17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Acknowledgment by His Majesty the King.
– I have received from His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply: -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the Opening of the Third Session of the Seventeenth Parliament was duly laid before His Majesty the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to Honorable Members His Majesty’s sincere appreciation of the loyal message to which your Address gives expression.
Henry. Governor -General. 14th May, 1945.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the Senate’s amendment be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, at a later hour this day.
.- I understand that the Senate’s amendment extends to portions of Tasmania the zone allowance, the extension of which to certain portions of the mainland was discussed in this House. If that be the case, I take this opportunity, as a member from Victoria, to protest once more against the exclusion from the zone allowance of any portion of that State, however remote it may be.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not discuss that matter at this stage, but should make his protest when the committee is considering the Senate’s amendment. All that he may now discuss is, whether or not the Senate’s amendment shall be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, at a later hour this day.
– Shall I have an opportunity to raise the matter in the course of that discussion?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– by leave - I desire to refer to the criticisms attributed to American naval observers, on the inadequacy of the equipment of the 9th Australian Division for its operations in Borneo. It will be recalled that General MacArthur said that he knew nothing of any criticism by Vice-Admiral Barbey, and that he had requested that officer to clarify the matter. General MacArthur has now informed me that he has just received from Vice- Admiral Barbey a message stating that the statements attributed to him are not correct.
Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, commander of the 1st Australian Corps, also has reported that the criticisms are unfounded; that the heavy equipment is essentially the same as is used by the Americans, and that the quantity is not less than they used in an operation of the same size. General Morshead has stated that all requirements for amphibious shipping and equipment were met from American sources, and that the types and quantities of shipping supplied were suitable and adequate for the task, and compared favorably with that provided for an American task force of similar size in an operation of this type. He has added that, no Australian Army force has ever been so well equipped for a particular operation as this force was, and has said, in conclusion, that he is more than satisfied with the achievements of the forces from every aspect.
– In view of the statement by General MacArthur in connexion with the equipment of Australian forces at Tarakan, as reported in the press, does not the Acting Prime Minister consider that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) should apologize and withdraw his unwarranted charge?
– This is a matter which I must leave to the good taste of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I think, however, that any reflections not only upon the integrity, but also upon the capacity, of a. man to whom Australia owes much, would not be likely to receive much credence.
– Will the Minister for Information use his influence with the Australian Associated Press and other newspapers with a view to inducing them to print in whole the statement read by the Acting Prime Minister, with regard to the equipment supplied to the Australian fighting forces in Borneo?
– I am afraid that my influence with the press of this country is not very great, but, if the newspapers fail to print the statement, we shall consider what means we can use to ensure that the people of Australia shall be told the truth of the position, as outlined by the Acting Prime Minister.
Land Settlement - Housing of ex-servicemen.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state whether or not the servicemen’s land settlement agreements reached between the Commonwealth and the States at the Premiers Conference in October, 1944, copies of which have been circulated to honorable members, have yet been ratified by the States? Have similar agreements in regard to the allotment of a quota of houses to ex-servicemen been ratified by the States?
– Agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to land settlement for soldier settlers have not been ratified by either the State Parliaments or the Commonwealth Parliament. I understand that agreements have been reached with the States in relation to housing. These, too, have not been ratified by either the State Parliaments or the Commonwealth Parliament.
-Will the Minister state whether the Commonwealth Government, intends to have these agreements ratified before the conclusion the war with Japan?
– The Commonwealth is pushing ahead as rapidly as it can in order to arrive at finality with these agreements. They will be presented to this Parliament for ratification as soon as possible. The Government hopes that the State Parliaments will not lose any time in ratifying them. I cannot say whether or not that can be accomplished before the end of the war with Japan.
– Is the Minister re presenting the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that a large number of persons, mostly representatives of business firms, who wish to proceed overseas to deal with post-war problems, cannot obtain passages, and that this applies also to many war brides of American servicemen who wish to go to the United States of America? In view of the altered war situation, will the Minister take the matter up with the appropriate authorities in the United Kingdom, with a view to having accommodation provided for such persons on vessels making the return journey after having discharged troops in Australia?
– I am aware of the facts which the honorable member has recited. The only vessels capable of carrying passengers from Australia to the United States of America belong to a Swedish steamship line, and they can accommodate probably not more than 25 passengers on each trip. The situation in relation to shipping, even with the United Kingdom, is not so good as we should like it to be, in spite of the conclusion of the war in Europe. Nevertheless, the importance of the matter which the honorable member has raised warrants repeated representations of the nature suggested.
Resignations - Applications fob Releases - GRoup Captain C. R. Caldwell - Inquiry by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C.
– In view of the public concern arising out of the request of senior officers of the Royal Australian Air Force, who hold commands in the First Tactical Air Force. to be released from the service, will the Minister for Air state the terms of reference for the inquiry now being held in Melbourne, and direct that the hearing be an open one? If he cannot do that, will he state the reason ?
– -by leave- As honorable members are aware, certain publicity has been given in the press to resignations having been lodged by a number of officers in the First Tactical Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and to disciplinary proceedings instituted against Group Captain C. R. Caldwell. To keep those matters within their proper perspective, and to dispel any misgivings or misunderstandings which may have arisen as the result of such press statements, I inform the House that it is a fact that certain officers of the First Tactical Air Force did request permission to resign, and, further, that court-martial proceedings were, in fact, initiated against Group
Captain Caldwell in connexion with alleged liquor transactions, in contravention of Air Force Orders. With regard to the resignations, the Air Board was last week informed by the Air Officer Commanding the First Tactical Air Force that the resignations were returned to the officers concerned for submission in proper form, if they desired to proceed with their applications. The latest advices received are to the effect that the officers do not intend to go further with their applications.
With regard to the court-martial proceedings against Group Captain Caldwell, that officer, in the preparation of his defence, made counter allegations which, on the face of them, implicate certain other personnel, in consequence of which the proceedings against him have been suspended, and, in the exercise of powers conferred by the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations, I have appointed Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., to be a commissioner to inquire into and report to me upon such allegations and any matters reasonably incidental thereto. Mr. Barry will commence his inquiry immediately upon terms of reference sufficiently wide to embrace any matters at issue or anything reasonably incidental to them.
The court-martial proceedings against Group Captain Caldwell have been suspended pending the commissioner’s investigation and report. This action is in the interests of Group Captain Caldwell, as it would be inequitable to place upon him, as an accused officer under court-martial proceedings and, subject to all the restrictions imposed by normal rules of evidence, the burden of seeking to establish facts which, if true, are appropriate for action by the highest service authorities. Having regard to the nature of the allegations, it would also be unfair to permit Group Captain Caldwell to be the subject of court-martial proceedings, unless and until the correctness or otherwise of those allegations is determined. Pending completion of the inquiry, Group ‘Captain Caldwell has been released from arrest without prejudice to re-arrest. The question of whether the inquiry will be considered wholly or partially in public or private is on© for determination by the commissioner. Regulation 15 of the National Security (Inquiries) Regulation provides that the commissioner may direct that the whole or any part of the proceedings on any inquiry under these Regulations be heard in private, if the commissioner considers that it is desirable in the public interest io do so.
I assure honorable members that the investigation will be complete and independent, and that full opportunity will be given for any parties affected to be represented by counsel or agents, as they may desire. Counsel has been appointed to assist the commissioner, and the inquiry will be conducted and a report furnished as rapidly a3 possible. Upon receipt of the commissioner’s report, such further action as may be necessary in the light of that report will be immediately taken, both in relation to the courtmartial proceedings against Group Captain Caldwell and in respect. of any other matters emerging from the inquiry. Subject only to overriding considerations of national security, I shall give every consideration to making public the commissioner’s findings, or such of them as can be disclosed without prejudice to the national interest. I again emphasize that the procedure adopted will not only result in complete and expert investigations of each of the matters at issue, but will also ensure that the investigation shall be of the most independent and impartial nature that it is possible to devise.
– Will the Minister for Air see that the officers concerned have placed at their disposal the services of counsel to help them to put their case? If they were appearing before a- courtmartial, the members of the court would be officers of the Royal Australian Air Force, as would also the prosecuting officer and the defending officer.
– The honorable member is not in order in giving information when asking a question.
– Seeing that the commissioner before whom these officers will appear is a King’s Counsel, and that, in all probability, another King’s Counsel will be engaged to put the case before the commission, will the Minister see that the officers concerned are provided, at the expense of the Commonwealth, with counsel to defend them?
– I have already made it clear that every assistance will be given to the officers concerned to present their case in the best possible manner. I shall do nothing to prevent the presentation of whatever they may desire to place before the commission, but it will be for the commissioner, acting under the National Security Regulations, to decide whether or not the inquiry will be in public. I do not propose to interfere, but honorable members must be aware that I have the honour and discipline of the Royal Australian Air Force at heart as much as has any one else.
– Will all the circumstances of the submission of the resignations be investigated in addition to the inquiry regarding Group Captain Caldwell? Is it not a fact that one of those officers has already been punished in accordance with, the judgment of a court-martial? Will. the Minister have those circumstances inquired into, too, without prejudice to what has happened in the past?
– I have already stated that the inquiry will include all matters incidental to the tendering of resignations by the officers concerned. The officer, who has been courtmartialled, is one of those officers. I should think that the commissioner will see that whatever that officer desires to bring forward will he heard and considered. I thought my complete statement about this matter would be understood.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House as to the total quantities of superphosphate allotted this year to the various States and the percentage increases over the quantities allotted for the preceding season?
– As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) intimated to me earlier to-day that he proposed to ask the question, I have obtained the following teleprint reply from the Fertilizer Controller in Melbourne: -
Present allocations of superphosphate to States-
Percentage increases of superphosphate allocations to States above, 1943-44 season, are as follows: - New South Wales, 48 per cent.; Victoria, 49 per cent.; Queensland, 57 per cent.; South Australia,60 per cent.; Western Australia,62 per cent.; Tasmania,; 57 per cent.
Advice from Washington on the allocation of phosphate rock to Australia for the 1945-46 period is awaited. When this information is received, the allocation of superphosphate to the various States for next year will he determined.
News Services - Nationalization of B Class Stations
– On Thursday last, the Minister for Information said that the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, acting entirely on his own initiative, and without reference to the commissioners or the Postmaster-General, told the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations that they would have to pay £9,000 a year for the use of land lines for their news service, and acknowledge the fact, three times a day. Will the Minister for Information inform the House whether a meeting of the commission was held at, the end of January, 1945, at which Mr. Moses submitted proposals covering the suggested agreement with the commercial stations for such a news service, and received the endorsement of the commission, after which the proposals were submitted? If so, will the Minister, in view of Mr. Moses’s position, afford him the fullest opportunity to clear himself of the unwarranted implications in the Minister’s attack upon him in Parliament?
– Nothing which I said the other day conflicts with what the right honorable gentleman has now stated. He admits in his question that
Mr. Moses did submit to the commission certain suggested agreements with the commercial broadcasting stations.
– The Minister said that be acted entirely on his own initiative.
– The right honorable gentleman’s question admits that he did that, and reported to the commission afterwards.
– No such thing.
– I am just as capable of understanding the English language and its implications as is the right honorable gentleman and can, I think, use it much more effectively than he can. I shall have an inquiry made into the matters raised, and, if I think necessary, I shall make a reply to him later.
– Was the Minister for Information correctly reported as having told the Trade Unions Convention in Melbourne at the week-end that he looked forward to theday when B class broadcasting stations would be nationalized?
– Press representatives were not admitted to the convention. It was a family gathering at which members of the Ministry and leaders of trade unions in this country had a heart to heart talk on many things affecting the welfare of Australia. The convention finished with a unanimous vote of confidence in the Government. Reports in sections of the press alleging that I, or any other Minister said something about something are based entirely on hearsay or speculation. Statements have appeared purporting to be verbatim accounts of what, I and other Ministers said.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I put a simple and direct question to the Minister. I ask that it be answered.
– I hardly think the question was so simple.
– As the honorable member persists in interrupting, I do not see that I should proceed further.
– As conflicting reports appear almost daily in the press on the subject of petrol and tyres, some saying that the ration will be increased and others that it will not, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping see that an authoritative statement is made on the subject as soon as possible?
– The report in which it was stated that extra supplies would be made available originated, I think, from the Garage Proprietors Association, not from any government source. The problem is one of shipping, and the supply of petrol in this country depends upon the number of tankers available. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to make a full !>tH tennent on the subject.
– Has the Acting Attorney-General seen in the press a statement attributed to Mr. Frank McGrath at a mass meeting in Sydney yesterday of strikers formerly employed at Mort’s Dock, Cockatoo Dock and other engineering establishments, that the Government had not ordered a ballot among the members of the Balmain branch of the Ironworkers Union because Communist influence was against the holding of a ballot? “Will the Minister say whether it is proposed to arrange for the holding of a ballot by the strikers who are asking for it?
– To-day a decision of the High Court was given in respect of this matter. As I understand, the Ironworkers Union yesterday applied to the High Court for an order to restrain Judge O’Mara from proceeding with that part of the case dealing with the shop delegate to Mort’s Dock. This morning, it was further dealt with, and Judge O’Mara has refused to make any order or award, so that something in the nature of a stalemate has developed. As for the taking of a ballot, that is a matter which affects the organization of the union itself. It is true that the Balmain ironworkers affected by the dispute are anxious that a branch meeting should be held so that their views on the subject of n shop delegate, and other matters, might be expressed. That was the attitude taken by Mr. McGrath, although there is also a. suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should enter the field. The attitude of the Government is that this is a matter which comes within the province of the Ironworkers Union itself. For my part, I should say that the holding of a meeting by the Balmain branch of the Ironworkers Union would afford an opportunity to determine just what the situation should be. When the matter will reach that stage, I cannot say. At the moment, it is engaging the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– The following advertisement appeared in a country newspaper recently: -
The Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited require males for production operations at their factory situated at Granville, Sydney.
Award rates apply during learning period after which attractive bonuses may be earned.
All modern factory amenities available.
Apply your local National Service Office.
Does the Minister for Labour and National Service consider that it is in keeping with the policy of decentralizing industry that the country should be combed for workers to go to the metropolis, while Commonwealth-owned buildings, built to modern factory specifications and formerly used as munitions factories, are vacant and well-housed workers are available to man them? Will the Minister inquire whether Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited and Waddingtons Proprietary Limited are doing anything to move their industries out into the country, or are they doing the reverse? Will he consider replacing Messrs. Scott and Merrett, members of the Secondary Industries Commission, who are also associated with Waddingtons and with Australian Iron and Steel Proprieta’ry Limited, by representatives of the New South Wales Government, so as to implement the Government’s policy of decentralization?
– The Government is not departing from its policy of decentralization of industry, nor does it intend to do so. All provisions for the extension of technical training in respect to both professions and crafts, are being extended to provincial and country towns.
The Government is also negotiating through tie Ministry of Munitions with firms likely to establish factories in country areas. In some places, where Government factories are not suitably equipped, negotiations are under way for leasing them to firms which are prepared to begin manufacturing. We are consulting with the State Governments almost continuously, and technical training will be carried on in conjunction with the State authorities.
House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say when he will be able to reply to the question which I asked him a fortnight ago about the delay in the presentation of the report of the all-party committee appointed to inquire into the threatened eviction from her home in Canberra of the wif e of an Australian prisoner of war ?
– A report has not yet been received. Two members of the committee, Mr. Pollard and Senator Finlay, are absent from Australia, and it may be necessary to get further statements from them.
Employment of Women - Alleged Ministerial Interference with Judiciary.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received a report with reference to the wages of female employees in industry? If not, can he say when he expects to receive it?
– The Government has received the decision of the full bench of the Arbitration Court. The court decided by three votes to two not to interfere with the existing rates payable to unskilled female workers.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Labour and National Service : - Is it a fact, as alleged in a Sydney morning newspaper of the- 14th May, that he bitterly attacked Chief Judge Piper before the recent Trade Unions Convention? Did the Minister, as alleged, call the Arbitration Court judges together and tell them that a general rate for female labour, being 75 per cent, of the male rate, should be prescribed in war-time industries? Is it a fact, as alleged, that the Government had even got Judge Piper practically to draw up the regulations so that the Go’vernment’s policy could be achieved ? Did the Minister say, as alleged, that Judge Piper had been the negotiator in effect between the Government and the court? Did he say, further, that Chief Judge Piper had proved spineless and weakkneed ?
– I have great respect for the court and its judges, and do not wish to transgress the Standing Orders by discussing the judiciary in this chamber.
– Cannot the Minister answer “ yes “ or “ no “ to the questions ?
– Such a reply does not always satisfactorily answer a question. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald to which the honorable member has referred was not only incorrect; in my opinion it also amounted to a grave reflection on the judiciary. I made no such statement as has been attributed to me ; the report in the Sydney Morning Herald is entirely without foundation. The proceedings at the convention were held in camera, and whoever obtained the alleged information did not obtain it by legitimate means. I do not mind being asked questions-
– Was a conference held with the judges?
– No. I repeat that the whole of the sub-leader in the Sydney Morning Herald was incorrect. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall give a full and detailed reply to it.
Galvanized Iron and Fencing Materials - Piping and Irrigation Plant
– Having regard to the difficulties of transport which have existed for a long time in Queensland, making it difficult to obtain supplies from the southern States, will the Minister for Munitions take steps to make available to farmers larger quantities of galvanized iron, galvanized wire and wire netting, piping and other irrigation plant? Settlers are in great need. of these materials, which in Queensland must be galvanized.
– I shall be pleased to do what I can. to expedite the supply of these essential goods to persons who require them. I have already brought their needs to the notice of the authorities concerned, and shall follow up that action to see that something shall be done.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen a statement in the press, particularly that in the Singleton Argus, relating to an auction sale of huts from five military camps to take place on Saturday, the 19th May? The report states -
The huts will be taken from camps at Tomago, Lower Hexham, Green Ranges (Tomago-Williamtown Road), School Hill ( Williamtown-Raymond Terrace Road), and Stanley Park (North Stackton).
Port Stephens Shire has already bought a number of huts from the commission, and intends sponsoring a small housing scheme at Raymond Terrace.
It is estimated that one hut can be converted into a cottage of three bedrooms, livingroom, kitchen, bathroom and laundry.
Can the Minister say whether any maximum price has been fixed for these huts, and whether the claims of people in urgent need of accommodation, who have had applications for huts with the War Disposals Commission for some months with a view to purchasing them by private treaty, will be given priority?
– I cannot speak with authority on the points raised by the honorable member, but it would appear from press reports that no maximum price has been decided on for goods sold at auction by the War Disposals Commission. I know that the prices realized at auction recently for a number of goods were much above normal prices, and it would appear that at auction sales conducted onbehalf of the Commonwealth the highest bidder is the purchaser. The claims of persons who need accommodation most urgently and have submitted applications for huts to the War Disposals Commission is a matter which is worthy of consideration. I hope that auction sales will not provide opportunities for purchasers of goods to make undue profits by trading in them. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to discuss this point with the chairman of the War Disposals Commission with a view to devising an equitable system of distribution of the goods to be disposed of.
useof Sydney Docks.
– Last Thursday, I asked the Minister for the Navy whether he had seen the statement by the Commander-in-Chief of the British fleet in the Pacific, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, about delays in the docking of His Majesty’s ships in the port of Sydney. The honorable gentleman told me that a conference would be held to-day between Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser and the Ministry. I should like to know whether the Minister is in a position to inform the House of the nature of the conference and whether it solved the problem of docking His Majesty’s ships in Sydney? Does the Government intend to ensure that they shall be docked or does it intend merely to stand pat and do nothing?
– Discussions between Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser and the Acting Prime Minister and other Ministers regarding the essential servicing of units of the British Pacific Fleet took place this morning, but I do not think it desirable at this stage to make any statement on that matter other than that Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser has been assured of all the co-operation and help that the Commonwealth Government can give him to ensure the proper servicing of the fleet.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Control ofLiquor Order.
Ordered to be printed.
– At the beginning of the session, the Prime Minister said that a review of man-power would be made at the end of June. In view of the collapse of the war in Europe, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will undertake that review before the end of June, particularly because of the serious food shortage in Europe and the need of primary industries to obtain more labour in order to be able to fulfil the expectations of the United Kingdom and other European countries in relation to food supplies?
– I indicated the other day that no time would be lost in making a review, but I also referred to the operations in which Australian troops are engaged. I assure the honorable member that the changed circumstances resulting from the conclusion of the war in Europe will be considered and that the review will be made as soon as possible.
– Can the
Acting Prime Minister explain why the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs are remaining in the vicinity of the Golden Gate after other eagles, Mr. Eden and M. Molotov, have left the feast?
– I believe that the people of Australia desire that the representatives of the Australian Government should be available to take part in discussions at San Francisco for as long as it is felt that anything can be done to forward our interests, so vitally are we concerned in world security plans. Both Ministers have been told that they are not to be distracted from their deliberations as long as anything affecting this country remains to be done. It is proper that they should stay there. Decision as to how long they will stay has been left to them.
– Last week, when the matter of trusteeships was ventilated in this House, the Acting Prime Minister promised to get from the Australian delegates details of the proposals they had made. Has he received them ?
– I should prefer the Acting Minister for External Affairs to reply.
– I have received copies of the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister and the statements of the Minister for External Affairs to a press conference. I am considering whether it is possible to circulate the information in order that honorable members may follow the proceedings.
– Both were public statements.
– I understand so.
Debate resumed from the 11th May (vide page 1674) on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In view of the tremendous implications of this measure, we can call it the Bill of Rights of Australian ex-service men and women. Ithas been carefully planned, and covers a tremendous range in our great task of rehabilitation. Therefore, I congratulate the Government upon its momentous presentation of this very difficult subject. As we debate this problem, its implications and the task it sets before usbecome apparent to all who are sincerely anxious to rehabilitate our ex-service men and women, and ensure that they shall be kept in constant employment. The measure presupposes that the Government plans to provide work for all, and within the broad conception of that plan there can be preferment for ex-service personnel - the soldier, sailor and airman, and the members of the women’s services. For that reason I give it my unqualified support. So far as I have been able to judge, the main criticism levelled against the bill is that it attempts to do something that was attempted with dismal failure after the last war. Let us look at the general attitude of the people of Australia to-day towards the problem of rehabilitating the men and women who were temporarily called into the armed forces. Our whole approach will be wrong, should we continue to think of them as soldiers or service personnel. They are civilians who were taken from the community to fight the common enemy, and, with their task discharged, should he welcomed .back as civilians to whom we give certain privileges in recognition of their special services in our defence. If we accept the proposition that after the war we shall have two sets .of people, namely, the exservice personnel on one side, and, on the other, people whom we roughly classify as civilians, we shall have the ingredients of a nation-wide dispute rather than the basis for a simple plan to coalesce all sections of a community disrupted by war. Therefore, I regard the Government’s proposal in respect of preference as clever planning. The seven-year provision is an indication of the Government’s sincerity in this matter. When we study the slow and tortuous history of preference as it operated after the last war, we see preference as something thrown out as an empty gesture to exservicemen. The government of the day said, in effect, “ Here is a preference. You may have preference in employment - if you can get employment “. That was the trouble with preference as devised after the last war. Any man who went through the last war, and experienced the vicissitudes of the boom days and the depression which followed, knows that the preference granted after the last war had the peculiar faculty of working at the wrong time. It was 100 per cent, efficient when jobs were available for all, but 100 per centdeficient when there were not sufficient jobs. What sort of preference is that to give to servicemen in this war, who at least believe that we should benefit by the mistakes of the past? The old legislation gave no guarantee to the ex-serviceman. It exercised no control over employers. It employed loose language, giving employers the option, “ Other things being equal “ being the classic phrase of disillusion. It indicated no firm intention on the part of the legislature to ensure preference of employment to ex-service personnel. Unlike this measure it was not based on a definite plan to provide employment for all, and inside the ambit of that entitlement to give special consideration to the ex-service man and woman. This measure provides for all those things. That is why I call it the Bill of Rights of our service personnel.
It embodies all the things which the service man or woman is seeking, and hopes to obtain. If it achieves the fundamental objective which it sets out to achieve, we should hear very little of pressure-group agitations or allegations that the soldier is being exploited, because the Government now wisely says that having propounded a plan it must set a limit to that plan.
Let us examine more closely the sevenyear basis of preference. I recall thai Russia launched its famous five-year plan, which it followed up with two other five-year plans, until it achieved a degree of efficiency which enabled its armies to repulse the enemy, and march on to Berlin. Russia’s achievement was the outcome of .planning; and the democratic countries, too, have laid down their plans. The Government is to be congratulated on having devised1 this plan foi1 the settlement and rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. In doing so, it has proceeded on the basis of a period of seven years. It has considered reconstruction as an essential part of post-war problems. It says that we must rebuild to a plan, setting up various organizations, so that this country will not find itself in the position which confronted it before the outbreak of war. The Government now plans on the basis that itmust rehabilitate 1,500,000 people who have been displaced from their ordinary jobs during the war. It will not achieve this objective by giving preference by and large to ex-service personnel, saying in effect, to the soldiers, “ If there is a job during your life you may have i1 if other things are equal”. On th* contrary, it proposes to streamline preference, and to make it fully effective as an integral part of a seven-year plan of reconstruction. It says that for that period it will give real preference to exservice men and women, undertaking in the meantime to push on with its general reconstruction programme so that at the end of that period it will be able to sa’ to ex-service personnel, “ You can nov take your places in the community as civilians once more “. It is all very well for some honorable members to indulge in slogans. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in reply to some comment regarding the old preference, said that the second generation of Australians, the sons of ex-servicemen, should not be the victims of old history. That remark was described as unfortunate. However, it was most telling, because we know that after the last war the victims of preference were the sons of the men to whom preference had been given. The unwieldy and unsatisfactory form of preference introduced at that time applied merely to the Public Service and local government bodies, but left to private employers the right to decide whether they would employ returned soldiers. Consequently, it became a byword and a joke among returned men themselves. I know at first hand of the case of an ageing returned soldier of the last war who gave his badge to his son so that during the depression the latter could obtain a job shifting sand. It is unworthy of any Parliament to foist that sort of preference upon ex-service personnel. Such a concession belongs to the dead old days when a magnificent gesture, with no vitality or sincerity behind it, was thought sufficient. To-day, we must approach this problem in a different way. We must consider the approach of the soldier himself to these things, and to the general reconstruction plans of the Government. I know from personal experience that the average ex-serviceman does not seek continuous preference from the cradle to the grave. He has seen that sort of preference fail in the past, and he now regards it as a feeble gesture which does not work, because it lacks the force of law. But at the same time, the serviceman has been thinking very seriously about these matters. Last Christmas, when I was in New Guinea, I gathered a poem written by an Australian soldier, Peter Middleton. He speaks for the soldiers who are not articulate in this matter, and records their anxiety that we in this House, who plan their future when they return to civil life, shall know how they feel. Behind it all there is a fear that we do not fully understand their problems. The poem begins with an admission that when the soldier goes into battle, he knows that his task is to defeat the enemy, and asks no questions.Regarding his rehabilitation, however, he has fears, and Peter
Middleton expressed them in the following words: -
And the soldier, listening beside his weapons,
Feels in his blood a fear he has never known in the battle hour,
The fear that walks with disillusion,
The fear that whispers of betrayal,
That paints the vision of a lost ideal,
Fear that cries he is the victim of a jest,
That all he does and is can have no meaning,
Save glamour for the city breakfast table. “Save glamour for the city breakfast table ! “ Too many people in this community, and too many aggregations of people, are prepared to use the serviceman in such a way that they believe they are making a patriotic gesture, but if they were to analyse their activities they would realize that they get from them a bit of glamour for the breakfast table. The greatest realist in the world is the Australian soldier. He knows that when he returns from the war his rehabilitation will be a tremendous problem. He does not want to provide glamour for the breakfast table, the bright communiqué the rush to the cannon’s mouth. He knows what his job is, and having contracted to do it, he will accomplish it valiantly. But when he returns to civil life, he wants to be treated as an Australian and given his place in the community.
Some honorable members have expressed the opinion that this legislation is not constitutional. It is extraordinary that this issue has been raised, because the bill, for the first time in the history of preference, has declared that the onus of applying preference shall be placed on private industry. I suspect a little bias in the motives of members of the Opposition when they say of these clauses of the bill, “Well, you can get around this, or through it”. Are they suggesting that employers are desirous of getting around, or through, the provisions of this bill, the objective of which is to give to returned servicemen employment in satisfactory jobs ? If so, they are doing a great disservice to the people whom they purport to represent. I have not met or heard of an employer who is not prepared fully to implement the provisions of this bill, including the requirement that he shall, before engaging a person, make certain inquiries about any exservicemen who may apply for the position. The constitutional issue was raised in Sydney by a leading member of the Liberal party who, on examining the hill, saw aa opportunity to gain some political kudos and immediately rushed into print, declaring that this provision was unconstitutional and liable to be challenged. After having read the bill very thoroughly, I doubt whether a better balanced or better conceived measure to assist ex-servicemen has ever been drafted. Any opposition to the bill on constitutional grounds will be only a sham fight, and he would be a foolhardy man who would contest a measure which seek? to give jobs to the servicemen.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that this bill should be administered by one department. That may be a good idea. But when the right honorable gentleman raised this point, he might not have considered the complex nature of this legislation. Apart from State governments, which will, perform a tremendous amount of work in rehabilitating ex-servicemen, three Commonwealth departments are involved. Two plans have been formulated for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. One is a long-range plan that provides for the welfare of disabled ex-servicemen, for others, who through war injuries are obliged to seek hospitalization, and for all the other things which belonged to repatriation in the past and which have now been geared to meet 1945 condition’s rather than those of 1918. The shortrange plan is designed to provide employment for ex-servicemen, and the seven years, during which preference will operate, is a very significant period. Within that term, houses will be erected, and all the necessary planning will be completed and the soldier will take his place in the community without any very great difficulty. If this bill is to be a “ work-f or-all “ measure, as it must of necessity be, there oan be no reservoir of unemployment into which the unfortunate ex-servicemen can drop ; otherwise, the whole thing will be a futility. This planning must provide for the complete absorption in industry of all persons in Australia who desire employment. If it fails, we shall have a repetition of the spectacle of preference as it applied after the last war. Every year brought some returned soldiers nearer to the pavement playing a tin whistle, or closer to the “ pub “ door peddling matches. We all have seen these pitiable figures, who received preference “ from the cradle to the grave “.
I desire now to refer to the provisions for the re-employment of servicemen who are now 23 or 24 years of age. When I visited New Guinea last Christmas, I saw a considerable number of thom. They enlisted at the age of eighteen years, and may be aptly described as the “ dead-end kids of the Australian Imperial Force “. They left their messengers’ bicycles, their jobs &s juniors behind shop counters, and various minor and unskilled positions. Some of them have been in the Army for five years, and are still carrying on the fight. They are now adults, and some have married. They will not be able to return to their former civilian positions, but must be trained to take their rightful place in post-war Australia. Since some of them enlisted, they have been replaced in their former jobs twenty times. The “ dead-end kids of the Australian Imperial Force “, as I prefer to call them, have a problem which must be considered very seriously by the planning organization that will deal with the training of ex-servicemen. From my experience of meeting hundreds of soldiers in the north, the average fellow expects to return, not. -to his old job, but to a new and ‘better one. When his service is completed, he desires to bridge the gap of five years, which he has given in the service of his country. He wants opportunities for technical training to qualify for certain trades, and for educational facilities, even a university course. For those educational requirements, the bill makes very wise provision, and I think that this part of it is one of the most important subjects that this House# has discussed this session. It is well planned, inasmuch as it sets out the objectives to be desired, and it envisages the fact that these men who will return, will be the raw materials for new employment and that if they are not properly handled, they will become the ingredients for dis-employment which will plunge them into the vortex from which we all are striving to preserve them. Provision is also made for loans for ex-servicemen who desire to settle on the land or to start small industries. The bill provides that loans of up to £250, or £1,000 in the case of agricultural pursuits, shall be available to ex-service personnel; and, further, that the limit of £250 may be raised te £500 where a loan is for the purpose of enabling the eligible person to engage in or resume a prescribed occupation, business or practice. I fear that, these loans may provide a lake of finance in which financial sharks will swim, unless a close watch be kept by the Government to prevent the exploitation of exservicemen. There is always a collection of racketeering sharks ready to fasten on to returned soldiers who have a few pounds to invest in business, and if proper steps be not. taken to safeguard the interests of these men we shall find them endeavouring to establish themselves in overcapitalized commercial undertakings and eventually being forced to sell out, still owing their loans. Instead of being rehabilitated, they will be debilitated, not only because they have been the victim of a financial trick, but also because their readjustment to the Australian way of life and reabsorption into the community will have been delayed.
I consider that the limit of £250 proposed by this measure is too low. True, the Government will have discretionary power to increase that amount should the circumstances warrant such action, and I think that that should be done. The limit of £1,000 in respect of loans to those desiring to engage in agriculture seems satisfactory. In connexion with these loans also, I believe that there should be some policing of the purchases. About two years ago, the Legal Service Bureau of the Attorney-General’s Department was inaugurated to provide free legal assistance for ex-service men and women, and since that time it has done excellent work in ensuring that these people shall be fully conversant with their rights. Advice has been given also in cases where exservicemen have fallen into the clutches of “ robbers “ in the purchasing of small businesses. I consider that the activities of this bureau could be extended to include the policing of the expenditure of the loans to be made available under this bill. Then, if a borrower had the slightest idea that the price he was paying for a business was not reasonable, he could seek the assistance of the Legal Service Bureau. This will be a matter of great importance, because when the war ends, service personnel will receive not only their deferred pay, but also a war gratuity, and the average total will probably be between £200 and £300. One can readily imagine the holiday which this ready money would provide for financial tricksters, unscrupulous share salesmen, snide businessmen, and common commercial sharks unless action were taken to protect ex-servicemen from themselves, and to prevent their exexploitation.
Another feature of this measure which appeals to me very much is the provision of legal aid for servicemen, and in that connexion I shall refer again briefly to the work of the Legal Service Bureau of the Attorney-General’s Department. This bureau was brought into existence by the late Mr. Hugh Savage, who made an outstanding success of the job. I understand that. 20,000 service men and women have passed through the offices of the bureau each year since its establishment, proving the contention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that many service men and women were not fully aware of their rights under the law, or of their privileges. Any day, one can see at the Legal Service Bureau’s office in the Commonwealth Bank Building, Martinplace, Sydney, a number of servicemen waiting for an interview with officers of the bureau. These men will admit that they are not fully aware of their rights and privileges, and are seeking legal aid. I suggest that the service which is contemplated by this measure be extended to all parts of Australia. It should not be confined to the capital cities, but should include the larger towns, and, if possible, agencies should be established in the small outlying areas, because after the war the returned soldier problem will be widely diffused. It is essential in the interests of ex-service men and women that they should have a full knowledge of the privileges which are to be extended to them by this bill of rights, so that they may enjoy them to the full.
I was particularly impressed with the speech of the honorable member for
Wannon (Mr. MoLeod), who is a returned soldier of the 1914-18 war. Without any heroics or romance he gave us the dreadful story of how futile and impotent was the returned soldier preference which applied after the last war, and for which many people are clamouring to-day.
– And of which the press has failed to make any mention !
– That is so. Of course, the speech of the honorable member for Wannon, having been a good one, failed, as will the speech I am making now, to reach the headlines in the press. However, possessing all the constituents of honesty, it will prevail eventually.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that the preference legislation passed after the last war gave privileges to returned soldiers only, and that he was surprised to find in this measure special provision for civilians ‘who had been in prescribed battle zones. But how can we segregate the man who fired the shot from the man who made it, the man who fed the soldiers from the man who grew the food, the man who killed the enemy from the man who made the gun? Such distinctions are a total negation of total war. The bill is designed to provide a complete and thorough plan of rehabilitation. The Government has been successful in creating something inconceivable to honorable members opposite, who can visualize only legislation belonging to the horse-and-buggy days of the 1914-18 war. When this war ends, we shall be faced with a problem, of reestablishing 1,500,000 men and women in normal occupations. If one were to approach the first ex-serviceman whom one met in the street in Canberra to-day, and to ask him whether he would rather have the preference which was granted to returned soldiers after the last war, or the preference proposed by this measure, for seven years, with a high-pressure policy of reconstruction behind it, the unhesitating answer would be in favour of the latter. The preference scheme introduced after the last war was not a serious attempt to solve the problem and it received its final blow when the depression struck Australia. The ex-soldier was decanted from his job just as surely as the man who had no preference les. his employment. It is an empty gesture to tell nien who have fought for us thai we shall give them preference in employment unless we also say that we shall create, so far as possible, total employ-_ ment. u. realize that there cannot be total” employment, but if we can get down to per cent, of unemployment, for all practical purposes that can be regarded at total employment. If we say to ex-service men and women,/ “ There will be job abounding and1 we shall give you preference so that you may advance your career in consonance with your efforts “ we shall be doing a good job. If, on the other hand, we listen to the sophistry of the Opposition, we shall be giving to the ex-service men and women only a Kathleen Mavourneen promise of preference, “ It- may be for years and it ma? be for ever “, and, assuredly, it will no work. Their lives will be unplanned anr] their future unpredictable, because the? will be subject to the vagaries of commercial enterprise and the sequences of boom and “bust”.
The fairest thing we can do for the ox-serviceman is to ensure that there shall be jobs for all, and that within the compass of “ jobs for all “ the ex-serviceman shall have a preferred position. From start to finish this measure has that plan in mind. Preference in employment is only a small part of it. lt provides for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in industry, vocational training, and care of the disabled. It will provide unlimited opportunities. Preference in employment has been seized upon as if the Government, by means of this measure, were endeavouring to do somethine derogatory to the future of exservice men and women. Instead of that the Government has tried to present bini with a plan that says, “ Within this specific period we hope to rehabilitate you, and with your assistance and the courage and initiative of the Australian people in the days after the war, we hope to make an effective and successful job of it “.
– Standing as we do between a victory ‘accomplished and a victory yet to be won, with the wreckage of six horror- la den years of war plain to our gaze and the knowledge clear in our minds that we must still tread a bloody path to final victory, it would be very strange if we approached consideration of this measure in a spirit of political partisanship. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) struck the right note, and it has been sustained with varying degrees of success throughout the debate. Even when criticism has been strongest there has been very little questioning from either side of the House of the motive behind the bill, and I believe that the Government has made an honest attempt, within the limits of the light vouchsafed to it, and subject to the peculiar difficulties with which it is beset, to solve a problem of very great complexity - the problem of restoring hundreds of thousands of men and women to normal living conditions, which have been disturbed in a way hitherto unknown in our history. Although I believe that the bill represents an attempt to do justice to all who come within its scope, nevertheless I see very clearly on its face the marks of the political and social ideologies of the Government. That is inevitable. “We do not lightly set aside our basic convictions, and habits of thought frequently control us even against our will. In the political sense, these marks can be seen very clearly in the clauses relating to preference. In the social sense, they can be seen in the provisions relating to women, in which, I grieve to say, the bill is “sicklied o’er with the pale cast” of sex discrimination. It is reasonable to say that most people in Australia believe in some kind of preferential treatment for servicemen. However, they see grave difficulties in the way of providing it, and, because those who see the difficulties have been the most vociferous, we have, true to the modern tendency, allowed the difficulties to grow in our minds to a point at which some people regard them as being entirely insuperable. We are not an ungrateful people; we wish to give just recognition to those who have fought for us. What then are the difficulties which we face? I believe that they are not insuperable, as some people believe, and I do not agree that, since the last war, preference to exservicemen has been of no value whatever.
The system of preference has persisted in many places, where it is undisputed. Private employers all over Australia, even to this day, are prepared to give preference to returned soldiers whenever the opportunity offers. The principle has been established in the hearts of the people, and it is the nearest thing to a tradition that we have in Australia. In the minds of many people, our history began on Anzac Day, 1915, and I should not like that tradition to be discontinued. Not many injustices have been done under the preference system. What are the arguments against it ? Some say that, in a world where there will be work for all, there will he no need for preference. But if we should achieve a state in which there is work for all - and we all know the fallibility of human plans- would there be any choice in the matter of jobs, would preference be necessary in order to give effect to our desires ? Others say that, in a world where union preference prevails, the worker at least will be provided for. But does that argument hold ? If the old union principle prevails, that the last to come shall be the first to go, then the young soldier who was not a unionist before he went to the war must go. That will be an injustice to the young. If, in seven years’ time, it will be an injustice to my child that a returned soldier’ should be given preference over him, is it not also an injustice now for my other son to come back from the war and be given preference over a young lad leaving school? Injustice does not alter with time; the injustice would be as great to-day as seven years hence. The principle of preference is either right or wrong. The whole problem is very largely one of personal responsibility. I believe that preference to ex-servicemen will prevail within the unions because of the decent human feelings of unionists towards fellow members who have suffered what they have not suffered. I believe also that it will prevail outside the unions, even though it be not enforceable by law.
I do not regard the preference clauses of this measure as the most important. The rehabilitation provisions will be the most valuable in the future. I strongly support the idea of preference to exservicemen, but I support even more strongly the idea that we must rehabilitate our fighting men 30 that they will not he handicapped in any way. I want them to be made independent of the need for preference as nearly as it is possible to do so. Rehabilitation, will be of two kinds - personal and economic. The two are interlocked very closely. On the personal side, there is the problem of health and everything to do with the maintenance of health. Hitherto that aspect has been dealt with under the repatriation laws, and much dissatisfaction still exists with regard to the administration of those laws. Most of it, I believe, arises from anomalies in the legislation. I shall tell the House the story of an injustice that has been done. In July, 1941, a young man, who lives close to my home, enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was a fine, highspirited boy, just the kind of person whom one would expect to be of the greatest possible use in the Air Force. He did brilliantly in his training, but he was constantly engaging in pranks. After he had become a sergeant pilot, he encountered serious trouble as the result of performing all sorts of aerobatics over his home town, which was forbidden by regulation. For some months prior to this episode, the boy had carried out a series of actions of this kind, and this had been a constant source of wonder to his friends because, although he had been high-spirited, he had not been utterly irresponsible. He was court-mar tialled in October, 1942, stripped of his rank, and sentenced to ‘72 days detention in Bendigo Gaol. Anybody who knows anything about what happens at Bendigo Gaol will know that his treatment there was not kind, to say the least of it. It may be pertinent to remark that three weeks after his release the man in charge of Bendigo Gaol was cashiered for having indulged in practices prejudicial to the welfare of the Army. After being released from prison, this young man began to have severe attacks of vomiting. In February, 1943, he was posted to a Royal Australian Air Force hospital, from which he was discharged three months later without a definite diagnosis of his complaint having been made. Eighteen days later, he was discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force on the ground that he was physically unfit for further duties. That was in August, 1943. Since that time, I have done all that lay in my power to obtain redress of some kind for that boy. On the day after he had left the Royal Australian Air Force, he was found to be suffering from a tumor on the brain, which had remained undiscovered during treatment and observation for from three to five months in the Royal Australian Air Force, and an operation was performed on him. Honorable members who have medical qualifications will understand the implications when I say that, following the operation, the boy had to undergo deep therapy treatment, and it has been continued ever since. The boy is one of a family of ten, and his father is a casual labourer; therefore, the family has not the means to support him, with the result that he has become a charge on his brothers, and already £400 has been expended on him. I have tried over and over again to obtain some help for him. In this connexion, I am not criticizing the two Ministers who have dealt with his case. Each of them has been most sympathetic, and has done what he could. Finally, I urged an ex-gratia payment by the Treasury, but there were difficulties which prevented that from being made. * The boy has since appeared before the War Pensions Entitlement Board, and has been granted the right to receive a pension, hut so far this has not been assessed. Whatever the amount may be, the payment will be retrospective for only six months. He is in debt to an amount of £400. I contend that he was accepted as physically fit for service. The War Pensions Entitlement Board has admitted that he was. According to that body, his trouble developed after he was taken into the Royal Australian Air Force. I hold the view that when a man has been accepted as physically fit, particularly after the most rigorous examination to which applicants for enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force are submitted, any trouble that subsequently develops should be regarded as due to war service. It is entirely at variance with the sentiment of the Australian people that the Government should not be prepared to take a risk such as this in respect of one who has not counted the risk to which he might ‘he subjected. I urge on the Minister the necessity to make provision for such cases. I hope that means will be found, under this or some other measure, to recoup that boy the expense he has incurred. Even with a pension retrospective for six months, he will still be hopelessly in debt.
It appears to me that the hospital treatment under the repatriation scheme lacks one very important feature - a rehabilitation unit in connexion with each hospital. Every inmate of a repatriation hospital should be given training of some kind if he is physically capable of undertaking it, as most of them are, because it is. most difficult to attempt to cope with the world immediately on discharge from a hospital. I am particularly concerned a>bout those who are suffering from nervous disorders, because they are the least likely to gain sympathy among those who know nothing of their condition, and are less likely than others to have a fair diagnosis. Admittedly, this is one of the disorders in connexion with which it is easy for a man to be a malingerer. But believe me, it is terrible indeed to be a genuine sufferer from neurosis of the kind from which these mcn suffer. To have the dreadful fear of having committed a terrible crime, to run over a stone while driving a car and believethat you have killed a child, to know in your own mind that your fears are groundless, yet be powerless to still them, is to live in perfect torture. I speak of this subject with personal knowledge. These disorders are the most terrible of all. We should follow the example of Great Britain, by regarding enlistment alone as sufficient entitlement to treatment for a nervous disorder. It is not necessary that we should establish that the condition is due to war service. Enlistment alone imposes on some people so great a strain as to make them predisposed to this disorder. In any event, in view of the examination which has to be undergone as a preliminary requisite, enlistment alone should be regarded as sufficient entitlement to any treatment that may be necessary subsequent to a period of service in the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force. T should like to see right across the country a series of re- adjustment centres: not hospitals, but something in the nature of camps, in which may be given rehabilitation treatment and training of all kinds, the inmates of which would be near to centres of population. Those particularly who suffer from nervous disorders do not want .to bc in crowds, and frequently do not want to see even their own friends. While walking along a road, the sufferer may meet a person whom he likes and trusts, yet suddenly be seized with the fear of speaking to him or her. Therefore, these cases must be at all times so placed that they may have human contact when they need it, and avoid it when they wish to do so. Such centres are established right across Canada. They are essential in Australia, too, not merely in or near capital cities, but also wherever the population ia sufficient to warrant it.
The matters of which I have spoken are related to real mental or physical disturbance. There will be a vast number of other persons, probably a majority of the total, who will suffer from a psychological disturbance. This is universally admitted. The keynote, of the whole of our treatment must be patience. A little while ago, I had a conversation with an ex-serviceman of the last war, who apparently was perfectly well when he returned to Australia. He began a course of study in the engineering shop of the Mount Lyell Company. At the end of three months, he could continue it no longer, and left. The company sent for him, and asked him to return, retaining the service he had previously given. He made another attempt, but again grew tired of the work after two or three months, and left. The company repeated its former procedure, with the result that he returned once more, and on that occasion completed his course. He told me that his gratitude for the consideration shown to him has lasted ever since, and he hopes that a similar practice will be adopted, generally towards the servicemen of this war. In my view, one of the grave defects of the bill is to be found in that part of it which deals with training. There is to be a limit of twelve months in respect of applications, and the committees dealing with these matters will not have sufficient discretionary power. Already, the experience of th«> committee in Melbourne is that a young man taking up a university course may continue it for three months, doing very well indeed, and then be so restless for from six to nine months that even though he attends the lectures the whole of his time is practically wasted. There are other cases of a similar nature, and the discretionary power allowed should be sufficiently wide to cover all of them. It cannot truthfully he said that a single definite rule can be laid down to meet every case. I hope that the local committees will be extended in principle and in scope. What is done is not the only thing that matters, but how it is done will matter tremendously. It will not be enough to describe a man as, “ No. 700 Private Smith, wounded so and so “. To a member of a local committee that man must be, “ John Smith, son of old Jack, of Upper Burnie, who was wounded when fighting with my boy in Borneo “. That will make all the difference to the way that men will respond to the treatment offered to him. It will make all the difference to the way he will be reabsorbed into the community, and all the difference to the way in which the community will respond to his needs.
Reference has been made to the provisions for the lending of money to exservice personnel, to enable them to establish or re-establish themselves in civil life, whether on the land or in ‘business. I applaud that proposal warmly, and I agree that its scope could be extended. The more people we can establish independently, the better and more stable will be the community. A man represented to me the other day that he is anxious to take up the manufacture of a new kind of household furniture. Plans have been prepared, but he requires a certain period for experimentation. I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to give some consideration to men and women in those or similar circumstances, so that under supervision they may carry out experiments and receive the sustenance allowance which others receive while undergoing training.
I now come to a part of the bill which, as far as I am concerned, is very controversial, because it deals with the treatment to be accorded to women. Sub clause 1 of clause 74, which provides for a re-employment allowance, states -
Subject to th is Division, the rate of a reemployment allowance shall be -
in the case of a man - Two pounds ten shillings per week;
in the case of a woman who is, in the opinion of the prescribed authority, capable of wholly or substantially maintaining herself by her own efforts - Two pounds per week; and
in the case of a woman who is, in the opinion of the prescribed authority, capable of partially maintaining herself by her own efforts - such proportion of the amount specified in the last preceding paragraph as the prescribed authority determines.
At the committee stage I intend to move an amendment to delete paragraphs b and c. Why should a woman be given a living allowance of only £2 a week, when a man is to receive £2 10s. a week? In Great Britain, a three-years battle for equal compensation rates to women as compared with men, in respect of damage due to war operations, has just been concluded. I came across an interesting comment in this regard in a book entitled The Lesser Half by Vera Douie. Honorable members will readily recognize to whom the title refers. This is her view on what has happened recently in England, although equal compensation is now paid to both men and women -
That women should be condemned to a lower standard of life merely because they were women, was a matter which made women see red. The cost of living is the same for both sexes. It is not possible to go to the baker’s and say : “ I want a woman’s loaf, please “, and receive it at a reduced price. Women were naturally bitterly indignant at the suggestion that their arms and legs were worth less than those of men, but the indignation was not confined to women. The men wore solidly behind the women and felt the injustice as keenly as they did themselves.
I wish to know why £2 a week is considered sufficient for a woman to live on, when a man is allowed £2 10s. a week. There is no remission of taxes for women, and no reduction of fares, board and lodging rates, or anything else which contributes to the cost of living. There is no suggestion of a differentiation in pay. The clause merely refers to a living allowance, and I can see no reason for any difference in the rates.
I have been making an effort in the last few days to find out precisely what the allowances will be under the proposed training scheme, and I have been informed that they are at present under review. Therefore, I can refer only to the allowance provided in connexion with training schemes undertaken by universities and other authorities. A woman living at home and not maintained by herself is entitled under the full training scheme to an allowance of £2 a week. If she does not live in such a home, or has dependants, she gets £2 15s. a week. A widower or a single man receives £3 5s. a week. A man with an adult dependant receives £4 16s. a week, and a man with two or more dependants £5 5s. a week. Roughly, a man receives twice as much as a woman. A woman whose mother is dependent upon her is allowed to live less well than a man with a mother dependent on him, because a difference is made in the respective allowances. I shall listen with great interest to the Minister’s reply on this point. Is it really proposed, under this clause, to bribe women into matrimony, or to starve them into submission, so to speak? I cannot believe that in a civilized country such a condition of affairs could exist. I repeat that this discrimination against women is the result of a habit of thought which persists to-day, and which has remained with greater intensity in Turkey than elsewhere in the present-day world.
Under the scheme of training allowances for civilians, a woman is granted exactly the same amount as a man. She gets £143 a year; but if a returned servicewoman takes up a training course at a university and has dependent children, she can obtain only the same allowance, despite the fact that she has given service to the country and has children dependent on her. There is one further serious blot on the whole scheme. The widow of a soldier is entitled to some training under it. No deduction is to be made from the allowance given to a man by reason of any pension he may be receiving, but a widow’s allowance will be reduced by the amount of any war service pension she is getting. That is one of those indefensible acts of differentiation that leaves me gasping. How, why, when and where it came about I cannot imagine.
Finally, a word about the Land Army : The Leader of the Opposition suggested that this bill should deal only with returned service personnel, and for some unknown reason the Land Army has never been regarded as a part of the services. I have here a table prepared in Tasmania which shows the comparative emoluments and privileges received by Land Army workers and members of the Australian Women’s Army Service. Not only are members of the Land Army much worse off during the period of their service, but it is now proposed that they shall receive no benefits whatever under the present scheme, which does cover persons other than members of the fighting services. The table is as follows : -
I ask the Minister to look into the matter carefully, and see whether it is possible to ‘bring members of the Land Army under the provisions of the bill. Some provision for their rehabilitation should be made for these girls, who have given their time to an important work during the war. In some instances, they have suffered injury for which they have not received adequate compensation.
We talked glibly for a long time about a new order - unreal, impracticable, thoughtless talk. The war has not, been fought for a new order, but so that free men everywhere may remain free to shape the better order of their dreams. Now that victory is almost won and we are free, we can begin the .building. However, the dreamer’s dreams will not come true by the passing of mere acts of Parliament. The brave, new world must have its foundation in the thoughts :and actions and will of the people them selves. Acts of Parliament will play their part, of course, and the provisions of this bill, designed to rehabilitate those to whom the victory is due, will make a tremendous impact upon the post-war social order; but without the personal co-operation of adi sections of the community they cannot be fully effective. I hope for the establishment of voluntary organizations among employers and employees pledged to take a personal interest in the promotion of servicemen’s welfare. I look to the Government, in the administration of this measure, to see that there is no niggardly interpretation of its provisions as they affect those who knew the risks and took them, and did not count the cost.
..- This is a most important bill. Parliament could not concern, itself -with a more vital measure than that designed to effect the rehabilitation and resettlement of members of the fighting services. To fight for one’3 country is the noblest effort a person can make. In order to realize what we ought to do in the way of restoring servicemen to civil life, we should recall the circumstances as they existed during the darkest days of the war. When we were fearful of invasion, we had the very highest regard and admiration for members of the fighting services, and had nothing but praise for their efforts on our behalf. Now, however, that this total war is almost won, there seems to be a slackening of public appreciation of those who fought to preserve our homes and our freedom.
World leaders have made many promises to the men of the fighting services. Our own Prime Minister stated that we would be ever mindful of the great services of our sailors, soldiers, and airmen, and that we should be ready to reward them with the best when they returned. Since 1941, we have heard over and over again of the four freedoms which humanity is to enjoy when peace returns. One of them is freedom from want, and that freedom has not yet been attained. Around that promise political and social turmoil will rage for many years to come in Australia, and, indeed, all over the world. The Atlantic Charter promised the world improved labour standards, economic advancement, social security and freedom from want. Other things were promised also, but these are the matters which are relevant to this discussion. If we can establish conditions that will guarantee to the people of Australia social security, freedom from want, and a healthy peacetime life, we shall have gone a long way along the road that leads to the fulfillment of our promises to the members of the fighting services.
I regard this bill as a workmanlike and workable measure. It is an integral part of the Government’s policy for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen and exec ervicewomen. It sets up a splendid framework, which must be filled in by sympathetic administration. Officers of the departments concerned must learn to deal sympathetically and understand ingly with the servicemen mid servicewomen who come before them. The bill is divided into eleven parts, the chief of which deal with employment, vocational training, disabled persona, housing, re-establishment assistance, apprenticeship, servicemen’s settlement, and war service moratorium. This bill is the best legislative effort that we can make at this stage towards the reestablishment of the men and women of the fighting services, but we cannot make a new world by acts of Parliament. The future of the men and women who will return from the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and other war establishments, will be bright or dull according to the general prosperity of the Commonwealth. The aim of the Government should be, and I believe is, to provide full employment for every man or woman who is able to work. Opposition members sneer at such an objective, but we on this side claim that a country so well favoured by nature, and with a war record second to none, should ensure that in times of peace every person who requires work shall have a right to it. Commonwealth and State Governments, however, will not be able to employ all the people who will return to civil life when the war is over; the bulk of the employment will have to be provided by private enterprise. Many of those now with the fighting services will return to employment in private enterprise; others will engage in business on their own account or enter the professions; still others will engage in ‘ primary production and in other activities; but al] of them will be dependent for their success on the general prosperity of the country. Should business be bad. or markets poor, or if there be any considerable amount of unemployment, these people will suffer accordingly. If we can make Australia a better country for them to live in, if we can establish a better social order, or bring about conditions which will ensure full employment, those who have fought and worked to save Australia will have a better reward than could be provided in any other way. Already, some members of the Opposition have offered weak criticism of this bill, and I have no doubt that other speakers from the Opposition bencheswill continue to make destructive coin- ments. I do not expect to hear from them any constructive remarks. Their criticism will probably be directed mainly to the clauses relating to preference to men and women of the services. The Government had decided that that preference shall be limited to seven years. In my opinion, that is a wise provision, because if the matter ever came before the High Court, the court would be able to say that preference is a matter within the defence powers of the Commonwealth. The legal point that has been mentioned during this debate has been raised on previous occasions. It was referred to in a booklet entitled Post War Reconstruction - Temporary Alterations of the Constitution; Notes on the 14 Powers and the Three Safeguards, prepared by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and circulated to honorable members prior to the recent referendum. In it the AttorneyGeneral said - 1 entirely agree with the warning given to the Constitutional Convention by Sir Robert Garran, Sir George Knowles and Professor K. H. Bailey . . . i have given above my reasons for having doubts as to the scope of the defence power in time of peace, as applied to the protection and advancement of servicemen and servicewomen . . .
After referring to the conflicting views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the AttorneyGeneral in his booklet continued -
The very fact that such u conflict nf views can exist shows that the matter is at least doubtful.
In none nf its many dealings with preference to soldiers in time of peace has the Commonwealth Parliament ever relied on the defence power. The present preference provisions of the Repatriation Act are limited to employment hy the Commonwealth or by its instrumentalities. This provision brings up to date a series of provisions which date back to the amendment first made to the Public Service Act in 1915. It depends, not on the defence power at all, but on the Commonwealth’s power to regulate its own services. V mention also section 81 a of the Arbitration Act, which dates back as far as December. 1918. This section operates to place servicemen on the same footing as those to whom an)’ award gives reference. But that section is an exercise of the arbitration power, i.e., the industrial disputes power, and does not rely on the defence power at all. There fore - and this is important - although preference to returned) soldiers has long been a plank in the platform of the Opposition parties, I have been entirely unable to And in the records of the Parliament a single suggestion that the existing preference provisions could constitutionally be extended to all employment or for an indefinite period.
Whether or not a general preference should be given is obviously a matter of policy, to be determined in the light of the circumstances, but it would bc absurd to leave in doubt the Commonwealth Parliament’s power to give such a preference, if it desired to do so. Preference, moreover, is only one illustration of the uncertainty that exists about the defence power when the war is over.
Everybody agrees that the reinstatement and advancement of the servicemen and servicewomen should ha a national responsibility. The Government wants to see the matter put beyond doubt.
That statement was made by the Attorney-General long before this bill was introduced. Well, the Government cannot extend its powers. It has no other powers than those provided by the Constitution. The Government has gone to the very limits of its powers in the clauses relating to preference. Lately, what we propose to do in Australia has been compared with what is done in Great Britain and New Zealand, but this measure is equal to corresponding legislation in any other part of the world; we cannot compare Australia with Great Britain and New Zealand because, in those countries, all the powers are reposed in a central government, whereas the powers of the Commonwealth Government are limited by the Constitution with the result that, at times, it has to go, cap in hand, to the State governments in order to have things done. For instance, we are compelled to seek agreements with the States in order to settle soldiers on the land. That is true also of housing. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has done his work well. His task has been to plan practical steps in advance so that we shall be able to restore the men and women of the fighting services to civil life. It is not his duty to alter the Constitution or our way of life, or niter human conduct so that people shall be more considerate of the requirements of others. This bill clearly shows that the Government intends to honour its promises to the men and women of the services. Great need will exist for cooperation between the public servants who will administer this legislation and the members of the services with whom, they will be dealing. I should like to see more liberal allowances provided for in some parts of the bill. Provision should be made for the basic wage to be paid to every ex-service man and woman for three months after discharge so that they shall not need to rush straight into employment and perhaps find that the employment they have chosen is unsuitable. Our sailors, soldiers and airmen have fought to preserve intact this country’s capital, and those who possess the wealth have benefited most from their deeds. I, therefore, agree wholeheartedly with suggestions for an increase of the expenditure .proposed under this bill. We cannot do too much for those who kept this country free. When peace reigns those with higher incomes should be taxed, as in war-time, to provide the payment of the money that is due to the service men and women. I hope that incomes of up to £6 a week earned by those without dependants and £8 a week earned by those with dependants will be exempted from tax, and tb at the tax burden will be borne by those whose wealth has been preserved. The purchasers of war-service homes must receive after this war a better deal than was given to them after the last war. I know of many men who, after 25 years, have paid in rent and interest more than the value of their houses, but have not reduced the principal by one penny; That matter has been debated hotly in many places, notably in the Parliament of New South Wales. A new deal should be given to the old servicemen who find themselves in that plight. The rate of interest was far too heavy from the outset. I hope that the Government will investigate the position and take action to right what I regard as an injustice. The Government should anticipate the end of the war against Japan at a much earlier date than some people think and lose no time in having this measure passed and the administrative machinery set up. It should also advertise to the members of the services and the public generally the provisions of the bill, because it is important that the whole corn- munity should be thoroughly acquainted with all the provisions relating to their rehabilitation.
.- I regard this measure as of outstanding importance to the future success and happiness of the men and women in the services to whom we owe so much. Upon the efficient and sympathetic administration of this measure, suitably amended, as I hope it will be, will depend their re-establishment in civil life. This House must make its best endeavours to discharge to the full the nation’s obligation to our ex-service personnel who have served this country so well. This measure is not worthy of the men and women and their dependants who have suffered hardships and made sacrifices in the defence of Australia. It is unworthy of the thousands who have made the supreme sacrifice. To all who have served in the war the nation owes a debt which it can never adequately repay. I regret that the problem of their rehabilitation has not been the subject of legislation until to-day, five and a half years after the outbreak of war, and after 300,000 persons have been discharged from the fighting forces. The Government has not yet introduced any proposal with respect to the settlement of exservicemen on the land. I remind honorable members that from 1940 to 1944 only fifteen war service homes have been built by this Government, and fourteen of those were for ex-servicemen of the last war, leaving one house constructed for ex-service personnel in this war, that is, for over 300,000 persons who have already been discharged. Let us contrast the record of this Government with that of the Government of New Zealand. That dominion has already settled on the land 734 ex-servicemen of this war at a cost of £2,374,142. Under that Government’s scheme, an advance of £5,000 is made available to ex-servicemen who propose to engage in the dairying industry, and an advance of £6,500 to those who wish to settle on sheep properties. That is .the record of the ‘Government of New Zealand, whereas the Commonwealth Government has achieved nothing. It has not settled one ex-serviceman on the land, and it has not expended one penny in that direction. For that reason no exserviceman, and no person still serving in the forces, can have confidence in it. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) said that the war against Japan might end much sooner than most people anticipated. .1 sincerely hope that that will be the case; but should that happen, this Government will find itself in an awful muddle, because only now, five and a half years after the outbreak of war, is it making its first attempt to deal with the problem of the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. The measure is cited as a bill “ to provide for the re-establishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes.” However, it makes provision in respect of not only ex-service personnel but also civilians. I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider its approach to this matter and under this bill deal only with ex-service personnel, deleting all reference to civilians. Many civilians have done a wonderful job in supporting our fighting forces. We owe to them a great debt; but their claim to recognition should be dealt with in a separate measure. I again remind the Government of its delay in introducing its .proposals for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. When it was known that the Government was not doing anything in this matter the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, out of the wealth of its experience in handling the problems of returned soldiers over the last 30 years, drafted a bill and presented it to the Government as the basis of a rehabilitation programme. That bill was presented to the Government over two years ago. However, not one clause in this measure has been taken from that draft. The Government would be wise to realize its error in endeavouring to deal with the rehabilitation of both exservicemen and civilians in the one bill. Had it given proper attention to the draft submitted to it by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia it would not have made this mistake. As the Government needs all the help it can obtain in this matter, it is most unfortunate that it has entirely ignored the valuable and practical suggestions contained in the draft measure presented to it by an organization which has been dealing with returned soldier problems for so long. I re-state the considered opinion of the Opposition on this matter, as expressed by our leader in this chamber in his second-reading speech -
Effective re-establish ment in civil life of members of the services is something which will require more than a good set of rules. It will require something far more than a good act of Parliament. It will, in my opinion, require, above all things, sympathetic, intelligent personal handling of the cases covered by this measure. In the long run, the test of rehabilitation measures directed to exservicemen will be how they have succeeded in treating individual cases. At the very outset we all ought to make up our minds that nothing but disaster would follow an attempt to formulate a set of hard-and-fast rules which w-ould apply, any one of them, to thousands of cases. If there are 100,000 people or 200,000 or 300,000 people to be re-established, the first thing to be remembered is that there will be 100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000 individual human beings to be considered, each one quite different from the others, and each one, therefore, requiring very close personal contact with the administration.
That is our approach to this problem. This measure, however, will only lead to confusion. Under it seven different departments or authorities will be charged with the handling of the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. The ex-serviceman himself will be most resentful when he finds that he is obliged to run from one department to another in order to have his claims attended to. The departments to which I refer are the Repatriation Commission, which deals with pensions, medical benefits and hospital treatment; the Department of Labour and National Service, which deals with employment; the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which handles vocational training; the Department of Social Services, which deals with unemployment allowances ; the War Service Homes Department, which constructs houses for ex-servicemen; and the Lands Departments of the various States, which deal with certain aspects of soldier settlement. In such circumstances, muddling cannot be avoided. We can handle this problem successfully through one department only. The Government should establish a services rehabilitation department under one Minister for that purpose, and that department should deal only with ex-service personnel. It should be able to handle all applications in respect of rehabilitation, and its services should always remain available to the ex-serviceman for his guidance. It should receive his first application and continue to care for him until he is fully repatriated. Unless the task of rehabilitation is handled in that way chaos will result, and both the ex-serviceman and the nation as a whole will be the losers. We have had many excellent examples during the war of the wonderful work done by voluntary organizations, which have striven to assist the servicemen not only in every theatre of war but also in Australia. They include the Red Cross, the Australian Comforts Fund, many unit organizations which interest themselves in the welfare of particular battalions, batteries, or brigades, and local patriotic committees and w agricultural committees. After five and a half years’ untiring effort, they are still carrying on. But this effort should be supplemented by the appointment of “ follow-up “ committees to help local ex-servicemen after they have made all the necessary applications to government departments for vocational guidance and the like, and commenced to rehabilitate themselves. The personnel, which should give their services voluntarily, should be drawn from the various bodies which I have mentioned, including returned soldiers’ organizations. The Repatriation Commission should appoint a returned soldier thoroughly versed in the Rehabilitation Act and regulations and provide office accommodation. Staffs in capital cities cannot handle the problems of individual exservicemen throughout Australia. In every town and village, a “ follow-up “ committee should be established to help the returned soldier to overcome the disorganization that he will suffer on his return to civil life, cooperate with local industry to find worthy employment for him, and even endeavour to solve his housing problems. By those means, the operation of this bill will be substantially improved. I hope that the Government will adopt those suggestions.
Clause 27 deals with the preference that shall be granted to men and women who have served in the fighting forces. At the outset, I emphasized that all the qualifications and limitations on preference which are imposed in this and in subsequent clauses reduce preference to a hollow mockery. But that is not unexpected, because the Labour party has always been opposed to preference for returned soldiers. After having opposed it violently in 1917, the Labour party has consistently objected to the principle ever since. Just as consistently, members of the Opposition parties have fought solidly for it.- Believing that preference is proper and should be granted, we have never weakened in our efforts to do everything possible to implement the principle. To illustrate the hostility of the Labour party to it, I shall cite some of the observations by leaders of the trade union movement. I could give 20 or 30 examples, but time prevents me from doing so. On the 30th March last, the Victorian Labour conference carried the following resolution : -
Conference endorses the policy of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and condemns attempts made by vested interests to divide the nation with political shams, such as preference to returned soldiers.
The Standing Orders prevent me from expressing my true feelings about that statement. The Australian Workers Union, at its annual conference in Adelaide, carried a violent resolution op- posed to any form of preference to ex-servicemen. Speaking in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s “ Forum of the Air “ on the 21st February last, Mi-. P. J. Clarey, M.L.C., who is one of the leading officials of the Australian Labour party, said -
In my opinion, preference is merely a dope that at the present moment is being handed out to our service personnel in order to endeavour to convince them that the people in the political sphere are doing something for them.
Objection after objection, cast in the most violent terms, has .been expressed by various trade unions and branches of the Australian Labour party. Even the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), when apologizing to the Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne on the 31st March last on behalf of the Government for its decision to introduce the bill, betrayed the attitude of Cabinet to the measure. He admitted that the granting of limited preference had been forced upon the Government in order to secure the continuance of the support of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). At that time, the Government had no majority in this House, and relied on the Independent member for Henty (Mr. Coles) for its continuance in office. According to the Age of the 31st March, the Minister said -
The Federal Government’s bill made provision for both returned soldiers and civilians who had served in combat areas. ft may be that in the selection of a man for a job a civilian who had served for a long period in forward areas would secure a job in preference to a returned soldier who had served for a shorter period in New Guinea.
The report continued -
Air. Dedman said the history of the preference bill began in 1943, when the Labour Government, without a majority and relying on the support of Mr. Coles (Independent. Victoria) for its continuance in office in the House of Representatives, was amending the Repatriation Act in the Federal Parliament. “ During the debate on that bill, the Opposition moved an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers, and Mr. Coles told the Government that unless it accepted that amendment or gave some undertaking to grant preference in a later bill, he could no longer support the Government “, Mr. Dedman said, “ If the Prime Minister had not made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the la-st election.”
The . Minister has never denied the accuracy of that report. He did not advocate preference for ex-servicemen, but apologized for its inclusion in this billThe Government regards the principle as being of so little consequence that it will give preference to some members of the Allied Worts Council and the Civil Constructional Corps over some soldiers who have served in New Guinea. Indeed, this bill contains more about civilians than about ex-servicemen, although it is entitled, “ A bill for an act to provide for the re-establishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment and for other purposes.” Before the ‘Government introduced this legislation, it was compelled to obtain authority from its union bosses to do so. No. valid case can be made out against the principle of preference for exservicemen. Some time ago, a special committee consisting of three returned soldiers who support the Government, and three returned soldiers who oppose it, examined and reported to the Parliament on the Austraiian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The committee presented its report to Parliament on the 28th January, 1943. Paragraph 51 of tha t report, which was agreed to unanimously, states that preference in employment must he given members o: the forces. Hp to date, the Government has ‘ refused to implement that recommendation, and it has introduced this measure only because of the pressure thai has been brought to bear by an exserviceman, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), on whose support, I repeat, it was dependent to remain in office. In paragraph 22 of its report, the committee indicated how impressed it was by the evidence of Lieutenant-Colonel R. B. Madgwick, Director of Education and Vocational Training in the Department of the Army. Lieutenant-Colonel Madgwick said -
We have taken men out of their normal civil employments and have changed them fundamentally. We have removed the motive that would actuate them in their civil life. We have taken from them all striving to gain a livelihood. Shortly, we have changed them; they are different social beings. In the course of that process of change, we have put them into an environment in which they cannot get a full appreciation of the changes that art occurring in the economic and social structure. . . . They have new interests which occupy the greater part of their time and do not know what is taking place in the environment in which they formerly lived. At the same time, that environment itself is changing very rapidly. Australia, is now going in for secondary industry. We are producing process workers, or men and women with a degree of skill rather ‘ greater than that of a process worker, in our munitions training schemes, dilutee schemes, &c. Those men who are skilled tradesmen or process workers have two major advantages over the men in the Army. In the first place, they are maintaining and increasing their skill; and, in the second place, they are working in a changing economy, and are understanding the changes by reason of their participation in them. The man in the Army is losing his skill and is not being given the training that is being given to the ordinary civilian population. Therefore, when he returns to civil life he will have lost a good deal of the skill that he formerly possessed and will certainly not have been trained for all of those new trades that developed during the war. That seems to me to be the great argument in favour of a full-dress vocational training scheme after the war, in which the eligibility for training as far as Army personnel are concerned will need to be extremely wide, otherwise they will be penalized in two ways - by having been removed from their environment, causing change to themselves, and because those not in the Army will have had all the advantages of training that they needed in order to ensure an effective war effort.
From that statement it is clear that preference in employment to ex-service personnel is of vital importance. It shows how servicemen are handicapped, how they have been greatly changed because of their environment and activities in defending their country, and how they have lost skill while others have gained it. I am at a loss to know how any one can oppose preference in view of what all these men have suffered for their country. Preference should he based on national gratitude for services freely given, for loss sustained, and for suffering endured.. It should be based also on justice so that these men will have an opportunity to gain or regain skill and improved technique which will enable them to carry on in a changed world. It is only a matter of fair play, and of giving an even break or a square deal, and that is something on which all Australians pride themselves. There can never be a new Australia playing its part in a brave new world unless we grant preference in employment and. adequate vocational training to members of our splendid fighting forces.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) raised the question of the constitutionality of the powers contained in clause 27 of the bill which provides for the granting of preference to returned soldiers in private industry. If the Government has not the power to grant preference in private employment, it has only itself to blame. But for the cunning, arrogance and stupidity of the Government during the recent referendum campaign in insisting that the seventeen points be submitted to the people as one question, the first proposal, which provided for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen and women, would have met with the approval of the people of this country. The Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill 1944 provided - (1.) The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the
Commonwealth with respect to -
That was a proposal, inter aiia, to grant preference to returned soldiers. During the debate on that measure, the Opposition indicated in speech .after speech that it was enthusiastically in favour of that proposition ; but we asked that it be submitted to the people separately. Had our request been granted, that portion of the referendum at least would have been carried by a majority even greater than that by which the combined proposals were defeated. The Government, by its unpardonable attitude, by its political subterfuge in insisting on the seventeen points being submitted to the people as one question, made it clear it was more interested in obtaining power to continue the regimentation of the citizens of this country and the operation of prohibitions, restrictions, &c, than in safeguarding the future of ex-servicemen. The Government was more anxious to socialize industry in Australia than to indicate beyond all doubt that it favored preference to returned soldiers. Had the Government accepted the advice of the Opposition and placed this matter before the people of Australia as a separate question, it would have been approved and there would not now be any doubt about the constitutionality of these proposals. However, the Government did not heed our warning and continued in its endeavour to obtain some political advantage by placing the seventeen points before the people as one question. The fact that under this measure preference is to be limited to seven years is a further indication of the lack of interest of honorable members opposite in the welfare of ex-service personnel. What good will be preference to a limbless soldier, or a soldier suffering from troubles of the head, heart, lung, or kidney, or from tuberculosis or neurosis, if it should be discontinued after seven years ? Men who were physically wrecked in the last war still need our help. Many soldiers serving in this war will break down more than seven years after their return to civil life, as many men did after the last war. The physical effects of war service often do not manifest themselves until a man is well advanced in life. This is a cowardly proposal, and it is being forced on this Parliament because the Government is unable to throw off the domination of the Australian Labour party and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. It is time that the Government of this democratic country was allowed, to make decisions for itself instead of being dictated to by union bosses outside Parliament. I make the most emphatic protest against this proposed method of dealing with exservicemen. A statutory time limit should not be applied to the granting ofl preference to our fighting men upon their return to civil life. There is no statutory limit to preference for unionists. Preference to soldiers should be based on national gratitude.
I refer now to clauses 22 and 23 of the bill, which propose to repeal the employment preference provisions contained in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1943, the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1923, the Defence Act, the Air Force Act, and the Naval Defence Act. So long as there remains any doubt as to the constitutionality of the measure now before the House, I protest against the repealing of these sections thereby denying to exservicemen the right to preference in employment which they at present enjoy unchallenged. It is the duty of, every member of this Parliament who has freedom to vote and speak as he wishes to join with me in making this protest. An appeal should be made to the people at the next elections, if not earlier, while the feeling of goodwill towards our fighting men is still at a high level, for power to be granted to this Parliament by referendum to undo the damage which the Government did during the last referendum campaign.
I refer now to the proposal to limit the advantages of vocational training provided for in the bill to men who enlisted in the forces at the age of twenty years or younger. We have been supplied! with very few details of the Government’s rehabilitation proposals. T have spoken with the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), but I have been unable to obtain any information beyond the fact that he. intends to limit vocational training for exservicemen to men within the age limits that I have mentioned. Lieutenant-Colonel Madgwick, who is an expert on problems of vocational training and rehabilitation, made the following statement to the Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation. -
My attitude towards eligibility for training after the war is that all men in the Army, of whatever category they may be, both for their own sake and for the sake of Australia’s economy, must be given a degree of skill and training at least equal to that given during the war to the civilians; otherwise, no preference or anything else will he of the slightest value, because these men will be unskilled and untrained and will not be able to take their places in the post-war economy. They will be competing with men and women who are skilled. Even if they are trained to at least the point reached by the civilian during the war they will still be at a big disadvantage. lt is vital not only to servicemen, but also to the nation that we should develop the greatest possible degree of efficiency in our industries in the post-war years, and it will be a dastardly shame if men who enlisted after ‘they had reached the age of twenty years should be debarred from equipping themselves to take their place in modern industry, in which many advances and new methods have been introduced since the war began. The evidence given to the Repatriation Committee was unanimous that every soldier who- desired to improve his position in life should be given an opportunity to do so. After the war, Australia will have to compete in the markets of the world. How can it do so with any hope of Sue cess if its best men were unable to train themselves to work in industry because^ during the most impressionable years of their lives, they were fighting for their country? In a changing world they forfeited the chance to acquire the new skills that are to-day required in industry. The country will need the services of as many trained artisans as possible after the war. We can never repay our debts to our fighting men, and the least that we can do is to provide them with a chance to take their place in civil life on an equal footing with those who did not, or were unable to, serve in the fighting forces. A remarkable degree of secrecy has been preserved regarding the Government’s vocational training plans. I have made inquiries, but the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has not answered them, probably because he cannot do so. In all probability, conferences are in progress and the Government’s plans are still in course of preparation. Every honorable member should be given full details of the Government’s programme for the vocational training and rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. We should know to whom the courses of instruction will be available and what payments will be made te men training at universities or technical colleges.
– The honorable mem belli as been given that information.
– No, I have not. I ask the Minister to give me any information of that sort, if he can do so during the dinner hour to-night. It is impossible for honorable members to examine these proposals effectively unless they are supplied with the details which I have mentioned. Every member and senator should receive a complete copy. I do not know why there should be any secrecy. Perhaps this information is being kept secret because the Government has not yet made any final decisions. There are no clauses in the bill, and there were no references in the Minister’s second-reading speech, to indicate that the vocational training benefits will apply only to men who enlisted at the age of twenty years or younger. Nevertheless, the Minister has assured me that that is the Government’s intention. Can the honorable gentleman produce any reference in the bill, any ministerial pronouncement, or any regulation where that stipulation is made? He cannot do so. I have never known any other bill to be submitted to Parliament in such an incomplete form as this measure. When it is being dealt with in committee, many substantial amendments will be moved, and I ask the Government to agree to accept them. On this measure every honorable member should cooperate in order to produce a statute worthy of the men who fought for and saved us.
.- This debate opened with a sincere and frank approach to many of the difficulties which confronted the Government in the preparation of the bill, but unfortunately, some subsequent speakers were not animated by equal frankness, honesty of purpose and sincerity. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) spent most of his time in criticizing the Government on the ground that it had failed to discharge its obligations in the five and a half years during which the war has been waged. I remind him and other honorable members of the Opposition that for one and a half years of that period honorable members opposite were in control of the treasury bench, yet failed to make any approach whatever to the problem which has been tackled by the present administration. Had they, while occupying the treasury bench for the twenty years between the two wars, made provision for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen of the last war, there would have been no need for the introduction of this measure. There is no sincerity in those who, in this House, condemn the Government and charge it with a lack of interest in members of the fighting forces. There is little doubt that the paramount consideration in the minds of the lads who have served and are serving in those forces is their future when hostilities have ceased. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) stated that towards the end of the last war, when he was in France, the members of the forces were becoming seriously minded as to what was to become of them when the conflict terminated and they were demobilized. As a member of the Army in this war, I found that to be the thought which was uppermost in the minds of all with whom I came in contact. They were wondering whether they were to he treated as their fathers had been after the 1914-18 war. It is significant, that, before the British troops embarked on that splendid and successful expedition which landed them in Normandy, their final message to Mr. Bevin, who had gone down to address them, was : “ Watch for us after this war “. The thought uppermost in the minds of the members of the fighting forces in this war is that their fathers were neglected .after they had served their country in the 1914-18 war, despite all the promises that had been made to them. The Government is awake to its responsibilities, and is determined that there shall be more than lip service to those who have done so much to keep this country free from an invader. The bill is a tribute to its sincerity and earnestness. It makes provision for all those matters which the honorable member for Moreton claimed had been overlooked. There is provision for preference in employment, for land settlement, for housing, for legal aid and for assistance in many other ways. Every consideration is being given to the members of the fighting forces. The most significant requirement, in the view of all rightthinking members of the community today, is not preference to ex-servicemen. I do not believe that those men w.ant preference over others.
Mi-. Abbott. - The ex-servicemen’s organizations consider that they do. Why does the honorable member disagree with them ?
– Those bodies are satisfied that there will be economic security for the ex-servicemen when they return to civil life. I am a member of a league of ex-servicemen, and know that those men do not want others to be forced out of employment in order that they may take their places. I quote from the Border Chronicle of the 13th April a letter by a lad who expresses what is in the mind of every serviceman -
What every serviceman wants is his own home, freedom from financial worries, and the necessary training to give him a chance to compete successfully with the skilled civilian worker. That is the way to repay the e.vserviceman for the sacrifices made during his service. Good homes are essential, but they must be rented at no more than pre-war cottage rentals to those ex-servicemen requiring them. The training available should be for five days a week free of charge, and all books and instruments supplied free should be handed back on completion of the course. This training, like the administration of preference, would cost money, but only a fraction of the daily cost of war, and it is just as important to win the fight to secure a prosperous position as it is to win military victory. That is what we are supposed to be fighting for. (Sgd.) SX212I9.
The statements in that letter fortify my belief that preference in employment is not the all-important factor in the re-establishment of ex-servicemen. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) admit that she recognized that preference is not all that these men seek. We have been told that .preference was granted to ex-servicemen after the last war. I understand that in the galleries of this House this evening, and on other occasions during the debate, there have been officials of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Some of them I have seen; they are comparatively old men to-day. They have heard Opposition members ask what the Government is doing for the servicemen. I ask what they did during the many years when they administered the affairs of this country. What preference did Jensen, V.C., receive from the government of the day? Only a licence to collect bottles. In 1931, ex-servicemen who were unemployed and existing on the dole were photographed exploring garbage bins in the Melbourne markets, in an effort to sustain life. Exservicemen’s organizations know that that is true. Thousands of unemployed marched in the capital cities, led invariably by ex-servicemen who were living on the dole. Some of them were even evicted from their homes. I object to Opposition members condemning the Government and proclaiming that it is doing nothing for ex-servicemen. It was the first administration to do anything for the fighting forces, when it provided modern equipment to make them more secure in the battle areas, increased their pay, and raised the allowances of their dependants. All along the line, it has proved the sincerity of its desire that every provision possible shall bc made when hostilities cease. The right honorable member for Worth Sydney (Mr. Hughes) asked what was to become of the partially disabled soldier, who, at the end of seven years, would have to make way for a person more physically fit. The honorable member for Wannon supplied the answer to that question. It will be the responsibility of the nation to make provision for a soldier who became disabled on its behalf, when he can no longer work, and this provision should continue for the remainder of his lifetime. All along the line, the Government has made it clear to the people of Australia that its policy is employment for all. I believe that all ex-servicemen will have been rehabilitated at the end of seven years, and that there will be employment for every one; consequently, it will not be necessary to continue preference. I have no hesitation in saying that if the present Government is then on the treasury bench it will continue preference if that should be necessary. If the Opposition should happen to be in power then, it could do the same, if it so desired, but I hope that it would be more considerate to the members of the fighting forces, who gave up everything that we might live, than was the anti-Labour government in its dealings with ex-servicemen after the last war. Preference at that time was only a delusion and a snare. Honorable members opposite criticize the present Government, but its performance compares favorably, from every point of view, with that of the Opposition.
– The honorable member would not have been a member of this Parliament except for preference.
– I think that I shall occupy a seat in this chamber when. the honorable member is no longer a member of this Parliament.
Reference has been made to the land settlement schemes provided for exservicemen after the last war. They were soldier settlement schemes with a vengeance, for they thoroughly settled most of the soldiers who availed themselves of them. In South Australia, men were put on the land in the Ceduna, Penong and Fowler’s Bay districts where rabbits could not exist, and they eventually left their holdings, broken physically and mentally. While they were practically starving on that country, valuable properties in Australia, were held out of production .by wealthy landowners. On this occasion the Government intends to make provision for ex-servicemen to go on the land, but they will be placed on holdings which will produce sufficient to provide them with a fair living.
Provision has to be made for civilians as well as members of the fighting services, because the present war is in some respects entirely different from that of 1914 to 1918. I have seen men in civil avocations exposed to risks similar to those faced by members of the fighting services. I have seen civilians working at Port Moresby on the wharfs, and although they were not wharf labourers they had been called up for that service. On two occasions the vessels which they were loading were bombed. Two ships were sunk, and fifteen civilians in one instance and ten in another were killed. Not one member of the ex-servicemen’s league, of which I am a member, would raise a finger against consideration being shown to those civilians who have put their bodies between us and the enemy.
I agree that when this measure becomes operative there must be decentralization of administration. It would be wrong for dissatisfied ex-servicemen to have to communicate in writing with a central administration hundreds of miles away. There should be a local organization which the men could approach for prompt settlement of their differences. Those in control of the administration should ‘ mete out sympathetic treatment to the men, and the Government intends that that shall be done. The Government has approached the problems of ex-servicemen with a sincerity that is appreciated by most people. It realizes the deep debt of gratitude which the nation owes to those brave men and women who, in the country’s hour of need, were prepared to suffer, fight, and, if need be, die that we might live. This Government will honour its obligations.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has served his political apprenticeship faithfully and well in the Botanical Park in Adelaide. We have heard a characteristic speech, similar to those delivered on the Yarra Bank and in the Sydney Domain every Sunday. The proximity of the Adelaide Zoological Gardens to the Botanical Park has apparently given added volume to his voice. The honorable member said that if members of the Opposition had given ex-servicemen the preference which they should have received after the last war, the present hill would have been unnecessary. The best answer to that statement is to say that representatives of the ex-servicemen’s organizations have visited Canberra and have placed before the Government the amendments which they desire to be made in the bill. They have also said that the existing preference provision should not be repealed, as proposed by the Government, because it gives a greater measure of preference than is proposed in the bill. That in itself provides an answer to the criticism offered by honorable members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), with his characteristic journalistic flair, said : “ This is what we should term the soldier’s bill of rights “. I contend that, if it is a bill of rights, it is full of wrongs, from the point of view of the exserviceman. According to the title of the bill, its object is “ to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes “. I find no mention of preference, and no preference worth two straws is provided for in the bill.
The Government has not included in the measure the main plank upon which the arguments advanced by supporters of the Government rest. The title of the bill certainly includes the phrase “for other purposes “, and I shall show what those purposes are. This is not a preference bill or a bill for rehabilitation. It is- an employment bill in every sense of the word, with many of the objectionable features of man-power control and regimentation perpetuated.
– That is not true.
– I shall show that what I have said is quite correct. To call the measure a rehabilitation bill is to give it a misnomer and to inflict the greatest swindle imaginable upon the members of the fighting services, who as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said in caucus, have interposed their bodies between us and the enemy. The slogan which the Government has adopted in all that it has attempted to do for them seems to be “ Only the worst is good enough “. For instance, the Australian discharged ser viceman is allowed only £9 for the purchase of a complete outfit of civilian clothes, whereas the corresponding allowance in Canada is £27, in New Zealand £25 and in the United States of America £92.
What has been the attitude of the Labour party to this vaunted preference about which we have heard so much? The honorable member for Adelaide should be sure of his facts before he speaks with great assurance. I remind him that it was the Nationalist Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) which, after the last war, introduced preference in the Commonwealth Public Service to ex-servicemen, and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was the leader of the government which took it away. On the 30th April, 1930, in reply to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), he said -
In view of the distress through widespread unemployment, the question of distribution of labour has given the Government serious concern.
When honorable members opposite prate of ex-servicemen having been deprived of preference and forced to carry their swags, let them remember the words of the Labour Prime Minister who, during the last depression period, deprived them of preference. He went on to say -
The final instructions issued to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department arc as follows : -
In carrying out the work under this contract, preference shall be given - other tilings being equal, firstly, to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service, who are members of trade unions, and, secondly, to members of trade unions.
It was there proposed to take away from returned soldiers preference of employment unless they were members of a trade union. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Latham, threatened to move a motion of censure against the Government which “by reason of its departure from the policy of preference to returned soldiers had merited the censure of the House “. In the face of that; threat, Mr. Scullin withdrew his proposal, and the policy of preference in the Commonwealth Public Service remained unaltered. That, however, was due to action taken from this side of the House. Let us stick to the facts, and not be deceived by windy statements of the kind one hears in the Sydney Domain or on the Yarra Bank. In 1943, I moved an amendment to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), speaking against the amendment on the : 18th March, said -
Cabinethas advanced this matter to the stage of preparing abill for submission to Parliament - Legislation would give to Parliament far more enforceable authority than a regulation could ever give.
In the intervening period we have had cajoling, bickering, urging and somersaulting by trade unions and by caucus on the subject of preference. The Prime Minister prated about what we owed to these men who had interposed their bodies between us and the enemy, and out of all this talk there has come a measure of qualified preference for a period of seven years. We come now to what the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said on this subject. He, at any rate, has been pretty consistent. This is what he said as reported in Volume 114, page 488, of Hansard -
I do not hesitate to say thatI am opposed to any form of preference other than that for unionists.
This is in accordance with the proposal submitted by the right honorable member for Yarra when he was Prime Minister. Some one once said, “ Oh, that mine enemy would write a book”. Well, I have here a little book authorized by J. S. Garden, called Rehabilitation for Ex-servicemen, in which is printed a speechby the Minister for Transport, delivered before an Eastern Suburbs audience. I quote the following extract : -
A policy of full employment is the only sensible policy for any Australian Government to follow … 1 am quite sure that there is no returned man who believed that, when he was fighting for his right as an Australian citizen to live his own life in his own way - the right to existence - that right was to be at the expense of his fellow Australians who were compelled to remain at work in the factory, the workshop, the field and the mine, so that he could he supplied with the munitions of war.
He does not say that the soldier went to fight so that the worker might, in conditions of comparative peace, stay ‘behind at his job, but that the man who stayed behind had to work in order to supply the soldier with munitions. Apparently, it was the man who stayed behind who was deserving of all consideration. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) said that the aim of the Government was to provide full employment. As a matter of fact, the purpose of this bill is not to provide preference for ex-servicemen, but to provide full employment, with preference to unionists, and that is the basis of my objection to it. According to the Australasian Council of Trade’ Unions, preference is merely a political sham. In January, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions decided that there should be a conference between itself and the Government before any decision on preference was reached. Mr. Clarey, the president, made the following statement for publication in the press -
The policy formulated by the interstate executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions last March (1944) still stands. That policy is against any post-war employment privilege or preference for war-time service being given to any section of the community on the grounds that the all-embracing nature of the war requires the contribution of the whole comniunity to bring about an all-in war effort.
Thus, the same attitude is adopted by all the representatives of Labour, including the right honorable member for Yarra, and the present Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, the caucus, and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. On the5th February the Federal Convention of the Australian Workers Union, in Adelaide, voted against preference to servicemen, and later voted in favour of preference to financial members of trade unions, and urged the Government to implement this policy immediately. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) should be careful what attitude he takes on this matter, because he is under the direction of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party to vote against preference. Perhaps that is why he stayed away from the recent conference in Sydney. This thing is loaded, and honorable members know that they must be careful. A little while ago, I asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) the following questions: -
The reply contained some illuminating figures. It appears that out of 16S senior officers in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which is the department that will administer this legislation, only 47 served in this wai- or the last war. That Ls about one in four, in a department which, as we have been told, is going to take a personal interest in, the returned soldier, to understand his problems and do everything to help bini. As a matter of fact, the Labour party, from members of the rank and file to the political chiefs, are all opposed to preference to exservicemen, in spite of which an honorable member opposite prates about this being the soldiers’ Bill of Rights. Such talk is nauseating.
Clause 27 of the bill, which is the preference clause, states - 27. (1.) An employer shall, in the engagement of any person for employment, engage, in preference to any other person, a person entitled to preference, miles* he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so.
I ask honorable members to note the words, “ unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so “. Does any honorable member believe that an employer who does not. wish to give preference will lack an excuse for not doing so when that loophole is provided for him? Sub-clause 3 of clause 27 provides as follows : -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference the employer concerned shall consider -
the length, locality and nature of the service of that person; . . . “Where is the employer to get such information? It will not be found on the soldier’s discharge. Paragraph b of subclause 3 provides that the employer shall also consider -
The comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in eni ploy ment in the position concerned;
Thus, we are to have soldier competing against soldier, the one matching against the other the nature and length of his service, and the locality in which he served. “We then, come to a delightful blanket provision designed to give the prospective employer a certain means of escape should none of the others serve his purpose. Tt i.= provided that he shall, when determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging a person entitled to preference, consider “any other relevant matters”. As a matter of fact, clause 2’7 is taken, holus bolus, from the Queensland act, where the law of the State provides for preference to unionists. Paragraph d provides that “ the procedure, if any, provided by law, for engaging persons for employment in the position “ shall be followed, and we know that the law in Queensland provides for preference to unionists. It is obvious that claude 27 is, so far as the returned soldiers are concerned, not worth the paper it is printed on. !No one wishes to quarrel with the slogan “ work for all “. but I do not. think that these men who have served their country for 6s. 6d. a Hay should be prejudiced in. regard to preference. .Either preference i.» right or it is wrong. If it is right it should be conceded without stint Ky the Commonweal tb Government and by the State governments. I.f it is wrong we should have nothing to do with it. I claim that it; i3 right and that the preference should be given unstintingly. “We should recognize that many of these men have worked for 6s. 6d. a day under most difficult conditions and are entitled to preference over those who have lived under peaceful - conditions at home and in receipt of full award rates.
Clause 22 seeks the repeal of section 317 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which includes the words “for the purposes of this act and who are competent for the work required “. The meaning of those words is clear, and as the Opposition holds that they should be retained, an amendment to that effect will be moved in committee. I remind the House that the Minister in charge of the hill has admitted that the Government purchased the support of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) by promising to introduce legislation to provide preference to service personnel, and that failure to do so would have meant that the Government would have been thrown out of office. Now, when the vote of the honorable member for Henty cannot have that effect, the Government is not so concerned about preference. It will be interesting to see what attitude the honorable member for Henty will adopt towards this bill. Clause 27 provides that in engaging a person for employment, the employer shall consider “ the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in the position concerned “. Must a returned serviceman always (be in competition with others whose qualifications were acquired while he was away on active service? The New South Wales act of 1919 includes the words “who can effectively perform the duties of such employment”. As the sections of the existing law which this bill proposes to repeal contain provisions which give a measure of preference to returned service personnel I claim that they should not be repealed. Their repeal would rob returned men of the preference that they now get and would give to them nothing whatever in return. If clause 27 remains in its present form it will be almost impossible for any returned serviceman to claim and obtain preference.
Honorable members know that after a number of conferences between various Labour organizations - the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Workers Union and others - the Prime Minister agreed to limit the preference to seven years. I do not know whether that concession was wrung from the Prime Minister by caucus or by the trade union movement, but following pressure upon him the right honorable gentleman agreed to the limitation of time. Will that limitation help returned service personnel? During recent weeks the people of Australia have seen photographs revealing some of the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Do they think that Japanese concentration camps will be better than those in Germany? I fear that many prisoners in the hands of the Japanese are suffering privations equal to those which the occupants of concentration camps of Germany had to endure. Will such men be fit to take up their civil jobs within seven years of their release ? I think not. Preference for a period of seven years will not mean anything to many men, particularly those suffering from nerve troubles. Some men may require attention for many years before they can re-enter the industrial field. Are they to be denied preference? The argument that at the end of seven years the period can be further extended, if thought desirable, does not weigh with me. It reminds me of the saying, “Live, horse, and you will get hay”. I do not think that any serviceman should be penalized because of his war service, or that any civilian should benefit because he remained at home.
In my opinion, a generous rehabilitation scheme would represent a national saving in the long run, as it would mean fewer misfits, smaller liabilities, and a more positive contribution to the national economy. The principle of reinstatement by vocational training is to be commended, but before a serviceman so trained can be of use to industry - indeed, before he can get a job - he will have to run the gauntlet of trade union preferment. The law of Queensland provides for preference to unionists, and in order to obtain preference in that State a returned serviceman would have to join a union.
– Is it proposed to repeal the Queensland act which stands for preference to unionists ? Is there any guarantee that a returned soldier who wishes to join a union will be able to do so ? The position of servicemen who wish to engage in industry can best be illustrated by quoting one or two examples. For instance, Mr. Mullins, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Union, said recently -
Man-power had sent 500 men to the wharfs to work as reserve labourers. These men, 00 per cent, of whom are discharged soldiers, will be laid off as soon as a slump comes, or immediately our permanent members in the forces come back.
That indicates clearly that the returned soldier will be the first to be put off in the event of a slump. In effect, the union says, “ Although he has interposed his body between us and the enemy, we must get rid of him “. Another instance relates to the Building Workers Union. A certain builder wished to re-employ a discharged soldier who had previously worked for him, and sent him to the union to obtain a permit. The union said, “We will give you a ticket, but you must pay twelve months’ subscription “. The returned soldier said that he would pay the subscription when he received his gratuity, but the reply was, “ Nothing doing “. Thereupon his prospective employer offered to guarantee his union subscription for twelve months, saying that he would deduct it from the soldier’s first two weeks’ pay. The reply was, “ He must pay now, or you must not employ him. If you do employ him, every man in your employ will be called off the job”. I shall give the name of that man to the Minister if he desires it. The next point to consider is whether a returned serviceman can become a unionist after he has had vocational training. Most of the unions are closed against him.
– That is not so.
– It is so. It is so in connexion with a number of unions such as those whose members are fitters and turners, motor mechanics, boiler makers, wood workers, electrical engineers, sheet metal workers, bootmakers and shipwrights. I realize that clause 45 is designed to open the way into those unions, but I doubt whether the Minister will use this power. I fear that should u union say that its books are closed the Minister will not persist in having them re-opened. Mr. Guy Anderson has said that he cares for neither the Government nor the court, and that if he wants to break a union he will break it. I should like the Minister to say how he would go about getting a union to open its books if it did not want to do so. I fear that there is little hope for these vocational trainees. I have already said that this is a bill relating to employment generally, and does not provide specially for returned servicemen and servicewomen. The real intention is revealed by clause 47 which is designed to continue indefinitely the present man-power regulations. That clause, provides for straight-out regimentation, and for a perpetuation of the existing man-power control. Under it, a man seeking employment will have to go where he is directed, or suffer the consequences. I visualize that under this legislation the returned soldier will always bc at the end of the queue when work is available. This measure compares unfavorably with the law of New
Zealand, under which each returned serviceman gets personal attention by officers of the Repatriation Department. I see in these proposed employment agencies places with all the smells of a down-town sustenance office. No provision is made for the sympathetic treatment of returned service personnel by men who have shared their experiences and know their problems. I visualize returned soldiers being told by a clerk behind the counter to report for duty at Alice Springs or some place equally remote. Is that the way to treat such men? Does the Government intend that they shall continually line up in queues with industrial “ dead-beats “ when seeking work? Unfortunately, the Government disregards the psychological aspects of this problem and the need for friendly personal contact. Returned soldiers do not want to have their problems bandied from one department to another. They want to have them dealt with by other returned soldiers who speak their language and know their needs. Employment agencies cannot cater for them. Recently, Mr. Kane, of the ironworkers’ union, said that in six weeks four discharged soldiers had broken down when placed in jobs which man-power officials had -certified them as being fit to undertake. We shall have under this legislation perpetuation of direction by man-power agencies of men into jobs which they are incapable of doing. Returned soldiers need personal handling of their problems. They must not be put in a queue with industrial “ deadbeats “ and then directed to jobs for which their impaired health incapacitates them. In New Zealand, exservicemen are taken in hand by rehabilitation committees, of which there are 110 in 30 districts. The committees are composed of men of standing in the localities in which they are set up - representatives of the farmers’ union, trades unions and chambers of commerce. They are friendly bodies whose members know the man, his problem, and the district. When a serviceman is discharged his record is placed before men who know him and exactly how to handle his problem, and who are authorized to approve almost unlimited expenditure on his rehabilitation. Whereas, Australia proposes to provide loans of £250 or in special cases £500 to men requiring them in order to establish themselves in business or £1,000 to men wishing to engage in agricultural pursuits, in New Zealand a dairy-farmer gets £4,500 and a sheep-farmer £6,000. By the end of last year, New Zealand had expended £2,500,000 on loans to exservicemen. What have we done? I cannot see how the multiplicity of controls proposed in this bill can benefit the returned soldier. Examining the New Zealand act again, we see that one department administers the rehabilitation of returned men. New Zealand soldiers are not discharged until they have, first, received full medical treatment, and, secondly, when necessary been given liberal pensions. Their rehabilitation is effected in their home towns by committees which know them and their needs. But the Commonwealth Government proposes to increase the number of departments which the returned man will have to visit. Take the case of Private X. First, ho visits the Repatriation Department, which deals with his pension and medical attention. He is then referred to the Department of Labour and National Service as regards his employment. That department refers him to the regional committee of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which suggests that he undergo vocational training. Private X, however, wants to open a small business. Accordingly he is directed to the Directorate of War Organization of Industry, which grants him the requisite permit. Requiring machinery with which to operate that business, he has to go to the Division of Import. Procurement for permission to purchase his requirements. He finds that it will cast £400. In the hope of raising the money he goes back to the Repatriation Department, where he is asked whether he has been in business before. Having replied that he has not but had managed a business, he is told that the department is sorry, but can advance him only £250 - but only if he has previouslybeen in business. Having wandered through this maze of bureaucracy, he finds that he can not even get the loan to which he should be entitled and to which, in New Zealand, he would be. This form of control of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen cannot do other than harm, whereas, if it were all under one department, at which they could receive sympathetic attention, they would benefit. This is not a bill to rehabilitate ex-servicemen, because, as I have pointed out, if, after a period of vocational training, a man has reached the status of a tradesman, he will not be able to join the appropriate union, because its doors will be closed against him, and, unless he becomes a unionist, he will not be able to get a job. He will then have nothing but the £2 10s. a week sustenance, proposed under this legislation, because he is unemployed. Incidentally, although we already have on the statute-book legislation to meet the social needs of civilians, we find that other provisions for civilians are contained in this bill. It is designed to hoodwink the returned soldiers. In committee, the Minister would be well advised to accept the amendments that will be moved from this side of the chamber.
.- Rarely in the history of this House have honorable members been treated to such a. display of hypocrisy as that given by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Hearing him address this distinguished House, one would think that he was the guardian of soldiers’ rights upon whom the soldiers rely for their future security. He is a typical representative of the Opposition parties which for years have endeavoured to ride on the backs of returned soldiers and make out that they are their stalwarts. The honorable member was one of those who voted against an amendment to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) on the 31st May, 1940. That honorable member, who is now Minister for Munitions, moved -
That after clause 10, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 10a. Section forty-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the first proviso to sub-section (2.), and inserting in its stead the following proviso: -
Provided that if the appellant or a. representative of the applicant makes out a prima facie case that the! incapacity from which a member of the forces is suffering or from which the member has died was caused or aggravated by some occurrence which happened to him after the commencement of his war service, t]ie onus of proof that such incapacity was not in fact caused or aggravated by war service shall lie upon the commission
Debate ensued and when the amendment was put a division was called for and it is remarkable that among those who voted against it were the three supposed stalwarts of the soldiers - the honorable member for Wentworth, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). In view of hig professed concern for the soldiers, it it remarkable that the honorable member for Wentworth should have voted against a proposal that the onus of proof should be on the Repatriation Commission, and not on. the soldier, but that indicates the lack of sincerity of honorable members opposite who say hypocritically that this Government is not meeting its obligations to the soldiers. Every honorable member knows and the people realize that this Government has shown its sincerity by the magnificent things that it has done for the soldiers, both during the war and on their discharge. The efforts of the honorable member to persuade the people to believe otherwise were wasted. For about 40 minutes, we listened to him speak about preference. Honorable members opposite would have the people think that preference, is the most, important aspect of the rehabilitation of soldiers, but they overlook the first need which is to provide jobs for all, without which preference is meaningless, and to ensure by means of a proper system of rehabilitation, that, the soldiers shall be fitted to fill them. It is significant that every other country has recognized that preference in employment to discharged soldiers is, so to speak, one of the least important things, because, iii no other country, is preference given to them. Other countries also realize that jobs must be provided first and that the men must be rehabilitated before preference can be of much benefit. Rehabilitation and opportunity to work are the fundamentals. The limitation of preference to seven years has been criticized bv honorable gentlemen opposite, but it is interesting to note that on the 17th February last, immediately after the decision to limit it to seven years had been announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Sydney Morning Herald, which could not be described as a Labour party organ, published a substantial argument in favour of the limitation in an article containing the following passage : -
The Australian Labour party executive’s stipulation of a seven-year time limit is, however, a reasonable one, and the Government should have no hesitation in adopting it. As has already been pointed out in these columns and elsewhere, without some such limitation preference might tend as time went on to favour a small minority of ex-servicemen unduly at the expense of the rest of the community. This proved the case in the second decade after the last war. and the tendency of some former soldiers to lean on their right - especially in the Civil Service - became a drag upon efficiency, besides placing a discouraging and undeserved obstacle in the path of the younger generation. Preference properly regarded, is not a privilege conferred upon the returned man as a reward for his sacrifices, but a means to his civil rehabilitation.
The article continues in that strain, giving more or less unqualified support to the Government’s proposals. We who do not have much in common with the Sydney Morning Herald can pay tribute to the writer of that article for his summingup of the situation. 1 was pleased that, this paper, which for years has supported the Opposition parties, published this article agreeing with the Government’s policy. It summed up the situation when it said in effect that after seven years the position would be that any government worth its salt ought to have been able to rehabilitate the ex-servicemen. Should there be men, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, who have not been rehabilitated and placed in proper employment by that time, each case can then be considered on its merits, and, if necessary, the preference limit could be extended in such cases. That is the way to overcome that difficulty. It is remarkable that, honorable members opposite have done nothing but endeavour to find loopholes in this measure. It is unfortunate that a government is obliged to legislate in order to compel some private employers to give a fair deal to ax-service personnel. If all private employers play their part in the noble task of rehabilitating those who have defended this country, the measure should prove effective. In war the soldier has done his job; in peace, let those who control private industry do their part.
After listening to the honorable member for Wentworth it hardly seems appropriate to ask honorable members to discuss this subject in a nonparty spirit. The problem of rehabilitating our ex-service personnel should be of primary interest to all honorable members regardless of party. As a Parliament, we have been able during the war to unite all sections of the community, and thus enable this country to succeed. It is equally important in a matter of this kind that we should forget party political considerations. Honorable members opposite should endeavour to offer constructive criticism of this measure. I regret very much indeed the bitterness which has been engendered in this debate. The Government is confronted with the task of rehabilitating 900,000 ex-service personnel, and 700,000 civilians who during the war have been diverted from their ordinary occupations. In carrying out that task the Government will require every possible assistance from every section of the community. Therefore, all honorable members should approach this problem constructively. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has well described the measure as a bill of rights of the ex-servicemen .and women of this country so far as their reestablishment in civil life is concerned. All honorable members are aware of the sacrifices inevitable in war. They do not need to be reminded of the sacrifices made by members of the fighting services who for periods up to five years have borne the brunt of battle in many theatres of war. To-day, many Australians are suffering in prison camps in Malaya, where they are going through tragic experiences. Many of those men will not fully recover. In addition, thousands have paid the supreme sacrifice in the defence of this country. We have the responsibility of ensuring that we give to their dependants the best that this country can afford. We have opportunities to com- pensate them to some degree by the payment of allowances and pensions, and by means of repatriation rights generally. In all spheres of war, in the Middle East, Europe, New Guinea and Malaya, members of Australia’s fighting forces have played a noble part.
It is our duty to approach this problem in a spirit of sympathy and loyalty, and with the idea uppermost in our minds to do our best for them on their return to civil life. In dealing with this problem, we should at all times have a clear picture of what we intend to do for them. We should approach it with sympathy and generosity, and be prepared to see that those charged with the administration of this measure implement it in the same spirit. It is our duty to . protect the rights of ex-service personnel in every way possible immediately they are discharged. We can do so only if we approach their problems sympathetically. For the soldier, war service has meant complete divorce from everything associated with home life. All of them, but more particularly those who have served overseas, must bridge a tremendous gap when they return to civil life, and re-enter industry. Every soldier will have great difficulty in picking up the threads where he left off. Members of the services have rendered valuable service to this country. For long periods they surrendered the joys and security of life at home. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, which is- a practical approach to this great problem, and is at least an example of what the Government has in mind for the complete rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. Many people, including some honorable members, seem to think that Australia’s repatriation legislation lags behind that of other countries. The honorable member for Wentworth stressed this point. Whilst I believe that we should learn from other countries, the fact remains that our repatriation legislation compares more than favorably with that of most other countries. We should not belittle our achievements in this respect. Our repatriation legislation has been ranked as the best in the world. Although there is room for improvement, no one can deny that Australia has made generous provision for its ex-service personnel and their dependants. Therefore, honorable members opposite, when praising what has been done in other countries, should take greater pride in our record in this respect, and place that record fairly before the people instead of belittling our efforts. Recently, I attended the launching of a vessel at a shipyard in my electorate. The vessel was handed over to an American representative who, when returning thanks on behalf of his Government, filled his Australian audience with pride when he praised the great work done by this country in the prosecution of the war. Greater praise of our achievements could not have been uttered by our Prime Minister. When a stranger speaks so highly of this nation’s achievements, it is not too much to expect members of this Parliament to place the facts before our people rather than belittle this nation’s efforts. It is about time that honorable members opposite recognized the generosity of our legislation for the rehabilitation of our exservice personnel.
The most important aspect of the problem of rehabilitation is the provision df employment. Secondly, we must ensure that each individual is equipped to do the job provided for him. All honorable members are aware that for a few years after the last war jobs were comparatively easy to obtain, but subsequently thousands of men who had risked their lives in the defence of this country were walking the streets of our capital cities and our country towns in search of employment. We do not want to see that state of affairs occur again. We must ensure that not one member of the fighting services will be without employment. If we are to ensure a new order we must, first, provide work for every person in the community, and, secondly, provide the training necessary to enable them to do their jobs efficiently, and thus re-establish themselves in our social and economic life. I repeat that one of the most important aspects of rehabilitating our ex-service personnel is to ensure that they are adequately trained to carry out the tasks which they choose or which are allotted to them. In view of his long absence from civilian life, the ex-soldier will require careful and sym pathetic aid to help him take his place in industry on anything like the basis equal to that enjoyed by the civilian who has been able to keep at work all the time. For instance, many of our young men, particularly our airmen, enlisted immediately upon leaving school, and have never had a job in civil life. These men particularly must be trained to take their place in industry. We must do our best to ensure that they are given work best suited to their abilities. Then we shall have another category consisting of men who on their discharge will be approaching middle age. In addition, because of war injuries, many can never hope to reach 100 per cent, efficiency. In any plan to do justice to these men, due consideration must be given to the particular problem of the individual. Obviously, that will be a tremendous task. First, however, we must as a matter of policy ‘give to ex-service personnel rehabilitation rights. Then we must provide proper training in order to enable them to engage efficiently in the calling which they take up. I repeat that this measure is a practical approach to that problem.
The honorable member for Wentworth criticized the measure with respect to the provision of employment offices and claimed that ex-service personnel were to be directed here, there and everywhere. All honorable members are aware that six months after the cessation of hostilities, the Government will have no power to direct any person in that way. In spite of the fact that the war has not yet finished, men who have already been discharged have not been directed to employment. The object of setting up these offices is to ensure that all available jobs will be filled as quickly as possible. There will not be the slightest degree of compulsion in the matter. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk in that strain, but I remind him that in days gone by when governments which he supported were in office, thousands of people, including ex-service personnel, were obliged to line up in the dole queues, and were not sent to jobs even at fi a week. The establishment of these offices is a very practical phase of the Government’s scheme. Honorable members opposite praise the work being done by the Government of New Zealand in the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, and declare that we should follow New Zealand’s example. To-night the honorable member for Wentworth indulged in that line of talk. He criticized the proposed provision of employment offices, but a similar provision is embodied in the Now Zealand legislation. The establishment of these offices is an essential and progressive step. They will enable ex-servicemen to obtain decentralized employment services and will assist in creating and maintaining a high level of employment. If employers cooperate as they should do, and the Government will undoubtedly co-operate through these employment channels, the offices will have available lists of suitable jobs for all types of ex-servicemen. The staffs should consist of men who have a practical interest in, and understanding of, the problems of ex-servicemen. They should be sympathetic to the cause of ex-servicemen and undertake their task in a proper spirit for the purpose of ensuring that the ex-serviceman shall receive a fair deal. Knowing, as I do, the capabilities of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, who will administer this legislation, I have no reason to doubt that the personnel of these offices will be specially selected and have a proper approach to the problems of exservicemen. They will be instructed to carry out in their entirety the desires of the Government that ex-servicemen shall receive liberal treatment in employment. Let us examine briefly what the employment offices will mean to the exserviceman. There will be a central organization where he may ascertain what jobs are available, and he will be able to select a job for which he is particularly suited, without having to interview every city firm which may advertise in the Sydney Morning .Herald, or any other newspaper, that it has vacancies on its staff. Under this arrangement, the ex-serviceman will obtain from the employment offices information about situations vacant. They will not send him on a wild goose chase, but will recommend a selection of jobs to which his capabilities are particularly suited, and he will be able to make a choice without any fear of getting the “ run around “. This is a practical approach and progressive step to the problem of putting to the minimum of inconvenience an ex-serviceman who is seeking employment in the post-war period.
Another progressive step which should meet with general approval is the proposal to provide vocational training. In recent years this activity has made great advances, particularly in regard to its application to school children who desire to know whether they have any aptitude for various trades or professions. To exservicemen this important training will be most advantageous. The scheme, which is liberal, provides for the payment of living expenses and allowances for the purchase of tools and equipment which are so necessary for a man undergoing vocational training. In recent weeks the press has published criticism of the scheme. A wide field has to be covered and the fact cannot be denied that existing facilities must be substantially extended as the Commonwealth Government’s scheme gets under way.
An important provision of the bill which meets with my entire approval is the consideration extended to the disabled ex-serviceman. No section of the community will have a more difficult task in the post-war years than the disabled ex-serviceman. No matter how serious or how minor his disability may be, he will be placed at a disadvantage compared with other workers. This bill will enable such men to obtain training for the purpose of fitting himself to to take a job in which he will not be seriously hampered by his disability. This approach provides for voluntary registration, and for special treatment and equipment, which the sufferer will need in learning a trade or profession. Employers will be required to engage a proportion of disabled men on their staffs. Liberal allowances will be paid to these men while they are undergoing training. This will be an important step in their permanent rehabilitation, and I am gratified that the Government has not overlooked it. In the past, enough attention has not been given to this class who, because of their war disability, could, not take a regular or permanent job. Perhaps the Government will consider the establishment of rest homes for disabled exservicemen, where they may recuperate after leaving hospital and before they are ready to take regular employment. At those rest homes, they should be given special training and treatment which would not be available to them in hospital or under the ordinary training scheme. A provision to that effect should be included, in the bill in order to give these men a better opportunity to take their place in industry. Let us put aside the idea that when men return from battle disabled, they must be paid a pension and. be regarded as “ finished “ from the standpoint of accepting normal employment. With proper training and care, they should be able to take their place in industry on an equal footing with uninjured men who have been rehabilitated.. Since the outbreak of war, the man-power authorities in New South Wales have placed in various industries blind persons who, having been trained, have made an important contribution to the war effort. If the problem be approached sympathetically and effectively, disabled exservicemen can fill a similar role in industry.
The bill also makes provision for the granting of loans to establish exservicemen in civil life. In this matter, the Government must be extremely liberal, and I am not entirely satisfied that the amounts proposed are adequate. A more flexible provision is required, to enable those responsible for the administration of this legislation to increase the amount, where necessary, in order to assist applicants to establish themselves in industry or agricultural pursuits. The bill provides for the granting of a loan of £250, or in special cases approved by the Government, £500, to a man who desires to enter business, whilst an amount of £1,000 may be granted to a man who desires to engage in agriculture. Those loans will be in addition to other benefits which the Government intends to grant to ex-servicemen who propose to settle on the land under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. In my opinion, a loan of £250 to a man who desires to set up in business is not sufficient. To-day, a person would not be able to purchase even a small suburban business for £250, and this small advance will mean that he will start a long way behind “ scratch “. Of course, loans should not be granted to men who may be liable to throw the money “ down the sink “. When granting loans, officials must use their judgment in selecting the right type of men. But the fact that a man was, say, a clerk before the war does not mean that he will not be able to make a success of a business after his discharge from the forces. Before the war, he may not have had an opportunity to go into business. The administrators of this part of the bill must estimate whether the applicant will be able to succeed, and where, in their judgment, the provision warrants it, they should have the discretion to advance him a. little more than the amounts mentioned in the bill.
– The manager of a bank has that discretion.
– That is so. Some men who were told after the last war that they could not possibly succeed in business, have since proved to be among the most successful businessmen in this country. I also consider that the proposed grant of £1,000 to an ex-serviceman, who desires to engage in agricultural pursuits, is not adequate. Whilst I do not represent a. farming constituency, I have an agricultural background, and I suggest that the Treasurer increase the grant to £2,000 or £2,500. This is a most important part of the bill. In the post-war period, great opportunities will be available to persons associated with business activities in Australia. We must encourage exservicemen to set up in business, and get a stake in the country, so that they will be able to play a more prominent part in civil life than they did before the outbreak of war. The adoption of my suggestions will help them in that way.
The bill also provides for housing for ex-servicemen, and the Government hopes to assist them to obtain dwellings. The acute shortage of houses presents a very great problem, and whilst I do not desire to depart from the principles of the bill, the fact is undeniable that substantial assistance must be given to exservicemen who require accommodation. I hope that the Government will speed up the housing programme, give to exservicemen certain financial benefits, and ensure that the person who, on enlisting, gave up his home, shall he able to obtain a house upon his discharge from the forces. In addition, exservicemen must be given some form of priority in the post-war period to ensure that they shall be able to resume normal home-life. They should not be expected to live for long periods under crowded conditions, or separated from their wives because of the shortage of homes. But a house is more than .bricks and mortar. The Government should consider the advisability of granting to the ex-ser viceman an allowance, or advance, to enable him to purchase furniture and necessary household requirements. Even after the conclusion of hostilities, furniture and fittings for homes will be in short supply, and some provision should be made to enable ex-servicemen to obtain, at the minimum cost, the absolute necessities of the home.
I now direct attention to an important innovation in repatriation legislation, namely the establishment of a Legal Service Bureau. This afternoon, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) paid an eloquent tribute to the late Mr. Hugh Savage, who established the bureau in New South Wales. That organization has extended to other States. In giving free advice to servicemen on their legal problems, the bureau is rendering an excellent service. It is a tribute to the staff’s capacity, ability and understanding of the problems of the serviceman, that the Government has decided to incorporate the system in this legislation. I hope that the bureau will perform even greater service in the future. Its success is unquestioned. I congratulate the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who was responsible for this progressive move in the first place, and the staff of the bureau itself. I believe that this part of the bill, which represents a departure from established practice, will prove of great value to ex-servicemen and women. Almost every member of this House has some practical knowledge of the excellent work that the Legal Service Bureau is doing on behalf of ex-service personnel, and I am confident that the organization proposed in the measure will be equally successful.
The keynote of the problem of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen is a sincere recognition that these men have carried out a great task for this country and that we as a Government and as a Parliament have an obligation to them in return. We must be as loyal to them as they have been to ns and ensure that they shall receive the best that we can give to them upon their return to civil life. It is our duty also to see that industrialists, businessmen and private employers in every walk of life shall play their part in the rehabilitation of members of the forces, so that in the years to come we shall not again see men who fought in the defence of this country thrown on the industrial scrapheap and denied even a pittance, as they were after the last war. We must have a sincere appreciation of the job our fighting forces have done for this country. Our appreciation of their efforts will be judged by our treatment of them in the future. I am. confident that this Government has an honest desire to do its best in the re-establishment of ex-service personnel. This bill is ample evidence of that. We must be prepared to adopt a courageous policy and to ensure that in the years to come service personnel and their dependants shall receive what they have always wanted, but which has always been denied them, namely, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and social and economic security.
– I agree with other speakers who have described this measure as most important. The problem confronting Australia in regard to the re-establishment of exservice personnel is not only important to-day, but also may be very critical in the future. Therefore, this measure should be given close attention by the House and. should be discussed in an objective manner. Previous speakers have taken up quite a lot of time by going into the alleged sins of commission or omission of members of the Opposition. I do not wish to join in that controversy, except to say that, whereas in the past honorable members opposite have shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm for preference to returned soldiers, action taken over the years by members of this House now sitting in
Opposition has conferred a great deal of benefit on these men. The issue before the House now is simple : Is this measure a good one or a bad one? I listened with interest to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), and I entirely agree with his description of the objectives which this measure is designed to achieve, but I differ with him distinctly when he claims that the bill is a good one and that therefore it is likely to attain those objectives. In my view, this is a most inadequate piece of legislation from the point of view of exservice men and women, and it is to that particular point I propose to address my remarks. Several speakers have pointed out that the title of this bill states that it is “ to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the forces, for facilitating their employment “. So far so good ; but then we come to these other words, “ and for other purposes “. From our previous experience of bills we all know that those words usually appear in the title of a measure and are inserted to provide for the moving of amendments to the main purposes of the bill. An examination of this measure, however, shows that the words “ and for other purposes “ have quite a different significance. The bill very definitely is “ for other purposes “, because it provides for certain members of the community who are not exservicemen. In fact, a brief perusal of the measure is sufficient to convince one that it represents a compromise between honorable members opposite who believe in preference to returned soldiers, either because they honestly support that principle or because they think it advisable to support it for political purposes, and others who do not believe in preference at any price, except preference to unionists. So we have before us this milk-and-water measure, which I believe will not assist to any appreciable degree the solution of the big problem which confronts this country to-day, and which will become accentuated in the future. I realize that there are difficulties. We all know that problems confront the Government and, of course, caucus, because a majority of unionists in this country definitely do not believe in preference to ex-servicemen. They have their own reasons for that view, and they do not hesitate to conceal them. They put forward the argument, as so many honorable members opposite have done, that there will be full employment after the war, and that in these circumstances preference to returned soldiers will not be necessary. There is not one honorable member of this House who does not believe in a policy of full employment in this country. We all agree that that is an objective which we should strive to reach; but we on this side of the House believe also that in the meantime we should do something to safeguard the interests of those who have fought for this country. It is one thing to strive to attain an objective, but it is quite another thing to reach that objective. One of the greatest tragedies of life is that whilst human beings are full of aspirations and ideals, their attempts to reach those ideals are not always successful. We can regard this measure as a form of insurance. For instance, we are striving also in this community to increase our general standard of health, and I believe that if proper measures be taken, this ideal will be achieved, but to argue that because we hope to improve the health of the community we should do away with the medical profession, would be sheer nonsense; yet that is the argument that is being used in connexion with the granting of preference to returned soldiers. It may be that in the post-war world, a stage will be reached when there will be full employment for everybody, but in the meantime, until that Utopian dream is realized, surely there can be no harm in providing some measure of preference in employment for men who have served their country in time of war. I point out also, that although a state of full employment is reached, there is always the question of a choice of jobs. Certain jobs suit some men more than others and there must be some degree of preference to ensure that the right person shall be given the right job. Surely no one will argue that preference should be given to returned soldiers only for unskilled jobs, whilst trained men who have been engaged in their ordinary avocations throughout the war should receive the more highly remunerative positions.
On that ground alone, the argument for preference to returned soldiers can be sustained.
There are three principles on which most people agree to a greater or lesser degree that preference should be given to returned soldiers. The first is sentiment. People feel that, they owe a debt of gratitude to the men who have protected Australia during the war. That is a sentiment which every one feels in his heart. Secondly, there is common agreement that preference should be granted as a matter of simple justice - that those who have devoted themselves to the preservation of their country should not be at a disadvantage compared with others who have not been subject to the hazards of war. The guiding principle in this matter, of course, is that no man should because of his war service be at a disadvantage compared with a person who has not served. Men who have fought overseas, and have been in the fighting forces for a period of years, have completely lost touch with civil life, and will require assistance to be reestablished in society. A man who has been through a war is not the same as he would have been had he stayed home. Contact with military life will have changed his mental outlook and possibly his moral outlook. Even if a man has not been in a combat area, he will have suffered because of the nature of army life generally, discipline, hardship and loss of initiative. Some men will havelost ambitions and others will have gained new ones. In any case, most men will have lost much of the skill which they had at their trade prior to enlistment. In addition to gratitude and justice, there is one other consideration which must challenge our national conscience. The men and women who have enlisted in the services include the best elements in our society. If they are not returned to civil life in the places best suited to them, not only they, but also the whole of the nation will suffer. They are the men and women upon whom the whole future of Australia depends; it is they who very largely will guide the future destiny of Australia, and it is through them that I see Australia being rehabilitated and developed. If we fail to give to them the assistance and encouragement that they need, not only shall we be failing in our duty to them, and to Australia, but also, through their frustration, disappointment and discouragement, we shall be storing up endless trouble.
In short, returned soldiers are the kernel of the problem of reconstruction after the war. Today, the ex-serviceman is an individual seeking return to civil life; to-morrow ‘he will be an important part of rural and city life, and a participant in the government of this country. His reestablishment, therefore, is the most pressing and important problem that has to be faced in Australia at the moment. The obligation of this country to these men is clear, inevitable and without limit. Nothing that this country can do for them should be left undone. It may be that the re-establishment of these men will cost a substantial sum of money, but to-day we are spending £500,000,000 a year on war, and that may go on for another year or more. The equivalent of one year’s war expenditure, devoted to the re-establishment of our servicemen and servicewomen in civil life, surely would not be too high a price to pay if thereby we could make them contented and advance the welfare of Australia.
– It would be necessary to maintain existing taxation for a year or so.
– I am prepared to support a proposal to have it maintained in order to provide for the re-establishment of these men in civil life after they have completed their war service. Those not suffering from sickness or wounds will constitute only a part of the problem, the largest part of which will be constituted by the many thousands of mentally or physically disabled. With proper treatment, most of the mental and physical disabilities can be cured. That; will bo a gain, not a loss, because the re-engagement of those men in productive enterprises will mean that they will add to the national wealth instead of continuing to be a burden on our financial resources. Therefore, let us not. be chary about the expense at restoring them to mental and bodily health, and bringing the fully into the productive life of the country.
I have dealt rather briefly with the background 0f the problem. There are three principles that will have to be observed in the re-establishment of service personnel. The first and most important is that they must he treated as a separate problem, and not as a part of the wider problem of post-war reconstruction. In this respect, I take the strongest objection to the bill in its present form. It lays down, particularly in clause 32, and again in clause 47, that persons in categories other than that of ex-service men or women, shall be brought within the scope of the measure. In other words, the re-establishment of service men and women in civil life is being merged with that of other persons. Such a principle is totally wrong. It may be urged that it is necessary to make provision for those employees in the munitions factories and in other occupations who have been displaced by the war. Provision in that respect has already been made in the unemployment and sickness benefits scheme. Further steps for the re-establishment of those persons should be taken, if necessary, under special legislation, not under the bill that we are now considering.
– Would the honorable member deal with them through a separate department?
– I definitely would. The second principle is this : There should be one department, charged with responsibility for the re-establishment and welfare of ex-service men and women as » whole. That department should be the responsibility of a senior Minister, who would ensure that the policy laid down by the Parliament was carried out. Under such a Minister, various commissions should deal with the different aspects of rehabilitation. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) referred to another method, which is the same as that proposed by the Government. He spoke about soldiers being wrapped in cellophane. I have no desire to “ coddle “ soldiers more than any one else. But the fact stands out that individual cases cannot be dealt with by mass methods, as the bill apparently proposes; they must be dealt with individually, intelligently, and sympathetically. Under the bill, the rehabilitation of ser vice personnel is to he entrusted to a number of departments, with separate and divided responsibilities. These are the Repatriation Department, the War Service Homes Department, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of .Social Services, State departments dealing with land settlement, and, finally, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. There is to be no concentrated responsibility in regard to ex-service personnel as such. The most tragic feature of the whole arrangement is that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is to have the greatest responsibility. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in his second-reading speech, referring to the responsibility and work of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in regard to rehabilitation, said -
The last-named is finally responsible for seeing that any gaps that may emerge in policy from time to time shall be filled in, and the complete programme of reestablishment shall be unified as far as possible, and fully co-ordinated.
In other words, the main responsibility for carrying out this rehabilitation is to be entrusted to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I do not know what views other honorable members hold in regard to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. With due respect to the Minister, for whom I have great regard, handing over the whole future of the serviceman to that department will be tragic, because it is a department, of blueprints, of doctrinaire professors, with an outlook sometimes Utopian and always idealistic, and nearly always divorced from the realities of life. Above all, so far as I can judge from any of its work that I have seen, it is divorced completely from the personal problems of the mien and women with whom it has to deal. The serviceman will become a number on a file, a name in a registry, and no longer will be regarded as a human being with human problems, desires and needs. In a word, he will become a cypher. What he requires above all is sympathetic, intelligent, and personal attention. If he is left to the ministrations of th<> Department of Post-war Reconstruction and other departments, he will not receive anything but a red tape, bureaucraticapproach, which he does not want and by means of which he has been entirely disillusioned within the last six or eight months. Any one who has had anything to do with the problems of the exserviceman knows that the one thing which he considers he is not receiving is the sympathetic, personal approach which he so badly wants. It is interesting to note that the Rehabilitation Department in New Zealand is in charge of the whole of the problems of exservicemen. By a decision recently taken, the rehabilitation scheme of that dominion has been strengthened. That decision is to make binding on other departments any policy of the Rehabilitation Board. In other words, in the matter of rehabilitation that board has the power to control the policy of the other departments with which it has to deal. That power should be given to any department established to deal with the problem.
Repeated reference has been made to the fact that in Australia we are prone to overcentralisation in our methods of administration. It is not essential to bring all of the problems of ex-service personnel to Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney. Many of them are local in character, and they sometimes relate to the health or business affairs of the ex-servicemen. Local authorities could deal in a practical and sympathetic manner with their problems. Under the present law we have local repatriation committees. They were set up after the last war, but they have never operated satisfactorily, although the members are men of good repute in their respective districts. The number of those committees should be increased, and they should be given additional powers. New Zealand has gone further ahead than Australia in the rehabilitation of exservice personnel. That dominion has granted to local committees power to expend up to several thousands of pounds in establishing men on the land or in business. That system has given satisfaction to the ex-servicemen themselves.
I shall deal with several other matters at the committee stage, but I wish to know now the reason why the benefit of preference to ex-servicemen should be limited to a period of seven years? Why were not periods of five, nine or, three years selected? Is it that seven happens to be regarded as a lucky number, or has the proposal some association with the Statute of Limitations? The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that, after seven years, new generations of workers would be coming along, many of them the sons of servicemen, and they should not be handicapped by the preference provision. That is not ,a. profound argument, because there will be young men coming into the industrial sphere every year. I can find no reason for the selection of that particular number, but good reasons can he advanced why there should be no limitation at all. The first seven years after the cessation of hostilities will be the easiest, as far as the employment of exservice personnel is concerned. A boom is likely to be experienced in the first few years, but men who have been disabled mentally and physically will require far more than seven years to recover from their injuries. Of course the provision could be repealed, if that course were deemed desirable, but why should it be embodied in the bill at all? Servicemen themselves ask why preference should be given for a. comparatively brief period and then taken away. All members of the ex-servicemen’s organizations, who know far more about this matter than honorable members who support the Government, are opposed to the limitation.
Recapitulating my argument, this bill should be made, in fact, a measure for the re-establishment of ex-service personnel only. One department should deal with their problems, and should be responsible for seeing that satisfaction is given in every individual case. That could not be done under the system foreshadowed in the bill. Over-centralization must be avoided at all costs, and the measure would be more successful than it is likely to be under the present proposals if the administration were de-centralized. The successful handling of the problem depends almost entirely on the attitude of the community at large to returned service personnel. An act of Parliament alone is insufficient, because the personal duty of the people is to co-operate in making this measure a success. The satisfactory re-establishment of the members of the fighting services vitally affects the whole future of Australia. I hope that the Parliament will give careful consideration to the bill, because failure to recognize fully the claims of the members of the services will result, not only in much hardship to them, but also in great loss to the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryson) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 6 - (5.) On the occurrence of a casual vacancy in the office of any member of the Board (other than the Commonwealth Wool Adviser), the Minister may, after consultation with the organization on the nomination of which the member whose officehas become vacant was appointed, appoint a person to fill the vacancy, and any person so appointed shall, subject to this Act, hold office for the residue of the term of the member in whose placehe is appointed.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
Sub-clause (5.), leave out “may, after consultation with”; insert “shall, on the nomination of “.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) There shall he a Wool Consultative Council for the purpose of advising the Ministers on matters concerning the Australian wool industry. (2.) The Council shall consist of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and seven other members appointed by the Minister to represent respectively -
the Council for Scientific and Industrial Resea rch ;
authorities concerned with technical education ;
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - Leave out subclause (2.); insert the following new subclause : - “ (2.) The Council shall consist of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, two members of the Board actively engaged in the production of wool who shall be selected by the Minister, and six other members who shall be appointed by the Minister to represent respectively -
the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ;
authorities concerned with technical education ;
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 17- (1.) Before the beginning of each financial year after the commencement of this Act, the Ministers shall determine the proportion of the moneys to be credited to the Fund during that financial year from the proceeds of the wool tax which shall be paid by the Board out of the Fund to the Research Account, and the Board shall, from time to time as directed by the Ministers, make payments accordingly.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - After the word “ shall “, first occurring, insert “, after consultation with the Board,”.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– We cannot, of course, prevent the Government from pressing this amendment through committee, but it is most regrettable that the Minister has not seen fit to accept the amendment moved earlier that the Australian Wool Board itself should have the right to determine the amount to be credited to the fund. The board represents the producers who are to subscribe to the fund, and it should have a voice in the disposal of the money. This is a nebulous amendment. It provides that the Minister shall consult with the board regarding the apportionment of moneys, but it is not mandatory upon him to accept the views of the board. I do not think that the clause will be essentially different after this amendment is agreed to from what it was before.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
The Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following Schedule: -
“THE SECOND SCHEDULE.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out paragraph 2 of Part II. of the Second Schedule; insert the following paragraphs: - “ 2. All that portion of Tasmania lying south and west of a line commencing on the west coast at the southwest corner of the County of Wellington and thence generally easterly and southerly by the boundaries dividing the counties of Wellington Devon and Westmorland from the counties of Russell Lincoln and Cumberland to the point on the River Shannon where the hydro-electric transmission line from Waddamana to Launceston crosses that river thence in a straight line in a general southwesterly direction to the trigonometrical station known as Fishers Sugar Loaf thence by a straight line in a general southwesterly direction to the point where the Lyell Highway crosses the Dee River thence by a straight line in a general southwesterly direction to the confluence of the Derwent and Florentine Rivers thence by a straight line in a general southerly direction passing through the trigonometrical station on South East Cape to the southern coastline. “ 3. All the islands forming part of Australia lying adjacent to the coastline of either of the portions of Australia described in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Part.”.
– The purpose of this amendment is to include portion of the western and southwestern areas of Tasmania in zone B, and so allow to residents of those areas the special deduction of £20 which is to be provided by clause 11 of the bill. Since the introduction of the bill in this chamber, honorable members and senators from Tasmania have made representations to the effect that the inclusion of the west coast areas of Tasmania in zone B is justifiable. It was claimed that the residents of those areas were obliged to endure the disabilities of uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high cost of living referred to in clause 11.
Representations have been made by a number ofhonorable members on this side of the House and by members of the Senate, and also by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons).
– It was the honorable member for Darwin who proposed the amendment in committee.
– All I have to say to that is that I had already arranged a conference between interested members of both Houses and the Taxation Commissioner, to be presided over by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and to this conference the honorable member for Darwin was invited. As a result of that conference, and of a later consultation with me, it was decided to allow the £20 concession to residents of the area specified in the amendment. The Government has examined the matter, and has decided to accede to the request made by the Tasmanian representatives. The Senate’s amendment will give effect to this decision by the Government. Therefore, it is proposed to amend the second schedule so as to include part of the western and south-western areas of Tasmania. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– This amendment only serves to aggravate the discrimination which the Government’s zoning provision has introduced into income tax law. We opposed the zoning provision when the bill was before this chamber, claiming that it was contrary to a well-established principle of taxation law. I am aware that certain honorable members on this side of the House suggested that the zoning provision be enlarged, and I regret the fact. I believe that we should oppose the provision with all our power, because it is discriminatory, and will produce unpredictable effects on our income tax law. The Government has taken advantage of the suggestions of some honorable members on this side of the House in order to associate the Opposition with this departure from a basic principle of income tax law. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has taken advantage of the fact that some Opposition members have supported the zoning system, but I predict that he will regret its introduction.
– I oppose the amendment because it will make confusion worse confounded. In my second-reading speech 1 said that although the zoning system violated sound fundamental principles underlying the levying of taxes, if it were introduced, every effort should be made to ensure that it would work equitably. T was impressed by the claim put forward by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) in respect of the west coast of Tasmania. The reasons justifying a zoning system are said to be uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation, and high cost of living compared with other parts of the Commonwealth. I submit that those reasons have been advanced in an attempt to evade the provisions of the Constitution. It will be remembered that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out that the High Court had ruled that it was not sufficient to base a claim for special consideration on the ground of locality : that there had to be other reasons. Accordingly, the Government has claimed that the isolation of certain parts of the Commonwealth, uncongenial climatic conditions, and high living costs justify the division of the Commonwealth into zones. Let us see to what degree those conditions apply to the territory referred to in the amendment. The boundaries of the new area proposed to be included- in zone B are set out as follows: -
All that portion of Tasmania lying south and west of a line commencing … to the point on the River Shannon where the hydroelectric transmission line from Waddamana to Launceston crosses that river.
I ask whether conditions as to isolation, climate, and cost of living can be so different on one side of an electric-power transmission line from the conditions on the other side as to justify a departure from accepted principles of taxation.
– Of course they can.
– Does the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) suggest that the climatic conditions are more, severe or that the cost of living or the isolation is greater on one side of, that transmission line than on the other side? Such, a suggestion is ridiculous. I strongly oppose such an arbitrary means of dividing one class of taxpayer from another. I believe that grounds exist to support the claim that the west coast of Tasmania has an uncongenial climate, is isolated, and that living-costs there are high; but the contention that conditions vary according to which side of a power transmission line a person lives is foolish in the extreme.
.- The amendment is designed, to give effect to a reasonable proposal, but the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has worked himself into a frenzy about it. He has taken the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to task for acceding to the logical representations made by honorable members from Tasmania. I do not think that the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) or the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) will agree with the right honorable gentleman’s remarks. If there are to be zones, there must be boundaries to those zones. It may be convenient to make the power transmission line in Tasmania the dividing line between zones. If the Leader of the Australian Country party were better acquainted with Tasmania he would not have become so heated, because he would know that the transmission line is in mountainous country where the population is most scattered.
– That may be, but conditions are the same on each side of the transmission line.
– It cannot he denied that people living on one side of the transmission line suffer from isolation, uncongenial climatic conditions and high living-costs. On the other side of the line there is no population for many miles. The Treasurer is, as a rule, hard-hearted, but, on this occasion, he has allowed his reason to soften him, and has agreed to extend the concession to people on the west coast of Tasmania. I congratulate him.
.- As I said when the original proposal was before us, concessional allowances according to zones are bad in principle and utterly unsound. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) talked about logic and reason in regard to a provision utterly lacking logic. The only reason 1 can find for the amendment is that it gives some political satisfaction to the representatives of Tasmania. This amendment heightens the absurdity and aggravates the injustice of the original proposal. We now find that Australia has been cast into a sort of crazy quilt, a pattern of patches, perpetrated by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), to which the west coast of Tasmania is now added. The peculiar result will be, that Victoria will be the only State in the Commonwealth regarded as not having area3 coming within the definitions of “ isolation “, “ high cost of li ving or uncongenial climate “. The tiny State of Tasmania is to be carved up because apparently it has some parts where the climate is uncongenial and some where it is not; some parts where the cost of living is high and others where it is not, and some parts where the people are isolated and others where they are not. The whole State would not make one electorate in Western Australia. At this late hour I shall not attempt to read the amendment, but I invite honorable gentlemen at their leisure to study it. The definition of the part of Tasmania whose inhabitants are to qualify for a tax concession as being within a “ B “ zone occupies ten lines of typescript. I return to the point that only Victoria is excluded. Yet in parts of that State the isolation of people is as great as in other parts of Australia. In parts of Victoria the climate is none the less uncongenial than in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member should not decry the State which he represents.
– I do not know whether Footscray is in the electorate of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) or the honorable member for Maribyrnong. (Mr. Drakeford), but doubtless there are many who would rather sojourn permanently in the electorate of Darwin than permanently in the neighbourhood of the Footscray meat works. So there are people in Victoria who come within the definitions. The omission of Victoria is serious enough, but even more serious is the fact that the zoning proposal is a departure from the uniform tax legislation adopted as a temporary war-time expedient. The very title, Income Tax (War-time
Arrangements) Act, suggests that it is to be only a war-time measure. In fact, the injustices and lack of balance of that legislation are accepted by the people of Victoria only on the understanding that, it is to be a temporary measure to help the Government raise the necessary revenue for war purposes. If the Government considers that the time has come when it can review taxation arrangements on a basis utterly lacking equity in order to extend concessions to certain sections of the community, the time has also come for the legislation to be reviewed as a whole. I have previously pointed out to honorable members that, in 1942-43, the taxpayers of Queensland paid £12,000,000 to the Commonwealth in income tax and received back £5,000,000 as a reimbursement to the State Government, whereas in the same year Victorian taxpayers contributed £34,000,000 and received back only £5,000,000 for State purposes. In 1943-44, Queensland received back £6,000,000 out of £21,000,000, and Victoria £6,000,000 out of £44,000,000. Yet Victoria is the only State in the Commonwealth which is receiving no alleviation of tax burdens at all as the result of the zoning allowances. I have directed the attention of the Treasurer to this three times, but he has not yet uttered one word in defence of the position in which the people of Victoria find themselves, as the result of, first, the uniform tax legislation and, secondly, the aggravation of their plight by the unconstitutional and unfair zoning system, which is now to he extended to Tasmania. They will demand, as, in all fairness, they are entitled to demand, that there be a complete overhaul of the income tax arrangements.
.- The whole system of zoning is inequitable, unfair, unworkable and unconstitutional. When this matter was discussed in committee, I proposed the inclusion of the Wimmera in north-western Victoria, but that was defeated. Yet, when the bill comes back from the Senate, we find that the western portion of Tasmania has been included. This brings taxation legislation into ridicule. All kinds of propositions will be put up to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) from time to time for other areas to be included in the zones. “We heard that the home town of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was a veritable land flowing with milk and honey. Yet it is included in the zone which is to be given a tax concession because, somehow, it is uncongenial. The whole system of zone allowances should be abandoned. If concessions are to be given to people living in isolated parts, they would be best given by way of concessional freights on their primary products and travel facilities for the people themselves. That would be fair and reasonable. The committee rejected the only proposal made by Victoria, which is to be the only State not to benefit. During the sixteen years I have been a member of this chamber, I have said nothing parochial, but it just emphasizes how ridiculous the system of taxation has become when, in five States, one can find high cost of living, isolation and uncongeniality of climate, but in one State, none of those things exist, although the drought and soil erosion that that State has suffered in the Mallee are equal to the worst in the Commonwealth. From time to time, on present reasoning, proposals will be made to the Treasurer for the inclusion in the zones of Lord Howe Island, Albert Bark Lake and Taronga Zoo, and the whole taxation legislation will be brought to a ridiculous state within a few -years and, ultimately, will be held in contempt. This amendment is unworkable, because the district on one side of the transmission line is to be included and the district on the other side is not. More money will be expended in defining the limits of the zones and who are eligible and who are not. I exhort the Treasurer to drop the zoning provision altogether. The boundaries of the zones appear to have been drawn by some one who was blindfolded and merely drew lines on the map of Australia.
.- The zone concession under this measure is wrong in principle. It will certainly be difficult to apply. The Constitution provides that there shall not be discrimination between States or parts of States. Yet. by making a zone of the western portion of the State of Tasmania, we shall be discriminating between parts of that State. How can the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) justify that discrimination on constitutional grounds ? ‘Considerable doubt exists as to the constitutionality of creating zones bounded by lines drawn from the west to the east of the mainland, but ,as such zones extend through several States that provision may be constitutional. However, the position is entirely different should we create zones in one State as it is now proposed to do in Tasmania. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. “White) suggested that the Mallee should be included in one of these zones, because living conditions in that area are worse than those in areas which are included in the zones A and B. I urge the Treasurer to include French Island within a zone because the people living on that island are completely isolated. And should he agree to do so I can name other places which can with equal justice claim similar treatment.
– I do not wish to traverse what honorable members have said regarding the constitutionality of this proposal. I hope that the matter will be decided in due course by the appropriate authority, namely, the High Court. I am sorry that the Treasurer (Mr. ‘Chifley) has not seen fit to give proper consideration to certain areas in the Northern Territory. I say again that in respect of general living conditions and the high cost of living, more onerous conditions prevail in the southern portion of the Territory which is excluded from either zone than is the case generally in the Northern Territory. The central part of the Territory is some of the worst country in Australia. It has the poorest living conditions, the climate is exceptionally hot and the rainfall is among the lowest of any area in Australia. As one who has lived in the 10- inch rainfall belt for many years, I have yet to learn that excessive rainfall is a reason for onerous living conditions. My experience is that the lower the rainfall the more onerous are living conditions. If this matter were investigated impartially by a committee of competent persons, it would soon be realized that some of the worst living conditions in Australia prevail in that part of the Northern Territory which is excluded from zone A. I presume that the Treasurer has carried out his promise to reconsider this matter, and I am amazed at the decision which he has now arrived at, in view of the facts which must have been known to officers of the Taxation Department.
.- I have strongly objected to the introduction of the zoning principle. It is hopelessly unworkable. However, in view of the Government’s persistence in the matter, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to consider the inclusion of the Australian Capital Territory in one of the zones. Canberra is isolated, and its climate at present cannot be regarded as anything but objectionable. In addition, the cost of living in Canberra to-day has risen to a greater degree above pre-war levels than has been the case in respect of any other city in Australia. Before uniform taxation was introduced, residents in the Australian Capital Territory paid only Commonwealth income tax, whereas to-day they pay the Commonwealth tax plus State tax. ls there anywhere else in Australia where the cost of living is higher compared with pre-war levels? If the Government is determined to carry out this half-baked proposal it should include the Australian Capital Territory in one of the zones. Will the Treasurer say why the Australian Capital Territory has not. been included, at least in zone B?
I rose primarily to ask the Treasurer to consider the claims of all those people living on islands in Moreton Bay for inclusion in a zone. They are completely isolated, and they are having a greater struggle to subsist than any other community in Australia, particularly at present, because the Government has commandeered the boats which used to take their produce to market.
.- The committee considered this measure last week, and after it accepted the principle of zone concessions the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) suggested that this concession should be extended to certain parts of Tasmania. I agree that, difficulty will be experienced in administering this concession. There are many ‘ parts of Australia in which the people can claim to be living under conditions as severe as those existing in parts to which the concession will apply. If -the Parliament accepts the principle of zone concessions in relation to income tax, I claim that the areas which it is now proposed to include in zone B are just as much entitled to that concession as those areas on the mainland which are to be included in that zone. Roughly, the amendment provides for the inclusion in zone B of the western and the south-western portion of Tasmania and certain portions of the Highlands, where the climatic conditions are severe, the cost of. living is high and the residents do not enjoy the same amenities as those that are available in closely settled areas. The incidence of taxation should apply without discrimination to residents in all parts of the country, and how the Commissioner of Taxation will know whether an applicant for the concession lives on one side of an imaginary line, or two yards on the other side of, it, I do not know. But as the zoning principle has been accepted by this Parliament, I consider that the residents of certain districts in Tasmania, which are defined in the amendment, are just as entitled to the concession as are the residents of other parts ‘ of the Commonwealth.
– When I was submitting this amendment, 1 desired to refer to the representations made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) but refrained from doing so lest T should infringe the Standing Orders. I now assume that the Chairman will allow me some latitude in discussing the amendment, so I take this opportunity to inform the honorable member for Barker that I have examined his suggestions, and the Commissioner of Taxation has furnished reasons why his proposals would not be satisfactory. However, I have not entirely discarded the honorable member’s suggestions, and if later I decide to adopt them, a suitable provision will be inserted in legislation to be introduced later this year.
Other honorable members referred to the drawing of imaginary lines for the purpose of delineating zones within which residents will be granted special tax concessions. My only reply to their criticism is that under industrial awards district allowances are paid throughout Australia, so the zoning proposal for taxation purposes is not novel. No greater difficulty will arise in determining whether a taxpayer is entitled to the concession than in deciding whether a district allowance shall be paid to workers west of Dubbo, in New South Wales. Under the Australian Workers Union award the zoning system also operates in Queensland-, where different allowances are paid in various parts of the State. Finally, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) made it abundantly clear that in Western Australia the Arbitration Court has ruled that district allowances shall be paid in the South-western Lands Division and the Goldfields-North-west Division.
– I do not oppose the suggestion that a measure of relief from taxation shall be granted to the residents of certain areas in Tasmania, although the zone may be defined by electric cables, but the proposal illustrates how ridiculous it is for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to attempt to make an equitable adjustment of the present incidence of taxation by the adoption of the zoning system. The residents of various islands, including Kangaroo Island, where the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made a famous speech on one occasion, are entitled to the same consideration as that which has been extended to taxpayers in certain parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) surveyed the facilities available to, and the disabilities suffered by, the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, but their advantages far outweigh those of the residents of Jericho, in Queensland, which is placed in the same category as Melbourne and Sydney. This measure of relief cannot be granted equitably by determining various zones as the Treasurer has done. Even now, the honorable gentleman should consider a better method for providing relief for those who most deserve it. The residents of the Carnarvon district in Western Australia, and of Alice Springs, merit consideration. Instead of being applied to a few people, the concession should be made general, thus affording taxpayers an opportunity to build up capital which they will require for rehabilitation purposes in the post-war period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
poultry- pig industry- surrender of Germany: Treatment of Nazi Officers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to direct attention to the grave state of the poultry-farming industry in New South Wales. This matter has become so urgent that any further delay in seeking relief for it would not be condoned. For some time, poultry-farmers have been in a parlous plight, because of their inability to obtain sufficient feed with which to maintain their flocks. The shortage of feed is due to the drought, and supplies have been severely rationed. Poultry-farmers have been advised to reduce their flocks by one-half the normal number, as only one-half of the normal quantity of feed is available for them. How to reduce the flocks without causing grave loss is a matter of serious concern to poultry-farmers. When I discussed this matter at great length with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), I impressed upon him the urgent necessity for devising some method to enable poultry-farmers to avert disaster. The Minister informed me that a scheme for the sale of poultry to the United Kingdomhas been inaugurated and poultry is to be sold by Australian producers at what the Minister describes as the remunerative price of11d. per lb., live weight. It is hoped that this arrangement will benefit to some degree the poultry-farmers who, because of lack of poultry feed, are being compelled to reduce their flocks. The Minister also informed me that some temporary relief will be given in July when shipments of grain from the United States of America will arrive. Apparently, 2,000,000 bushels of grain sorghum and barley have been ordered from the
United States of America, and the first consignment will arrive in Australia in July. The Minister stated further that he was negotiating for the purchase of a further 6,000,000 bushels of grain sorghum from the United States of America. I have been informed that the Government has now authorized agents to purchase poultry at lid. per lb. live weight. This announcement was published in the press at the week-end. I am concerned particularly with the plight of the small farmers. A farmer who has, say, 8,000 fowls, can still make a reasonable living even if this number is reduced by half, but to a small farmer a reduction of one-half may render his undertaking unprofitable. Our policy should be to keep these men on the land and to induce as many others as possible to undertake work on the land. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to take prompt action to grant relief to poultry farmers. Many farmers with small establishments are about to give up this work. We must not let that happen.
– I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) who has raised a. matter of great importance to the poultry industry throughout Australia. In Queensland the shortage of poultry feed is a burning question. I was pleased indeed to learn from the honorable member that arrangements have been made for the importation from the United States of America of 2,000,000 bushels of grain sorghum and barley, commencing in July, and for a further importation of 6,000,000 bushels at a later date. However, the point that occurs to me is that if Ave have to wait until the arrival of these shipments for an improvement of the position, we may lose substantial quantities of poultry at a time when it is vital that food production should be maintained at the maximum. The substantial reduction of poultry flocks which is likely to take place between now and the arrival of grain from overseas, may involve a serious loss to this country, just as a loss has been incurred because of the wheat acreage restrictions. These restrictions incidentally were one of the major causes of the present shortage of feed wheat. We find now that we have to import fowl feed from other countries, whereas we should be exporting food to nations which are in dire need as the result of the war. I suggest to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that when large quantities of grain ordered from the United States of America arrive in this country there will be an over-abundance of this commodity. In the meantime, would it not be possible to re-examine the quantities of grain sorgum and maize now available in the coastal areas of New South Wales and Queensland with a view to releasing it to the poultry industry immediately? Then, when overseas orders arrive, an adjustment can be made. In that way we might be able to save the industry and avoid privation amongst poultryraisers.
I know that in very difficult circumstances the Minister has done his utmost to obtain stock-feed, and it is with a view to assisting him that I make this suggestion to him. It is possible that in some wheat-growing districts there is still a considerable quantity of grain stacked. If this were made available to poultry- farmers immediately, together with sorghums and maize from the coastal districts, there would probably be sufficient food to save the poultry industry until overseas shipments arrive.
A similar position exists in regard to the pig industry in this country. Only to-day I received a letter from the owner of a piggery in my electorate, stating that his stock is being reduced from 600 or 700 head to 300 head by killing, because of the shortage of feed. This is a serious loss, especially when we realize that we have to compete with Canada for the pig-meat market of Great Britain. At present Canada supplies 80 per cent, of Great Britain’s pig-meat requirements. We do not wish to see our pig herds drastically reduced, and, in order to remedy this position also, I urge the Minister to give consideration to the suggestion I have made.
.- By a curious coincidence the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has been referring to pigs. The matter to which I wish to refer concerns the extraordinarily soft-hearted treatment that has been meted out to that arch Fascist Hermann Goering since his capture by the Allies. I bring this matter to the notice of the House because I feel that the Australian nation which is still engaged in a war against a Fascist enemy, the Japanese, must feel hurt and distressed at the f favoured manner in which this man has been treated. Newspapers to-day say that Goering was allowed to change his uniform and to put on his best and biggest medals to be photographed by newspaper photographers. The report states that for these photographers, Goering struck various poses in a garden, and jested with his good-natured captors. General Eisenhower, the Commander-in-Chief of the British and American Forces in Europe, has become aware of the danger, and has issued an order, reported to-day, that there must be no fraternization with any Germans, however highly placed they may be. This particularly favoured treatment of a Fascist of the type of Goering is very hard for us to understand, when we remember that he was the head of the Luftwaffe and gave the instructions for the first big air blitz of the war - the devastating raid on Coventry. I do not know what the people of Coventry think of this softmannered approach to this murderer. Surely, Goering is the biggest fish that has been caught in the net spread for archcriminals of the war. If the treatment accorded to him can be taken as a standard, God knows what sort of triumphal . procession would have been given to Hitler if we could have captured him ! We do not want Goering to be executed without trial; but as a prisoner who is to face an international court of justice, he should be kept in solitary confinement, away from the multitude, until justice can be meted out to him. Instead of that, he is made a figure of glamour for the news reels and magazines. The whole thing must be heartbreaking to the parents of airmen, soldiers and civilians who have been blasted by German arms during the last five and a half years.
– Does the honorable member suggest that he should be given ‘ a fair trial and should then ‘be hanged ?
– Hanging would be too good for him. We are committed to democratic procedure, and should forthwith give effect to it, without all this ballyhoo, which is shocking to the susceptibilities of the average man in the street. If there is any poetic justice left in the world, the best thing to do with this Fascist would be to hand him over to the people of Coventry, whose city was devastated in that blinding raid which came out of the blue sky one night some years ago. I have a particular interest in mentioning Coventry, because the constituency that I represent - Parkes - was named after the father of federation, Sir Henry Parkes, whose former homestead, I understand, is one of the few left standing at Coventry. That association, I believe, is an added reason why all are as shocked as the soldiers of Britain by the news that this kid-glove treatment is being given to this Fascist Goering, who has been taken to a castle, fed on the best food available, and made the object of batteries of mews-reel cameras, and a general publicity build-up. There is a different and quicker way of dealing with such men. Mussolini was summarily dealt with by the people of Italy in their savage and summary anger against the enemies of the people.
I notice, too, in the news to-day, that there have been complaints from soldiers serving in the Allied Forces that they have been called upon to blacken the jack boots of high-ranking German officers who have been captured. It is extraordinary, and hardly, believable, that men who have fought for five and a half long years to free Europe from the pestilence of fascism, should be given the demoralizing and degrading task of cleaning the boots of even temporary high-ranking Fascists, all of whom ought to be either in gaol or on the gallows. This soft, silky treatment will make the people of Germany, who believe in nothing but force and the success which force can bring to them, consider that they, too, will be able to rear their heads in the future. I hope that the democratic way, although tortuous, eventually will bring Goering to the gallows. Meanwhile, these accounts are very disturbing to the people of this country, and I am sure that they must be even more disturbing to those who are closer to the scenes of devastation that have been wrought by this leader of the Luftwaffe who, on his own admission, set out to destroy the cities of England, without mercy. Now we find him eating chicken, displaying his medals, and jesting like a Pilate who has done his worst and has washed his hands of the whole venture. I appeal to the Minister in charge of the House to have the strongest possible representations made to the allied authorities against this sort of tiling, for the benefit of those who are still prosecuting the war in the Pacific, so that these prisoners shall be treated as the arch criminals they are, no matter what their rank may be.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for him to take whatever action may be deemed necessary.
I agree with the honorable members for Robertson (Mr. Williams) and Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that the present position of the poultry and pig industries in Australia is tragic. Incidentally, that applies also to other starving stock, and the fact is to be deplored. The disastrous drought through which we have passed, and which is still being experienced in many parts of Australia, is the only factor that has operated to bring this about. I know that the honorable member for Robertson is very worried in regard to it, because he has had many consultations with me with a view to finding a solution. Unfortunately, according to the advice which I have received from the Australian Wheat Board and other experts, only a certain quantity of wheat can be made available. Considerable difficulty is experienced in importing grain from other parts of the world. The only feed procurable is in the United States of America. It is not desirable to import supplies from South America because of their infestation with a certain pestilence, and we much prefer to keep out of Australia the diseases that are rampant in some of the countries of South America. Perhaps supplies could be distributed in anticipation of the arrival of orders, as the honorable member for Wide
Bay has suggested, but at the present juncture we cannot afford to take any risks. Shipping is not on the even keel that characterises it in peace-time. It is hoped and anticipated that the first shipments will arrive in July. When they have actually arrived, the position can be examined, but until then we cannot afford to take any risks. Grain sorghum, and other summer grains, are grown more in Queensland than in any of the other States. We estimated that in Queensland there would be approximately 3,000,000 bushels of grain sorghum. Had this materialized, it would have relieved the situation considerably. The guarantee was given of a highly payable price to those who might be fortunate enough to have the crops, but unfortunately rain did not come when it was needed, andI understand that the grain sorghum crop in Queensland amounted to only about 250,000 bushels. This proves how difficult it is for a government to combat the ravages of drought. The honorable members who have raised the matter may rest assured that everything possible is being done. When we are sure of the arrival of the grain ordered in the United States of America, the position will be reexamined in order that the present most tragic position may be relieved by whatever means may be open to us in the circumstances. We have no control over the conditions that have been responsible for the present position, but I should be lacking in my duty as a Minister if I did not deplore them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of External Affairs - F. H. Stuart.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 61.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Cooper’s Plains, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (69).
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations -
Orders by State Premiers -
New South Wales (Nos. 50, 55).
Tasmania (No. 10).
Victoria (dated 2nd May, 1945).
Statement of Australian Banking
Statistics for the five quarters ended 31st March, 1945.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945. Nos. 63,64.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
In amplification of 1 . above, it may be added that, despite the policy of the Department that uniform prices for officers and men should apply throughout the Australian Army (which in practice has meant a slightly higher price in certain southern areas, to the benefit of troops in more isolated areas), certain officers and sergeants’ messes had, prior to the 1st April, 1945, followed the practice of trading direct with wholesale merchants, and thus were able to buy at a preferential rate. Directions were issued that these messes were to come into line with other messes and thus make their fair and proper contribution to the policy of uniformity in price.
y. - On the 4th May, 1945, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army or the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether it is the policy of the Government to exclude members of the Australian Imperial Force discharged as medically unfit on a 100 per cent pension from obtaining a personal tobacco ration? If not, can the Minister explain why ex-QX27634, Mervyn Taylor, discharged in November, 1943, was advised that, as the tobacco ration scheme for discharged personnel did not come into operation until the 1st January, 1944, he was not entitled to a ration ? Will the Minister have the case investigated, and, after consultation with the appropriate Minister, make a full statement to the House?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
The position regarding this matter is that a scheme covering privileged supplies of tobacco and cigarettes for discharged servicemen and servicewomen has been in operation during the past twelve months. Under this scheme all persons discharged from the Fighting Services on and after the 1st January, 1944, are issued with permits authorizing a monthly supply of tobacco or cigarettes, provided application is made within six months of the date of discharge. To date, more than 75,000 dischargees are drawing privileged supplies under the scheme in question.
Special provision has not been made for servicemen discharged prior to the 1st January, 1944, for the reason that each of such men would have had the opportunity of establishing himself as a customer of one or more tobacco retailers.
It is realized that anomalies in this connexion will arise, and authority has been given for the extension of the privilege in cases of undue hardship, details of which are required to be submitted to the chairman, Tobacco Distribution Committee, in the capital city of the State concerned.
The case of the discharged soldier specifically mentioned appears to he one for special consideration and, if the honorable member will furnish me with the details I shall look into the matter.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House of the 3rd May, 1945, read the following letter from a serviceman: -
Just recently we have heard of the Minister for Trade and Customs announcing that a 5 per cent issue of tobacco above the normal monthly rate was now available to civilians, while at the same time the service issue was cut 33 per cent. Whilst we do not argue with the issue to the civilian population, it is definitely a cut out of all proportion which the serviceman has had to suffer. In other words, this over-issue to the services has been granted. But this is not so, as the previous scale of 3 ounces a week was just sufficient for the average normal smoker in the Army, for it must be understood that things being equal, the serviceman, through the nature of his surroundings and conditions, is inclined to value such comforts as he can receive and look for them more than a civilian. So on behalf of the men of my unit, I am writing in the hope that through the organization of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia something may be done to correct this anomaly, as the present issue of the tobacco is very far from satisfactory, more so as quite a lot of firms issue a ration of tobacco to their employees, who may also get it outside their firm, a condition of which the soldier has not the chance to avail himself.
The honorable member asked that the points raised in the letter should be inquired into by the Minister for Trade and
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450515_reps_17_182/>.