17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Industrial Lawlessness -Communist Activities - Housing - Authority ofthe Parliament -Food production.
– I give notice that tomorrow I shall submit a motion of censure of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to, there being an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the House present, and no dissentient voice -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting, and that such motion take precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move-
That this House is of opinion that the Government is deserving of censure for -
Its failure to deal adequately with the rising tide of industrial lawlessness ;
Its encouragement of Communist activities in Australia;
Its failure to carry out an effective housing policy;
Its attack upon the responsible authority of Parliament by -
its refusal to permit discussion in the Parliament in relation to the matters under consideration at the San Francisco conference;
its use of the forms of the House to stifle full and careful debate upon important legislative proposals ; and
The chaotic condition which exists in relation to food production and the failure to discharge our contractual obligations of supply to Great Britain, arising from the Government’s disorganization of the food plans and policies of previous governments.
The motion raises five issues. I do not propose to endeavour to discuss all of them in the compass of one speech. So that my remarks may not be unduly long, I shall concentrate on three matters in particular. The first of them is the problem of industrial lawlessness in Australia. The second is the housing problem, and the third is item No. 4 in the list of items contained in my motion.
– The right honorable gentleman does not expect us to take him very seriously, does he?
– The honorable member will know how serious I am, when he has heard my speech. I want to say by way of a preliminary remark - it has something to do with the third point - that the rise to power of the Australian Communists is at this moment the most disturbing feature of our domestic affairs. The record of the Australian Communist party in relation to the war is, broadly considered, a shameful one, for it was opposed to the war and did everything possible to frustrate our own war effort untilRussia was brought into the war by the German invasion of that country. Ever since, it has sought to ride into public favour on the backs of theRussian soldiers. It will be considered by the future historian a remarkable phenomenon that a party proscribed in the earlier period of the war should have become so powerful during the last three years that at the recent trade unions conference held in Great Britain, the, sole representative of the Australian trade unions movement, financed and facilitated by the Australian Government, was the chief Australian Communist, Thornton. Something has been said in the House recently about the way in which, by delay and indifference, a highly qualified lady -
Mrs. Tenison Woods was ultimately deprived of the opportunity of attending a meeting of the International Labour Office, in response to an invitation from that body, as an expert upon child welfare. T. have no doubt that, had Mrs. Tenison-Woods been the president of the women’s section of the Australian Communist party, and- desired to go abroad to attend a Communist gathering, her path would have been smoothed, and every travelling arrangement would have been made promptly for her. What the Government has to get into its mind is, that Australian communism embraces people of two entirely distinct types. One type is the highly intelligent, utterly unscrupulous, genuine revolutionary, whose real ambition it is to have blood in the streets. He is a real follower of the Marxian theory, and a man who will exert every possible influence - and is doing so at this moment, with complete success - to get his disciples into key positions in Australia, so that, when the time arrives for Communist movement, the affairs of this country may easily be brought to a standstill. We shall be arrant fools if we overlook the intense significance of people of that kind. The second class of Communist is no doubt the more numerous, but, perhaps, the less significant, because it really represents the warm-hearted, but rather soft-headed, people who are easily led to call themselves Communists, by sentimental appeals based on the valour and heroism of Russia in this war. This second class includes many good Australians, however misguided they may be. But the first class, which is the dynamic force of communism in Australia, embraces those who are the sworn enemies of everything for which Australia stands.
I turn now to the three matters which, in particular, I desire to consider. The first is industrial lawlessness. I do not intend to repeat general statements. We have had occasion in the past to speak in general terms, in this House, about the undoubted rising tide of lawlessness in the industrial field in Australia. The essential feature is. that in this country of ours - and I believe that all parties can claim some share of credit for this - there is, broadly speaking, an industrial law that is more humane, flexible, accessible and just than is the industrial law of any other country. In spite of that, we see day by day a deliberate defiance of the industrial law. What is the Government to do in the presence of such a state of affairs? As I view the matter, a government has the choice of three possible courses. The first is to enforce the industrial law promptly and rigorously, with no idle threats and no mass remissions. The second course open to it is to believe that the industrial law is, in its nature, unenforceable, and that therefore nothing can be done about strikes; and, as nothing can be done, nothing will be said. A policy of that kind is, of course, one of utter feebleness. But at least it would be more sensible than policy No. 3, to which I now desire to refer; it is the policy of the Government. That policy is to make it clear to industrial law-breakers that, provided they act in concert, the law will be altered to fit their views. That is an active policy; its essence is, that it directly incites breaches of the law. I have said that it is the settled policy of the Government. I shall refer to a conspicuous recent example, which demonstrates clearly that that is so. On the 7th May, there was a stoppage in the heavy industries at Port Kembla - the steel industries and, to a lesser degree, the copper industries. The Federated Ironworkers Association - the union concerned primarily in the stoppage - is Communist controlled. Its boss, its chief spokesman, is the gentleman Thornton to whom I have referred. Its Port Kembla branch decided in April that it would have a political strike on the 7th May, that being the day selected for the celebration of May Day. I have said that it was a political strike. In fact, it had two characteristics. The first was, that it was political ; that is to say, it did not relate to any industrial demand. In the second place, it was illegal, because the proposed stoppage would be in breach of the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations and the National Security (Holidays and Annual Leave) Regulations. Late in April, the ironworkers advised certain companies at Port Kembla that the 7th May would be taken as a May Day holiday. The companies concerned then proceeded to obey the law; that is the point which I want to make. The law, for that purpose, was contained in the National Security (Industrial Peace)Regulations. I shall read regulation10 of those regulations to the House. It is this -
Where any organization or employer is aware of the existence of any industrial matter which may lead to the occurrence of a strike, a stop-work meeting, or any other interruption of work, he shall forthwith notify- the Department of Labour and National Service and the registrar of the court. I think that the companies did that. They also posted notices on the 3rd May to the effect that employees failing to work on the 7th May without reasonable excuse would be suspended from duty, and should then report to the national service officer. Again they were acting in pursuance of the law of this land. The advice given to the court was referred by it to the State Industrial Commission of New South Wales, and the matter was heard by Mr. Justice Cantor on Friday, the 4th May. The proceedings were amazing. The New South Wales Division of the Ironworkers Association was represented by Mr. McHenry. He made no mystery of the matter, and I shall quote his words. He saidin court to the judge-
I think the whole point is this, that employees have decided down in that area to support May Day to a greater extent on this occasion than they have done previously, and this is no ordinary move.
Later, he said -
I am informed that the unions officially did not come into this question, that is by arranging meetings outside, until the letter was received from Mr. Fraser.
Here I interpolate that the Mr. Fraser referred to is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro -
I have not got a copy of the letter here. Mr. George has not brought it with him. But it purports, I understand, to say that after some negotiations between the local Labour Council on the coast and the Commonwealth Government, to see what could be done about proclaiming that day a holiday, the contents of the letter indicate that the Government could not proclaim a holiday by regulation but they would take no objection to a holiday being taken if the employers and the employees agree.
Then followed this dialogue -
His Honour. - That is rather an amazing attitude. The law dealing with the subject is prescribed by regulation made under Act of
Parliament. Those regulations may be altered by the regulation-making authority, and if you are correct in what was said, it comes to this: “We won’t alter the law, but we will wink at it.”
Mr. McHenry. That seems to be the position.
His Honour. - It needs no words of mine to emphasize that that is a most improper attitude for any public man to take. I do not know whether it was taken, but if it were, this tribunal, with a full sense of responsibility, says that it is most improper. It cuts across the law of the land.
Later the same judge said -
There was no application to this tribunal to substitute 7th May,1945, for a day in October,1945, as a holiday under the award.
Mr. McHenry replied, “ I am quite aware of that”.
– He was very helpful.
– Yes. I am not devoting any time to criticizing him. He was frankness itself.
– A good friend to the Opposition.
– And no doubt an excellent supporter of the honorable member, so, for the first time, we are both happy. In the course of his judgment, His Honour said -
Once more, to meet their own wishes and those of their members, there is displayed by important organizationsof employees and by their members also, disregard of and disrespect for the law.
At the very moment when the court was sitting, the Port Kembla branch of the Ironworkers Association got out a circular which contained these words -
Unless we fight and march together in a real Australian fighting way our enemies at home will be strengthened in their aims to sabotage the peace and retard our inarch forward to a Socialist Australia.
All of that is merely leading to the real crux of this matter, because the crux of it was this: In spite of the inquiry before the Industrial Commission and the decision of the judge on the 7th May, there was a total cessation of the production of steel and steel products at the works of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, at Lysaght’s, and at the Commonwealth Rolling Mills, and there was some interruption in the copper industries of Metal Manufactures Limited, and the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company, both of them key war production industries.On the 7th May there was a total cessation at the one group of works, and a partial cessation at the other. At this point, therefore, there was a strict adherence to the industrial law by the employers, and a deliberate and well understood breach of the law by the union and its members.
-Supported : by the Government.
– In the meantime, on the 7th May the powers at Canberra had been invoked, and this is where we reach the real point as to where this Government comes into the picture. Two things happened on the 7th May. The first was that between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. the Director-General of Man Power, by telephone, notified the representatives of the companies that in the event of the suspensions taking place, such suspensions would he revoked by the man-power authorities, and that the men would have to be paid for the 7th May, although they had not worked on that day. The Director-General further indicated that he knew that the Commonwealth Government would gazette an order to that effect. The second incident that occurred on the 7th May was that, between 10 and 11 p.m., the SolicitorGeneral telephoned from Canberra to the representatives of the companies the text of an. order which was to be gazetted in the name of the Acting Prime Minister, and was in line with what had been said by the Director-General. The Solicitor-General further stated that the order would be made, unless he received assurances withinhalf an hour that the companies would refrain from the intended suspensions.
All of that sorry story adds up to two things : First, the Commonwealth Government, by its threat and ‘by its insistence upon pay for no work, punished the employers for exercising their rights under the law of this country; and, in the second place, the same Government not only failed to enforce the law against the employees who had broken it, but actually rewarded them for their breach of the law by converting illegal absence into a holiday on full pay.
– What a shame!
– It is all very well for honorable members opposite to pretend that they treat this matter with hilarity, but if that is their attitude towards the enforcement of the law they are paving the way to complete anarchy in Australia. It is feeble enough not to enforce the law when it is broken; it is a policy of utter surrender when the law is changed in favour of the lawbreakers.
A more recent example of the Government’s surrender to lawlessness is to be found in last Tuesday’s report of Judge O’Mara’sjudgment in the Ship Joiners Union case. It is remarkable that a man named Anderson, who figured very prominently in these proceedings, said this, according to the uncontradicted evidence -
We do not recognize the law.
If it is taken to the Privy Council we will still be prepared to smash the Ship Joiners Society.
Should I be gaoled there will be some one to take my place.
We take no notice of the court.
We can control the Government and wreck it.
We are not worried about the law.
The judge remarked that he did not propose to record any specific findings on the evidence, counsel having agreed that it amounted to a criminal conspiracy. I shall not discuss that. Many points might be made on this case. The one that I am concerned to make is this: Is it lawful in this country for union officials to incite their members to breaches of the Commonwealth law?
– Ask your deputy leader about the New Guard.
– All these asides do not constitute an answer to the question whether it is lawful: for a union official to incite his members to a breach of the law. If it is lawful, it is high time the law was altered. If it is not lawful, I want to know why the Government has not prosecuted Anderson for statements of that kind.
Here we have two modern instances in the last few weeks of the state of affairs that I referred to at the outset of my remarks. This is a problem of the utmost gravity. In any civilized community, and, above all, in any democratic community, the authority of the democratically made law is vital to the true freedom of the individual. We need not run away with any sloppy idea that laxity in enforcing the law is a proof of democracy. If the ordinary civil and criminal laws were broken with impunity, and if the ordinary courts of law were treated with contempt, everybody in Australia would recognize clearly that we were bringing the authority of the law to an end. One of our great troubles in Australia is that we have not yet learned to think about the industrial law in clear and sensible terms. Militant unions, particularly Communistcontrolled unions, think that in the industrial field they can have it both ways, using the law when it suits them and defying it when it suits them. They have come to believe, and the Government has encouraged them in this, that obedience to the industrial law is a sign of weakness. No government with any sense of responsibility can afford to let these tendencies grow, because, if they do grow, there will be an end of domestic order.
I turn now to housing, which is the third item in the motion. A true housing policy should long since have passed out of the realm of theory. Whatever may be said by the anxious gentlemen in the government corner, it is still true that all we have had in the way of housing in Australia in the last couple of years has been a theory of housing. A state of affairs exists in Australia to-day which did not exist four years ago.
– Dudley Flats in Melbourne are the right honorable gentleman’s monument.
– Dudley Flats in Melbourne are the spiritual home of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). At the present time, there are in Australia thousands and thousands of people urgently in need of homes. Unless they can get homes soon, no one can answer for the social consequences. For the provision of houses, there are three requirements: (1) Materials - bricks, timber, tiles, iron, fibro-plaster, cement; (2) men - not only to make these materials, but also to assemble them into buildings ; and (3) permits to build, equated to the actual and potential demand. One would have thought that what was required was, not a collection of long-haired theorists writing essays on the subject, but a small executive committee of first-class experts on building and building materials, to gether with full statistics of the materials needed and materials available, of the men needed and the men available - all related to some realistic target of house-building. Such a body, armed with such information, could very speedily bring the basic man-power question to an issue, because it would then be up to the authorities to say : “ Here is a statement of the men needed for these purposes, and here is the building target. How do we balance that against the number of men who are really needed in the armed services? “
– That has been done.
– Well, no evidence has been produced in this House that it has been done. No satisfactory statement has been made of the real needs of the armed forces at this moment, showing how many are really surplus, how many tradesmen and men experienced in the preparation of building material and in house-building could be made available. All we have had presented to us is some airy, theoretical document from time to time to show how this problem is associated with other economic problems. Paper houses are of no more use in Australia than they are in Tokyo. At the moment, apart from a few houses constructed during the last few years, we have nothing before us but vague statements - not the slightest shred of evidence that this matter is being regarded as a problem that ought to be solved along practical lines.
– If the right honorable gentleman had been in office, Japan would have had this country.
– That statement is as lying as it is stupid, but it does not surprise me, coming from such a source.
I now turn to the topic of the San Francisco conference. The Government has utterly failed to provide for any discussion in Parliament in relation to the matters under consideration at the conference. On the 2nd May, I raised this matter in the House, and made a short statement by leave. I asked for information, but all that was forthcoming as a result were copies of a public statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and a speech by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), both of which had been published previously in the press. On the 10th May, I renewed my application.
– Mrs. Jessie Street is over there at the conference representing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison ) .
– The problems confronting the conference are obviously matters of intense- amusement to honorable members opposite. I confess that the humour of the situation had previously escaped me.
– The future of the world is at stake, and they are laughing.
– Yes, which indicates their mental level. As I have said, on the 10th May, I renewed my application, pointing out that either the proposals being made in the name of Australia at San .Francisco represented the considered policy of the Australian Cabinet, in which case there ought to be no difficulty, even at short notice, in some member of the Cabinet explaining them to the House, or they were put forward by the Minister for External Affairs as a sort of frolic of his own, in which case I could understand no one in Australia being able to explain them. Despite the unfailing courtesy of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), my second application produced no results until the 29th May, when documents were circulated elaborating the views of the Minister for External Affairs. These documents were not, apparently, parliamentary papers; they were privately distributed. The position, therefore, can be summed up in this way: The conference at San Francisco has been publicized as the most important international conference since that at Versailles. Dr. Evatt is claiming that Australia is the leader of the middle powers, and is therefore seeking to exercise a great influence in this conference. No parliamentary statement has been made at Canberra in relation to the conference since it commenced. Indeed, before the conference commenced, no statement was ever made to this House beyond a mere indication that such a conference would ‘be held.
– Just the same as was done in London.
– I am delighted to discover that the Minister sometimes thinks that they are right in England.
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has had no opportunity whatever to discuss the problems of the conference. These facts embody a positively tragic story of Australian indifference to great matters, for which the Opposition can accept no responsibility at all. So far as I can understand the matter - and I am assisted only by a study of the documents circulated to us - the three most contentious matters discussed at the conference are - (1) trusteeship; (2) the veto rights of the great powers; and (3) an international agreement to pursue a policy of full employment.
As to trusteeship, I repeat that the principle as stated by the Minister for External Affairs is one which is universally recognized in all democratic countries, not only in relation to backward peoples, but also in relation to ordinary citizens. The principle is that a government exists for the well-being and advancement of the citizens of its country. The real question is whether countries like Great Britain should be liable to have the administration of their territories brought, not only under the general principle, but also under an obligation to report to an international commission, not by their own voluntary decision, but by a vote of the general assembly of the new world organization. That is a question of first-class importance. Ought it to be within the power of the general assembly of the new world organization to demand, even against the will and the vote of Great Britain, that it must, in relation to any one of its colonies or to all of them, report to an international conference from time to time?
– Why not ?
– Most Australians would derive very little comfort from having Australia lined up with South American republics to form a majority against Great Britain on an issue of that kind. In any event, a common-sense test can be applied to this matter so long as one is not obsessed, as is the Minister for External Affairs, by a desire to have everything reduced to writing and put into a legal formula. The test is this: If a particular country will not aim at a certain result in relation to its people because of its sense of duty to its people, is it seriously thought that it will do so because of its sense of obligation to some other country ? There, I believe, we have the whole common sense of this matter.
We come now to the second matter, the power of veto, to which somewhat similar considerations apply. The question has arisen as to how far certain matters ought to be within the veto of the great powers. Surely a sense of realism will indicate to us that the conference cannot succeed, nor can any effective world organization be created, unless the great powers among the United Nations are willing and whole-hearted participants. After the last war we saw how the abstention of the United States of America from the League of Nations tended to cripple the League, and how in later stages of the League’s existence its lack of true universality rendered its decisions practically academic. All that goes to show what it means to a world organization if one or two or three great powers absent themselves from it. There may be great publicity to be gained by breaking a lance with’ one or other of those great powers, but common sense revolts against the idea that by some lining up of the small powers some great power will be compelled to come into a world organization under terms which it does not like. Again, the simple common sense of this matter is that not one of the great powers of the allied nations will come into this proposal unless it is satisfied with the proposal. All that we need to do is to start battles about matters of relative unimportance - to create a false and unnatural atmosphere - and we shall find that the new world league, like the old one, will be crippled by the absence from it of vital members.
– What the right honorable gentleman is saying means that he believes that the great powers must run the world.
– I have a sneaking idea that the great powers will continue to have a greater say in the running of the world than will the other powers, and, whether we like that or not, I hope that the great powers of the world will stand together after the war. I would soe in their standing together the greatest guarantee of world peace.
I turn now to the third matter, namely, an international agreement in relation to full employment.
– The right honorable member does not believe in it.
– I do not believe m the agreement.
– The right honorable member does not believe in full employment.
– The profound and well-informed Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is firmly persuaded - so he says in public - that it is the ambition of people like myself to have thousands of people out of work.
– Hear, hear!
– I have never heard such a silly, reckless statement made by a Minister of the Crown.
– .Capitalism requires a reservoir of unemployed people.
– Good old cliches hot from the Yarra Bank.
– It would do the right honorable gentleman good to spend some time on the Yarra Bank.
– I have done so. I have listened to speakers there, and that is why I am never disturbed by Labour arguments. The answer is always too easy. I confess to a suspicion as to the real motive that underlies this proposed international agreement for full employment. The learned Attorney-General, who is also Minister for External Affairs, in an announcement that was circulated here recently, said - . . to require members to pledge themselves to take action, both national and international, for the purpose of securing for all peoples, including their own, improved labour standards, economic advancement, employment for all, and social security.
– All of which are desirable.
– They are desirable; but why are they being put forward for purposes of an international agreement? My impression was that these are, first and foremost, great domestic political problems. Some attempt has been made to indicate that these are genuinely matters for international agreement, the theory being, once more, that if, for example, Canada will not aim at full employment out of a sense of duty to its own people, it will be prepared to aim at full employment out of its sense of duty to Australia.
– Or Paraguay.
– Yes, Paraguay, or any other country. Nothing less realistic can ever have been put before the people, and, therefore, that theory will not work. Full employment is either a slogan, as it is in the mouth of the Minister for Information, or it connotes a true matter-of-fact domestic policy. If it is a mere slogan, it ought not to be written into a world charter, because nothing will destroy a world charter more quickly than the inclusion in it of unrealistic matter. If, on the other hand, it is not a slogan, but involves a matter-of-fact practical domestic policy in the country concerned, surely it is a matter of domestic concern in which the most powerful sanction should be that of public opinion expressed through the Parliament. What is really happening? No one in this chamber will pretend to be so innocent as not to realize what is really happening ; the representatives of the Government are battling for the inclusion of a specific obligation on the part of Australia in this international agreement, because of the known views of the Minister for External Affairs that if Australia enters into such a specific obligation the Parliament at Canberra will have power to give effect to it under tho external affairs power of the Constitution.
– Despite the result of the referendum.
– In other words, this is the latest bid by the AttorneyGeneral - a spectacular bid, I admit - to get rid at one blow of the adverse vote at the recent referendum.
– What are the right honorable gentleman’s plans for full employment?
– We had the pleasure yesterday of seeing tabled in this House a paper on full employment. It was accompanied by a short speech by the Minister who, tabled it. I secured the adjournment of the debate, and I shall deliver my views on that topic when the debate is resumed. I was pointing out to the House that this action on the part of the Minister for External Affairs is in reality - and I believe that that is its entire purpose - a bid to secure legislative powers for this Parliament which the people -of Australia deliberately refused to give to the Parliament in August, 1944.
– Did the people vote against full employment?
– No one but a rogue or a fool would say so. The people did not vote against full employment, but against giving the powers that !the Government asked for. All the bluster in the world will not get rid of the fact that the people refused to give to this Parliament the power which the Government said it needed to achieve this result.
– The people threw the previous Government out on its head.
– If they threw the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) out on his head he would not even feel it.
– .So that it shall not be charged that what I have just said about the view of the Attorney-General on this matter is a mere assertion, I should like to quote to the House the views expressed in the High Court of Australia by Mr. Justice Evatt. In the Goya Henry case, Rex v. Burgess, Mi-. Justice Evatt said -
It would seem clear, therefore, that the legislative power of the Commonwealth over “ external affairs “ certainly includes the power to execute within the Commonwealth treaties and conventions entered into with foreign powers.
– Those are the “words of a wise and learned judge.
– That is why I am quoting them. Mr. Justice Evatt continued -
The legislative power in sec. 51 .is granted subject to the Constitution ‘ so that such treaties and conventions could not be used to enable the Parliament to set at nought constitutional guarantees elsewhere contained.
He then gave instances, and continued -
But it is not to be assumed that the legislative power over ‘ external affairs ‘ is limited to the execution of treaties or conventions; and, to pursue the illustration previously referred to, the Parliament may well be deemed competent to legislate for the carrying out of ‘ recommendations ‘ as well as the draft international conventions ‘ resolved upon by the International Labour Organization or of other international recommendations or requests upon other subject matters of concern to Australia as a member of the family of nations. The power is a great and important one.
Summing up, the learned judge said -
The Commonwealth has power both to enter into international agreements and to pass legislation to secure the carrying out of such agreements according to their tenor, even although the subject matter of the agreement is not otherwise within the Commonwealth legislative jurisdiction.
Mr.Calwell. - That will do us.
-Of course it will; all that is needed on top of that, if that be the law - and the learned judge declared it to be so - is an international agreement on the items which were refused to the Government at the referendum, and the decision of the people will have been nullified.
– That is democracy!
– That is why Australia’s representatives at San Francisco are making such an enormous play of the importance of having an international agreement on full employment.
I have almost concluded, but I wish to say a few words on the second branch of the fourth clause - the use by the. Government of the forms of the House to stifle full and careful debate on important legislative proposals.
– Oddly enough,I was going to say that I am not opposed in all circumstances to the use of the “ gag “ ; I seldom hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) speak without wishing that I could employ it. And I am not opposed in all circumstances to the use of the “guillotine”, which, on the whole, is a much more sensible weapon than is the “gag”.
– The right honorable gentleman will not have a chance to apply it.
– If the Minister for Information keeps on saying things like that, he will ultimately believe them.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. J. S.Rosevear). - TheChair does not like the continual interjections of the Minister for Information. I have already warned the Minister. If he persists I shall deal with him.
– I point out, however, that for a government that not only possesses a majority, but also boasts that it has a majority of two to one in this chamber, to resort to the use of repressive measures in order to get rid of debate as regularly as the present Government does, is the greatest confession of weakness that I could imagine. After all, why was the debate on the Reestablishment and Employment Bill truncated, so that clause after clause had to go without any debate whatever? It was because the Government was anxious to get on with its legislative programme. It had this tremendously important banking legislation to consider, although, on its own showing, it is not designed to have any effect whatever on the banking structure until after the war. This legislation was so urgent that the most important bill dealing with the interests of former service men and women, the most important bill of that kind that we have ever had to consider, had to be whipped through this House with twothirds of it never debated.
– The Opposition talked too much on unimportant clauses.
– My honorable friend, the Minister for Air, for whom I have, as he knows, warm regard-
– Do not say that too often, or he may lose his seat.
– I remember saying that once to a very old friend of mine, the then honorable member for Reid, and he warned me then that he would lose his seat. So he did. But, in justice to the Minister for Air, I must say that the majority in Reid was not so inflated as the majority in Maribyrnong. The Minister interjected that a great deal of time was taken up with the discussion of one clause. I point out to him that it was the most important clause in the bill. It determined the entire scope of the legislation.
The last thing I want to say is this: The fifth item is one with which, in the compass of an hour, I could not hope to deal, but my colleagues will deal with it in extenso. It is the problem of food supply. I want, however, to make one general observation on it before I depart from this motion. Wherever this Government has achieved good results in production, the reason has been that it has accepted the organization bequeathed to it by its predecessors and has left that organization alone. A conspicuous example of that is to he found in munitions production in Australia. [Extension of time granted.) Where it has achieved bad and, indeed, chaotic results, as on food production, that has been because it has interfered with the careful arrangements made by previous governments, not only during the war, but well before the war, both by negotiation with the British Government and by legislation at home.
The effect of the Scully plan upon wheat production and the effect of the denuding of the countryside of its necessary man-power in favour of the unnecessary inflating of the armed forces, a considerable portion of whom arc apparently not destined for active service at all, is now well known.
It is only the utterly insensate selfsatisfaction of the Government which prevents it from facing up to the realities of the position and going back to a really well-considered long-range view of the relative claims of production and of the armed services.
– I do not propose to take up a great deal of time in dealing with this motion. First, 1 shall make some comment on the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on the use by this Government of the forms of the House to get legislation through. The Government makes not the slightest apology for that. An unbiased listener taking the most generous view of speeches of Opposition members in committee on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill would say that they were guilty of either deliberate stonewalling or stupid repetition. No other judgment could be formed on what happened before the “ guillotine “ was applied. I make it perfectly clear, if I have not already clone so, that the Parliament has a heavy legislative programme, and the Government will not allow Opposition members to prevent it from passing that legislation by repeating time after time what they or other honorable members have already said. I do not lay that charge against all Opposition members, many of whom speak rarely, and I do not say that the party leaders were responsible for any of the delays; but I do say that the policy of obstruction began the day before the “ guillotine “ was introduced and that the Government will not tolerate it. I regard a good deal, of this debate as taking up time that could be better used. It is strange to hear the Opposition condemning the use of the “ guillotine “. In the first session of the Fourteenth Parliament, the Lyons Government, of which some of the present Opposition members were supporters, applied the “guillotine” no less than fourteen times. As Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies-) applied the “guillotine” to the most important National Security Bill, forcing it through this House eight and a quarter hours after its introduction.
– It was the most urgent measure we have dealt with.
– Exactly. Yet eight and a quarter hours after leave had been given for its introduction the bill had been “guillotined” through all stages. No stronger example of the use of the “guillotine” than that could be found.
– The honorable gentleman will admit the extreme urgency of that measure.
– Was it so urgent that a bill which would affect the lives of every one in this country needed to be forced through before 11.15 p.m. on the day on which it was introduced?
– I am not attempting to deny that that Government had a very good reason for having the bill passed speedily, or that the Lyons Government was not justified in its belief that, if its legislation was to be passed expeditiously, it was necessary to apply the “ guillotine “ fourteen times in one session. All I do now is to direct attention to the hyprocrisy of honorable gentlemen opposite in protesting against our use of the forms of this House in order to ensure the passage of legislation. The right honorable gentleman said that the banking legislation would not come into operation until after the war. I do not know when the war is likely to end, but I do know that, as soon as this legislation has been assented to, it will bo immediately brought into operation, except, perhaps, certain sections.
The right honorable gentleman also spoke about the industrial trouble at Port Kembla. Some of the employers at Port Kembla have been most uncooperative and provocative whenever industrial trouble has occurred. I accept full responsibility for the action taken to compel employers at Port Kembla to open their works and take their employees back on the particular day of which the right honorable gentleman spoke.
– And pay them for their holiday, too?
– Nothing of the kind.
– I heard of that allegation to-day for the first time, and I do not know where it comes from.
– The honorable gentleman will not deny that it was provided for in the order that was issued.
– All I know is that there was industrial trouble at Port Kembla on a certain Monday when some men stopped work, and that the employers proposed not to allow them to resume work the next day, which would have meant a complete hold-up of work throughout the district. I definitely said on behalf of the Government that the works had to be opened and the men allowed to go back to work, and that other issues could be settled in due course. I said nothing at all about their having to be paid.
– That was provided for in the order.
– Well, I shall not go into that matter at this stage, because this is the first I have heard of it. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) say that they have never heard it suggested that the order issued under the National Security Regulations had any bearing on that matter. I am, however, prepared to ascertain the details. I do know that some confusion arose because of discussions in which, I understand, the Government of New South Wales was concerned as to what would be the Labour Day holiday in that district. But, again, I make no apology for saying that the works had to be opened and work had to go on, instead of having the whole works and the whole district held up for weeks as the result of a refusal to allow the men to resume.
– That is an appeasement policy.
– I put this to the honorable member who has just interjected: A dispute occurred on that particular Monday. A certain number of men, not all of them, stayed away from the works. The employers themselves were then prepared to hold up production with the object of punishing the men by causing them to lose pay; they proposed to break the law by saying that the work could not go on. How was that likely to finish up ? With a hold-up in the industry for a fortnight or three weeks imminent, what would the honorable member himself have done had he had the responsibility of ensuring urgent production ?
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to industrial unrest and stoppages. He confined himself to one or two cases in which he said he believed that certain legal action should have been taken. Those matters will foe dealt with by other Ministers, so I do not propose to go into them in detail. However, I ask the right honorable gentleman : What didhe do when he was Prime Minister of this country to enforce the law against strikes? We know the history of the northern coal-fields very well. While his Government was in office, and while the war was on, no coal was produced on the northern coal-fields for a period of ten weeks.
– None was produced anywhere in New South Wales in that period.
– That makes the position worse. What action did that great strong Government led. by the right honorable gentleman, which was prepared to enforce the law, take against strikers on that occasion? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who is not present at the moment, was Minister for Labour and National Service in the Government led by the right honorable gentleman at a time when munitions buildings in Victoria were held up for weeks because of industrial trouble. I do not pretend to go into the merits, or demerits, of the cases I have mentioned; and 1 do not for one moment condone strikes. However,I realize that the strike is often the only weapon the worker has to bring to the notice of the people the fact that he is being badly treated. Whatever its defects might be, the strike is a right which can never be denied to the workers of the world.
– It can be denied in wartime.
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Not so long ago in this House a number of honorable members opposite went on strike. They walked out of this chamber and absented themselves from their duties, because they disagreed with the referee. But in their case there was a difference; they did not forgo their pay while they were not doing their job. When the worker goes out on strike against the decision of the referee, he at least forgoes his pay.
– Sometimes ; but when honorable members opposite walk out of this House they never forgo their pay.
– That is not true; the Opposition did not walk out.
– I said that some honorable members of the Opposition walked out.
– I did not walk out; I was chucked out.
– The honorable member was “ chucked out “ on full pay ; but the people who were to be” chucked out “ at Port Kembla were to be “chucked out” without pay.
– And there will be alot of members of this House “ chucked out “ next year without pay.
– When the Government led by the Leader of the Opposition was in office the examples of strong-man methods in dealing with industrial disputes were not very convincing, because very sensibly - and that is the truth of the matter - the right honorable gentleman, whenhe was Prime Minister, recognized, as we recognize, that a great industrial disturbances cannot be remedied by extensive and wholesale prosecutions. Let me mention the case of the master bakers in Queensland to which, incidentally, the Leader of the Opposi tion did not refer. The master bakers in that State refused to obey an order under the National Security Regulations. Master bakers in many parts of Queensland refused to bake bread. The Government could have put all of them in gaol ; and it could gaol all miners who go on strike. But would any government get bread or coal by such action ?
– The Government should deal with the ringleaders.
– I wish now to deal with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the growth of communism. This great bogy has been raised as long as I can remember. I take my mind back a quarter of a century, or even longer, in politics in New South Wales. Twenty-five years ago, any person whose politics were too advanced was said to belong to the Industrial Workers of the World- the I.W.W. At a later stage, you called a person you did not like a Sein Feiner. Still later, if a person disagreed with you, you called him a Bolshevik; and, to-day, if you do not like a person-
– You call him a Fascist.
– You call him a Communist; and, yes, a Fascist.
– Or a Liberal.
– These are general terms used by a lot of people without meaning more than that the person using them disagrees with the particular person to whom he applies them. All I want to say about communism is that the Labour party has everywhere, and at every opportunity, opposed the doctrine of communism. Whenever a Communist candidate has contested a parliamentary seat he has run against a Labour candidate. The Communists have been the greatest allies which the conservative party in this country has had, not only in attempting to split the Labour vote, but also in providing ammunition such as that which the Leader of the Opposition has used in the speech he has just made. In 1925, when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, went to the country, he declared that he was going to play the very devil with the Communists. He said that his Government, if returned, would deal with those people and their nefarious proposals. That was twenty years ago ; and every conservative government which has been in office since has been going to do the same thing.
– We gaoled a few of them.
– Yes; and what has been the result? Are there more, or fewer Communists in Australia to-day? Mr. Bruce said that the Labour movement had been captured by extremists. That was in 1925. These people who were then said to be running the Labour movement are of the same type as those to whom the Leader of the Opposition referred in his speech to-day. I have no doubt that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) also is going to crush them into the ground, although there was a time when he himself was regarded by conservatives as being in the same class.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister mean that there are no Communists, or that they are not important?
– I do not deny that there are Communists. There is a Communist member in the House of Commons and a Communist member in the Queensland Parliament. I am not denying that there are Communists in the Australian community. What I am saying is that the Labour movement is not dominated by Communists.
– Why is a Labour conference being called to deal with the infiltration of Communists?
– This cry has gone on down the years. There are Communists in the community, and they may be sincere in their views, or they may be of the revolutionary type which the right honorable gentleman has described ; but the Labour movement has never been dominated by Communists, and it has never lent aid, or support, to communism.
– I think that we are able to prove differently.
– Honorable members opposite no doubt can prove to their own satisfaction anything they wish to believe. I shall now deal briefly with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the San Francisco conference. I suspect from his remarks a bit of professional jealousy between him and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) about this business of righting the affairs of the world, and how it should be clone. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs have been appointed by the Government to represent Australia at San Francisco. They have a general over-all understanding with respect to subjects which were discussed in principle beforehand with New Zealand. They have the confidence of the Government; but, obviously, at such a conference many matters must arise on which it is quite impossible for our delegates to consult the Government, or Parliament. However, while the world conference is being held it would be most inappropriate, and most improper, for this Parliament to engage in an acrimonious discussion about the general principles on which the nations of the world are endeavouring to reach agreement.
– Why acrimonious?
– This censure motion itself is not. designed to promote the interests of the country. The motion and everything associated with it are intended to lower the prestige of Australia. The Opposition takes advantage of every opportunity to create the impression that Australia is not doing its best in the war, or to hold up a section of our community to ridicule. This motion is political propaganda and nothing else.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister tell us whether the decision of the Australian people at the referendum will be observed’ regardless of international agreements?
– I shall not embark upon a lengthy discussion of the referendum, or of the constitutional issues which are involved. The Leader of the Opposition did not delve into these matters except to quote certain passages from a judgment given by the Attorney-General when he was a member of the High Court, in which he indicated that international agreements would in certain circumstances extend the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition claimed, in regard to the Government’s proposal for full employment, that an international agreement would permit the Government to override the decision of the people in regard to this particular matter. Does the right honorable member say that the people of Australia or of any country, as a mass, are opposed to full employment?
– Of course not. That is not the question.
– The people of this country wish their referendum decision to bp observed.
– Does the honorable member for Richmont contend that, if by some international agreement it were possible to enhance greatly the prospects of full employment for the people of the world, that would be a bad thing?
– These matters were put to the people of this country at the referendum, and were rejected.
– I do not think that any government which put to the people of this country the simple question : “ Are you in favour of full employment? “ would be in any danger of getting a negative answer.
I come now to housing. It is quite true that there is a sad lack of houses in this country; but it is equally true that, before the war started, there was a serious shortage of homes. Honorable members opposite need not take my words for that ; let them examine the reports of the housing authorities of the different States. When the war commenced, a demand was created for the very materials and labour which could have remedied the housing shortage. The Government and the people of this country were confronted with a simple choice. The question was : “ Are we to ask the people of this country to continue making sacrifices in regard to housing, or are we to let down the Allied forces who are coming to this country, and members of our own armed forces who are fighting to preserve our liberty? “
– The Government is wasting time and man-power on government buildings to-day.
– This country undertook to assist the Allied cause to the absolute limit of its physical resources. There was no great generosity in that decision ; our very liberty was at stake. We could have refused the American Army authorities building facilities and other things necessary to enable them to fight with us in this war; but had we refused, there would not be a free Australia to-day. Subsequently, we had to meet demands in respect of forward areas. In this country now, there are substantial forces of the British navy and we were asked to provide certain building requirements for them. Does the honorable member for Richmond suggest that we should have refused that request completely?
– No, but the new prices building in Canberra, and the stores buildings at Tottenham and Broadmeadows, which have just been started, are unnecessary.
– It is not very difficult for any one to travel around the country and find that, owing to the changed circumstances of the war, something had been done which now is clearly not necessary. Earlier in the war, certain aerodromes were constructed upon the advice of military authorities who considered them to be absolutely necessary. With the movement of the war further from our shores, some of these projects have not been required; but had the war taken a different course, they might have been vital to the defence of this country.
– That is quite true, but it is all in the past; I am talking of the present.
– From the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, I rather gained the impression that, in his view, this country had made too great a military effort.
– I did not say that.
– The right honorable member came very close to saying it.
– The Labour Government put too many men into uniform and let them sit around doing nothing.
– Numbers do not necessarily constitute military effort.
– The honorable member for Richmond claims that we had too many men in uniform doing nothing.
– Hundreds of thousands of them.
– I answer that simply by asking who is the best judge of what is required - the military commanders of the Allied Nations or the honorable member for Richmond?
– Or the Government, which has to balance civilian and military requirements?
Mr.CHIFLEY-I shall not go into this matter at great length. Due to events in Europe, and the altered course of the war, the Government has been paying very close attention during the last two or three weeks to the problem of . balancing the war effort of this country. In fact, had it not been for the delay caused by this motion, I had hoped, during this week - perhaps it may still ba possible - to- make a general statement on that matter. It. is all very well, to be wise after the event, and to point out what should have been. done.. The fact is that this country entered into certain commitments to the . Allied Nations, and we were in. honour bound to meet them ; but having met them, and having regard to the altered circumstances of the war, the time has arrived in. Australia, as it has in other countries to readjust military and civil requirements.. We havebeen doing that, during the last month or threeweeks and in that connexion discussions with the- Advisory War Council have been of great value to the Government. Obviously there are certain military aspects of this problem which cannot bediscussed’ fully or at all, in this House and I had hoped to have an opportunity this morning, to discuss- these matters with the Advisory War Council. Instead,, however,, the business of the Parliament is being held up by this motion, which I consider to be largely political propaganda. The resultis that the other discussion of which I have spoken will be delayed.
I return now to deal briefly with the problem of housing. As I have said’, the Government was faced with the choice of alleviating the housing shortage in this country, or providing the facilities’ urgently required by allied forces; The Government had no hesitation, in choosingto fulfil our obligations to the allied cause. If instead, we had decided to proceed with- thehousing programme, Australia-, probably, would not be a free country to-day, and the houses would have been burned down by the enemy. I do- not think that any Government in office in this- country at that time, could have made any other decision.’. The honorable member for Richmond has argued, that there are many men in the armed forces who are not required there. There are always shortcomings in any human system, no matter by whom it is designed. Human nature is not infallible, and I do not suggest for a moment that there are- no defects in any organization, military or otherwise; but it was on the best military advice obtainable that the Government based its decision, and we believe that what was done was in the best interests of the country. However, the war has now progressed to such a stage that a rebalancing of the war effort is possible.
– Two years have elapsed since the danger of invasion of this country passed.
– The honorable member for Richmond is arguing now that as soon as the fear of invasion had passed’ we should have deserted: the people who had been fighting for us and ignored our obligations to them.
– No; but there could have been a re-orientation..
– The food question, will be dealt with fully by the ‘Minister for Commerce . and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) ; but this should be remembered :. Australia has had to feed not only its own civilian population and its fighting forces, but also the fighting forces of America and of the Netherlands in the South-west Pacific. Now we have certain, commitments to the- British Admiralty. In addition,, we have had to make a contribution to the food supplies of the United Kingdom. Despite the fact that in the last year or two ‘certain portions of the Commonwealth have suffered the worst drought in 40 years, not one promise to the Allied Nations has been broken. It is true that we have had to ask the people of this country to accept smaller quantities of foodstuffs; particularly meat. The meat shortage which has developed largely as the result of the drought, is being borne by the people of this country, and not by the people of Great Britain. In this motion there is at least an. inference that Australia is- not meeting its obligations to the British people in regard to food. That matter will be dealt with adequately by the Minister for- Commerce and Agriculture.
This motion gives to honorable members an opportunity to discuss a very wide range of subjects. I am hopeful - in fact, more than hopeful - that the debate will conclude to-night. The Government has a very important legislative programme to carry out, and it is determined that this programme shall be adhered to. Various matters raised by honorable members in the course of this discussion will be dealt with by the appropriate Ministers. I hope that these matters will not be raised again for a long time, because the discussion to-day should be sufficient to satisfy honorable members opposite for some weeks to come. The Government is anxious to give honorable members the fullest opportunity to debate all measures that come before the House, but it asks honorable members opposite to recognize that the time available for dealing with the legislative programme is limited. It is all very well for some honorable members to talk, and then run away leaving others to carry the burden of parliamentary business. I do not believe that the motion before the House was submitted for other than political reasons. It can serve no useful purpose at all, and the debate upon it will besmirch the good reputation of Australians. I do not say that that is the intention of the Opposition, but the effect will be to lower Australia’s prestige abroad. The debate will not help this country at home or abroad.
– It will produce–
– It will not produce one more hundredweight of beef or one more hour’s work. I appreciate the position of the Leader of the Opposition. The leader of any party must try to present the ideas of his supporters, stirred up by the bugs in their brains, in some way that will satisfy all of them. Nevertheless, I repeat that the right honorable gentleman is doing the nation a disservice in submitting this motion. The Opposition may gain some passing political advantage from the debate; but I am doubtful of even that. It has suggested that Australian workers are imbued with the doctrines of communism to the detriment of the country’s war effort.
Do honorable members opposite believe that such talk, even if it had a basis of truth, would help Australia in the councils of the world? Any impartial judge must admit that this country has made a magnificent war effort. There have been small blots here and there on its record, but that is only natural. We cannot achieve perfection in anything. If some master bakers go on strike, or if 2,000 men, amongst millions of Australian workers, stop work for a week, is that a sign that the nation is decadent, that the national spirit is dying, and th at Australians are not so anxious as tie people of Great Britain, for instance, to win the war? The number of days’’ production lost in the coalmining industry of Great Britain last year was greater than in any previous two years. But does anybody suggest that the British people are less worthy than the people of any other country ? I do not pretend that the Government has not made mistakes, and I agree that mistakes should be rectified as soon as they are recognized. However, I repeat that I do not propose that this Parliament shall waste much -time in the next few months talking about these general subjects. When the Australian delegates return from San Francisco honorable members will have an opportunity to hear from them about the discussions at the conference. Until then, nothing can be gained by defaming out own country and slandering our fellow citizens merely for the purpose of seeking some party politcal advantage.
– The Australian Country party associates itself wholeheartedly with the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for the reasons which the right honorable gentleman has mentioned. He presented his case concisely and convincingly, and it was disturbing to hear the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) answer the charges, which were supported by definite evidence, with such smug complacency. The honorable gentleman ought to know the duties of an opposition, because he was on the opposition side of the House for many years; but he said that we had no right to disclose matters that were likely to affect the nation’s credit. Ho took us to task for “besmirching the good name of Australia “, whereas we, as a vigilant opposition, are merely discharging our responsibilities to the people. The effectiveness of the Leader of. the Opposition’s speech can best be assessed by the weakness of the reply made by the Acting Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the Government’s failure to deal adequately with the rising tide of industrial lawlessness. Surely nobody can be satisfied with the industrial position to-day and the manner in which industrial law is being flouted. The right honorable gentleman also referred to the encouragement of communistic activities within the Commonwealth. In his reply, the Acting Prime Minister, in his usual subtle way, spoke of Australia’s obligations to Russia as one of the five great powers. I remind him that communism can be divided into two distinct classes. There are the brave Communists of Russia, who have fought and sacrificed their lives for their great country and who have contributed in no small way to the military successes of the Allied Nations; there are also the Communists of Australia, who are basking in the reflected glory of the Russian Communists, and who are doing everything possible to sabotage Australia’s war effort. The Government must decide with which type of communism it will associate itself. Any responsible member of this Parliament who smugly says that communism is of no account in Australia is either not alive to his responsibilities or not willing to face up to them.
I propose to devote most of my speech to the very important subject of food production, which is the life-blood of the nation. However I shall not allow the Acting Prime Minister to remain uncorrected, as be hoped, on the subject of housing. He said that house construction was limited by the availability of materials and man-power. We know that to be so, but the Commonwealth Government created a housing commission which travelled all over Australia in order to study the problem at first hand and pre- pare a sound plan for expediting the bousing programme. One of the recommendations made by this extensive and expensive commission was as follows: -
A full housing census should be commenced about one year after the end of the war, preferably in conjunction with a general census.
Fancy appointing a commission to tell that to any responsible government ! As the Leader of the Opposition said, such a census should be in progress now because the shortage of accommodation in every capital city is aggravating the discomfort and discontent of many Australians, particularly servicemen and their dependants. If the Government proposes to wait for a year after the end of the war before determining the Commonwealth’s housing requirements, many years must elapse before the problem can be tackled in a manner that will produce the required results. In the meantime, wives and children of servicemen will continue to be housed in illventilated basements and almost uninhabitable garages. I know of women and children living under such conditions in Queensland. Recently the newspapers have produced ample evidence of that sort of thing in the form of written descriptions and actual photographs. Another recommendation made by the Housing Commission states that the Commonwealth Government “should take an active part in housing “. Even the commission recognizes that the Government has not made a realistic approach to this problem. Every serviceman’s wife and every child old enough to reason for himself, could have made such a recommendation without having to be informed by a commission. It is interesting to note what the secretary of the United Co-operative Building Societies, Mr. G. W. Pooley, has to say on housing and finance. The Acting Prime Minister and other members of the Government should take his comments to heart, particularly as measures which propose to give the Government control of the trading banks are at present before Parliament. This is what Mr. Pooley said, as reported in a Sydney newspaper last week -
When our housing scheme was launched the societies were told that they could get their money from the Commonwealth Bank at 4J per cent. We were well received for about two months; then suddenly we got a letter from the Commonwealth Bank saying the business did not suit and we were forced into the arms of outside financiers at 5 per cent. An amazing thing happened. The Bank of New South Wales lent us over £4,000,000 at 3* per cent., and we appreciate it very much.
Having regard to its banking legislation, and its apathy to housing, the Government should attempt to answer that statement as effectively as it can, and then observe the reaction of the people.
I come now to a mutter that is vital, not only to the Australian Country party, but also to all honorable members of this House, especially those who are able to make a correct assessment of the value of our great rural industries, not only during war-time, but also in connexion with peace-time reconstruction. It is hardly necessary to emphasize the very important part which those industries have had to play during the war, and the material contribution they will be required to make when peace-time reconstruction is upon us. With the war in Europe over, and the acceleration of the campaign by the Allied Nations to defeat Japan, the evolving of a realistic food and primary industries policy for Australia becomes a matter of’ urgency. Australia should now have been in a position, not only to maintain, but also to expand its great food industries, in order to provide food for the teeming, starving millions in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific; yet the reverse is the case. The Government’s policy can be blamed for the deterioration that has occurred on our food front. The Curtin Government will long bc remembered for its bungling inefficiency in grappling with problems as they arose, and its definite maladministration and complete incapacity to carry through the schemes propounded by its predecessors. The chaotic condition of our rural industries is the gravest reflection on its administration. For the last three years or so, Ministers and officials have bombarded the people with statements about plans, and the assurance that all was well on the food front. The Government has issued, through the media of the press, the radio and the moving picture theatre, costly propaganda which has achieved little of a practical or constructive nature. Its dismal failure on the food front has been brought home forcefully to hundreds of thousands of rural producers, who have suffered grievously as the result of its bungling and maladministration. Obviously, the consuming public also has been put to considerable cost and inconvenience by the failure of the Government to grapple with the problem. Large families, especially those with young children, denied essential foodstuffs, have had every justification for condemning the bungling that, has characterized the Government’s efforts on the food front. When the present Administration came into office, Ministers, especially the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), ridiculed the warning that a food shortage was possible. The necessity to safeguard and expand food production was persistently urged from this side of the House, but the official attitude found expression in the advice that farmers should cut the throats of their fowls, sell their dairy herds, and allow vegetables to rot in the ground. According to the curious working of the official mind, action along those lines would ensure to the Army the men that it needed, even though the withdrawal of labour from rural industries would have disastrous effects on food production. Notwithstanding repeated requests by rural producers, supported by honorable members both inside and outside this House, for the release of essential farm labour, farm machinery and spare parts, the provision of transport facilities, and the guarantee of fair prices, the Government was unrealistic and unsympathetic. Had Ministers and their advisers had any real appreciation of the vital need to expand production to meet increasing war-time demands, the story of Australia’s food front would not be the tragic one that it is to-day. In striking contrast to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth has allowed the food position to deteriorate, although the obligation to provide food for our own forces and those of our Allies, as well as for the civilian population, has increased enormously. Had it not been for the loyalty, superhuman effort, and characteristic determination of our rural producers, the food position to-day would be infinitely worse than it is. Despite the Government’s utterly unsympathetic treatment, aged men and women, young girls, and even school children, have worked for long hours, in an endeavour to keep the farms going. Many of them worked until they were no longer physically able to continue. There is ample evidence of that throughout Australia. They did so because, unlike the Government, they recognized the responsibility of the nation to feed all those who needed nourishment. That, in broad outline, has been the Curtin Government’s handling of food production. Even though the whole trend of policy under the present Administration is in the direction of socialism, rural industry still is, and will continue to be, the foundation of Australia’s economic structure and prosperity. If rural industry languishes, every other industry will decline, the converse being that the prosperity of rural industry must be reflected in’ every other industry. The Government should have awakened long ago to the fact that the end of -the war will mean the termination of war-time industries, with their temporary high rate of employment and high wages. When that occurs, Australia’s economic security will depend more than ever upon the soundness of its rural industries. In order to have a proper appreciation of the position of our food-producing industries in war-time, it is necessary to go back to 1039, when, due to the foresight of the Menzies Government, the then Minister for Commerce was able to announce that contracts and other arrangements had been made for the sale of Australian commodities to the value of about £100,000,000 a year to the Government of the United Kingdom. That occurred in November, 1939, but the foundations had been laid late in 1938. The understanding had been reached that the Government of the United Kingdom should purchase the entire Australian wool clip, and the export surpluses of meat,1 dairy produce, eggs, canned and dried fruits. Following the outbreak of war, prices governing the sales of wool, meat, dairy produce, eggs and sugar were agreed upon, and. contracts were made. The commodities involved were -
Those were the estimated exports for 1939-40. Actually, the total value of the foodstuffs and raw materials supplied to Great Britain under bulk contracts in the first year of the war was more than £100.000,000. Shipments were made to Great Britain regularly and safely, and on the whole the returns were satisfactory to Australian primary producers, because the prices and quantities had been determined after full consultation between the Government and the primary producers’ organizations. In the second year of the war, we were able to dispose of and ship the surplus of most of our products. Thus, during two years of war, despite savage attacks on Empire, Allied and. neutral shipping, we were able to sell and ship almost the total export surplus of certain foodstuffs, as well as our total wool clip. That was the position up to 1940. When the previous Government went out of office, the United Kingdom, because of shipping difficulties, had been obliged to reduce its contracts for the purchase of Australian foodstuffs; the commodities chiefly affected were meat, dairy produce and eggs. This necessitated a drastic re-organization of many of our export, industries, and the Government allocated expenditure for the expansion of cold storage facilities, the re-equipment of factories, the conversion from butter to cheese production, and the drying of eggs. In addition, the Department of Commerce, as it, then was, provided emergency stocks in remote country districts, and these proved a great boon when invasion appeared imminent. The right honorable mem!ber for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) instigated and carried out that scheme. Our contract with the
United Kingdom for the supply of meat was renewed to the 30th September, 1941. The . butter contract was renewed with variations. Negotiations were concluded with the British Ministry of Food for the purchase of the exportable surplus of canned fruits from the 1941 season’s pack, as well as the dried vine fruits. It will be seen that when the present Government came into office in October, 1941, rural producers were enjoying stability, definite contracts had been made, and a marketing organization had been established and was working very smoothly in the interest of the food front and of rural industries generally. However, with the onslaught by Japan . the present Government panicked, and men were called up for the Army quite indiscriminately. No regard was paid to the necessity to keep in rural industries sufficient men to produce the foodstuffs that were needed, not only for our own armed forces and those of our Allies, but also forthe civilian population. The result was, that rural industries were denuded of essentialman-power, many farmers were driven out of production, and valuable herds had to be sold. As far back as May, 1942, my colleague the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) moved the adjournment of the House to focus attention on the inevitable and serious decline of food production. As members of the Australian Country party, we emphasized that the Government was taking far too confident a view of Australia’s food stocks, and did not have a realistic conception of the drift that was occurring. The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said in August, 1942 : “ There is no likelihood of any general food shortage in Australia “. Apparently, his optimism was shared by his Cabinet colleagues, because our warnings were unheeded. Instead of taking a commonsense view, and enlisting the aid of men with practical experience in food producing industries, the Government commenced to establish a food bureaucracy. It appointed a Commonwealth Director of Agriculture, a Controller-General of Food, and a Food Executive of four Ministers. In fact, it did everything except give stability to our great primary industries.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 -p.m.
– The Government also appointed various controllers,deputy controllers and bureaucrats throughout Australia. Had as much energy been put into the real job of obtaining food, and less into organization - perhaps “ disorganization “ would be the better word - the position on the food front would have been better than it is to-day. This is borne out by the fact that on the 1st June, 1943, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture declared that Australia’s food position was better than that of any other country, and would soon show an improvement. On the 22nd June, he saidthat the food position in Australia was essentially good, and he doubted whether any country was in such a sound position. On the 31st August, the Minister stated : “ There is plenty of meat for all. No one need go short “. On the 8th October he remarked: “The nation has more meat than it knows what to do with “. On the 13th October he declared : “ Nothing has occurred to suggestI serious decline of production since this Government took office “. On the 19th November he said that, because of the huge carry-over of wheat, there was no possibility of a shortage in Australia for several years.
But, if we go back to the 22nd December, 1943, we shall find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was then telling a very different story. He said that the estimated meat production in 1944 would be about 25 per cent, below essential needs, that the leeway in egg production in 1943-44 would be 2,000,000 dozen, that the prospective deficiency in milk for 1943-44 would be 153,370,000 gallons, and that the enormous demands for the fighting forces for fresh and processed vegetables would not be met that year In view of the optimism which was evident in the statements of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture between June and November, 1943, I remind the House that in December of that year the Minister told quite another story. He said that more milk, more eggs, and more pigs were urgently needed, and that at all costs production must be increased. If we further examine the food situation, we shall find that whereas in 1939-40 we supplied to Great Britain approximately 109,000 tons of butter, we supplied only 7,000 tons in 1940-41, and 49,000 tons in 1942-43. Similarly, exports of cheese to Great Britain fell from 40,000,000 lb. in 1939-40 to 22,000,000 lb. in 1940-41, and 15,000,000 lb. in 1942-43. We exported 260,000 tons of meat to Great Britain in 1939-40, but this declined to 216,000 tons in 1940-41, and 109,000 tons in 1942-43.
I shall now quote from the official publication, Facts and Figures. The objectives set for 1943-44 and the production for 1943-44 are shown in the following table : -
In respect of beef and veal, mutton and lamb, and pig meats, the figures are for the calendar year. A further pointer to the effects of the Government’s bungling of its food programme and its rural policy is to be found in official figures showing the marked decline in the 1943-44 harvest compared with the last pre-war harvest. These show that, for wheat the area planted declined from 14,300,000 acres in 393S-39 to 7,800,000 acres in 1943-44, whilst production in that period declined from 155,300,000 bushels to 109,500,000 bushels. The area under barley declined from 745,000 acres to 443.000 acres, and production from 30,S00.000 bushels to 7,500,000 acres. The area harvested was 7,400,000 acres less than that harvested in the season immediately before the war. and 1,400,000 acres less than that harvested in 1942-43. The wheat acreage declined to a little more than half that sown in 1938-39, whilst the production in 1943-44 was two-thirds that of the previous season.
The total area sown to oats, maize, hay and green fodder, upon which dairy and meat production largely depend, also decreased.
Now I come to the important dairying industry. The number of dairy cows milked in Australia has fallen by 300,000 since Japan entered the war. According to 430 dairy factory managers throughout the Commonwealth, lack of suitable manpower was either wholly or chiefly to blame, whilst fodder shortages, lack of equipment, seasonal conditions and either the low price paid for butter fat, or the relatively better prices offered for other farm products, were the other causes, listed in order of importance. Since the beginning of this war, approximately 5,700 holdings have ceased supplying milk or cream to dairy factories, resulting in a loss of milk production of 44.000,000 gallons. This marked decline in Australia’s agricultural production, is in striking contrast to the highly satisfactory production in England and Wales, the United States of America and Canada. In England and Wales, the total area of grain crops was greater in 3943 and 1944 than at any time in the history of agricultural statistics. The maximum war-time acreages were the highest for wheat since 1S74, for barley since 1901, for oats since 3 9.19 and for mixed corn since its inclusion in statistics in 391S.
Great. Britain’s highly satisfactory food position was accomplished in spite of the loss of an enormous number of male workers. In Canada dairy production has increased considerably in recent, years. Between 3.920 and 3.943, milk production increased from 10,900,000 lb. to 3.7,500,000 lb.; creamery butter from 2.600,000 to 7.300,000 “lb.: concentrated milk products from 203,000,000 lb. to 583,000,000 lb.: and liquid milk sales from 1,500,000 lb. to 3,700,000 lb. In the United .States of America, although between 3.940 and 1944 the American farm population decreased by 16 per cent, and farm labour employment by 5 per cent., the total agricultural outnut increased by 21 per cent, and the food output by 23 per cent.
On the other hand, Australia’s sorry story is that the total area under crops declined from 23,500,000 acres in 1938-39 to 15,900,000 acres in 1943-44. These are the latest figures available. The comparisons are alarming, and show how seriously the nation has been affected because of the unsympathetic and unrealistic attitude of the Government. Worse still, the Government’s bungling on the food production front is reflected in the decline of production of essential foodstuffs, and in our inability to honour our obligations to Great Britain.
According to information supplied by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), in March last, butter production declined from 203,686 tons in 1939-40 to 150,802 tons in 1943-44. The latest figures available show that for the nine months ended March last, the production was 115,S74 tons, compared with 131,388 tons for the corresponding period of 1943-44, and 140,805 for 1942-43. In 1944-45, although the Government of Great Britain required 50,000 tons of butter and any cheese available, it is estimated that a maximum of 40,000 tons of butter will be exported.
Other figures which I have obtained indicate that the value of exports of butter for the 1944-45 season to the 30th June is estimated at £7,000,000, compared with £15,S00,000 in the 1939-40 season, whilst the value of this season’s mutton and lamb exports is put down at £4,500,000 and beef at £1,400,000, compared with £6,000,000 and £4,S’00,000 respectively.
According to a statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in this House on the 21st February last, shipments of fresh frozen meat to the United Kingdom in 1942-43 totalled 105,751 tons, although the nominal contract quantity was 1.10,000 tons. Allocations to Britain in 1943-44 of fresh frozen, canned, and dehydrated meat was 154,700 tons, out the actual shipments were 152,800 tons. The foregoing facts illustrate the chaotic conditions in Australia to-day in relation to food production, and also the Government’s failure to discharge Australia’s contractual obligations to Great Britain, because of the Government’s disorganization of the food plans and policies of previous ministries. This Government failed to make effective use of the legacy from the previous Administration, which had established markets, organized rural industries and fixed prices favorable to the industries concerned.
Proof , of the Government’s lack of a sense of realism is to be found in its attitude to the important food conference held recently at Washington. Jude ing by its representation at that gathering, the Government regarded it as considerably less important than the San Francisco conference, though it appears that the former will be equally as important as the latter from the viewpoint of national economic stability in the postwar period. Every public man and every citizen wants to see full employment for the people, but the basic need is properly stabilized and expanding rural industries. Yet this Government ignored the importance of the food conference at Washington. [Extension of time granted.) Australia had scant representation or no representation at all at that important gathering. Though both the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) were overseas at the time, no action was taken by the Government to arrange for them to speak for Australia at the Washington conference.
Ministers cannot escape their responsibility for chaos on the food front by blaming the drought. Long before the advent of the drought, Commonwealth authorities themselves had created an artificial “ drought ‘” in rural man-power and supplies of essential commodities by adopting a restrictive and unsympathetic policy. The Government has repeatedly ignored the request of honorable members°on the opposition side of the House that the men appointed to various boards dealing with rural production should have a first-hand and intimate knowledge of the great primary industries of Australia. Instead of doing that, the Government has ignored that class of representation, and has appointed bureaucrats who have not the faintest idea of the requirements of country people or of the rural industries. The increased demands for food by the Allied Nations, together with the demands arising out of the basing of the British fleet on Australia, have aggravated the position and increased our responsibility. The Government has fallen down on its job by failing to maintain the economic well-being of the country. It has not even succeeded in maintaining the production of food, whereas it should have provided for its expansion, so that we might honour our obligation to supply food to the millions of people in various parts of the world who look to us for help.
I come now to the general, industrial situation in Australia. Every time adverse criticism is directed against the Government on this score, government supporters retort that the position was worse before the Labour Government came into office. Therefore, I propose to place on record the actual figures -
These disputes have, naturally, resulted in the loss of a. great many working days, and: this,, in turn, has contributed to the decline of food production. Had the available man-power been properly used the position to-day in regard to food would be .very different. The years 1942-43 were critical for Australia, and there could be no justification for industrial stoppages during that time. Here are the figures which show the number of mean working days lost during the period between 1939 and 1944 : -
I ask honorable members to note that the decline to 378,195 days lost in 1942 coincided with the entry of Russia into the war. It was then that, in the eyes of the Communists of Australia the conflict ceased to be an imperial war. The marked increase of the number of working days lost during the last two years, compared with 1942, constitutes a damning indictment of the present Government, and illustrates just how completely it has allowed the industrial- position to deteriorate. The following analysis of the figures’ by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver, indicates the industrial groups in which disputes have been most prevalent -
Goal-mining. - 659 disputes in 1944, with 389.5S2 working days- lost; 550 disputes in. 1943. with 320,231 working days lost.
Engineering, Metal Works, <£c. - 93 disputes in 1944, with 189.788 working days lost; 96 disputes in 1943, with 215,878 working days lost.
Building. - 11 disputes in 1944, with 21,204 working days lost; 13 disputes in 1943, with 125,247 working days lost.
Shipping, Wharf Labour, Ac. - 10 disputes in 1944. with 35,178 working days lost; II disputes in 1943, with 68,324 working days lost.
Food, Drink, dc. - 48 disputes in 1944, with 87,208 working days lost; 38 disputes in 1943, with 89,974 working days lost.
These figures demonstrate the ineffective use which has been made of the manpower of the nation. It is no answer for the Government to say that sufficient labour was not available, and that the men were needed in the armed forces or for .the making of munitions. When we see that more than 1,000,000 man working days were lost in a single year, it is evident that the effect upon the production of food and other necessary commodities must be serious.
The Government is also charged with using the forms of the House to prevent full debate on important legislative proposals. If the Government interprets the other three freedoms of the Atlantic Charter as narrowly as it interprets freedom of speech, then Heaven help the returned soldier, and his chances of effective rehabilitation. The Reestablishment and Employment Ball provided a classic example of the dangerous effects of the Government’s action in attempting to muzzle legitimate criticism by its political opponents. On the 26th July! 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated in his policy speech : -
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 the 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.
It took just one year and eight months for the hill to be presented to Parliament, although it was considered so urgent at the time of the last general elections. It had first to run the gauntlet of consideration by various Labour organizations, such as the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labour party. These bodies had to approve the measure before it was even submitted to caucus, and even before Parliament was aware of its existence. After such . procrastination, the bill was finally brought before the House, and the Opposition’ was so shabbily treated, and the measure itself so lightly considered by the Government, that the “ guillotine “ was used to force it through. The bill, as drafted, had 34 admitted defects, which the Minister said he would remedy by amendments. No fewer than 34 amendments were duly moved by the Minister, and all of them were agreed to with the slavish concurrence of Government supporters. The Opposition moved 26 amendments, most of them very important amendments designed to improve the bill and make it more workable. All of them were rejected.
– The right honorable member’s extended time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) negatived -
That the right honorable member for Darling Downs be granted a further extension of time.
– Itis regrettable, that while the country is still at war, a dragnet censure motion of this kind should be submitted to Parliament. It is an evil bird that fouls its own nest, and they are very little Australians who decry their own nation. Even in peacetime it would be bad enough that we should slander our own workers before the peoples of the world, but in time of war such attacks are much worse. Strange to say, all visitors to this country since the war have said, both while here and after they had left, that they were astounded at the magnificent effort of our workers, who bad been doing work that they were never before asked to do-. Even if the charges brought by the Opposition were true, the bringing of them at this time is to be deplored as likely to break down, the morale of our own people, and to fill the minds of our Allies with distrust and doubt. As a matter of fact, however, there is no ground at all for the charges brought against the Government. It would be bad enough if the statement had a sound foundation, but I intend to prove that it had not. However, before citing figures in answer to those presented to the House by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who, I remember, has told us on a number of occasions that figures can be made to prove anything-
– It depends on how they are dressed up.
– In order to avoid being charged with juggling with figures by picking out a period that suits my argument - something which it would appear that the right honorable gentleman has done - I shall give figures covering the period of this war and the last war, and shall mention in particular the period when he was in office. First, however, I wish to refer to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when dealing with an incident that occurred at Port Kembla. If any one should know the internal workings of that company and its industrial outlook, the right honorable gentleman should, for he has been the company’s chief advocate in the courts for as long as I can remember. There is nothing wrong with that.
– To what company does the Minister refer?
– I refer to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and its auxiliary companies.
– If the rest of the Minister’s statements are no more accurate than that statement, they have not much foundation.
– I shall give proof of it.
– I wish the Minister would.
– On many occasions, as the right honorable gentleman will agree, I have sat almost side by side with him in the court..
– Seventeen, or eighteen years ago. I have also appeared for the unions.
-First, the right honorable gentleman said that my statement had no foundation ; now he qualifies his remark by trying to fix a time limit. I admit that the right honorable gentleman has appeared in the courts on behalf of various unions.
– And I have a shrewd idea that they would engage me again to-morrow.
– There is nothing wrong with the right honorable gentleman representing any company in the court. I mention his professional association with this particular company merely because he seemed to have detailed information relating to the incident which he mentioned this morning. He could not have got that inside story unless he had been in direct touch with a representative of the company. In a professional capacity the right honorable gentleman for many years was the chief advocate of the company in the courts. I repeat that there was nothing wrong with that. It is true also that hu has represented unions in the courts ; he represented them well. Let me relate the story of the trouble at Port Kembla as I know it, and also tell of another incident in which the same people were concerned - an incident, however, to which the right honorable gentleman did not refer. In the one instance the employees were responsible; in the other, the responsibility for what happened rested with the employer. I shall be fair, and shall relate both incidents; the right honorable gentleman referred to only one of them, and even then he did not state the facts. I do not accuse him of knowingly telling a lie, but the statement which he made was quite untrue. The worst feature of it is - and that is why I say that it is bad for this country for such statements to be made during the war - that the remarks of the right honorable gentleman this morning have already been set up in type and will be published in almost every newspaper in this country. Worse than that, because of the syndication of news, his remarks will be sent to all English-speaking countries of the world - and that, before his charges have been answered. Therefore, I repeat that the right honorable gentleman has done a great disservice to Australia and the allied war effort.
Honorable members interjecting,
– ‘Don’t stop the Minister ; he is about to come to the point.
– I pause to say that I am sure that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is enjoying this attack on his colleague; he generally does. The Leader of the Opposition made a serious charge this morning when he referred to the Port Kembla incident, and his remarks should be taken seriously. He said that, against the wishes of their employers, the employees took a day off to celebrate May Day. He then went on to say that the man-power authorities, acting on behalf of the Government, intervened, and notified the company that it would have to pay the men wages for that day. He added that the men were ordered to go back to work and that the Government insisted on their being taken back without loss of pay. That is quite untrue. Again, I do not accuse the right honorable gentleman of having knowingly made a lying statement. Had he known the truth, he would not have made the statement; I am certain of that. A part of the story is true, in that the men did take a holiday on May Day. Right up to the eve of May Day, representations, by deputation and otherwise, had been made to have May Day proclaimed a holiday. Whenthat was not done the men decided to stop work. They told every one who was directly interested that they would take a holiday on the 7th May. One result was the loss of that day’s production. The Government took the best action it could to prevent further losses; manpower officers were instructed to get in touch with the men and the company, in order to ensure that work would be resumed on the day following May Day. It will be seen, therefore, that the charge that the Government has done nothing to prevent industrial disputes is quite unfounded. The Government handled a difficult situation promptly, and the company waa told that the works must not be closed in order to punish the men for having taken a day off. The Government said that if the gates were closed against
– I have no desire to interrupt the Minister unduly, but I ask him whether he has seen a letter sent by the Director-General of Man Power to the company
– I did not want any letter; I spoke over the telephone.
– But has the Minister seen a letter sent to the company by the Director-Genera] of Man Power?
– I cannot recollect whether or not I have seen it, but I do know what happened. The DirectorGeneral of Man Power carried out instructions, and is not to blame for what occurred. I consulted with the law officers of the Crown, and. they agreed that, there was nothing wrong in what the Government proposed to do.
Let me now relate another incident which occurred at Port Kembla. A few months before the incident, just, mentioned i he company put off about 200 men without, giving them any prior notice. When the men complained, and got in touch with me and others, the company was asked to say why they had been put off. The company replied that coal stocks were running low, and as it was not taking any risks it had put off a number of men. After further conversation, in which reference was made to the men being transferred to other work, the company said that if they were taken away its operations would be disorganized, lt concluded by saying that it wanted the men to “ stand by “. The Government knew that if the men were transferred from Port Kembla the works there would be disorganized. Representatives of the company came to Canberra, and were told that if the gates were not opened, and the men taken bacL, the Government would see that the men were transferred to other work, unless they were paid for the period that they had to “stand by”. Tlie Government also said that if they were required to “ stand by “ too long, that would be a waste of man-power which could not be permitted. The representatives of the company then told the truth; they said that it was not a matter of a shortage of coal supplies, but of orders petering out. The Government was able to give satisfactory assurances to the company and, accordingly, the men were reinstated. For that incident the employers were responsible, but no reference to it was made by the Leader of the Opposition, although I am confident that he knew all about it. I have said that the remarks of the right honorable gentleman this morning would have a bad effect even if they were true, but, as I have shown, there was no truth whatever in them. His censure motion will be interpreted by people in other countries as evidence that there is a spirit of lawlessness and sabotage in this country. The people of allied nations will conclude that, Australians are .always on strike. That is not so. Never in the history of Australia has there been a period with a better record for continuity and regularity of work than the five years of this war. I can prove that up to the hilt. I shall now cite some figures - I hope in less time than the Leader of the Australian Country party took this morning: - covering various periods. I do not ask the House to accept my figures, and so I shall present, to it some figures which have been prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. I took that action because I remembered that on one occasion when I appeared in court for the unions, the present Leader of the Opposition, who was appearing for the employers, pointed out that it was not sufficient for me to tell the judge a story, but that I must tender an exhibit setting out the facts. I therefore, determined to have an exhibit this morning which I could present to the House.
– I was hoping that the Minister would go into the box.
– The Leader of the Opposition will he interested in the figures relating to the period when he was Prime Minister. The following table, prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, shows the working days lost in war-time under various governments : -
– Those which occurred while we were in office were deliberate political stoppages.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) seeks to anticipate what I am about to say.
– I know the factors behind the figures which the Minister has cited.
– It would be better if the honorable member for Fawkner knew the Standing Orders, and obeyed them.
– It would be better if the Minister would speak the truth.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw those words. I would not take them outside this chamber. Before coming here this morning I made sure that I should have official figures to present to the House, and so I came prepared with figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. Why does not the honorable member for Fawkner . accept the facts? Those figures are official.
– Ask the ArbitrationCourt officials for the real . story.
– All we hope is that the press will publish the figures.
– I have to deal, with only the first andsecond charges made by the Leader of the Opposition, that we have not taken adequate steps to curtail or end industrial disputes, and that there is mass industrial lawlessness in (this country. I have proved that there was never . a better period industrially than the present.
– Does the Minister really believe that?
– I do. I have had as much experience of handling industrial disputes as the honorable member has had. It can easily be proved that there was never more unity and co-operation in Australia than there has been since this war began, not only during the regime of the Curtin Government. We had co-operation in this Parliament until the last week or so when honorable gentlemen opposite, feeling that their skins were at last safe, turned their eyes to the future. I am certain that there is substance in that. Every one knows how difficult the man-power problem has been. I speak frankly when I say that this Government has had to do ruthless things which would never be dreamt of in peace-time. Any other government would have had to do the same. Men have been torn from their homes in the south and sent to the north to do work they had never done before and never expected to do. In spite of that -harsh treatment, the people willingly performed the work required of them during a period of war, as the figures show. From March, 1942, to April, 1945, 1,292,000 males and 798,000 females were placed voluntarily by the manpower authorities. There was no compulsion. They were asked to undertake essential war work. Some protested that they had never done heavy work, but they agreed to go. Only 12,362 had to be directed to employment. That is only a fraction of 1 per cent, of the number of men and women who passed through the hands of the man-power authorities. So all thetalk about the issue of directions by the Man Power Directorate- has little substance. That is another sign that there is no industrial lawlessness in Australia. If there’ were, no work would be done, but what has been accomplished ? We have fed, clothed and equipped our fighting forces, provided food for our American allies and fed and clothed our Clv]] population. We have built two modern docks. I am assured by naval men that they are the most modern in the world. They ought to be because they arc the latest built. The graving dock in Sydney is among the largest in the world. That work was undertaken when other major works were in progress.
– Now tell us about the coal-miners.
– I will, and the honorable member will not like it. It will put him right out of court. The workers of this country have also built 77 naval vessels, ten 9,000-tons merchant vessels, and 2,300 small craft for ourselves and. the American and, lately, the British Naval Forces.
– Is that the Australian production or the Sydney production?
– Australian, but largely Sydney. In addition, the Australian workers have repaired ships. I have the latest figures, those for April, which discount the charge that industrial lawlessness is rife. In April, 369 ships, aggregating 1,726,625 tons, were brought into Australian ports for repair, and by the end of that month, 272 ships representing a tonnage of 1,299,955 had been completed and were at sea. Forty-two had to be dry-docked. Any one with a knowledge of ship repair work knows that when vessels have to be dry-docked, they have to undergo major repairs. That again shows how ridiculous it is for any one to say that this is, industrially, a most lawless country. In war-time, it is criminal to make such statements in this Parliament, because they may be sent all over the world. I come now to figures relating to the number of hours lost per employee. Again, I emphasize that these are not my figures but were compiled for me by statisticians. Experts from overseas, in addition to political leaders in this country, agree that the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics is equal in efficiency to- any statistical bureau in the world. From 1915 to 191S,, the days lost totalled 1,800,000 when. 1,200,000 persons were employed. From 1940. to 1944, 1^.00- 000 days- were lost by 2,000,000 employees. Fewer dayswere lost by nearly twice as many workers. As regards the time lost per employee,, some rather ridicule the figures that I have been given-, but I am prepared to stake my reputation on their accuracy. In- spite of charges of industrial lawlessness m this- country, every employee in industry has lost onehundredth part, of a day per week.
– That refers to industrial disputes?
– But it does not include absenteeism ?
– The time lost through sickness and other causes is a mere trifle compared with the time lost in other ways. The charge that the workers of Australia are a lawless band is inimical to morale and p.ro vocative.. When they are thus ridiculed, the workers begin to. wonder whether any one really does think that they are working. Repetition of these- reckless accusations makes it twice as hard to combat industrial unrest. It is necessary, when considering industrial unrest, to know the background. I have tried to do what the Government is charged with not having done. I have tried to get quicker decisions in disputes relating, to dirt money or dangerous work. I have seen ships that have come into port with their sides gaping with jaggedholes and powder and other fumes still in the holds.. I have tried to convince the Attorney-General’s Department that a specialist in ship repair work should be available to inspect these vessels in the interests of industrial harmony in order that we may have them repaired and sent back to sea in the shortest possible time: One vessel entered port with a jagged hole in its side, half full of water and full of dangerous fumes and foul smells. The extent of the damage could not be judged until all those disagreeable things had been removed, and, in the process, the corpse of a sailor was found.
That is the kind of job that the ship repairers are called upon to do. Sometimes, they say, “ Surely this is worth a little extra “. Perhaps they are wrong in saying that.
– Soldiers cannot say that. They bury their dead on the battlefield.
– If the honorable member were a boilermaker, working 52 weeks a year or four years without a holiday, I wonder whether he would growl and jib at some of the jobs that have to be done. That is what happened and the men asked for something extra. They have to work alongside pneumatic rivetters.
– And soldiers have to work alongside machine guns day and night.
M.r. Beasley. - Many returned men are working on those jobs.
– Yes. If honorable gentlemen opposite know the background of all these disputes they would not be so reckless in the statements they make. Neither would they be so reckless if they recalled the conditions that operated before the war when workers in shipyards, slaughteryards, coal mines and elsewhere, were not allowed to work every day in every week. The coal-owners in pre-war years did not want to have stocks of coal at grass because they feared a collapse of prices. The coal miners feared the loss of their job if they saw coal at the grass. So they agreed to limit output. In those circumstances, inevitably, they decided they should work for only a certain number of days each week. For years past the colliery owners have kept in operation probably one-third more pits than arc required in order to maintain the present high average cost of mining. If the obsolete pits were closed, as they should be, and the colliery owners worked only the good pits, the average mining cost would not be nearly so high, and, therefore, the owners would not obtain nearly so good a price for coal as they now receive. That is why they work unnecessary pits, operations ceasing now and again in one pit and at times in another pit. The colliery owners conceived that idea for the purpose I have indicated; nnd that practice has been going on for the last 20 or 30 years. It has become a conspiracy, if, perhaps, an unconsciousconspiracy. That is how that practice arose. I know all about the troubles on the coalfields; and I have no doubt that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ako knows all about the problem. The right honorable gentleman when Attorney-General in 1912 attacked the coal vend - vend I understand is a Welsh name for combine or monopoly. Eventually the members of the vend were each fined £500. In a report of an inquiry into the working of the monopoly it was shown that, as a result of strikes, increases of the hewing rate and price charged to the public an increased profit of £60,000 was made in the following six months. The right honorable gentleman exposed that practice. That has been going on all the time, with the result that in the very blood of the miners to-day is the idea that they must not produce too much in one week, because if they do so they will be out of work the following week. No one works harder than the coal-miner when he is at work; but he works for a short period, and is anxious to get out into the sunlight. When he knocks off he goes fishing or shooting, or takes a few odd jobs to augment his income. This practice has been, accepted for years by the colliery owners. We cannot hope to change that psychology overnight.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has addressed the House more in sorrow than in anger. He has the great gift of lulling honorable members into a sense of complacency and well-being, but his statements could not be considered as an answer to the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the case which the right honorable gentleman has placed before the House. The Minister detailed what the Government had done. He said that it had constructed certain docks, but he did not tell us that the Captain Cook Dock at Sydney, which was estimated to cost £3,000,000, actually cost £9,000,000. He failed to note that members of the Civil Constructional Corps are regimented and have not the power of the trade unions. He did not say that tho Government was obliged to draft soldiers and naval ratings to work on the wharfs to do work which unionists refused to do. He did not say that the Civil Constructional Corps and kindred bodies were not major unions which could bring pressure upon the Government like the miners, the waterside workers and the metal trades workers, towards whom the Government has been weak and vacillating. Compare the strong attitude which the Government has adopted towards the employers at Port Kembla, with its weak and flabby attitude towards the miners when they have refused to work. The Minister gives a direction to the employers, but retreats when the miners bring pressure to bear upon the Government. This Government has taken out summonses against the miners and withdrawn them. It has imposed fines and remitted them ; and it has called strikers up for military service, but, because the miners threatened a strike, it immediately released those men. It is obvious that the unions can flog the Government into submission.
I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. If ever there was a government worthy of censure it is this Government. Its attitude towards the present, industrial lawlessness has been pathetic. Its flabby and spineless handling of industrial matters has been the primary factor in encouraging Communist activities in Australia; and when the Opposition has sought to bring these matters to the attention of the House, the Government has used the forms of the House to stifle and prevent discussion in this chamber. How can we measure the Government’s failure? It can be measured in the industrial field, by noting the activities of unions which are controlled by Communists, and by noting the sabotage which has occurred in industry due to the vacillation of the Govern.men,L. More than 10,000 men in vital industries have been idle on a single day. Despite the figures given by the Minister, he cannot deny that fact. On the 3rd May last, 1,280 men were idle at the Homebush Abattoirs, 1,500 em ployees of Mort’s Dock, and 3,000 men in associated industries were idle, whilst 3,670 miners on the northern coalfields, 950 miners on the southern coalfields, and 190 miners on the western coalfields were on strike, making a total of 10,590 men on strike on that date; and this excluded absentees and men who were idle as the result of the dispute between the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Ship Joiners Union. Almost immediately after the Curtin Government legalized the Communist party, a pamphlet entitled Trade Unions was published. It was written by Sharkey, who is the president of the Communist party, assisted by the secretary, Miles, the assistant secretary, Dixon, the ubiquitous Thornton, and Wright of the Ironworkers and Sheet Metal Workers Union. This is what those gentlemen said in that pamphlet -
Strikes properly led, conducted and properly timed, are a revolutionary weapon - strikes win the intermediate social strata to the side of revolution.
Let us see how the Communistcontrolled unions are responding to the policy enunciated in that pamphlet, lt, is a clear statement of policy of which the Government was well aware. How arc the Communists carrying out that policy? Let us look at the strike of the Balmain ironworkers, a strike which affected 30 workshops on the Sydney waterfront, and lasted six weeks, involving 3,000 workers. That dispute was a protest by the rank and file members of that union against the arrogant dictatorship of a Communist-controlled executive. That is on record on the word of leaders of trade unionists, whom honorable members opposite claim to represent. It is true that the Minister for Labour and National Service urgently appealed to the men to return to work, but he was completely ignored because the code of industrial lawlessness means that no trade 1111101 on strike will bow to the law of the country, and trade unionists know that the Government will not enforce the law. The Government knew that it could stop that strike simply by directing that a ballot be taken. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) appears to be in favour of taking a ballot when a strike occurs. In answer to a question which I asked, he said that a precedent had been provided in this respect when the Industrial Registrar directed that a ballot be held in connexion with the recent tramway strike in Sydney. The Government knew that the Balmain ironworkers would return to work the next day once they had been given an assurance that a ballot would be held. But the Government would not take that action. It knows that this particular union is a hotbed of Communists and is fathered by the big boss of communism, “’ Comrade “ Thornton. I take the following from a joint statement made by Mr. W. Campbell, who acted as chairman, and Mr. C. Thompson, who acted as secretary, of the rank and file members of the Ironworkers and Sheetmetal Workers Union, the statement being published in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 30th May :-
Mr. Hopkins, thu noting secretary of the ironworkers and Sheetmetal Workers Union, says that the union has members of the Australian Labour party among its officials. We ure going to give Mr. Hopkins the opportunity of proving this by asking him to name any paid officials who belong to the Australian Labour party. We say they all belong t6 the Communist party, and we include the federal executive.
Not only is the Ironworkers and Sheetmetal Workers Union controlled by Communists, but it is now stated* that every paid official of the union, including the members of the Federal Executive, is a Communist. The results of strikes upon our war effort have been stupendous. British warships have been directed for repairs to ports other than Sydney. Indeed, some warships have been sent into action before repairs have been effected to them. British artisans have been brought out to do the job, because Australian workers, due to strikes engineered by communists, fail to do that work. The Sydney Sun, in its issue of the 10th May last, published this report -
Three thousand British artisans who will bc classed as Naval ratings, but used as dockyard workers are coming to Australia for the British Fleet. This is to overcome delays to repairs- and maintenance of British ships, unused by local industrial troubles, which the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, has revealed are resulting in ships being sent to battle areas without receiving proper docking in Sydney.
He had to send ships into action without necessary’ repairs having been effected to them.
– That is not true.
– These statements have appeared in the press.
– But the honorable member knows that they are not true.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) will have an opportunity to correct them if they are not true ; but if what I am saying is not correct then what is the significance of (lie 3,000 artisans being brought here from overseas?
There is another Communist-controlled union which has already held up the wa’r effort, and which at present is holding the Government up .to the contempt of every decent trade unionist. I refer to the Building Workers Industrial Union which is engaged in a dispute with the Ship Joiners Union. The president of the Building Workers Industrial Union, Mr. Buhner, a Communist, has pledged himself to smash the Ship Joiners Union because it is ;a non-Communist organization. This case has been before the court, and a judgment has been given. I shall not say very much about it, but I wish to show how the Government threw its weight in on the side of the Communists, and how the Minister for Labour and National Service evaded questions which I asked in this House. It came to my knowledge that on the 1st January of this year, the date on which federal registration was granted to the Ship Joiners Union, a man-power order was issued giving preference to members of the Building Workers Industrial Union over members of the Ship Joiners Union. A man-power officer, Mr. H.. Cheeseman, resigned on .the 22nd March because of an official instruction to victimize members of t-he Ship Joiners Union. That instruction was signed by Mr. Bellemore,. and was dated the 29th December, 1944. For the information of the Minister, the reference number is C.J. B.MOR/H3493. It was sent to Mr. Mclntyre and Mr. Cheeseman. One paragraph states -
When applications are received from employers a telephone communication should be sent by the officer in charge first to the Building Workers Industrial Union at Sussexstreet, and then to the office of the Ship Joiners Union, also at Sussex-street.
Another paragraph states - “No discrimination shall be exercised against members of either union whose members work on the waterfront, other than that the first call for men shall bc to the Building Workers Industrial Union, as set out in paragraph 3 of this document.
If that is not preference to members of the Building Workers Industrial Union what is it? If it is not a direction issued by the Man Power Directorate what is k? .Indeed, in open cou-r.t the Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Funnel!, acknowledged that this could be assumed to be a direction to give preference to members of the Building Workers Industrial Union. In tendering his resignation, Mr. Cheeseman said - . . I cannot comply with certain instruction* sent nic by Mr. C. J. Bellemore, Deputy Director-General of Man Power, New South “Wales, on 2Sth December; 1944, which in my opinion, after being the Officer in Charge of the National Service Office since its inception on the 30th November, 1042, would cause a serious industrial unrest, even to the point of holding up urgent ship repairs. Therefore, under the circumstances and after conferring with Mr. D. Witheriff Assistant Deputy Director-General of Man Power, New South ‘Wales, I have no other alternative than to retire, and request my resignation take effect from and including the 19th January, 1.945.
On the 23rd March I asked the following question in this House: -
Will the Minister for Labour and National service inform the House whether a manpower officer, Mr. H. Cheeseman, has resigned from his post in Sydney, because he gave preference in a pick-vip to members of the Building Workers Industrial Union over members of the Ship Joiners Union? Is the present man-power officer at that location working under such instructions? . . .
In -reply, the Minister said -
Mr. Cheeseman did nothing of the kind indicated by the honorable member and he was not ordered to do so. I, myself, gave him instructions that no preference should bc shown to cither one union or another, and that there should bc no nomination of employees by employers, but that every worker attending the office should be picked up in hia proper order, irrespective of the organization with which he was associated.
Following the judgment given by Judge O’Mara in the Ship Joiners Union case I asked the Minister whether Mr. Cheeseman would be reinstated. The Minister said - so far as I know, Mr. Cheeseman did not resign because of any objection to the picking-up arrangements, but because ‘he did not want to hold office any longer.
I have read Mr. Cheeseman’s resignation, and the House may put its own construction upon the Minister’s statement. The Minister further said -
Yet Mr. Funnell admitted in court that the instruction could be construed as a direction to give preference to the Building Workers Industrial Union. The Minister said that he had given instructions to Mr. Cheeseman not to discriminate between the unions, yet I have a letter here from Mr. Cheeseman in which he states -
In every instance, the Minister has deliberately misled the House. First he said that no direction had been given; I have quoted his own order. Then he said that Mr. Cheeseman did .not resign because of a direction.; in reply to that I have quoted from Mr. Cheeseman’s resignation. Further, the Minister said that lie gave Mr. Cheeseman specific instructions, but Mr. Cheeseman denies it, and says that he has not spoken to the Minister since a certain date. So much for the statements of the Minister who to-day has taken the Opposition to task, mouthing figures, and saying that this or that is not correct. Does anybody wonder why we on this side of the chamber do not take the Minister’s statements seriously? In announcing his resignation, Mr. Cheeseman said that employers would not employ members of the Ship Joiners Union because members of the Building Workers Industrial Union refused to work with them. They refused to work because the Disputes Committee of the Trades and Labour Council declared black the employees of the Ship Joiners Union. Indeed, the Central Wharf -Stevedoring Company stated that its operations were completely paralysed, and advised the Royal Australian Navy that it could not carry out repairs to ships. I have before me a list of the vessels that were held up. For security reasons I presume thatI cannot state the names of these ships, but the list shows that three vessels were held up on the 13th March by this dispute. Each of these ships was of more than 3,000 tons gross, to which must be added 25 per cent, representing their loading capacity. Another vessel was held up a dispute at Mort’s Dock. It was due to sail on the 17th April, but required a small welding job on the rudder. The rudder was sent to Mort’s Dock for repairs which were not being done owing to the cessation of work there. On the 24th April, the ship was still held up.
– Has the honorable member verified these statements?
– They can be verified. I shall supply the Minister with a list of the vessels and he may check my statements himself. I know of course what his next question will be : He will ask me to name my informant, but of course I shall not do that. From the 16th April, three vessels of approximately 7,000, 9,000 and 3,000 tons were held up because of the Ship Joiners Union dispute. Another ship of 6,700 tons was held up, for approximately three days, by a wharf labourers’ dispute. Eight other overseas vessels in the vicinity were also held up. These vessels resumed work on the 23rd April. All were either discharging or loading essential overseas cargo. A ship of 9,700 tons was held up on the 18th April due to the Ship Joiners Union dispute. It was worked by Royal Navy personnel. Two Australian naval vessels were held up on the 16th and 18th April respectively, and at the time this list was prepared essential repairs were being carried out by naval personnel.
There is another matter which will he of considerable interest, to honorable members. It concerns a large int.ers.tate passenger liner operating under charter to the Royal Australian Navy. This vessel arrived in Australia on the 12th April from New Guinea with one passenger and no cargo. It departed five days later for New Guinea. It stopped at only one north Australian port and embarked personnel only. It could have been utilized for the carriage of at least 4,500 tons of cargo urgently required for Queensland ports or New Guinea. For several days, interstate representatives endeavoured to obtain information from the Navy as to whether the ship could be utilized, but could not get any satisfaction because of the hold-up on the waterfront. Possibly this explains why equipment was not available to Australian troops in New Guinea. The Government intervened in this dispute, and this is the gravamen of my complaint: It intervened on behalf of a Communist organization, the Building Workers Industrial Union. What a sorry spectacle is this ! Here we have a government which claims to represent trade unionists, and the issue is between a Communist-controlled union and a nonComrnunist union; yet the Government intervenes,, not on behalf of the nonCommunist, organization, but on behalf of the Communist-controlled union ! In his judgment Judge O’Mara said -
I do not propose to record any specific findings on the facts in evidence, which amounted toa criminal conspiracy.
A criminal conspiracy on the part of a Communist-controlled union supported by this Government ! His Honour also said -
There is uncontradicted evidence that G. Anderson, of the Electrical Trades Union, and president of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, said, “ We do not recognize the law - we can take no notice of the court - we can control the Government and wreck it”, and that E. Buhner, of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union, said. “ Without regard to what the law says or what Judge Kelly says, or what Mr. Curtin orDr. Evatt says, we are determined to crush the ship joiners and it shall be done “.
That is uncontradicted evidence given in a court of law, yet. the Minister for Labour and National Service claimed that this statement had not been made.
– Mr. Anderson was never given an opportunity to refute that statement.
– He was given every opportunity. I have here a sworn declaration made by Mr. John Muir Young, of 5 Napoleon-street, Rozelle. It states -
Labour Council’s decision will be carried out, and the Ship Joiners Union will bc eliminated “.
That supports the evidence given in the court. Judge O’Mara said that this was a matter of criminal conspiracy. What does the Government propose to do about it? It is a clear-cut case. This Communist-controlled union indulged in criminal conspiracy in an endeavour to prevent vital work being done. Will the Government bow to this Communistcontrolled organization, or will it take action against it? Defiance of the law is only too frequent; but how can. it be otherwise when in this House we find the Minister for Labour and National Service repeatedly holding the judiciary up to ridicule and challenging the courts, as they did in the Gahan case, inwhich the then Acting Prime Minister gave an instruction. The Government is prepared not only to criticize the free and independent judiciary but also to interfere with the nile of law in this country. Therefore, it is easy to understand why the Communistcontrolled unions will not bow the knee to the laws of the Commonwealth, with the result that chaos reigns in industry. The miners federation is another Communistcontrolled organization. The president of the federation, Mr. Wells, is a former organizer of the Communist party. This is the union that was used by the Communists to “ bell the cat “, to challenge the rule of law, and to challenge the Government to enforce the law. The federation did everything possible to hold the Government up to ridicule. It “ booted “ it all over the place in every possible way. The Prime Minister even threatened to resign. He rose in this chamber and. with a fine rhetorical flourish, said, “If [ cannot get coal I am not fit to remain Prime Minister of this country “. He appealed to the miners on behalf of the soldiers, who were putting their bodies between, the miners and the enemy, and he appealed to them on the grounds of national security, but his appeals were unsuccessful. The miners knew- that they were dealing with a weak and spine.less government and could “ buck “ it, and so they took no notice of the Prime Minister. The Government issued a summons against them and then withdrew it.
It imposed fines on them and then remitted the fines. It called them up for army service and, under union pressure, released them. It became the laughing stock .of the community, and still the strikes continued. The coal position has deteriorated since last year. The average weekly loss of coal in New South Wales this year has been 29,857 tons. Last year the figure was 33,077 tons weekly. The loss of coal this year up to the 25th May was 627,000 tons. I shall give some spectacular examples of what that loss of production means to the war effort. Converted to industrial use, the quantity that had been lost up to the 25th May this year would have produced sufficient steel to build eighteen battleships, or to haul 90 goods trains daily for a year between Albury and Sydney. The quantity of 203,000 tons lost in the first eight weeks of 1945 would have supplied the household needs of the people of Sydney for the whole of the winter. Nevertheless, the Government will not admit that the shortage of coal has affected our war effort and is causing vital delays in the turn-round of shipping. Let us examinesome of the frivolous reasons given by the coal-miners for going on strike. At the Neath West Tunnel Colliery, experienced miners refused to work with three probationary miners, who were not allowed togo to the coal face unaccompanied by experienced men. Not only the probationary miners, but also the experienced, men went home. The result was the loss of 240 tons of coal, which would have produced sufficient steel for 199,920 hand grenades. At Abermain No. 1 colliery,, the cause of one strike was the quality of coal used in the engines, although that, quality had been used for many years.. The firemen objected to it, but the miners, not the firemen, went home. The loss due to that strike was 1,200- tons of coal, which would have produced, sufficient steel for 10,800 trench mortar shells. .From these examples the effect, on the war effort of stoppages in the coal-mining industry is obvious. Members of the Government cannot laugh off those facts.
I have already enumerated some extraordinary instances of delays affecting: both merchant and naval ships in all parts of Australia. The Government must be> aware of these delays, but, as usual, it has taken no action because pressure has been .brought to bear on it by strong Communist groups. It always capitulates and crumbles under such pressure and does whatever the Communistcontrolled unions say. The Government must be held responsible for these industrial disturbances, and this debate is intended to place the facts before the people. Industrial chaos is prolonging the war and all the disabilities associated with it, and it has reduced our contribution to the alleviation of the distress of the hungry people of the United Kingdom and war-torn Europe. Excuses, threats, appeasement, and back-sliding by Ministers will not win for them the respect of the people or stop the plague of communism raging in the ranks of the trade unions. As long as the Government lacks the courage to resist the pressure of the Communist unions so long will Australia experience the paralysing effects of industrial lawlessness. The Government has been relying on the political support of the Communists far too long. In order to prove the association between the Communist party and the Government, I draw attention to a committee that was established in New South “Wales to conduct the Government’s referendum campaign. It was a joint committee representing the Official Labour party, the Communist party,, and the New South “Wales Trades and Labour Council. Communist representatives on the committee were the organizing secretary of the Australian Communist party. Mr. H. B. Chandler, and Mr. N. Jeffery and Mr. T. Wright. Mr. Wright, although a member of the central council of the Communist party, represented the Trades and Labour Council on the committee. The other representative of the Trades and Labour Council was the chairman, Mr. G. Anderson. Official Labour party representatives were Mr. F. Kelly, M.L.C., president, and Mr. J. Stewart, M.L.C., general secretary. The Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) were the campaign directors. That shows that the Commonwealth Government is on most intimate terms with the Communist party, and, being too weak to resist pressure from the
Communists, it bows the knee to every demand that they make. Because of this domination by the Communists and by Communist-controlled unions, such as the Waterside Workers Federation, the Government is being fored to carry out the policy enunciated in the pamphlet written by Mr. Sharkey. For these reasons, I support the motion.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) never tires of traducing the Australian workman. He has repeatedly attempted, by means of statements in this House, to present to the world a picture of industrial revolution in Australia. He is doing a tremendous disservice to the nation, and his statements are as false as he is himself. In his tirade against the Government this afternoon, he reflected upon the honesty of a Minister, and I shall not permit his statements to be dismissed without telling some of the things that should be told about that Minister. The honorable member said that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) had deliberately misled this House. I say that there is no more honorable man living than John Holloway. He has always been noted for his integrity and honesty of purpose, and his reputation for truthfulness is without a single blemish. I would a thousand times rather accept the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service than any statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth. The honorable member, by the extravagance of his language and the inaccuracy of his statements, has proved himself to be unworthy of a place in this House and to be guilty of one of the worst offences that I have ever known to be committed by any member of this Parliament. Not more than about two weeks ago, an honorable member opposite asked mc, as Minister far the Navy, a question regarding a certain number of men being brought to Australia from the United Kingdom to assist in the servicing of the British Pacific Fleet. I was asked whether the reason for 5,000 men being brought to Australia had anything to do with the industrial disputes that were then occurring. I indicated to tie House - and the honorable member for Wentworth was present at the time - that a number of men. were coming to Australia by arrangement with the British Government because of the great shortage of technicians in Australia. The number of 5,000 was not my figure. I said that the arrangement had been made nine months previously and had nothing whatever to do with industrial disputes on thewaterfront. Yet the honorable gentleman, with all the audacity and lying cunning that he possesses-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, that term is offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! The term used by the Minister is offensive to the honorable member for Wentworth, and I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
-I withdraw it in accordance with the forms of the House, but that does not deny me the right of thinking it. There can he nothing too desperate or daring for the honorable member to say in justification of bis case ifhe will make a deliberate statement such as he made this afternoon regarding the Minister for Labour and National Service and follow it up with the statements that he made about British technicians coming to Australia to service the British Pacific Fleet, because, as he alleges, of industrial disputes on the waterfront. He has even attacked the good name of a man whom I believe to . have the complete confidence of the people of Australia, namely, General MacArthur. He has expressed doubt as to General MacArthur’s ability and willingness to serve the best interests of Australia. He is a public menace, for his statements are most provocative and inaccurate and are of such a character as to do a tremendous disservice to Australia in the eyes of the world. Ever since honorable members opposite left the Government benches, they have done all that they could to decry the war effort of the present Administration. Their own disunity, and their inability to provide leadership, brought this country to the verge of ruin. Because of their ineptitude, Aus tralia was placed in grave peril, and but for the leadership provided by the Labour party, it is more than possible that Australia would not now be held by the British race. I ask our people not to be unmindful of all that has been done on their behalf. On the public platforms and in this House, honorable members opposite have constantly denied to the Government the credit to which it is entitled for its tremendous war effort. On the basis of population, no Allied country has performed more magnificently than Australia in the field and in the factory. Honorable members opposite will find cold comfort in the figures and facts which substantiate our claim in that respect. Even while our representatives are attending the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco, these honorable gentlemen cannot desist from attempts to embarrass them. TheGovernment afforded the opportunity for the Opposition to be represented in an advisory capacity on the Australian delegation, but only Senator McLeay and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) accepted the invitation. The Government has every reason to be confident of the ability of the Deputy Primp Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and to be proud of the splendid work they have done at the conference in the presentation of Australia’s case. Itis regrettable that honorable members opposite, in order to play at party politics in this place, should seekto destroy the value of the efforts of those gentlemen. No public or private statement has been made by Senator McLeay or the honorable member for Indi indicating that they object in any way to the attitude adopted by our delegates. Because honorable members opposite have not yet had an opportunity to discuss in this Parliament, the matters that have been dealt with at the conference, they complain. No Parliament in the British Commonwealth, not even the Parliament of the United Kingdom, has discussed those matters while its delegates have been attending the conference. The time to consider the merits of any decisions that have been reached is when they have been brought to this Parliament for ratification. The Australian delegates will then be present to give a full account of the significance of what has been done. In order to enlighten honorable members I, as Acting Minister for External Affairs, have had circulated to all of them, not merely to a privileged few, copies of the speech made by the Deputy Prime Minister, the press statement of the Minister for External Affairs, and all documents dealing with the matterthat have been considered. Honorable members have been fully informed in that respect. A full, and I trust, satisfactory, answer has been given to any question that has been asked.
That the motion of the Leader of the Opposition is in omnibus form indicates that the desire is, not to serve a high public purpose, but to delay the progress of legislation and the onward march which the times in which we live demand. Honorable members opposite will learn to their discomfiture that the people of Australia do not support their methods and their extravagant charges. The record of the Government in providing for the well-being of the people, even in time of war, is universally recognized, and will result in the return of the present occupants of the treasury bench to conduct the affairs of the nation in the post-war period. The Leader of the Opposition appeared to charge the Minister for External Affairs with having done a grievous wrong to this country when he insisted upon a policy of full employment for the people. The right honorable gentleman said that that is purely a domestic matter, and that, the Minister for External Affairs had attempted to delegate to another authority power which rightly should reside in our domain. He is answered
Itv this statement which the Minister for External Affairs made on the 28th April, 1943- it is necessary to differentiate between the acceptance of this responsibility and the method by which it will be achieved. It must clearly be left to the individual country to decide by what means and within what limits these objectives are achieved internally, but this does not alter the necessity of the obligation being accepted.
That, exactly, is the attitude which the Minister for External Affairs is adopting i o-day. He went on to say -
I believe that some such form of organization is capable of dealing with the type of problems I have outlined. If, for instance, the governments of the major industrial countries undertook to maintain within their own spheres a high level of employment, an international body could be developed with power, not merely to record the results of this policy in the various countries, but to provide the machinery required for the supervision of the international obligations.
We have every reason to be completely satisfied with the efforts of the Australian delegation at the conference, and should warmly commend and congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs, and the others for the splendid service they have rendered to Australia. The manner in which the Opposition has treated the subject-matter of the motion, and the insecure ground upon which they seek to justify censure of the Government, do not carry conviction. From beginning to end, the matter is one of party politics. Even though this country was still at war, the Leader of the Opposition refused to lend his great services towards the achievement of common counsel, designed to ensure future security and well-being, but withdrew from the Advisory War Council. He was anxious to enter an arena i u which he could play the game of party politics. The reason is, that he is dissatisfied with the position that he occupies in this House. Were he the Prime Minister, he would have no reason to complain of any of the conditions that now exist, but his occupancy of the position of Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition is rather discomforting to him, and the prospects of his elevation to a higher sphere are not reassuring. The members of his own organization cannot find a common purpose. Disputation, disagreement and lack of confidence are special features of their relations one with another. Not being able to find a common purpose, how could they serve this nation in an administration demanding co-operation, confidence and unity < Whatever the attitude of the right honorable gentleman may be, it will not bring a sense of satisfaction to the public. We should be able to claim the undivided assistance of those who are elected to this Parliament to serve the best interests of the Commonwealth; but, unfortunately, some people are prepared to serve their party political ends rather than the true interests of the nation.
.- [ support the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I reject the idea that the direction of criticism against the Government in time of war does disservice to the country. One of the rights which is preserved under the democratic system of government is that the Opposition, no matter of what political parties it is composed, may at any time direct the most trenchant criticism against the Government. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has at all times asserted that right as being one of the most valuable implements of democracy. It is very unfortunate that we are driven to a position where a man must be branded either black or white. The great majority of the people are neither of the extreme left nor of the extreme right, but are average men and women. No matter whether they are represented by honorable members who support the Government or by members of the Opposition, they are fundamentally good Australians, but that does not establish that there are no grounds for complaints against the administration of the Government.
My chief complaint rests on the abandonment of the rule of law as an essential instrument to be wielded by a government at all times for the protection of the law. It has been well said that, when the rumblings of war throughout the world shall have finished, we shall hear the rumblings of revolution. There is clearly an indication of that in Europe to-day, and let us not imagine that it cannot happen in this country. Whilst I do not suggest that more than a small section of the people are Communists, I say to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that the threat of communism in Australia, not to this side or to the other side of the House, but to the body politic, cannot be so lightly dismissed as he has attempted to dispose of it. I venture the opinion that some of his Ministers, and senior Ministers, too, do not share his view. I should like to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) whether he thinks that communism is of such little importance that it can be dismissed with a wave of the band.
The Leader of the Opposition has based his charges against the Government on industrial disturbances. I do not say that these have extended over the whole of industry; on the contrary, substantially the trouble is limited to certain militant unions. But it is growing, and it is impelled by a section which is not concerned about the flag which waves over this country. That section is concerned solely with an ideology, which, if it had its own way, it would put into effect, whether by revolution or otherwise. I say that, with some experience as a Minister who had to deal with subversive activities before Russia came into the war - I took the responsibility of interning two Communists - and I say it with the knowledge of events since. I do not, brand members of the Labour party as Communists, but there is a Communist organization which is “ white-anting” reputable trade unions and leading decent. Australians astray.
As we know of its existence, why do we not discuss means of defeating its activities?
Let us consider the dispute on the Sydney waterfront. I do not refer to the matter as a carping critic, but we know that a serious hold-up of shipping has occurred in Sydney Harbour. This is due to a number of factors, some of which would have been beyond the control of any government, but the hold-up has been greatly contributed to by industrial unrest. The issues in the case which came before Judge O’Mara have not been made clear to the country. The Ship Joiners Union said, “ We are a legal organization. We are registered as an industrial organization under the law of the land “. I have always understood that one of the things we value under the democratic system of government is the right of free association, and that is what the members of that union were contending for. Perhaps their organization should have not been registered in the first place, but, having been registered, there was a legal way of obtaining its deregistration if it could be proved that it had no special interests to serve and that the proper course was for the members to avail themselves of the opportunity to join other unions which would look after their interests. But what took place? For many weeks, industry in Sydney Harbour was held up, largely because of an inter-union dispute. The men who belonged to the Ship Joiners Union could not get work. The facts were known to everybody, and must have been known to the Government and the Department of Labour and National Service. Officials of the Building “Workers Industrial Union intimidated both employers and employees. The, said to the employers, “Unless you dismiss these men, or agree not to employ one of them, we will hold up your work “. That was done in concert, and was clearly criminal, as any lawyer would agree. That is the position to which Judge O’Mara drew attention. He said that he would not record any findings on those facts because criminal proceedings might be launched. In view of the charge made, I say that there is evidence of a criminal conspiracy; I say no more than that. There was evidence before the court of statements made by certain union or Trades and Labour Council officials which defied the law and set the Government at nought. These officials of the Building Workers Industrial Union said, “We do not care a fig for what they do, nor do we care for the law of the land or orders made by the judges. We will defy the Government and defy the law “. Can any honorable member justify that statement, if it be true? I do not. It is true that Mr. Anderson and some others did not give evidence. Mr. Clive Evatt, E.C., who appeared for the Building Workers Industrial Union, and Mr. Barwick, K.C., who represented the Ship Joiners Union, agreed that the charges made amounted to criminal conspiracy. There was no dispute of that by any counsel. Mr. Anderson, the president of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, now says, “ I have not been given a chance to say whether the statements are true or false “. but there was uncontradicted evidence that the statements had been made. Mr. Evatt apparently advised his clients not to give evidence, presumably on the ground that it might incriminate them. Why did the Government do nothing about the matter for so long, when it was obvious that the law of the land was being defeated? The Go- vernment was saying, “ Perhaps it will be all right next week or the week after “, when all the time the law of the land was being flouted? I want to know whether the papers have” been referred to the Solicitor-General, because if there has been a conspiracy, or if there is evidence of it, the matter should be brought before a magistrate for him to determine whether a prima facie case exists. If it does, these men, as well as others in a similar position, should stand their trial.
I have a good recollection of what thisGovernment did some time ago with respect to certain master butchers, who by propaganda sought to challenge certain governmental action. They were put on trial for conspiracy when they were merely seeking to change the law but when other men defy the Government, the law and the Arbitration Court,, it is said by a Minister, “ I do not know what is taking place, so we shall not take any action at all “. Once a government permits any section of its supporters to defy it, it is on the road todissolution. I have worked with certain of the members of the present Ministry before they took office and. since, and I cannot imagine that they would stand for this kind of thing. If Mr. Anderson now complains that he did not have a chance to defend himself, let that matter be determined before a magistrate, and if there is a prima facie case for a charge of conspiracy to defeat the law, let the law take its course. In no other way that I know of can the rule of law be applied to the events to which I have alluded.
There is an organized attempt by a certain section of the community to flout the law. I do not believe that thatis the wish of the average Labour supporter, but I direct attention to an evil which exists, and with regard to which I consider that the Government has failed to assert its authority. No one can deny that there has been on many occasions, and in many quarters, an attempt to bring this Parliament into disrepute because it is a democratic organization, and to bring the rule of law into disrepute because it is the basis of democracy. Attempts have also been made to discreditour judges. The Government should not allow these attempts to get out of hand. If the threat of communism is of as little consequence as the Acting Prime Minister would have us, ‘believe, why is it that the New South Wales branch of the Australia Labour party is now making the strongest efforts to out-pamphlet the Communists? Obviously, it, too, has come to realize that the Communists are an alien people in our midst - that they do not serve the cause of Australia, either of the right or of the left. Wherever they are, let them be rooted out. I cannot deny them t he right to hold their political views, or their right, under the Constitution, to advocate any form of government which the people may approve so long as they observe the law, but changes should be wrought by democratic evolution.
– Then’ what is the honorable member worrying about?
– I said “ evolution not “ resolution “. I am worrying about that section of the Communists which is solely concerned withbreaking down our democratic institutions as a first step to the introduction of the system they desire. I can cite two recent examples. There was the inter-union dispute between the rank and file of the Balmain branch of the Ironworkers Union and the federal executive of the union. What was it all about? I should like to hear a. statement about it from a Minister. Was it not a dispute between the- Communist-controlled executive and the rank and file? I should have thought that the Government would have come down on the side of the men, instead of allowing the dispute to drift on for weeks, involving as it did the holding up of shipping. I should, have thought that the Government would have directed that a secret ballot be taken. That was the democratic way. However, it did nothing because, apparently, it feared that there might be political repercussions in their Labour leagues. Then there was the matter of the holiday taken by the ironworkers at Port Kembla. It had been made clear by the judge of the court that the taking of a holiday on the 7th May would be illegal. Consequently, the holiday could be taken legally only if a National Security regulation were altered. The next point is that the- honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) - and I should like to hear him on this point - apparently acting with some authority on behalf of. the Government, made it clear to the members of the union that,, although the law said that there should be no- holiday on that dray, and although the Government was not prepared to alter the regulation, it would be all right, if they took the holiday. Some one may ask, “Well, what docs it matter?” It matters a great deal that the Government should deliberately suggest to any group of people that they might break the law with impunity.
– That it not true.
– I have already set out the facts, and they cannot be denied. Before the men took the holiday, a letter was written in which it was suggested, that if they took the day off everything would be all right. We have not yet heard the exact contents of that letter, but the judge was told by one of the representatives who appeared before him that it intimated to them, in substance, that the. Government would wink at a breach of the law. I want to know where that letter is.
– A letter from whom?
– The letter from the honorable member- for Eden-Monaro to the union.
– What did he have to do with it.
– He would not have acted without having consulted the Government. If the letter is not produced, people must draw their own inferences. After the law was broken, there is the clearest evidence that the Government instructed the employers to take the men back, and to pay them from the moment of suspension onwards, whether they had worked or not, in spite of the fact that the employers had merely obeyed the law.
– That is not true.
– It is true. Mr. Funnell, in a letter, intimated to the employers that they were to pay the men from the time of suspension, which operated at any time from 11.20 a.m. on the 7th May, irrespective of whether they had worked or not. Unquestionably, the Government connived at the breaking of the law. I recognize the difficulty of dealing with strikes, and the difficulty associated with mass prosecutions, hut I cannot understand why the ‘Government should refuse to make any effort to uphold the law in these matters. If the unions are encouraged to believe that they can defy the law with impunity because they are supporters of the Government, or may be able to influence the pre-selection of parliamentary candidates, it will be the end of the Labour party, because it must become a mere political instrument of the industrial organizations. Irrespective of who is in power, that must be a bad thing for the country.
I come now to the subject of housing. Day after day, we are confronted with pitiful cases involving people who are. without homes. How are we to provide homes for them? I know that it is exceedingly difficult with so many men in the armed forces, but I say, with a sense of responsibility, that there arts too many men in the forces for the job they are doing, or for any job that they are likely to be called upon to do. It is very important, now that the European war is over, that our war effort should be reorientated. As intimated in a recent report issued by Professor’ Copland, our economy will otherwise be from one to two years behind that of the other democracies. If the Government has not taken the necessary action yet - and I do not know of any action except of a tentative nature - something should be done immediately, if only so that we may attempt to solve this urgent problem of housing. Men are returning from the war every day, and are being discharged into civil life. Many of them have wives whom they have not seen for years, and young children whom they do not even know. These families need houses. If there were more earnestness and more drive in the Government’s efforts to meet the situation better results would be achieved. I recognize that the war has not borne so heavily upon the economic resources of New Zealand as upon those of this country, but it is nevertheless impressive that in New Zealand 17,000 houses have been built during the war. I am quite certain that we could have built more than have been built if we had gone about it the right way.
The Government is also deserving of censure because it has ‘refused the House opportunities to debate foreign affairs. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) has said that no debate has taken place on this subject in other countries. If that be so, it is high time the parliaments of the democratic nations realized that the fate of their people can be determined by one or two. men, and this should not be possible. There can be no justification for not debating the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. They were being debated at Virginia Springs, in the United States of America, when I was there, and were being discussed in every newspaper in the country. In various international societies they are debated publicly, but we, who are responsible to the people, are afforded no opportunity to debate them.
– A vote on those proposals was taken in the Canadian House of Commons on the 28-th March.
– I did not know that. I have said on many occasions, until I have grown weary of repeating it, that foreign relations are tending more anil more to affect the life of every citizen. A good example of this is the proposal -for writing into the charter “ full employment “. I do not propose to debate that issue now; I merely draw attention to the way in which various proposals which are being discussed in the international field affect intimately the internal, domestic economy, and even the individual. The peace which is eventually decided upon may well affect almost every aspect of our national economy, and yet these vital influences which bear upon the future of the nation are not debated in the National Parliament. There can be no justifica-i ion for this neglect. We have been told that the proposals put forward at San Francisco in the name of Australia follow naturally upon the agreement drawn up between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand ; yet, before that agreement was entered into not one word was said on the matter to this Parliament. We were not even told that such an arrangement was in course of preparation. Later, we were told that it waa an accomplished: fact. Nothing of any great value could be achieved’ by arguing about it then. Similar remarks apply in respect of the proceedings at Dumbarton Oaks and Bretton Wood. The . matters discussed at those places were such as to justify a general discussion of the general principles which should be followed. Such a discussion need not have involved the taking of a vote, but it would have enabled the representatives of the people to express their views. We must assert the rights of the Parliament on all occasions, for unless we do so the Executive or other influences in the country will give to us a form of government which will not be democratic at all.
[4.46 J. - 1 listened with a degree of interest to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The remarks of the latter were of particular interest to me as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I do not accuse the right honorable gentleman of making misstatements, but I do say that some of his remarks were grossly exaggerated. I, therefore, propose to examine in some detail the arguments which he advanced, particularly as they apply to various forms of food production. The Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion of censure of the Government, on various grounds, including the present food position, the alleged failure of the Government to discharge Australia’s obligation to Great Britain, and its alleged disorganization of the food plans and policies of previous governments. In answer to a question recently, I said that the reference in it to a food plan was the first that I had heard of any food plan advanced by the Australian Country party. I should be in a position to know, as I took over my present portfolio from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), a member of that party. When I assumed office, I found absolutely no evidence of any plan by my predecessor for future primary production, although plans could have been made during his term of office, seeing that the man-power position was not then so acute as it has since become. Produc tion figures disclose that the drought has affected, in particular, the production of such cereals as rice and wheat, and ha3 threatened to curtail drastically the production of meat.
Australia has had three major droughts in this century, and their history has been tragically similar; low yields of cereals and heavy stock losses have characterized each drought. Although sheep losses in the present drought do not approach the figure of 50,000,000 given by ex-Senator Guthrie as the loss in the 1902 drought, sheep losses are. nevertheless, growing more painfully severe as the drought continues. Commonwealth and State governments have already expressed in practical fashion their sympathy with growers of cereals. They have provided £3.700.000 to cereal growers in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria to compensate them for crop losses. That is a recognition of the severity of the drought and its effect on crops of wheat, barley, oats and hay, each of which yielded little more than one-third of normal production. The yield in Victoria was the lowest on record. The average production of wheat in that State is about 50,000,000 bushels a year, but last season it was less than 4,000,000 bushels. That is an example of the effect that a drought can have on wheat production. Although Australia produced a crop of 50,000,000 bushels, deliveries were less than 40,000,000 bushels. Australia will consume more than 100,000,000 bushels of wheat this year, compared with a normal consumption of about 55,000,000 bushels. The increased consumption is due to the extensive use of wheat as a stock feed, to avert ruinous stock losses. The use of wheat for stock feed in pre-war years averaged about 10,000 bushels a year. At the beginning of this year, stock feeders were using wheat at the rate of 60,000,000 bushels a year. The rate had to be pegged at 43,000,000 bushels to maintain continuity of supplies. That Australia is able to provide more than 43,000,000 bushels of stock feed in spite of the low crop, is due to the fact that last year’s carryover was one of the highest on record.
The Government’s ability to draw on surplus stocks of wheat to meet emergency conditions does not support the
Opposition’s contention that food production is chaotic. Nor is that charge supported by this year’s potato crop. The Opposition can draw little comfoTt from this year’s potato production of approximately 800,000 tons, or from the record crops of vegetables -which are being produced in spite of drought. It is true that rice production has fallen. Owing to the- Teduced quantity of water in the Burrinjuck Dam, the New South Wales Government had to curtail deliveries of water to ricegrowers. Consequently, there is a decrease of rice production. It is equally true that last year Australia produced 76,000 tons of paddy rice - an all-time record. The production may be compared -with 42,000 tons in 1940-41, the year before the present Government came to office. Last year’s record production was achieved by planting a new area at Wakool, and by the increased use of mechanical equipment. The Opposition can find no support for its case in those figures.
Whilst meat production is seriously threatened by drought, Australia’s production last year totalled 1,035,000 tons, compared with the pre-war average of 850,000 tons. Of the 1,035,000 tons produced last year, approximately 90,000 tons was canned, compared with the average of 15,000 tons canned in prewar years. The Leader of the Australian Country party . cited figures from which he endeavoured to draw comparisons with other meat-producing countries and to show that their position is much better than is the position in Australia. He mentioned the quantities of meat being despatched from Australia to the United . Kingdom. A cablegram which appeared in the press recently showed that a committee of experts which had met in the United States of America had stated that a world survey of meat supplies had shown that there would be , a world shortage of 1,300,000,000 tons. Yet the Leader of the Australian Country party -would have us believe that the shortage was confined to Australia. Recent issues of Sunday newspapers contain evidence that there is a world shortage of food. In the United States of America, production of foodstuffs, with the exception of wheat, is lower than ever before, and rationing is now more severe than at any time during the war.
– That is why production should he increased in Australia.
– Our pre-war plantings of vegetables, including potatoes, averaged about 250,000 acres. Plantings for the 1944-45 season totalled over 500,000 acres - a twofold increase. The increased acreage is due to the success of the Government’s plan to mechanize the industry. Dried vine fruit production last year totalled 104,000 ton3, compared, with 81,000 tons in 1940-41. The crop will be lower this year because of drought. The peanut crop has been doubled. Although regarded us relatively unimportant by civilians, peanuts provide peanut butter and peanut oil for the services. Production in 1940-41 was 6,000 tons and 13,000 tons last yeaT. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), who is chairman of the Peanut Board, recently expressed to me his satisfaction with the production of peanuts in Australia.
In 1940-41 Australia produced approximately 56,000,000 dozen eggs from commercial flocks. An average of 42,000,000 dozen was provided for civilians, the balance being exported. Last year production rose to 89,000,000 dozen, . of which more, than 60,000,000 dozen were allocated to civilians. Production this year is very much higher than last year’s record. The latest figures reveal that for the season ending next month, production will exceed 100,000,000 dozen eggs. Of this total, more than 30,000,000 dozen are provided for the services.
Due to adverse seasons in parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, during the last three years, the output of milk has declined from 1,100,000,000 gallons pre-war to 1,000,000,000 gallons. Because of service orders, there has been a re-allocation of supplies for processing; more milk is used for the production of cheese and processed milks, and less for butter. Thia has caused the average of butter production to decline from 185,000 tons to 140,000 tons, the cheese output to rise from 27,000 tons to 35,000 tons, and the output of processed milk to be doubled.
There have been many changes in processing during war-time. Dehydration, unknown before the war, provides a typical example. The Commonwealth has a considerable sum of money invested in the 34 vegetable dehydrators. This year, those dehydrators will treat 132,132 tons of vegetables valued at £1,586,111. The dried output will be worth £4,125,000. In 1939-40 only 272,000 cases of canned vegetables were processed. This year the estimated production is 4,855,340 cases, a twenty-fold increase. Time does not permit me to deal with the expanded processing programme in other directions, such as apple packs and ration packs.
I have provided sufficient statistical information to show that, despite the inescapable difficulties of war, including man-power, fertilizer, rubber, petrol and other shortages, the farmers of Australia have made a magnificent contribution to the cause of the Allied Nations. The sympathetic treatment of farmers by the present Government is in marked contrast to the shabby treatment meted out by the members of the Opposition, when they were in office. The statistics which I have quoted give the lie direct to statements made inside and outside this House by Opposition members, that chaotic conditions exist in regard to food production.
– That is the council that the right honorable member for Cowper brought into existence.
– Yes, and it is a very good instrument which does excellent work. The States advise the Commonwealth after a survey of all production factors, if they consider they can meet the Commonwealth demands for certain types of foods. Officers of State Departments of Agriculture have co-operated splendidly in the drive for greater production, and the Opposition would do well to recognize the value of their work.
Apparently the only recognition that the State- Departments of Agriculture are to be accorded, by the Opposition, is to have their efforts misrepresented and derided. It is a sorry commentary on the approach of the Opposition to national questions. It indicates that, honorable members opposite are prepared to go to any lengths to deny recognition, or credit, to any who serve on the food front.
Let me expose the ridiculous nature of the second charge that the Government has failed to discharge its contractual obligations to Great Britain. The allocation of foods in short supply is the responsibility of the London Food Committee. Before allocating supplies the London Food Committee takes full cognizance of the quantities of food which must be provided for the armed forces. That committee recognizes, as do other responsible bodies, that the first duty of the United Nations i3 to provide food for the fighting men. This is a point which the Opposition chooses (o ignore. Strenuous efforts have been made by the Opposition to make capital out of the drop in meat exports to Britain from 235,000 tons in 1940-41 to 179,000 tons last year. Prior to the war Great Britain was almost the only country to which meat was exported. To-day the story is different. Last year Australia exported to the services and to Great Britain, more than 400,000 tons of meat, or almost double the quantity exported in 1940-41. Australia was asked by the London Food Committee to provide 177,700 tons of meat against British Ministry of Food orders. The actual deliveries of fresh, frozen, canned and dehydrated meat shipped against British Ministry of Food order3 last year was 179,200 tons. This quantity was 1,700 tons in excess of that which Australia was requested to provide. So, where has Australia failed l.o meet its contractual obligation to export meat to the United Kingdom?
– Those figures are different from the Statistician’s figures. Where do they come from?
– From the Australian Meat Board, which is- associated with my department,, the only body from which they could come. The British
Ministry of Food, unlike the Opposition, fully recognizes Australia’s tremendous war-time responsibilities. Australia in turn fully recognizes the need to make the maximum contribution to the British larder. The effort which the Government and the people made last year is being continued, and our obligations are being honoured in full. This effort has been frankly and generously recognized in cablegrams which have passed between, the two Governments. Incidentally, I have received personal cablegrams thanking the Commonwealth Government for its contribution to the United Kingdom’s larder. Messages have been received from Lord Woolton and the present British Food Controller, Lord Llewellyn, who have expressed their appreciation of Australia’s great assistance. Their gratitude is in striking contrast to the attitude of the Opposition which is trying to make political capital out of, the position and are trying to deride Australia’s national effort in the crisis through which the world is passing.
Australia has also honoured its obligations to provide Great Britain with butter. As I have explained, more milk is being used to manufacture cheese and processed milks, and less is being used for butter. Australia last year contracted to provide Grent Britain with 45,000 tons of butter. The quantity actually shipped against British Ministry of Food orders was 50,191 tons.
– It was a disgraceful target.
– Never mind that! Take it ! Some of the butter was diverted by the British Ministry of Food to meet War Office and Admiralty requirements. In addition to the butter provided for Great Britain, Australia provided more than 20,000 tons for the services. Large quantities of cheese and processed milk were also supplied.
– The Government did not accept the recommendation.
– It is idle for honorable members opposite to compare pre-war exports of butter to the United Kingdom, and to argue that, because butter exports do not reach pre-war totals, we are letting Great Britain down. The plain fact is that if we diverted the milk now being used to manufacture greater quantities of cheese and processed milks to the manufacture of butter, we would be letting the services down, including the United Kingdom services. Great Britain understands this and bases its demands accordingly. We must continue the large-scale production of processed milks for the services until the end of the war, even though it be at the expense of butter production. If honorable members opposite are prepared to argue that the Government should ignore its responsibilities to the services then they should say so. The Government for its part, intends that the requirements of the services shall be met irrespective of opposition. It will bc seen, from the figures that I have quoted that the Opposition’s charges that Australia’s obligations to Great Britain have not been honoured, are as baseless and presumptuous as its first charge that food production is chaotic. It ill becomes Opposition members to make such charges in view of their own inglorious record when they were in power. So poor and so besmirched is the Opposition’s record of agricultural administration, that it seems that only a group of political irresponsibles could have framed the terms of the motion. If they had plans for food production, they certainly did not. put them into operation. Immediately prior to the war, evictions and foreclosures were the rule rather than the exception. It is true that the Lyons Government introduced a farmers’ debt adjustment scheme. But that was not a production plan. It was a mere palliative, which made no provision for security for growers. The farmers’ debt adjustment plan was in itself an admission of the insolvent condition of many producers after long years of antiLabour rule. The Opposition’s stand in the present circumstances is completely indefensible.
While I have demonstrated that the Opposition’s charges are a pure concoction, and are merely designed to delay the passage of important, legislation, I should make some examination of the third charge that food plans and policies of previous governments have been disorganized by this Government. I deal with it only to reveal that hypocrisy of the political charlatans responsible for this motion. What plans did the Opposition have in the last year they held office, or in any year immediately prior to their defeat? We were told recently by the right honorable member for Cowper that he had a fodder plan in 1941 which a Premiers ‘Conference threw into discard. I am prepared to credit the right honorable member with good intentions. That is all. It is true, too, that the right honorable member introduced a wheat stabilization plan which registered farms and licensed growers. His colleague, the Country party Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, thinks so little of this plan, that he has repeatedly suggested that I am its author. Beyond pegging Australia’s war-time acreage, the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues did nothing of practical value to the wheat industry. They commandeered wheat for the No. 1 pool and paid growers 2s. a bushel. They refused to increase the advance on subsequent pools beyond 2s, 6d. a bushel. They refused to grant growers majority representation on the Australian Wheat Board. Mass meetings all over the wheat belt denounced their policy and finally removed the supporters of the Government who held wheat-growing electorates. That action by the wheat growers, was significant enough. It needs no elaboration from me.
What policy, if any, did the Opposition have for the dairying industry? The first increase of price received by the industry during the ten-year period, 1932-42, was given by the present Government a few months after it assumed office. At that time the right honorable member for Darling Downs was making a great show of sympathy for the industry. He believed that to be the best way of getting dairy farmers to forget the ten years of neglect by members of the present Opposition. Within twelve months after taking office, this Government appointed a committee from the industry to recommend a price which would provide security for dairy farmers. The Government accepted the committee’s recommendation and has since provided subsidies totalling over £15,000,000 to maintain the price recommended by the leaders of the industry. Dairy farmers have no hesitation in declaring that the Opposition, when in power, was without a policy -for the dairying industry.
But the dairy and wheat industries were not the only industries which suffered at the hands of the Opposition. Most honorable members will recognize the inglorious displays given in this House by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) when for a brief period he strutted as a Minister on this side of the House. The best that can be said of him is that he parried many questions on behalf of the Government. At that time there was a general collapse of meat prices, and more particularly in the prices of lambs and pigs. I remember the collapse that took place throughout the Australian pig industry. I saw good store pigs sold at 5s. each. I know of one pig farmer so anxious to get rid of his pigs that he gave them away. That was what the Australian Country party did for the pig industry. This Government, by contrast, has provided a stabilized price which has been recognized by the industry as satisfactory. One of the first deputations that I received when I succeeded the right honorable member for Cowper as Minister for Commerce, was from the pig industry of Australia. Its members told me in Sydney that the guaranteed price of 6d. per lb. for two years would satisfy them. I said that I would go into the matter. Subsequently, the price was raised to what it is to-day - the highest price ever recorded under a pig industry plan. Furthermore, that price has been guaranteed for the next four years, and the men in the industry have something to look forward to. The story of meat prices is very similar. I remember that on one occasion, when shipping losses were severe, meat export from Australia was suspended. The Australian Country party then shared the responsibility of government. The Government panicked, and chaos developed throughout the Australian meat industry. The best my predecessor could do was to warn lambraisers not to mate their ewes with rams.
Yet, at the same time, the Labour Government of New Zealand faced a similar predicament courageously by spending a few million pounds on the purchase of meat, at a stabilized price which was put into cold storage until the shipping position improved and then exported. The Government of New Zealand with not one-twentieth the financial resources of the Commonwealth Government risked between £3,000,000 and £5,000,000 on that transaction. The producers in New Zealand did not lose one penny. But in Australia the big exporting companies bought the meat at their own price, a disastrous price for producers, and after putting it in -cold storage subsequently reaped the benefits which should have gone to the producers. When Governments supported by honorable members opposite were in power they ran away from that problem. The Opposition’s policy, or lack of policy, was just as clearly exemplified in the case of potatogrowers. Early in 1941 the States found that they were unable to maintain prices for growers. In Victoria potatoes sold as low as 30s a ton. The Menzies Government, however, failed to act, although thousands of growers were threatened with ruin. To-day, the Commonwealth acquires the potato crop and pays the growers an average price of £12 10s. a ton. This Government had to step in and rebuild the industry because of the failure of the Menzies and Fadden Administrations. I could go on recapitulating the sorry record of failures, which the ‘Opposition now ha:3 the -effrontery to describe as its food plans. It would take hours, however, to deal with the handicaps suffered by producers during the life of the Menzies and Fadden Governments. It is sufficient to point out that this Government has not only had to increase substantially, the price of wheat, oats, barley, vegetables, potatoes, milk, meat, poultry and fruit; but also it has had to provide subsidies to check rising costs of production. It has had to expand processing capacity; increase the shockingly inadequate cold storage space, build canning factories and dehydrators, mechanize the vegetable and potato industries, provide increased dry storage accommodation for food and provide transport for food at a time when the demands on Australia are the greatest in its history.
During the last two war years, Australia, despite its own drought, has relieved food crises in Ceylon and India, taken over the feeding of the natives in the Pacific, provided for its own civilians and fighting services, honoured its obligations to Great Britain, provided substantial quantities of food for United Kingdom forces in India and Burma and has given practical support to General MacArthur in the recapture of the Philippines. Australian food was landed with the American armies in the Philippines and was supplied to many of the ships which supported Allied landings.
Australia is facing grave difficulties because of drought Two years of drought strain a country’s resources in times of peace. Two years of drought, in the midst of war, when. millions more depend on the country for sustenance must inevitably cause complications and weaken the food structure. It is a matter for sympathy not for provoking violent political antagonisms. Australia has ridden the storm in .spite of the legacies of neglect from previous administrations. It has ridden the storm because of the sturdy common sense of its farmers, who hav« faced the difficulties of war with courage* and have triumphed over the inevitable shortages caused by war. Australia has ridden the storm because of the degree of co-operation achieved between farmers and State and Commonwealth Governments. It remains for the Opposition to sully Australia’s record by a campaign of misrepresentation. The farmers of Australia know the Opposition’s record. They showed, that at the last general elections. I do not believe that the people who depend on the farmers for their food supply are any less discerning, and I am sure that when the time comes they, too, will again express their supreme contempt for the Opposition and its tactics.
The right honorable member for Darling Downs and his colleagues the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Richmond are always complaining about the shortage of man-power in primary industry. We ail know of that shortage and the Government is determined to rectify it at the earliest possible opportunity. But what did honorable members opposite do about this matter when governments which they supported were in office? Those governments did not attempt to curtail the call-up of man-power from rural industry. It was not until seven months after the Curtin Government took office that a blanket exemption from military service was provided in respect of manpower in rural industries. Preceding governments are responsible for the present acute shortage of man-power in rural industries since the outbreak of war. No honorable member receives more applications for the release of men from the armed forces for return to rural industry than I do- and ‘90 per cent, of those applications are in respect of men who were allowed to leave the industry when previous governments were in office, whereas only 5 per cent, of them are in respect of men who left rural industry after this Government assumed office. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Opposition parties to-day find themselves in such dire straits? It is significant that only one honorable member opposite, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) represents a wheat-growing electorate. I recall that although the candidate who opposed the right honorable member for Cowper at the Inst general elections was the father of twelve children the right honorable member has to scratch for dear life to hold his seat. The right honorable member for Darling Downs is recovering only now from the shock he received at the last general elections.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- “ If you would see his monument, look around.” Those who look around them in this country ‘to-day will find monuments to the bungling of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). In Sydney eggs are so scarce that one needs a medical doctor’s certificate in order to be able to get them regularly. With the approach of winter the householder’s milk supply is being reduced; and every farmer is cutting the throats of pigs because he is unable to obtain fodder for them. These conditions have resulted from the bungling of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the food front. His incompetence and muddling are without precedent, and have much to do with the industrial discontent which exists in Australia to-day. Everywhere one can see queues of from 50 to 60 people wanting to purchase vegetables. Not so long ago cauliflowers were selling at ‘5s. each, and oranges at 4d. and 5d. each, whilst women with infants at their breast were standing in queues waiting to buy essential food. Yet the Minister is so blind to what is happening that he has the audacity to make the speech he has just concluded. Does he realize that the outstanding feature of his administration is that the Government, in spite of the shortage of wheat, is now paying farmers in Western Australia 12s. an acre not to grow wheat? I am informed that as many as 6,000,000 laying birds will have to be disposed of by poultry- farmers this winter because they are unable to obtain sufficient feed. As the result of the Government’s present shortsighted policy, and its stupidity and folly in abandoning the plans laid down by previous governments, it will take poultry-farmers at least two years to build up their flocks to normal strength.
Let us look at the facts. The Minister has spoken about the shortage of shipping. What does he know about shipping shortages! In May, 1941, the British Government told the Commonwealth that although J, 600,000 tons of shipping would be required for the carriage of essential foods from Australia to Great Britain, the best that we could do at that time was to find 400,000 tons, or one-quarter of the shipping accommodation required. In consultation with the British Government, I made plans to deal with that situation. First, I ensured that there would be no diminution of food production in Australia. The Government of which I was then a member erected cold storage space for 400,000 tons of primary products and space for hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar. It also brought into operation all the meat canning factories which had not been used since the conclusion of the war of 1914-18; and it brought to Australia from China seventeen eggdrying plants. We had been told by the British Government that refrigerated shipping space could not be provided for 1 dozen of eggs, but that arrangements could be made for the transport of 4,000 tons of dried eggs. Due largely to my efforts, those egg-drying plants were obtained from China just before Japan entered the war, and overran that country. It is clear that the present Government has had the benefit of the spade work done by preceding governments. Yet the Minister to-day tries to “ put across “ his tarradiddle. The truth - and the story can be followed in White Papers tabled in the British House of Commons - is this: In June, 1938, when I was visiting Great Britain as Minister for Commerce, I finalized with Sir Henry French, the British Food Controller, plans for the sale of our surplus primary products should war break out. I then arranged to send every pound of our surplus foodstuffs to Great Britain should hostilities occur; and we were able to meet Great Britain’s requirements only because during the preceding twenty years non-Labour governments in this country had built up a sound system of producer-controlled organizations governed by legislation enacted in not only this Parliament, but also State parliaments. Those organizations, backed by the credits made available by the Rural Credit Department of the Commonwealth Bank, ensured the orderly marketing of our primary products. Last evening, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) sneered at the administration of that department of the bank, but it financed our marketing schemes at a rate of interest of 3 per cent., being enabled to do so on the basis of an interest-free advance of £2,000,000, made to it by the government from profits from the note issue. Because we had built up those organizations I was enabled in 1938 to make that arrangement with Sir Henry French. When I returned to Australia in 1938, war appeared to be certain, and the Government of the day, therefore, set about establishing the industrial annexes which have provided the basis of this country’s munitions produc tion. The war production results of which present Ministers boast at every opportunity could not have been achieved but for the momentum provided by the work performed by preceding governments, because many of these undertakings took up to five years to reach the production stage. For these facts, I . refer honorable members to the records; I do not rely upon stupid statements like those of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who, himself, . in a letter to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), has admitted that the Labour Government had fallen down on its British contracts. The records show that in February and March, 1939, we set up the Wool Committee, the Wheat Committee and many other bodies to control the production and distribution of other primary products under war conditions; and on the outbreak of war we reached agreement with the British Government with respect to prices. We did that after consultationwith the men who produce these goods. Five months after the war started, the London Times pointed out that Australia’s arrangements with Great Britain for the supply of foodstuffs had been finalized many months ahead of similar arrangements with other dominions. We arranged contracts under which we were to send 100,000 tons of butter to Great Britain in the first year, but shipments actually amounted to 113,000 tons. We arranged to send 230,000 tons of meat, but the actual figure was 272,000 tons. We were ahead of our contracts all the time. But what has happened during the regime of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? In a statementattached to a letter sent to the honorable member for Barker on the 9th February, 1945, the Minister himself -gave the following figures : - 1941-42. - This year there was a change in the policy of the British Government in that the principal demand wasfor cheese which meant that manufacturers of butter were asked to instal cheese plants. The contract covered up to 57,000 tons of butter and 40,000 tons of cheese, and the quantities shipped were 46,847 tons of butter and6,569 tons of cheese. 1942-43. - During the year the demand again changed back to butter as being first priority, but heavy demands were made on Australian production by the Australian and Allied Services based on Australia. The quantities asked for hy the United Kingdom were 70,000 tons of butter and 10.000 tons of cheese, whilst the shipments were 48.011 tons of butter and (1.007 tons of cheese.
Then the Minister made I his naive admission - 15)43-44. - In this year, whilst the British Government did first mention 55,000 tons of butter, the /iiia) allocation was arrived at after agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom. United States of America and Australia on the basis of the maximum quantity available, viz., 40,000 tons. The actual shipments totalled 41,5(14 tons.
The British Government, desired much more but thankfully took what it could get. Before I left this country for Great Britain in 1941, to act as Australia’s representative in the War Cabinet, I dealt with the problem which had arisen by the acute shortage of shipping to transport foodstuffs to Great Britain. In concert, with the British Government, the Government, of this country planned to make certain that it would be able to buy and pay for every ounce of food grown in Australia, and that was done. We were able to do that because I arranged for the construction of cold storage space capable of holding 500,000 tons of foodstuffs. The result was that goods which could not be sent overseas because of the shipping shortage, could be kept in store until transport became available as it ultimately did. At the same time, I inaugurated a campaign urging Australians to eat more Australian products so thai: we would be able to preserve, store, ship, or consume all the food produced in this country. Because these things were done; the Australian people have been better able to stand up to the subsequent rationing of foodstuffs which has continued throughout the life of this Government. Also, in an endeavour to guard against possible shortage? of such essential commodities as sugar, &C, I arranged for a three months’ supply of groceries to be stored in every country shop, village and town. These stores proved invaluable during the crisis nf the war against Japan when communications were fully taxed with military supplies. All this was done before the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture came into the picture. In 1943 also, my Government brought down a wheat stabilization scheme - a scheme from which the present administration departed. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), sneeringly said that I had signed for Australia’s participation in an international wheat agreement which would- involve the restriction of wheat acreage and production in this country. The fact is that it was the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) or the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who signed the international wheat agreement on behalf of this country. Under the wheat stabilization scheme which I introduced, it was agreed that we should produce only 140,000,000 bushels of wheat, for marketable grain,’ and that anything in excess of that figure should be cut for hay and paid for at a price equivalent to the market price. This safeguard to prevent limitation of production of grain necessitated a national fodder storage scheme. When we could not get any satisfaction from the State governments, we decided to establish a National Fodder Conservation Board. On the 21st August, 1941, about three weeks before I left for England, the necessary National Security Regulation was gazetted, the board appointed and its financial arrangements made with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. A fortnight later I left for Great Britain. When I came back, however, I found that the Labour Government which succeeded the Fadden Government had not done anything more about it. I interviewed the Prime Minister and pointed out to him that instead of fighting the wheat-farmers over the 13,000,000 bushels of excess wheat, for which they had not been paid the guaranteed price, the Government should be putting money into the national fodder conservation scheme. However, still the Government did not do anything beyond agreeing to make some money available to the States on a fi for £1 basis, but the only two recent good seasons for hay cutting were missed. What was required was fodder, and fodder is still required. The people of this country need food, but they are being given only promises. The whole thing is too ridiculous for words. Something must be done now. The Government should revert to the plans which the previous administration prepared and which I established by National Security Regulation in August, 1941. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not read these plans and this regulation which he administered for two years,- he is guilty of dereliction of duty. In a leading article on the 21st May, 1941, the Sydney Morning Herald said -
In all Mie circumstances Sir Earle Page’s announcement will restore a sense of security which in recent months had been ebbing among producers, and it will provide an added incentive to greater effort. Not only will the man on the land be protected from economic disaster, but the whole nation will benefit from tho stabilization of our primary industries. It is evident from the comprehensiveness of the Minister’s statement, that, with the British agreement as a bulwark; he has developed his plan on two principles, complementary to each other and fundamental to Australia’s future. The first is to see that we arc. always in a position to send to Great Britain as much food as she can take from us; the second, to maintain our agricultural and pastoral industries intact throughout the period of the war, so that, when victory comes, we shall be able to step up production in double-quick time. There can he nothing more certain than that the greatest and most urgent need of the post-war world will be food; indeed it may well be that the final reckoning will be brought about largely as a result of starvation in Europe, and that bread and meat for the stricken masses will be more decisive with them than guns and bombs.
Now that the war against (Germany is over, what can we offer to the millions of starving people in Europe? “We should have available for shipment overseas immediately millions of dozens of eggs, hundreds of tons of butter, and large quantities of all the foodstuffs which we produce. Instead, we have to tell them that the cupboard is empty. Our greatest contribution to the peace should have been the provision of large quantities of food and warm clothing for the people of countries which have been ravaged by war. Now, it appears that in respect of food, at least, we shall fall down on the job. This is a scandal and a disgrace, reflecting not upon the Australian primary producer, who has done his best under most trying circumstances, but upon the Government. This administration has failed to meet up to its obligations. In the early days of the war against Japan, this government took thousands of men from essential farming work and put them into the armed forces. Moreover, the farmers who were left to- carry on their properties with insufficient labour have been denied essential commodities, such as petrol, tyres, machinery ‘ and telephones. Recently, I received a letter stating that five men whose properties are situated many miles from the nearest centre, have been asked to pay £36 each to have telephones installed. “When the Bruce-Page Government was in office, the Postmaster-General’s Department always provided up to £1,500 towards the cost of constructing country telephone lines. That assistance was removed by a Labour government. Country residents, especially in times like these, must be given all the labour and time-saving devices that can be procured.
The efforts of this Government on the food front throughout have been. “ Too little, too late “. Any concessions that it has given to the man on the land have been extracted almost at the point of the bayonet. Take, for instance, the dairying industry. I am glad to see that the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is in the House. because I noticed that in Warrnambool a few days ago the biggest meeting- of dairymen ever held in the southern part of Australia took place. By a two-to-one majority, that meeting condemned this Government’s handling of the dairying industry. What has happened in that industry? When it was found that prices were rising in this country we appointed a Prices Commissioner. What this Government has failed to realize is that although the general price index figure has risen only by about 25 per cent., due largely to the fact that the home consumption prices of butter and bread have remained constant, the price of clothing has increased by about 80 or 90 per cent., and farm machinery by 100 per cent.; yet the price of farm products has not been increased proportionately to costs of production. In the dairying industry, the Government has granted increases only under prep sure. Early in 1942, an increase oi Id. a pound in the price of butter was allowed. I recall that when I returned from England in 1942 the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), and the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who is now Leader of the Australian Country party in this chamber, and other members of the Country party, kept asking for the production of a certain report which, apparently the Government was incubating. Production of that report was finally forced upon the Government. In. October, 1942, representatives of the industry suggested an all round, rise of 3d. a pound in the price of butter. Instead, however, an annual subsidy of £2,000,000 was introduced, which was equivalent to only seveneighths of a penny a pound. In April, 1943, after continuous agitation in Parliament and throughout the country, the subsidy for the dairying industry was increased to £6,500,000, though much of its value to the- dairy farmer was removed by the introduction of an award covering rural industries. British experience has proved repeatedly that unless a subsidy is sufficiently remunerative to producers to stimulate production it is a waste of money. The Minister, apparently, recognized that the subsidy was inadequate, and added a drib of £1,000,000 on feed wheat. Later still, he added a further £1,000,000. Now they cannot get any wheat at any price. The dairymen have informed him that they need at least £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 a year or more than they are receiving now in order to check the decline of production. That is what I told the honorable gentleman myself in the House recently. The Minister knows very little about the industry. He had no experience of .what happened in 1928 and 1929, when the price of butter, both in Great Britain and in Australia, was higher than it is to-day as the result of adequate organization and protection. There was a tremendous stimulation of dairy production during the regimes of the Bruce-Page Government and the Lyons Government. Production rose from about 100,000 tons in 1920 -to 200,000 tons annually. The number of dairy cows was approximately doubled in 20 years, and the number of men engaged in the industry increased from 70,000 to 120,000. The amount of money invested in it was more than doubled, and that is the surest sign of an industry’s prosperity. This Government did not help the industry at all relatively to the rise in its costs. It merely gave dribs and drabs of subsidies, with the result that there was a steady decline of production from 213,000 tons to; 140’,000 tons annually in less than five years.. Common, sense and his OWL experience of life should warn the Minister that it is more difficult to arrest a sharp decline of production than to maintain an industry on an even keel. Butter production has decreased by 70,000 tons » year, representing over 30 per cent, of the annual output five years ago, for the simple reason that it is now an uneconomic industry. It is not in the same category as beef production, vegetablegrowing, or any other primary industry, and it is certainly not in- the same class as secondary industries. Whatever might have been needed to stabilize the industry three years ago would not represent more than one-fourth of what is needed for thapurpose to-day. The dairying industry should be placed in as secure a position as any other industry, whether it h primary or secondary. I hope that when the Government receives the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner’s report and recommendations on the industry, even though the Treasurer (M.r. Chifley) may balk, honorable members opposite who represent rural electorates will insist that they be adopted in entirety. Ir. would . be worse than foolish to continue playing about by giving £1,000,000 here or £1,000,000 there when abour £14,000,000 is needed altogether. The Government proposes to give away millions of pounds for free medicine and free hospital accommodation. Instead of providing free hospital accommodation it should build new hospitals, which are badly needed. It intend? to throw away’ about £13,000,000 or £14,000,000 on” this scheme, when thar. amount would be sufficient to put the dairying industry on its feet again. The Minister does not seem to know anything about the progress that was made step by step after the last war to bring abou a thorough organization of the industry by governments with which I was associated. A Dairy Produce Board wab appointed, the Paterson, plan, under which a protective duty of 6d. per lb. was imposed on foreign butter was introduced and. other plans were implemented and the industry was established on a sound foundation. The Minister ought. 10 study the history ‘ of that development. His attitude to the rural industry is completely wrong. I believe that as a member of the Opposition he voted against the imposition of the flour tax, which was levied for the purpose of ensuring the home-consumption price of wheat. He must have a very poor memory if he does not recall how the Labour party, in all hypocrisy, opposed thattax, and all homeconsumption prices for primary products while supporting high tariffs for industrial items. It said that it believed in the establishment of a Commonwealth wheat pool for the purpose of increasing the price of wheat, but it opposed the only method that could be used by Parliament to keep down the price of bread, which was one of the best means of ensuring stability of the basic wage and helping the workers, and it opposed the referendum to alter section 92 of the Constitution. Every representative of the Labour party in this chamber fought day and night against the establishment of a home-consumption price for wheat.
-We did nothing of the kind.
– What I say is absolutely true. I can produce records to show that the Minister voted against the proposal. Every time the establishment of a fair home-consumption pricehas been mentioned honorable members opposite have shied away like a colt from the bridle. I shall outline the story of this Government’s treatment of the wheat industry. The Minister has been in office for three and a half years. At the beginning of his first year of office, under the influence of the previous Government’s policy, the marketable crop totalled 153,000,000 bushels. Next year, while that influence still had some effect, the crop totalled 142,000,000 bushels. In the following year it. dropped to 100,000,000 bushels, and this year it has fallen as low as 38,000,000 bushels. What a shocking decline ! What I have said about the production of butter is equally applicable to the wheat industry. In order to induce wheat-farmers to resume normal production, the Government must guarantee a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, and slop talking about the avariciousness of the wheat-farmer. When these men approach the Government, under a burden of debt, to seek assistance they are told, in effect, “ You must not he avaricious. You must, not get a. living wage. If you cannot make a living at 4s. a bushel for wheat, the industry ought to go out, of production “. Yet this is the Government that talks about giving higher wages and better conditions to the workers in secondary industries. The wheat industry, the dairying industry and the wool industry must not be allowed to die. Their only chance of survival is to obtain a fair deal by the Government.
– Oh, stop talking!
– I feel as strongly about the primary producers as the honorable member does about the coalminers. In the district where I live there are people living in rural slums without a water supply, electric light or telephones, while Ministers and their supporters laugh and say that they do not need better conditions. My blood boils and I am ashamed to be associated with a Parliament that permits such injustices to continue. The Government stands idly by and throws away millions of pounds for this purpose or that purpose, and decides that men at Port Kembla should be paid for a holiday which they had no right -to take under the law. Yet, when anybody suggests establishing a fair price for butter, wheat, poultry or pggs, it says, “ No, we cannot afford that “. I repeat that the Government has a. duty to the producers and consumers of primary products. It should, at the earliest opportunity, send a representative to Great Britain to see what, has been done in that country by means of adequate subsidies to enable the producers to operate economically, and at the same time give satisfaction to consumers. The sooner that is done the better it will be for all.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to8 p.m.
. -The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) complained that the motion under discussion was political propaganda. That sounds well from- the mouths of my friends opposite, who, for the last three weeks, have taken up the dme of tb is House with two bills, one dealing with, re-establishment and employment and the other with the Commonwealth Bank, neither of which makes a substantial contribution towards the solution of the great problems that confront this country. The Reestablishment and Employment Bill certainly promised great things. When I listened to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) make his second-reading speech - upon which I congratulate him, because its relation to the bill was remote - 1 thought that there was something in the measure, and that what it did was to give to ex-servicemen preference in employment. That would have been a great contribution towards the ^solution of those post-war problems about which we have heard so much from honorable gentlemen opposite. But of course it does nothing of the sort. The Minister, in his reply to the criticisms of honorable members on this side of the House, complained bitterly that whilst the bill had eleven parts, its critics had concentrated their criticism on one part, leaving the other ten parts - which simply reeked with everything that was good - severely alone. He said, as to preference, that it was a matter bristling with difficulties. One gathered from what he did not say, that the more we said about the difficulties and the less about preference the better; because preference would function only if there were full employment for everybody. But if there were full employment for everybody, preference would lose its meaning, and no doubt we should hear the tramp of the organized workers of this country as they came to this Parliament to say that they no longer required preference to unionists, because employment had been provided for everybody. As to the Commonwealth Bank Bill, one will have something to say at the proper time. But what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said to-day was itself ‘ sufficient to condemn it for it may be dismissed in a few words as a measure that relates to existing conditions, and it will not function until the war is over.
The Leader of the Opposition, among other things, drew the attention of the House to the subject of housing. Surely that can hardly be regarded as political propaganda ! The need for houses is acute. We were told by the Acting Prime Minister that the reason for the shortage of houses is the shortage of man-power. The real question that has to be considered is, the distribution of that man-power. It is claimed. - and I think we may fairly say that it is a fact - that at least 100,000 men who to-day are in uniform might be profitably released from military service and made available for housing construction, for work on the land, and for a thousand and one other things which are crying out for man-power.
T leave that matter, and turn for a moment to the industrial situation, which naturally claims attention in this House. I do not intend to deal with it other than in a very general way. There was onsstatement of the Acting Prime Minister, about which I should say a word. He said that the right to strike is one that the workers will never surrender. I have said a good deal about that, myself. Bui 1 point out that, with the introduction of the system of arbitration as a means for settling industrial disputes, the right to strike, if it ever existed, disappeared. As my friend the honorable member foi Warringah (Mr. Spender) said, we believe in the rule of law. Democracy is built upon the assumption that the people decide who shall govern them, and by what manner of law they shall be governed; and we cannot concede to any section of the community the right te flout, to ignore, to defy, the law. The right of a union to strike, or to ignore oi defy the law, is no greater than the right of any citizen to take the law into his own hands, or to ignore or defy it. J who say this have had as much to do with unionism as any man in this House. I have fought for the unions in the Arbitration Court, and before that court came into existence. When an agreement was made, I insisted that it should be honoured. When an award has been given by the court, that is the law, and I have stood firmly for submission to it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) permitted himself some freedom in the use of a mas.’ of statistics. He was very careful tr. point out that those statistics had been prepared by men of the highest qualifications. No doubt they were. But * thi periods covered by them were certainly determined by the Minister. He said, among other things, that during the regime of one of the governments that I led, the output was substantially lower than in the preceding and subsequent periods. The period quoted by the honorable gentleman included a period in which I was the head of the Parliamentary Labour party. The lowest output of any year during the last war was a year in which that party was in office. [ find that in the year 1915 the output was 11,412,000 tons, and in the year 1916 it was 9,S09,000 tons. A Labour government was in office during those two years. I was the Prime Minister, and the head of the Parliamentary Labour party. I accept full responsibility for everything done by the Government during these two years, but I accept it as the head of that party. If coal production fell, that was because of circumstances over which, presumably, the party had no control. I find, however, that in the period of eight years during which I was Prime Minister, the average output of coal was 11,300,000 tons per annum. “With an average population of 5,000,000, and with few, if any, machine-cutters in operation in mines, I consider that a good average output.
There is only one more word that I want to say before turning to the matter upon which I shall speak at some length. The Acting Prime Minister would have us believe that Communism plays a very small part in the life of this country. He did not state the position as it really is. Labour may say what it likes, but Communism is the “ old man of the sea “ around the neck of the party. It has white-anted its organization. It has obtained control of many of the great industrial unions to which political Labour does obeisance. No longer is it true that political Labour runs the country. The industrialists run political Labour, which in turn runs the country.
I turn now to a matter of first importance. The motion which the Acting Prime Minister stigmatized as political propaganda gives to the Parliament an opportunity hitherto denied to it to express its opinion on certain matters of vital importance to Australia.
There is an uneasy feeling in the country that Australia is being, or may be, committed to the support of measures that are incompatible with its national status, its traditional policy, and its economic interests and this without any compensatory guarantee of security against aggression.
A conference is being held at San Francisco, at which Australia is represented by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). The conference is grappling with great problems, all relating more or less intimately to the preservation of world peace. I shall not deal with these matters, except as they directly affect Australia, and in particular the territories over which it was given a mandate after the last war. Australia is, of course, vitally interested in the preservation of world peace and its own security from aggression. From what we can gather from press report.and such other channels as are open to us, the preservation of peace is to be entrusted to a Security Council composed of representatives of nations, great and small, which for all practical purposes will be similar to the Assembly of the League of Nations, and a smaller body corresponding to the Council of the League - composed of representatives of the great powers, Great Britain, the United States of America, Russia, China and France. Whether this Security Council should have a right of veto on any dispute submitted to the general council has been, and, according to latest reports, still is, under discussion. The Minister for External Affairs is strongly opposed to this veto. About that I feel incompetent to offer a useful opinion, but in the light of all that has happened, one thing seems clear : world peace cannot be preserved without adequate forces at the direct, and immediate disposal of the peace-loving nations. The will to peace and the means of preventing aggression are essential to the prevention of war. This war need not have happened. It would have been very easy to prevent it. When German troops marched into the Rhineland, France and Great Britain could have sent them reeling back. The force necessary was ready to march at the word of command. but the word was not given and this war came about. The preservation of peace depends, not upon any machinery that the Conference may devise, but upon the cordial co-operation of Great Britain, America and Russia, and the other great powers.
Turning to the consideration of what one knows as mandates, I am much concerned about the manner in which it has been discussed at the San Francisco conference. It would appear from a paper prepared by the Minister for External Affairs that the conference has been invited to consider mandates in general, and to dispose of the territories hitherto held under mandates from the League of Nations and other exenemy possessions in such ways as it may think fit. I cannot dismiss from my mind the impression that what has happened is that the conference has been invited by the Australian delegates to deal with the Australian mandate in a way which is incompatible with our status and the relations that exist between the mandated territory and the Commonwealth of Australia. As one who was responsible for this mandate in its present form, I may be permitted to remind the House and the country of the circumstances in which it was granted. Honorable members know the geographical circumstances of Australia and the group of islands covered by the mandate. They know very well that the security of Australia cannot be guaranteed unless the territory of New Guinea be controlled by Australia itself, or by some friendly power upon which it can depend for protection. The circumstances of what are known as the C class mandates are entirely different from those of the A and the B class mandates. The latter cover people more advanced than those of New Guinea, who are a primitive race, far removed from that state of culture that would permit of their exercising the rights of self-government.
When this matter was discussed in London, before the peace treaty .came before the powers, the Imperial Cabinet decided that these islands, which were given to us later under mandate, should, fall under the sovereign jurisdiction of Australia. It was with this assurance that we went to Paris. There, President Wilson, upon whose fourteen points peace was made, insisted that there should be no annexations and no indemnities. After a long and somewhat heated discussion, a compromise was arrived at, in which the indemnities became reparations, and annexations were styled mandates. As time went on, President Wilson insisted that no mandates should be granted to any country until a plebiscite had been taken of its people. When it was pointed out that in the case of New Guinea that was quite impossible, he very reluctantly agreed to the mandate over New Guinea being granted to Australia. In the fight for this mandate we had very few supporters, but in the end we obtained a C class mandate, which gives the mandatory power the same rights over the mandated territory as it has over its own country. The mandate was, however, subject to three conditions First, that we should not fortify th* territory, secondly, that we should noi permit the sale of firearms to the natives, and thirdly, we should not allow them to have access to alcoholic liquor. For 25 years Australia has been the mandatory power with respect to New Guinea, and we have no reason to apologize for our administration. The condition precedent to our obtaining the mandate “ that thf interests of the natives should bt our first care “ has been faithfully observed. Under the administration of Australia the natives have received every consideration. Their health, their economic condition and their well-being generally have been the first care of the Government of this country.
At the time the question of mandates was being considered, a motion was submitted for inclusion in the Covenant of the League in favour of what is known as the “ racial equality clause “. It was s clause which permitted the nationals of every country which was a member of the league to enter freely into the territories of every other member. That would have enabled the Japanese to come freely into New Guinea and into Australia. When I remind honorable members that this racial equality motion- was carried in the covenant committee by sixteen votes to five, they will realize that we have indeed had a very narrow escape. I think that I am entitled to say that had I not taken the steps which I did, the motion would have been included in the covenant. Australia was geographically remote, and its circumstances were not known to the people of the world. Our White Australia policy meant less than nothing to the majority of the delegates to the Peace Conference, most of whom were opposed to it. On the following day, when the minutes were read of the proceedings of the Covenant Committee of the League of Nations, the Japanese delegate said, “Well, Mr. President, that means that the resolution has been adopted, and will be included in the Covenant”. President Wilson replied, “ No, it has been lost, because there would have to be unanimity before it could be included”. By the grace of God the war did not find us with our country infiltrated by Japanese, and with hundreds of thousands of them in” New Guinea. In view of what happened at that time, I am naturally concerned about what is happening now in San Francisco when I note that Dr. Evatt has issued an open invitation to the council to deal with our mandate over New Guinea, as it thinks fit; to decide whether we should retain it, or whether it should be given to some other country. That is no way in which to approach this matter. These territories are, to all practical purposes, as much a part of Australia, as if they were attached geographically to this country. We cannot contemplate for a moment handing over New Guinea to any trustee other than ourselves. I am entirely in favour of giving the trusteeship over certain of the Pacific Islands to friendly powers, but we cannot allow the main territory of New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland and adjacent island? to pass out of our control, and Dr. Evatt should be told so much without a moment’s delay. I welcome this opportunity to ventilate the matter, and to tell the people of Australia just what is involved. The San Francisco Conference is formulating measures to preserve the peace of the world. Twenty-five years ago the Paris Conference, after long discussion, agreed upon a plan which it believed would ensure world peace, but war again broke out and another war may follow this one. We must see to it that we are not less advantageously placed in the next war than we were in this. We cannot for a moment entertain the idea of inviting powers, which know nothing of the circumstances of Australia, to decide whom they will appoint as the mandatory power in New Guinea. We dare not, for our own safety, allow these territories to pass out of our control. The Government should make this point quite clear to Dr. Evatt, and take such steps as are necessary to ensure that he, and all the world, will know where Australia stands in this matter.
– The motion which the House is now discussing has been called a censure motion, but it must be obvious to the Opposition that it has no chance of having the motion carried. Moreover, members of the Opposition have had ample opportunity before this to say everything they wanted to say in condemnation of the Government, so it is evident that their real purpose is to delay the passage of the banking legislation. They are earning their fee? from the private banks. They also deliberately stone-walled the Reestablishment and Employment Bill, not because they really wished to oppose it, but because they wanted to delay its passage and, in turn, the passage of the banking legislation which their financial backers fear so much.
Let us examine some of the reckless statements of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). In the course of this debate, they have deliberately misrepresented and maligned a man who is not present in Parliament to defend himself. They condemned the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) for making statements against a person who was not a member of this .House, and could not defend himself against the charges. Now. they themselves have been guilty of that very offence. They deliberately maligned a respected member of the trade union movement by taking out of its context part of a statement he is alleged to have made.
Thi’ Government is charged with -.failing to deal adequately with the rising tide of industrial lawlessness. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. .Hughes) said that, in 1916, when he was Leader of a Labour government, there was a record low production of coal in Australia. Knowing the right honorable gentleman as we do, we are not surprised that he failed to obtain continuous production of coal when he led the Government. However, in 1942, when there was in power a Labour Government in the real sense of the term, there was a record production of coal. Never in any year has more coal been produced in Australia, yet that was the year in which honorable members opposite were charging the Government with appeasing the trade unions,- and with failing to ileal effectively with those who broke the law. They were urging the Government to apply strictly Statutory Rule 77, and other penal provisions. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) went down a coal-mine for one day, and the mine, which had worked continuously for years up to that time, ceased production because of industrial unrest brought about, by ‘his interference. Honorable members opposite charge the Communists with stirring up industrial trouble. Perhaps they believe that attack is the best defence. For my part, I believe that many of these strikes are political in origin, being fomented and encouraged by members of the Liberal party in an attempt to destroy the Government. T am amazed at the suddenness with which honorable members opposite have become champions of the trade unions. One of the new champions is the honorable member for Wentwortb. What union, I ask, was he ever a member of? Why, they would not even admit him to the English Speaking Union. Now he claims that the workers must be taught to respect the law, and he charges the Government with being weak and spineless. This is the same gentleman who was a member of the New Guard. Was that a democratic organization? Was it formed for the purpose of upholding democratic government and the proper observance of the law? Not at all. The New Guard even had bashers, who went to the homes of trade unionists to beat them up, so that a dictatorship might be set up when the Labour Government of New South Wales had been destroyed. His friend and leader, Mr. Eric Campbell, actually armed his supporters. They were prepared to cause bloodshed in their defiance of the will of the people. Now, the honorable member for Wentworth, who was a member of that organization, suddenly becomes a champion of law and order. He also made himself the champion of the mis-named Australia First movement, a disloyal and disruptive organization. The members of that organization were accused of acting contrary to the interests of the country in time of war, and of preparing to aid the enemy should he land in Australia. The honorable member for Wentworth came out violently in their defence and claimed that they should be given a fair trial, although he knew that the Labour Government was determined to ensure that every one was treated fairly. As a matter of fact, the members of the Australia First movement were given every opportunity to clear themselves.
The. Leader of the Opposition has also set himself up as a defender of the law. He ought to defend it - he has made enough out of it. When a royal commission was set. up to inquire into the ramifications of the major oil companies, which were charged with evading taxation, the right honorable gentleman accepted a brief to defend them. Did he say, when he was collecting his big fees, that the law of the country would have to be observed? He did not. He is a very subtle lawyer, and he advised the oil companies that they were not obliged to produce their books before the royal commission. On his advice, they refused to do so, and their action was upheld, so that the inquiry was abortive. He has used his skill in law, not to uphold the law, but to assist those who seek to evade it. However, he does not apply his talents for those in the lower grades of society, because they cannot pay the big fees which he demands and collects.
Let us recall what happened in connexion with the strike at the factory of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited. If ever there was a political strike, that was one. I am convinced that the United Australia party, now called the Liberal party, fomented that strike, which stopped production for 58 days at an important munitions establishment. The strike was caused through ten nonunionists refusing to join the union, and those honorable gentlemen opposite, who to-day pose as champions of unionism, defended the ten persons who, by their refusal to join the union, held up the production of war materials. One of the strikers was Mrs. Cassidy, and we were told how she had made a great personal sacrifice in order to take up war work. As a matter of fact, when she went into the factory, she engaged a maid to do her work at home, so there was no benefit to the country at all. She was the instrument used by the United Australia party to cause a stoppage of work at the factory. Mr. Cassidy, K.C., the husband of this woman, is a prominent member of the organization now known as the Liberal party, and a friend of the honorable member for “Wentworth. They have been manceuvring to cause strikes in order to embarrass the Labour Government. The Strike to which I have referred lasted for 58 working days, at a time when this country was in need of a maximum war production. About 850 people were out of work during that period, and because the Department of Labour and National Service, of which I was then the Minister, thought that it was better to lose ten non-unionists who would not abide by the decision of the majority, than to keep nearly 900 workers out of production, honorable gentlemen opposite talked glibly about the right of people to determine whether they will, or will not, join a union.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour party was dominated by Communists who, he went on to say, had a discreditable war record. I agree with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that such a statement will not help Australia in its international discussions, because, whatever else might be said, the country which has accepted Communism as its form of government - I refer to Russia - was one of the greatest factors in bringing about the defeat of German Nazi-ism. What were the slurring references made to Russia? The right honorable gentleman said that Russia was brought into the war by the German attack. He endeavoured to create the impression that had there been no German attack on Russia, the Soviet Union would not have been at war on the side of the United Nations. Any one who has studied world affairs knows that it was because the Soviet was withholding supplies which Germany urgently needed on its western front that the Germans were compelled to attack Russia in the east. It was Russia’s own act, not the attack on Russia by Germany, which brought the Soviet into the war with the result that the war in Europe is over. We are all relieved that that is so. 3 remember that when Marshal Stalin, Mr. Churchill and the late President Roosevelt decided to-open a second front in Europe - action which they regarded as absolutely necessary to bring about the collapse of Germany - honorable gentlemen opposite tried to belittle what they had determined upon, ‘ saying that it was almost impracticable and fraught with great danger. We remember, too, that when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he was a party to the closing of the Burma Road, along which our Chinese allies were then getting supplies. Now he wants to take credit for what has been accomplished in the successful defence nf Australia by saying that the Curtin Labour Government has built upon the solid foundation laid by his Government. It is well known that the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues when they were in government were defeatists in their outloook, and by their incompetence left this country so defenceless that there were not enough rifles, let alone other equipment, to supply the men who were to defend Australia. They accepted as necessary a military strategy that meant the sacrifice of a large section of Australian territory to the Japanese; they would have abandoned Western Australia and would not have made any provision for the evacuation of its people. Their policy was to try to defend the populous cities in the south. I well remember that when the people of this country were expressing great sorrow at the sufferings of Australian prisoners of war, the Leader of the Opposition was attending a school of political science at Canberra, and talking about the necessity of having a prosperous Japan and Germany after the war. When he talked about prosperity in those countries, he did not mean prosperity for their workers. The Leader of the Opposition and others prior to the outbreak of war were loud in their praise of Nazi-ism and what it stood for. In discussing the banking legislation the Opposition have suggested that the objective of the Government is the same as that of the Communists. It is true that for a long time the- Labour party has had as its objective the establishment of socialism in this country, but has never at any time approved Communist party doctrines or methods. Every Labour man who has ever held radical opinions has at one time or another been accused of having Communist leanings. But let me get back to the dispute which the honorable member for Wentworth mentioned. Referring to Mr. Anderson, the Leader of the Opposition said -
A more recent example of government surrender to lawlessness is to be found in to-day’s report of Judge O’Mara’s judgment in the Ship Joiners Union case. . . Most of that astonishing case has a special relevance to the insolent tyranny of the Communists in this country, but it is remarkable that one Anderson, according to the uncontradicted evidence before the court, said: “We do not recognize the law. If it is taken to the Privy Council we will still be prepared to smash the Ship Joiners Union. Should I bc gaoled there will be some one to take my place. We take no notice of the court. We can control the Government and wreck it. We arc not worried about the law.”
He went on to say -
Is it lawful in this country for union officials to incite their members to breaches of the Commonwealth law? If the Crown Law officers advise that it is. then any self-respecting government should promptly alter the law. If the Crown Law officers advise that it is not, when will the Government take its courage - I will not say in both hands, because one hand would be more than sufficient - and prosecute?
I took that note of what the right honorable gentleman said while he was speaking. His remarks were repeated by the honorable member for Wentworth, although in slightly different words ; both made the same charge against Mr. Anderson. During the dinner adjournment I got in touch with Mr. Guy
Anderson, in order to ascertain the facts. If we accepted the statements made by Opposition leaders we would form the impression that this man was inciting people to defy the law, or the decisions of the court. Here is Mr. Anderson’s statement -
On a visit to the Adelaide Steamship Company’s Works, at Balmain, in an endeavour to persuade the nien there to become members of the Building Workers Industrial Union, I was attacked concerning the affiliation of the Ship Joiners Union to the Labour Council.
In the course of discussion it was stated that if the appeal of the court was upheld, the Labour Council would have to grant affiliation to the Ship Joiners Union.
In reply, I stated that there was no law compelling the Labour Council to grant affiliation to the Ship Joiners Union or any other organization that was not approved by the trade union movement, or functioning in the interests of the trade union movement.
The mcn stated that they would take the matter to the High Court and we would be compelled to grant them affiliation. I then stated that it would not matter if they took it to the Privy Council, it would not make any difference, as there was no law governing admission to membership of the Labour Council, excepting the rules of the council.
I was asked: “Don’t YOU recognize the law?” I replied that in regard to membership of the Labour Council there was no law to lie recognized excepting the rules of the council.
These matters have been deliberately misinterpreted by partisans of the Ship Joiners Union, either through ignorance or design.
No meeting actually took place at that time, but I went to the joiners’ shop and four men were sitting around a table playing cards. 1 began to address them when two other men approached, one of whom (Shaw) gave evidence; and the other man I think was named Harrison. He also gave evidence. Neither of these men were present during the whole of the time I was speaking, but only part of the time. The only other person present ‘besides those six men was Mr. G. Stevens of the Building Workers Industrial Union.
On the way to the joiners’ shop, we spoke to the shop delegate of the Ship Joiners Union (I think his name is Harrison). We asked him where we would find the joiners and he told us he did not know.
As far as I am concerned that is all that lias happened at the Adelaide Steamship Company.
T never at any time stated that I did not recognize the law or that we could make or wreck the Government; what I did say was that in regard to affiliation with the Labour Council, there was no law to compel us to grant admission to any union, and until such a law was in existence we only recognized the rules of the Labour Council.
That shows clearly and conclusively that in order to injure a responsible member of the trade union movement the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy deliberately took words out of their context. They tried to make it appear that here was another instance of defiance of law and order. It must he evident to honorable members and the people of Australia generally the game that the Opposition is playing. In the darkest days of the war, when they were afraid for their skins, Opposition members were prepared to do something for the defence of this country by leaving the job to the only Government capable of doing it. They were prepared for the most part to withhold their criticism of the Government. At that time, regulations which imposed restrictions on the people in the interests of the defence of the country were not challenged. But now that, the threat of invasion has passed, and they believe that they are safe, they display their bias against the Labour party. And so we find that to-day, when the immediate risk of invasion has passed but while the war in the Pacific has still to be won and thousands of Australian workers are still sacrificing their lives to secure victory, every action of the Labour Government is challenged.
Another phase of the censure motion has to do with the United Nations Conference on International Organization now being held at San Francisco. The Leader of the Opposition seems to be greatly disturbed because on some questions Australia appears to be out of step with Great Britain. Does he suggest that we must follow Great Britain whatever Great, Britain does? If Australia had to agree to everything that Great Britain decided, and had to vote as Great Britain dictated, there would have been no need to send Australian delegates to the conference. In many matters, Australia’s views may differ from those of Great Britain. That being so, Australia has every right as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations to express those views at an international conference. What are Opposition members afraid of? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) wants information as to what has been said by members of the Australian delegation at San Francisco. He wants to know what attitude they have adopted, and what is meant by trusteeship of dependent territories. Listening to theright honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), one would imaginethat he is afraid that New Guinea might be included in some form of trustee control and that that would necessarily be a terrible thing for the natives. Without going into detail, I tell the Housethat in the Bulolo Valley of New Guinea, where a. gold-mining company was making enormous profits before the war, thenatives were paid only 5s. a month, plus rations. That is the state of affairs that existed there; yet honorable members, opposite profess to be concerned as to. what might happen to the natives in thefuture. In Papua, the wage for natives, ranged from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a month. Honorable members opposite are disturbed because they fear that a Labour Government will make plans for NewGuinea which will have an adverse effect upon the profits of private commercial undertakings. They are afraid that thenatives of New Guinea and Papua will get proper treatment and protection from the Labour Government, and will no longer be exploited by commercial interests. It is rather peculiar that when the great nations, or powers, meet to lay down what should be done when the war is over they want a pooling of the resources of every territory but those controlled by themselves. Conservative elements here and in Britain are afraid, that British interests in India will, in some way, become affected by any change of control or supervision. All I can say about that is that there is a great need for improvement of the conditions of the Indian people. It is our moral duty to do all we can to lift the conditions of all the peoples of the world, regardless of nations or flags. That is what the Leader of the Opposition fears may result from the present international discussions. Another point made by the right honorable gentleman was in respect of the Government’s policy of full employment. It was interesting, and I was pleased to hear what he had to say. He said that the Government, by its advocacy, through its delegates at the San Francisco conference, of full employment, was defying the people’s will expressed at the last referendum. Did any one ever hear anything more ridiculous? If the people had known that the questions upon which they were asked to vote meant giving this Government power to implement a full employment policy, I know what their answer would have been. The right honorable gentleman now says, “ We opposed the referendum, and the people supported the view we expressed. That means that this Government cannot proceed with the policy of full employment”. Then he said that our representatives at San Francisco were trying to get . through the back door in order to defeat the will of the people, as if the people were not anxious for a policy of full employment. He said that the way in which the Government could get round the rejection of the proposal for a transfer of powers to the Commonwealth was by exercise of the external affairs powers of the Constitution. It could ratify an international agreement providing for full employment, shorter working hours, indeed, anything at all, and, thereby, implement a policy which the people had paid that it could not implement. I hope that his opinion is a correct statement of the legal position, because I realize the possibility of difficulties arising for the Government because of its limited constitutional powers. It would be a great thing for the people if, by making and then ratifying an agreement with, say, Now Zealand, which is not far distant, we could make it possible for the implementation of a full employment policy here. The right honorable gentleman said that that was a domestic matter, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) agreed. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Richmond would give our men plenty of work. Our complaint against him is that judged from information received affecting him as an employer he would give them very little pay. We want to give the workers good wages and satisfactory industrial conditions. The people of Australia must be fully aware by now of what lies in store for them if the Opposition regains power, for its members either do not believe in full employment as a policy or believe that it is impracticable of accomplishment. In any case, they apparently expect that there will be a large army of unemployed in this country following the conclusion of the war, and it looks to me as if that is exactly what they hope for. A reservoir of idle man-power has always proved of great value to unscrupulous employers when attacking the wage and living standards of the workers. So I have no apprehensions that the Government may be displaced at the next general elections.
The Opposition has said that we have not allowed free and open discussion of important matters in this Parliament. I have a record of what the anti-Labour parties did when they were in power. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), whom I heard making an appeal for the right to free discussion in this Parliament, spoke with his tongue in his cheek, because he played a prominent part in stifling discussion in previous parliaments. When the Estimates for 1935-36 were under discussion the then honorable member for Cook. Mr. J. Garden, spoke for four minutes, and the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, moved the gag. The right honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) spoke for ten minutes and the gag was applied, again by the Treasurer. Discussion on the proposed vote for the Treasury was then gagged. Proceedings up to that stage had taken only one hour. On the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior,I spoke for two minutes.
– Too long!
– Well, in that two minutes I said things which the then Government did not relish. The gag was then applied. No discussion was allowed on the proposed vote for the Department for Defence. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) spoke for one minute on the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs before the gag was applied by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) spoke for three minutes on the proposed vote for the Department of Health before the gag was applied by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). On the Department of Commerce, the then honorable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Green, was gagged after having spoken for one minute, this time by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He moved the gag on a number of occasions during the consideration of those estimates. The honorable member for Balaclava excelled himself by gagging all the discussion on the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation BDI. Probably he remembers it. So it must be evident that honorable gentlemen opposite, hoping that the past has been forgotten, and now finding themselves in a minority in this chamber, are squealing because this Government insists on getting on with its job. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) expressed his regret that the Leader of the Opposition had cast reflections upon the Australian war effort. The Opposition should keep well in mind that we could not have had a war effort of any sort without the co-operation and assistance of the trade union movement. If it had been left to those decriers of trade unions and employers of sweated labour who resent the growth of unionism and every approach made to better the conditions of the workers, to make a war effort, we should have been in sorry straits now. The “ old women “ of the various women’s organizations associated with the Opposition parties who, over their afternoon-teacups, criticize the workers who produce the munitions and make the waging of war possible, have no reason to feel complacent about what they themselves have done in this war. But let us hear what has happened elsewhere. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, has had his troubles too. On the 2nd January last, the Sydney Sun contained the following cablegram from London : -
More time and production were lost through strikes last year than in any of the past twelve years, says a Labour Ministry report.
By the end of November more than 3,(148.000 days bad been lost in the year, involving more than 500,000 workers in 2,000 strikes.”
Disputes caused a loss of 2.446.000 working days in the coal-mining industry, . compared, with 824,000 days in 1943.
That occurred in Great Britain where the Prime Minister is a Conservative and a man whom all Opposition parties support and applaud. “When Lord Gowrie was travelling through America, on his return to the United Kingdom after the completion of his term as GovernorGeneral of Australia, he said -
Evidences pf industrial unrest are all on the surface, and have not really touched the heart of Australia’s war effort.
People who are not politically tied as are honorable gentlemen opposite have stated what is now known to the world, namely,, that the Australian workers and the trade union movement have nothing to be ashamed of in respect to their record of service in this war.
.- If any reason were required for the industrial unrest that permeates the Australian community, it was demonstrated iu the speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), whose irresponsibility contrasts strangely with his position as a responsible Minister of the Crown. His speech would incite and encourage every law-breaker in this country. It also demonstrated why his colleagues tremble when he rises to speak and why his Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is in ill health. The utterances we have heard to-night from the honorable gentleman are not dissimilar to his previous speeches. Every time he rises, we hear the same things about the Burma Road, the Opposition being in the pay of the banks, “ the Brisbane line “, and exploitation of the New Guinea natives. It is the same old speech every time. He must practise it in front of a mirror each night when he goes home. I hope that one day he will display a little originality, be a little constructive, and show some loyalty to his colleagues, most of whom, I believe, are genuinely trying to do a good job. I did not intend to devote my speech to answering the honorable gentleman, hut I must answer a few of his scurrilous statements. First, he attacked’ the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for having, in the practice of his profession, advised certain, clients, notably the Shell Oil Company I believe, the honorable membersaid, to take certain advantages of the law before a royal commission. Who has taken more advantage of the law before a royal, commission than the honorable gentleman himself,, who ran away from, a probe by a royal commission ? Using, the privileges of this House, he refused to give evidence or be cross-examined. This man, who has the audacity to come into this House and attack decent men, was yellow to the bottom of his boots when he had to face a royal commission. He then challenged the right of the Leader of the Opposition to criticize Guy Anderson, apparently his friend, because that gentleman was not here to defend himself. Yet, in the next breath, he attacked Mrs. Cassidy, who, he said, had employed a domestic servant to take her place while she went with others into the factory of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited to incite a strike. What were the facts of that strike? Mrs. Cassidy and several other individuals had demands served upon them to join the Ironworkers Union. There is no law in this country, so far as I am aware, that required them to join a union, but because “ Ernie “ Thornton and “ Jock “ Garden, the henchmen of the. honorable member, who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, demanded that they either join the union or be thrown out of the factory, or words to that effect, and they refused, 900 ironworkers In “ Ernie “ Thornton’s union went on strike. The honorable member has the temerity to accuse Mrs. Cassidy and other law-abiding citizens of having provoked that strike. He says, “I as “Minister for Labour and National Service then took the course of settling this strike which was a provoked political strike by the United Australia party”. Is it any wonder that there is disrespect for the law in this country by the industrial section when we have individuals such as the honorable gentleman at the table refusing to enforce the law? But I must apologize to the Minister. I must retrace my steps a little. I forgot that there are times when the Minister does desire to see that the law is observed, and that those who break the law pay the appropriate penalty. There were fifteen Geelong school boys who tried to get back to school - boys of fourteen “and fifteen years, one of them the son of a Governor. They had been home for their school holidays in Sydney, and desired to get back to Victoria to school; and the Minister declared in this House that he was going to en force the law against them. It so happens, in view of a decision given by the High Court yesterday, that had he taken the matter to court he would have come off second best. The Minister then went on to talk about the Ship Joiners Union and the Building Workers Industrial Union strike. He was so perturbed about what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said this morning about his friend Mr. Guy Anderson, who provoked the strike, that he immediately telephoned Mr. Anderson to find out whether he really did make the heinous statements attributed to him; and, according to the Minister, Mr. Anderson said that the statement attributed to him was not quite in accordance with what he did say. But Mr. Anderson was not game to go into court and submitto cross examination. He merely gives a statement to the Minister for Transport. It might be well to say something about the Ship Joiners Union. Its members are good, honest working men, who are not bosses’ stooges, but tradesmen, principally carpenters who work on ships. They decided to form themselves into a union separate from the Building Workers Industrial Union because they claimed that they were skilled craftsmen They are ships’ carpenters and joiners. They numbered 400, and they desired to form a small craft union of their own , but the Building Workers Industrial Union which is believed to be controlled by Communists, desires to encompass them completely. These men were sufficiently strong to form their own craft union, and it is to destroy their organization and deny them the right to form their own union - not a black leg union accepting lower wages, or longer hours, or worse conditions of employment than other unions, but a craft union, desirous of pursuing its own destiny - that the Minister for Transport stands behind Mr. Guy Anderson.
Now, let us examine the Minister’s story about our having no rifles in this country when Australia was in danger of invasion. Perhaps, it might break the Minister’s heart to know that the great bulk of the rifles which we did possess were sent to Great Britain when the Mother Country had lost most of its equipment at Dunkirk. It was Australian rifles and millions of rounds of Australian ammunition fired from Spitfires which enabled Great Britain in 1940 to win the Battle of Britain. That needs to be said to gentlemen like the Minister for Transport who is all the time asking where our rifles were, and why we were not in a better position when Japan came into the war. At that time Australian troops were fighting in the Middle East and Syria, and we linked up with Great Britain in sending troops to Greece and Crete, even though the campaigns in Greece and Crete were military disasters. If the Minister, and the Government of which he is a member, had been in office when war broke out, there would not have been a single member of the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East to uphold Australia’s honour there.
– We got them’ backto defend New Guinea and Australia.
– To-day is the 31st May, 1945. I shall refresh the Minister’s memory of remarks which he made in this House in November, 1938, about ten months before the outbreak of war. I refer to his speech reported in Hansard. volume 157, page 1149. This is what he said whenhe was then speaking about New Guinea -
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To those people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territory they should defend it themselves.
– Read all the speech.
– Those were the remarks of the Minister who now pats himself on the hack and says, “ We defended New Guinea “. And, by some quirk of fate, the Minister is now the Minister for External Territories in control of New Guinea. Really, one has to laugh sometimes at the irony of fate.
– Read some more of that speech ; it was a good one.
– The Minister himself can re-deliver it as he re-delivers his one speech time and time again. I am sure that the House is indebted to the Minister for his revelations as to why Russia came into the war, and as to what Russia’s intentions were all the time. According to him, Russia always “intended to come round our way, but Germany anticipated it before Russia was quite ready.I shall not criticize the Russians, because they have done an amazingly good job. Had it not been for their valour and assistance the result of the war in Europe would probably have been different. But, at the same time, I ask the Minister, who seems to have some knowledge and foresight as to what the Russians proposed to do, “ Why did not. his Communist friends stand behind Australia up to the time that Russia came into the war instead of sabotaging Australia’s war effort?” Right up to June, 1941, the Communists in Australia tried to sprag our war effort; but in June, . 1941, when Russia was attacked, the Communists declared that what was formerly an imperialist war had become a war of the nations.
– We convinced them that they were wrong.
– I do not think the position has altered very much since then. In the interim the Communist party was proscribed’ in this country; but the present Government, when it assumed office, lifted the ban on the party and legalized it, and since that date the Communist party has grown by leaps and bounds. I shall show just what influence the Communist party has, and its potential strength. The acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his speech to-day, declared that the Communists were a negligible force, and did not represent a very big section of the community. He said that there was only one Communist member in any parliament in this country, and one Communist member in the House of Commons. But that is not how the Communists work. We know that they do not strive to get members elected to Parliament. They know that it is impossible for them to do so in the existing circumstances. They prefer, as they are doing at present, and as honorable members opposite know they are doing, to secure control of the trade unions, and thereby control the political organization of the Labour party. And so successful have they been in securing control of the trade unions: that one naturally asks, “ Where do they gel their finance?”, “Why are they so powerful?”. The industrial register of New South Wales shows the membership of unions. According to Mr. J. T. Lang, the following unions are under Communist control: - Bricklayers, Carpenters and Joiners, Clerks, Sydney Boilermakers, Engine Drivers and Firemen, Moulders, Ironworkers, Sheet Metal Workers, Wire Workers, Actors Equity, Hotel, Club and Restaurant Employees, Gas Employees, Ship Painters, Shipwrights, Wool and Basil Workers, Australian Railways Union and Seamen’s Union. The officials of all those unions are recognized Communists, and in New South Wales those unions have a membership of 92,000 and an annual revenue of £131,000; whilst throughout Australia, according to Mr. Lang, to whom the Minister for Transport at one time paid allegiance, the Communist party controls unions with a membership of 500,000, whose funds total £1,000,000 annually. Therefore, we have very good reason to fear the infiltration of the Communists into the Labour party. It is not necessary for them to have a single member of Parliament. As we have seen, they control the Government very effectively by controlling the industrial organizations to which the ‘Government must look for support.
– Does the honorable member imply that the Communists use the’ funds of unions for Communist propaganda ?
– I do not imply anything. I say definitely that Communist officials are in control of those organizations, because they have organized with a view to capturing the key positions in those unions. Those officials are responsible for disposing of the funds of those unions. Whether they use those funds for propaganda, or to promote strikes or for strike pay, is immaterial. They have control of the funds of those unions which amount to £1,000,000 a year. I doubt very much whether the Minister for Transport has ever been a member of a union. If he has, I should like to know what union it is, because I doubt very much whether he has ever done a day’s work in his life except with hi.s tongue. However, no matter how irresponsible the Minister may be, he holds a responsible position in the Government, and one must listen with some respect to what he says, because 1 have no doubt that his views influence Labour policy and assist the Government in determining its actions. The Minister said to-night that the Government would be justified in taking any action that it considered necessary to put its policy of full employment into operation. I a,m sure that nobody in this country will question the value of full employment. The only difference of opinion is on the question of how that .state of affairs should be brought about. Should it be done by encouraging private enterprise and individuality, or by regimenting everybody in government work and instructing, say, a clerk to go and dig post-holes at Alice Springs, or a. bookmaker to take charge of a certain job? We on this side of the chamber believe in full employment, provided that everybody shall be free to select the type of employment, in which he wishes to engage. All these considerations were fully discussed during the referendum campaign. The air was filled with speeches broadcast by honorable members opposite and their supporters, imploring the people in the interests of post-war reconstruction and security, to register an affirmative vote. Showing considerable common sense, the people of this country rejected the Government’s proposals by an overwhelming majority. Can that prime democrat, the Minister for Transport, say why theMinister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) should be permitted to go to the San Francisco Conference and, by entering into snide agreements under the external powers provided in the Constitution, override the decision of the people at a referendum.
Mr.Ward. - The people of this country did not vote against the policy of full employment.
– If they were not opposed to the Government’s policy, why did they vote against the proposals submitted to them, which, according to their sponsors, were, designed to create full employment and security? If reports which we have read be correct, I say that it is a dishonestact on the part of the Minister for External Affairs, but I shall do the right honorable gentleman justice by withholding my judgment until I have an opportunity to peruse a full report of the proceedings of the conference. On the information that we have before us, it would seem that that Minister is endeavouring to by-pass the decision of the people of this country at the referendum and to attract to the Commonwealth Government these powers, which so far have been denied to it.
– I should like to express the opinion which I hold in regard to this motion.
– I rise to order. I was one of the first to rise on this side of the House, after the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had concluded his speech and Mr. Speaker informed me that providing no other Minister rose I would receive the next call. It is grossly unfair that somebody else should be given the call merely because there is before you a list of names prepared not by the Speaker or by yourself, but presumably by an acting deputy speaker. I protest strongly against the call being given to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark).
– The practice is for the occupant of the Chair to note the names of honorable members in the order in which they rise, and to give the call in that order to the different parties alternately. According to the list prepared by Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Darling was to receive the next call on the Government side.
– I regret that there has been some misunderstanding with regard to the call, but I, too, rose early in this debate and was informed that I would receive the call on this side when the list, of Ministers who desired to speak had been exhausted.
This attack by the Opposition on the administration of the Government is of a general character covering a wide field. No doubt the scope of the motion was made wide in order that the Opposition might feel that it had some grounds upon which to make an attack. Only a very weak case could be made out in respect of any one of the individual subjects contained in the motion, and I am afraid that the case which has been presented on those subjects collectively has been far from strong. The Government has no apologies to make for its administration during the life of this Parliament and indeed since its occupancy of the treasury bench. Its record has been one of service to the people. Due to its wise administration, Australia has been held for the people who are now free to work out their destiny with an assurance of peace and security. In regard to primary industries the Government’s record is outstanding. One of the grounds for this attack upon the Government is that it has failed to ensure the production of sufficient food and has not safeguarded the interests and the incomes of primary producers. The truth is that primary producers have been far better off under this administration than under’ any other government that has ever occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has left the chamber, because I intend to refer to som<: of his statements. He scoffed at the policy of full employment enunciated by the Government, and said that, as- the people had declined to vest in the Commonwealth the power to implement such a policy, the Government was likely to use the external treaty powers for that purpose. He and other honorable members opposite have practically given an assurance that they will honour what they interpret to be the wish of the people expressed at the referendum. That would be a denial of full employment of our people. The result of that would be to deny full employment, to the people. The Government is entirely opposed to such an interpretation of the referendum vote. One of the ideals for which the war is being fought is full employment and economic security. The honorable member for Richmond also attacked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and other Ministers on the ground that they had neglected the interests of the primary producers. It is fortunate that records are kept of what occurs from time to time. In 1941, the shipping available to Australia was considerably reduced by sinkings due to enemy action. The United Australia party-Australian Country party Government of that day took no action to protect the interests of the primary producers whose exports were seriously prejudiced. The collapse almost overnight of the exports of lamb and mutton caused the producers to lose many thousands of pounds. I believe that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the Minister for Commerce at that time and the honorable member for Richmond was Assistant Minister for Commerce. They definitely let down the primary producers. The Government of New Zealand was not so lax. because it expended between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 in the purchase of all the meat available for export, and shipped it overseas on behalf of the primary producers of that dominion, thus avoiding the los3 of many millions of pounds, and ensuring to them the full value of their product. The honorable member for Richmond paid a visit to New Zealand, in the company of the chairman of the Australian Meat Board. I believe that the particular reason for his visit was to inquire into the export of primary products. I have been informed from New Zealand sources that the honorable gentleman told the Government of that dominion that he was not prepared to recommend upon his return to Australia that the Commonwealth Government should buy up primary products for export, because too great a risk would be involved and a considerable loss might be sustained. I believe that the honorable gentleman also had the audacity to suggest to members of the New Zealand Government that, they were foolish to take that risk. The Australian Country party, which was associated in the Government with the United Australia party, was more concerned about obtaining Cabinet positions than about advancing the interests of the primary producers of this country. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) said in this House in 194’0- lInd the members of the Federal Country party displayed the same vigour and aggression on behalf of the wheat-growers as they displayed in achieving their personal ambitions, the farmers would be in a better position.
A newspaper published by the wheatgrowing industry in Western Australia made this rather pertinent statement, about the Australian Country party in the Commonwealth Parliament -
What traitors these Federal Country party representatives have proved themselves to the people they claim to represent.
The article went on to say -
The numerous representatives of the United Australia party-Australian Country party Federal Government proved the futility of electing representatives to a party whose aims and objects were and ar<; completely at variance with the aims of primary producers.
The Australian Labour party has outlined its policy for the welfare and security of the primary producers. Its agricultural aims can be summed up in simple terms. They are (1) To stabilize our primary industries and place them on a sound economic basis: (2) assured markets; (3) protection of the small growers; (4) ensuring payable prices to all primary producers; and (5) scientific farming.
The Government is giving effect to that, policy. Its record during the war has been one of considerable achievement, and it hopes to continue along the same lines for many years. The returns to primary producers, compared with pre-war years, have increased by about £40,000,000 per annum as the result, of assured market.’ and payable prices. What has been dentin the direction of stabilizing the price of wheat is well known. The record of the Government is highly appreciated by the vast majority of the wheat-growers It has placed the control of the industry under a board, the majority of the members of which are actual wheat-grower*, who have been elected by ballot throughout the industry. That policy was opposed by Opposition members when they composed the Government. The honorable member for Barker (Mi. Archie Cameron), when representations for wider representation of the wheatgrowers were made to him as Minister for Commerce in December, 1940, made this statement -
Tt is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operation of the Scheme.
The Government has also given very great assistance to the farmers by way of drought relief. On a pound for pound arrangement with the States, it provided £1,500,000 for distribution in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and later provided about £230,000 as additional assistance in Victoria. Listening to the speeches of some, honorable mein hers, one would not believe that. Australia is experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history. The. greater part of Ull’ electorate has 1101 had a decent rainfall for three years. About twelve trains a day carry water to Broken Hill in order to maintain the water supply. The whole of the western, as well as the southern and south-western portions of New South Wales are merely large (11181 bowls, carrying a few stock and with practically no water. Similar conditions exist in large portions of Queensland, Victoria - our great iamb-producing State - Western Australia, and South Australia. It is a marvel that we have been able to maintain food production at the present standard. Some improvement could perhaps be made by the release of additional man-power, but in areas where drought reigns supreme, production could not be greatly increased, no matter how much extra man-power were made available. The Opposition parties were in power for many years, particularly during the depression, when unlimited man-power was at the disposal of the Government and there was an abundance of materials of all descriptions. Great water storages could have been provided in the areas now smitten by drought and the country could have been saved from the present deplorable conditions. When the banking proposals now before the Parliament become law, the Government will use to the fullest degree the resources that will become available for carrying out public works which will give to the people in the outlying parts of Australia security such as they have never previously experienced.
– Would the honorable member regard water conservation as more urgent than the standardization of the railway gauges?
– Those two projects should be given the highest priority, but I believe that the actual order of priority has not yet been disclosed. I under stand that two distinct works programmes are contemplated. The first is to be carried out in the immediate post-war period, because it could be put in hand at short notice, and the second is to be executed later when the necessary labour and materials can be obtained. Housing will be regarded as a most urgent work, and the utmost effort will be made to glv’ effect to the housing programme, because the Government recognizes that it is essentia] to provide a great many more homes for the people.
The Government has expended many millions of pounds in subsidies to primary producers. These have been provided in respect of drought relief, superphosphate and cornsacks. For the supply of cornsacks alone, a subsidy of £1,000,000 a year has been provided. Great assistance has been given to th*’ wool industry and representations were made to the United Kingdom Government to enable the growers to receive a 15 per cent, increase of the price of their product. When the wool clips were sold to the British Government for the duration of the war, an arrangement was made whereby the price could be adjusted annually on the application of either party, and the wool was sold at what was considered to be a low figure. Considerable opposition to the agreed price was expressed at the time. Thf honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was one of those who were instrumental in disposing of the wool at less than its market value.
– That is a pure lie.
– -I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– As the honorable member has taken exception to the words used, I ask the honorable member for New England to withdraw them.
– Out of deference to you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw the words. [Quorum formed.’]
– According to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th June, 1942, the honorable member for New England said that he was present as a member of the Central Wool Committee when negotiations took place for the war-time sale of the’ Australian clip.
– Is the honorable member sure that that was said in 1942? Was it not in 1940?
– I have taken the statement from a quotation -in Hansard and the year mentioned is 1942. The honorable member may be interested to hear me read something else which he said. He was reported in the same newspaper to have said on the 11th June, 1940 -
Mr. J. P. Abbott, chairman of the Australian Wool Growers Council, said yesterday that he entirely agreed with the statement by the Minister for Commerce, Mr. Cameron, that there should be no negotiations with the British Government this year for a change in the price of the Australian wool clip.
A review of the price was being advocated by the Labour party when it was in opposition. It considered that an increased price should be paid for the Australian wool clip at. that time. The statement made by the honorable member for New England, shows the attitude which he then adopted. He was entirely opposed to an increase of the price of wool and he was not alone in his advocacy of that policy. The then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on the 13th June, 1941, made the following statement : -
No variation of the present price for Australian wool agreed on under the Imperial Wool Purchase Scheme is likely. The agreement provides that the price may be reviewed each year, but the Government is not inclined to seek a change, because it feels that the price is satisfactory and because of conditions iu Great Britain. [ have already pointed out how the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), by his failure to take action in regard to shipping, forced the growers to sell their lamb and mutton at reduced prices to operators who exported these commodities at a profit.
– I rise to a point of order. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ask the honorable member to explain in what way wool is connected with any of the five heads in the motion ?
-Thi motion is concerned, among other’ things, with food production. The honorable member has been talking about mutton, and mutton is a food.
– In 1935, the average price of butter fat was 9 1/2d. per lb. ; to-day it is ls. 7fd. per lb. This is the first time the dairy farmers have received so high a price, and it has been rendered possible by the fact that the Government is paying a substantial subsidy to the industry, for which it has received high praise. Therefore, it is not correct to say that the Government has let the farmers clown. Mr. Gibson, the president of the Primary Producers Union, recently declared -
The new arrangement recognizes the principle of a long-range subsidy to the dairying industry, something for which we have been striving for many years.
They would have been striving a good deal longer had a Labour Government not. come into power. The meat industry has also benefited under this Government, and production has remained high, considering the unfavorable season. The slight decline of production which has taken place is attributable to seasonal conditions, not to prices. As a matter of fact, prices to-day are very high, having increased by 12£ per cent, on some lines and as much as 40 per cent, on others. The over-all increase since this Government came into office amounts to about 35 per cent. The present high prices should be a substantial inducement to farmers to produce more. Only the drought has prevented production from being much higher than it is. As a matter of fact, meat exports, including those to the forces, are’ higher now than before the war. In 1939, Australia exported 250,000 tons of meat, whereas this year exports to Great Britain and to the forces will amount to 400,000 tons. Exports to the forces and to Great Britain must be taken together because, but for our obligations to supply the forces in the Pacific, all this meat would be available for export to the United Kingdom. It has been agreed that Australia shall supply the Pacific forces, and send to Great Britain all surplus meat not so required. This year we have actually exported to Great Britain 11,000 tons more than we undertook to supply, and this has been done despite the bad season. The production of pig meats in 1939-40’ was 35,100 tons, but by 1943-44 it had increased to 43,100 tons. In 1938-39, Australia exported only 800 tons of bacon and ham. To-day Australia is exporting bacon and ham at the rate of 10,000 tons a year. The production of eggs has also greatly increased, as has the production of vegetables. The gross value of the vegetable industry has risen from about £4,000,000 a yEar to £20,000,000. This industry has been developed by the initiative of the Government, which has set up factories for treating vegetables, most of which are perishable. To-day, 33 dehydrating plants are operating in Australia, with an annual intake of 67,000 tons of fresh vegetables. Before the war, the average area under vegetables was 250,000 acres; to-day, it is 500,000 acres. This increased production is largely due to the action of the Government in encouraging scientific methods of farming. In 1943, Australia imported 2,000 trac tors, whereas in the year before the war 1,500 tractors were imported, [n 1943 2,000 were imported, and in 1944, no fewer than S,000 tractors were brought into the country. The production of potatoes also has been substantially increased, largely due to the introduction of mechanized farming. Twenty-five new types of farm equipment are nowbeing made in Australia, including power-operated potato diggers, crop sprayers and dusters, vegetable cultivating attachments for tractors, rotary weed crs, beet lifter, carrot lifters, levelling barrows, bean cutters, bean and pea harvesters and power-driven mowers.
The following direct financial assistance was given to various primary industries in the year 1943-44: -
The Government has not been neglectful of food production. It has given every encouragement to primary producers, especially those engaged in the production of essential foodstuffs. In 1942 it put a blanket on the calling up of rural workers, with the result that primary industries have been placed in a much better position than previously. Since 1942 .many thousands more men have been released from the forces for primary production. Moreover, the prices of primary products have been stabilized. If production has not reached our expectations, the result is attributable to seasonal conditions, as well as to the war. In some respects the manpower position might be improved, but with the country at war that is a difficult problem.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
;–! support the motion of censure. The charges against the Government come under five headings, the fifth of which relates to -
The chaotic condition which exists in relation to food production and the failure to discharge our contractual obligations of supply to Great Britain, arising’ from th, Government’s disorganization of the food plans and policies of previous governments.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) gave us what was undoubtedly a sad and harrowing story of the effect.of drought. His remarks as to the need for a policy of water conservation will find acceptance on both sides of the chamber. I should like to see water conservation given first priority in the postwar programme; it should be placed ahead of the standardization of railway gauges. In his enthusiasm the honorable member for Darling made some statements concerning which I shall offer a few comments. He spoke of the sacrifice that the people of Australia are making in connexion with their meat ration in order to help the people of Great Britain. The word “ sacrifice “ is the wrong term to use. There is little sacrifice demanded of us; the slight restrictions can scarcely be called rationing. We could do much more in the way of real rationing in order to export more food to Great Britain. It is foolish to put all blame on the draught. For several years the food position in Great Britain has been serious indeed. Had honorable members experienced conditions there, they would not talk of sacrifice on the part of people of this country.
– We have met our commitments to Great Britain.
– No. I shall give figures issued by the British Ministry of Food to show the difference between our rationing scale and the British scale. The following is the British food ration scale : -
Those figures may not convey much to honorable members, but they mean a lot to the people of Great Britain. Had not the British Ministry of Food, on the advice of dietitians, worked out the ration on a scientific basis, which ensured that sufficient calories were provided for children, the health of the people of Great Britain would have suffered much more than it has. During the war fruit has been almost totally absent from British tables; life has been merely an existence. The people of the liberated countries of Europe had more food, even during the German occupation of their territories, than was available to the British people. The allied armies were astonished to find so much food in Normandy. The reason was not that, the Hermans were generous; the German Army was well fed and its requirements were met first. Also the slave labourers were fed so that they could work. Because of its geographical situation Australia has been largely untouched by the war; and for people in this country to talk of sacrifice in regard to foodstuffs is ludicrous, and shows ignorance of the facts. In a recent statement Mr. Churchill said - . . A large portion of Europe may be faced with famine next winter, hencewe have accelerated military operations in an attempt to finish the war before then. Hence there is no time to lose - agricultural arrangements must be made immediately, for wecan savethe peace only if we all play our part in putting Europe on its feet, otherwise we face famine and disease in all the liberated areas of Europe.
While wemust feed the world, we must at the same time relieve the United Kingdom, which has suffered most, by securing help from those who have suffered less.
The honorable member for Darling said that the present Government had saved Australia from the Japanese.
– Of course we did.
– The honorable member for Martin should say that to the members of the forces who have done the fighting. Australia was saved by them ; and, whatever government had been in power, that would have been true. We in this country have been fortunate. The battle was first fought in the skies over Great Britain. When the Minister for Transport (Mr.Ward) said that there was a shortage of rifles in this country when the war against Japan broke out, I was glad that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) reminded him that Australia sent large numbers of rifles to Britain to compensate, in some measure, for the equipment lost at Dunkirk. Had Great. Britain at the time of the threatened Japanese invasion listened to the frantic cries of some honorable members opposite that the war against Japan should be fought first, it is possible that hostilities in Europe would not yet have ceased, and that the people of this country would be making some real sacrifice. We must do more than wo are doing. I submit that enough has not been done in the supply of food to GreatBritain. I have here a copy of the Daily Commercial News’, a Melbourne publication dealing with shipping, which, in its leader of the 24th May - Empire Day - said -
It has been stated that the chairman of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, Mr. Selwyn V. Jones, has denied that there was anyshortage of refrigeratedspace to take food from Australia to Britain. There would be 50.000 tons of shipping space ready to leave Australia this month with nothing on it, he said.
How does that measure up to what we are told daily by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and with what has been said by the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat? There is so much more that we could do. The sugar ration in Great Britain was eked out because the Government had subsidized beef sugar and heavily bought cane sugar before the war.
– The honorable member knows that we offered sugar to Great Britain, but that it. was not. able to accept it.
– Yes; the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) told me that in his usual eloquent way. He said that the Government had offered Great Britain . 100,000 tons of sugar, but that it could not lift it. At that time it could not, but it badly needs the sugar to-day.
Trevor Smith, the London representative of the Melbourne Herald, in a despatch printed in that journal, said -
Britain’s meat supply situation is so critical that whatever efforts Australia may make toward meeting the crisis, the British Government will try to match these efforts in overcoming the ‘ shipping problem. The sugar position here is almost as critical as the meat position, and it will be recalled that Britain had to turn down Mr. Curtin’s offer of 100,000 tons of sugar because of insufficient shipping.
Dock strikes have something to do with that. Trevor . Smith, who, as honorable members who know him will agree, is a trusted correspondent, went on -
I put the question directly to a high authority to-night: “ If Australia made extra meat available, could Britain find the necessary ships?” He replied: “I believe you would get the ships somehow or other “.
Australian production of refined sugar is held up by ridiculous strikes in Melbourne. On two or three occasions workers have held up refining on trifling matters which ought to have been referred to the processes of law. I do not agree that men have the right, to strike, especially in time of war. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made it perfectly clear that, before the arbitration machinery was set up, strikes were the workers’ only weapon of defence, but to-day they have the Arbitration Court to defend them equitably as all courts will in a democratic community. Therefore, they should not strike. Differences will arise, but any matter in dispute, should be referred to the proper authorities. Yet those men struck work on the wharfs at Yarraville because they had to do some wharf lumping, work which air crew members do at. air crew pay because other men do not do it. Every pound of sugar sent to Europe may save a life. Millions will die in Europe in the coming winter, in both liberated and enemy territories, unless they are fed, and they cannot be fed without the help of countries like this. It is amazing to hear a member of this Parliament, in this dream city so remote from the actualities of war, say that we have made food sacrifices. Nothing could be more exaggerated. I could enlarge on that, but will not. Last week, 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) why large quantities of tinned food, meat and vegetables, already crated, had been sent by Army supplies to the Air Force with instructions that they were not to be returned and had to be consumed or otherwise disposed of. Another question on the same subject was asked by another honorable member. An inquiry was promised. I have not yet been told why it happened. I know that on one Air Force station those cans have been opened and the contents thrown out for pig food. That food is already crated and does not require refrigeration. It should be sent to Great Britain or Europe or handed over to Unrra. It is shameful that food of any description should be wasted as it is being wasted in Australia. I should like to see stricter rationing of meat and other commodities here, because the war is not yet over in Europe, at any rate on the food front, and we should be doing our best to help.
I now refer to the part of the censure motion relating to the Government’s “ failure to deal adequately with the rising tide of industrial lawlessness “. That has been well covered by other speakers, but I do say that I do not believe that politics have ever fallen to a lower ebb than they have in Australia to-day. Aristotle, years before the Christian era, said -
This insolence of demagogues in the ruin of democracy.
As it was the ruin of the old Greek republics, so is it the ruin of democracy to-day. We have inherited the democratic system so easily that we treat it lightly and allow men who are a menace to the industrial community and the life of the nation to seize power in organizations which should be beneficial to the workers. Trade unionism is a good system. It derives from the guild unions of Great Britain and Europe. Whilst they catered for craftsmen, they also did unskilled workers genuine good and helped to institute some of the beneficial legislation that has assisted them. But the demogogues of Aristotle’s time are reincarnated to-day in the industrial unions, which they are using for their selfaggrandisement and power. They have seized power, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has shown, in the major unions of Australia, particularly the more militant unions that pater for the unskilled workers, and, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has told honorable members, the industrial unions have now become political unions. They are the real government, of the day, because their power is so great that they sway the opinions of the Labour party. My friends opposite believe that they are helping the workers; no one will deny that they have done good in the past, although they have no monopoly in that regard. Every member is the friend of the working man. Not only the man in bowyangs is the worker, for in a democratic country like Australia there are workers in every category. But I say earnestly to members of the Labour party, that men who do not take their inspiration from British democracy but hav<imbibed alien doctrines have infiltrated into the unions.
– How would the honorable member prevent them?
– The unions have now become very important and can sway the policy of the Government to such an extent that it is beginning to be treated with contempt by them, and its prestige has certainly been lowered in the opinion of the people. These influences will undermine not only this Government but all kinds of governments in a democracy. I saw in Germany, with the rise of the Nazi party, how bad men had been able to seize power. With what is going on here, in the guise of war effort, with regulation after regulation gradually fettering the people into what are called ordered lives, I see danger. I say very definitely that liberty and complete planning do not go hand in hand. You can surrender some of your liberty for good government, but you cannot have complete planning and liberty at the same time. The policy of full employment contained in the White Paper tabled yesterday by the Acting Prime Minister, whilst it sounds grand and is something which every one would support academically, could not possibly be achieved, except by totalitarian means and by having a. completely regimented people ready to go at any time wherever they are sent. No democrat would submit to that. It is the totalitarian system of Germany, Italy, Russia and. Japan, not the British democratic system. The Government is allowing the democratic system to be undermined by the bad men that are disrupting the war effort by means of strikes. They take no risks; they have never missed a meal in this war. Yet they talk about sacrifices for the war effort. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me how I would deal with the situation. I would license the men willing to work. I would say to the coal-miners who havenot started strikes, “ Take out licences to work and we will protect you from the bad men “, who were referred to by the Prime Minister as spielers and men more concerned with racing dogs than with getting coal. I would protect the genuine worker from them and from the Communists. If the bad men were expelled from thi- unions, these organizations would function in accordance with their original purpose. Why should the unions be exploited by agitators? Run on democratic lines, they would soon be purged of evil elements. If ballots within the unions were conducted somewhat similarly to parliamentary elections–
– So they are.
– No, they are not. The unions do not have secret ballots on such subjects as strikes. The men have a show of hands when they decide whether they will strike, and the decent, hardworking man is afraid of getting a hit on the head by a Communist if he votes openly against a strike. If the unions elected their officials every two years instead of annually, and thus put an end to the present advertising of officials, they would secure better officials. I am sure that honorable members opposite agree with me on that point. The
Labour party has allowed the Communists to get control of many unions. This is the position in the coal-mines to-day, according to Mr. McKensey in giving evidence before the Coal Inquiry in Sydney last week -
Ata metropolitan colliery a small machine was installed which could comfortably load more than 100 tons each shift.
Allwe are getting from it is an average of 45 tons.
A similar machine at a non-union minein New South Wales is producing nearly 200 tons a shift.
When we attempt to check the loading cycle of our own machines, the men simply walk out of the mine.
It is very obvious, if the New South Wales coal industry is to continue to pay high wages and survive, that there will have to be radical changes in the outlook of employees.
Mr. McKensey advocated urgent attention to
Discipline of employees.
Overhaul of seniority rules and customs.
Hours of production of loader units.
Mechanical extraction of pillars.
Lower purchase price of equipment.
Priority of spares for mechanical units.
Mine managements were powerless to enforce discipline, Mr. McKensey said.
When any disciplinary action was taken, a retirement was invariably forced by either theCoal Commissioner or local industrial authority.
This made the situation even worse.
This disgraceful position has causedoutput to decline to absurd figures”. Mr. McKensey said. “ The men come and astheyplease, produce as much as they cure to, and little or no action is taken by those with the power to correct. “ It is obvious that the industry cannot he developed or modernized under prevailing conditions. “ Secondary industries will suffer from lack of cheap fuel.”
Is that not a shocking position? Yet the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) speaks of strikes in Great Britain ! In Great Britain, the miners were bombed, and were obliged to work under adverse conditions and severe rationing. In spite of that, the loss of production as the result of absenteeism, or strikes, was negligible. Yet, the Australian miner, who receives four or five times the wage of a fighting man, stays away from work when he likes or goes on strike for frivolous reasons. A list of the paltry reasons for which miners have been known to go on strike has been read on previous occasions in this House. For those reasons, our war effort has been interrupted. In view of those facts, how can any Minister say that Australia is doing its best on the industrial and food front? Some honorable members opposite are inclined to regard the Communist as a kind of harmless creature who is, perhaps, a little “cracked “ so far as his politics are concerned. He is nothing of the sort. In some instances, the Communist is a frustrated individual who has not succeeded at anything, and he finds a spiritual Home among these revolutionaries, for revolutionaries they are. And they have organized so thoroughly, and gained such power in the unions, that the time will come when they will strike as they have struck in other countries. We know what has happened in Greece. In any political dictionary, a Communist is defined as a revolutionary. Honorable members opposite are socialists. They are planning to establish a socialist State. Some of them, like the Minister for Transport, make no secret of that fact, but others hide it. However, they intend, we hope, to use constitutional means, whereas the Communist is seeking to alter the world by revolutionary means. I shall read the opinion expressed of Communists by Mr. Churchill. I remind honorable members opposite that Mr. Churchill has worked in friendship and accord with Russia. He knows of the reciprocal aid which has been exchanged between Russia and Great Britain. However, he has not retracted one word of the opinion he has expressed concerning Communists, because he knows that a system which may suit one country may not suit another. Communism is alien to British thought; it is not a British creed. Mr. Churchill said -
Every act of goodwill, of tolerance, of con- ciliation, of mercy, of magnanimity on the part of Governments or States is to be utilized for their ruin. Then when the time is ripe and the moment opportune, every form of lethal violence, from revolt to private assassinations, must be used without stint or compunction. The citadel will be stormed under the banners of liberty and democracy: and once the apparatus of power is in the hands of brotherhood, all opposition, all contrary opinions, must be extinguished by death. Democracy is but a tool to be used and afterwards broken.
These are the men who have infiltrated into the unions. They come to Canberra, and they go abroad. In answer to a question, I have been informed that the Government paid the fare of Mr. Ernest Thornton to Great Britain. That man is a menace to Australian industry and industrial peace. He is a man who, because Russia has played a grand part in the war, endeavours to lead people to believe that Communists in Australia and Russia have something in common; but the objective of the Communists is to disrupt the war effort of this country. They wish to destroy democratic government. Like the old man of the sea these men are seated on the shoulder of the Labour party, and the Labour party dares not cast them off.
– No Communist is admitted to the Labour party.
– But the Communist always goesunder another tag. Will the honorable gentleman deny that Mr. Wells, the president of the miners federation, who is a Communist, is also a member of the Australian Labour party; or that Thornton of the ironworkers, Thomson of the builders labourers, or the principal man of the munition workers are not Communists ? Are not honorable members opposite awake to their danger? If they are, why are they so afraid to rise in their places and say so? Some honorable members opposite have told me offstage that they hate the Communists; but. not one of them has the “ guts “ to get up and denounce the Communists.
– A Communist candi- date opposedme at the last, general elections.
– Yet the honorable member has not the “ guts “ to get up and denounce them.
Mr.Chambers. - All that the honorable member has done since he was elected to this House has been to ride on the backs of returned soldiers.
– I am not a dentist; I am not a returned soldier of the honorable member’s type.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has made an insulting remark about the honorable member for Adelaide.
– I take exception to his remark, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I made no particular reference to the honorable member for Adelaide.
– The honorable member said that.. I did not have the “guts”” to denounce the Communists. That remark is offensive to me personally, andI ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Adelaide says that the remark is offensive to him personally,, and he asks that it be withdrawn.
– I was not referring to the honorable member in particular, but to honorable members opposite generally. I was not allowed to finish what I was about to say. I withdraw the remark, and say that honorable members opposite have not the intestinal fortitude to denounce the Communists.
I shall refer now to the third ground of the censure motion, namely, the failure of the Government to carry out an effective housing programme.I trust that this discussion will not be gagged as was the discussion of the Reestablishment and Employment Bill lastweek. In taking that action the Government prevented any reference to land settlement, rehabilitation in business and pensions for disabled ex-servicemen. One member alleged to-night that the present Opposition, when in occupation of the treasury bench, established a record for gagging debates. I submit that never before has such a vital measure as the Re-establishment and Employment Bill been gagged in this Parliament. It is true that the gag was applied by previous administrations in tariff debates and debates upon the Estimates when time was short; but the Government’s action last week will stand to the eternal disgrace of honorable members opposite.
In regard to housing, the Government has a pitiful record. Private industry could have built houses if permitted to do so. In fact, there is a certain amount of building going on now. Co-operative building societies in New South Wales are carrying out some home-building; yet the Minister for War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) claims that the lowest quote he could obtain for the construction of a £1,000 dwelling was £2,000. There is a company in New South Wales which is building four and five room cottages for from £750 to £1,100. These people should be brought to Canberra for a conference, ft is true that there are difficulties in obtaining supplies, but there is waste in public works and there are unconscionable delays. I have here a telegram stating that, flooring boards for urgent repair work cannot be obtained because the Prices Commission has not yet fixed the price for them. These boards have been in stock for two months. There is no proper liaison between the Department of Supply and Shipping and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Statistics provided by the Master Builders Association of Victoria show that costs of materials have risen by 78 pur cent, aud labour costs by ST per cent. since 1935. Obviously, houses must cost more; but that is not an excuse for not laying down a programme and getting on. with the work. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) asked that the Government be given a little more time. That is the sort of thing we have heard for the last two years. When will action be taken? During the war, the building industry has had greater demands placed upon it than any other industry. It lost 66 per cent, of its man-power, and only 5 per cent, has been returned to it. What about the Government’s promise that. 45,000 men would be returning to the building industry? It is noticeable that there has been a 65 per cent, increase of the strength of government departments. The reason why I have stressed the position in regard to War Service Homes, is because in that regard the Government cannot find any excuse for its inactivity. There it has a Commonwealth instrumentality, complete with personnel : yet for some reason - T do not know whether it i* that the Minister for War Service Homes has not sufficient, influence in cabinet or in caucus - only twenty houses have been built during the. whole war period. That is a deplorable state of affairs. Something must be done immediately. The construction of homes should be given No. 1 priority on the domestic front. The number of servicemen returning from overseas is increasing daily. Soon we shall bc faced with the re-establishment of 13.000 young aircrew members returning from Great
Britain. What arrangements are to be made for them? We have never had a full statement on this matter from the Government. New Zealand has shown an excellent example. There, 18,000 houses have been built since 1938. have seen many of them and they are of a good type.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In my judgment the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave an effective reply this morning to the charges that have been levelled against this Government. However, there are three points on which I should like to touch briefly in the limited time at my disposal. Firstly, an effort has been made by honorable members opposite to associate the Communist party with the Labour party. I ask honorable members to listen attentively to what I have to say, because I have had a close association with Labour organizations for a considerable period. Let us examine the facts. I lay this charge against honorable members opposite : The Communist party has been aided and abetted by the parties to which honorable members of the Opposition belong in an endeavour to destroy the trade union movement in Australia. Honorable members opposite and their supporters were the first to back the policy of the Communist party, which was to send non-union members out to various jobs, in the shearing sheds, in the mines and elsewhere, thereby causing strikes. The employers saw the value of these tactics in disrupting the strength of the trade union movement, so they supported the Communist party. These tactics failed, because the trade union movement IRS strong enough to combat them. Then the Communist party adopted another method, and this time its tactics were more subtle. It sent representatives into the trade union movement with the instruction not only to join the unions, but also to endeavour to gain control of them. In the light of my practical experience and my close association with the trade union movement. I know that at all times the employing classes have assisted the Communists. I am convinced in my own mind that most, of our industrial troubles to-day are the result of intrigue between employers and leading Communists of Australia with, the object of .destroying the Labour movement. Of course, many thousands of honest and earnest unionists are caught up in this intrigue. The Communists and the employers have realized that no power on earth can destroy the Labour movement from outside, so they now seek to destroy i-t from within. At every State and Federal .election, the man who has the courage to stand on behalf of the principles and policy of the Australian Labour .movement is opposed by a Communist candidate. I have contested two Commonwealth elections, and on both occasions, despite the fact that I hold the honoured position of General President of the Australian Workers Union, I have been opposed by a Communist candidate. I give the lie direct to the statement of honorable members opposite that the Communist party is associated with the Australian Labour party. An analysis of the second preference votes of Communist candidates, particularly in Victoria at the last Commonwealth elections, will disclose that they were given to anti-Labour candidates.
The present food position has not arisen overnight, nor can flocks depleted by a drought be built up overnight. In 1940, the position in the pastoral industry in Western Australia was so acute that the Government of that State appointed a royal commission to inquire into and report upon its financial and economic circumstances in the leasehold areas. Paragraph 150 of the report of the commissioner stated -
The scope of this inquiry includes an investigation into the causes of the present economical and financial position of the lessees. Drought of long duration which has prevailed over more than half the total area held under pastoral leases in Western Australia is the main cause of the extreme difficulties with which the lessees in this area are faced.
Paragraph 151 reads -
The contributing factors of costs and prices are important, but the devastating effect of this drought, extending over about 150,000,000 acres of country from the North-west Cape through the Gascoyne Murchison and the gold-fields, the longest and severest known in this State, was the main cause of the present difficult position of the industry.
When honorable members opposite knew that the pastoral industry in Western Australia had been almost wiped out by a drought which had lasted for six years, what assistance did they give with a view to saving flocks or enabling the pastoralists to rehabilitate themselves? Paragraph 364 of the report reads -
Restocking and financial recovery is so difficult on some of the stations in the drought areas that the Minister for Lands lias approved of relief being granted where the losses so warrant, for one year after the present drought, i.e., when the rainfall for that year is not below the average for the station in each case.
The recommendation of the commissioner was -
That the Pastoral Appraisement Board hiempowered to recommend relief from rent, in accordance with section i 01 A of the Land Act, for periods up to two years after tinend of the drought, notwithstanding the Fact that in those years no losses of stock have been suffered and rainfall has been above thiaverage.
In paragraph S30, the commissioner reported -
Government assistance therefore will be necessary and I am of the opinion that in order to assist in the recovery of the industry part of the money required for restocking should be provided by means of free grants from Commonwealth funds.
In order to prepare for war, there must be a sound foundation. Had the Commonwealth Government composed of honorable members opposite taken time by the forelock, and assisted the pastoralists to restock, our position to-day would be better than it is. The present Government was called upon to galvanize all the forces in Australia into real activity in order to prevent the Japanese from invading this country. It has done a job which will never be forgotten by the people. Even the children realize that their homes are intact, and they are safe in consequence of the great activities of the present Administration.
Opposition members condemn the Government because there is a shortage of houses. I appreciate the position thoroughly, and would be the first to support a programme of home construction. Three members of my family are waiting for homes. The housing shortage, like the drought in Western Australia, is not of mushroom growth, but has been developing for many years. While honorable members opposite were in power, 800,000 persons were without employment, including many men who had served in the 1914-18 war. Why was there not planning in those days? Legislation was introduced providing for the building of a number of homes, but not one was built, although the necessary man-power and materials were available. When the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), appealed for the expenditure of £20,000,000- which, he said, would provide work for every man and woman in Australia who was on the dole - the Government said that the money could not be provided. Some time ago, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said : “ You will never, in the history of Australia, be able to tell that story to the people again. They have learned their lesson. They are not prepared to do all the fighting,, create all the wealth, and then be given a miserable pittance “. Honorable members opposite would like to have an army of unemployed, so that wages could be reduced and the profits of their friends could be increased. They held on to power for too long, and their reign is now finished.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2318) beagreed to.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. j. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- To-day, I received the following telegram from the secretary of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association -
Urge you see Scully protest against. NewSouth Wales he ing given 4,000 tons Victorian chaff from Western Australia hy Bulcock under Security Regulations. Position desperate this State.
Victorian merchants purchased 4,000 tons of chaff in Western Australia. The chaff has been collected from country areas in Western Australia and is now stored in Fremantle awaiting shipment. The Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, Mr. Graham, visited Western Australia in order to obtain supplies of chaff for his State. I have been informed that communications have passed between Mr. Bulcock, the Commonwealth Director of Agriculture, and Mr. Graham, and also, perhaps, between him and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). As a result, this chaff, originally intended for distribution in Victoria, has been allocated to New South Wales. To-day, I sought an explanation from officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in Canberra, and I was informed that the chaff had been allocated to New South Wales for pit ponies working in the coal mines. I do not object to fodder being provided for pit ponies, but I have been informed that chaff has not been husbanded so carefully in New South Wales as in Victoria. I believe, further, that, the need for fodder is not so great in New South Wales where the season has been more favorable, as in Victoria. I understand that the chaff in question is shortly to be shipped to the eastern States. Farmers in Victoria are in dire straits for chaff. The executive of the Victorian Wheat, and Wool Growers Association has been inundated with applications for chaff from farmers who do not know where to turn for feed for their horses and other stock. F urge the Minister to allocate at least some of this chaff to Victoria. It is un fair that all of it should be allowed to go to New South Wales, in view of the fact that the shortage of stock-feed is ranch greater in Victoria. I should be glad if the Minister would make a statement on the subject to-night so that I may reply to the Wheat and Wool Growers Association.
.- I admit that the fodder position in Victoria, to which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has referred, is serious, but the facts are that a considerable time ago, I, in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia agreed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that a certain quantity of hay would be cut in Western Australia, which meant that less grain would bc produced in that State. That decision was arrived at before the harvest. The Government undertook to take up to 30,000 tons of hay, if that quantity was available. Ultimately it was agreed that 25,000 tons of hay should be cut. The Commonwealth accepted the responsibility for that quantity and for conveying it to the eastern States. I submitted to cabinet a proposal for a subsidy on the fodder from Western Australia, and the Government agreed to arrange and pay for its shipment to the eastern States. There was some hitch in connexion with the purchase of the quantities required and its equitable distribution between the States. At. the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which was held in Melbourne, this matter was discussed, and it was agreed that an equitable distribution of the fodder would be made in the States which needed it. A week or two ago I was surprised to find that it had not been equitably distributed. The position in New South Wales was most acute, especially in respect of fodder required for horses working in coal pits in that State. Fodder for them is not at present available in New South Wales owing to the heavy movement of fodder from parts of that State into Victoria.
– From what parts of New’ South Wales?
– Chiefly from the north-west district in the vicinity of Gilgandra. The Commonwealth Government has subsidized the movement of that fodder into Victoria. That State and New South Wales have been well treated. I admit that the position in Victoria is serious, but to deprive the pit horses in the New South Wales collieries of their requirements would be more serious because that would mean that no coal would be available for essential transport and the war effort would be seriously impaired. No fodder is entitled to a higher priority than that required for colliery horses. It would be most unjust for the Government to allow any individual or any set of merchants to corner the whole of the fodder, or, indeed, any undue proportion of it. I shall not allow that to be done. Moreover . I shall see that Victoria gets its proper share of the fodder that is to come from Western Australia - possibly a bigger proportion than has been secured by the merchants. There is a movement of wheat from Western Australia, and at intervals it is brought to Victoria and New South Wales. A ship is to come from Western Australia early next week. Its destination is a New South Wales port, and fodder for New South Wales will be put on board. I guarantee that a fair proportion of that fodder will ultimately be sent, to Victoria, and that that State will suffer no injustice. I want, it to be understood that the Commonwealth Government is subsidizing this fodder and is determined that it shall be equitably distributed. I also emphasize that the Commonwealth Government took the whole of the responsibility in connexion with it, and assured the Government of Western Australia that if the fodder were not moved, it would accept all financial liability for it.
– Will the Minister give an undertaking to make some of it available to Victoria?
– I undertake to make available to Victoria a fair proportion of the fodder which will reach New South Wales next week. I assure him that Victorian needs will be equitably provided for.
– I desire to refer briefly to a statement made by the president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, Mr. N. V. Kearsley, concerning remarks about some members of the press gallery made by me in this chamber on the motion for the adjournment of the House last. Friday week. I believe that Mr. Kearsley’s statement was unfair in that it claimed thatI was attacking the press gallery as a whole. I think it desirable, therefore, to set down my views on the role of working pressmen. I believe that the great bulk of pressmen have no interest beyond doing their job to the best of their ability. They will be the first to agree that they are not infallible, and I am satisfied that the great majority of them, when they do make a mistake, make it honestly. I have no desire to attack these anonymous men who are doing their job. But I have a different view of the commentators, and in this, I understand, my views are supported by the journalists themselves. By their comment these people enter into the realm of controversy and, as public controversialists, are open to attack in exactly the same manner as those whom they attack. With the ordinary journalist - the man who is doing his job for a livelihood and who, except for reporting the actual facts, holds himself aloof from political controversy - I have no quarrel. There are occasions, however, when members of Parliament feel that individual journalists have misreported them, or slanted the news under editorial direction.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Information is making a statement at the table, but it is impossible at this distance from where he is speaking to hear what he is saying. There have been frequent requests for him to speak up, but he continues to mumble. We cannot determine whether there is any thing objectionable in what he is saying. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that yon ask the Minister to speak loud enough to be heard.
– The question of how loudly or softly a member speaks does not constitute a point of order, as I think the honorable member for Richmond understands.
– Honorable members cannot hear the Minister.
– If the honorable member suffers from any infirmity of hearing, I shall ask the Minister to speak up.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
– I take it, Mr. Speaker, that you are not making more than a request. If the auricular functions of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) are in order there is no need for any suggestion from the Chair.
– The Chair is impartial. No suggestions were made.
– The Minister’s nervous system must be out of order.
– After what; has taken place in this chamber to-day and to-night, I should say that it is the nervous system of the honorable member for Richmond that is out of order.
The incident when soldiers were said to have clapped in the gallery is, to my mind,an example of the first type of incorrect reporting. As a matter of fact only four soldiers out of 46 were involved in the incident.
I have lodged my protest against what I. consider was a misreport of the proceedings last Thursday week in this chamber in regard to hand clapping, but I repeat that I have only friendly feelings for the working journalist who is doing his job without bias and for a livelihood. I point out that when I made my remarks last Friday week, I emphasized that they applied only to “some of the gallery”. The gallery, I understand, is generally concerned about my allegations of evasions by pressmen of military service. The president has replied to those remarks, and, in my view, has unfairly stated that such remarks could be applicable to the gallery as a whole. They were not. I repeat that for the rank and file journalists, who compose the great majority of the gallery staff, and who do not deliberately distort facts or go outside their reporting job to become con troversialists, I have the same respect as I have for any trade unionist. In any case, my remarks could have applied to very few Canberra journalists. In the great political controversies raging at this moment, I have no intention of allowing the anti- Australian, anti-democratic and anti-union newspaper proprietors to drive a wedge between me and members of the Labour party on the one hand and the overwhelming body of working journalists on the other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations - Nos. 623-625.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 1972-2071.
House adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army: Escape from. Detention at Tamworth: Army Magazine “Salt”.
n. - On the 29th May, 1945, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked whether I would make a statement in regard to the recent press reports of trouble at the West Tamworth Military Detention Barracks. The following information has been supplied by the Acting Minister for the Army : -
At about 7.30 on the evening of Monday, the 28th May, objection was taken to the evening meal by some of those in detention at the barracks. Shortly afterwards, about 100 brokecamp and marched to Tamworth, where they interviewed the editor of a local paper. Subsequently, the majority returned. On the following day there was further disorder when numbers of the men who had armed themselves with improvised weapons attacked the guard at the barracks without warning. Order was restored by the concerted action of civil and military police.
A full report on the incident is at present on its way to Land Head-quarters from New
South Wales, and consequently it is not possible at this stage to make a detailed statement. However, preliminary verbal reports indicate that the main complaints concerned rations and allowances paid to the dependants of men undergoing detention after discharge from the Army. Apparently, no allegations of ill-treatment by members of the staff have been made.
Appropriate -measures have been taken and the position is now well in hand. A court of inquiry under the presidency of a brigadier with long experience from another formation has been assembled and has commenced its inquiry.
Honorable members will be aware that detention barracks are subject to frequent inspection by visitors both within and without the service, to whom prisoners may make any requests or complaints.
The Tamworth Detention Barracks was inspected as late as the 24th May, when no complaints were made.
It should be borne in mind that the ration scale ‘of military detention barracks is one which is regarded by expert dietitians and the Array medical authorities as quite adequate. It should be recalled, too, that the diet is in many respects more generous in regard to rationed commodities than the normal civilian ration. The ration scale for butter is more than double the ration scale for civilians. Meat, rice, tea and sugar are available to the men on a much more liberal basis than they are to the civil community.
The cooks at the detention barracks are adequately trained, and I find it difficult to imagine that there could be any defect in the meals in detention barracks as a whole which would constitute any legitimate ground for serious complaint.
-On the 18th May, 1945, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Mr. Chifley and of Mr. Menzies, especially as a Leader of the Country party moved an amendment to the second reading?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y. - On the 18th May, 1945, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Policy “, containing part of the broadcast made by the Commander-in-Chief, which was published in Salt on the 23rd April?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450531_reps_17_182/>.