by 200 naval ratings.
April 20’. - Because of a dispute between two unions on the waterfront, the fitting out of a vessel to carry food to Australian troops’ in forward areas lias been held up. Naval ratings yesterday manned another ship on which wharf labourers had ceased work because of a dispute between, the Building Workers Industrial Union and. Ovc Shipjoiners Union. Altogether, naval ratings manned three ships. On another ship, twelve men were dismissed for arriving late. Yesterday, the remainder of the men on that ship refused to start and the vessel was idle. Four ships are held up at Morts Dock as a result of a domestic dispute in the sub-branch of the Balmain Ironworkers Union and 700 men were idle.
April 21. - About 370 wharf labourers refused to work ships yesterday unless a foreman was stood down and 150 men who had been suspended from the job were reinstated. Naval ratings are still loading three ships and soldiers began work yesterday on another which contained service cargo. Morts Dock ironworkers yesterday decided by 500 votes to seven to remain on strike until a suspended shop delegate was reinstated. Idle ships included a naval frigate.
When the nation is at war, those conditions are scandalous. The Government must face this problem, and have a showdown, if necessary, with the men who are sabotaging our war effort and conducting themselves in a most lawless manner. Conditions of anarchy are prevailing on the waterfront, and are seriously retarding our war effort. Figures supplied to me to-day by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in 1942 there were seven disputes in the industrial group embracing shipping, wharf labouring, &c. These disputes involved 5,682 working people, and the number of working days lost was 3,325. In 1943, in the same group of industries, there were eleven, disputes, involving 6,268 workers, and a loss of 68,324 working days. Of that number 43,920 days were lost in the June quarter, but it is explained that that figure includes days lost through a dispute which commenced in the previous quarter. Last year, there were four disputes in the March quarter, involving 838 persons and a loss of 729 working days. In the June quarter four disputes occurred, 1,466 people were involved and 4,936 days were lost. In the September quarter there were three disputes involving 1,177 people, and a loss of 2,857 working days. The incomplete figures for the December quarter record three disputes involving 452 people, and a loss of 522 working days, and it is certain that when the final figures for that quarter come to hand, the position will be considerably worse. These statistics show clearly that the turmoil on the waterfront is not spasmodic, but is continual. It is time the Government forced a showdown. In that connexion I urge .the Government to carry out a thorough investigation of the activities of Communists in this country. Such an investigation might get down to the real root cause of the trouble, and enable adequate remedial measures to be taken.
The evidence that has been advanced in the course of this debate shows that the discussion was amply justified. Letters have been quoted alleging shortage of equipment, and reference has been made to the reports of war correspondents. I believe that the investigation carried out by the Prime Minister’s representative, the Acting Minister for the Army, was not adequate. I admit that the inquiry was invaluable, and was well done, having regard to the time factor arid the circumstances in which it was carried out. The suggestion which I propose to make now is not a novel one; I first raised the matter at a ‘meeting of the Advisory War Council in October last. When I suggested that a parliamentary committee be sent to the operational areas to make a full inquiry, and report to the House. I move, therefore, the following amendment : -
That the following words, be added to the motion: - “and that, in the opinion of this House, immediate arrangements be made by the Government for a committee, representative of all parties in the Parliament, to visit operational areas “.
.- I speak in this debate because in sentiment and outlook I am an Australian and because it is the duty of every Australian to do all in his power to oppose the fascist tendencies in this country. Damnable lying propaganda has come from the mouths of fascist-minded members of the Opposition, and I believe that these statements should be refuted in the strongest terms. Why the question of the disposition of our forces has been introduced into this debate I am at a loss to understand, because it has no bearing upon the major issue, namely, equipment. Our forces have been disposed according to the advice of military experts appointed for that very purpose, and we should be guided by the views of these strategists. I am prepared to accept the present disposition of Australian troops as being the best in the present circumstances. The Leader of the Opposition argued that Australian troops should be transferred to the main theatres of operations, thus by-passing completely the many thousands of Japanese in the islands to the north of this country. In my opinion if that were done, the war against the Japanese might develop into a war of attrition which we can ill afford.
Late in 1941 the immense task of safeguarding this country against threatened invasion by the Japanese fell upon the shoulders of this Government. The Government accepted that responsibility, and I do not think there is a man or woman in this country who would claim that the Government failed in its duty to the people. Facing the exigencies of total war, Australia had to embark upon the stupendous task of building up a maximum war effort, including production of the equipment and materials necessary to ensure that our fighting forces would be able to meet the enemy at least on equal terms. That task has been accomplished. During the past four years this country has been organized for production in a manner never before attempted. Our security has been assured by the work of this administration.
Yesterday the Minister for Transport t,Mr. Ward) referred to the actions of certain Ministers of the previous governments who, when faced with the task of building up the defences of this country against the threat of the Axis nations, sat idly by, jeopardizing the security of’ the Australian people. The allegations of shortages of equipment have been made mainly by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). 1 am satisfied that these charges have been made solely with the intention of defaming the Government. Fortunately, as any one who has listened to this debate will realize, they have failed miserably to achieve this objective. When the truth becomes known to the people of Australia they will realize that this “ stab in the hack “ attack upon the Government has been made in association with the dirty, lying, filthy press of Australia.
– The honorable member has no complaint against the press when it is supporting him.
– The press has never supported me. It is unfortunate that the Labour party has to carry on the Government of this country against the opposition of a hostile press. However, despite that opposition, the Labour party was successful at the last elections, and it would be interesting to know just how much more successful it would have been with a favorable press. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the war service of the honorable member for Wentworth or the honorable member for New England, both of whom I understand were at the last war, hut I remind these gentlemen that the war in the Pacific to-day is vastly different from the conflict in which they were engaged, and quite different also from the present European war.
– Apparently the principles of war have been changed.
– No. Much of the country on which the last European war was fought was flat, such as that around Amiens, Pozieres and Mons. All that the soldiers had to do was to dig trenches in which they ate, slept and fought, and the terrain was such that the bringing up of heavy equipment presented no great diffi culties. Conditions in New Guinea and Bougainville to-day are vastly different. Our men are fighting under the most damnable conditions ever encountered in the history of warfare. It is to the credit of the Australian forces that they have done a magnificent job’ in these inhospitable territories, fighting an enemy considerably superior in numbers. Speeches of honorable members opposite, particularly those of the honorable members for Wentworth and New England, savoured more of hypocrisy than any utterances to which I have ever listened. I should like to know what either of these gentlemen knows of jungle fighting? What equipment does the Opposition suggest should be given to our troops to enable them to overcome the difficulties and hazards of jungle warfare? Certain criticism has been voiced of the report made to the Prime Minister by the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) upon his return from an inspection of the northern battle areas. I admit that his visit was brief, but he met men who are in a better position to tell the facts about the situation in the battle zone than arc the honorable members for Wentworth and New England. In raising this matter, those honorable gentlemen were not animated by a desire to do the right thing by the Army and the people of Australia; their object was to stab the Government in the back. They were ably assisted in this by the newspapers, which have always decried the Government. The honorable member for New England said that he had received letters stating that the Army was short of certain equipment. Does the honorable gentleman know what equipment is needed by tho Army? He may know something about the work on his sheep farm, but I remind him that he would not employ a shop-walker to tell him how to run his farm. Therefore, he would be well advised not to condemn our military strategy, which has been devised by experts. This debate was initiated by a shop-walker. If I wanted a man to milk cows I would not employ a man who was not an expert at that job. The Government must accept the advice of its military advisers, not the advice of armchair strategists such as honorable gentlemen opposite. The letters quoted by the Government’scritics were not authentic, whereas supporters of the Government gave the names of the men whose letters they quoted. That convinces me that the letters quoted by honorable gentlemenopposite were faked. They have not produced reliable evidence to substantiate theirstatements. Those letters appeared to meto have been written either by the honorable members themselves or by persons outside Parliament in order to bolster this attack on the Government. The tragedy of this debate is that it has caused a great deal of mental strain to fathers and mothers of o.ur fighting men. Many of them now believe that their boys went into battle without adequate equipment. Any man who wilfully makes untrue statements which produce that effect is not worthy to be called an Australian.
TheOpposition has no chance of successfully attacking the Government’s legislative programme. That is why it has made this unseemly assault upon the Government’s prestige. Not one of the Government’s legislative proposals could rightly be said to be not conducive to the social or economic welfare of the people. Honorable members opposite are illadvised in attacking the Government on the ground of its war effort, because it was the Labour party, with a mandate from the people,which saved Australia from invasion. Some honorable members opposite boast that they have been abroad in the servioe of the nation. I remind thom that some honorable members om theGovernment side of the House also fought in the last war, and that many of their sons are fighting to-day. The Government is determined to win the war.; it is doing so, but its success is not due to any support it has received from members of the Opposition.
– Nor their sons and friends?
– I do not say that. Itssuccess is due to the spirit anddetermination of the soldiers in the front line and the spirit and determination of the Australian people in an all-out war effort. It is foolish for any member of this chamber to presume to decide where our troops should be sent to fight. The Government has been guided by com petent military strategists, and the success of our forces in the Pacificzone indicates the value of that advice. I do not decry the honorable membersfor Wentworth andNew England because they are not at the war. The honorable member for New England fought in the last war. The honorable member for Wentworth has no sons or other relatives engaged in this conflict.
– The honorable member for Wentworth had a ‘brother who left his bones in a foreign country, where he diedfighting in defence of Australia.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) spoke about the disposition of our troops, but said very littleabout equipment. He has no relatives in the forces. The Prime Minister has a son in the Air Force. The Acting Minister for the Army had one son killed, another is a prisoner of war and a third is in the Militia Forces. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has a son in the Army, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) has a son in the Australian Imperial Force, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has a son in the Army, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) baa a son in the Army, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has a son inthe Army, Senator Lamp bad a son who was killed, Senator Aylett has ason in the services, Senator Tangney has two brothers in theArmy, the honorable member forPerth (Mr- Burke) was in the Army himself, and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) was in the Army.
– He did not go out of Australia, though.
– He did. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has two sons in the Army, the honorable member for Parkes(Mr. Haylen) has a brother in the Army, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has a relative in the Army, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) is serving as a flight lieutenant with the Royal Australian Air Force in Australia and has been as far abroad as the Philippines,and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) has a son in the Army. None of these honorablegentlemen have received letters from their relatives complaining’ of equipment shortages.
-. The honorable member could not have> listened to the last speech made by the honorable member for Watson before he- went away..
– The members I have mentioned have received no complaints1 from- their relatives in the fighting’ services. It is peculiar that members’ of the Opposition, who have no relatives in the services - and I do not think that they have any friends in the Army - should have received complaints about equipment. Li’ Queensland T have met thousands of soldiers on leave from battle areas, and in conversation with them 1 have not heard one complaint, about equipment. Actually these men have been loud in their praises of the Government and the equipment supplied to- them. Also they have told me- that the food provided for them now is much better than the> food supplied in the early days of the war. When this debate commenced the Leader of th? Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country parity (Mr. Fadden) did not want to become involved in it, because they knew that there was something false about the alleged complaints. Finally I he Loader of the Opposition spoke and supported the Government on the subject of army equipment, but did not support it on the question of the disposition of our troops.
– He said that he did not know what the equipment position was.
– He said that he supported the Government on the equipment issue. The Leader of the Australian Country party supported the Government on the disposition of troops, but not on the equipment issue. The conflict of views disposes of the substance of the complaints against the Government.
– It proves that there is something wrong.
– There is nothing wrong at all. I am satisfied that,, since the lead did not come from the leaders of the parties in Opposition, the debate is a sinister move to discredit the Government, initiated by a party member at the instigation! of somebody outside: Parliament.
I refer honorable gentlemen to a statement made by she Chief of the General Staff, LieutenantGeneral Northcott, this week at the- annual dinner of the Royal Society of St. George in Melbourne. He said1 -
No matter what some people say, the Australian Army is well, equipped, in the highest spirits and doing a magnificent job. I have just returned from a visit to all operational areas in which our troops are fighting. Our army is getting on with the- job of winning the war.
Should we take Che advice of this man, or the advice of the honorable members for Wentworth and New England? I alsodirect attention to a statement by Mr. Arthur Mathers, a war correspondent on the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who arrived here this morning from an operational base.
– The Government sent for him.
– Lt did not. This is what Mr. Mathers said, referring to an order of the day -
Several hours before- the Australian advance force rolled out from the Slater’s Knoll area,, the officer commanding the operation issued to all ranks an order of the day which opened on the following note: “The Jap has met with a- serious setback in recent operations. Many of his leaders have been killed and he has suffered many casualties. The- Jap still has the will to fight”. The order of the day went on in these terms: “We have artillery, tanks and air force and all other weapons, hut it is the infantry with their weapons who must, destroy the Jap in the .final: kill “.
This man has just returned from Bougainville, which is the seat of operalions in the Pacific area. No honorable member is- justified in challenging his statement. That order of the day showed that our forces have all the artillery, tanks’, aircraft and other weapons that they need.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The statements made by Lieutenant-General Northcott, one of the most distinguished soldiers Australia has ever produced, must he accepted in preference to those of any member of the Opposition. I realize, as do other supporters of the. Government and as should honorable members of the Opposition, that in all. matters’ appertaining to supply and equipment we should leave the decision to those who are in a position to consider and determine what is needed. The statements by LieutenantGeneral Northcott are a clear rebuttal of those of any member of the Opposition who charged with laxity the Government or any persons responsible for the provision of equipment.
Earlier, I made certain comments in respect of the link that binds the Opposition and the Australian Associated Press. The Opposition has no ground for an attack on the Government in regard to either its legislation or the matter that is now before the House; therefore, it has allied itself with the Australian Associated Press with a view to defeating the Government by means of intrigue. A prominent person in the Australian newspaper world at the present time is that Australian “McCormick” - Lieutenant or Captain, I do not know which, Frank Packer. I have recollections, both very recent and of long standing, of the association of that gentleman with the press, and of his Fascist-mindedness. At all times, he has attempted to deprive the people of this country of their rights and liberties as Australian subjects. It would appear that he has had over the years a permanent pass-out check that has enabled him to leave any military area in which he was supposed to be serving. That privilege has been accorded to him for some reason that is unaccountable. He controls the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which has been in the forefront of a nonmilitary campaign planned to discredit the Government in the eyes of the electors. A section of the Opposition, and the Australian Associated Press, have joined forces in the organization of that campaign, the particular purpose of which is party political propaganda, designed to vilify and decry the achievements of the Government as well as to agitate and inflame the minds of the people against it.
– Does the honorable member know that Mr. Packer is at present serving as a soldier in one of the islands north of Australia?
– That would not redeem him in my estimation. Suppression is one of the weapons that have been used in this non-military campaign by this military officer. On Wednesday, the 21st March last, the Sydney Daily Telegraph suppressed an excellent message from a well-credentialled correspondent on Bougainville, Mr. Fred Aldridge, who has served as a soldier in this war. His messages are always available to that newspaper, as it is one of a number of newspapers which he serves. The message to which I refer was published elsewhere on that day. It is to the credit of the Adelaide Advertiser that it was the only newspaper in Australia which gave any prominence to it. It published Mr. Aldridge’s reasoned opinion that the methods and equipment that were being used by the Australians amid the intense hardships of Bougainville were the only methods and equipment that could be used in the circumstances. This opinion, from a man of the calibre of Mr. Aldridge, is sufficient to convince me that the statements of honorable members opposite have no justification, and that their arguments are unsound. After describing the prodigious feats of the Australian infantrymen and engineers, Mr. Aldridge said, “ Their work can be done only this way, although it is the hard way “. That is the opinion of one of the best of those correspondents whom members of the Opposition are so eager to quote whenever any of their references can be twisted into an attack on the Government. On the 21st March, the date mentioned previously, the Sydney Daily Telegraph used a story from Mr. Fred Aldridge, but it was a story of battle, not of equipment. That indicates that this newspaper, in common with the Brisbane Courier-Mail and other metropolitan dailies, twist the communications that they receive from the battle areas, to suit their own purposes, not to suit the purpose of the Government in any way. The Sydney Daily Telegraph chose to suppress these statements by Mr. Aldridge - livery man has full equipment and ample clothing, although wear and tear through the conditions is terrific.-
No one will deny that the wear and tear on clothing is infinitely greater in the jungle areas of New Guinea than in civil life ; yet in all instances, despite the heavy replacements that have had to be made, the Government, through the agency of its factories in different parts of Australia, has been able to meet the requirements of the Army in that respect. Mr. Aid ridge continued -
Ammunition is never short, and weapons such as rifles and Bren, Owen and Vickers guns are adequate.
He added that in the jungle the infantrymen would favour a carbine rather than a .303 weapon. It is possible that the average soldier considers that he has to carry too much equipment in warfare. There are parts of New Guinea in which the men have to crawl on their hands and knees, and it would not be possible for them to carry the equipment that has been suggested by some honorable members opposite. Mr. Aldridge emphasized that the dropping of food and supplies from the air goes on continuously, but said, that treacherous weather sometimes prevents a drop from being made. An honorable member opposite laughs at that. He may be one of those who will wish to be included in the party that will be chosen to visit the New Guinea area if the amendment be carried. If he is, and I, too, am in the party, I shall be the first to “ drop “ him. [Extension of lime granted.] The report stated that the diet of the troops is simple, balanced and adequate. During the war this Government has attempted in all circumstances to meet fully the food requirements of the members of the forces in the Pacific Islands, and it can be truthfully said that it has invariably stood up to its obligations. Mr. Aldridge further stated -
Even the most forward troops get fresh meat and food supplies at least three or four times a week.
The stories told by press correspondents are subject to revision by the newspaper proprietors. The policy of the newspapers is determined by the proprietors, and therefore the war correspondents submit only reports which are acceptable to the newspapers which they represent. It is of no use, therefore, for them to write stories favorable to the Government. Their reports are at the mercy of the newspaper proprietors, who have been engaged in a campaign about equipment, which they must know will upset the morale of the troops and cause great mental distress to their relatives and friends.
I am perturbed about this matter because thousands of parents in Australia have sons who are fighting to-day for the rights and liberty of the people of this country, so that the invader may be kept from our shores. Those parents, particularly the mothers of the soldiers, have made many sacrifices economically and socially, and, in many cases, their loved ones have made the supreme sacrifice. It is lamentable that members of the Opposition should make statements in this House calculated to unnerve the relatives of the members of the fighting forces. It is cruel to say that our troops have not sufficient equipment to protect themselves against the onslaught of the Japanese. Such statements are a damnable disgrace to those who make them. On the 9th April, the Prime Minister released to the press a letter from a soldier saying that press statements on equipment were unfounded and malicious and were doing a great deal of harm. As far as can be discovered, that letter was not used by the newspapers. Although the Prime Minister declared that the remarks by certain correspondents were without foundation in fact, no publicity was given by the press to the Prime Minister’s statement. Once again, the manner in which the press exercises its great power has been demonstrated.
I have given crystal clear instances of the way in which messages from correspondents in the field are suppressed when it suits the purposes of a political campaign. This means of attacking the Government had been chosen by. the newspapers-, but on its war administration the Government is immune from successful challenge. The people will have a final voice in the matter at the general elections next year, and I have no hesitation in saying that the administration of this Government during the war will result in the Labour party being returned to power, not merely as strong as it is at present, but even with greater numbers. We are not always able to find’ out the extent of this suppression and distortion, because usually the collusion between the newspaper proprietors is better organized than it was on the 21st March last. At all times the newspapers have been organized against the Labour party, and the big, vested interests are always .trying to overthrow the present Government. It ill becomes Mr. Henderson, the chairman of the Australian .Newspaper Proprietors Association, to impugn the courage of the Minister for Post-mar Reconstruction as he has done.
– Is he the man who said h? wa» opposed to ‘compulsory military service even for the defence of Australia?
– I .am not concerned about that, but I realize that .as the Minister for Post-“war Reconstruction kas n gallant record of .service in tie last -war, his .sympathies are ‘entirely with those who are now serving with the Australian forces. Mr. Henderson would not give recognition to the services rendered by the Minister or even to those of the Commander-in-‘Chief and other leaders in the Australian Military Forces, but would prefer to exploit, not only the soldiers, but also the civilian population, in the matter of the dividends and profits of newspaper companies. Being dissatisfied with the war-time regulations that apply to the production of newspapers, the proprietors are bringing forward accusations against the Government in order to embarrass it.
I was never more disgusted than when I heard the -statements by members of the Opposition with regard to the supply of ^equipment to the fighting services. The actual position can be gauged fairly accurately from the report of the Acting Minister for the. Army, and from the statements of men entrusted with positions of control and men engaged in the buttle zone. I am more than satisfied that the allegations advanced by a section of the Opposition are part of a plan concocted with the newspaper proprietors in order to discredit the Government.
– The honorable member would not like to have to prove it.
– It is not necessary to prove it. Any one who studies the newspapers will be convinced of the truth of what I say. We ask for no quarter from the newspapers, and we do not expect it. We can beat the newspapers, and those whom they support, without descending to dirty insinuations or lying statements such as those for which the newspapers are sometimes responsible. I cannot see that any useful purpose would be served by agreeing to the amendment anc appointing a parliamentary committee, whether representative -of the Government, the Opposition or of all parties, to visit the islands to the north of Australia. Suppose such a committee were to go, whom would it interview? It would have to interview the very people whom the Opposition is - now vilifying for their alleged failure to obtain proper equipment. There is no need to send a committee to the .north to find out what the position is there. We know what it is. We know that the troops are amply supplied with food and equipment. A parliamentary committee, in order to travel to the north, would have to be provided with transport that could be more profitably used in carrying troops from the islands on leave. Such a trip would be no more than a jaunt for a few politicians at tie expense of the taxpayers, and would serve no useful purpose.
– The honorable member might as well say that about the mob who have ,gone to San Francisco.
– Probably., if the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) had been one of them there would be no complaint from him. The Government may rest assured that those in control of our forces will see Hat the quantity and the quality of equipment provided for them is adequate. They are also competent to determine, as military strategists, where and -when our forces are to be engaged.
Let it be said to the credit of the Leader of the Opposition that he eulogized General Sir Thomas Blarney. The honorable member for Bendigo was also anxious to do the right thing by General Blarney, recognizing in him a soldier of worth. I ask honorable members opposite, if General Blarney were to be retired, whom would they put in his place? I have every confidence in him, and so has the Government - otherwise he would have been removed long ago.
I say as an Australian, There in this place among Australians, that it is not for us to condemn the Government, which is faced with enormous responsibilities.
Ithas shouldered those responsibilities, it baa taken all the knocks that were going, and it has come out on -top. To-day we are winning . the war. Every member of the community has (contributed in some maaSiUre to the approaching victory. It does not redound to the -credit of members of the Opposition that they should, just because -they wish to oust the -Government from office seek to decry the efforts of those whose duty it is to provide our forces with the equipment necessary to enable thora to fight and overcome the forces of Nazi-ism and -Fascism.
– Order ! The ion otahle member’s time has -expired.
Mr.ARCHIECAMERON (Barker) [2.40]. - I am sorry that I was not here last Tuesday to hear the beginning of this debate. It was one . of the lew occasions im the last ten years when I have missed a sitting of the House. However, I listened carefully tto . what was said yesterday and tfo-day, and it seems to me that -only three points of importance have been raised - the matter -of -equipment for tihe Australian forces:; the nature of the operations . on -whiicli Australian forces are engaged; and the position of the Commander-in-Chief «rf fhe Australian Military . Forces. IE propose to discuss chiefly the subject of . eqnipm*eiiL As for the manner in tw’hich our forces aite being employed, II have stated my views ‘before, anfl they are well known. I have always believed that it is (very bad military -policy to engage in side-shows when fhe main show is frfi.Il undecided. Therefore, I say that the very . best Australian army -should be used in whatever . theatre is judged by those wifh the . right to make a decision as the one in which the earliest decision against the Japanese is likely . to be reached. The matter of equipment must necessarily be . closely related to the work u,pon which fhe forces are engaged. If our forces are to play a decisive part, fbey will require . a greater variety and quantity of equipment than if they are to be engaged in a secondary role. The Government has not (Stated that the Australian forces are at present engaged upon operations of primary importance associated with the main strategy of the war. In proof of that, I turn to the statement of the . Acting Minister for the
Arany (Senator Fraser),, who in his report quoted the f ollowing statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) ito . him before he set out on his . mission : -
The stage through which the Pacific War is now passing finds places such as New Guinea, New Britain,Bougainville and the Solomons having the strongest impact on our minds and emotions.Our thoughts are constantly with you. Your Government knows the obstacles in y-aur path - a tenacious . and ferocious enemy, a . difficult supply Jine and a shocking terrain.
I pin-point the statement that, in the view of rt-he Prime Minister of this country, the operations in which the Australian Army is now . engaged occupy a position which pn-aduces “ the -strongest impact on nur mundi and emotions “. There is not -OHe word in that statement which (discloses that the right honorable gentleman had any consideration : f or the global . strategy about which we heard so jmuch from him. not lang after he was elevated - r.ather forcibly I believe - to the position wbicb he now . occupies. Let us see ho.w ithe Acting Minister for the Army -went on has trip, and why be went. The Prime Minister had just received a lengthy report from the Comm’anderinOkief of the Australian Military F’orces, in widen the equipment -of the Australian Army was the main subjectHaving received that report, the right homer aMe gentleman . said by a-ct, by thought, . and by deed., df not by speech, “ Blarney. I am not satisfied with the report that you ibave given ito me. 1 question its validity, and therefore . 1 hav.e selected ithe Acfjmsg Minister for the Anrny, land given lvim instructions to board ia Liberator . aeroplane and visit f-orwand -operational areas in order that he imay tell me wiether the -report that you iave given to -me is well-founded “. lui other (words, the raven went out and the dove ‘did aiot -come back. And so, over the flood went Senator Fraser. I shall not quote letters in this chamber, a3though I icould do so, but I have talked with numbers of -men since the House adjourned in March - nien ‘who came home on leave from Aitape, Jacquinot Bay, Bougainville and other places in wbich Australian troops are engaged. In some instances, I talked with them in the company of my colleague from iSouth Australia, Senator Mattner. I found great consistency in the stories nvhich they told. During that part of the debate to which I have listened, there seemed to me to be too great a tendency to confound equipment with arms and munitions, and to make one glorious plum pudding of the lot. A man has his personal clothing, his personal equipment, his personal arms, and the ammunition which goes with those arms. Then the unit to which he is attached has its arms, especially if it is an infantry, artillery or engineers unit. There is both personal and transport equipment. So far as I know, there has been no condemnation of the arms supplied by the Government for Australian troops; the debate has been confined to equipment. In confirmation of what the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) read this morning, men from Aitape have told me within the last month that it was almost impossible to get clothing or boots at any price. Men have discussed with me and .Senator Mattner shortages in respect of barges, tractors, vehicles, and spare parts. A major of an engineering unit was reported in the press as having said that they could only carry on some of their operations by “cannibalizing” the equipment that they had. Chat meant that if they had two trucks, each with some defects, they would take spare parts out of one so that the other could continue to be used. That meant that they had only one serviceable vehicle, whereas, had they been supplied with a few spare parts, they would have had two vehicles. I am not a gunner and do not profess to know much about gunnery. Senator Mattner, however, is a gunner; indeed, he is one of the mot distinguished gunners that Australia has produced. Men who serve the short 25-pounder gun, have spoken in the most condemnatory terms concerning it. They told us that that gun had to be withdrawn from service because it would not stand up to the conditions in which it was being used. It was intended to be a light weapon which could be taken where the heavy 25-pounder gun could not go. It has a similar base to the heavier gun, but I am told that it would not sit on its base. Gunners who had served the short 25-pounder said, that they could prove that the gun when fired had turned on its nose in the sand.
They were then told that they must not fire it except when on its rubber wheels, and that they must first dig it in. These men said that they had seen the gun bounce about 30 yards after it had been fired, especially when using a heavy charge. That is something which is either true or untrue. Certain artillery regiments either were armed with that gun or they were not so armed. By means -of a few discreet inquiries, the Acting Minister for the Army could discover the facts and report to this House the degree to which the short 25-pounder gun is used in the SouthWest Pacific Area. I remember the time when in parades in Melbourne and Sydney the 25-pounder gun was highly praised. Because of the risk associated with the short 25-pounder gun, I am told that no men will volunteer to serve it, although they are willing to serve the long 25-pounder gun. They say also that the light gun must be towed in any case, and that wherever it can he towed the long-barrelled 25-pounder gun could be towed by the same lorry. That is a point concerning which the Acting Minister for the Army might obtain information. I shall deal with the report of the Acting Minister for the Army, paragraph by paragraph, so far as it relates to certain matters. First I direct attention to the paragraph in the Prime Minister’s letter to the troops which reads -
The Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) has come to you at my request to ensure that what can be clone will he done. I ask that you do not hesitate to tell him fully what he should know.
That is a most significant paragraph, particularly as the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces had just previously reported to the Prime Minister in regard to equipment. What shortages of equipment did the Prime Minister have in mind when he wrote that, paragraph? If he had no such shortages in mind, why was that paragraph inserted in the letter which his representative was asked to read to the troops? We really get down to business in paragraph 17 which, speaking of Jacquinot Bay, says -
The only purpose in constructing roads in the vicinity of Jacquinot Bay is to provide those main communications from which an attack on Rabaul can be launched. Extensive road building operations had to be undertaken in the high mountains of the island of New Britain before great military progress was made there. I have talked with engineers who were there, some our own and some American. The Americans paid high tribute to the roadmaking capacity of Australian engineers with the equipment they had at. their disposal. Whatever may be the military necessities of the island of New Britain in regard to roads, this paragraph, in Senator Fraser’s own language, speaks of “ whatever equipment could be made available “. There is a definite qualification which is not explained in any subsequent paragraph. We go to paragraph 38-
The troops further away in the fighting along the southern coast towards Gazelle Peninsula, were moving forward too rapidly to make heavy engineering use possible, even if desirable. His main problem was getting essential supplies to forward areas by small craft and not road construction.
That shows that the important consideration in that area was not roads but small craft. I point to paragraphs 17 and 18 because of something to which 1 shall refer later. Under the heading “ Mechanical Engineering Equipment “ we have paragraph 24 -
There was a quantiiy of heavy engineering equipment available in the Bougainville area, which, taking the shipping problem both generally mid locally into consideration, could not be improved upon.
The meaning of that is that the equip ment there was not. the maximum equipment that could have been used owing to the shipping position. The meaning is that the commander on the spot could have used more equipment had it been made available to him by the Commonwealth Government. There is no other meaning in the English language which that will bear. Then, turning to paragraph 31, I find one of the most amazing sentences in this important document -
In no place did I find among the fighting troops a contempt for their enemy.
I have never been amongst fighting troops with any sense - and only sensible ones have I moved amongst - who had contempt for the enemy. The man with contempt for his enemy under active service conditions usually does not live long enough to talk about it. How that “ beauty “ came to be incorporated in this report is beyond me. The Acting Minister for the Army deals with allegations concerning the absence of tanks, which he says are “ entirely unfounded “. I am not one of those who believe that tanks or armoured vehicles can be used in the jungle. For a long time I have been one of those who have questioned the wisdom of keeping in training and under arms the armoured forces that we have in Australia to-day. I suppose the very pick of the old militia have gone into the armoured regiments of Australia, because they were originally the lighthorse regiments of Australia, and, speaking of that, I am not speaking as one who was ever a lighthorseman.
– They have been turned into infantry battalions.
– Some have, but they have not. been sent away. To my mind it is one of the worst things for the reputation of Australia that the Government should have seen fit to appoint its Minister in Moscow as a protector of Poland and yet be unrepresented in the ground-fighting in Europe. There was a role which could have been carried out by the Australian armoured division. Its members would have been very glad to accept it if the Government had been prepared to give it to them. But some of the very best material Australia has got together in this war has not been outside Australia or seen a shot fired.
– They are brokenhearted.
– Utterly, and no thundering wonder! You cannot keep strong active men in the best fettle in camp year after year and expect them to go through training, training and training with no active military operation to engage them or in prospect. That is one of the worst things a government can do to any man. The tank fighting of our men has been confined to Buna, Sattelberg, Finschhaven and Bougainville. I do not know of any other area.. The nature of the terrain in the South-West Pacific area does not lend itself easily to the employment of armoured vehicles. They require great open spaces. They can get over some obstacles but cannot deal effectively with country of the type there. Again, the report on the armour question does not cause me any undue alarm. The ships named in paragraph 43 were left there and did. not unload for, I am told, three months. One man, a member of a barge crew, told me that he went up there in a specialist unit to find that it did not have its equipment with it. The equipment went somewhere else. So the unit was turned into a company for unloading ships. He told me that time and time again they went out with the American transport barges and that all that happened was argument between American and Australian officers as to what should be brought out of the ships first. Time after time they returned to tlie beach with as much as they left it with - nothing. From what I have heard from men at Aitape about clothing, supplies, hospital supplies and hold-ups of shipping, there is something that the Government has to explain. I come to paragraphs 44, 45, 46 and 47 under the caption, “ Unbalanced Cargo Components “. There is not one word to show what is meant by the caption which does not bear any relationship to what the paragraphs say. I know of only one meaning in the Army of “Unbalanced Cargo Components “, and that is that you do not load a ship in . the order in which you want the cargo unloaded or that the troops, as happened at Aitape, go in one vessel and the armament in another, both to separate destinations. Men were put in with nothing to fight with. I leave that and pass to paragraph 51 -
The mechanical engineering equipment in this area was of good quality, but the unprecedented shipping difficulties that were encountered in this area held up the despatch of certain of the equipment that w»3 allocated to it.
What the Acting Minister for the Army says there is that, for causes for which the Government disclaims re- sponsibility, adequate engineer’s equipment was not available in the Aitape ama. In this matter,, the Government takes a very nice stand. This morning the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) replying to a question said that the ‘Government cannot be blamed for the drought. The Acting Minister for the Army says that the Government cannot be blamed for adverse winds at landing places. But drought and adverse winds are fairly frequent occurrences, and a Government should exercise foresight and make proper provision for that sort of thing.
From paragraph 65 onwards we have the most amazing parts of this strange document. The Acting Minister for the Army is a member of a government, every member of which who has yet spoken in this debate, has assured us that there is nothing wrong, that the Opposition is engaged in a conspiracy with the press barons to produce a dreadful state of affairs by saying all sorts of foul things about Army administration. What does the Acting Minister say in paragraph 65 of his report. That paragraph reads -
Immediately on my return to Australia I discussed with the Commander-in-Chief the question of heavy mechanical equipment and stressed my view in regard to the heavy engineering type. In addition to outlining the difficulties of shipping and sea and weather conditions at Aitape he furnished the following advice. . . .
What view did the Acting Minister stress to the Commander-in-Chief? If the Acting Minister’s statement is to he taken at its face value, namely, that everything was all right, what was his reason for calling up the CommanderinChief and stressing his view about heavy equipment at Aitape? On the face of it, the Acting Minister was not satisfied with the equipment he found despite what he has signed in his report; because in that, paragraph he let the cat out of the bag. He called up the CommanderinChief to stress views which he has not disclosed in this document. We are given a paragraph dealing with what the Commander-in-Chief thought, but nothing at all concerning what the Acting Minister thought fit to put to the Commander-in-Chief for the latter’s comment. We get the same thing in paragraph 67 which reads -
Small Craft. - The amount of shipping has been inadequate since the beginning of the war. This affects the ability to make it available in the areas where it is required. In respect to the provision of small craft the facta are that immediately on my return I consulted the Commander-in-Chief on this, question and be advised mp to the following effect. . . .
I point out the vital difference disclosed in paragraphs 65 and 67. According to paragraph 65, the Acting Minister put his views to the Commander-in-Chief with regard to heavy equipment; and in paragraph 67 he says that he consulted the Commander-in-Chief with regard to the absence of small craft. Those two paragraphs disclose a significant, vital and unexplained discrepancy ; but they let the cat out of the hag. There can bc no do iiib t that the Acting Minister was not satisfied with what he found up there. It is public property that he delivered to the Prime Minister another report on what he actually did find. That report has not been produced in Parliament; and I have a strong suspicion that it will not be produced here, although it may be placed before my friends who are members of the Advisory War Council, and they, within a few days, may be better informed on this point than other honorable members.
Tn paragraph 70, the Acting Minister eulogizes the. engineers. Such eulogy is unnecessary. A fair percentage of honorable members on this side of the House has a fair idea of the job of the engineers in war, and particularly of what has been the role of the army engineer in thi? war. That role was set at the very beginning of the war by the Germans in their invasions of Norway, Belgium, Holland and France, and that has been the role of the army engineer ever since. The engineer is becoming more and more a front-line fighting man. He was always an important unit in the army, and as the army becomes more mechanical it stands to reason that he must play a more important part than hitherto.
A section of the report deals with casualties. I have read the list set out, but neither I nor any other honorable member is unaware of the casualties which wore suffered at Buna, Sanananda and Gona. Every Australian Imperial Force man knows that the Australian Imperial Force as then constituted could not have stood another battle at Buna. The casualties were terrific. The casualties disclosed in this report are not to he compared with the casualties there, or with those which the American Marines suffered only recently on Iwo Jima, where they were practically man for man. It is claimed that at Iwo Jima 20,000 Japanese were killed, whilst the American casualties amounted to the same total. Therefore, I have no doubt that if it comes to a stand-up fight for the liberation of Rabaul, and that centre be held as strongly as we are told in this document, our casualties on the scale of fighting to which our troops will be committed will be very different from what is disclosed in paragraph 74 of this report.
The report, for all practical purposes, is not worth the paper on which it is written. All it proves is that the Prime Minister himself was not satisfied with the position. He sent the Acting Minister for the Army to investigate the matter; and the Acting Minister was not happy, so he sent for General Blarney, the very man who had reported in the first instance to the Prime Minister. We are asked to take this little bit of cooked-up sawdust and call it a cake. I refuse to do so* I reject the report. The strongest and most telling facts disclosed in this debate were those set out in the letter written by Captain Lee, which wa9 read by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Government must answer the charges contained in that letter. The Government cannot get out of this difficulty by simply declaring that all is well. ‘ Too many men are now coming back from these areas, and disclosing their grievances. It is true that I have spoken to many .men who, so far as arms are concerned, say they have no complaint. On that point, opinion differs among the men themselves. Some of them say, “ To hell with the tommy gun. Give me a rifle “ ; whilst others say they prefer the tommy gun. That is a matter of personal choice, which may be based not only on personal experience, but also the personal attributes of the man who is going to use the weapon.
I shall not say any more about the deployment of our troops. Neither do [ wish to use this debate to say all that I think about the Commanderin.Chief, because I am quite happy to say all those things outside Parliament without protective privilege. But despite what the Leader of the Opposition has said, I believe that the appointment of General Blarney was the worst appointment made by the Menzies Government. It was also the most enduring, but that is toy the way. I shall particularize on that matter when the occasion arises. We shall soon be obliged to reconstruct the administration of the Australian Army. Since 1942 the Army has been under a complete dictatorship. No man, since the days of Cromwell, has exercised power over an army so great as that which the present Commander-in-Chief has exercised. I hope that anybody who exercised more power, did not exercise it to worse effect.
I listened yesterday to an excellent speech by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. .Coles). I did not agree with any of his remarks, but it is only right that now and then, Frankenstein should have to explain why he supports his demon, because, after all, it is Frankenstein’s own demon, and .as night follows day, the time will come when Frankenstein will wish to the Lord that, he had had nothing to do with that demon. In his speech, the honorable member for Henty disclosed a sad lack of knowledge of Japanese psychology and history. His attitude was that the Army could kill every Japanese soldier in the Solomons, New Guinea and New Britain. I know that the Japanese in New Ireland have not yet been touched, but as I left the Army about twelve months ago, I am not sure about the position in Santa Isabel and certain other islands in the Solomons. But my understanding of the conduct of war is that we do not go out for the express purpose of killing men. We conduct war in order to impose the will of our Government upon the enemy. Therefore, I am surprised that a man of the standing of the honorable member for Henty has not read a book entitled A
Greater than Napoleon. In fact, it would .benefit honorable members opposite to read it. At the very core of Japanese Army activity is the belief that no Japanese should ever surrender. It is accounted one of the most important things in Japan that a man should never be taken prisoner. If he is captured, he will lose caste. (Extension of time granted.’] If he lives in countries where the Japanese have control - and this applies with particular force to Japanese who have been taken prisoner in China and who went to Manchuria - he must cease to use a Japanese name and the Japanese language, and must not marry a Japanese woman. He is just tolerated. The greatest insult which could be offered to Japan would be to empty into that country as many prisoners as we take.
– Even so, we must first catch them.
– I am putting this contention in opposition to the theory that was advanced by the honorable member for Henty. Our objective in this war is victory, .and to impose our will upon our enemies, not to gauge our reputation by the number of Japanese that we happen to kill. If. by any chance, we can call to our assistance such weapons as starvation, so much the better ! I have a strong suspicion that when the history of the fighting around Buna, Gona and the beaches of Sanananda is written, it will be found that too many Australians were sent in against fanatical diehard Japanese, who. although they were starving, could still use machine guns. We should not fight our campaigns by that method.
I advise the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) to read his speech carefully, and ponder over it for a little time. The honorable member took the place of a gentleman who has six sons in the fighting services in this war. But the honorable member turned to this side of the chamber and asked, “ How many sons have you fellows got in the Army?”. Let me tell him, and some of his friends, that during a part of the time, ‘between 1915 and 19.1.9, when we might have been married and raising families, we were otherwise engaged; and old rascals like myself, who live in the bush most of the time, do not marry at quite such an early age as do the young fellows who live in the cities.When the honorable member for Lilley asks honorable gentlemen on this side of the House how many members of their families are on active service, he will find that they will not have to invent a family for some one who has not got one. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) told me a story about a former member of this House, Mr. King O’Malley, who, speaking of a similar matter in the first world war, stated that he had sent all his wife’s relations to the front. We have not done that.
Some speeches of honorable members opposite, one in particular, were an offence to honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber.I listened to every word uttered by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) last night. I was a Minister for seven or eight months in 1940 and during that time - I make no secret of this - enormous issues were at take in Great Britain. After the evacuation at Dunkirk, Australia sent to the United Kingdom tens of millions of rounds of ammunition, also rifles and 18-pounder guns for the defence of the United Kingdom. In that critical period, Great Britain was threatened more seriously than was the Commonwealth of Australia. I am not fussy about names. I do not mind whether honorable members refer to the “British Empire “ or the “ British Commonwealth of Nations “, although I prefer the old name to the new one. New names and “new orders” arouse my suspicions. I have a great liking for the advice that President Kruger gave to the Boers when he sought refuge in Switzerland, “ Take the best from your past and build on that”.
– Is the honorable gentleman a member of the Liberal party?
– Is not “Liberal party” a new name for the United Australia party?
– I am a very conservative person, and I am not at all ashamed of that title. As I stated on a former occasion, this is the fifth party to which I have belonged and I have not changed a bit. It is not the name, but what the man stands for that matters. I was brought up, to a certain extent, on the philosophy of Robert Burns, and one significant thing in his works has a vital bearing on this question. It is -
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.
We now hear much more about this bond of kinship- (this “ crimson thread “- from members of the Labour party than we heard in 1939 and 1940. What does it signify? It means that when a member of the British Empire is threatened, something more substantial than lip service will be accorded to that partner by the rest. In the words of Napoleon, it means that we have to disperse to live, but we have to unite to fight. Earlier in this war, it appeared that honorable gentlemen opposite had no such ideas. I watched their progress, from downright isolationism to the adoption of the attitude of the saviours of the country. If it had not been for the resignation of the former member for Corio, Mr. Casey, I doubt whether they would have decided to reinforce the Australian Imperial Force before the election in 1940. But it became politically expedient, in order to ensure the election of the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), for the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) to eat everything that member after member of his presentministry has vowed and declared from the Opposition benches, and assert that the Labour party, if returned, would reinforce the Australian Imperial Force. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), when in Opposition, spoke on an amendment to the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill introduced by a former Minister for the Army, Mr. Street. The honorable member for East Sydney, as he then was, said that if New Guinea had to be defended, let it be defended by those who lived there. Why should his electors in East Sydney go to New Guinea to fight for the capitalists? I am reminded of a book written by a man named Jonathan Dymond - I have not seen it for about 36 years - entitled On a Man’s Writing Memoirs of Himself. It is a great pity that certain, honorable members on the other side .of the chamber, particularly certain very prominent members- made prominent, not by their colleagues, but by themselves - cannot see the mental cinematographic record of their’ careers in this House that I ‘have compiled in ten years. If they -could see such a record, a speech like that delivered by the Minister for Transport last night would be .sufficient to blister the tongue of the man who iiati.de it.
– My .remarks will be brief because this debate should close to-day.. I. do not propose to deal specifically with the matters raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Whatever personal respect we in this House -may have for the honorable member, lis war prophecies have been so hopelessly astray that one is entitled to feci that any one who opposes bis views is bound to be right. There is, however one particular matter to which 1 shall refer, and that is the honorable member’s criticism of General Blarney. I point out that General .Blarney held a very important position whilst a government .of which the honorable member was ja member was in office. I can. find no record of criticism of General Blarney by this very forthright honorable member for Barker during the regime of that aci ministration.
– General Blarney had been appointed before I entered the Cabinet.
– That ls true, but the honorable gentleman was a member of a cabinet which supported General Blarney. It was not until comparatively recently that the honorable member raised his voice about General Blarney’s capacity to do his job.
The Leader of the Opposition said that this should not be a party matter. There is much to be said for having matters affecting the fighting forces of this country divorced from party politics, but I point out that any bitterness which has entered this debate, has been engendered by members of the Opposition, who found that in making these charges against the Government they had the support of an anti-Labour press. I Te- call that when I was a private member .of this House, I was approached on one occasion by .an Army officer who was the officer ‘commanding a training camp. He told me a dreadful story about the type >of equipment that -was available Id train men who -were to fight abroad. ‘On that .occasion if. could have -come into this chamber -amd bellowed as certain honorable members opposite ‘have bellowed in the course ‘of this debate. So intolerant were these honorable members that they were not prepared ;to listen to this debate without interrupting continually whilst honorable members from this side of the House were speaking. In fact, so incessant were these interruption’s, that the -offenders bad to be checked by members of their -own party. That is how -much this matter has become -a party question ; honorable members opposite made it a party question. Although we all recognize that it to the responsibility of the Leader <of the Opposition to voice the views of has supporters, I am not sure that all honorable members opposite are in agreement with what has been 4’on-e <on this occasion. Returning now to my story, the military officer who made representations to me whilst I was a private member of this chamber, was a gentleman whom I had known for a long time. Be had a distinguished record in the last war, and had been a member of the militia forces in the interregnum between the two wars. For many years foe has been a leading figure in the Conservative parties in New South “Wales, and at present is president -of a branch of the Liberal party. He told me that so deplorable was the lack of adequate training equipment, he did not care bow I used the information which he gave to me. At that time the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Minister for the Army and I went to him and asked him to interview this officer. The honorable member agreed to grant the officer an hour’s interview. I did not come into this chamber shouting and belaboring the Government, because I realized that supply difficulties were extremely hard to overcome. On this occasion, however, instead of the matters mow under discussion being reviewed quietly in an atmosphere of tolerance, they have been used by the yellow press - some of it was not originally yellow, but is becoming yellower every day - to belabor the ^Government. The Government does not suggest for a moment that in the war administration -and in the production of equipment, there are not some imperfections. Things do not always run smoothly, as any soldier or student of war knows; but when the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was given an opportunity to produce the conclusive proof of which he had boasted, he started by quoting extracts from newspapers. Those extracts were the spearhead of his attack. His authorities were certain war correspondents. J have no wish to reflect upon the courage or journalistic ability of war correspondents, but I point out that there are many people who have risked their lives more than war correspondents, but still cannot claim to he authorities on military strategy or military equipment. I know of one young journalist who, eighteen months after the expiry of his cadetship, was a “famous” war correspondent and strategist, employed by a big daily newspaper to tell generals bow the war should be conducted.
I do not propose to reiterate what has been said by honorable members on this side of the House in regard to the equipment of Australian soldiers. That matter has been dealt with adequately. T point out, however, that the CommanderinChief, of the Allied Land Forces, South-West Pacific Area, General MacArthur, is a military man and has been a military man ali his working life. He was selected with the confidence of five nations to do this job. The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces, General Blarney, was selected by a previous government, and his appointment was endorsed by this Government. He has a distinguished military record. I have not had an opportunity to converse with him personally as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) have done, but I understand that he is a splendid soldier. I do not know anything of his other qualities. This House is concerned only with his ability as a soldier. During my membership of the Advisory War Council, I, and other members of that body have had an opportunity to question the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Northcott. He also is a distinguished soldier. I believe from my personal contact with him that he is a completely honest man. Members of the Government and of the Advisory War Council, and everybody else who knows him, do not question his honesty whatever they may think about his qualities as a soldier. I do not believe’ that General MacArthur, General Blarney, Lieutenant-General Northcott, or any of their subordinates would allow mcn under their command to go out to fight inadequately equipped. Of course, we must pay regard to the varying conditions of war, such as shipping delays, adverse weather and other considerations. Any slight hitch in the working of the machinery of a great army can cause a temporary shortage of supplies. That is inevitable in war-time, and it has occurred on all fronts from time to time. I was rather amused by the Opposition’s sudden outburst against General Blarney. Whatever the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may have to say about the Minister for Transport (Mi. Ward), that honorable gentleman hit the nail on the head last night when he referred to the attacks made on General Blarney. Not long ago he criticized the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), but so far I have listened in vain for any member of the Opposition to attack him on that ground. Also, I have not noticed anything in the daily press, particularly the metropolitan newspapers, in criticism of General Blarney for what he said about the Minister. Actually, the hearts of members of the Opposition were filled with gladness; the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was so puffed out that h«« almost burst. But when General Blarney replied to allegations that he was unmindful of the welfare of his troops, there was a totally different story to tell. We have heard nothing but the mostviolent and trenchant criticism of him during this debate. Having thrown brickbats at. him, honorable gentlemen opposite consider that he should not throw any brickbats in return. It was all right for him to attack the Minister for Information, but when he gave the daily press and the Opposition a clout, they squealed to high heaven.
– Why did he take advantage of a war loan broadcast to make his statements?
– I was not very pleased with the remarks made by him about the Minister for Information, and I was not particularly enthusiastic about him raising the subject of Army equipment in a war loan broadcast. From the point of view of honorable members opposite he was full of virtue until he gave them and the daily press a figurative belt under the ear. The Government considers that it could not have had better military advice than it has received. One of its chief advisers, General MacArthur, is one. of the world’s most renowned generals. I refer now to a suggestion made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) regarding the Government’s attitude to the Advisory War Council. It is only fair to do so, because I inferred from the honorable gentleman’s remarks that the Government had sought to pass some of its responsibility to the Advisory War Council. That is not so. The Government is grateful for the impartial advice that it has received from the council. The Government accepts full responsibility for its decisions, and does not try to “passthe buck “ to the council.
– The Prime Minister made that quite clear.
– I am repeating it because I received the impression that the honorable member for Warringah considered that the Government had been trying to dodge responsibility, whereas it had no intention of doing so. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) devoted his remarks almost entirely to the disposition of Australian troops in the New Guinea area. He omitted altogether any reference to the statement by the Prime Minister that, as part of the general strategy, two divisions of Australian troops had been made available to the Commander-in-Chief of the
Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific Area for service in the Philippines if so required. Due to the success of the Philippines campaign, General MacArthur did not find it necessary to employ Australian troops there. I agree with the Leader ofthe Opposition that there are two possible courses of action in the New Guinea area. One is to keep a fairly large army there as a holding force; the other is to try to clear the Japanese from that area without heavy casualties and without delay. I have always favoured driving them from tha New Guinea area as quickly as possible, without sustaining heavy casualties, for the simple reason that while we have a large body of men there we are sadly in need of labour in Australia. The maintenance of a holding campaign employing a large body of troops, with reinforcements travelling to and fro in order to provide leave from the battlefront, involves a great many casualties from sickness as well as from enemy action. So long as we keep men in New Guinea there will be a great loss of man-power. I shall not pursue the subject further, except to ask whether, when talking about by-passing the Japanese in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons and leaving them to “ wither on the vine “, the Leader of the Opposition suggests that the Japanese forces in Borneo, Java, Malaya and Burma should also be left while our armies pass on to fight the enemy in their homeland?
– Why not ?
– There are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines archipelago and General MacArthur is endeavouring to clear them out as far as possible. Except in the northern parts of Luzon and in Mindanao, he is endeavouring to clear out the enemy as his forces advance. It is a pity that members of the Opposition introduced bitterness and intolerance into this debate. The Minister for Transport is not in the habit of taking kicks without kicking back. Everybody is aware of that. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) made a speech which put his point of view tolerantly and temperately. It was an example of the way in which a case should be stated in this Parliament. I have not yet found it necessary in this House, during my comparatively short membership of it, to say anything that I have not been prepared to say outside. I am not given to bitterness ofthat sort, and consequently am, perhaps, predisposed to admire men who try to put their case temperately, however strongly.With that remark, I leave the subject.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. F adden’s amendment)be so added.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J.S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of Business - Film Industry - Housing : Alice Springs - Australian Army: Military Personnel in Distention Camps and Civil Gaols: Leave - 1939-43 Star Superphosphate - Beer Shipments to Middle East - Legal Services: Briefing of Counsel.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House will conclude next week the discussion of The Wool Use Promotion Bill, a taxbill in relation to that measure, and the Income Tax Assessment Bill. I say “ conclude “, because I have every justification for believing that that is the wish of the House.
.- Representations have been made to me by Lady Angliss, the president of the Children’s Welfare Association of Victoria, on the subject of the control of films displayed at picture theatres. The letter which I have received from her states -
The executive committee of this association has been discussing the matter of films displayed at picture theatres and the possible effects of these on the lives of the boys and girls who see them.
The association is concerned over the fact that many films depict scenes and themes which are most unsuitable for absorption by the juvenile mind, and which are calculated to establish doubtful or dangerous behaviour habits in many children.
The association realizes that the problem is somewhat difficult to control, but they do feel that it might be controlled to some degree through legislation which would provide for stricter supervision over the types of pictures that may be witnessed by juveniles.
In thebelief that this control may be achieved through legislation, the association desires to ask that members of Parliament will give deep consideration to what is a serious social problem, and will do all that they can, in and out of Parliament, to bring about the stricter supervision, and better conditions generally, in this matter.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by Lady Angliss on behalf of the Children’s Welfare Association. For many years I have been concerned about the growing need for stricter control and supervision of the pictures exhibited. particularly £or children. Unquestionably the pictures that children see have a marked effect upon, their minds.
Those who are entrusted with, the care and training of children agree that visual education is preferable to education by oral instruction. The soundness of this contention is borne out pointedly by the excellent results obtained throughout Australia at the Lady Gowrie Child Welfare Centres.. I have inspected many of them and can testify to their good work in most of the capital cities during the last five years. The value of visual education has a direct bearing on the importance of the kind of pictures exhibited before children. I have taken a deep interest in this matter for several years in my capacity as chairman of the Social Security Committee. The committee has had before it on many occasions, and in a variety of ways, the need for stricter control with regard to the things that children are taught by visual education. The problem is not easy of solution, but lie Children’s Welfare Association of Victoria realizes that the time has come when an attempt should be made to solve it. This could be done in several ways, but in the first instance there should be a stricter censorship of the pictures exhibited before young children. I do not know whether it is possible, as Lady Angliss has suggested, to do this by legislation. The Parliaments of the States may have some power in that direction, but it seems to me that a stricter censorship of films could be exercised by the Commonwealth authorities. The need for this action is obvious, and I hope that when the Government is somewhat freer than at present from the problems of war, it will endeavour to ensure that films of a better kind than many of those now exhibited shall be displayed to children.
Another aspect is the need for education of those who control the class of pictures shown to the people, so that the films screened shall have a higher educational value than some of those now seen. Many pictures, such as the film entitled “ Tom Browne’s Schooldays “, have an uplifting effect upon the youthful mind. I hope it will be possible in the near future for the Government to deal with this growing menace to the lives of thechildren of this country.
– I draw attention to a case of hardship suffered by a departmental officer stationed at Alice Springs, in which the Commonwealth Government is involved as landlord. This officer, who is a widower with three children, and has nobody to look after them, hasbeen ordered to vacate his cottage by the 18th May. The furniturebelongs to him, but the Government owns the dwelling. On the 20th March, he was asked by the Allied Works Council to leave the premises,, and on the 10th April, he was ordered to vacate them. I should like to know how it comes about that the Government as a landlord is attempting to do to oneof its own tenants things which are prohibited under the Landlord and Tenant Regulations, provided the tenant pays the rent due in respect of the premises. I cannot imagine a worse case of hardship than that to which I now direct attention. The officer states in a letter to me that he is .anxious to take his three children back to Adelaide as soon as he can get somebody to look after them. He had his mother taking care of them for three months, but, acting on medical advice, she left Alice Springs. The department concerned should be asked to comply with the ,law which other people are expected to observe. I know that there is congestion at Alice Springs. I have on a previous occasion called the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to housing conditions there, but I d.o not press that point in public because I knowthere are certain things the Government just cannot do. In this particular case, however, I do not think it is fair that a servant of the Government, who has been a good tenant for years, should be turned out of his home in these circumstances. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to get in touch with the representative of the Allied Works Council at Alice Springs, and ask him to hold, his hand. My private advice to this man was that he should fight the case in court. He has paid his rent, and the law of the land says that in those circumstances a landlord is not entitled to put his tenant out.What is sauce for the goose ought to he sauce for the gander.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the appropriate authorities the case of a constituent ofmine who has been the victim of extraordinary circumstances. Five years ago he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. After a few days’ service at Redbank, he returned his uniform, and went to Toowoomba without having been discharged . I understand that he had been told that he could get out of the Army whenever he liked. He acted in ignorance, but I do not attempt to condone his action. It is the treatment which he has subsequently received at the hands of the military authorities to which I take exception. He got a job in the Toowoomba Foundry, where he continued to work until he was apprehended by the military police five years later. In the interval he had married, and now has two small sons. He is struggling to pay off his home. At the foundry he was assembling diesel engines for naval craft, and it must be evident that such work is of prime importance. A month ago, he was court-martialled, found guilty of being absent without leave, and sentenced to two years’ detention in the Grovely detention camp. There he has been engaged on various jobs, including the whitewashing of the canteen and cookhouse. He made a full statement to the court-martial, admitting all the facts. While he was working at the foundry in Toowoombahe made himself available to the man-power authorities during weekends to assist in rural production. After The left the Army he was called up by the military authorities forservice, and was exempt because he was engaged in a protected undertaking. I submit that the circumstances are extraordinary, and do not warrant the imposition of harsh punishment. No honorable member would condone the action of those who absent themselveswithout leave from military service, but this is a case which, I think, might well be reviewed by the authorities with a view to revising the sentence of the court. Indeed, I suggest that the whole matter of the detention of military offenders might be reviewed, because there may be other cases similar to this. Men who are urgently needed to relieve the man-power shortage should not be detained for minor offences, and engaged on trivial tasks, when they could he better employed furthering the war effort and assisting in food production.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) the claim of an exserviceman to be allotted a quota of superphosphate so that he may resume wheatgrowing. This man, VXS9106 Sergeant G. A. Rogers, 19th Machine Gun Battalion, had four and a half years’ service before he was discharged on medical grounds. Before the war, he and his fatherused to grow about 1,000 acres of wheat, but after he enlisted the father put on a share-farmer who has been growing from 300 acres to 350 acres each year. The son wishes to take up his former occupation as a wheat-farmer. He has applied for a superphosphate quota and has been refused. The agreement with the share-farmer has still a year to run and the authorities maintain that no quota can be provided for the discharged man. Had he remained home, as did many other farmers’ sons in the district, he would have had a quota himself.
– Does the honorable member know whether he applied to the State Department of Agriculture?
– Yes, he applied through his State member, Mr.S. A. Cameron, but the authorities repliedthat, as the basic amount bad been allotted, nothing could be done for him. I realize that there is a grave shortage of superphosphate,, but this is a case in which I believe assistance couldbegiven.
– In every State a small reserve of superphosphate is kept with which to meet emergencies.
– Well, this surely is such an emergency. This man is entitled to consideration. He has seen a good deal of service and deserves well of his country. I realizethat he cannot be allotted 10 tonsofsuperphosphate, for instance,but some concession should be made in his favour.
On the general subject of superphosphate, I remind the Minister that on two previous occasions I suggested that phosphatic rock should be imported from Trans-Jordania. I have a letter here from the representative of a company in Trans-Jordania stating that the company has a sample of rock at Haifa which it is prepared to send at its own expense to Australia to be treated by any company nominated by the Commonwealth Government. It is known that this rock is the richest to be found outside Nauru Island, the yield from it being 72 per cent, or better. I cannot understand why we should import phosphatic rock of low quality from the borders of the Red Sea and North Africa, particularly as it is hard to treat in addition to being of low quality.
– Shipping difficulties have forced us to obtain phosphatic rock from places from which it could he -hipped.
– The people to whom I refer are prepared to put the material on board ships at Akabah, which would avoid the heavy Suez Canal dues, provided that they are given a worthwhile contract. The House may not know that because of the possibility of the enemy occupation of Alexandria and Port Said, the British Government developed one of the best ports in the East at Akabah Phosphatic rock can be put on board -.hips there at about half the price at which lower grade phosphatic rock can be obtained elsewhere. I do not hold the Minister responsible for the present state of affairs, because I realize that war conditions have had much to do with it, but I point out that this man has been discharged from the Army because of ill health after 4£ years’ service. When I find that the British Phosphate Commission has sufficient influence to prevent the offer of the company to which I have referred from being accepted, I am inclined to wonder what is the reason.
– There might be something behind the offer to which the honorable member has mentioned. At least, a long term contract is asked for.
– Phosphatic rock will cost more from any other place than if shipped from Akabah. I ask the Minister to look into this matter in order to seewhat can be done.
– That will be done.
– I shall give to the Minister the letter to which. I havereferred, and also the communication from Colonel Campigli who was in charge of the Palestinian Railways, and knows the East well. He is a reliable man.
– He is an Australian.
– He went to the last, war in the same regiment as I did, but, later, he joined the Palestinian RailwaysService. Mr. Rogers lives in the Warracknabeal district, which is not in my electorate. I have a great regard for him and would like to help him.
.- Last night the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), when referring to deficiencies of equipment in the Middle East, said that one reason for those deficiencieswas that certain ships were loaded with beer to the exclusion of other cargo because the Australian Amenities Officer,. Brigadier Cohen, was a director of a Melbourne brewery. I. know BrigadierCohen as a soldier with a distinguished record, and as a prominent citizen of Melbourne. He is an ex-member of the Victorian Parliament, and is a resident in my electorate. To-day I received a telegram in which Brigadier Cohen indicates that the Minister for Transport had maligned him. That, however, is not an uncommon habit in this Parliament. The telegram reads -
I was never Director of Amenities in the Middle East. Amenities is in the Department of the Adjutant General. It is not its function to supply beer. The supply of beer is in the hands of the Quartermaster General through the canteens.
It is only fair that that telegram should appear in Hansard in order to correct any wrong impression which the unfair personal attack by the Minister for Transport might have given. I hope that the Minister will make the amende honorable when the House resumes.
On the 24th April I directed the following questions to the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) : -
The reply which I received is unsatisfactory and amounts to an evasion. It reads - 1, 2 and 3. In the case of briefs to members of the junior bar, returned soldiers are briefed very freely but it would involve a very lengthy research to ascertain the number of returned soldiers and non-returned soldiers, respectively, briefed by the Common wealth in the various States during the past three and onehalf years. So far as the senior bar is concerned, regard is had primarily to the suitability of the particular counsel for the case involved. If the question has been asked with a view to elicitingwhether there has been any discrimination against returned soldiers, I can assure the honorable member that there has been no discrimination whatever.
It is an exaggeration to say that a very lengthy research would be necessary to obtain the information, as the Minister would have only to consult the Crown Solicitor in each State to obtain it. I asked the questions because some counsel believe that they have been overlooked in connexion with government briefs. The policy of preference to returned soldiers has been accepted by various governments, and there is now before the House a bill dealing with this subject. I ask the Minister to look into this matter again and to let me have a more satisfactory answer. I wish to know that the policy of preference to returned soldiers is being given effect, and I shall put the question on the notice-paper again.
.- I bring to the notice of theGovernment the case of men in specialist units in the New Guinea area who have served in the tropics for more than two years without having had any leave. On the 2nd March I wrote to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) pointing out that men serving in the 87 A.T. Switch Operating Section, No. 2 Company, 19 Australian Line of Communication Signals, Australian Imperial Force, New Guinea, had not been granted leave for the six months prior to leaving Australia on the 16th March, 1943. Since then they have served at Milne Bay, Goodenough Island, Buna and Lae.
They have accrued leave totalling 58 days due to them. The answer of the Minister was -
A continuous programme of leave is being implemented but there are various factors which make it impossible to grant leave with the regularity considered desirable. It has been possible in some cases to relieve complete units and return them to the mainland for leave and rehabilitation, but owing to operational requirements this has been possible only to a limited extent. This cannot ibc done in the case of many technical and static unite owing to their special composition and duties. Wherever practicable in such cases relief of individual members is arranged.
For obvious reasons it is necessary that definite limitsbe placed on the numbers who may be absent from a unit at the one time. Subject to those limits and to the availability of transport, leave is being granted from the New Guinea area to the greatest possible extent. It is recognized that many are overdue for leave, and although it is not possible at present to effect any radical change in the situation, continual efforts are being made to reduce hardships to a minimum, and all available leave vacancies are allotted accordingly.
This matter is causing so much concern to those interested in these men that I have received representations on it from the Prahran-Toorak District Sub-Branch of the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Fathers Association of Australia in which it supports the request of the parents with sons,and others with near relatives, serving in the unit. It is pointed out to me that the work is particularly strenuous and exacting, and that one man who was recently able to secure leave was, shortly after his return to Australia, admitted to the Heidelberg Military Hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. I direct the attention of the Government to the policy that has been applied to men serving in tropical areas. I understand that in the Army attempts are made to give leave after every eighteen months, on the basis of two days for each month of service. The period of eighteen months has been, presumably, taken as the limit. It is interesting to contrast this with the practice in the Air Force. For ground staff fifteen months is regarded as the normal limit, and leave is given at the rate of sixteen days a year, with ten days’ special tropical leave. That gives 30 days’ leave for fifteen months’ service. I have learned from such inquiries as I have been able to make that the Air Eorce seems to be able to> arrange far more effectively than does the Army for the regular taking of leave by men serving in tropical areas. There rs special recognition, too, by the! Air Force of the position of men who- are likely to be placed und’er some special,, continuing strain.. Eor instance, the limit, for air- crew is nine months-, and; leave- is granted at the rate of five days a quarter,, plus ten days’ tropical leave,, giving a total leave period of 25 days. I Itoave here, a- pa-ess reference with somebearing on this matter- which strengthens the claim that these men should be relieved, as speedily as possible. In- the Melbourne Remld, of the- 9 thi April,, the following paragraph appeared : -
Except in a relatively few cases,, every soldier serving in New Guinea liad received1 all the leave to which, he was entitled, every twelve months, an Army spokesman said, to-day.
As> I have already indicated, it is my understanding that eighteen months istaken as’ the normal limit.
– It does not always work out though.
Mr.HOLT. - No>. I am glad to have rhe honorable member’s support The’ item continues -
Leave1 rosteus had’ been well maintained’, except In (Jio- case ofl a few units,, and) one’ ini particular.
Et is possible that, tile one in particular is. ohe unit to which. I have> referred. If,, as is< claimed, there, are. relatively few caisesj surely it should not- be beyond the1 capacity of tfhie Army authorities: to arrange for those- mien- to> be given- proper leaves It is? not only the hazard of thesituation in. which-, they, may be: placed; tihere is, I gather from, the correspondr enee- that I have had, an. accumulated-, feeling of wretchedness arising out of the; boredomi and. tedium! of life ini that area.. I have already made’ reference to. the. unhappy incident of ona mian admitted to hospital- as a. nervous case. So I think the Government, and I hope,, tie Army authorities’ will appreciate the urgency ofi making satis fiaetoaiy arrangements for lea.vei to- be given to these; men without further dela>y..
The other point t-<»v which. I desire torefer concerns men who have served farlong periods in the New Guinea- area and-
Kelates to the award of the 1939.-43; Star.
I have been’ trying to. ascertain- from the Army authorities and others the conditions’ under- which this award has- beengiven to troops of other nations, to New Zealanders1, I understand; but so. far no such award has been made to. Australian, soldiers who in the period in question served in. the New Guinea area. No definite announcement has- beea made: by the Govem-menS in this regard. I gather that the matter has been under consideration for some time, and has been the subject of consultation, with, the Imperial aathorities in London; but I am sure that there would’ be a welcome given to an announcement from the Government as. to what, is proposed,, particularly/ as the eondfitions- under whack- men ia the New Guinea area are serving have been made so clear to us in the course oi the debate thisi week. I pa-essi tha question, of leave, and I hope that the Ministers, present will makes immediate inquiries- to see if the request- that I have made to-day can be granted-.
– I have had telegrams- almost daily from coiastiituents in the; Bollon’, district, souths west Queensland,, which, has been without rain far- almost two years; requesting the provision, of scrub-cutters to help themcut mulga,, which, ais any one familiar with that- district knows is- the onlyfodder remaining foi- sheep-. I made the reojuest to the Department of Labour and’ National. Service^ and the Minister (Mr.. Holloway) replied to the effect- that, no direct applications for labour, had. been, made. He made that reply presumably after having contacted the Brisbane Branch of his- department. I telegraphed my informants to that effect and they replied1 immediately that a request for 35: men had been made through the district man-power officer, who had passed1 it on to. the- Deputy Director- of Man Power, Brisbane. This- matter should’ be- ironed out.. The graziers- havedefinitely asked for 35; men. I am not blaming- the- Minister. Probably his advice from Brisbane led him. astrayOne aspect o-fi the matter suggests- that the faralfc. may lie with those who have sent, me the telegrams;. They- say that based on. experience they have no con^ fidence in the Man Power Department.. That prompted me to telegraph them,. asking if they had made a definite request. They replied that individual graziers had not. I understand that the 35 men were applied for by the graziers collectively.
– Would it not be better to- make individual applications ?
– I understand that these glaziers are working through a councillor who is their spokesman in the matter. He is asking for 35 men to be made available, and these will be mutually allocated amongst the graziers. Last year, some soldiers were made available to graziers, and although only 75 per cent. of them were practical men, the graziers were glad to have their assistance. Of course, they are looking for men who can handle an axe ; but should such men not be available they are only too pleased to have the assistance of others. I have received five telegrams this week with respect to this matter. That fact should indicate its urgency. These graziers do not want to lose the balance of their stock, and now that their last reserves of fodder have been exhausted, they must cut mulga.
Mr.FRANCIS (Moreton) [4.36]. - I make a special plea to the Government to give further consideration, to the question of leave for soldiers who have served in the New Guinea area for a lengthy period. When these troops first went north I, and other honorable members, asked the Government not to send any young man to New Guinea until he was at least nineteen years of age and had. twelve months’ training. That request was conceded.. We also asked that men should be given regular leave after they had served for twelve months in the tropics. When I was in. Queensland recently, a number of iratewives and parents complained that their husbands and sons had been in New Guinea for periods ranging from seventeen months to twenty months and had not yet been given any leave. I cannot understand the reason for that. During the last war, soldiers serving in Prance were entitled to leave in Great Britain, or France, every six months ; and the rigors of this war are no less severe than the rigors of the last war. Therefore, 1 urge Ministers now in the chamber to bring this matter before Cabinet for specialconsideration at the earliest possible opportunity. I am not satisfied that the Government is making sufficient effort to ensure the granting of regular leave to soldiers after service for considerable periods in the tropics. This matter is vital. The war is far from over, and if these men do not receive regular leave they will become victims of neurosis, and the many maladies prevalent in the tropics. The Government should rectify the position in the interests of not only the men concerned, but also the nation. From time to time, the Government has said that the lack of shipping is the main obstacle. Shippingis a world problem; but it has become so acute in Australia because the Government fails to take proper steps to deal with the handling of ships on the waterfront. No one will deny that soldiers serving in the tropics are shouldering a greater burden than workers on the waterfront who are constantly delaying shipping by strikes. We should ensure regular leave to our soldiers in the interests of our war effort as a whole; and it should not be difficult to do so in view of the large number of men in uniform on the mainland. Lack of replacements cannot be the obstacle. The matter can be rectified by the proper organization of shipping, and reorganization of our forces. I again strongly urge the Government to honour its obligation to these men, who are suffering a grave injustice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.4 1 p.m.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– Information in regard to the honorable member’s question is being obtained and will be furnished. as early as possible. “Wheat Industry.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a? follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The figures are not available. It would involve considerable time (about six months) and expense to conduct the necessary research to obtain the figures. In the case of the Captain Cook Dock, the time of the consulting engineers and contractors in England would also be involved in collating the information.
n. - Yesterday the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the reply which I gave on the 19th April last to a question, upon notice, relating to a communication addressed tome on the 17 th August, 1943, in. which a complaint was made that a Minister, in the course of a broadcast address, had made use of the contents of a certain letter and of its accompanying memorandum, which, prior to despatch to England, had been subject to censorship in the ordinary manner. It was suggested that a copy of these documents could have come into the possession of the Minister only through the Censorship Department.
As the gravamen of the complaint touched on the means by which a copy of the documents had come into the hands of the Minister concerned, I referred the matter to him for report. The Minister assured me, as already indicated in my reply to the honorable member’s question on the 19 th April, 1945, that there was no truth in the allegation that he had obtained a copy of the documents in question from the Censorship Department and that he bad no knowledge that they had passed through censorship channels. In view of this assurance, there was no necessity to refer the matter to the Chief Post and Telegraph Censor.
s asked the Minister representing the Aicting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. Purchase vouchers to the value oi £11 are available to all personnel being discharged from the Army for the express purpose of assisting the ex-member to purchase clothing and necessaries to enable him co resume his place in civilian life.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army nas supplied the following answer : -
As announced inthe House by the Prime Minister recently, a complete review of the Australian man-power position will be undertaken early in June. For the purpose of this review, a complete survey of all medicalclasses of men is in process -now, and consideration will also be given to the adjustment of the restrictive conditions at present applying. As the review is in progress -and will takesome little -time to oomplete, it is not considered desirable to make any further statement to the House on the subject.
t asked the Minister representingtheActing Minister for theArmy, uponnotice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied fhe following answers : -
Mr.Curtin. - On the 20th April the honorable member for Barker (Mt. ArchieCameron) asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army a question relating to the sense in which the CommanderinChief, South-West Pacific Area, General MacArthur, had used the term “ mopping-up “ on certain occasions which he cited. I now desire to inform the honorable member that, in nccurdance with my usual desire to comply with requests from honorable members, I addressed a communication to General MacArthur and asked the officer in charge of the Bear Echelon at Brisbane to transmit it by signal to General MacArthur. General MacArthur has replied that the communiques to which reference is made are perfectly clear and completely accurate. He has pointed out that apparently the Aitape area has been confused with a sector below it where the Australian forces are now engaged in what might be termed “Wewak area. General MacArthur has expressed the view that he should not be called upon to answer questions raised in Parliament on matters of political debate. I agree with his view. As Commander-in-Chief, ha has a relation with the head of the Government which is a party to his directive. On matters relating to his responsibilities under this directive, I am in touch with General MacArthur, and I am always ready to consider the representations of any honorable member on a matter of importance and decide whether I should take it up with General MacArthur. I suggest to honorable members that this is the appropriate course that should be followed. 1939-43 Star.
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Under the provisional instructions governing the 1039-43 Star issued by the United Kingdom Government, Royal Australian Air Force ground personnel whose service has been confined to Great Britain are not eligible for this Star. The Government has already taken up this matter with the United Kingdom Government, and a reply is awaited.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450427_reps_17_181/>.