17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Si-baker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took tho chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform honorable members of the death on Thursday last, the 17 th May, of the Honorable Sir Arthur Robinson, K.O.M.G., a former member of this Parliament and of the Parliament of Victoria.
The lata Sir Arthur Robinson had a long and distinguished public career. He had the distinction of having served in three legislative chambers, the first of which was the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, in which he represented Dundas from November, 1900, to October, 1902. He was then elected to the House of Representatives for the Division of Wannon, Victoria, at the general elections in 1903, but was defeated at the general elections in 1906. After a lapseof six years, he again turned his attention to politics, and, at a by-election, vo, March, 1912, successfully contested theMelbourne South Province seat in the Legislative Council, Victoria, which he held until June, 1925y when he retired. During the greater part of that period,, he held ministerial rank, having been Minister without office from November,. 1915, to November, 1917; SolicitorGeneral and Minister for Public Worksand. a Vice-President of the Board of Land and Works- from March, 1918, toOctober, 1919 ; and Attorney-General and Solicitor-General from October, 1919, toJuly, 19S4, when ho resigned office. He was created a K.O.M.G. in . 1923, and was appointed a royal commission on certain matters in connexion with the British Phosphate Commission in 1926.
The late Sir Arthur Robinson had extensive public and commercial interests, included among which was the AustralianNatives Association, of which, at one time, he was the chief president. He will be esteemed for the public services which he rendered to the nation. Doubtless, his sorrowing widow and’ family will derive some consolation from the tributes that have been paid to his memory. I move -
That this House expresses its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable Sir Arthur Robinson, K.C.M.G., a former member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Wannon, a member of both Houses of the Parliament of Victoria and a Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of hia meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and the members of hia family iri their bereavement.
– I second the motion, with very deep regret, The late Sir Arthur Robinson was not only a member of a family which has done great service in this country, but probably also its- outstanding member. As the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, he served in three Houses of Parliament, and hia parliamentary work covered a long term of years. I remember him particularly as the Attorney-General of Victoria, in which office he did splendid work for that. State and, in particular, for the Lawson Government. He also had a distinguished career as a lawyer, and for many years before his death was an outstanding figure in the business world. Throughout his life, he was moved mostprofoundly by a sense of duty, and in particular by a very high and deep sense of public duty. He demonstrated that in his parliamentary work, as well as in ways which, perhaps, are not so well known - in particular, by his devotion for many years to the cause of education in Victoria. His name will always be most honorably associated, as one or two of my colleagues will have reason to know, with Scotch College, Melbourne. Throughout life he worked ceaselessly with more than one eye on the interests of other people. Our country is the richer for the fact that such a man has lived in and served it.
– I associate myself and myparty with the motion, and with the sentiments that have been voiced by. the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). We join with other parties in expressing sympathy with those who are left to mourn the loss of such a good Australian as was the late Sir Arthur Robinson.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Wool Tax Bill 1945.
Wool Use Promotion Bill 1945.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1945.
Income Tax Bill 1945.
– I have much pleasure in informing the House that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will leave hospital this afternoon.
F axed Official Photograph - Disaster at Kapooka Camp -Borneo Operations.
– by leave - On the 19th May, the Sydney
Morning Herald published, under the caption “ Official Picture WasFaked “, the picture of a man in uniform taken in New Guinea and distributed by the Department of Information, who was described in the caption as Private John Redd. The newspaper stated that the person represented in the picture was a Sydney Morning Herald war correspondent, John R. Scarlett, who hadbeen accredited to the Aitape sector, representing the morning newspapers, and said that it had asked the Government to make a full investigation. It has not yet been possible to make an exhaustive investigation, but the facts in the possession of the Government are -
Scarlett and myself approached But jetty with an advanced probing patrol of four men. When we reached the But jetty Scarlett and I paused in the undergrowth fringing the beach. The patrol left the undergrowth and moved towards the jetty to investigate. From the cover of the undergrowth I watched through the camera a patrol moving towards the jetty. It was a tense moment as we knew that the Japanese were separatedfrom us by a matter of yards. Swinging my camera I noticed Scarlett intently concentrating on the movement of the patrol. Although it was a back view of Scarlett, it looked a tense and good news picture. I pressed the trigger spontaneously.
While I was writing my captions at headquarters Scarlett asked me not to use his name. I pointed out that a picture was not much good without a name and suggested I use the synonym. He concurred, and I substituted for his name Jack Redd which means the same thing.
One of the first troops into But was Private Jack Redd, of Sydney. He is seen searching the area of But jetty with a wary eye before advancing into enemy-held territory.
This caption sought to do no more than call attention to the extremely tense moment in operations, and made no reference of any kind to the equipment which the subject of the picture was carrying.
I inquired into this matter personally and came to the conclusion that without doubt the men were guilty of an utterly foolish act. Later, as the result of their foolishness, certain remarks were made by newspapers and members of this House which finally resulted in the public being misled to some degree. I had doubt at the time as to any evil intention on the part of the men responsible, and no judgment had been passed either by me or by the Minister, who, perhaps, felt rather strongly about the matter. As the mcn are young, no doubt their conduct might have affected their future to some degree. I have asked the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to examine the files and prepare a short report as to whether there was any evil intent on the part of the men. They both have acceded to my request, and, when their report is presented, I shall inform the House of its contents (vide page 1950).
– Will the Government ask the right honorable member for Yarra and the right honorable member for Cowper, when they are inquiring into certain matters in connexion with the war correspondent, John Scarlett, to investigate the truth or otherwise of an allegation that during the last referendum campaign, a government department dressed, a man in an Australian Imperial Force uniform and filmed him for propaganda purposes? T understand that the man was not a in ember of the Australian Imperial Force, and the nbn, which advocated a “ Yes “ vote, was distributed to motion picture theatres throughout the country.
– My original statement was perfectly clear. I said that I had some doubt whether the two men were actuated ‘by evil intent, and I asked the right honorable member for Yarra and the right honorable member for Cowper to examine that particular aspect. I do not propose to go beyond that. “Mr. FULLER- Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army yet in a position to make a statement giving details of the unfortunate tragedy which occurred at Kapooka Military Camp near Wagga yesterday, when 26 men lost their lives and two were injured ? As this disaster occurred in my electorate, I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have been bereaved and to those who were injured.
– The Government learnt of the accident during the weekend with deep regret, and it also tenders its deep sympathy to the relatives of the deceased. I am not yet in a position to announce the details of the accident. The matter is being investigated, and no doubt considerable delay will occur before full particulars can be made known, owing to the fact that there are only two survivors and that they are probably suffering severely from shock. As soon as details are available, I shall communicate them to the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen reports that United States of America observers at Tarakan have expressed amazement at the small size of the Australian force sent there to do what the observers call a big job? As these reports have received wide publicity, will the Acting Prime Minister make a statement on the subject?
– I have not seen th* reports referred to, and I am not prepared to make a statement. I shall have the matter investigated in order to see whether there is in the reports anything to justify the making of a reply.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister explain to the House the reason for the circulation to the public of an occupation survey card, and can he say why no information is sought relative to the war service of citizens? Under what power does he propose to withhold the issue Ott a ration book, until such card is completed and handed in? Is this an attempt to collate all necessary information that will permit the Government to regiment man-power if and when its policy of socialization is implemented?
– The information sought by means of the card would have been much more extensive but for the man-power position. In connexion with the issue of ration books the Government desires to assist the man-power authorities in ascertaining the number of men available for employment now a-nd in the post-war period. If the honorable member desires further information on the matter, I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs read the sub-leader in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day headed “ Shabby Treatment “, relating to the case of Mrs. Mary Tenison-Woods, who, because of transport difficulties, has been unable to accept an invitation to attend a conference convened by the International Labour Office at Montreal ? If so, can he say whether there is any reluctance on the part of the department to facilitate the granting of travelling facilities for Mrs. Tenison-Woods, or whether the department will do what it can to ensure that her services shall be available at that important gathering?
– I can assure the honorable member that the department has given all possible aid in an effort to arrange a passage of Mrs. Tenison-Woods so that she might attend the conference at Montreal on matters relating to child welfare. On the 23rd April, we tried to get a passage by sea for her, but no accommodation was obtainable. On the 4th May, representations were made to the Royal Air Force for air transport, but as this is primarily an operational organization, and its aeroplanes do not carry passengers for money, the request of the Department of External Affairs on behalf of this lady was refused. A further application was made to London with a view to obtaining permission for her to travel by a Royal Air Force aeroplane, and this application is still under consideration by the authorities in London. I remind honorable members that Commonwealth departments which have interested themselves in this matter are merely the channels through which applications are forwarded to the authorities which have power to act. The Commonwealth departments themselves have no such authority.
– I have received a letter from the representative of a country patriotic committee in which it is stated that on the 11th of: May a statement was broadcast that the Government might take over certain patriotic funds and use them to ameliorate distress among servicemen. Can the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government intends to confiscate, or take any other action in regard to, surplus patriotic funds now held by various bodies throughout the country? If the broadcast statement has been misinterpreted, will the Acting Prime Minister give an assurance that no action of the kind is contemplated ?
– The broadcast statement was evidently a report of an answer which I gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Martin .(Mr. Daly). He sought information about the disposal of surplus patriotic funds, and I replied that I would give the matter consideration. I propose to do so, but I have not had an opportunity to consider it yet.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs know that goods in the shape of novelties clearly marked “Made in Japan “ are now being sold in Sydney shops? “Will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to discovering when the goods were imported, and whether there is any trade in enemy goods through neutral channels? Does the Minister know that this useless rubbish is being sold to the Sydney public at exorbitant prices ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but inquiries will be made.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of to-day’s date headed “ New Zealand may be asked for Fodder - “Western Australian Relief Ends. Federal Move to End Shortage “ ? In that report the following paragraph occurs: -
A New South Wales Government official said in Sydney last night that the Federal Government’s bungled agricultural policy had contributed largely to the fodder shortage.
Has the Minister any comment to make on this statement?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is unavoidably absent; but I shall bring the honorable member’s question to his notice, and a reply will be furnished later.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report in the Brisbane Courier Mail that a ban on the transport of grain, hay and chaff south of “Warwick by rail has resulted in tons of stock food being held up in Toowoomba ? “Was the Minister consulted by the Queensland Minister of Agriculture, Mr. “Williams, .before the latter, acting under powers delegated to him under National Security Regulations, imposed the prohibition which was designed, it is stated, to stop fodder from being sent outside Queensland? “Will the Minister take the matter up immediately with the Queensland Government so as to ensure that those affected in Queensland shall not be deprived of feed which is essential for their stock?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs lay on the table of the House the papers relating to the granting of permission to Mr. E. Thornton to travel from England to Australia recently in a Liberator aeroplane?
– I shall look into the matter in order to see whether it is possible to comply with the honorable member’s request.
Country Aerodromes - Emergency Landing Grounds
– I understand that municipal councils which seek from the Federal Government subsidies for the construction of aerodromes have been told to apply to their own State Government. Having regard to the importance of constructing aerodromes in country centres, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange for the making of grants by the Commonwealth Government direct to the councils for the carrying out of these essential works?
– I understand that previous governments did sometimes make grants to local bodies for the construction of aerodromes. When the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for Air such grants were sometimes made. The whole subject of aerodrome construction is now being examined in connexion with the Government’s general policy regarding airlines, and the use of certain routes. The honorable member’s suggestion will be examined.
– Will the Minister for Air make available wind socks for emergency landing grounds? I make this request because some weeks ago a civil aircraft was compelled to make an emergency landing not far from Mordialloc and the pilot experienced great difficulty because of the absence of a wind sock.
– I was not aware that any emergency landing grounds were not equipped with wind socks, but I shall have the matter investigated and endeavour to have the socks provided wherever they are required.
– As there is a fear in the minds of members of the Northern Territory Development Committee, a body which is vitally interested in the future welfare of the people of the Territory, that the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin will not be maintained after the war, and as these people, who know the Territory so well, believe it would be a tragedy if this highway were neglected, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior make an early announcement on the subject?
– I am not aware that it is proposed to abandon the maintenance of this road after the war. I shall obtain from the Minister for the Interior a full statement on the subject.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether a deputation of strikers involved in the Balmain waterfront dispute last week sought the Government’s assistance in bringing about a settlement, and offered to resume work if granted a general meeting of the members of their branch of the union? Is it a fact that the Communist-controlled executives of the Balmain branch, as well as the federal body of the Federated Ironworkers Union, are contributing to the hold-up by refusing to convene such a meeting, thereby denying the idle employees their democratic and lawful rights? Further, is it a fact that the Government, under pressure of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the federal executive officers of the Federated Ironworkers Union, withdrew counsel - Mr. F. A. Dwyer, K.C., and Mr. J. Maguire - who had been briefed to assist Judge O’Mara, who was inquiring into the strike? Will the Government invoke its war-time powers to permit the idle employees to have a proper meeting of the branch members called, with a view to a belated resumption of work?
– If the question relates to a matter which is now sub judice, the Minister need not answer it.
– The answer to the first question asked by the honorable member is “ Yes “. That is to say, a conference ofall parties to the dispute was called, and the result was a clearer understanding of the issues and a nearer approach to a settlement. The answer to the other questionsis “ No “.
– In connexion with the award of stars, medals, &c, to members of the Australian forces- who have served in various theatres of war, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the inclusion of men of the Royal Australian Navy who have served at Darwin on base duty for two or three years? I understand that a considerable number of men is affected.
– I do not know that this is a matter for decision by the Commonwealth Government; the granting of awards has been considered by various governments, and I understand that a general agreement was reached on certain principles. However, various points have arisen in connexion with these awards, and the Department of Defence is now having the whole matter examined, and as far as possible, the position will be clarified. As to the particular class of men to whom the honorable member referred, I shall have inquiries made.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read the report of an address by Mr. Chapman, Chairman of the “War Service Homes and Housing Committee, to members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Victoria last night, in which he referred to matters concerning which, I am sure, honorable .members would welcome information? Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that in reply to a questionnaire submitted to servicemen, 80 per cent, of them signified their desire to have their own homes on demobilization? Can the Minister also say whether, if the present regulations were lifted, homes could be built by working bees in the men’s spare time? Does he concur in the statement attributed to Mr. Chapman that a man would need to be a “ Philadelphia lawyer “ to keep track of the housing authorities in the present chaotic situation, and will he say what can be done to get more effective and prompt action taken in connexion with this serious social problem?
– I have not read the report of the address to which the honorable member has referred, but if statements such as the honorable member’s question indicates were .made, the speaker was ignorant of some of the facts in relation to the housing situation. It is probably true that a majority of returned servicemen desire to have their own homes, but the present shortage of manpower and materials does not permit of authority being given to them to erect homes. The supply of materials is really a question of man-power because bricks, tiles and other requisites for the building of houses cannot be provided unless extra man-power be made available.
– Much could be done by men working in their spare time.
– It should be obvious to the honorable member that materials necessary for the construction of houses, such as bricks and tiles, cannot be made by working bees, although much could be done in that way to erect houses ob sites where materials were available. The Government has this: matter under constant review, and is endeavouring to make more man-power available to those industries which provide the basic materials required for housing. “When the next review of the man-power situation takes place, it hopes to be able to make further man-power available for the building of houses.
– I have received several complaints that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has issued permits for the building of houses which do not provide adequate floor space as prescribed under building regulations of local government authorities, and, for this reason, the persons to whom such permits have been granted are unable to proceed with construction. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction confer with representatives ofl the local government authorities concerned with a view to adjusting the permits in order to enable these people to commence the construction of the homes in question?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and should the facts be as stated by the honorable member appropriate action will be taken.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consult with his colleague with a view to establishing a system of priorities in regard to telephone installations so that people in country districts will receive a preference while the shortage of materials and man-power continues ? In particular, will he indicate whether there is any likelihood of more telephones being made available in country districts in the near future?
– I shall ask the Post- master-General to investigate the subjectmatter of the honorable member’s question, and to let him have a reply as early as possible.
– Was the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as having told the Trade Unions Convention in Melbourne that preference to servicemen was constitutional because it came within the defence power of the Constitution? If so, can he explain why, in its official aase for “ Yes “ in the last referendum, the Government said that there were grave doubts as to the legal power of the Commonwealth to grant preference to service men and women? Further, can he explain why, in an advertisement published in August, 1944, the present Acting Prime Minister and the Attorney-General stated that it was false to say that the Commonwealth already had power to grant preferential treatment to service men and women and that that was why full powers for this Parliament were being sought?
– Anything that I wish to say, in regard to preference to returned servicemen and the constitutional aspects of the legislation now before the House, I propose to say when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill is under consideration, particularly that portion of it relating to preference.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether there is any significance in the fact that the Aluminium Commission is making its head-quarters in Sydney? A statement on the subject would do much to allay the fears of the people of Tasmania, that the industry may not foe established in that State.
– I give to the honorable member an assurance that the present arrangements will not in any way prejudice the rights of Tasmania in regard to the establishment of the aluminium industry in that State. The arrangement is purely temporary to meet the convenience of certain members of the commission. The offices of the commission will be established in Tasmania, but for the time being rooms will be made available at the Department of Munitions, in Sydney, to enable members of the commission to hold their preliminary discussions. As proof of the temporary nature of this arrangement, I am making my own office in Sydney available to the chairman of the commission.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the House whether it is likely that a considerable number of motor trucks and motor cars will be offered to the public, especially primary producers, who were informed months ago that a large num!ber of vehicles would shortly be sold, on behalf of the fighting services, through the War Disposals Commission ?
– The number of vehicles to be sold is determined, not by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, but by the Army authorities. Since the commission commenced operations, vehicles have been sold in various States. No doubt the number was not sufficient to meet the heavy demands. When the Army makes the vehicles available, the disposal takes place, and I suggest to the honorable member that his best course would be to take up the matter with the Army authorities.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the Century on the 18th May, that during his recent visit to Canberra the Australian Minister to Moscow, Mr. Maloney, addressed the Federal Parliamentary Labour Caucus? If so, will the Acting Prime Minister inform me who invited Mr. Maloney to give that address ? How does the honorable gentleman reconcile the giving of such an address with his refusal to lay on the table of the House a statement regarding matters of public interest contained in Mr. Maloney’s representations to the Government? Why were not members of the Opposition also given an opportunity to hear the address?
– It is true that, at their request, the Australian Minister to Moscow, Mr. Maloney, delivered an address to some, not all, members of the Parliamentary Labour party.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister forgotten the existence of the Empire Parliamentary Association?
– Mr. Maloney addressed, not the caucus, but a group of individual members of the Parliamentary Labour party. The fact that caucus did not meet on that particular day, is clear evidence that he did not address it.
– But only members of the Labour party were invited to hear the address.
– I should have been very glad to extend an invitation to members of the Opposition, but I am afraid that they might have desired to remain in the rooms of the Labour party.
– On behalf of the Council of the Progress Association of Greater Brisbane, I should like to know whether the Acting Prime Minister can help to overcome the shortage of water in the Greater Brisbane area ? Many representations have been made to the honorable gentleman on this subject. Will he examine this urgent matter with a view to providing the necessary man-power and material to improve the water supply?
– I am not familiar with all the matters raised by the honorable member for Moreton. Many water supply problems reach the Government through various channels, and I would have assumed that any request for action to improve the supply for Greater Brisbane would have been submitted to the Loan Council with a view to obtaining an allocation of funds, if it were necessary to use loan money for the work.
– The difficulty arises not from the lack of funds, but from the lack of man-power and materials.
– So far as I can recall, no one has brought this matter to my notice, but I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is responsible for the allocation of manpower, and the Minister for Munitions, who allocates materials, to examine the request.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the fees at the Women’s Hospital, in Brisbane, have been restored to the rate of 12s. a day? Is the honorable gentleman yet in a position to answer the question which I asked nearly a fortnight ago as to who authorized the increase of fees from 12s. to 15s. in the first instance? Was the increase made without the authority of the Prices Commissioner?
– When the honorable member originally asked this question, the matter was referred immediately to the Department of Trade and Customs. I shall endeavour to obtain a reply for him to-day.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether it is the intention of the Government to arrange travel permits for two members of the International Youth Committee, whose postal address is “ Communist Head-quarters, Sydney,” to travel to London for the purpose of attending a youth world conference?
– I have no knowledge of such an application, but shall’ make inquiries through the department to ascertain whether one has -been made.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House what is the policy of the Government regarding German prisoners of war held in Australia? Does the Government propose to follow the course, which has been adopted tb v other members of the United. Nations, of putting those prisoners to work? Is it a fact that, while milk is in short supply for Australian civilians, the milk ration for prisoners of war has not been reduced ?
– It is not customary to deal with matters of Government policy in answers to questions. However, I shall consider the matters raised by the honorable member.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question relating to the convention of trade unions held in Melbourne a little over a week ago and attended by ‘Commonwealth Ministers. Before doing so, I shall read the following extract from the latest issue of the Century -
It waa nothing more or less than a glorified picnic, the cost of which the Government stood, in the face of such largesse, how could any delegate bite the hand that fed him?
I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact that 200 union delegates attended the convention, and that their expenses were borne by the Government ? If so, what was the total cost involved?
– The Government called the convention at the request of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. Some of the expenses in all such conferences have been borne by the Government. It is not my understanding of the position at the moment that all the expenses have been paid by the Government. However, the convention to which the honorable member refers was held under exactly the same conditions as those which applied to all previous gatherings of the kind.
– Were there 200 delegates present? Is that correct?
– I am not able to say. I understand that S2 unions were represented.
– Could I put in a claim for the next conference of the Australian Liberal party?
– Judging by some of the meetings of the Australian Liberal party I, personally, should be very glad to contribute towards the cost of holding them.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Life Insurance and other matters.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the payment of war gratuity to members of the defence force in respect of war service.
Debate resumed from the 18th May, (vide page 1899), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fadden had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ .be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide more adequately for the reestablishment of members of the forces, more specially with regard to the incorporation of-
effective preference unlimited as to time; and
the maintenance of the principle of preference in the Commonwealth Public Service Acts’”.
.- This measure, which has now been before the House for some weeks, is concrete evidence of the Government’s desire to give sympathetic consideration to the rehabilitation claims of the men and women of our fighting services who have done so much, on behalf of the nation. Surprise has ‘been expressed that honorable members opposite have not approached the bill in a non-party spirit.
I should be very surprised indeed had honorable members opposite done so, because, invariably, whenever a measure dealing with the repatriation of exservice personnel or the welfare of members of our fighting services has come before Parliament, members of the opposition parties, even when in office, have treated it as a party measure. Therefore, they are merely running true to form in their approach to this bill. I have carefully noted the attempts on the part of honorable members opposite to make party political capital out of the measure, but they have failed dismally in that respect. The bill is most comprehensive, consisting of 135 clauses occupying 54 pages of print. The comprehensiveness of the measure is evidence of the Government’s desire to do the right thing by our ex-service personnel. During the course of the debate it has been alleged that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) held, a gun at the Prime Minister’s head during the first Curtin Government. I deny that statement unequivocally. At that time, I was Government Whip, and, in the course of my duties, I was in close touch with the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Henty, as well as the other independent member, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). At that time, the honorable member for Henty rendered excellent service in the interests of the nation as a member of this House. I repeat that at no time did he adopt towards the Prime Minister or the Government the attitude alleged by honorable members opposite. On that point, I should like to recall certain remarks made in this House long before the drafting of this measure was undertaken. On the 17th February, 1943, the honorable member for ‘Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question to which the Prime Minister replied as follows : -
The Government . . . believes that preference to returned soldiers in this war should be integral to the general administration.
That statement was made a month before the Government introduced the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, 1943. On that occasion the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked the Prime Minister whether he would make a statement to the House of the Government’s attitude regarding preference to returned soldiers, and the following exchange ensued: -
– That has already been done. If the honorable member desires mc to repeat the Government’s policy, I shall examine th* previous statement with a view to ascertaining whether it contains any imperfections.
– The answer which the right honorable gentleman gave to the honorable member for Cook does not ensure preference to returned soldiers.
– Most certainly it ii preference.
– To whom?
– To returned soldiers. The policy which the Government has adopted is in accord with Australian sentiment and has the approval of the trade unions. I have discussed this matter with senior officers of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
These statements were made prior to the introduction of the amending repatriation legislation passed by this Parliament in 1943. In this chamber, on the 19th March, 1943, referring to an amendment to the repatriation measure moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the Prime Minister said - . . legislation is being prepared foi submission to the Parliament, so that the Parliament may be able to apply ite collective wisdom to the problem. The Parliament must accept the responsibility, not only for the affirmation of the principle, but also for the way in which that principle shall be applied and to whom it shall be applied.
It is impossible to discuss the whole problem of preference to returned soldiers on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). The subject covers so wide a field that the proper way to bring it before the Parliament so that a decision can be obtained is by the submission of a bill. I undertake to introduce a bill for that purpose.
I hope to be able to introduce it during the next term of the Parliament. A carefully prepared measure is necessary.
That statement also indicates clearly that the allegation that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) held a gun at the head of the Prime Minister is incorrect. In his policy speech on the 26th July, 1943, the Prime Minister said -
The Government had hoped to pass through the last Parliament a measure which would have dealt fairly, justly and effectively with the question of preference for members of th<> forces. It was blocked in this endeavour by precipitate action by the Senate Opposition but will make such an act one of its first measures for submission to the new Parliament.
At the opening of Parliament on the 23rd September, 1943, the GovernorGeneral, reviewing the Government’s legislative programme, said -
My Government will continue to make adequate provision for the restoration to their rightful place in the civil life of our fighting forces.
The sacrifices of all the men and women who have served in the various spheres of war activity have merited and will receive the full recompense of the nation.
Proposals will be submitted to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal effectively with the problem of post-war reconstruction. This problem . . . will include such important matters as the reinstatement and advancement of the Australian fighting forces and their dependants, the provision of employment and the prevention of unemployment.
In view of these statements, there can be no doubt about the sincerity of the Government in announcing its intention to do the right thing by ex-service mcn and women of this country. When the war started in 1939, there were 250,000 unemployed persons in this country. Most of them have since volunteered for service with the fighting forces, or have been drafted into these forces. When demobilization occurs, the Government will ensure that these 250,000 persons who did not have jobs prior to the war shall assume their rightful place in the community. Employment will be found for them, so that those who are already married, or who desire to marry, shall have economic security for themselves and their families or prospective families.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mt. Holt) said that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, had assumed the control of the re-establishment of men and women of the fighting forces of that country. That is only « half truth, because Mr. Churchill allocates responsibility for certain tasks to his Ministers, just as the Prime Minister of this country does. Australia is in an entirely different position from that of Great Britain or of New Zealand. In both these countries, there is only one parliament; but in this country, there are six State parliaments as well as a Commonwealth Parliament. Many things which the Commonwealth Parliament desires to do it cannot do because of that division of authority. When this Government, which always has shown an honest desire to do its best for members of the forces, held a referendum to obtain from the people authority to tackle the problems of the re-establishment .and rehabilitation of service personnel m the best possible manner, honorable members opposite opposed an affirmative vote. In the minds of some people at least, there is some doubt as to whether this measure is constitutional. I understand, however, that the trade unions of Australia have obtained an opinion from Mr. Fullagar, K.C.. one of Australia’s most eminent legal authorities. His view is that the measure can be legal only by providing as it does a specified time limit for the operation of the preference clauses. Therefore, I have no doubt that the measure is legal. If not, then it is the responsibility of private industry to prove otherwise, and I have no doubt that even the wealthy vested interests will not take that responsibility upon themselves.
I -have a great admiration for the work that has been done by the Government of New Zealand, .and also for the achievements of the fighting forces of that country in this war; but the job that New Zealand has done does not compare with the job that this country has done. With a population approximately four times that of New Zealand, Australia to-day has ten times as,many men and women in its fighting services. Therefore, the responsibility which devolves upon the Commonwealth Government to ensure that service personnel of this country shall be reinstated in civil employment is both great and complex. In Australia also, certain responsibilities must he allocated to the various States; New Zealand has no such problem. If the Government of New Zealand wishes to build homes for the people of that country it can do so without hindrance; if it desires to settle men on the land, it oan do that also; but the Commonwealth, of its own accord, cannot do either of these things. It has to rely upon the State governments to put its policy into operation. Last week-end, when I was in Melbourne, on committee work, I was informed that the Government of Victoria was contemplating settling men on the land in a locality, which I understand is not suitable for this purpose. The Commonwealth Government will have to be very wary to see that the States do not treat ex-servicemen of this war in the manner in which the soldier settlers of the last war were treated. On both sides of this chamber, there are men who had experience of soldier settlement schemes after the last war, and they know what a struggle most soldier settlers had to make ends meet. I trust that on this occasion the Government will ensure that ex-servicemen shall not have to endure the same disabilities as were suffered by soldier settlers after the last war.
The honorable member for Fawkner stated that a lift operator had become a brigadier in this war, and that a clerk had become a colonel. In my view, these mon are deserving of commendation; but such cases indicated clearly the complex problem which this Government will face in rehabilitating ex-servicemen when this war is over. There are many thousands of mcn who have benefited during the war in the same way as these two men have done, and I am certain that they will not desire to return to their former employment, nor is it the desire of the Government that they should do so. The Government must find other jobs for these men and women, and I have no doubt that it will do the right thing on their behalf. It is only natural, at the present time, that the thoughts of members of the fighting services should turn to their homeland, and we all hope and trust that the war against Japan will end in the near future and that they will be able to return soon. If there be any doubt as to whether preference is intended to continue for seven years after the end of the war against Japan, the Government should, take steps to clarify its intention. However, I am certain that the preference provisions will apply for that period. Our fighting men have one great desire at the present time. They want to return to Australia, obtain jobs and provide homes and security for their families. The bill is designed to enable them to realize that ambition. Unfortunately, the State housing authorities will have to act as agents for the Com- monwealth. I urge the Government to introduce a huge programme of house construction on behalf of servicemen. It has the right to do so, and it should begin work immediately so that when demobilization begins, our .fighting men can be housed properly. Every man who wishes to purchase a home should be able to do so on easy terms of repayment and at a reasonable rate of interest. I hope that the Government will reduce interest rates at present charged to ex-servicemen for the purchase of homes from 4 per cent, to a maximum of 3 per cent. Amongst the numerous provisions of the bill is one relating to vocational training of service men and women. Unfortunately, the Government has set an age limit. I consider that any man wishing to undertake a training course should be permitted to do so, irrespective of his age. Many men, who were doing menial jobs before the war, enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and, on account of natural aptitude, were trained for skilled jobs. Such men should be enabled to complete their training, if they have not done so in the services, and age should be no bar. The allowances payable to men and women undergoing vocational training should be on the same scale. I do not believe that any honorable member would expect a woman to live more cheaply than a man. Therefore, I cannot understand why there should be any difference between the rates payable to men and women respectively. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision and amend the bill accordingly in the committee stages. Australia has taken almost six years to mobilize its maximum war effort, but it will take probably no more than one year after the cessation of hostilities to demobilize the services. Therefore, the Government must, in twelve months, go back over the ground which it took six years to cover. Its problems will be very complex. The Government should start immediately to release men and women from the services, where possible. New Zealand has commenced its return from full-scale war preparedness to peace-time conditions, and there is no reason why Australia should not do likewise. To-day, New Zealand has only one division of troops, with reinforcements, in service, and those men are not fighting at the present time. It is time that the Commonwealth Government began to break down its commitments to other nations, so that it can commence demobilization. We have many thousands of men in base jobs, and most of them are living away from their own homes. Men such as these, who are engaged oh clerical work and other office jobs, should be transferred to their home States and allowed, where possible, to live in their OWn homes. That would be a beginning of demobilization and would ease the problems that will arise when the war ends. The Government has learned many things during the war, and it has made use of this knowledge in preparing the bill. I am sure that the measure will safeguard, the interests of the men and women of the services. If there be any imperfections in it they can be removed. New Zealand has already made twenty amendments to its legislation for the re-establishment of service men and women, and this Government should not hesitate to amend the hill in order to remove any anomalies which it may contain. The bill represents a positive step towards granting justice to the men and women who have served the nation in its hour of need. The welfare of these people is the responsibility, not only of the Commonwealth Government, but also of the nation as a whole. The road to Tokyo and the road home are identical. When our fighting men return home, the Government should have prepared the way for them &o that they can be properly fed, clothed and housed. During this Avar the Government, instead of being the servant of money, has made money its servant. .Therefore, there is- no reason why it should not be able to carry out this work. There is a great deal of disagreement between honorable members on the subject of preference in employment to ex-service men and women. Preference is not given to returned soldiers in any other country. It was introduced in Australia after the war of 1914-18 to suit the political purposes of the government of the day, and has continued since then, but this measure proposes that preference shall be limited to seven years after the cessation of hostilities1. ‘Certain men and women have earned a definite right to consideration over others by reason of their war service. We must consider not only the relative rights of soldiers and civilians, but also the respective merits of the differentbranches of the armed services on the basis of sacrifice and service. If we do so, we must admit that some branches of the fighting services have a stronger moral claim to preference than have others. If we judge by personal sacrifice in tho services, Ave must readily admit that individuals who have held base jobs, with hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on five days of the week, and from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays, are not entitled to the same degree of preference as those who went overseas. Our men who fought in the deserts with the attendant difficulties, and dangers of disease, and those who fought in New Guinea and elsewhere in the Pacific, facing the extreme hardships and rigours of jungle warfare, with exposure to many tropical diseases, should receive more favorable consideration than those who did not go into the front line. Many men, we all realize, desired to become front-line soldiers, and volunteered for such service, but because they were too old, or perhaps were not 100 per cent, physically fit, or were more urgently needed elsewhere, did not reach the tropics, and were even forbidden to enter the fighting zones. No doubt such men were disappointed, but the fact remains that they did not suffer the rigours of desert or tropical warfare and, in my opinion, they would not desire or expect the same degree of preference as men who fought in the Middle East and in the Pacific areas.
I have met many thousands of soldiers. During the early days of the war with Japan, when Queensland was a frontline area in many respects, I had the honour of doing some special work for the Government among the troops. At that time Ave appeared to be on the eve of invasion. I discovered then, and I have had no reason to believe that the situation has changed since, that those in base jobs did not desire to be placed in the same category as men and women who entered the firing line. Our forces are not fighting to win an advantage over their fellow workers They are fighting to keep inviolate an Australia that will give them and their families a home, security and a happy and contented existence. They do not want their country to be torn asunder by strife and discontent. It behoves us, therefore, to make possible the kind of Australia for which they are looking, by doing our utmost to re-organize our social life, develop our industries and prevent the country from being flooded, in the future, by overseas imports. “We all desire Australia to be a creditor country; we do not desire it to revert to a debtor nation status as it did after the last war.
We must ensure security, not only for our ex-service men and women, but also for all who desire work. It is desirable that the Government should agree, at the committee stage of the bill, to such, amendments as may be necessary to ensure that there shall he a complete repudiation of the old idea of placing disabled men and women in unskilled jobs. Opportunity must be given to such people to learn a trade or to qualify for technical or professional callings. There should be a comprehensive survey by the Commonwealth of all government and private industries to ascertain their suitability or adaptability for providing work for disabled people. Such a scheme should embrace all men and women who have been disabled through war service, or any other cause. Their names should be registered, together with particulars of their incapacity, and both Government and private employers should be obliged, by statute, to find employment for a certain number of those whose names are so registered. I would make this compulsory. In that way we should ensure that those who have suffered during the war or through other causes could be absorbed in work of the kinds they are qualified to perform. Under such a scheme the partly incapacitated people in the community would be able to look forward to absorption into the normal life of the country, and they would not then feel that they were a drag upon their relatives and friends.
It is absolutely essential that work shall be provided for all the people who are willing to work. In times when work is abundant in private industries, the Commonwealth and State Governments could, perhaps, curtail to some degree, work on public undertakings, and, whenever the amount of work available ia private employment declined, governmental enterprises could be expanded. This would undoubtedly assist in the achievement of our ideal of “ employment for all “.
This bill has been before the House since the 23rd March, and it should be passed as soon as possible. 1 hope, therefore, that it will be passed through committee without undue delay. I urge the need to provide adequate vocational training, with refresher courses in jobs requiring special qualifications. These should be available irrespective of the age of applicants. It is necessary, also, in my opinion, that the limit of the proposed loans to persons who desire to purchase small businesses should be increased. “We all know that in the early days of the war many people made big sacrifices in surrendering their small business undertakings so that they could engage in urgent war service. Other people were obliged by government- direction to abandon their businesses in order to take up some branch of essential war service. The Government must treat such individuals in a liberal way.
– It will be a Liberal government after the next elections.
– I do not think that there will ever be a Liberal government in this country. The so-called Liberal party, represented by honorable members opposite, is all bits and pieces. This Government will deal justly with the men and women ofl the fighting services. The proposed loan of up to £.1,000 for persons who desire to purchase farms is not sufficient. 1 am given to understand that that amount would not go very far in the purchase of farmlands. I consider, also, that the Government should make family loans available. Many of the young men of this country who entered the Royal Australian Navy at, say, seventeen years of age, or the Royal Australian Air Force at eighteen years, and the Army at eighteen or nineteen years will desire, on their return to civil, life, to marry and settle down. “We should do our utmost to help them to do so. In addition to housing loans, the Government should adopt a system of marriage loans, which would encourage people to have larger families. Many honorable members have spoken in this House at different times about the need to increase the population of Australia. We have been told that we ought to encourage migrants from the other side of the world. The Lord only knows where we can obtain the right kinds of people. There is one thing we can do, however, and that is to provide means whereby the young people of Australia who have made such great sacrifices during the five and a half years of war may marry and settle down without financial embarrassment. I am sure that the Government will do the right thing in this regard. The desire should be to ensure full employment as an essential prerequisite to economic security. Lacking provision for that, the future of our present form of government will be at stake. The people will not again tolerate the poverty, misery and hardships caused by unemployment during the depression years, because money could not be found to provide work for all. When the country became involved in war, the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds was easily undertaken. Within recent years, the expenditure for destructive purposes has been £1,500,000 a day, yet prior to the war, and especially during the Repression years, the Government of the day found it impossible to devote a few million pounds to the provision of work for the people. In a democracy, the ensuring of full employment is the responsibility of the governing body. If jobs can be found for all during a time of war, there is no reason why they should not be provided in peacetime. That is the test which the people will apply, and it will be a challenge to the survival of our democratic system. The experience gained in the organization of production and man-power during the war years should be sufficient to enable fall employment to be maintained in the post-war period. I sincerely trust that, as time goes on, this legislation will meet the desires of those who are discharged from the fighting services, and that the Government will take immediate steps to remedy any imperfections which may be revealed. I have no hesitation in assuming that the present administration will still be in control of national affairs at the end of seven years, when further consideration may have to be given to the matter of preference. There should be a review by whatever Government is then in power. Should it be considered unnecessary to continue preference on a Commonwealth basis, any legislation passed by the States would still be operative. The Queensland Government has brought down legislation which stipulates that any man placed in employment under it must become a member of the relative trade union within fourteen days. Organizations of returned soldiers in that State have written to the Premier, thanking him and praising his Government for its legislation on behalf of service nien and women. In Queensland, 90 per cent, of the people are unionists. Every unionist in the fighting services has been kept financial in the books of his union. For 27 of the last 30 years, there has been a Labour Government in that State. The success which has attended its efforts to establish the principle of preference to unionists should impel this Parliament to legislate along similar lines.
I heard the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) say that the Government of Queensland has made it compulsory for servicemen to join a trade union before receiving preference. In other words, according to the honorable member, they are not entitled to a livelihood for service rendered to the country, but are to receive it because of fees paid to a political organization. I shall never concede that that is just. By reason of their war service> they have bought their ticket for a livelihood in this country and no condition should be attached, such as one requiring them first to join a trade union or any other organization. No other member of the community should have a prior right to a job or a livelihood if ex-servicemen are capable of carrying out the task. If they be disabled, of course, they must be catered for in another way. It cannot be said truthfully that if they were granted the right to which I have referred they would be riding on the back of the organized community and reaping the resultant benefit of that organization. As a matter of fact, the reverse position obtains. Trade unions, political parties and other organizations in this country are functioning only because of the deeds of valour of the servicemen. “We are enjoying our livelihood, and will continue to enjoy the benefits of citizenship of this country, because the servicemen have fought and protected us from the enemy. To give limited or even doubtful preference during a period when it would be least needed would be reprehensible. During the seven years immediately succeeding the cessation of hostilities there will be ample employment for all. If, after that, servicemen were placed at the mercy of the community or of trade unions, whose members by then might have forgotten in part their deeds of valour, a grave injustice would be committed. Every effort must be made to prevent such treatment of them, and that can be done only by catering for their needs now. We should provide them with continuous preference, because we are now best able to assess the value of their service to the country. Any limitation of the preference would nullify its benefit.
I agree that one Minister and one department should deal with all matters relating to members of the fighting services and their needs. Many problems referred to in the bill are dependent on further action. The measure is so general in its terms that those matters will have to be dealt with apart from this bill. The only thing that is certain about the measure is the uncertainty that will prevail regarding many matters covered by it. If the Government sincerely desires to deal with problems of the rehabilitation -of servicemen, I submit that it has omitted to refer in the bill to some vital matters. The measure should have included reference to the post-war reconstruction policy of the Government as it will affect discharged members of the forces. It should have referred also to the industries that must be established in -order to provide employment for servicemen in the various avocations for which they have been trained. It should have dealt with the constructional work to be undertaken as the result of such training rand the replacement of men in industry.
I can find nothing in the bill outlining a land settlement policy. We have been told that that matter falls within the jurisdiction of the State authorities. I -agree, but as the Commonwealth Government must provide the necessary funds for the inauguration of such a policy it will obviously have a deciding voice regarding it. I should regret a repetition -of the experience of the settlement of returned servicemen on the land after the last war. Irrespective of the political colour of the governments in power at the time, the land selected was in most instances not of sufficiently good quality to enable the settlers to obtain a livelihood from it. In one instance, in Queensland, returned soldiers were placed on land that would not provide food for a bandicoot. It had been chosen for fruitgrowing purposes, and eventually the settlers walked off the blocks. I deplore the repetition of that disgraceful action by the selection of the same land in later years for tobacco-growing, for which it was equally unsuitable. I fail to understand how so-called experts could be so [inconsiderate towards men who had offered their lives in the defence of their country. Practical men should be chosen now for the purpose of laying the foundations of land settlement schemes proposed to be implemented. Similarly, practical men should be given the task of arranging for the establishment of business undertakings in which ex-servicemen could be employed, so that the desire of the Government to provide full employment for them could be given effect immediately upon their discharge from the forces. However, nothing seems to have been done to that end. We have yet to learn details of the Government’s plans to provide housing accommodation for ex-service personnel.
In the demobilization of servicemen priority should be granted to those members of the forces who will have definite places of employment to which to return, whether they have their own businesses or the prospects of starting in business on their own account, or wish to return to their own properties on the land. It is essential to give such men first priority, and to provide all possible amenities and facilities in rural areas. Men who lived in the country before their enlistment will have sampled the attractions of the city, and will not be so keen to return to country life. If Australia is to be populated, if our rural industries are to prosper, prices, wages and allowances should be adjusted to compensate those who live in rural areas. In other words, instead of the city dwellers enjoying advantages in the form of lower prices and higher wages, the reverse should be the case.
The provision in the bill respecting loans to ex-servicemen is somewhat ambiguous, but it would appear that the amounts provided for are themselves insufficient, and if they are accepted they will have the effect of prejudicing the serviceman’s chance of getting financial assistance from other sources. The maximum, advance to a serviceman desiring to settle on the land is fixed at £1,000. Whilst this may be enough to enable a man, who owns his own property, to get it into order again, and to buy stock, it is not enough for the man who wants to buy a farm, except’, perhaps, a fruit-growing block. I do not know of any district where it is possible to buy a suitable holding of agricultural land for as little as £1,000. The settler would need to Have a good deal of money of his own, in addition to the Government advance, in order to buy the land, and more money would be required with which to buy stock and plant. In most districts, between £3,000 and £4,000 would be needed. I am afraid that the settler, having accepted the Government loan of £1,000, would then have to take his place in the queue for a further advance, either from the mortgage bank or from some private bank. Ex-servicemen should not be treated in that way.
I regard the bill as disappointing. It does not give to members of the forces that permanent assurance of favorable treatment which is their due. It has failed to provide adequately for their establishment, re-establishment or employment in trade and industry. Therefore, I support the amendment that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted so that its many serious anomalies may (be corrected.
– As I listened to this debate my mind went back to other days and other scenes in this city and in this Parliament, back to the year 1931. At that time, there were two great camp3 of unemployed men within a few hundred yards of Parliament House. If one went out the front door and walked over the hill, he came upon No. 4 camp. If one went out the back way and walked over another hill, one came upon the Capital Hill camp. Both were concealed from the sight of the visitor to Parliament House, but they were there, and in each of them were many hundreds of unemployed men who had found their way to Canberra from all parts of New South Wales, and every other State of the Commonwealth. Among them were many returned soldiers of the 1914-18 war. They had made their way to Canberra because here they could get a fortnight’s rations without being forced to move on again. Furthermore, if they could succeed in maintaining themselves in Canberra long enough to have their names placed on the employment roll, they would enjoy the privilege of getting one week’s work in four. And so they made their way by foot, or by car - if they were able to get a lift- - from every part of New South Wales, so that they might enjoy these advantages, such as they were. Any one who was accustomed to travel up and down from Sydney to Canberra by road in those days will remember that the drivers of cars bearing the Australian Capital Territory numberplate were always hailed by men carrying their swags, men who were being driven on by the police from town to town. They seized the opportunity to obtain a lift to Canberra and, having arrived here, they sought a place in a hut in one of the camps. They were able to get a few groceries to carry them on for a week or two, and some of them, by continued residence in Canberra, qualified for one week’s work in four or five. And yet, so far as I know, in every State from which these men came there was a law, the purpose of which was to ensure preference in employment to returned soldiers, but for these men it was an utter fraud and sham. The best they could hope for was to get to Canberra, where no preference law existed.
– That was during the term of office of the .Scullin ‘Government.
– There was a change of government in that year, but whatever the government in office at that time, it did not have the power to remedy the situation, or to relieve the sufferings of those men. No law passed by any State parliament to give preference to returned servicemen was of any real value to them.
– There was a Labour government in .practically every State at that time.
– That was not so ; but that does not affect my point. I know what those men suffered, because I associated with them daily. Many of them were my friends during the time that they stayed in this city. Indeed, I brought many of them here in my car; at that time I travelled to and from Sydney almost weekly. During the day I worked inside this building, as my work was the reporting of the efforts of the government of the day to overcome the conditions brought about by the depression - attempts to give some security to the hundreds of thousands of people who were without work and without hope. T watched the proceedings in this Parliament from the press gallery, and at the same time hundreds of unemployed men from the No. 4 camp and the Capital Hill camp listened to the debates from the public galleries. They heard the debate on the proposal to make available £18,000,000 to provide work for the unemployed. I remember the Senate gravely debating whether ruin would follow the shipping of £10,000,000 of the gold reserve from Australia. I recall the then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, who said that he had stood over the government with a whip, being brought to the bar of the Senate. The Commonwealth Bank refused to give financial assistance to the then government unless social services were further reduced in value and unless additional restrictions were placed on the provision of employment. I heard him give to the Senate reasons against the export of Australia’s gold reserve. When I contrasted the misery of those thousands (fi men, many of whom were returned soldiers who dwelt in huts within a few hundred yards of this building, with the impotence of the Parliament, to assist them, T realized that preference was not the remedy for their troubles, but that what was wanted was power veste’d in the Parliament to direct the financial system of this country and to control its land laws. Unfortunately, the powers which would have helped those unfortunate men could not be exercised by the Parliament. I realized, too, that all the preference that could be granted ‘by law could do nothing for them. A few years later - I refer particularly to the period prior to the outbreak of the present war - it was my daily experience to interview men who were unemployed and seeking relief work in and around Sydney. They came daily into my office there and related their difficulties. , Many of them were returned soldiers of the last war, but the majority of them were the younger brothers, or the sons, of returned soldiers of the war of 1914-18. Numbers of them had not known what it was to enjoy any security of employment whatever since they had left school. So many of the young men whom I met then had had no opportunity whatever to enjoy a happy life in this country; from the day that they left school to make their own way in life their careers had been frustrated. They found no way to make places for themselves; they had no opportunity to marry, or make homes, because they had no chance of regular income. Until the present war broke out they had no future. As members of the fighting services many of them enjoyed the first regular employment that they have ever known. Large numbers of them have died for security and freedom which they themselves never enjoyed. Preference was no good to them; and a preference similar to that which prevailed after the war of 1914-18 will be of no use to the men and women who will come back after this w’ar.
– Does the honorable member think that we have not learned anything since then?
– We have not learned anything if we make preference of the type that existed after the last war the keystone of our rehabilitation plans for the future. The comprehensive proposals in this measure for the rehabilitation of service men and women will be of far greater value to them than would any preference of the kind that operated after the last war.
– Preference will not stop a comprehensive rehabilitation plan to which the honorable member has referred.
– Something more than preference is needed. Neither will preference of itself stop the miseries and the sufferings which men endured after the war of 1914-18. Full employment is necessary - a guarantee to every man able and willing to work that work will be provided for him. I believe that the legislative programme of the Government will give that opportunity. In the meantime, the proposals contained in this bill for preference for seven years can be justified first, on the ground that men who have served with the forces for 3, 4, 5 or 6 years have suffered a disadvantage compared with men who have remained at their office desks, or at their work benches, in regular employment. Secondly, I believe that the preference provisions of this bill will have real value in that at the time of their demobilization men will have an assurance that they will be looked after during the time that they will be adjusting themselves to the conditions of civil life. As the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) said earlier this afternoon, although this legislation will supersede State legislation dealing with preference, it will do so only during the limited period of seven years for which it provides. At the end of seven years, it will not leave the preference position any worse than it is to-day, before this legislation is passed, and will not interfere, at the expiration of the period, with any preference provisions which any of the States may desire to maintain.
I was horrified by the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that this preference will be required for more than seven years, so that Australians, who are now captives of the Japanese and who, he said, are broken in health and spirit, shall have some opportunity to compete for employment in this country.
– Does not the honorable member consider that those men should be given some preference in employment?
– It would be a dreadful thing indeed if those men, who have suffered in Japanese prisoner of war camps until their health and spirit have been completely broken, should have to compete in the labour market at all. It would be a betrayal of those men if the Australian people, this Parliament and this Government, did not see that they had every possible assistance until their health had completely recovered.
– Hear, hear! I agree with the honorable member.
– That assistance should include vocational training and medical benefits. But if the honorable member for Wentworth suggests that preference should continue indefinitely, because those prisoners of war will have to compete in the labour market with only a preference provision to help them, I totally disagree with his contention.
– I shall test the honorable member’s sincerity in committee by moving an amendment, and I shall watch with interest how he votes.
– I shall vote as I have spoken, because on these matters I feel very deeply. As I said, preference on the whole is a fraud and a sham, and is useless to the ex-serviceman. For the special reasons which I have given, the proposal to limit the operation of preference to a period of seven years can be justified.
– It is not a preference at all, not even for a period of seven years.
– If preference is a sham, why have it for seven years?
– As the right honorable gentleman has only just entered the chamber and did not hear my earlier remarks, I repeat my view, founded on my own observations and experience of the way in which preference worked after the last war, that any system which makes preference a cornerstone in the re-establishment of the ex-serviceman is deceiving him as to his prospects of obtaining any security in this country after the war. The real opportunity to provide security for the ex-serviceman after the war must come from measures other than preference; and preference can be justified only as a temporary measure to assist the ex-serviceman in the first difficult times after his demobilization.
I hope that the Government will afford to honorable members the fullest opportunity to discuss this bill in committee, that the measure will be discussed in a non-party manner, and that if opportunities occur for improving the bill, we shall be able to utilize them. I am particularly anxious that ex-service men and women shall be paid an equal allowance in the period following their discharge. I see no reason why a smaller allowance should be granted to a woman than to a man.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to vote for an amendment designed to achieve that objective.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth does not cease interjecting, he will not have an opportunity to vote at all.
– I hope that the Government will sympathetically reconsider the proposed! loan of £250 to establish an ex-serviceman in business and £1,000 to establish ian ex-serviceman in a primary industry. I am particularly impressed by the proposal of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) that special financial assistance should be granted to ex-servicemen to enable them to marry and establish homes. As the honora’ble member pointed out, young men who have been in the services for several years have not had an, opportunity to save money, or to establish their wives and families in homes. Any special assistance that can be given to them in that way will be fully justified.
When this legislation becomes law, the administration of it should be sympathetic and generous towards the exserviceman. When Parliament has passed a bill, no master how good it is, it will have done only half the job. The second part of our duty is to ensure, as far as possible, that the administration of its provisions -shall be sympathetic and in accord with the intentions of the Parliament. The delays which at present mark repatriation administration, and. a number of the decisions which have been given by those who administer the repatriation system, do not indicate the kind of administration which, I believe, is justified. The repatriation administration should be re-examined in order to ensure more sympathetic and generous treatment of applicants, .and more expeditious decision s. The interminable delays, which -occur at present, are exceedingly disappointing and unsatisfactory to the exservicemen concerned.
I support the bill, because it represents a comprehensive and sincere attempt to re-establish those who have served this country in the armed forces. Properly administered, it can do- a tremendous amount of good. But as I said, we cannot provide security and prosperity for those who fought and worked in this war unless we obtain the comprehensive financial and other powers which are con- tained in the Government’s programme for the remainder of this session.
– In my opinion, this bill is undoubtedly the most important and comprehensive piece of legislation introduced into this. Parliament. In bringing forward the measure, the Government is only giving effect to its promise and obligation to the service men and women of Australia. I take second place to none in this chamber in regard to sympathy for and activities on behalf of ex-servicemen. During the last war, I had the honour to be appointed, in a voluntary capacity, to the first Repatriation Committee set up in Queensland. I served, in that position for three years. During that period, I gained a first-hand knowledge of how ex-servicemen were being treated and were likely to be treated as time passed. However, I was gratified to learn that the government of the day, which was led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), intended to introduce a bill for the repatriation of servicemen who fought in the last war. That legislation has been in force ever since. Whilst it has enabled the nation to do much in the interest of ex-service personnel of the war of 1914-18, and has been praised by some honorable members during this debate, the fact remains that that legislation will not stand comparison with this measure in so far as practical assistance to ex-service personnel is concerned. It is also true that the Hughes Government introduced the principle of preference in employment for ex-service personnel, hut only in respect of employment in the Commonwealth Public- Service. So far as industry generally was concerned the returned man. was left to the mercy of private enterprise, and, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has pointed out, preference in industry was a sham and a myth, because a private employer would engage returned men only if they were fully capable. So in respect of preference in employment also, the old legislation does not compare favorably wilh this bill. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred lo the failure of soldier land settlement after the war of 1914-1S. As a member of the first Queensland Repatriation Committee, I had considerable experience in this matter. Admittedly, the Commonwealth had no power at that time, nor does it enjoy such power to-day, to undertake land settlement schemes. Consequently, the State governments were entrusted with the implementation of those schemes. However, land settlement in Queensland was foredoomed to failure ‘because the government of the day selected for this purpose some of the most barren areas in that State. Consequently, 99 per cent, of the men settled on those areas, were obliged to walk off their holdings absolutely penniless, after trying for three or four years to make a success of life on the land. They were practically reduced to starvation. The reasons for the failure of land settlement after the war of 1914- 1S - and the story was much the same in each of the States - were, first, because the land selected for this purpose was, unsuitable; and, secondly, because the great majority of the men. whom it was sought to help possessed no training whatever in agriculture. Under this measure, those mistakes will be obviated. It is true that as the result of the failure of the referendum the Commonwealth is still without power to undertake soldier land settlement. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Government, acting in the hope that the people would give that power to the Commonwealth, appointed the Rural Reconstruction Commission to investigate this problem. That body, which was appointed two years ago, consisted of experts, and after taking evidence in each of the States, presented a comprehensive report to the Government. That report set out in detail the areas of suitable land available for the settlement of ex-service personnel. It has been printed and distributed to honorable members, and so long as governments are guided by it in the future, we shall not witness a repetition of the mistakes made after the last war which involved so many returned nien in tragedy. The Government has made clear that in any future scheme a fertile block of adequate area must be provided for each settler, and if necessary, the prospective settler will be trained in advance to make a success of life on the land. The blocks will be adequate to* enable the settler to maintain a wife and. family in decent comfort. The holdings, made available to returned men in southern Queensland after the last war averaged from eight to ten acres in area. This measure goes much further than any previous legislation of its kind so far as the settlement of ex-service personnel on the land is concerned. An agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States whereby the’ Commonwealth will provide the necessary finance for this purpose. I take it that the Commonwealth will ensure that the States shall give full effect to the recommendations of the Rural Reconstruction Commission. I suggest that the Commonwealth should not make any money available to any State for that purpose unless these conditions are to be fully observed. This bill makes provision for the granting of loans for that purpose. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) stated, quite wrongly I believe, that the purpose of the loans for the re-establishment of returned soldiers in agricultural pursuits, was to purchase land. My interpretation of the measure is that these loans will be available toexservicemen who already have land, but require funds. to re-establish themselves on their properties, by restocking and bo on. Obviously, £1,000 - the limit prescribed in the bill - would not purchase very much agricultural land. However, I am pleased that these re-establishment loans are to be available, although I should like to see the limits increased or provision made in the measure for granting an additional amount should the circumstances warrant. The bill does not specify the manner in which loans shall be made available to ex-servicemen, and no mention is made of interest charges. I believe that interest rates should be as low as possible. It has been suggested, in the course of this debate, that interest should be not more than 4 per cent, or 3 per cent., but in my opinion the rate should be sufficient only to cover service and administrative costs. The returned soldier is entitled to that concession. If he is to be given the assistance to which he is justly entitled, he should not be forced to carry a burden for the rest of his life.
One of the most important post-war functions of this Government is to provide houses, not only for ex-servicemen, but also for the many thousands of civilians who at present are inadequately housed. It must be remembered also that when the war ends, large numbers of servicemen who have married during the war will require houses. I hope sincerely that the Government will press on with its housing schemes. The construction of homes by the War Service Homes Commission also should be carried out as quickly as possible. There again arises the question of interest rates and the valuation of homes. Recently, in reply to a question asked in this chamber, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) gave the number ofwar service homes that had been occupied and paid for in full during the currency of the war service homes legislation. The number is considerable. The commission has done a wonderful job in the interests of the returned soldier. However, the circumstances of this war are vastly different from those of the last war, mainly because the number of men in our fighting services is much greater on this occasion. The War Service Homes Commission should be and, I am sure, will be, ready to go ahead immediately with its plans for house construction. Exservicemen of the last war who undertook the purchase of war service homes were charged an interest rate which was far too high. I understand that the valuation of some of these homes to-day is the same as it was when they were first built 15, 20 or 25 years ago, and that many of the occupants have never been able to pay more than the interest charges. This is a matter which should receive the fullest consideration in any future war service homes scheme. In relation to both war service and civilian housing schemes, and the loans which this measure provides for ex-servicemen, the hank interest rate should be cut to the bone.
I do not intend to say very much at this late Stage of the second-reading debate on this measure because I could only reiterate what has been said already. However, I considered it my duty to say a few words in support of this magnificent bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) smiles. I am sin cere when I say that I am very pleased to have been associated with the Government which introduced this bill. No government in any other part of the world has introduced such a comprehensive measure for the rehabilitation of exservice men and women. The New Zealand legislation has been mentioned by honorable members opposite, but they only picked the eyes out of that act and quoted one or two sections. I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that no country which has had to deal with the problems of servicemen returning to civil life has ever introduced legislation comparable with this bill, which provides benefits to which our fighting men are justly entitled.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. F adden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 20
– By -way of explanation, Mr. Speaker, I point out that I was submitting to the honorable member for Henty a letter concerning rationing, and [ consider that, with your consent, he should be permitted to move to the other side of the chamber.
– It is very regretable, but it is too late.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Almost every speaker during the debate has said that this bill should be considered from a non-party point of view. I do not propose to do that. Up to date the debate has shown that honorable members opposite have a purely party outlook. That attitude is not new. It has characterized practically everything that the Labour party has ever done in connexion with war servicemen’s problems. It is an attitude that dates back to the war of 1914-18, when the policy of the Labour party absolutely split Australia politically from top to bottom. The same policy has split the country again during this war. It is strange that we should have had two vertical splits on war issues1 at the instance of the Labour party within a period of less than 30 years. Taking the position as it stands to-day, we-have heard a great deal from members of the Government and their supporters about this bill being better than any other bill ever introduced in. any British country. They have stated, what I believe is a fact, that preference is not applied in the United Kingdom, New Zealand or, as far as [ know, in any other country in the British Empire. However, they completely and very conveniently overlook the fact that in each of the other British countries the conditions on which the war is waged are very different from those that obtain in Australia. In the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and ‘South Africa straightout conscription has prevailed from the beginning of this war. That was the position, also, in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand at the end of the last war. The first fact that we must note, therefore, is that Australia raises its forces for overseas service on a different basis of enlistment from those of the other dominions, or the Mother Country.
In this country alone, also, the pernicious principle of preference to unionists operates. That is a second important fact upon which Australian policy is dictated by the Labour party, whether it be in office or out of office. As we operate under a political set-up entirely different from that of any other British country, the approach of the Opposition to this bill must be political. This bill has been conceived and born in politics, and when it becomes law it will be politically administered. The terms employed in the measure in relation to the time limit on the preference, and the provisions made to safeguard, in silence, the interests of certain trade union organizations, make it perfectly clear that so long as this Government remains in office the measure will ‘be politically administered.
Leaving the genesis of the bill now, let us look at some of the problems -with which it confronts the country. These problems are very different from those which faced the country at the end of the last world war. In that war the only Australians who enlisted for and returned from overseas service were volunteers. The government of the day therefore had a clear-cut problem to grapple with and solve. Moreover, practically the whole of our Navy, Army and Air Force personnel served out of Australia. That is not the position today. I am not at- liberty, at this stage, to disclose figures that lj and some other members of the Parliament, have which show the actual facts, but I can say that an overwhelmingly large percentage of the Australian forces in this war did not see any service out of Australia. The- first great problem which confronts the administration, therefore is to determine the relative amount of reestablishment benefit, the relative amount of preference, and the relative amount of any other consideration which must be accorded to the varieties, types and categories of persons who were enlisted. Such differences did not exist 25 years ago.
Another’ point that I should like to have elucidated very early in the committee stage relates to the definition of the armed forces. Clause 4, which contains the definitions, makes no reference whatever to the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force. “Why is this so?,
– They are included in the definitions.
– I call.not see where, and I should like the Minister to make an explanation.
– I give the honorable gentleman, my assurance that those services are covered.
– I am prepared to accept Scripture without any argument whatever, but I am not prepared to accept the word of the Miniate: for Post-war Reconstruction on this point without some explanation. The definition Specifically refers to the Permanent Forces, the Australian Imperial Force, and: the Citizen Forces, but no reference is. made to the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force. The Permanent Forces have a peace-time footing, and so have the Citizen Forces, but the great majority of the members of the Australian Imperial Force do not fall within any peace-time category, and, of course, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force have been expanded during the war out of all recognition. It may be that there is no special designation of the Navy or the Air Force, for the simple reason that all who enlist in those services are liable for overseas service. At any rate, that is the first of! the many mysteries of this bill which I ask the Minister to elucidate at the committee stage.
Another problem which will have to be faced on demobilization is the reinstatement in civil employment of the members of the various nursing services and other women’s auxiliaries. In the last war we had only one nursing service, but in this war each branch seems to have its own nursing service. At any rate the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Imperial Force, and, I suppose, the Citizen Forces all have their own nursing services. A complication will have to be dealt with here. “We had no problem of re-establishment in civilian life in 1919 in relation to women’s auxiliary services in general, but a very definite difficulty will arise in this connexion out of the present war.
Next on my list of difficulties comes the question ofl what the Government proposes to do with certain compulsorily called-up civilians, many of whom have been allotted numbers and ordered to work in remote parts of the Commonwealth, and, I believe, in some instances, even outside the Commonwealth. I have in mind persons involved in the organization of the Allied “Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps. Certain other persons were also enlisted in the Civil Aliens Corps. I understand that the provisions of this bill cover these individuals’. I consider that such groups should not be dealt with in this legislation. Another intricate problem about which I hope the Minister will have something to say in committee i3 in regard to aliens enlisted in certain employment companies. A serious problem may yet arise, also, in connexion with ©ur aboriginal population which has been called up and forced into certain employment.
I turn now to a different problem of a widespread, deep-seated and delicate description which will arise in relation! to the repatriation of our prisoners of war. At the conclusion of the last war only about 4,800 Australian prisoners were in enemy hands. To-day, tens of thousands of our men who have been inenemy hands for considerable periods will have to be repatriated. There are also between 18,000 and 20,000 men missing in Malaya, and many more of our men are still in enemy hands in Timor, Ambon. New Britain, New Guinea, Bougainville and adjacent islands.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour to-night.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Acting
Prime Minister and Treasurer). - by leave - I inform the House that I have received from the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) their report upon the matter of a war correspondent, John Scarlett, and a Department of Information photographer, S. Fitzpatrick. The report reads -
We have perused the file in connexion with the photograph of John Scarlett taken by official photographer S. Fitzpatrick and passed by field censor Major A. J. Baz.
In our opinion we think it was a foolish act to substitute the name of Jack Redd for John Scarlett and to represent him as an Australian soldier, whenhe was in fact, a war correspondent. We do not believe, however, that there was any unworthy motive prompting their action.
The fact that one newspaper (which was not a paper represented by Scarlett) did use the photograph for political propaganda should not be regarded as evidence of wrong intention by the three men referred to.
I have referred to the appropriate Ministers the text of the report, with a request that they advise me as to the future employment of S. Fitzpatrick and Major Baz and the accreditation of J. Scarlett.
– I referred earlier to the different women’s services. There is one women’s service which is not mentioned in the bill. If it be right, just and meet to include the Civil Aliens Corps and the Civil Constructional Corps-
– There is no Civil Aliens Corps.
– When was it abolished?
– About three weeks ago. The matter was given full publicity.
– As a rule, we look first for such statements to the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini).
– I did not make the statement; it was made by the Acting Prime Minister.
– I shall learn in time. I have seen the honorable gentleman learn a little in this chamber in regard to tractors. The mere fact that the Civil Aliens Corps has been abolished does not remove the possibility of its inclusion under this legislation. It is included by the language that has been employed. If it be included, there is no logical reason why the Government should refrain from including the Women’s Land Army, which has been excluded. That is one women’s service to which I want the Government to pay some attention.
The position in regard to demobilization is going to be particularly difficult. I have heard a lot, even in this debate, about the ways in which men will be kept under arms after the actual fighting ceases. Having been under arms when an armistice was signed, I say that when fighting ceases there is only one ambition in the minds of men who have gone out of civil life and into the armed forces for the purpose of prosecuting a war; that is, to get back into civil life as quickly as they can. If the Government has in the back of its mind - or the front of it, for that matter - the delicious idea that, on the cessation of hostilities, it is going to keep tens or hundreds of thousands of our men under arms in Australia, it has something to learn about the psychology of armed forces at the conclusion of fighting. I repeat, that these people have only one ambition and desire; that is, to return to their civil avocations as speedily and easily as they can. In the matter of demobilization, the bill has nothing to say that is worth naming. Reference is made to it, but no detail is given; and there is nothing which has a bearing on the mind, let alone the policy, of the Government.
Then there is the important matter of post-war conditions. The official title of the Minister in charge of the bill is now the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The use of the word “ reconstruction “ postulates that something has been destroyed and has to be replaced. That might be a perfectly logical word to use in many countries, but I submit that its use in Australia is not very apt. The Minister .for Post-war Construction might be justified. We have also heard in days gone by, but not so much of late, a good deal in regard to a new order that was to, be inaugurated after the termination of this war. I am happy to say that we now hear less of it than we have heard in the past. Certain improvements of the order as we knew it may be necessary, advisable and practicable, but I doubt very much whether anybody - even, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), if he had the full powers of a dictator - would be able to produce over night, or at any rate in a year, a new order which would satisfy n reasonable percentage of the people of this country. There, again, we are up against the, psychology of the men who are the subject of the legislation under review7. These men, as I know them, are not particularly interested in fashioning a. new heaven on this old earth. Their chief desire is to return to the jobs that they left, to resume their place in a state of society in which they will have a chance to settle down, get a home together, and, I hope, raise a” family, and improve the lot that they had before they enlisted. That the Government has thrown overboard- I believe once and for all - the advocacy of this wonderful new order of which I, have heard so often from Government supporters, not only when they sat in Opposition, but also in the early days of the Government, when politically it, was much less secure than it is to-day, is shown by the fact that it has taken pains in this legislation to say that the members ofthe forces shall have the right to return to the jobs that they had previously. Nothing is said about the new jobs which1 the Government intends to create. In view of certain other legislation that is to come before us, the political implications of the contents of this measure, which have not been advertised, are rather important from the viewpoint of the general taxpayer and of the serviceman in particular. The debate has been concerned very largely with the matter of preference. I pointed out before dinner the fundamental and irreconcilable difference in policy, procedure, attitude and outlook, between the Commonwealth of Australia and the other dominions of the British Empire ‘and the mother country. We have the voluntary method of enlistment, whereas the other dominions have a compulsory system, under which a man does the job that is allotted to him for the duration of the war - which, maybe, is changed from time to time. There have been changes, it is- true, in the attitude of the Labour party during this war. Time and again, the history of politics has proved that the Labour party is able 1o make the most amazing political somersaults, and still retain its name a3 well as its following. No other party in the world’s history has been able to make such fundamental changes of policy as have been made by the Labour party, and still retain a following among the people.
– The honorable member’s party has regularly changed its name, but not its policy.
– The honorable member read that in the Melbourne Argus last Saturday week; he had not noticed it before. As the prophet said to the cab driver in Jerusalem, I have something else to say to him; I shall say it later. This matter of the internal set-up of a country, and its attitude towards the conduct of the war, is important. It is because of the special conditions in Australia that the matter of preference arises. When we have a voluntary system, under which we allow the very cream of the population, the most venturesome people,, to go into the services and ‘be sent overseas, keeping at home the less venturesome and those who are less anxious toface the perils of war, it stands toreason that upon the cessation of hostilities those who have faced such conditions are entitled to something over and above what is granted to the others whohave stayed at home. In both warsagainst Germany, those Australians whostayed at home enjoyed better conditionsthan they had before the war started and,. I believe, better than they will enjoy when normal circumstances again operate..
Rates of wages were increased, especially during the present war. There has been some withholding of certain supplies. Nevertheless, a lot of people who had not embarked on any occupation previously in the ‘Commonwealth are to-day drawing wages and salaries that are out of all proportion to anything they could have hoped to get in peace-time. There has to be a new consideration of the internal economy of the Australian Com.monwealth. I have been interested in the Government’s provisions for the assistance of ex-servicemen who propose to engage in small businesses, because never in the history of Australian politics has the small business man suffered so greatly as he has under the Curtin administration. In too many instances has he been practically crushed right out of existence, whereas the great emporium, the chain-store, and the like, have come into what, after all, are their proper ;province. It is undeniable that, if we want a first-class, healthy, virile monopoly or big business established and put on trails anstead of en the road, then we have to get a socialist government in power. They are the people who believe in that sort of thing. The history of Australian politics bears out that statement. Let us consider [what the serviceman can look forward to in the matter of preference as it is administered to-day. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) had a little to say about it recently. This is where I get down to tin tacks with him. He made one or two references “to me. I had quite -forgotten that, during the brief months in which I happened to have a lurid career as Postmaster-General, he was a member of a certain deputation, which he mentioned. It had gone clean out of my mind. Perhaps I was guilty of a grievous fault in that I failed to recognize a probable member of the House of Representatives, a possible f uture Cabinet Minister, and - the Lord knows - maybe -even a future Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the fact is that during my tenure of office in the postal department I made permanent employees of 225 temporary employees who had seen service in the “first world war. That was during the administration of the Lyons Government. Government supporters can say as much as they like about, the matter of preference, but if the files of the departments are searched - as mine were searched not long ago for another purpose - acts of that description will be found to have occurred time and again. But, under the administration of the present Government, what do we find? We have no need to go outside this .chamber, still less outside Parliament House, to find how its pet policy of preference to unionists operates. I have no doubt that you, Mr. Speaker, are aware of what happens; I believe that you brought an example to notice. If a person doing duty on the staff of a Minister is not a unionist, he is paid a lower travelling allowance than is paid to another member of a ministerial staff who is a unionist.
– So he should be.
– I do not mind if the honorable member says that. In a country in which it is loudly proclaimed that we ought to have a system under which all men would’ be brothers, we show the hypocrisy of our claim by dividing employees into two classes in which different rates of pay and different conditions of employment are provided for trade unionists - probably honorable members opposite would call them “ merinos “ - and the “ crossbreds “ who are not unionists. Many people do not believe in being cajoled or forced into a union of any kind. Most honorable members opposite are more or less voluntary recruits to the Australian Labour party, and the terms of their service demand that they shall advocate anything which a majority of. the members of their party decides.
– They have to sign a pledge.
– Yes. Yet the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Eraser) proclaimed that he hoped that in committee the bill would be approached in a non-party spirit. If that is to be more than a pious wish, the shackles must be struck from the ankles of my friend opposite, and he must be free to vote as his conscience, not his party, dictates. When the honorable gentleman does that he will be seated on the Opposition side of the chamber. He might not like the political company, but. he would enjoy the experience, and for at least once in his life he would have the satisfying feeling of knowing he had allowed his conscience to determine his political views.
The promise of full employment is paraded by the Government as though it were a seven days’ wonder or the eighth pillar of wisdom. I have a blue-coloured paper before me which displays for public consumption the decisions reached by the Liberal party of Australia at its Albury conference on the 16th December, 1944. I am prepared to hand it to any honorable member who desires to read it.
– The Liberal party was not formed then.
– Yes, it was. Again, my honorable friend is behind the times. On the 16th December, 1944, the Liberal party decided that its sixth objective, headed “ “Work for all “, was “ To have an. Australian nation in which constant employment at good wages is available to all willing and. able to work”. Full employment must be the political objective of any party which has any sense at all. The quarrel with the present Government will not be with regard to its objective, but the method under which it is to be given effect. There is too great a tendency to-day for people in authority to say, “ After all, everybody must be employed “, and with regard to the present trend of industrial politics, “ Everybody has to be employed at any figure that certain sour, sullen, dictatorial trade union leaders lay down”. The only basis on which employment can be provided is that men should earn the wages which they receive.
– They usually earn considerably more than they get.
– I know some persons who earn well below that amount. We can take it that on the average the employee must earn his wages and a, little extra for overhead and other expenses.
– And profit.
– Yes ; I believe in private profit and private enterprise. I favour the greatest possible degree of freedom in trade, commerce and transport, if there is to be progress. We have gone a long way from those conditions in time of war, and we shall have to get back somewhere near the straight and narrow economic and financial path.
There is much in this bill to give one good cause for wonder. These changes in the economic set-up are due to two causes. The first is that owing to governmental interference in time of war, industries have been closed down and new industries for which there is no call except for war purposes have been brought into being. Employees have been transported from one part of Australia to another. Industries have .been established in various localities, according to the decisions of certain government departments. That has produced an economic set-up which will require very careful handling, if serious difficulties are to be avoided after the war. The second alteration I have in mind is the result of government policy. The policy pursued by the present Government for three and a half years is one under which the greatest possible degree of control has been exercised- over the individual. The legislative proposals before us to-day provide for a continuation of that control in time of peace. It involves the regimentation of the working man. Man-power directors determine where he must work, or decide that certain work is to be regarded as essential.
– Where does the bill provide for that?
– We shall see when the committee stage is reached.
– It is not there.
– I had a strong suspicion that the Minister in charge of the bill did’ not understand it. I do not think that he drafted it, and I am sure he cannot explain or justify it, but he will have an opportunity to do so in committee. This system to which I have referred will not easily be tolerated i-n time of peace.
There are two matters of outstanding importance to ex-servicemen. The first is that of housing. I should not have thought it possible, until I read this bill, that any Commonwealth government could face the House in the circumstances now confronting us and say so little about the problem of housing, and that of soldier settlement receives no more consideration than housing. The Government asks the Parliament and the country to accept two blank cheques - one on housing and the other on soldier settlement. I have never previously had a bil] of this description placed before me for consideration. I am not a sporting man, but I had a look through the measure the other day with a friend of mine who is deeply interested in cricket, and he said that the bill looked to him like the score of a cricket match - ‘the Government versus the servicemen. He decided that the scores of the eleven players on the Government side were as follows : -
That is a very accurate description of the contents of the bill.
– That, is a stupid statement.
– The honorable member is the best judge of that, because he makes more of those statements than the rest of the House put together. Here we have a bill inwhich it is proposed to deal with the intricate, deep-seated, long-range and long-lasting problems of the demobilization and rehabilitation of people who have been torn up by the roots and put into the armed services for the last five years; but on the important matters of housing and land settlement there are only two clauses. No honorable member can go into his constituency, not even one of the honorable members opposite, and tell the electors truthfully what land settlement and housing mean, according to this bill. Nor could they say what rehabilitation or any other provision im plies. There are 30 clauses dealing with legal matters and some of them extend over several pages. One would think that the object of the measure was to provide a lawyers’ picnic instead of to deal with the rehabilitation of servicemen. The bill is a great disappointment to those who had hoped that, out of the meanings, groanings, threats and promises from the other side of the House, something would have emerged which the ‘servicemen could regard as firm ground; but the Government, the Minister in charge of the bill and the party behind them cannot truthfully say that there is one foot of firm ground on which the servicemen can stand. No provision is made for houses for them. We know the tardiness of the Government with regard to that matter and the .difficulty of the problem of demobilization. Tens of thousands of men are being held in camps to-day, but they have no effective military occupation. They ought to be back on their farms, stations, gardens or fisheries, increasing the food supplies in order to meet the conditions which are badly affecting the peoples of Europe. On those matters, however, the Government has no policy except one of “ wait and see “. It is notprepared to take a grip of that problem any more than it is of the industrial situation, which affects its administration from day to day. We also shall wait and see on election day. When the history of this bill is written, and its administration is considered by ex-service men and women a few years hence, they will probably refer to it, in the words of the Witches’ Chorus, from Faust -
We wash and are white as white can be, But barren, ever barren, are we.
.- This bill has been very fully debated, a3 was only right, since it seeks to deal with problems of paramount importance to members of the services, and to the nation as a whole. The measure is a challenge to members of the Opposition to support a policy to which for years they have given lip service, and very little else. As for the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who has just sat down, he did nothing but heap abuse on the Labour party and the trade unions. After the last war, the Opposition parties, which were then in power, adopted the easy method of dealing with returned soldiers. They gave preference in Commonwealth employment, but side-stepped the issue when it came to the matter of giving preference in private employment. The Government of that day sought to gull the soldiers and the public on this matter of preference. This bill provides for straightout preference to servicemen in both Commonwealth and private employment, thereby putting members of the Opposition “ on the spot “, because it is obvious to everyone that the private employer does not want preference of any kind. He wants to regain the right to hire and fire, to employ the man with the biggest muscles so as to increase his production to the maximum. If honorable members opposite w,ere really as interested in preference as they would have us believe why. did they do nothing about it during all the years since the last war except provide for preference in the Commonwealth Public ‘Service? As secretary of a trade union I was closely associated with returned soldiers who had to fight to obtain .redress for their grievances from employers. Returned soldiers even led hostile demonstrations against trade unions because the unions had failed to induce the government of the day to do something for them. It is mere hypocrisy for members of the Opposition to get up now and say this and that ought to be done. Why did they not do it when they had the chance ? Not more than 20 per cent, of returned soldiers of the last
Avar received any ‘benefit from Commonwealth legislation. The other SO per cent, had to battle along for themselves, and in the bad times had to sleep under bridges, jump trains and go round the towns appealing for food. That is no exaggeration.
The workers constitute a majority of those in the armed forces. That is not said in derogation of the sons of those represented by honorable members opposite ; it just happens that the workers are in a majority. God must love working people - He made so many of them. It is obvious that it is the Labour party which must solve the problems of the servicemen when they return to civil life. This matter of the treatment of ex-servicemen has for too long been a political issue. In the period between elections it is allowed to die down, but when an election is imminent, members of the Opposition parties revive it, and charge the Labour party with being opposed to preference to returned soldiers. The trade union movement assesses preference -at its true value. It asks of what real use has preference been to returned soldiers, and
Ave know that, in fact, it has not been of the value claimed for it. Since the majority of servicemen were members of trade unions before their enlistment, it is natural that they will look to the unions to help them fight their battles after the war. I have not the figures for enlistment from the Australian Workers Union in this war, but during the 1914-18 war no fewer than 45,000 members of the Australian Workers Union, out of a total membership of 111,000, enlisted and served overseas.
This bill represents the first genuine attempt to solve the many problems that will arise after the war in connexion with the rehabilitation of servicemen. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made the astounding statement that it was not clear in the bill whether the seven-year preference period would be calculated from the end of the European Avar or the end of the Japanese war. I maintain there cannot possibly be any doubt about it. The war began when Great Britain declared war on Germany. With that declaration the allied countries went to Avar with the Axis countries and the Avar continues until all the Axis countries have been defeated. Only a Labour government would bring in a composite bill of this kind to deal with all phases of the rehabilitation of servicemen.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) used to be called the “Little Digger” and the “Digger’s Friend “. In fact, he applied the terms to himself so often that in the end he believed in them himself. ‘ However, I should like to know what he did during the depression to prove himself the friend of the returned soldier. Why was no action taken then to relieve the distress of returned soldiers and their families? It has been said that a Labour government was in power during part of the depression. The Labour Government was not in power. It was in office, but there was an overwhelming hostile majority in the Senate. When the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), tried to put through Parliament legislation designed to help the country, he was politically crucified, although no man has bad a better record in public life.
– Crucified by members of his own party.
– The members of the Opposition led the attack. Then, as always, they were prepared to go to any lengths to discredit the Labour party. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), upon his return to Australia from abroad, when Britain was fighting with its back to the wall said, “I come back to Australia to join in the diabolical game of politics”. The diabolical game of politics is sometimes carried too far in this chamber.
– The honorable member has done his share.
– Yes, I have tried to keep the debate clean. The honorable member for Barker scarcely touched the subject-matter of the bill at all; he merely engaged in a tirade of abuse against the Government and the trade union movement. I belong to the Australian Workers Union, an organization which holds pride of place for its efforts to improve conditions for Australians.
I shall now deal briefly with the subjects of land settlement and housing. If land is to be provided for returned servicemen, the Commonwealth and State Governments must co-operate. I hope that the mistakes which were associated with land settlement schemes after the war of 1914!-18 will not be repeated, and particularly that returned servicemen will not be settled on marginal lands where rain may fall only once in six years. I have in mind the closer settlement of some of the present large estates held by capitalists - land with an assured rainfall, near to railway lines, and on which families can be reared in some degree of comfort. The first step in land settlement must be the selection of land which will give to returned men a reasonable chance of success. I know some thing of the tragedy associated with soldier land settlement after the last war. No man of experience would have attempted to persuade other men to grow wheat in some of the areas that were set aside for soldier settlement. Many men who tackled an impossible task, continued to work their holdings until, broken in heart and health, they were forced to leave them. I hope that that kind of repatriation will not be repeated. I know of many large holdings in Western Australia, adjacent to railway lines, which are not producing anything like what they are capable of producing, and on which ten families’ could reside, where there is now only one family. The closer settlement of such land would not only increase its production, but would also provide freight for the railways.
We have heard a good deal about the housing problem. I ask honorable members opposite who have decried the existence of slums in our capital cities, who was responsible for those slums, and what was done by previous governments to improve housing facilities for the people when materials for building homes were available and hundreds of thousands of unemployed men were seeking jobs?
– Those conditions existed when the Scullin Government was in power.
– I repeat that the Scullin Government was never in power although it was in office for a short period. For 25 years governments opposed, to Labour have been in power in the Commonwealth. Since the Fisher Government went out of office, Labour has never controlled this Parliament. I cannot forget the time when there were 800,000 unemployed persons in Australia; when children were crying for food and fresh air; when all the materials necessary to provide people with decent homes were available; and yet nothing was done to keep them from starving or to improve their condition. Now, members of the parties then in power urge the present Government to provide homes for the people. Before the Curtin Government had been in office two months, Japan declared war. When the war extended tothe Pacific zone and places like Broome were bombed, I realized how serious was
Australia’s position because of lack of defence and so I went through the mining districts pf “Western Australia and appealed to the men there to engage in work for the defence of Australia. Large numbers of nien did so, many making heavy sacrifices in the defence of their country. When they left their homes the mines closed down, with the result that houses, worth £200 or £300 could not be sold for £10. The owners of those homes should receive some compensation. 1 should not have participated in this debate, had it not been for the irrelevant criticism of the Government and the trade union movement by some honorable members opposite. I support the measure, notwithstanding that the Australian Workers Union, of which I am president, carried a resolution in opposition to it. I have never hesitated to express my views on any subject affecting the welfare of Australia, whether that view was popular or ‘unpopular. I am a member of the Labour party, and I resent the abuse of the party by the honorable member for Barker. Whenever a decision is arrived at in the party room, I support, it, because I know of no better form of government than that based on the will of the majority. When the Labour party decides to support legislation, I shall support it, because I know of the struggle which the Labour movement has had. It is the bounden duty of the National Parliament to make every possible provision for the men who have placed their bodies between us and the enemy. Our obligation to them is one that we should be proud to honour. We should make things as easy as possible for the ment and women who will return to civil life at the end of the war. I know that there will be problems in the post-war period and that differences will arise between members of the civil population and returned service men and women. That problem will arise in my own family. I have two sons: one of them joined the forces early in the war and the other wanted to do the same, but was not allowed to do so. He went so far as to withdraw from his articles of apprenticeship in order to enlist, but the man-power authorities stepped in. The boy was very disappointed and lost interest in his work. For some time he blamed me, thinking that I had used some influence to keep him at home. Thereupon, I took him to the man-power officer and said that I would ‘be proud to see him with the forces. I was told that he could not be released from his civil duties, as his employers needed him. Those two boys in the same home will be treated differently after the war; one will, be entitled . to preference, and the other will not, despite the fact that he wanted” to enlist. Problems of that kind will arise when the war is over, but, despite the difficulties, I .believe that if we tackle them sympathetically we shall find solutions. I hope that this .bill will have a better reception at the hands of the public of Australia than it has received from the Opposition in this chamber.
.- This bill seeks to obtain from the Parliament the necessary legislative authority to establish an Australia-wide organization which, subject to government control, will be charged with the responsibility of reinstating in civil life members of the fighting forces, and other persons who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, transferred from their normal civil occupations to perform special duties directly connected with the war. In framing this measure, I consider that the Government has adopted a responsible and most realistic outlook, and that any fair reading of the measure must lead to the conclusion that it is a serious attempt to come to grips with a problem which, viewed from any angle, must be considered to be one of the most formidable which faces Australia to-day. The bill may not convey very much to any one who reads it, because it is merely a skeleton framework which has yet to be clothed by regulations. It is designed to meet any emergency that may arise. The main feature of the bill is the spirit underlying it. It is little more than an expression of a spirit or intention - a spirit or intention which has the acceptance of honorable members on both sides of the chamber and of all right-thinking, people throughout the Commonwealth. In order to satisfy ourselves that the spirit which we desire really does underlie the measure, we should do well to search our own minds in order to see whether our desires and intentions are expressed in the bill. I have my ‘own ideas as to what a reestablishment bill should contain; I have expressed them in this House on more than one occasion. Broadly speaking, the first requisite of such a bill is that it will grant rights and protection, and will assist that big body of men and women in the services who left their civil occupations to engage in war work and desire to return to those civil occupations when the war is over. That section will be the largest single movement of man-power in the re-establishment process; but it will not require any great administrative action on the part of the Government. The majority of the men and women now engaged in war work desire to return to jobs which have been kept open by employers who wish to re-establish them in positions which they would have reached had they not joined one of the services, or at least in positions as good as those which they occupied when they left. There may be instances in -which the positions of mcn and women with the forces have been .filled by others who are doing the job better. Legislation is required to meet such cases, and, if necessary, to provide assistance to those people who may need it if they are in the class that employ themselves.
The second point which I desire to make, and it is very important, is that we should grant preference in employment in new occupations to members of the fighting forces who cannot or do not desire to return to their former occupations. There are many reasons why some men may not desire to return to the trades or professions’ in which they were engaged before enlistment. While they were abroad, they may have received promotion, and desire to come back to a job of a higher status than that which they left. Those men will need to be encouraged and given preference in choosing another occupation, and that preference should continue for the purpose of protecting them against subsequent unemployment. Those men have been through terrible experiences’ in war-time, and while it may not be right to describe them as “not quite normal”, their experiences do not fit them for a quick settling down into the humdrum ways of peace. During that unsettled period, they will probably drift from job to job, and will need friendly help, and certainly, a preference. Under the law employers must be compelled to take the risk of engaging those men, knowing that they may be unsatisfactory for a period, in the hope that they will soon overcome that state of unsettled mind, and quickly become good, productive citizens.
Thirdly, Ave must offer training facilities and find occupations for that very large number of ex-servicemen who had no occupations or regular employment when they were called up for military service at the age of eighteen years. Many of those boys will come back grown men; others will desire to change their employment. They should be given . training at the expense of the nation, and must be maintained during the time that they are undergoing that training, either to fit themselves for a job or for an improved position.
I desire to refer now to the necessity for assisting those people, who have been disabled by war, to attain full citizenship status and occupy positions in which they will be able to compete quite freely and earn full productive wages because of their skill. It can be done. To-night, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) reminded me of an experiment that is now being undertaken in Western Australia. About twelve or eighteen months ago, the manager of Royce Cox Industries approached me, and outlined a scheme which he had in mind. It is well worth mentioning, just to give an idea of the goodness that is in mankind. It helps one to retain his faith in human nature. This man said that he had £8,000 or £10,000 which he was prepared to lose, if necessary, to re-establish in civil employment, men who had lost their limbs in war. He desired to equip a factory, and manufacture such goods as disabled people could make. He came to me because he desired some help in approaching the then Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), because some of the goods which he hoped to make, such as toys and imitation jewellery, were prohibited industries. The only way in which he could re-establish those disabled ex-servicemen was to obtain permission to make those goods. After I bad seen the director of the department, the manufacturer obtained one permit to make tl] e goods, and another permit to alter his factory and get the necessary equipment. Previously, he had been refused those permits, under the regulations, by the Deputy Director of “War Organization of Industry in “Western Australia. To-day, he is employing a. number of ex-servicemen, and they an; learning to make various articles. He is paying them full rates for their work. Although they are not yet producing on an economic basis, this man is prepared to carry them until he exhausts his funds, if necessary, but he believes that he will bo able to establish them as economic units. I give that example because, in my opinion, the spirit of this bill embodies Iiic principle that the Government intends to make provision for disabled exservice.nien. so that they shall be given a place in industry by right. If necessary, a proportion should be placed in industry at full rates of pay. It is a splendid provision, and shows an enlightened outlook on the problem.
The next important point, to my mind, is the necessity to ensure the orderly demobilization of the forces, with an adequate sustenance allowance to those members undergoing training or otherwise delayed in becoming self-supporting. Several clauses of the bill are devoted to those matters, but may be better dealt with in committee. The subject of housing has been raised during this debate. To-night, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was rather critical about it. Certainly, the bill does not mention any intention on the part of the Government other than to co-operat’e with the States in providing that houses shall be built. There again, the spirit ofl the bill is the important thing. It shows that the Government is willing to assume responsibility, and that is all we can ask for at present. If the Government is willing to accept the responsibility and say, “ “We shall cooperate with the States; you can blame us if it is not done”, that is all one can expect in a machinery type of bill. The result- will be seen in the action. If the action does not follow, it will be for the public and this Parliament to react against the Government. At present, the Government is showing a responsible attitude, and that holds out some hope for ex-servicemen. The difficulty in obtaining houses is due to the shortage of materials, but I hope that the Government has a definite intention to embark on a virile and active campaign to house the people, including ex-servicemen as they are demobilized.
The most important point of all is that we should hold out a hand of real friendship to these men as they return from active service, and let them know that they are more than welcome back in civilian society. “We should make them feel that we need their ability and energy in restoring the prosperity of the country after the war. Let them feel that we are just as prepared to give them the highest paid and best positions in this country in peace-time, as we were to let them undertake the responsibility of defending Australia for us. That is a simple right which they have earned by offering their lives.
In my opinion, this bill does disclose that the Government set out with the intention of framing a measure which would achieve all these objectives. The bill hae one or two weaknesses. One of them, clause 33, is a very great weakness, because it imposes a limit of seven years on the operation of the preference provisions. That is a great disappointment to me and to many members of the community, and it is a direct slap in the face to soldiers returning from active service.
– The honorable member does not like the spirit behind those provisions.
– The position of clause 33 at the end of Division 2, which deals with preference, leads me to believe that it was included in the bill entirely as an after-thought.
– As a compromise.
– I am inclined to think that it is direct evidence of a compromise agreement to placate an intensely ungrateful and selfish minority of the people, who want to forget so soon that servicemen offered their lives for the protection of their property. That selfish minority is unwilling to share with exservicemen opportunities for employment.
I shall vote against the retention of that clause in the bill. Indeed, I earnestly plead with the Government to omit it. I also disagree with clauses 22 and 23 which will amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Those acts certainly only provide for preference to ex-servicemen in government departments and semi-governmental bodies, but in view of the fact that previous governments considered, on the best legal advice available, that that was the limit of their powers under the Constitution in granting preference, it seems to be unwise to repeal those sections. It would be better if they were amended so as to embrace members of the forces as defined in this bill, and in that form allowed to remain on the statute-book. If any person were mean enough to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, at least the preference which is now in existence would remain. There are such people in the world, but I hope that they do not feel disposed to act in Iiic manner which I have mentioned.
I now desire to make a personal explanation. Shortly before the sitting was suspended at 6 o’clock, a division was taken on the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). A few moments before, J had been called out of the chamber and on returning, 1. was inadvertently informed, that the division was on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Had I not been under a wrong impression I would have voted for the amendment. However, I shall vote in committee along the lines that I have indicated.
Apart from those points, I have no major objection to the bill. Several minor matters arise which may be more appropriately discussed in committee. I regard the passing of the bill as of the utmost importance. It is imperative to set up as speedily as possible the administrative establishment which will handle the work that will be done under this legislation. In this connexion, I emphasize the importance of selecting the right personnel to make individual contacts with ex-servicemen. If this work is to be successful, it must be handled with the utmost sympathy, and the greatest friendship and understanding. Men must not be directed to occupations. There must be no hangover from what is generally called the “ man-power authorities “. If the administration attempts to instruct ex-servicemen to go to this job or that job, the whole scheme will break down under its own weight. This matter cannot be handled as a mass problem in the way the call-up or supervision of manpower was handled for war purposes. When the situation was so urgent the Government, had to get man-power at any cost. We tom(1 afford to some extent the mistakes of directing men to unsuitable work, but we cannot force men into civil occupations where they are to remain for long periods if we expect them to live a happy life. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stressed this very point, that the reabsorption of these individuals into civil life after the very different kind of experience, sometimes extending over several years, which they have been through is an individual and intensely human and delicate problem. If we select nien who will keep before them the ideal of placing these men in employment with, the least amount of friction in the least possible time and with an absence of humbug of all kinds, we shall do a job which will do credit to this Government and Australia for many years to come. With the objective of assisting younger members of the forces, who at present are very unsettled in mind, to come to some decision as to what they want to do after the war I should like to make a suggestion to the Government. At present we have an educational section of the Army which is doing extraordinarily good work. However, I believe that that section is not “getting over “ to the younger men in the proper form or fast enough. These youths at present are in a state of bewilderment. They do not know exactly what they want, and they have nothing to guide them in making up their minds because in many cases they enlisted immediately upon leaving school. They are not very interested in making money. In the forces they have been seeing a very raw side of life. Many of them expected, possibly, that they would not come back and, therefore, made no plans for the post-war period. Others are keen and eager to get back into civil life, and know what they will do. But with regard to the younger men who want help in this direction, I urge the Government to adopt the plan of calling together a special corps enlisted from the members of the forces themselves, and bring them to Melbourne, or wherever the head-quarters of their service is situated, and give them special training in a knowledge of the facilities available for the education of these youths for civil pursuits. When they are thoroughly seised of the knowledge of what facilities are available they should be sent back into the field to mingle among the soldiers, talking to them quietly and individually, and thus help them over the stile so far as their worries for the post-war period are concerned. In this way young men could be started on their educational courses in sufficient numbers to enable us to prepare better for the task of demobilization.
In conclusion, I wish to deal with the problem of orderly demobilization. 1 have some diffidence in putting to the Government the request I have in mind, because some three weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a question on the point and he promised that an answer would be given within a fortnight. Since then the Prime Minister has been in hospital and, therefore, is excused from that promise. However, I now ask the Government to consider giving an answer to my question. I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government, would consider offering to members of the forces who have had combat service, or who have completed four years -in the services, the right to demobilization, or the right to re-enlist, if they were considered to be medically fit. In effect, that means that every member of the forces who has had four years’ service, or combat service, would be compulsorily medically examined. It would serve a twofold purpose. It would weed out the medically unfit from the forces and give the right to discharge on the .basis of length of service, which is fair from any point of view; and it would also enable the rehabilitation organization: to function almost immediately. Such a policy would enable the Government to get real experience with men who have had service in the field, and would put it in a position to handle more expeditiously the larger numbers of men calling for attention upon the cessation of hostilities.
– m reply - This bill has been before the House and, therefore, before the country, for two months. I have no doubt that during that time it has been scrutinized by large sections of the community, and I believe that it is quite true to say that during that time it has been favorably received by the majority of the press of this country and the majority of the people. Only from the Opposition benches in this House do we find any degree of criticism of the measure at all. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) commenced the debate on a comparatively high, plane, but in his criticism of the measure he confined himself to a few comparatively unimportant points. Furthermore, he appeared to be ignorant of some provisions of the bill. I shall deal with them later; but from then onwards the debate deteriorated until we came to the tail end of which a feature was the diatribe of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Leader of the Opposition made it quite plain that the purpose of the measure was the rehabilitation in civil life of the men and’ women of the fighting services, and he went on to say that that was something which the community owed to the members of the fighting services. I reecho every sentiment he expressed in that respect. But when it came to criticism of the measure he directed a good deal of his attention to one provision only. The measure consists of eleven parts some of which consist of four, or five, divisions ; and one division of one of the eleven parts is devoted to the subject of preference. If it be true that the community should he actuated by a spirit of generosity and liberality in ensuring the rehabilitation in civil occupations of the men and women of the fighting ser.vices, it is equally true that the same spirit, would motivate the mind of all the peoples of the British Dominions and English-speaking world. It is equally true that all of those countries have passed legislation for the self-same purpose as that for which this bill is designed, ‘ namely, the rehabilitation of the men and women of the fighting services in civil employment; but so little importance has each of those countries attached to preference as a means of rehabilitation that not one of them has made any provision at all for preference. The honorable member for Barker who, I think, must have foreseen the argument I intended to adduce in this regard, said that the other Dominions were in a different position from that occupied by Australia, that all of the other Dominions and Great Britain and the United States of1 America had compulsory military service, whereas in Australia we have mainly voluntary service. It is perfectly true that the great majority of the men and all of the women in the fighting services in this country are volunteers. But does the honorable member for Barker contend that the question as to whether preference is a means of re-establishing them in civil life depends on whether they were compelled to serve or volunteered to serve? Putting it in that light, it is- perfectly clear that the honorable member’s argument, like the general argument that preference is the most important part of this measure, is pure sophistry. Whilst this Government does not believe that preference is the most important method of re-establishing ex-service personnel, it has accepted the principle .that preference can play its part, and has accordingly made provision along those lines in the division of the bill which deals with preference. Whatever else may be said about the measure this much is true: This is the first nation-wide scheme of general preference attempted by any government in any country in this war, or in any war. Yet honorable members opposite say that preference of the kind I have described is- something of which the Government cannot be proud. It is a preference which they themselves never attempted to give in the past when they were in office. That i3 all I wish to say with respect to preference.
Many other aspects mentioned by honorable members opposite can best be dealt with at the committee stage. At this juncture I propose to deal with those matters raised by honorable- members opposite which cannot be dealt with in committee. One very important matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerned the administration of the measure, and with portion of his remarks relating to that aspect I thoroughly agree. His remarks on that point were supplemented by those of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), namely, that the personnel to administer this measure must be chosen so as to ensure that all such officers have a very sympathetic outlook upon the individual problems of the men and women of the fighting services who have to be rehabilitated. I agree with that view, but the Leader of the Opposition went on to express the opinion that all matters relating to ex-service personnel should be dealt with within one department, that there should, in effect, be a Department of Rehabilitation which should attend to all the needs of ex-service personnel. I venture to say that the Leader of the Opposition _ would not find a single public servant of any competence in this country, or in any other country, who would ‘ agree with his view that the administration of this measure could be centralized in one department. To put the case against the proposals advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, I shall quote from the report of a committee in Great Britain known as the Machinery of Government Committee presided over by Viscount Haldane.
– What is the date of that report?
– It does not matter when the report was made. It applies as much to-day as it did then. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will recognize the importance of this report.
– I shall go beyond that, and say that I recognize the report. I read it a long time ago.
– Then I shall remind the Leader of the Opposition of one or two matters which the report contains. In a section of the report headed “Allocation of Functions between Departments “ there appears the following passage : -
And, I may add, a Ministry dealing with returned soldiers -
Now theinevitable outcome of this method of organization is a tendency to Lilliputian administration. . It is impossible that the specialized service which each department has to render to the community can be of as high a standard when its work is at the same time limited to a particular class of persons and extended to every variety of provision’ for them, as when the department concentrates itself on the provision of one particular service only, by whomsoever required, and looks beyond the interests of comparatively small classes.
The other method, and the one which we recommend for adoption, is that of defining the field of activity in the case of each department according to the particular service which it renders to the community as a whole. Thusa Ministry of Education would be concerned predominantly with the provision of education wherever, and by whomsoever, needed. Such a Ministry would have to deal with persons in so far only as they were to be educated, and not with particular classes of persons defined on other principles.
I could read at greater length from that report to stress further the point I am making. I say quite emphatically that if the administration of all the proposals contained in this measure were concentrated in one department dealing only with returned soldiers, there would be complete chaos at the worst, and inefficiency at, the best. Take, for example, the question of providing employment: One of the most important parts of this hill deals with the question of setting up an employment service.
– That should notbe in the bill.
– The preference clauses, and every other provision contained in the bill, will be completely useless to returned soldiers unless there issome method by which we can organize full employment in this country, and that cannot be done without an employment service.
– Provision for that should be made in another bill.
– If we were to adopt the proposal advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, what would happen in regard to employment services ? In the department dealing with rehabilitation there would be an employment service for ex-service men and women. In the Department of Labour and National Service there would be another employment service. Each of these employment services would have to obtain assessments from each industry stating the employment which could be given. Returns would have to be received also from each employer on every job. In fact, the entire employment organization would have to be duplicated. If a job were given to a returned soldier through the employment service of the department handling rehabilitation, how would the employment service of the Department of Labour and National Service be informed that that job had been filled? There would be complete chaos if such a method of employment were adopted. Therefore, I say that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition will be rejected by every one who has given any thought to the administration of this measure. But the right honorable gentleman went further: he said that we should set up a rehabilitation commission. That is exactly what I would expect from the Opposition. Honorable members opposite are not prepared to take on their own shoulders the responsibility of dealing with the difficult problems that will arise when demobilization occurs. They would prefer to set up a commission with wide powers to issue regulations and so on, and let that body shoulder the blame if these problems were not solved.
I do not propose to deal further with matters raised by Opposition speakers during this debate, because most of these subjects can be dealt with more appropriately when the bill is in the committee stage. If, when the bill reaches that stage, amendments are suggested by honorable members on either side of the House which, in the opinion of the Government, would improve the measure, then, as Minister in charge of the bill, I shall be prepared to accept them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), with what I may describe as his usual self-congratulation, told us that this bill, after having been examined for two months by the public, and presumably by Parliament, had passed its examination with flying colours.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister’s faithful henchman makes his usual remark, “ Hear, hear ! “ I wish to draw the attention of the committee and of thepublic to the fact that at the very moment when the Minister began his speech in reply to the second-reading debate a few minutes ago, honorable members had handed to them for the first time a printed list of amendments and new clauses to be proposed by the Minister. Although I have not had time to read the list, nor has any other honorable member who had the courtesy to listen to the Minister’s speech, I notice that there are 34 amendments. I say to the Government and to the committee, either these amendments are worth consideration or they are not. If they are not worth consideration, it is an affront to the committee that they should be circulated, and we can ignore them or the Minister can withdraw them. If they are entitled to consideration, progress should be reported so that they may be considered. In my experience of Parliament, I have never before encountered such a proposition. The 34 amendments are spread over four closely printed pages. The bill is very long and very difficult - I do not say that it is any more difficult than it should be, but it is long and complex. No doubt, the intention of the Minister is that the usual process should be followed. The honorable gentleman ended his remarks with a pious observation to the effect that from whatever side of the committee amendments might be suggested, they wOuld be considered, and if they seemed good, they would be accepted; but the amendments now before the committee cannot be considered. Other amendments proposed by various honorable members have been circulated, and we have had an opportunity to examine them. We have not had even an opportunity to read the amendments contained in this list. Presumably what will happen now is that the committee will reach a clause, honorable members will have an opportunity to read for the first time a proposed ministerial amendment, and the Minister, if he so chooses, will give some explanation of it. We shall not have any opportunity to consider it or to examine how it affects any other part of the bill. The question will be put and the amendment agreed to. If that is doing our duty to this Parliament I shall be very much surprised. I have risen on clause 1 to register my own emphatic protest against the committee being called upon at this stage to consider amendments of this kind without even having had an opportunity to read them, far less understand them, and without knowing how any one of them bears upon the other provisions of the bill.
– I also desire to lodge my emphatic protest at what may be described as the cavalier manner in which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has thrown a sheaf of 34 amendments before this committee. The amendments were not circulated until after the Minister had risen to reply to the second-reading debate. The first reading of this measure was moved on the 2-3rd March, so that nearly two months have elapsed since the bill was first introduced into this House. The Minister had ample time to give consideration to whatever amendments he considered necessary. We all know that machinery and formal amendments may become necessary whilst a bill is under discussion, but the Government’s actions in confronting honorable members with’ a list of 34 amendments at this stage, is hardly in the best interest of cooperation in this chamber. I propose to go further than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and suggest that progress be reported in order that proper consideration may be given to these amendments.
.- I strongly support the protest of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The committee is being treated in the most extraordinary way. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in concluding his speech in reply, said rather proudly that the bill had not been criticized by even one member of his own party. I pointed out in my second-reading speech that only those who had failed to read the bill or, having read it, failed to think about it, could abstain from criticism. The fact that in spite of the docility of his subservient followers the Minister has had to table 34 amendments shows the weakness of his position. We have not had the slightest opportunity to study these amendments, nor have any of the representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, who are in ‘Canberra for the purpose of observing the proceedings in the interests of the members of their organization. I suppose it will be admitted that few people are as well qualified as these gentlemen to give advice on the subjects-matter of the bill. It will be a gross injustice, not only to honorable members of the Opposition, but also, particularly to the representatives of the returned soldiers organizations for the Government to insist on our dealing with these amendments without the opportunity to give them proper consideration. According to press reports the presidents of the State branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia have been summoned to -Canberra by the federal president of the organization in order that an executive meeting of the league may be held tomorrow morning. The president of the New South Wales branch is reported to have said -
We have been asked to get here quickly so that we can fully discuss the bill, which is a shocking measure and which should be withdrawn and re-drafted.
The representatives of these organizations have gone to very great trouble to place their views before honorable members, and it is only proper that they should be permitted an opportunity to consider this long sheaf of amendments. I, therefore appeal to the Government to report progress at this stage.
– I join in the protest against the action of the Government in tabling these amendments at the last moment and in expecting us to proceed at once with the consideration of them. The Minister in charge of the measure (Mr. Dedman) has described it as a “ charter for servicemen “ and he has claimed, with great modesty, that the measure is superior to any of its kind to be introduced, not only in any British parliament, but also in any parliament in the world. I dare say that he would be just as likely to say that nothing approaching the bill could have been drafted anywhere in the universe, including the planet Mars. Yet this magnificent edifice, to the construction of which the Minister has devoted many months, -and to which honorable members have been directing their attention during the last two months, must now be patched up in at least 34 places. The Minister has said that no criticism has come from supporters of the Government. Are we to understand, therefore, that the civil servants in whom the honorable gentleman seems to have so much faith have let him down? These amendments are by no means formal. It is proposed, for instance, to delete from clause 4 the words “ or called up for active service “ and to insert in their stead the words “ service in a prescribed area “. What are the implications of that amendment? We do not know what is meant by “ prescribed area “. It is entirely wrong to ask the committee to discuss such amendments before they have been given an opportunity to study them. In fairness to the committee, the country and the hundreds of thousands of ex-service men and women who will be affected by this measure, I ask that progress be reported so that we may have a chance to examine the implications of the amendments.
.- This measure must inevitably have farreaching effects on the lives of probably 900,000 men and women who are, or who have been, in the fighting services. It may be that the amendments will greatly vary the principles upon which we have understood the bill to rest. Many new principles maybe outlined in these amendments. The proposal to substitute for the words “or called up for active service “ the words “ service in a prescribed area.” maybe vitally important, but we have not been given any opportunity to study them. The members of the Opposition have found a great deal in the bill to criticize. They intensely dislike some of its provisions, but now some entirely new proposals are being put before us. Surely it is only reasonable to ask that we be given an opportunity to consider them. If the Minister in charge of the measure (Mr. Dedman) will not agree to report progress, I make an appeal to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to give consideration to our request. In common fairness we should not be denied an opportunity to study these new proposals.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) appeared to take great pride in the fact that he had the responsibility of piloting this measure through the Parliament, and he emphasized that the bill had not been criticized by any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) indicated clearly in his speech why the bill had not been criticized by Labour members. The honorable gentleman said that the bill had been well debated in the party room, and on what he had heard there he was quite prepared to accept it. I have no doubt that the 34 amendments which the Minister has just tabled have also been debated in the party room. We have the situation therefore, that whilst honorable members opposite have been permitted to discuss these proposals, probably at considerable length, the members of the Opposition are to be denied any opportunity whatever to consider them. The amendments may alter the whole structure of the bill. Honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber consider the measure to he unfair in its present form;but if the amendments should be incorporated in it, it may become grossly unfair. In the name of the tens of thousands of members of service organizations, I appeal to the ActingPrime Minister to give us an opportunity to study the amendments.
The honorable gentleman has introduced many important taxation measures into this Parliament, but I am quite sure that he would not dream of tabling important amendments to such measures and expect the committee to consider them forthwith. I appeal to him to exercise his usual fairness and generosity and give us a a proper opportunity to consider these new proposals.
– The Government is anxious that this hill should be passed quickly but there may be some justification for the request that progress be reported at this stage. That the amendments have been tabled at this late hour is due mainly to congestion at the Government Printing Office, where there is a shortage of man-power. In the circumstances, the Minister in charge of the bill would be justified in asking that progressbe reported. I must say, with some degree of regret, that if this course be adopted honorable members must come prepared to sit until a much later hour during the next two nights than that to whichthey have been accustomed in the last few weeks. Whilst the Government is desirous that the clauses of the bill shallbe adequately discussed it also hopes that the measure willbe passed this week. In view of the fact that the Minister in charge of the measure is prepared to report progress, I ask honorable members to curtail their speeches on Thursday next, when private members’business will be before the House. I also hope that the opportunity that may be presented for studying these amendments by reason of the fact that progress willbe reported at this stage will be fully availed of, and I seek the co-operation of honorable gentlemen in securing the passage of the bill this week if possible.
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the Superannuation Act was last substantially amended in 1942, wartime experience has revealed anomalies which this short measure is designed to correct. In 1942, superannuation rights were extended to temporary employees. One present requirement is that the permanent head of the department shall be able to certify that the employment is likely to continue for an indefinite period. It has been found impracticable to obtain uniformity of interpretation of the words “ an indefinite period “, hence it is proposed in clause 3 to substitute the words “ a period of at least ten years “. The requirements will thus be clarified, while retaining a degree of permanency to qualify for superannuation benefits.
Under the act, no employee is eligible to contribute for pension benefits unless, prior to appointment that employee has been certified physically and mentally sound. The provision for medical examination before appointment acts harshly in some cases, particularly in respect of those appointed or gazetted as employees while they are away with the forces. It is proposed to give the Superannuation Board authority to accept medical evidence within a reasonable time after a person becomes an employee.
It is proposed to preclude married women from becoming contributors, and to provide that, on marriage, female employees shall cease to contribute.
A contributor debarred from contributing for additional pension units on account of physical or mental defects will he permitted so to contribute if such defects are the result of war service.
The act provides that where a pensioner deserts his wife or children, a court of competent jurisdiction may order the Superannuation Board to pay the pension to the wife or children but not to the pensioner. It is now proposed that, after payment of a pension to the wife or children, the balance of pension, if any, shall be paid to the pensioner. A difficulty in regard to the terms “ court of competent jurisdiction” is being clarified.
An amendment to section 50 of the act will permit an invalid pensioner restored to health to be offered a permanent position with duties which the Superannuation Board considers suitable, having regard to his former duties.
It has been found that the pension rights under the Superannuation Act granted many years ago in exchange for transferred State rights do not now represent a fair equivalent of those rights, and it is proposed to provide a more equitable basis of valuation. Where pensions in respect of transferred rights are now being paid, any increase will take effect from the d.ate on which the bill becomes law.
Provision has been made in the bill that from the date on which the act was amended in November, 1942, commissioned warrant officers in common with other permanent Air Force officers may receive either deferred pay or pension but not both.
I commend the bill to the sympathetic consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 -
No. 22 - Common Rule re Accidents.
No. 23 - Commonwealth Public Service
No. 24- Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Department of Trade and Customs.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Health - C. Farnbach, W. E. Martin, A. C. K. McWhinney, W. F.Rice.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 68.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
East Sale, Victoria.
Enfield, South Australia.
Port Augusta, South Australia.
South Guildford, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
National Security Act -
National Security (Fish) Regulations - Order - Fish priorities.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of footwear(Styles and quality) (No.6).
Manufacture of domestic furniture (No. 4).
Restrictions on new manufactures - Exemption.
Restrictions on new manufactures - Exemptions - Revocation.
National Security (Shearing of Sheep) Regulations - Orders - Exemption (2).
House adjourned at 10.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army : Notification of Death to Next of Kin.
n. - On the 11th May, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question with reference to the procedure followed by the Department of the Army, when notifying discontinuance of payment of allotment from the military pay of soldiers reported to have died whilst prisoners of war. Speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House on the same day, the honorable member amplified the statement made at the time of asking his question, and expressed the view that any amount that has been overpaid to an allottee should be waived in every instance, not merely when it can be shown that the wife or any dependant is indigent, and that when a man dies in these circumstances no debts should be held against his dependants.
The Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) has now advised me that he has looked very fully into this matter, and considers that, whilst the honorable member for Balaclava is under some misapprehension in regard to the procedure that is followed, he nevertheless agrees that any statement that is issued to an allottee, whether such allottee be the next of kin or otherwise, should merely indicate that the allotment is being terminated and should not include any statement as to the overpayment that has occurred. This action will be followed in all future cases.
However, in order that the House may be informed as to the position, I point out that the regulations provide that, where an allotment has been payable to, or for the benefit of, a dependant of a member of the Australian Military Forces, such allotment is continued from the date of the death of the member until the expiration of one month from the date of notification tothe Repatriation Commission of the death of the member, and any sum so paid is not regarded as an overpayment, nor is it shown as a debit against any moneys due to the member at the date of his death. This procedure is followed to enable the repatriation authorities to make all necessary arrangements for pension payments to the dependent allottee in respect of the allottee and the other dependants of the deceased member. In regard to allottees who are non-dependent, however, the regulations provide that any payments of allotment which may have been continued beyond one month from the date of the soldier’s death are theoretically deemed to be overpayments. When notifying the cancellation of the allotment to suchnondependent allottees, who, in many instances, are not relatives of the deceased, it has not been the practice to request the allottee to refund any overpayments made, the recovery of overpayments being considered at a later stage when the deceased soldiers’ military estate is being finalized. Unless investigation then reveals a degree of dependency or circumstances of hardship, such payments are set off against the deceased soldier’s estate, or, where the beneficiary is not the allottee, recovery is sought from the allottee. After a full investigation of the cases which have come to his notice, the Acting Minister for the Army does not consider that any variation from the procedure that has been followed should now he made, other than to omit the reference, to the overpayment in the notification that is made to nondependent allottees of the cessation of the allotment. I reiterate that, in. the case of dependent allottees, the regulations provide that any payment of allotment after the date of death is not an overpayment, and to the Minister’s knowledge no intimation of the cessation of allotment that has been despatched to a dependent allottee has ever indicated that an overpayment of the allotment has been made.
United Nations Conference on International Organization : Trusteeship Commission ; Australian Mandated Territories.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 6. The Australian delegates at San Francisco are fully aware of the problems raised by some of tie proposals on trusteeship for dependent peoples now being discussed at San Francisco and are using all their influence to ensure that the welfare of the native peoples in our island territories and the security of Australia are properly safeguarded. The Acting Minister for External Affairs made it clear in a statement which he issued on the 15th May that Australian policy on trusteeship emphatically does not contemplate any change in the single and complete administrative control by the Australian Government over its existing mandated and external territories. I have stated on several occasions recently that the Australian proposals on trusteeship at San Francisco are those approved by the Australian Government after the Wellington conference with New Zealand in November, 1944. In working out the detailed applications of the Government’s policy in the various committees and commissions of the conference, the Australian delegates must obviously make use of the discretion and full confidence vested in them by the Government and it is no service to raise questions such as that of the honorable member on a press report of any particular day’s proceedings.
Australian Prisoners of War.
y. - On the 3rd May, 1945. the honorable member for Wentwortb (Mr.. Harrison) asked whether my attention had been drawn to British Broadcasting Corporation reports that Germany, in violation of an agreement not to move any more prisoners of war from their existing camps, had moved Ben,10 naval officers from Marlag and Milag Nord camp, north-east of Bremen, and, as Bed Cross officials were under th, impression that Australian naval personnel and Australian merchant seamen were interned in this camp, whether the Government would send an immediate protest to the British Government, and at the same time urge that the international authorities at Geneva be asked to secure confirmation of Germany’s assurance that prisoners of war and internees would not he removed from existing camps.
I replied that I would obtain all thi information possible, and, if the fact? were as stated, would see what could hr done in the matter. I have had inquiries made of the appropriate United Kingdom authorities, and am happy to state that all the naval ratings formerly at Marlag and Milag Nord have now been recovered. Regarding naval officers, only three are unaccounted for, and it has been ascertained thattwo of these were moved in the direction of Lubeck on the 11th April before the agreement with the German Government came into force. The early location of these men is expected.
AlliedMilitary Governmentof Occupied Territory : Australian representation.
– On the 11th May, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), in the course of a question concerning migration, inquired whether Australia was represented on the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory.
With regard to the administration of Germany, asI indicated to the House on the 9th May, the Australian Government has been consulted on the general terms to be imposed on Germany and will be associated in an appropriate way with the machinery for the control of Germany during the Allied occupation. At the present time, Germany is under purely military control. Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory was concerned with Italy and Sicily and was, in the words of the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, “ a purely military administration responsible to the Allied Supreme Commander “ (House of Commons, the 28 th July, 1943). The Commonwealth was not represented on this body.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice-
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers -
The matters were referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has furnished the following information: -
See answer to 1.
The question has not arisen as fur as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned.
Mr. Haylen, M.P., has not broadcast for the commission. 5.No. The question has never arisen.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450522_reps_17_182/>.