17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took tie chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the
Acting Prime Minister seen the article published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 19th May, headed “ Free Hospital Next Year”, and stating -
The Federal Government’s hospital benefits scheme, under which patients in public wards will get free treatment, is not expected to come into operation before next January. It was originally intended to operate from July. This advice has been received from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) by Mr. C. H. Eyles, vice-president of the combined Brisbane and South Coast Hospitals Board contributory scheme.
Has the Acting Prime Minister any comment to make on that announcement, particularly in view of the fact that the public were and still are expecting the scheme to become operative as from July next?
– I am not quite clear as to whether the honorable member is referring to the proposal for free hospital treatment or the proposal for free medicine. I have not seen the article from which he has quoted. Free hospital treatment has to be the subject of agreement with the States. Complete agreement has not been reached, and some of the States do not regard the matter in a very friendly spirit. The agreements, when made, will have to be presented to this Parliament. The Commonwealth proposal provides for free treatment in the public wards of hospitals. It is hoped that it will be possible to bring the scheme into operation by the 1st January next. The proposal for free medicine is not dependent on agreement with theStates. Some difficulty has been encountered with the British Medical Association, but it is hoped that the scheme will come into operation on the 1st July next.
– About a fortnight ago I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services asking for details of the free medicine scheme, but have not yet received a reply. I now ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will arrange for an answer to my; question to be expedited?
– I shall consult with my colleague with a view to having an answer supplied as early as possible.
– The press reports today that the Government, guided by legal advice that it received last night, is understood to hold the belief that interstate travel restrictions can he continued, notwithstanding the judgment of the High Court in the matter. If that be so, will the Acting Prime Minister state the grounds on which the Government bases that belief? In view of the widespread public uncertainty, will he announce the Government’s intentions before the rising of the House to-day?
– I have read in the press what purports to be the judgment of the High Court in this matter. I understand that the judgment became available yesterday for examination by the Commonwealth law authorities. Late last night, the Minister for Transport told me that he had perused it. I understand that the Solicitor-General also has done so. I believe the effect of it to be somewhat different from what may be gathered from the press reports. I have not had an opportunity to consider the matter. I shall ask the Minister for Transport and the Acting AttorneyGeneral to clear up the point raised by the right honorable gentleman, who will be advised of their decision as soon as possible.
Report of Mr. j. V. Barry, K.C.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Papua - Suspension of Civil Administration -Report of Commissioner (Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C. ) appointed under the National Security Regulations. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Cases of Private J. Wilson, Private J. J. Derrick and Sapper A. L. Chalmers - Final Report of Commissioner (Mr. Justice Reed) appointed under the National Security Regulations. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it was the intention of the Government, in withdrawing bank notes of large denominations, to reduce the note issue and uncover tax evasions and black-market activities? If so, why was the announcement of the withdrawal made thirteen weeks in advance of the notes becoming non-negotiable? Is it a fact that notes of large denominations will still be exchangeable over the counter at the Commonwealth Bank after the 31st August next? Have arrangements been made to increase the issue of notes of lower denominations in order to replace the value of the notes withdrawn?
– If the honorable gentleman will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall answer it in detail. I consulted with the Commonwealth Bank in regard to the position generally. In the decision for the withdrawal of bank notes, that institution has been guided by experience. It was considered that persons who, quite properly and without evil intent, hold notes of large denominations, might regard their sudden withdrawal as an injustice, and that a reasonable period ought tobe allowed for their negotiation, particularly in outback areas. After the date fixed, they will be exchangeable at the Commonwealth Bank.
– Will the holders be permitted to pay them into their hank accounts?
– Yes, if paid in by August, 1945, and they will be exchange able for notes of smaller denominations. It has been said, I believe with some justification, that notes of large denominations have been held, not with the purest motives, and have been used by persons engaged in blackmarketing and other nefarious transactions. The belief is that the withdrawal of such notes will tend to mitigate these practices.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the statements by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), reported in this morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, suggesting that, whilst the prices of machinery and clothing purchased by dairy farmers had risen, all that the Government had given to them was an extra1d. per lb. for butter, and that only under pressure? Was not the increase of1d. per lb. referred to by the right honorable gentleman only the first increase given to the industry by this Government, and was it not provided shortly after the Government came into office? Were there not two subsequent increases, the second representing an increase of approximately 3½d. per lb. for butterfat? Is not the price of butterfat now in accordance with the recommendations made to the Government by the leaders of the industry? If so, will the Minister correct the mis-statement of the right honorable member for Cowper?
– I rise to make a personal explanation. That I did not make any misstatement, is proved by the Hansard report of my speech. I therefore ask that the honorable member for Bass be required to withdraw his allegation.
– The right honorable gentleman may make a personal explanation, but not demand the withdrawal of an expression of opinionby another honorable member.
– I have read the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Those who listened to the speech of the right honorable gentleman yesterday will appreciate the difficulty of the press reporters in coping with the speed at which it was made. Probably, that is the reason for a mistake having crept into the newspaper report. The honorable member for Bass has correctly stated the position in relation to the increases of price that have been granted to dairy farmers.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the report in this morning’s press with regard to the decisions reached at the Empire Wool Conference in London, wherein it is stated that “ the delegates are well satisfied with the outcome of the discussions “ ; that according to press reports the Yorkshire wool industry has been saved by the decisions of the conference; and that the price of wool will be stabilized for many years? Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House of the terms of the decisions? Do they, in fact, ensure to Australian woolgrowers a stable price for their product for many years ? If so, can the honorable gentleman disclose what is the average price per pound for wool to be paid to growers under the proposals? Does the new agreement replace the old? From what date will it operate?
– If the honorable gentleman will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall answer it in detail. The Australian delegates at the Empire Wool Conference held consultations with delegates from other dominions in regard to the disposal of the existing surplus of wool, as well as the current clip. The honorable member is as well acquainted as I am with the details of that matter. The conference concluded its deliberations last week. It must be understood that the Australian delegates represent the Government, and that for the time being the decisions reached are not those of the Government but will have to be broughtback for ratification. I hope that the Cabinet will be able at a reasonably early date to give consideration to the proposals - which, I understand, were agreed to by the conference for submission to the various Governments. We are able to visualize a solution of what appeared to be a very difficult problem, and on the long range view it would seem that this is likely to be beneficial to the wool industry.
– Has the Minister for Transport read the report in the Perth Daily News, of the 24th May, that seats on the east- west train are fully hooked until the 11th July, and that, as far as Western Australia is concerned, travel restriction is as rigid as ever, the 140 berths being occupied on each trip? The report further states that the service from Adelaide to Brisbane is adequate, as in some cases two trains are run daily between those capitals. In view of the fact that from 80 to 100 people a day interview the priorities officer in Perth, will the Minister consult the Army authorities and the Minister for the Interior with a view to having two trains a week provided on the trans- Australian railway and having these trains put back on their pre-war schedule, as military traffic on the line is now only a fraction of what it was ?
– As the honorable member is aware, owing to service requirements, it has been possible for some time to run only one train each way weekly between Perth and the eastern States. Recently, the Army requirements have been reduced to two trains a week, and this has brought about the release of a number of converted freight cars, commonly referred to as “cattle trucks”, which are considered to be of no further use for service purposes or civilian trains. Some passenger rolling-stock was also released, but this is in an unserviceable condition and it is now under repair. This work will probably be completed at an early date, and it will be possible to run a second train as from the first week in August next. I shall consult the Minister for the Interior, who is in charge of Commonwealth Railways, and ascertain whether the work canbe expedited.. I shall also discuss with him the suggestion that the old running schedule should be resumed.
– I draw the Trea surer’s attention to the fact that the fees paid by war service pensioners and oldage pensioners for radio licences vary. The old-age pensioner pays only 10s. a year for a licence, whilst the service pensioner, who has to be in necessitous circumstances, and also must have served in a theatre of war before he is entitled to a pension, has to pay the full licence-fee of £1 a year. Will the Treasurer look into the matter, with a view to rectifying the anomaly, at least in the next budget ?
– I am not familiar with all of the points mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have th? matter examined, in conjunction with certain other proposals regarding charges made for radio licences, which I understand, are engaging the attention of the Postmaster-General.
– The subject of soil erosion forms a part of the school curriculum in many of the States of America. In view of the need for education and longrange planning in dealing with the menace of soil erosion in Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister request consideration at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers of the introduction of that subject into the Australian school curriculum., so that in this way the growing child will understand how serious the .menace has become in this country?
– I ‘understand that a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council will be held at an early date, and I think that the matter raised by the honorable mem!ber could well be submitted in the first instance to that body, which might then make a recommendation on the subject to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. I shall ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to arrange to have the matter discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, and if a reasonable degree of unanimity can be reached regarding it, I shall also arrange to have it considered at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
-Will the Acting Prime Minister indicate to the French Charge d’Affaires that Australia views with dismay and disapproval the outbreak of armed conflict in Lebanon and
Syria? Will he inform him that the people of Australia have a profound remembrance of the fact that Australian troops ha.ve fought in the Levant, and that many of them have died; that Australia considers that the peaceful settlement of international disputes should take the place of armed conflict; and that it expects France, which owes so much to the democratic nations for its deliverance, to show an example to the world in the settlement of disputes by international arbitrament?
– I shall take the opportunity of consulting with the Acting Minister for External Affairs, and ask him to give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s request.
– by leave - Yesterday, in discussing a dispute at Port Kembla, the Leader of the Opposition said -
The Solicitor-General further stated that the order would be made unless he received assurances within half an hour that the companies would refrain from the intended suspensions.
He further stated -
Both statements are incorrect. In the first instance, it is suggested that the Solicitor-General exercised some form of threat against the companies. That is the inference that must necessarily be drawn from the statement. The facts are that the order had been signed earlier in the evening, and was, when the Solicitor-General spoke to the companies, in the process of ‘being set up for the Gazette. ‘Until the Gazette is issued the order is not valid. He told the three companies that the order had been made, applying to them, and, at the request of the companies, he dictated to the representatives the text of the order. Consequently there was no threat to the companies that if they did not take certain steps certain action would be taken. In fact, the order had been drawn.
– I said that the Solicitor-General telephoned from Canberra to the representatives of the companies the text of an order which was to be gazetted.
– The right honorable gentleman also said that the SolicitorGeneral further stated that the order would be made unless he received assurances within half an hour. That was intended as a threat by him.
– Was the order made?
– It had been made long before any telephone communication had taken place with the companies.
– Had it been gazetted ?
– The Leader of the Opposition, I repeat, said that the order would be made unless the SolicitorGeneral received assurances within half an hour that the companies would refrain from the intended suspensions.
– Does .the Minister mean that I should have said “gazetted “?
– The Leader of the Opposition knows as well as anybody else what plain English means. He undoubtedly implied two things. The first was that the Solicitor-General threatened the companies that unless they did certain things an order would be drawn. The answer to that is that the order had already been drawn long before the Solicitor-General spoke to the companies. The suggestion that any threats were being made about the order is not true. The Government had decided on the order without any threats.
– -Why were the companies rung up?
– Yesterday the Solicitor-General was alleged by the Leader of the Opposition to have used a threat.
– A threat is to be inferred.
– I leave the matter to the House.
A second and more important aspect, perhaps, is that the Leader of the Opposition declared that illegal absence had been converted into a holiday on full pay. That is also an untruth. No suggestion was made that the illegal holiday was. to be .paid for. I ask the Leader of the
Opposition to correct his statement, ‘because it reflects on the Solicitor-General.
– by leave - I am still not entirely clear as to what the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) means. If he means that my statement was wrong when I said- that the Solicitor-General further stated that the order would be made, then of course .that is clearly right. It appears earlier in my statement that the order had been made but not gazetted. If what the Minister means is that the Solicitor-General said to him that he did not make any statement to the representatives of the companies to the effect that the order would come into operation, or be gazetted, unless they gave certain assurances, I will, following my universal practice with the ‘‘SolicitorGeneral, unhesitatingly accept his word.
As to the second matter, the point raised apparently is this : I said that the government of the day not only failed to enforce the law against 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. If that is to be answered - and this is not a matter that concerns the Solicitor-General- then the answer should include the letter which was sent to the representatives of the companies by the Director-General of Man Power. When that letter is tabled I shall have an opportunity to say something more about the matter.
– I rise to a personal explanation regarding conduct attributed to me yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The statements were made with reference to the observance of the May Day holiday in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area. The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition was based on a letter the alleged contents of which he referred to. The letter was written by me, and he said that it was a conspicuous recent example demonstrating clearly that the essence of the Government’s policy is that it will directly incite breaches of the law. He then said that this was a most improper attitude for a public man to take, and that it cut across the law of the land. The statements of the Leader of the Opposition are completely incorrect. His version of the letter -was also incorrect. Later in the day, the honorable member for “Warringah said that Mr. Eraser, apparently acting with some authority on behalf of the Government, made it clear to the members of the union that, although the law said there should not be a holiday, and that Che Government was not prepared to alter the regulations to permit the taking of a holiday, yet, if they took a holiday, everything would be all right. He went on to say that I had thereby intimated to the union that the Government was deliberately suggesting that they could break the law with impunity. I understand the honorable member also demanded that the letter which I had written should be produced.
– The honorable member might read what I did say.
– That is the honorable member’s statement as I have it. I propose to give to the House all the facts of this matter as briefly as I can, so that there can be no question as to the incorrectness of the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah.
– Why did not the honorable member speak during the debate yesterday?
– I should have been glad to do so had the opportunity occurred.
– Has the honorable member read what I said on this subject ? I made no reference to the honorable member beyond quoting a passage out of the verbatim record of the proceedings in court.
– I have read what the Leader of the Opposition said. He then quoted the alleged contents of the letter.
– I did not quote the alleged contents of any letter. I quoted the contents of the official record of the court proceedings. Does the honorable member suggest that I quoted it inaccurately ?
– I shall read the letter. The Leader of the Opposition stated without qualification that my action was a conspicuous recent example demonstrating clearly that the essence of government policy was to incite breaches of the law, and that I was an agent in the matter.
– I rise to a point of order. ls the honorable member for EdenMonaro in order in making a lengthy personal explanation on a matter arising out of a debate which took place yesterday, in view of the fact that he had an opportunity last night to make his explanation, but instead voted for the prevention of further debate.
– An honorable member may at any time, provided no other honorable member has the floor, rise to make a personal explanation, and the Standing Orders do not prescribe any limit to the time he shall take. The honorable member is entitled to show how he was misrepresented, and to put the position plainly before the House.
– I can understand the reluctance of honorable members opposite to hear my explanation. The State member for Illawarra wrote to me on behalf of some of my constituents, who work in factories in the Port Kembla and Wollongong districts, asking me to put before the Government their application for a holiday for the observance of, May Day. As requested, I put their representation before the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who replied that the Prime Minister was unable to agree to the granting of additional public holidays during the war period.
– Was that all he said ?
– That was all that wad said in the letter which I received. Subsequently, I had a conversation with the Minister for Labour and National Service, and he explained to me that the purpose of the regulations was to ensure that essential war production was not. interfered with. I studied the regulations for myself, and saw that that was their purpose. Where essential war production was not interfered with, and where the management of the factory agreed to the taking of a holiday - the management knowing the state of its contracts and the position in regard to its plant - there is provision in the regulations for the taking of a holiday. I wrote to the honorable member for Illawarra, and to the secretary of the Wollongong Labour Council, setting out the position. To the State member for the district, Mr. H. Fowles, I wrote as follows: -
I enclose Mr. Holloway’s letter to me, contents of which I have already telephoned you.
After receiving this letter, I had a further talk, with Mr. Holloway. He said that the Federal Government would not order a public holiday, but would not prevent the taking of the holiday where war production permitted. He said if any management was agreeable that the day should he taken as a holiday and felt that its production position would permit this to be done, then the Federal Government would have no objection. This, said Mr. Holloway, was a matter for private arrangement between the management and the unions concerned.
In view of the traditional nature of this holiday in the district, the importance attached to it, and the need for the day off for men working most of the time at high pressure, J trust that, in conjunction with Mr. Baddeley, yon will And a satisfactory way out. If there is anything more I can do, please let me know.
That letter was written on the 17th April, long before the proceedings came before ifr. Justice Cantor.
– Does the honorable member represent the Port Kembla district?
– I represent a large number of the people who work there. On the 20th April, I wrote the following letter to the secretary of the Wollongong Trades and Labour Council : -
Since receiving the enclosed letter, I have had further conversation with Mr. Holloway.
He says that, while the Federal Government will not order a holiday, it will raise no objection to a holiday being taken in those cases where management and union officials agree that this can be done without injury to the war effort.
In his statement yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition omitted any reference to the fact that I had pointed out that a holiday could be taken only by agreement with the management, and if no injury were done to the war effort. He placed an entirely different construction on the incident. All that I did was in. accordance with the normal practice of the department. I explained to the men what was the legal position under the regulations, and what were their rights in the matter. I explained, first of all, that a holiday could not be gazetted. I further explained that if they wished to obtain a holiday, and if they believed that it could be taken without injury to the war effort, their only recourse was to obtain the approval of the management, and that the holiday could not be taken unless that approval was obtained. That is in strict accordance with the regulations, and with the practice of the department.
– The honorable member may not debate the matter. All he may do is to put before the House exactly what occurred.
– I am trying to show that my conduct did not constitute an incitement to the men to break the law - an allegation which I regard very seriously. Far from that being the case, I explained the legal position to the men. As showing that my conduct did not incite them to break the law, but to obey it, I point out that the men acted on the advice I gave them, and immediately sought a conference with the management. However, the management refused to confer, and this led to what subsequently took place.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I gather that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) is critical of what I said yesterday, and it is, therefore, necessary that I should bring him back to the facts. The sole reference which was made to the honorable member in the course of my speech yesterday consisted of a verbatim extract from the record o% the proceedings in court.
– The Leader of the Opposition added some comment.
– I made no comment whatever on the honorable member. I quoted what was said in court by Mr. McHenry, who represented the union, and I quoted it accurately and completely, because I had the verbatim transcript before me. This is the quotation -
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.
At that point I interpolated that the Mr. Fraser referred to was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and 1 continued the quotation as follows: -
I have not got a copy of the letter here. Mr. George has not brought it with him. But it purports, - 1 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 the dialogue between His Honour and Mr. McHenry, which I quoted. That is all I said on the point yesterday.
– Did not the Leader of the Opposition say, when reading the letter, that he was giving a conspicuous recent example demonstrating that the essence of government policy was to incite men to commit breaches of the law?
– I did not read any letter. I did not have a letter before me. All I read was Mr. McHenry’s reference to the letter “ received from Mr. Eraser “. The honorable member flatters himself if he thinks I was referring to him as a conspicuous recent example of anything.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. After hearing the explanation of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) I do not suggest that he thought that he was breaking the law. I draw the attention of honorable members to my reference to the honorable member. Here is what I said -
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 Eden-Monaco (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 day, arid 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 does 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.
I pointed out that the judge had said that the 7th May was not a holiday, and that any person who took a holiday on that day, whether by agreement or otherwise, would be acting contrary to the law. I went on to say -
I have already set out the facts, and they cannot be denied. Before the mcn 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.
Having heard the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro I have nothing to withdraw. It is correct to say that the Government was prepared to wink at a breach of the law.
– I rise to order. Is it possible under the Standing Orders to recommit a vote on a motion of censure in order to have it discussed at question time, or on a motion for the adjournment of the House?
– That is a frivolous question.
Wing- Commander Gibbes : Reduction of Rank
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air relating to a report which appeared in to-day’s press that, by gazettal, former Wing-Commander R. H. Gibbes, D.S.O., D.F.C., has been reduced to the rank of Squadron Leader by sentence of a general court-martial. Is the Minister in a position to give to the House the facts relating to the reduction of the rank of this very gallant officer? Is it a fact that he is one of the persons involved’ in the inquiry by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.0.. which is now proceeding? Will the Minister say whether the evidence in that case has been completed, and, if so, when we may expect the investigator’s report to be made public?
– I regret that the honorable member has raised this matter, as I do not think that his action will serve the cause which apparently he is espousing. The position is that Squadron Leader Gibbes who is a very distinguished officer with a wonderful record, was tried by court-martial, and after he had admitted that certain of the charges laid against him were well founded, he was reduced one step in rank.
– Will the Minister indicate what the charges were?
– I cannot do so at this stage, because I would like to be more correct than are some of the statements made in the press and by honorable members in connexion with this matter. The officer was charged with certain offences which he admitted, ‘ and, accordingly, he was reduced one step in rank.
– Was he not advised to plead guilty?
– The suggestion that he has been unfairly dealt with by having been reduced in rank is entirely unfounded, and shows that honorable members sometimes make complaints before acquainting themselves with the facts. I appreciate the services that Squadron Leader Gibbes has rendered, the value of which is indicated by the decorations that he has won, but, in my opinion, the facts of the case have not been properly presented to the House in the questions that have been asked.
– I rise to order. I asked the Minister whether the inquiry was still proceeding and when the evidence was likely to be completed. I should like him now to answer that part of my question.
– That is not a point of order. The honorable member may not take advantage of a point of order in that way.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to make a statement to the House regarding the release of men from the various fighting forces after long service?
– I hope to make a statement on that and related matters this afternoon. I had hoped to do so this morning, but the necessary .papers were not completed in time.
– It is reported in the press that the Minister for Aircraft Production has said that the LincolnLancaster machines now being built in Australia are bigger than the English machines of the same design, and that he then gave some detail of their estimated speed and other qualities. In view of the cessation of hostilities in Europe, and the fact that Britain has abundant air craft and could no doubt supply some to Australia quickly, does the Minister intend to proceed with the full programme of Lancaster manufacture in Australia? If so, when does he anticipate that at least one machine will be ready for use?
– The Government hopes that the first of the Lancaster machines will be ready for delivery by the beginning of next year.
– The war may be over by then.
– The Australian programme is being undertaken after consultation with the authorities in the United .Kingdom. Further, the programme that is >to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government will be constantly under review in the light of any altered circumstances which might justify any alteration of it. The information which I gave in a public statement was the latest on the subject.
– Recently, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping a question relating to the release of Army trucks to primary producers. I have received a letter from the West Pennant Hills War Agricultural Committee stating that contradictory statements are being made on the subject, and asking me to get definite information. In view of the uncertainty among primary producers as to the policy that is being- followed, I now ask the Minister whether he will consult with the Acting Minister for the Army with a view to having a definite statement prepared, so that the many hundreds of primary producers who are waiting for trucks will know what chance they will have of obtaining vehicles?
– If my memory serves me aright, about 5,000 trucks have already been made available by the Army to the Common.wealth Disposals Commission. Before the Commission can handle them the Army authorities must sanction their disposal. Of the 5,000 trucks referred to, I understand that only about 3,000 ai-e serviceable; the rest need various repairs. I fear that many people are of the opinion that more trucks are available than is the case. The method of disposal is, first, a determination by the Road Transport Board as to essential users. I am not certain where primary producers stand in this connexion, but I should think that they stand high in the list of persons to whom vehicles may be sold. The first approach by a primary producer should be made to the Road Transport Board, in order to satisfy that body that ho requires a truck for essential purposes. After that, he should make an application to some firm trading in motor vehicles. Information on that subject can be obtained. It is only fair to say that the number of trucks available throughout the Commonwealth at the moment is not great, and that the demand for them is heavy. We are pressing the Army authorities to release more trucks, and when that has been done the situation should be considerably eased.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the House whether there is any truth in the persistent rumour that a tanker arrived in an Australian port recently- with petrol and left again without unloading it, the rumour being that all storage tanks in Australia were already filled?
– No tankers have arrived in Australia and left without being unloaded. As the petrol storage capacity in this country exceeds the quantity on hand, the situation to which the honorable member has referred could scarcely have arisen.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney- VicePresident of the Executive Council). - by leave - On the 15th May, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked whether, in view of the conflicting press reports regarding an increase of petrol and rubber supplies, an authoritative statement could be made to the House in order to clarify the position. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following statement : -
In November, 1944, we were advised from London to the effect that, because of the largescale operational requirements in the European and the Pacific war theatres, it would be necessary to provide more tankers to those areas for which purpose some withdrawal of tankers from the Australian run would be necessary. This meant that it would be impossible to maintain the Australian stock at the level which we had reached as at that date which, if maintained, would have rendered possible some relaxation of existing general restrictions on the use of petrol.
Towards the end of December, advice was received that the overall tanker position had deteriorated still further as a result of which a decline in our overall stock position must be expected ; over the succeeding months up to the present, this reduction in stocks has actually taken place, but not to a point which would occasion any alarm.
During the last quarter of 1944, the decision was taken in the light of the then anticipated future supply position to relax the producer-gas policy to the extent of relieving the heavier groups of transport from the necessity to continue the use of that substitute fuel, and of providing the vehicles concerned with sufficient petrol to enable them, to carry on their essential running without thu aid of producer gas. Other vehicles, outside the heavy transport groups, whose operations took them into country areas, were exempted from using producer gas and were provided with petrol during the summer months with a view to minimizing the bush-fire danger. These concessions have increased our total petrol consumption materially, to which must now be added the provision of special rations for the cartage of water in drought-stricken areas and the making available of. petrol for the substitution of petrol-driven for horse-drawn vehicles, because of the impracticability of continuing with the latter form of transport owing to the. shortage of fodder.
The cumulative effect of the withdrawal of. tankers and the increased consumption because of the concessions stated is that our overall motor spirit stock position has reached a level which would render any further increase in consumption undesirable, unless we can be assured of some additional tanker allocations.
With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, it is thought that the tanker requirements for operational purposes in that area will be reduced, but it is not yet possible to estimate to what extent these reduced European operational needs will be offset by the needs of the liberated areas and the increased requirements of the Pacific theatre. We have requested advice on these aspects and on how far it will be possible now to re-allocate additional tankers to Australia.
I am aware that there is still a large number of. vehicles being operated with producer-gas units, many of which are now almost worn out, and that these should be afforded relief as soon as practicable. The extent to which this measure of relief and other concessions which I would like to approve will be found possible, however, must depend upon the nature of the reply received from London to our representations for extra tanker tonnage.
The rubber position is still most difficult, and I cannot see any relief in sight from the present tyre situation for some time yet. The main sources of supply of natural rubber are still in the hands of the Japanese and, although operations against the enemy in those areas have commenced, it is not yet possible to forecast just when supplies of crude rubber will begin to flow from them. Australia must look forward, therefore, to an increasing use of synthetic rubber in the coming months, and this will be a limiting factor in our endeavour to produce more tyres for civilian transport.
Honorable members may be assured, however, that the supply position of both of these important commodities will be kept under continual review and that relief will be afforded motor transport operators from time to time as this may be found practicable and to the extent dictated by the supply position.
Debate resumed from the 30th May (vide page 2311), on motion by Mr. CHIFLEY -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Padden had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the Bill be withdrawn as a direction to the Government that it be redrafted, to provide, inter alia. -
That the Commonwealth Bank Board be maintained in accordance with the decision and recommendation of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the monetary and banking systems in Australia.
That the note issue should be limited by statute.
That the Commonwealth Bank be so constituted that each of its constituent parts shall be provided with separate management, and with whatever liaison as is necessary to ensure a co-ordinated policy.
That the Commonwealth General Trading Bank and Industrial Finance Bank be treated, insofar as their relationship to the Central Bank is concerned, in exactly the same way as other trading banks.”
– There is not much that I can add to what has already been said regarding this bill, but it seems to me that some of the observations already made should be stressed. When I consider this bill and its effect on the prestige of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), I am reminded of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because this legislation signalizes the decline and fall of the Prime Minister and his Government. There was a time when the Prime Minister was regarded, not only by honorable members, but also by the people generally as being, in war-time, above the petty things associated, with party politics. The people believed that his word could be accepted; and so, when the right honorable gentleman said that if his Government were returned it would not, during the war, indulge in socialism or attempt to nationalize industries, the people generally believed that his undertaking would be honoured. The introduction of this legislation, which is a departure from the assurances given by the Prime Minister, indicates that he is travelling a road by which he will rapidly descend from the honoured position which he has held in the community. I do not altogether blame the Prime Minister. He in turn is the victim of circumstances. He is compelled by the caucus system to submit to party decisions regardless of whether he agrees that they are wise or whether they compel him to break his word. Whatever the caucus decides, every member of the party, from the leader down, has to bend the knee and comply. We deplore the dishonouring of the Prime Minister’s promises, but know that he is the victim of others. Study of the machinery of the Labour party shows how the monetary and banking systems of this country could be controlled fi-om outside this Parliament. All honorable members know, but the public may not, that decisions of the Parliamentary Labour party are made in caucus. One half plus one of the members of the party can impose their will on the minority. Therefore, a simple majority of the Labour party can control this Parliament, because, once a caucus decision is made the others bow their heads and join hands with the majority to form a solid unit. The Parliamentary Labour party in its turn is dominated by outside organizations of various kinds, by electoral councils and such organizations, but mainly, as we well know, by the great industrial unions, which are increasingly coming under the domination of the Communists. Therefore, the high command of the Communist movement, by first establishing cells in workshops and then having party members elected to executive positions in the unions in such numbers as to direct them, can control the caucus and., through the caucus, the Cabinet, which enables them, without having one Communist in this Parliament, to control it and thus impose the party’s will on the country through statutes. That is the danger to which we are now exposed in bringing the financial system under direct political control. No wonder this legislation is so fervidly supported by the Communists ! The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) yesterday had much to say about alleged waste of time on the censure motion, but the fact is that this legislation is entirely unnecessary, because regulations made under the National Security Act, already in force, enable it to effect the control of the monetary and banking systems proposed in it. These bills are meant, first, to placate the extremists of the Labour party, who have been demanding socialization, and, secondly, to waste time. They are in that respect symbolical of the waste of men and materials in the Government’s handling of the war effort. Sections of the existing Commonwealth Bank Act ave, in effect, an armed guard to prevent political raiders from robbing the people of their savings. They are a safeguard against inflation. We have to remember that those most damaged by inflation are, not the capitalists and the property owners, who, in the main, benefit, because inflation enhances the value of their property, but the wage-earners, the pensioners, and holders of life assurance policies, the value of which inflation depreciates as speedily as prices rise in its wake. Therefore, I shall resist, as strongly as my poor voice permits, the discharge of the sentries guarding the vaults. There is a particular obligation on this Government to try to maintain the purchasing power of money. We have been invited, time and time again, by the Government to go on to the public platform to persuade patriotic citizens to invest in war loans on our assurance that when the loans fall due the money will be of relatively the same value as it is to-day. They responded. Unless this Parliament takes the necessary action to insure the stability of the currency, we shall have played a confidence trick on those who have invested in war loans. For that reason alone, the Government should hesitate before doing, anything which will tend to undermine the public confidence in the financial system that is the very basis of our currency. The safeguards that are to be withdrawn are, first,. the note issue reserve and, secondly, the Commonwealth Bank Board. The proposed transfer of the control of the Commonwealth Bank from a nonpolitical board to the Treasurer, is feared. The Government must realize that, whether or not it intends to administer the Commonwealth Bank sanely and with proper regard for the consequences of its actions, it has implanted in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people doubt as to just what it will do when the control is vested in the Treasurer. I remind the Government that by vesting that power in the Treasurer, it is making the Commonwealth Bank, the cat’s-paw of whatever political party is in power. This bill contains certain devices designed to hoodwink the public into the belief that the Government does not intend to take political control of the Commonwealth Bank, and that all that it intends is to try to have some kind of remote control. The Government intend* to set up an advisory committee consisting of the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, two representatives of the Treasury, and two other officers of the hank. The Governor will preside over meetings of the Advisory Council, but not have a vote, although his subordinates and the Treasury officials will. Perhaps there is a very good reason why the man responsible for the successful conduct of the bank is not to have a vote. This legislation provides that the Governor shall not be appointed for any specific term. Hie may be appointed for any term up to seven years, but it is not specified that he shall be appointed for seven years, three years, or one year. Therefore bis tenure of office will be extremely precarious. If he is a wise man - and one presumes that a man appointed to that position will have an extra degree of nous - he will listen with very great respect to the advice of the Treasury officials, because he will realize that he is indirectly listening to the Treasurer. It will not be necessary for him to have a vote. All he will have to do will be to listen to Mr. McFarlane, or Mr. Joyce, or whoever may be the representative of the Treasury, then go home and, in the stillness of the night, when discussing his affairs with his wife, say, “Well, my dear, I know the best thing to do. McFarlane says so and. so, and if I do not do it, I may lose my job “. That will be the sort of idea inculcated into the mind of the chief executive of the financial system of this country. In other words. the Government, under this bill, seeks to achieve its objective of political control of the Commonwealth Bank, whilst, at the same time, affording itself a let out by being able to say that the Governor is responsible for the bank’s decisions, knowing full well, of course, that what the Government says will be done in any case. Should, any one believe that the Government has no intention of interfering politically with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, but that the proposal, as has been suggested by ministerial supporters, is merely a formal set-up, one has only to recall the unfortunate experience of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary. He was supposed by act of Parliament to be completely beyond political control, but his position as chairman of the commission was made so unpleasant by political interference and by various devices which frustrated him in the discharge of his functions, that he was ultimately compelled to resign. There can be no doubt, therefore, that should the Government, with the direct access provided under this measure, wish to interfere politically with the Governor of the bank it will do so without the slightest compunction. The removal of the Bank Board leaves the d’oor wide open to crazy experiments which any political party in power for the time being may seek to make. So long as we have as Treasurer a sound and balanced gentleman like the present Treasurer, we can possibly console ourselves that things will run along all right; but we may not always have such a gentleman as Treasurer. Secondly, the Treasurer is under the control of his party, and will be compelled to carry out decisions of the caucus, even when his better judgment tells him that he should not do so. Thirdly, he may be succeeded by somebody who has hazy and crazy ideas about how the finances of the country should be conducted. As a matter of fact, should the present Treasurer relinquish the office it is logical to suppose that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) would step into his shoes. Therefore, it is interesting to analyse the views of the Assistant Treasurer on finance, because they .probably represent the views of an influential section of the Government party. In any case, by virtue of the fact that he is now Assistant Treasurer we must have some regard for the opinions which he has expressed even though we regard them as being entirely misconceived. The Assistant Treasurer has written a book. I am very sorry that it has not had a wider distribution, because after endeavouring for months to obtain a copy of the book, it was only by the greatest good fortune that I succeeded in doing so. In case other honorable members and the people generally should experience the same difficulty in making themselves familiar with the views of the Assistant Treasurer I propose to quote substantial portions of that book. The Assistant Treasurer deals with the profit motive versus the human motive. Apparently, by some chemical means, he is going to alter human nature so that humans will abandon the profit motive. He says -
The test as to whether we are to have a new order after the war, or the old order under a new name, will be whether the profit motive predominating the old order is to be superseded by a human motive in the new order.
– Hear, hear !
– I do not know how the Assistant Treasurer would remove the profit motive from human nature. I have no doubt that even he is most careful in his personal budget in order that at the end of the year he may show a surplus of receipts over expenditure. I believe that he would proceed along those lines, as would anybody who has any regard for the future and plans accordingly. But, according to the Assistant Treasurer, the profit motive is going to be eliminated in the new order. He goes on -
We all say we want a New Order. Most of us talk glibly about it; but how to get it is the question, and as it is nearly time something was said about the “how”, an attempt is at least made here to get right down to the “ how “.
At that stage he foresees that somebody might say to him, “You are a member of the present Government. Why do you not get on with the ‘ how ‘ ? “ Therefore, he proceeds -
It must also be understood that the “ how “ set out here is meant to apply to post-war days. Until victory comes, the prosecution of the war must transcend all other activities.
– Has the honorable gentleman any objection to that?
– Except to note that the successful prosecution of the war depends entirely upon the utilization of the old order. . The Assistant Treasurer goes on -
No laws designed to effect a managed economy can long remain effective if private controlled finance determines to destroy it.
And the following passage reveals an interesting idea : -
The means by which legal currency is falsified is by the operations of the cheque system, because every time the hanker makes an advance he creates (illegal) currency - cheque pounds. Every time he cancels an advance he destroys (illegal) currency - cheque pounds. Hence he inflates and deflates as his interests dictate without let or hindrance.
– I am glad that the honorable member got that in.
– The Minister proceeds -
Obviously, then, the only way to prevent the banker from counterfeit coining is to deprive him of the power of operating a cheque system.
– Hear, hear!
– Now we come to the crux of the Assistant Treasurer’s ideas with relation to the private banks. He says -
There is no need to pay large sums by nationalizing the banks at all.
Even though the Constitution provides that persons shall be equitably recompensed in respect of property acquired by the ‘Government, the Assistant Treasurer has a device to get around that provision. He says that all the Government has to do, really, is to strangle the banks, that it has only to prevent them from operating a cheque system and then they cannot function; and if they cannot function, the Government will not have to buy them out. The banks will just go broke.
– I have said that for 27 years, and I am still here.
– The Assistant Treasurer proceeds -
Having established the Commonwealth Bank as the only banking institution in Australia through which credit expansion or contraction could be effected, we can immediately start to finance our post-war activities to meet the needs of the New Order. Let ns take, for example, the provision of. say, £100.000,000 for public works for the purpose of post-war reconstruction. £100,000,000 lis nOt put forward here as an amount likely to be enough; indeed, it is more than likely that many hundreds of millions will be needed. This figure is used merely for the purpose of illustration.
– Read the other parts.
– The Assistant Treasurer proceeds to explain exactly how these hundreds of millions would be paid back, because after the currency has been inflated to such an enormous degree somebody is bound to ask the awkward question, “How will you pay it back?”
The Assistant Treasurer’s solution is this-
In this way we ]K-g our present national indebtedness, and, by securing social and economic justice to our people, Australia’s national resources could be developed to the full. Population of the right kind would gradually flow to our country, and we could, in a reasonably short period of time, liquidate our present national debt and become a debt-free people.
That is the explanation as to how that credit will be paid .back -
All present Government-owned works and services, such as railways, water works, and services buildings and properties of all kinds, being then relieved of the burden of debt now encumbering them, could develop and expand and give better and cheaper services, while at the same time affording much better conditions to their employees.
And here is an interesting idea -
The only reasons for taxation in such an economic set-up would be the cost of Government and the cost of such services, mainly social, which by their very nature, cannot pity for themselves.
Thus, under the scheme proposed by the Assistant Treasurer, who is likely to succeed the present Treasurer, we do not have to worry about taxation except for the purpose of (paying for social services.
– And that is how it should be.
– I quote from this publication, not because any financial authority would take it seriously, but because it is written by the Assistant Treasurer, whose views are supported by honorable members opposite.
– The ‘very fact that such a crazy proposition could be put forward seriously, and supported by honorable members apposite, constitutes the principal danger to which the Com.monwealth Bank is now being subjected. We are being told that all we have to do is to issue hundreds of millions of notes and rake them in at the rate of five per cent, each year, and thus wipe off the indebtedness in twenty years.
– Hear, hear!
– That means that the Government would write out cheques until it ran out of ink, and at the end of twenty years repudiate its indebtedness. The country would then “ go bust “, and we should have to start all over again.
– That is not what it means.
– If there is any substance in the Assistant Treasurer’s crazy idea, why does the Government appeal for subscriptions to war loans when, under the National Security
Regulations, it has power to do what he proposes? I am paying the Minister for Works a great compliment by reading to the House so much of his drivel, but, apparently, his writings impressed a large number of honorable members opposite who have directed the Treasurer, through caucus, to introduce this legislation. When it is claimed that a new order can be introduced by printing currency we should remember that this new order will strip the individual of the liberty and freedom of choice which he enjoys to-day. A scheme such as this can be implemented only by the regimentation of the people, and the continuance of rationing and other restrictions.
I wish to pay a tribute to the service that has been rendered to this country by the trading banks. We have heard a lot from honorable members opposite of how these banks have hounded the people and always insisted upon having their pound of flesh, but a great many people owe their start in business to the fact that a manager of a private bank has had confidence in their proposals. Frequently, if a man has not sufficient capital or has insufficient assets with which to secure an advance, a private bank will take a risk and advance the money he requires. It is true that in some cases unfortunate actions have been taken by some banks, but these are the exception rather than the rule. The basis of freedom of choice in a competitive community is the fact that if one institution fails to satisfy a person’s requirements, he can go to another. If the trading banks be eliminated, leaving the Commonwealth Bank in sole charge of the banking field, there will be no freedom of choice, and a person who is refused assistance by the Commonwealth Bank will not be able to apply elsewhere. A single authority directing our whole economic system would be the most powerful monopoly conceivable. The socalled economic freedom planners promised to us, means precisely that we shall be relieved of the necessity to solve our own economic problems and that the choice - very often a hitter choice - which the solving of our own problems often involves, shall be made for us by somebody else. In a directed economy where an authority will watch over the’ ends that are pursued, that authority will certainly use its powers to assist the attainment of some objectives and to prevent the realization of others. What we are to receive will be determined not by our own views, but by somebody else’s views of what we should like or dislike. Since the authority would have power to thwart any efforts to elude its guidance, it- would control everything that we consumed almost as effectively as if it were to direct us how to spend our incomes. Freedom to choose our work is probably more important than freedom to spend our income during our hours of leisure.
A great deal has been, said about what the Commonwealth Bank will be able to do for the farmer, and for the community at large. It is claimed that increased advances will be easier to obtain and on more favorable terms. I point out, however, that since the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank has been in existence, it has received 1,687 applications for loans, and has approved of only 814, or less than 50 per cent. Advances totalling £1,701,570 have been made, whereas, if the demand’s of prospective borrowers are to be met adequately, many millions of pounds will be required. On the question of whether a government bank could deal less harshly with an individual than would a private concern, I remind honorable members of the treatment accorded by a government department in this very city to the occupant of a governmentowned house. This department’s action was worse than that of any private landlord of whom I have heard. I refer to the case of Mrs. Pedvin, which I brought up in this House some weeks ago, and with which the Minister for Works was associated.
– That is not true. I had nothing to do with the matter and the honorable member knows it.
– The Minister made certain charges against Mrs. Pedvin. He alleged that she had private property elsewhere from which she derived an income.
– That is a lie. I read a statement prepared by another Minister.
– The Minister for Works made that statement in this House and he must take responsibility for it. The facts of the case are these: Mrs. Pedvin, whose husband is a prisoner of war, is the tenant of a government house in Canberra. She had paid the proper rent for the premises which she occupied, but she was served with a notice of eviction because she refused to pay a special rent, liability for which she denied. That is an example of administration by a government department, and it should be borne in mind by those who claim that the community at large would receive better treatment from a government bank than from the private banks.
Summarizing my objections to this legislation, I say, first, that it will remove the safeguards which the present Commonwealth Bank Act provides. These safeguards are designed to prevent inflation and to preserve the value of the currency; Secondly, this legislation will tend to destroy our system of free enterprise by destroying the trading banks, which of course is the Government’s ultimate objective. Under a system of free enterprise it is possible for a person who is unable to obtain satisfaction from one bank or one institution to go to a competitive organization and submit his proposals; this legislation will create a banking monopoly which will place people in servitude to a group of individuals, or to one individual in a town in which there is only one bank. In my opinion, it is a substantial step towards the creation of a permanently regimented community.
.- This is the happiest day of my life. I have long wished for the day when we would see the original charter of the Commonwealth Bank restored to it. I am sure that old stalwarts of the Labour party like the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), will rejoice, also, at the passage of this legislation. Many things have happened since 1910, when the Labour party first commenced its efforts to establish the Commonwealth Bank. That party is still making history by introducing this legislation, the effect of which will be to make the Commonwealth Bank a people’s bank as was originally intended. Thirty-five years have elapsed since the old bogies which are being raised by the Opposition in connexion with these bills were first raised’ by opponents of the Labour party’s banking proposals. The claim to-day, as it was then, is that the Labour party’s banking policy will ruin Australia. I remember cartoons which were published in the Melbourne Argus in those days. One of them depicted a barrowload of 10s. notes described as “ Fisher’s flimsies “ being wheeled to the Treasury doors. The caption was: “ You can have the lot for Id. They are not worth the paper they are printed on.” The only fault I have to find with “Fisher’s flimsies’’’ is that there has never been enough of them. I am glad that the Opposition has given the Commonwealth Bank credit at least for doing a magnificent job in this war and the last war. When legislation to create the Commonwealth Bank was first advocated by such stalwarts as King O’Malley, who is still ali ve. to-day, and others who have passed, such as Dr. Maloney and Mr. Frank Anstey, critics claimed that Australia would be ruined. However, despite strong opposition, the bank was established, and opened its doors in 1912. Two years later, the first world war started, and during that conflict, the bank saved the primary producers of this country. It was founded with the paltry capital of £10,000, but during the war it made advances to the farmers amounting to £350,00(1,000. That was the institution that was going to ruin Australia! How much better the position of- this country would be to-day had the bank been allowed to function as intended by its founders! Great as the bank is now, it would have been much greater, but, because this Government wishes to expand the- power cif the bank, and to make it a true people’s bank, the Opposition is still shouting that Australia will be ruined. What is’ the use of the Labour party occupying the treasury bench if it cannot control the finances of this country? What is the use of the Government preparing plans for post-war reconstruction, re-establishment and rehabilitation of servicemen, if it cannot have the money to put these plans into effect? We would be disloyal to the1 people of this country and useless as a government, if we did not take this’ action. Every member of this chamber knows the misery that can exist in time of depression. The last depression was purely a financial problem all over the world, and failure to solve it imposed immense hardship upon the people; but the financial institutions did not lose. They insisted upon having their pound of flesh. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) showed the depth to which these financial institutions are prepared to stoop, when he pointed out that in one instance they had even deprived a onelegged digger of his pension. This Government is determined to give effect to this legislation. It is determined to give security to the people, and that can be done only by controlling the finances of this country through the Commonwealth Bank. The arguments advanced by honorable members opposite will not stand a close examination. Those who are prone to’ use the expression “ safe as a bank “ should not forget what happened to the great Bank of England, a private institution, at the outbreak of the 1914-lS- war. It was forced to close its doors for four days while’ it made paper money for which there Was no gold backing. No bank in. the world could meet all of its commitments at once. That has been stated by some of the greatest financial authorities in the world, who gave evidence on monetary systems and financial policies at the Macmillan Inquiry in London in 1931. Mr. Reginald McKenna and other experts who know the subject of banking backwards asserted at the inquiry that money could be created by the banks from nothing. Mr. McKenna said that those who created the credit of a nation held in their hands the fate of that nation. Let us consider the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia. Paragraph 504 of the report states that the Commonwealth Bank can make money available to governments and to others free of charge. I agree that administrative costs should be chargeable, but they would not amount to more than 1 per cent, of the amount involved. One of the few things wrong with this bill is that the interest rates specified are too high. The report of the royal commission stated that the wool and wheat growers of Australia carried a burden of debt amounting to £290,000,000. The report further stated that our currency totalled £60,000,000. In Australia, the currency is usually divided about fiftyfifty between the trading organizations and the people. Therefore, at that time, about £30,000,000 in currency would be held by the banks. That means that the wool and wheat growers must have been paying interest to the banks on a total of £260,000,000 that existed only in the form of figures in ledgers. If the trading banks can issue that amount of credit, I can see no reason why the Commonwealth Bank should not do so at a low rate of interest. The figures which I have just mentioned prove the statement made in the Macmillan Report that money is a “ costless creation “. Honorable members opposite have asked why the Commonwealth Treasurer should have the power proposed to be given to him through this legislation. We had bitter experience of an uncontrolled Commonwealth Bank Board during the years when the parties represented by honorable members opposite held office. When the Scullin Government sought a paltry £18,000,000 in order to enable wheat-growers to pay their way and working men to earn an honest living, it was refused point-blank on the excuse that the issuing of that amount of money would have caused inflation. The idea of inflation resulting from an issue of £18,000,000 is ridiculous. Wheatgrowing is the greatest industry in Australia, because small business people throughout the country depend on it for their livelihood. The Commonwealth Bank Bill proposes to make the Governor of the bank responsible to the Commonwealth Treasurer. This will make it impossible for the conditions that prevailed during the financial depression to be repeated. Honorable members opposite do not talk about inflation when we expend hundreds of millions of pounds for the purpose of killing men, but they cried to Heaven about inflation when the Scullin Government sought a mere £18,000,000 to provide food and housing for the workers. Honorable members opposite have asked why the Government calls for loans if it can make use of credit. I do not believe in the raising of loans. However, the loans raised by this Government have been subscribed by people who have earned their money by hard work and are, therefore, entitled to nome return from their savings, whereas the loans raised hy other governments during the war of 1914-18 and later were subscribed by private banks, which created money from nothing and were not entitled to draw interest on it. Honorable members opposite have spoken of what the private banks have done for Australia. I remind them of what Australia has done for the private banks. The banking institutions have made countless millions of pounds out of the sweat of the people. Australia was a free country until the financial organizations commenced operations here. Despite the nation’s natural’ wealth, the people are burdened with debts totalling millions of pound.s for loans provided by the banks on a basis of credit without backing. The people who produce the wealth of this country are the primary producers, and they should not be permitted to suffer again as they have done in the past. I have had bitter experience of financial depressions. My father was caught in the depression of 1893, and I was caught, with thousands of other primary producers, in the depression of 1933. I have seen men take their wheat away from the trucking yards because they could not sell it. The price at that time was about ls. 6d. or ls. 7d. a bushel. Had the Scullin Government been able to secure the money which it sought from the Commonwealth Bank, it could have enabled the wheat-farmers to pay their way. However, this Government will give security to them. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has made some remarkable utterances about the wheat industry. He tried to choke the Commonwealth Bank out of existence whenever he had the opportunity, but it still lives as the people’s bank. After the Bruce-Page Government went out of office, the Lyons Government took over. In the dying days of that Government, the then Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, wanted to sell Commonwealth Bank inscribed stock for a mere £4,000,000. He wanted £o hand it over to stockholders in
London, New York and Germany. I have been told, that when Sir Otto Niemeyer came to Australia as economic adviser to the Government, he was a director of not only the Bank of England, but also the Bank of France and the Reichsbank of Germany. I have no confirmation of that statement, but I have no reason to doubt it. At any rate, we do know that he represented the Bank of England. When he visited Australia, the country was virtually overflowing with goods of. its own production, but the only remedy that he could find for the financial depression was to reduce consumption. He said, “Because you have too much fruit, butter, eggs and other products, you must reduce salaries and wages, and use less “. How could any man with the slightest common sense make such a stupid recommendation? If I were to die of thirst while standing up to my neck in a tank of water with a muzzle on my mouth, what would people say? They would naturally scoff at. my stupidity for not removing the muzzle. However, that would be no more stupid than Sir Otto Niemeyer’s proposal. His recommendation was designed to make us the slaves of the great ‘banking system. The right honorable member for Cowper has never done anything in his parliamentary career in the interests of the men whom he is supposed to represent. In fact, he has done everything possible by deeds and, word’s to crucify them. He made a lengthy speech condemning these bill3’, merely for the sake of gaining publicity in the newspapers. The merits of the legislation have been clearly outlined by other speakers, and I shall not labour the subject. I am one of the happiest men in Australia to-d,ay because this Government is at last able to act. in the interests of the people. This is the first opportunity that it has had to restore the Commonwealth Bank to the position it occupied until the Bruce-Page Government took office. No other government would have introduced legislation of this valuable character. Although the right honorable member for Cowper spoke in glowing terms of the work that had been done by the .Commonwealth Bank he is entitled to no credit for its achieve ments. I can understand the Leader of the Opposition opposing these bills, because, as we all know, he represents high finance. However, I cannot understand the attitude of representatives of the Australian Country party, who claim to represent primary producers. They are trying to prevent the extension of the Commonwealth Bank’s functions in the interests of rural industries. Their conduct is astounding. I remind them that it is not possible to fool the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest democrats that the world has ever known, said that his country had an enemy within and an enemy without. Australia has been in the same position during the last four or five years. We have almost beaten the enemy without, but we have another fight to wage yet against the secret enemy of high finance which steals upon us like a thief in the night. However, I am sure that this Government will be successful against that inner enemy. These bills represent only one blow in its struggle against financial tyranny. In my opinion, these bills are not sufficiently extensive. I should like to see them broadened to impose control over all finance, so that when the machine ‘finally takes the place of human labour, the people responsible for that development will receive a just reward. I hope that it will not be long before the Government makes a close investigation of the Alberta credit system. That system has been absolutely successful, but I know that if honorable members opposite again come into power, they will not give it a trial. We know how Sir Denison Miller was treated by the private banking institutions when he was Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. They tried to engineer a financial depression in 1921, out he defied them. Australia sustained one of the greatest losses in its history when he died. He fulfilled his obligations as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and his opponents had to wait until he died before they could implement their financial schemes. The right honorable member for ‘Cowper did not waste time in carrying out his plans after Sir Denison Miller’s death. I have heard it said that, when
Sir Denison Miller was on his death.bed, the private financial interests remarked that “they had him where they wanted him”. However, his place has since been taken by others. Until the nation has absolute financial control for all time, there will still be enemies within our gates. The day comes when “the King must doff his purple and the Queen lay down her crown “. So, too, must the day come when the National Government will have full control of national credit, and orthodox finance must stand aside. Then, and not until then, will the great multitudes of the world have ensured to them the rights, justice and security of which for so long they have been deprived by orthodox finance. If we are to have a new order, orthodox finance must “go by the board “. When war broke out, every honorable member of this House said that the people must be given the security to which they are entitled and for which many of them have lost their lives. Orthodox finance is responsible for the position in which we are now placed, and if it is to continue there will be no hope of a new order. Accursed gold causes poverty and wars. The object of the bill is to avoid depressions such as have occurred in the past. I once heard it said : “ Rags make paper; paper makes money; money makes banks; banks make loans; and loans make poverty”. That is perfectly true. Let us get away from orthodox finance and establish a new order in reality, not in empty words. Listening to honorable members opposite, one would think that money is a most mysterious thing. I am sorry to say that, judging by their speeches, honorable members opposite are trying to make the people believe that the private banking system should not be altered. They are doing all that lies in their power to mislead the .people. They should come out in the open and tell the people the facts, one of which is that the Commonwealth Bank has been their salvation in the past, and will be in the future. Not much currency was provided by previous governments out of national credit for the purpose of avoiding Avar. The present Government has financed war commitments to an amount of approximately ?363,000,000. Had it not been in power, the people of Aus- tralia would now be finding the money to pay interest oil an additional ?400,000,000 at least.
The bill has my blessing, and, I believe, the blessing of every man who has fought for the future security of Australia. Many men and women have been prepared to lose their lives in that cause. If the matter is viewed realistically, it must be conceded that the intention of the Government is to make moneyavailable for full employment, without which the nation will not be able to progress. I am very pleased that I shall be able to tell my family that I was so f ortunate as to be a member of the Parliament which passed this great legislation to broaden the functions of the Commonwealth Bank and enable it to operate in the interests of, not only the present generation, but also the generations that are to come when we are dead and gone.
.- I intend to deal, not with the clauses of the bill, but generally with the private control of banking and- the issue of currency, and the power which the monetary system has to dominate the lives of the people. These proposals of the Government will go a long way towards ensuring a state of continuous prosperity ; in other words, they will make possible a new deal for our people. I have always been at a loss to understand how private individuals obtained control of banking. That may be said also of other big industrial enterprises; for example, coal. Industry and the currency belong to the people. Much has been said about depressions, particularly the great depression. We are always experiencing major or minor depressions. Even before the war, in this country, which is rich enough and big enough to provide employment for all, no fewer than between 200,000- and 300,000 persons were without employ- . ment. The reason can readily be realized. Those who control the banking institutions control also the big primary and secondary industries of this country. Probably not one man or woman in Australia can forget the experiences of the last depression, with its almost unbelieveable conditions of poverty and misery in the midst of plenty. As honorable members know, that was a period of business liquidations, bankruptcies, bank foreclosures, suicides, doles and rampant unemployment. Relief schemes, and all manner of other make-believe remedies, were used to cover up the economic plague spots. The notable gentleman referred to by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) -Sir Otto Niemeyer - came to Australia to plan a depression for our people. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made at that time this alarming statement -
The lower standard which Sir Otto Niemeyer urges us to adopt is not a temporary expedient to meet a passing emergency, but a permanent position to which we must ever submit.
That was a candid admission by a man who, for many years, had had control of the affairs of this country. Probably, he did not desire to do anything that would make for the economic security of the people. One cannot relate the numerous tragic instances of the desperate plights into which thousands of willing and deserving Australians were forced, through no fault of their own. Many of those men already have made the supreme sacrifice in the present war, believing that their duty lay in protecting this country and its wealth against a foreign aggressor. Yet, during the financial depression, all that this great country of real wealth could offer to them was the dole or mere subsistence, which was contrary to all the ethical considerations that should govern the administration of any free country. Every honorable member knows that when we were overwhelmed by the depression many people lost all that they possessed - their businesses, their investments, their jobs, and their homes. Some of them were left with only the clothes that they wore. Poverty and misery stalked the land. Incomes were reduced, or ceased to exist. Everybody knows that unemployment increases when industry cannot sell what it produces and must close its doors. Elderly people who, prior to the depression, had saved sufficient to meet their needs in their old age were forced into accepting the old-age pension in order to maintain body and soul. Young people, upon leaving school, grew to manhood without being able to obtain employment. Thousands of the men who are in the Australian forces to-day did not have the privilege of earning sufficient to keep themselves in comfort. Idle factory machinery rusted. Wheat stored in silos, because there was no money with which to purchase it, almost rotted. Fruit and vegetables were either burned or dumped. I saw thousands of tons of fruit and vegetables dumped outside Sydney Heads. The Australian standard of living, of which, previously, we had boasted, deteriorated alarmingly, and nutritional needs could not be met. There was no shortage of materials. Men and women had the will to work and sought employment, but it was denied to them.. The people were in dire need of the food which this country could produce. Yet, primary production and the manufacturing industries had to curtail operations, because of the lack of purchasing power. It is reasonable to assume that that depression was definitely a financial one, and that we were short of nothing except money. Why? Because the power to make and issue currency always has been, and still is, under the control of private financial institutions, which are operated by a clique of international swindlers. Everybody knows that the wheels of industry cannot turn, and governments cannot govern, without finance. That a community with growing needs requires an ever-increasing supply of money is unchallengable.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Review of Man-power and Material Resources.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of certain recommendations which have been made by the Advisory War Council and approved by War Cabinet, regarding the direct war effort. The main decisions relate to -
The reduction of the man-power strength of the forces by at least 50,000 special releases from the Army and Air Forceby the end of this year. This is to provide for the discharge of men urgently required in the civil economy, and to enable certain members of the forces with long service, or who have been prisoners of war for extended periods, to be granted the option of discharge.
The review of programmes for the material requirements of the services in the shape of munitions, aircraft, small marine craft, supplies, and works, with a view to their reduction and the diversion of additional man-power and materials to the civil economy.
The creation of a series of special committees with the urgent task of reviewing all non-operational establishments in the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the civil staffing of war-time activities of Commonwealth departments, with a view to the release of excessive personnel.
Following a review of the man-power position in February, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated that our commitments for the assignment of forces of certain strength for operational plans in the South-West Pacific Area precluded, at that stage, any further reduction of the forces. It was promised that a further review would be made as soon as a new phase of the war was reached and a clearer view of our military requirements could be obtained.
The defeat of Germany has definitely resolved a factor in our calculations relating to the dimensions of the Australian war effort. The victory in Europe now enables the United Nations to concentrate their strength in the Pacific to defeat Japanas quickly as possible, but it is important that Australia should continue to play a notable and worthy part until final victory is. achieved.
There will he a considerable demobilization of forces in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada, and probably also in New Zealand. Australia’s war record entitles it to carry out an adjustment of the man-power position which, while providing for a military effort in the war against Japan which is equitable in comparison with those of other Allied countries, also enables the acute stringencies to be removed, and places the civil economy on a more satisfactory footing for transition to the post-war period.
In its last report, the War Commitments Committee stated that there would be a gap of 45,000 in male labour requirements of essential civil industry in the first half of 1945. The Advisory War Council has recommended, and the Government has approved, of the release of at least 50,000 men from the Army and Air Force by the end of 1945, in addition to normal wastage which, on present figures, will be approximately 20,000.
– Are the releases additional to the figures already disclosed ?
– Yes. The special releases are to commence as early as possible on a graduated scale to be approved. As the primary objective is to restore a proper balance between the direct military effort and its industrial basis appropriate to the present and immediately prospective stage of the war, the conditions of release, subject to any mandatory directions in regard to special categories of service releases as mentioned later, will be drawn up by the War Commitments Committee, on which the services are represented.
The War Commitments Committee and the Production Executive in consultation with other bodies such as the Export Committee, will also make assessments of the priority and allocation of man-power for the civil economy, and co-ordinate them with the conditions of release from the services to ensure the placement and re-establishment of all released persons.
All members of the Army and Air Force with operational service overseas, and who have over five years’ war service, will be given the option of taking their discharge. In the case of the Navy, consideration will be given to the treatment of special cases on a parallel basis. Members discharged this year will be part of the 50,000 special releases which will be arranged in a graduated manner to avoid the disorganization of units and interference with operational plans. Special consideration for priority of release will be given to married men with family responsibilities.
All Navy, Army and Air Force prisoners of war who were captured during the campaign in the Middle East will be given the option of discharge on repatriation to Australia. This course was approved for the prisoners of war who were recovered from the torpedoed Japanese transport, and will also be applied to future prisoners of war who may be released from. Japanese hands.
Members of the forces who were captured in other theatres, and who have been prisoners for a similar period, will be given the same option. The position in regard to other prisoners of war is being examined. Members discharged this year will be part of the 50,000 special releases.
In view of the termination of training under the Empire Air Training Scheme Agreement, the cessation of hostilities in Europe and the prospective return of Royal Australian Air Force personnel from overseas, the following has been approved : -
Air-crew personnel who have completed their training, and who are not required by the Royal Australian Air Force for commitments for operational purposes, will be transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve and released for civil life.
Current air-crew basic training will be discontinued, and the organization adjusted to utilize the minimum of resources necessary for refresher training and for minor commitments.
Personnel undergoing basic training will be given the option of remuster to ground staff or release to civil life. The monthly intake will be reduced correspondingly to the remustering of air-crew as ground staff.
Air-crew recruitment is to be suspended and the monthly intake adjusted accordingly.
The War Commitments Committee is to co-ordinate the conditions of release with the principles being laid down for releases generally. The Defence Committee is to submit its recommendation for the apportionment of the special release of at least 50,000 men between the Army and Air Force. The committee is also, in association with the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military
Forces, to submit its recommendations in regard to the future organization and strength of the forces that should be maintained after the end of the next phase of operations and after providing for the special releases. Recommendations are also to be made regarding the monthly recruitment necessary for the maintenance of the reduced establishments.
A War Establishments Investigating Committee has been created for each of the services. It will be the duty of these committees to examine all nonoperational establishments. This will bring under review the large number of personnel at present employed in the various head-quarters, base and other administrative units in the Navy, Army and Air Force.
The committees will have independent chairmen appointed by the service Ministers, and they will be men who will be capable of taking an independent view in ensuring that excessive numbers are not being employed.
A similar body has also been created to make a general review of the civil staffing of war-time activities of Commonwealth departments, boards, commissions, Sue., including those not functioning under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
The custom of the Service Department is to submit to the Defence Committee for review at the 30th June and at the 31st December, programmes of their munitions requirements for the forces expected to be maintained during the ensuing eighteen months. These programmes are based on provisioning scales prepared in the light of the strategic situation and the nature and scale of operations forecast, account being taken of stocks on hand and prospective deliveries. They enable recommendations to be made as to the priorities of manufacture and the production rates to be maintained. The crucial question with regard to programmes - for eighteen months’ requirements is the probable duration of the war with Japan. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, has said that, on military grounds alone, it would not be prudent to assume that a shorter period than eighteen months would be required after the defeat of Germany for the destruction of Japanese military resistance.
Now that the war in Europe has ended, and as the might of the United Nations can be concentrated against Japan, the Government is seeking the advice of the highest authorities as to whether the period of eighteen months, which governs the basis of provisioning, can reasonably be reduced. In any event, the services and the Defence ‘Committee have been directed to review existing programmes immediately, in the light of the present stock position, taking into account the decisions affecting the reduction of the future strength of the forces. The provisioning scales for each of the services are also to be reviewed, with particular regard to forward ordering for maintenance and reserves.
An urgent review is also to be made of the rates of production of items in the munitions programmes, after allowing for the requirements of United Kingdom and allied forces, for which commitments have been accepted. Similar reviews are to be made of the aircraft and small marine craft programmes. Immediate reviews along the same lines are also to be made in respect of all supply items, such as clothing, boots and blankets, and of the food requirements of the services. The reduction of the programmes of material requirements will enable man-power, materials and production resources to be diverted to nonwar purposes, and will thus supplement the releases from the forces in overcoming the deficiencies that exist in the civil economy.
It is a matter of paramount importance that surplus stores should be cleared while there is a demand for them in the civil economy, rather than that they should be released later and cause a glut when civilian production has overtaken arrears. Under the present procedure, it is left to the services to decide what is surplus to their requirements. However, the services have been directed to submit, immediately, statements of all stocks held by them, and not only what they consider to be surpluses. These statements will be subjected to a priority scrutiny as to the classes of items which can and should be released for urgent civil purposes without prejudicing the essential operational needs of the services.
The Defence Committee has been directed to make a further review of works programmes in the light of the changed circumstances, as well as the priorities at present allotted to the various works. All new works for the services, costing £5,000 or over, are in future to be subject to the approval of War Cabinet. The Army and AirForce have been directed to review their camps and establishments in the light of the disposition of their forces and their prospective reduced strength, with special reference to -
The number and location of camps, establishments and hospitals, nominated for retention -
These reviews will be submitted to War Cabinet to ensure that effect is given to its directions.
There has been some reduction of commitments to the United States forces under the reciprocal lend-lease agreement. The expenditure for this year to the end of April is £81,000,000, as. compared with an estimate of £95,000,000 tothe end of June. The expenditure last financial year was £110,000,000. This reduction has been more than offset by commitments of over £25,000,000 which have so far been accepted for the Royal Navy. Of this sum £4,400,000 is for works which have a critical bearing on the diversion of man-power and materials from the reduced Australian and American programmes. The fullest cooperation of the United States authorities has been sought in the release of facilities which, will avoid the need for new construction for the Royal Navy. It has been made clear from the start that there are considerable limitations on Australia’s capacity to accept additional commitments for the maintenance of forces from Australian sources of man-power and materials. It is of vital importance to other governments that we should not make promises which we cannot fulfil. It is of equal importance to the CommonAvealth that it should not undertake commitments which are beyond our capacity.
It is the duty of the Production Executive to consider allied proposals in relation to other aspects of the war effort, in order to assess our capacity to provide for them. To guard against the neutralization of the measures being taken to establish equilibrium in the war effort, the Production Executive has been requested to fix ceilings for the allied commitments that canbe undertaken.
It was mentioned earlier that the future organization and strength of the forces is to be reviewed. This is related to the form of the machinery for their higher direction, which again is linked to the command set up in the South-West Pacific Area. These matters, as well as the principles governing the staffing of the post-war forces, are at present receiving consideration.
Basic to all questions of the future strength and organization of the forces is the relation of post-war defence policy. Under instructions issued by the Minister for Defence some time ago, an examination is being made of the nature, strength and organization of the post-war defence forces, including the maintenance of production capacity for munitions, aircraft, and naval shipbuilding. Stocks of munitions, aircraft and other material held at the end of the war will probably meet the requirements of the post-war defence forces for some time. As nucleus production in many of these items should be retained for expansion in an emergency, the review of the programmes of the services in regard to the present and future rates of production is to be related to the post-war aspect of maintenance of nucleus capacity.
I summarize the situation by saying that man-power resources are spread over the following commitments: -
Having regard to the extent of commitments and the limitations of man-power and material resources -
I have outlined decisions for the reduction of the strength of the forces by at least 50,000 special releases by the end of the year.
-Will those releases have any special relation to food production?
– It is hoped to deal with that in a general way through the War Commitments Committee, having regard to the demands of the civil economy.
– Is it proposed to suspend the calling-up of lads of eighteen for the Militia?
– That has not yet been done. It is possible that a larger reduction may be made, but it is difficult to speak with any certainty on this at present, as a number of factors are imponderable - the speed with which current operational commitments can be liquidated, the re-organization entailed in releases “and reductions, and the availability of shipping for the movement of personnel, particularly the return of the Royal Australian Air Force and prisoners of war from the United Kingdom. In addition to this number, there will be the normal wastage from the forces, estimated at 20,000 for the last six months of the year, and the present intake of the forces will be reduced. There will also be the releases arising from the reduction of staffs of civil departments. Finally, there will be the diversion of man-power arising from the curtailment of the munitions, aircraft, small craft, supply and works programmes, though the lastmentioned is to some degree offset by commitments accepted for the Royal Navy.
– The Acting Prime Minister now says that men discharged this year will be included among the special releases, but I understood him to say earlier that those discharged up to June would not be included.
– On]y those who come within special categories, such as repatriated prisoners of war and longservice men, will be included.
– What action is being taken regarding the release of servicewomen ?
– That matter is still under review. Public announcements have already made it plain that, in other countries, extensive reductions of the scale of the war effort will be made as the result of the war ending in Europe. It is understood that the United Kingdom will substantially reduce both the strength of the services and munitions production by the end of the first year after the defeat of Germany. In the United States of America, it is reported that industrial war output will be considerably reduced in the same period, and the strength of the services will also be substantially reduced. In Canada, industrial war production will also be greatly curtailed, and the strength of the forces considerably reduced. In New Zealand, similar action has already been taken and will, no doubt, continue. In all these countries, many war-time controls will be removed or eased, and particular attention is being given to the early development of large housing and exports programmes. In Australia, wartime controls are being continuously examined with a view to their relaxation and removal wherever possible and as early as possible.
As mentioned earlier, it is the duty of the War Commitments Committee and Production Executive to prepare a new man-power budget, making the most effective use of men released from the services and war industries to strengthen basic industries. To this end, it must be given an effective voice in the conditions of release to ensure that the priority needs of industry are provided for.
With the conclusion of the war in Europe and the progress made in the Pacific, a stage has now been reached at which preparedness for peace has become vital, if we are not to dissipate the fruits of the victory for which we are striving. In the international sphere, questions of armistice and post-war control of enemy countries to prevent the resurgence of aggression, and a world organization for the preservation of peace, have become matters of cardinal importance, and the highest priority.
In the realm of national policy, there are the problems of re-establishment and rehabilitation. They cover essential aspects of the life and welfare of the individual citizen, the defence and security of the Commonwealth, and the entire national economy, on the development and expansion of which the size of the national income depends. Permeating the whole question is the orderly re-diversion of resources from war to peace purposes.
From the aspect of government and administration, we are now in the complex period of maintaining our war effort and preparing for peace. It is supremely important that we should keep our attention focussed on both objectives. While not neglecting the preparations for peace, we must not allow them to become predominant over the measures still necessary for final victory.
These matters are broad and national in their scope, and appropriately originate as recommendations of the Advisory War Council. As the acting head of the Government, I should like to pay a tribute to the co-operation that has been extended by the non-government members, and to thank them for the valuable contributions they have made to the decisions. The progress of the measures decided upon will be reported regularly to the council, which will be able to keep in review the readjustment of the war effort to conform with the progress of the war, and the transition of the national economy to its post-war footing.
As I have said, arrangements have been made by the Government for a review of man-power employed in Commonwealth instrumentalities, including the service departments, to be undertaken by four committees, all of which will report to the Prime Minister. The first committee will make a general review of the civil staffing of war-time activities of Commonwealth departments, boards, commissions and the like, including those not functioning under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. It will comprise Mr. J. T. Pinner, Assistant Commissioner of the Public Service Board, Mr. A. A. Fitzgerald, accountant, of Melbourne, and a third member who will be an officer of each department or activity as it is being examined.
– What about including a business executive in that team?
– I cannot imagine it would be possible to get a better man than the representative of the Public Service whom we propose to appoint, working in association with an accountant. The three committees to deal with the service departments will be presided over by Mr. R. D. Elliott, a former member of the Senate, in respect of the Navy Department; Mr. H. G. Conde, general manager of the Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Limited, of Sydney, in respect of the Army Department; and Mr. W. Slater, member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, a former Speaker of that chamber, and a former Australian Minister to Russia, in respect of the Department of Air.
– Has any consideration been given to the post-war strength of the Air Force and Army?
– The Defence Committee is being asked to look at the matter.
– Is it proposed to discontinue recruiting?
– 1 have already given particulars regarding recruiting for the Air Force. As for the Army, the matter will require further consideration. After the war, Australia may require forces for purposes of occupation. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Man-power - Ministerial Statement, 1st June, 1945. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 2423).
.- When the debate was interrupted I was about to say that the financial ‘ policy of the country which is now directed by the private banking institutions, must be controlled in the national interest. Money must be put in its proper place m the scheme of things. Little imagination is needed to realize that a money system which places the entire community under the influence of a few people to whom even governments must bow the knee and in whose councils our aspirations and essential needs have no part, is opposed to all human justice and national progress. Speaking at Deniliquin on the 19th November, 1932, Sir Bertram Stevens, a former Premier of New South Wales, said -
Within the last lew months the Government has been endeavouring to lay the foundations of proper economic progress. Now that we have done that, we are prepared, as courageously as our bankers will allow, to get into the field of development to assist in arresting the drift from the country to the city.
The inclusion of the words “ as courageously as our bankers will allow “ was a candid admission by that gentleman that, even if he desired to develop the State along the lines indicated, he was powerless to do so. That quotation illustrates the power which the exclusive right to create financial credit has given to the private banking institutions. That right has been used by them primarily to maintain the present control of the banking, system with all its obvious faults, regardless of the effect on the lives of citizens whose industry and intelligence alone created the wealth which is the only justification for the existence of a banking system. “What is the cause of poverty and economic insecurity? Why do we have boom periods in which there is plenty of employment, high wages and contentment, and at other times crises and depressions. Does any honorable member suggest that in the great crisis of 1929 the people of this country were without milk because the cows ceased to produce milk ; or that they were without fruit because the fruit trees ceased to bear fruit; or that they were without bread because the wheat refused to grow? Or will they say that people were without manufactured goods because the machinery ceased to turn, or because our artisans had lost their skill? The crisis was the inevitable result of dictation by the “mad dog’s” of capitalism. The basic cause of all our social and economic problems is to be found in our present system of society, in which financial institutions determine the amount of production that shall be permitted. That determination is made, not in accordance with any national plan based on the resources of the country and the needs of its people, but on the selfish interests of bankers and masters of industry. The close relationship between banking and the principal companies is revealed by the fact that of 62 directors of banks in Australia 41 are also directors of Australian companies connected with insurance, shipping, iron and steel, rubber, mining, textile industries, sugar, breweries, and so on. Three of the five directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited are also directors of banks. During the depression thousands of people who previously worked in factories and workshops were thrown out of employment, with the result that there was widespread poverty and misery. It is significant that the directors of the big industrial concerns were also directors of banking institutions. It would be the height of absurdity to suggest that the directors of, say, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should decide to ask their bankers for finance in order to provide work for their employees, and for those same men as directors of the bank to reject their own request. Yet that is what happens under the present system; it is similar to an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. For years production has been curtailed; industrial equipment has been allowed to rust; our fields, factories, mines and workshops have been closed down at the behest of the big financiers in this country, thereby causing endless suffering, misery and want. In 1930, Sir Otto Niemeyer, who from 1906 to 1927 was adviser to the British Treasury, when he joined the Bank of England, arrived in this country in order to give advice on matters pertaining to finance. The result of his advice was the further enslavement of the people by the private banks. Accompanying him- was Professor Theodore Emanuel Guggenhume Gregory. Sir Otto Niemeyer addressed a conference of Commonwealth and .State Ministers in Melbourne on the 21st August, 1930, when he said -
There is also evidence to show that the standard of living in Australia has readied a point which is economically beyond the capacity of the country to bear without a considerable reduction of costs resulting in increased per capita output.
That statement was sheer buncombe, because Australia was producing more real wealth than ever before and could have doubled the output, if desired. Continuing, Sir Otto Niemeyer said -
There is a general desire to assist a dominion, and indeed the mere fact of my presence here and of the growing co-operation between the present Commonwealth Bank and the Bank ot England as a sister central bank, may, I think, be claimed as a sign of goodwill from responsible authorities.
Who were those responsible authorities? They certainly were not the millions pf Australian people who suffered cruelly as the results of1 the instructions given by Sir Otto Niemeyer, who also said -
Australia must’ reassure the world, as to the direction in which she is going financially and economically, and no one else can do that for her.
Why did Australia have to reassure the world? So long as the people of Australia were content to pull in their belts and live on short rations Sir Otto Niemeyer and the Bank of England would have had confidence in Australia. Although his advice meant a ruthless attack upon the living standards of our people, the conference carried unanimously the following resolution: -
That the conference tenders its sincere thanks to Sir Otto Niemeyer and his colleague for the valuable assistance and advice given by them in the solution of the problems with which the conference has had to deal.
The result of following his advice - or of complying with his demands to balance budgets - was the never-to-be-forgotten Premiers plan. Sir Herbert Gepp and Professor Copland were the leaders in mapping out the details of that plan, and in persuading influential sections of the community to agree to its adoption. Every one in this country now knows what effect the Premiers plan had on them. That plan was forced on Australia by the international banking group and was accepted by their political puppets in Australian politics. The five main provisions of the plan outlined by Sir Otto Niemeyer at a conference of Premiers, held in Melbourne in August, 1930, were -
The conference accepted those terms: it had bowed to dictation and had brought a continent to its knees. The result was that imports had to be curtailed and all expenditure and social services and education drastically reduced. It means also the reduction of the salaries of public servants and the reduction of wages all round. Worst of all, it increased unemployment from 18 per cent, to about 40 per cent, of the population. In desperation, the Scullin Government approached Sir Robert Gibson, the then Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, with a request that the note issue be increased by £20,000,000, in order to enable the Government to minimize the effects of the depression which was then advancing on Australia like a landslide. I do not know the exact words used by Sir Robert Gibson, but, confident in the knowledge that he had just been appointed for a period of seven years, his remarks were to the following effect: “Mr. Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet. You ask me to inflate the currency hy issuing another £20,000,000 in notes. My answer is that I bloody well won’t.” This man, elected to his position by a puppet government, defied the elected government of the people in its endeavour to relieve the position in which Sir Otto Niemeyer and his associates had placed us. None will forget the courageous fight to defeat the deflation policy of the Australian banking system in 1931 by three banks, namely, the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, the Primary Producers Bank and the Federal Depositors Bank. They were all smashed! In 1930, the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was the second largest of its kind in the world. Its assets exceeded £140,000,000, and it had a net annual income of £400,000. It was controlled by the Government of New South Wales. It had started to finance homes for the people and it assisted primary producers through a trading branch known as the Rural Bank. This did not suit the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. Fancy any State government defying the trading banks by taking a stand against that deflationary policy in order to assist their people I
The ultimate result was the destruction of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales and the seizure of all its assets, notwithstanding that there was no disputing its solvency. In common with the other banks, however, its cash in hand and at short call was only a fraction of its liabilities - £17,000,000 to £71,000,000- and, naturally, if a run were made on it, it would have to borrow from the Commonwealth Bank or close its doors. The opportunity came in 1930, when Mr. Lang was returned and announced the following policy, which I invite honorable members to contrast with the policy dictated by Sir Otto Niemeyer : -
There was nothing wrong with that.
It is a long time since we have been on the gold standard. We .have fought this war on the goods standard. Mr. Lang’s policy was greeted with howls of mingled rage and fear from the private banks, insurance companies and bond-holders. The press denounced him as a swindler and a thief, whose proper place was behind bars. Newspapers carried headlines such as “Lang will smash your bank and seize your savings “. To create a stampede was the policy of the banks. They succeeded in creating a run upon the Government Savings Bank of. New South Wales, and, for seven months, it put up a great fight to stave off defeat, paying out all its liquid assets. Finally, it had to appeal to the Commonwealth Bank for aid. Sir Robert Gibson was prepared to meet it only on terms that were so harsh that the Government refused to accept them, and the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks had won. The Government Savings Bank of New South Wales closed its doors on the 23rd May, 1931, but the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks overlooked one thing, that the run they had engineered on the bank might extend to themselves, which was exactly what happened. That was far from being part of their scheme, and, when the run started on their banks, there was grave concern. Sir Robert Gibson and the bosses of the trading banks began to panic. On the 3rd June, ten days after the State bank had closed its doors, Sir Robert Gibson was forced to broadcast to all States the following announcement: -
The Government Savings Bank was forced to close its doors because the people who had deposited their money in that bank were led to believe by the foo’.ish statements of those who should have known better, and the statements of those who desired to bring about disaster that that bank was not in a safe position. There was no good reason on account of lack of soundness why it was compelled to close its doors.
He could have saved the bank by making a similar statement before it crashed. The whole sorry business would have been avoided, but that did not suit him, because he was accepting the advice of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Why did a Labour government re-appoint him?
– I had nothing to do with that. The Rural Bank, with nearly 200 branches competing with the private banks in every town in New South Wales, was also endangering the policies of the private banks and had to be destroyed. The Commonwealth Bank was the instrument of destruction. That is an illustration of what the financial magnates will do when governments, on behalf of their people, decide to fight them. I believe that every honorable member knows the history of the Commonwealth Bank and that had it been allowed to function as it did at the start of its career, it would have helped us over the years of the depression, as lt helped us over the war of 1914-18. Businesses would have been saved from ruin and about half of our people would not have been forced to suffer the bitter pangs of hunger. If there ever was an Australian Government that should stand condemned for all time in the eyes of the Australian people, it was the Bruce-Page Administration of 1923-29, which, at the behest of the private banks, deliberately strangled and then dismembered the Commonwealth Bank, which had stood between Australia and ruin during that war. The service rendered by it to the country in war could have been rendered in peace. In June, 1924, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) introduced a bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act by removing the control of the bank from the hands of the Governor and placing it in the hands of a board of six persons. It will be seen from the speech made by the right honorable gentleman in moving the second reading of the bill that he was not ignorant of the banking swindle, for he said -
A very great power is exercised by the banks in the creation of credit, in their control over business and in their effect upon wages as well as other conditions.
After admitting that, he was a party to the establishment of a dictatorial board, which gave the trading banks still greater power. The Commonwealth Bank Board is still composed of the nominees of the private trading banks, which in this country, are owned by the three monopolies known as “the sugar, tobacco and gas monopoly “, “ the metal monopoly “, and “ the overseas group “. Mr. Bruce, the then Prime Minister, was personally connected with the overseas group, whose three banks - the Bank of Australasia, the English, Scottish and Australian Bank and the Union Bank - have their head-quarters in London. In 1924, Mr. Casey, a member of the metal monopoly, which controls the National Bank of Australasia, the Commercial Bank of Australia and the Bank of Adelaide, was appointed by Mr. Bruce as liaison officer in London, where, for seven years, he studied banking under the tuition of overseas financial interests. Returning in 1931, he entered this Parliament, and became Treasurer, in which position he faithfully carried out his instructions received in London and continued the enslavement of the people of Australia. Mr. Bruce later left for London, where he dined and wined with his financial friends as do all honorable gentlemen opposite who go to London. He told them that the Commonwealth Bank had been transferred by his Government to a board of directors charged with the duty of controlling banking. The London Times reported him as saying -
The intention is that the board shall control credit in Australia as the Bank of England regulates it in this country and advice has now been sought from officials of the Bank of England as to the exact step necessary to bring about a fully effective banking system.
I say without fear of contradiction that no Government betrayed its own nation to international financial interests more than did the Bruce-Page Government. It dismembered the institution that could have solved all our financial problems. That Government and governments of the same kind in the past failed to challenge the power that the bankers had taken unto themselves, and assert their sovereign right to control and regulate banking and currency for the people’s good. “We have seen from experience that the influence of the private banking system is definitely anti-social and that it does not serve our interests as a community to the degree that a banking system should. This is clearly illustrated by statements made by high church authorities. The Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Le Tanu, speaking in Perth, in October, 1935, said-
Every man in the community is heir to all the inventions and scientific knowledge, which have made easier life possible and yet the enhanced values and opportunities of life are not shared as they should be. Our present financial system is not doing its job. The fundamental Christian objection to the existing capitalistic system and to the bankers control of money from which it seems insufferable is that it holds persons in serfdom to the exigencies of financial policy.
The Commission of Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church in Victoria, reported -
The monetary system is at present con trolled by a group of private individuals and is not performing its proper function of facilitating the production, distribution and exchange of commodities and services.
The Pope, in his encyclical Quadragesima anno, said -
It is patent that not only wealth is accumulated, but immense power and despotic domination are concentrated in the hands o! a few. This power becomes particularly irresistible when exercised to govern credit and determine its allotment.
We must, therefore, change our monetary system. People in the past have not been allowed the right to eat or wear what they need. With a sane, humane and scientific means of distributing the real wealth, which the people create in abundance, we can do without the debtcreating private money monopoly. We have seen so much of the tragedies of the past and we have come so far on the new road that we cannot turn back. This bill is the great turning point in our national progress. We shall be able to look back in disgust and amazement at the age that tolerated poverty amidst plenty, owing to the great dictator, the private financier. We shall never tolerate a system of regimentation. We want to be free to live and enjoy the fruits of the earth. We are (prepared to conform with laws which are necessary to make our freedom possible; but we shall rebel against the system of international monetary control that interferes with our personal life and enslaves our people.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I propose to direct my remarks principally to the first paragraph of the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Eadden), in which he proposes that the Commonwealth Bank Board be maintained in accordance with the decision and recommendation of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. I fail to see why, having regard to existing circumstances, such great weight should be placed upon that recommendation of the commission. Since the commission conducted its investigation some members of it have had an opportunity to enlarge their experience of governmental finance and also to learn a great deal more about the economics of banking. They are far better equipped to-day to express an opinion on the banking system than they were at the time the commission held its investigation. Indeed, I go so far as to say that some of them would amend the recommendations made by the commission were they given the opportunity now to review their earlier decisions. In the interim, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who was a member of the commission, has displayed great ability in handling the nation’s financial affairs, whilst another member of that body, the honorable member for New England (Mr. ‘ Abbott), has also performed ministerial work, and had an opportunity to see just how far the recommendations of the commission would be workable to-day, bearing in mind the changes that have since occurred in the Australian economy and world economy. For that reason, I do not believe that the arguments upon which the commission based its recommendations retain their full force to-day.
The system of board control, as part and parcel of the set-up of the Commonwealth Bank, has not won the trust of the Australian people. On this point I place before the House an opinion expressed by Mr. A. C. Willis, formerly manager of the London Bank of Australia, who, in a letter to theFarmer and Settler, writes -
When considering the new banking proposals now before Parliament, it would be as well to cast our thoughts back to our many periods of financial difficulty, and our depressions, and ask ourselves whether the strictly orthodox stands then taken by Our private banks, and the Commonwealth Bank under board control, have, in the light of after experience, resulted to the benefit of the nation. As an experienced bank manager I say emphatically not.
That is the opinion of a gentleman whose training fits him to express an authoritative opinion on banking; and his opinion commands respect, particularly because of his association with an overseas bank. He would not be expected to have any love for the socialist idea of banking invariably associated with Labour thought. He has made no “ bones “ about expressing his opinion on the matter, and it is not a very complimentary opinion of the operation of the Commonweal t-h Bank under board control. But the feature of board control of the bank that calls for the greatest criticism has been its handling of the exchange position; and I should like to devote most of the time at my disposal at this juncture to that phase of the legislation before us. I put before the House the following opinion expressed by Mr. D. F. Anderson, chairman of the Bank of Australasia, in an address to shareholders at their last meeting in London -
Perhaps the first step towards encouraging new capital to flow into Australia would be to modify the exchange control which did not permit of capital being remitted to London. The exchange control was instituted under financial conditions which, appeared since almost to have reversed themselves. Its retention far from serving any Australian interests, scented now to be an. anachronism and merely discouraging to new capital which was timid of entering any field marked “No exit “.
Mr. Anderson was of opinion that the rigid control of the exchange rate did not serve any Australian interests. I am concerned particularly with the interest of our primary producers. It has been customary to tell our farmers that the exchange rate, arbitrarily fixed at a discount so far as Australia is concerned, was in their best interests; and many opinions have been cited from time to time to satisfy the doubts of people who were rather sceptical of such a set-up. The honorable member for New England referred to a statement made by me that tho adverse exchange rate, arbitrarily fixed as it has been fixed for a long time, is not in the best interest of the Australian primary producer, and Mr. Killen, president of the Graziers Association, has taken me to task on many occasions for my opposition to the system under which the exchange rate is arbitrarily fixed at a discount to Australia. The honorable member for New England stated that if the exchange rate were returned to parity with sterling .the primary producers would be robbed of the 25 per cent, advantage which it is claimed they now receive from sales of their commodities in Great Britain. That statement is echoed by Mr. Killen, who is reported in the press as saying -
Mr. Breen said that the interests of primary producers demanded a return of the Australian £1 to parity with sterling. Should this happen, the returns to graziers and farmers from wool, and wheat sold abroad would be reduced by about 25 per cent. Such a change would mean ruin to most primary producers and a serious loss to all of them. It would spread economic disaster throughout Australia.
In order to develop my point that the adverse exchange rate is not favorable to Australian primary producers, I shall retrace the history of exchange control from a date just prior to the depression. Dealing with this matter the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in its report, which I summarize, stated that in January, 1931, serious exchange movement, adverse to Australia, began. Operators on the London stock exchange were offering to sell the Australian £1 at 17s. 6d. sterling. Holders of Australian stocks got panicky, and started to unload for sterling; and Australian trading banks which held Australian currency added their weight to the panic to secure London funds and to encourage London jobbers to buy Australian primary produce to the exclusion of that of other countries. The consequence was that, after vainly trying to hold the exchange rate by rationing, the banking system finally gave in and the Australian £1 was quoted at £130 to £100 sterling. The exchange rationing started in August. 1930, by agreement between the banks. The rationing was abandoned and exchange went to £130, which was the price ruling on the stock exchange. This price was made by private operators and finally held by the Commonwealth Bank. As things began to improve, it was reduced to £125. An analysis of banking returns for the period June, 1927, to June, 1931, shows that relatively, and in the absolute, advances to primary producers increased whilst those to other classes of borrowers decreased. That is a very important point: Relatively and in the absolute, the banks were making advances to primary producers at a time when anybody with any knowledge of the trend of world events should have known that a country which was living on borrowed money and spending, as we were at that time, must in the end have to pull in its belt severely or become bankrupt. That was the financial set-up in 1931 when the exchange collapsed and the exchange rate reached £A125 to £100 sterling. It might also provide a reason why some trading banks which had loaned large sums of money to primary producers were so anxious that a market should be provided for primary produce, even at bargain prices to the buyer. The fact that holders of sterling funds, who were accustomed to buying our produce, not on the London market as the primary producers believed, but mostly on the Australian market, could buy with those London funds a greater quantity of primary produce than they had formerly bought and dispose of it on favorable markets overseas. Between 1929 and 1930, the value of exported merchandise, excluding gold, fell by £40,300,000 sterling. Excess of imports was £33,400,000. Overseas interest on overseas debt was £28,000,000 sterling. Loan money raised at home and abroad averaged £40,000,000 per annum for some years prior to 1929. From 1919 to 1929 the overseas public debt increased by £225,000,000 and the internal debt by £173,000,000. Between June, 1929, and June, 1931, although several internal loans were floated for conversion purposes, only £12,000,000 of new money was raised. Between September, 1929, and April, 1931, the Commonwealth Government issued treasury-bills to the value of £38,000,000 to meet London requirements and to reduce the overdraft at the Westminster Bank. Some of these bills were taken up by the public at a discount rate as high as £6 2s. Sd. per cent., some by trading banks, some by the Commonwealth Bank, and some by the Westminster Bank. Of £5,000,000 offered to the public by the Government, only half was funded. Of treasury-bills issued during 1930, £9,000,000 was outstanding at the end of the year. The Government was unable to raise loan money to meet the expenses of government, and further taxation being out of the question, was financing with treasurybills, which were not well received either by the banks or the public. In 1930, export prices had fallen to 40 per cent, below the 1928 levels and unemployment had risen to 18.5 per cent, of the working population. Deposits of trading banks fell by £10,000,000. The State savings banks deposits with the trading banks fell by £3,000,000, and deposits with the savings banks fell by £8,000,000. London funds, which had been £41,000,000, stood at only £9,000,000. Gold holdings in the trading banks fell from £19,000,000 to £3,000,000. It was in these circumstances that London apparently lost confidence in us and quoted £A130 to £100 sterling.
The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking. .Systems had this to say -
Notwithstanding all these measures, it was found impossible to hold the sterling exchange rate, which had moved by slow stages from 101.6 at the end of 1920, to 108.5 in October, 1930. There was great reluctance on all sides to admit that the Australian pound was not identical with the English pound. All the force of tradition was behind the view that the two currency units were one. The Governments were anxious, too, that no serious disparity between the two pounds should arise, because a higher rate of exchange meant, immediately at least, higher taxation to meet overseas interest. It seemed to many people that any serious depreciation of Australian currency as compared with sterling, would lead directly to uncontrollable inflation and precipitate a flight of capital, of which there was already some evidence.
What was happening at that time in Australia was a mere side-show compared with what happened in Germany and other Continental countries when, through lack of confidence of outside investors in governments and financial institutions, the exchange rate fell, or was deliberately manipulated to the advantage of certain financial interests. In Australia, the Commonwealth Bank Board set out deliberately to fix the rate of exchange brought about as the result of the calamity. That rate was continued for ten years.
The commission further stated -
In December, 1930, when the .banks’ buying rate for £.100 sterling was £108 10s. Australian, the outside market was offering £110 Australian. The disparity between the prices increased in the early part of January, 11)31, when the outside market rate was £116 Australian. On the 6th January, the Bank of New South Wales altered its rate to £115 Australian, the other banks followed suit, and the outside market rose still higher. The banks then vigorously competed with the outside market by raising the official rate within three weeks to £118. £125, and, on the 29th January, to £130. The outside market then became quiescent, and the last rate remained unchanged until December, 1931,
It was so important that we should be able to get sterling funds to meet our commitments in London, that Australian banks had to outbid private operators, even to the degree of offering £130 Australian for £100 sterling. An important part of the trading banks’ cash reserves is held in the form of London funds. If the London funds are falling, the trading banks tend to restrict credit; if London funds rise, the ratio of advances to deposits falls, and the position of trading banks becomes more liquid. A movement adverse to Australian currency stimulates exports, as traders can purchase more with sterling. Those who convert sterling to Australian currency get a bigger return. The banks can increase their Australian advances proportionately; but the producer who exports to buy other goods is properly “ stung “ whether he buys in sterling or on the Australian market where prices are boosted by the tariff walls; or by the decreased purchasing power of the Australian £1, which has to purchase capital goods overseas for Australian manufacturers. He has to meet sea transport costs to Australia, also to be paid in sterling. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- [ wish to refer briefly to the question of providing children’s toys for next Christmas. As the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) is in the chamber, and it was his organization which, under the exigencies of war, had to take over for war purposes factories which formerly produced children’s toys, I shall address my remarks to him. We all hope that this year there shall be a peace-time Christmas. I remind the Minister that because of our total war effort, many children five years or less have never had those very treasured toys, tricycles, bicycles, motor cars, &c, which are so much part of the way of life of the Australian child. I should like to know if it is at all possible to do something forthwith so that these toys may be available next Christmas. Some time ago I heard in this House a discussion on the manufacture of pencil sharpeners at certain munitions establishments during a lull between orders, and I am wondering if provision could not be made also to manufacture these toys in adequate quantities so that the children of this country may enjoy, if not a peace-time Christmas, at least a happy one as a harbinger of the peace that is to come. I understand that there may be some constitutional obstacles in adopting this suggestion, but I am sure that the warm spirit of Australian parenthood, reflected in the Minister himself, is sufficient to overcome these difficulties. I should be very sorry for anybody who took Father Christmas to the High Court of Australia.
I wish to refer also to a matter which has been causing me some concern, namely, the repeated attacks on soldier editors of service newspapers by returned soldiers on the other side of the chamber. The notice-paper of this House is crowded with questions seeking information as to why the Army education journal Salt has done this or that. In the main, the attacks have been levelled at Salt because of its temerity in daring to produce what it calls a political page. This journal, under its various editors,’ has held the view that part of the Army educational service should be to let servicemen know what is happening in this Parliament, what legislation is projected, and what has been passed. In doing this it has come into conflict with the almost professional returned soldiers opposite. During the referendum campaign and since then, there has been a considerable amount of sniping at editors of service newspapers. It is a fair assumption that these men deal with matters according to their news value, and the number of readers who would be interested in a particular point of view. One criticism is that these journals publish almost exclusively labour “ stories “. There is of course an excuse for writing these “ stories “ for members of the forces in view of the tremendous “ yes “ vote registered at the referendum. I point out also that at the elections in 1943 the Australian Labour party polled 2,058,578 votes as against 665,633 polled by the United Australia party, which was the spearhead of the Opposition and which has since gone into decent interment. It would be fair to say, in view of those figures, that the people are interested in the policy of the Labour party. The editors of Salt, past and present, are impartial pressmen who regard items from the point of view of their news value. It was necessary for them, in justice to the men for whom they write, to propound the views which have been attacked by honorable members opposite. These men are not in a position to protect themselves. Had the matter been mentioned only once or twice as a matter of interest, I should not mention it now, but ever and anon the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), marching as ever with the gallant six hundred, launch attacks against these people. During the debate on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill honorable members opposite violently defended the soldier as an amorphous general conception. However, whenever an ordinary soldier does something which they do not like, he is challenged by them, which makes me suspect the worthiness of their motives. The present editor of Salt, is, I understand, Major Mungo McCallum, son of a former chancellor of the University of Sydney, who has been associated with the Sydney Morning Herald for a great part of his life. I knew him as a member of the parliamentary press gallery, and I know that he had no affiliations with the Labour party, but had a genuine desire to present a fair, objective view of facts. Honorable members- opposite attack him merely because he has decided to sell the news to the troops in his own way. A previous editor of Salt is Major Massey Stanley. From his comments on the so-called “ swing seats “, one of which I have the distinction of holding, I should not say that he is outrageously biased in favour of the Labour party. I ask honorable members opposite to be more reticent. If they used more discrimination in making charges, their attitude would be more in keeping with their protestations on behalf of the returned soldier, right or wrong. It is regrettable that, when a soldier shows any fairness towards the Government, honorable members opposite claim that he is definitely and damnably wrong.
– I am dissatisfied with the attitude of tile Repatriation Commission towards ex-soldiers suffering from ailments, par ticularly neurosis, due to war service-. Some time ago I raised the case of Mrs. Richards, of Kingaroy, whose husband is undoubtedly suffering from neurosis due to war service and is in a mental home. The Repatriation Commission informed me that it considered that it had no liability towards Mr. Richards as his ailment was not due to war service. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has taken up this matter and is very outspoken about it. Because of this man’s misfortune, the Kingaroy Patriotic Committee for some time made regular donations to assist Mrs. Richards, who has two small children. All that she is receiving now is a compassionate service pension. I do not know how much, that represents, but I know that it is not a permanent pension. When this matter was discussed by the Kingaroy sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and. Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the -president made the following statement, as reported in a newspaper : -
If this man’s disability was not due to war service he did not know what was. This was a clear case of avoiding responsibility. It was terrible to think that after a man had returned broken in health, the Repatriation Commission avoided their responsibility and said they were not liable. He added : “ We will continue to put all our energy behind this. Although (ve have got Mr. Frost against us, that is not to say we will not get what we think is right “.
A more sympathetic attitude should be taken by the Repatriation Commission, and Mr. Richards should be given the benefit of any doubt that may exist. Who is competent to deny that neurosis in ex-servicemen is due to their nerve-racking experiences in the front line? I hope that the Government, and the Minister for Repatriation in particular, will be more sympathetic towards such cases in future.
.- This morning I read to the House letters which I . had written concerning a request for a May Day holiday in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area. Those letters showed that, far from having incited the breaking of industrial law, I had taken pains to explore and point out every possible lawful step towards a satisfactory settlement of the affair and that I had quoted an official statement by the Minister for that purpose. To my astonishment, and to the astonishment of many other honorable members who heard me speak yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) then rose and, instead of withdrawing his charge against me, declared that he had made no charge implicating me, but had confined himself merely to reading from a report. He then read once again from that report. The fact is that, when the right honorable gentleman originally discussed the matter yesterday, he not only read from the report but also based upon it a definite charge -against myself and the Government. In order to make clear to the House beyond doubt that the Leader of the Opposition did make such a charge, I shall now read what he originally said -
This is a conspicuous recent example that the policy of the Government is to make it clear to industrial law-breakers that, provided they act in concert, the law will be altered to fit their views. >
In other words, the right honorable gentleman quoted from the report solely for the purpose of basing a charge on it. The only evidence in his possession upon which that charge could be based was the text of a letter ‘which I had written. After he had heard me read the actual letter, he must have realized that it did not provide any evidence whatever to support his charge. In those circumstances, and considering the responsible position that he holds in this Parliament, I expected him to- withdraw the charge. I certainly did not expect him to deny that he had made one. The right honorable gentleman did not do himself justice this morning. He would have done so had he emulated the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who, after hearing me read the letters, declared that he withdrew any charge to the effect that I had deliberately incited law-breaking. The Leader of the Opposition based his charge on two grounds. The first was the letter allegedly written by me. The second was an alleged threat made in the name of the Government to the company concerned. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) this morning completely disposed of the charge that the Government had threatened the company, and I, by reading the letters, completely disposed of the charge that I acted as the agent of the Government in inciting law-breaking. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition saw fit to state in this House that he had never made such charges, and that he did not see fit to withdraw them.
.- I wish to make clear my position in relation to the matter which has just been discussed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). I do not wish to repeat what I said this morning. I neither exculpate the honorable member from the suggestion of deliberately seeking to break the law, nor retract my charge against the Government - and this is the important point - that it deliberately winked its eye at a breach of the law. I shall state the facts clearly. In the first place, on the 7th May, a holiday was illegally taken. It was held to be illegal by the court before it was taken. In the second place, I have never heard it suggested that an illegal action becomes legal merely because two parties agree upon it. The Government knew that the workers concerned intended to take a holiday on the 7th May. It also knew that Mr. Justice Cantor had ruled that such an action would .be a direct contravention of the law. It then indicated that if the employers and employees could agree to break the law - and that is the only way of expressing it - nothing would be said about it. The Government allowed the honorable member for EdenMonaro to place himself in a false position. I do not charge the honorable gentleman with deliberately flouting the law. My charge is levelled against the Government, because it passed its decision on to the honorable member. I shall repeat the facts so that they cannot be disputed. The Government knew before the 7th May that the workers were seeking to take a holiday. Then it indicated to them that if they and their employers could agree upon the matter they could take the holiday.
– Without injury to the war effort.
– That statement is so much eye-wash. The Government informed the men that if they could reach agreement with the employers, with or without conditions, they could have the holiday. That was a clear indication that, by agreement, they could take the day oft, no matter what the law said.
– Or what the court said.
– That is so. The Government must have known that the matter had come before Mr. Justice Cantor before the 7th May, and that he had ruled that the two parties were not entitled to agree to break the law. In any case, that is axiomatic, because the law covers everybody. The Government says that it asked the employers to make up their minds whether the holiday would affect the war effort. Can any one conceive of a responsible government surrendering its prerogative to a group of employees and employers? How could it be said that a stoppage of work in a key industry for one day, which actually involved a stoppage for a. greater period because of the necessity for damping down fires and so on, did not interfere with the war effort? That is so much nonsense. It is clear as day that the Government was seeking to “pass the buck “, as it always does under industrial pressure. I should like to know whether the Government, through the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), made an additional beer ration available for these men while they were breaking the law. It is crystal clear that, long before the 7th May, a Justice had dealt with the matter, and had said: “In no circumstances can you take this holiday, whether you agree with the employer or not, except in defiance of the law “. They took it. The Government knew that they intended to take it) yet did nothing to prevent them from doing so. If my advice is sound - and I believe it to be - the Government actually gave to them a special ration of beer with which to enjoy the holiday that they were taking in breach of the law. I do not stand for a private member being made to carry the baby “. The matter has nothing to do with a private member. The honorable member did exactly what I should expect any honorable member to do. It was not for him to judge the law. Assuming that, up to Mr. Justice Cantor’s decision, it was thought that what was proposed could be done - I cannot imagine how any one could so argue, and in any event the argument could only be on the basis that the employer and employees agreed that the war effort would not be affected ; in other words, the Executive surrendered to others the judgment as to whether it would or would not be - whatever may have been the views of the Government, it knew from the time of that decision that if the employees took a holiday they would be acting in direct contravention of the law, unless the law was altered. That cannot be disputed. Yet the Government took no action. How can it be suggested that it is standing up to its responsibility to see that the law shall be enforced ?
– Order ! I have permitted the honorable member to proceed, because he was involved by what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) had said. But I direct his attention to Standing Order 266, which reads -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in committee, except by the indulgence of the House on a personal explanation.
Because the honorable member for EdenMonaro attributed certain statements to the honorable member, I have allowed him to clear himself. But he is going into the whole matter that was debated yesterday.
– On a point of order, I ask: In what respect do my remarks touch that debate ? Yesterday, the House debated a censure motion in which different matters arose. A censure motion can cover any matter. Is it to be understood that because a censure motion has been debated, future discussion of any matter raised in it is precluded ?
– A censure motion is a “ question “ under the standing order I have read.
– I shall submit to your ruling. I want to deal with certain facts that have been mentioned.
– The honorable gentleman is in a much better position than I am, because I shall not be able to reply to him.
– The Chair will make that decision when the occasion arises.
– Would I be in order in moving that indulgence be granted to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to state his case, so that the Minister for Labour and National Service may have the opportunity to do likewise?
– The honorable member for Warringah cannot do so except in the form of a personal explanation, by the indulgence of the House. Although he did not ask for permission to make a personal explanation, I considered that, as the honorable member for EdenMonaro had involved him, together with the Leader of the Opposition, he should be allowed to clear himself of any implication in the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I think the House will agree, however, that the honorable member is traversing the whole of the dispute at Port Kembla, which was debated yesterday.
– 1 rose to do no more than answer the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– The honorable gentleman has gone much farther than that.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not say anything about beer.
– I grant that. I did not consider that I was infringing the rule which Mr. Speaker has said that I have infringed. I must submit to his decision. The only course open to me is to mention that a reference was made to what took place on the evening of the 7th May. All that I state as an objective fact in relation to that matter is, that it is quite clear that the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, acting on instructions from the Government, got in touch with the employers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now getting completely out of bounds. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not touch on that aspect of the matter at all. I am sorry that I cannot allow the honorable gentleman to traverse such grounds.
– Then I shall resume my seat.
.- When I mentioned a court-martial in this
House a few days ago, I said that it was one of a series. I now bring forward the second of the series. It relates to Owen Down Holcombe, V50450S, Private, “charged that, on the field, on 10th February, 1944, with intent permanently to avoid service, he absented himself without leave from date until he surrendered at Melbourne at 2,100 hours on 18th May, 1945, dressed in civilian clothes “. The court consisted of - ‘President: Major R. R, Webster, Head-quarters, Victoria Lines of Communication; Members: Captain N. A. Silbert, Royal Australian Artillery, Fremantle Fortress; Lieutenant H. R. Wooton, Head-quarters, Australian Corps, Judge Advocate; Captain H. G. Lander, Reserve of Officers, Australian Army Instructional Corps; and some waiting members. Whilst a courtmartial is an imitation of a court of law, it differs from a court of law in that, before it, most of the ordinary safeguards which are usually employed in such cases are disregarded. The administration of justice, according to British ideals, is a thing of slow and painful growth, and generally, in that growth, has been heavily loaded against an accused person. But. through the centuries it has arrived at a degree of perfection and, certainly in criminal cases, at all events, it is not any longer heavily biased against the accused. I would not say that of the court-martial, where the safeguards are disregarded, and documents, including typewritten ones, are admitted without test and without any proof of their authenticity. The court finally deliberates in secret.. Although I appeared for the accused person in this case, no public statement was made as to the court’s decision, much less its reasons for coming to that decision. Moreover, its determination is subject to review before a somewhat mysterious higher authority before whom no argument is heard. Generally, as in this .particular case, the proceedings are a travesty of justice. I do not know whether the court was composed of lawyers or not, but I do know that it was completely subservient to antiquated military forms. It has all the trappings of courts called suddenly into existence to administer justice without reference to the primary necessity for discharging the onus of proof, which, according to British law, rests upon the prosecution.
The father and mother of this young accused person are resident in my electorate. The father is an invalid pensioner, and the father and mother have reared a very large family of good Australians. The accused has a small farm of 30 or 40 acres in the neighbourhood of Garfield, in the electorate of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who for that reason has also interested himself in the case. I ask that the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) should reconsider this case and release the accused. I need hardly say that he was found guilty, but to this day I do not know what sentence was imposed upon him. I do not ask for his release on the ground that the .proceedings were a travesty of justice. I think that the court did its best, and nothing was urged by me in mitigation of the sentence. The accused himself made it clear that he had done .with soldiering. He said that his claim for discharge from the Army, as well as from detention, rested on other grounds. It was a matter of policy, rather than one for decision by court-martial.
At the material time of his enlistment he was the holder of an exemption for the duration of the war. He was a farmer and a poor man. He had pigs and milking cows on the land and potatoes growing in a section of it. He had an extension, which did not expire for nine days. Nevertheless, a representative of the man;power authorities came with a sergeant of the Army, and with singular high-handedness took him into custody. Under arrest he was taken to the nearest available station at Pakenham, and from there, still in custody, to Royal Park. There the soldier refused the oath, but took it after a promise had been made to him to give him seven days to go home to look after his stock. He went home, and at halfpast ten o’clock at night he milked the cows and fed the pigs. In order to give effect to his pledge to return, he went back in due time and did service for fourteen months, during which periodhe made repeated applications to be allowed to go home to look after his stock. Most country members will understand that milking cows have to be milked regularly, and that pigs and other stock have to be attended to regularly. No consideration was given to this ; but he was- told that his farm was good for nothing, and that his was not a worthwhile contribution to primary production.
I should hate to think that the Government is interested only in large-scale production, and that it has no time for small holdings. The age-long fight of the Labour party has been against the land grabber and in favour of the small holder. I submit that it was an entirely meritorious thing for this young man to take up this land and clear it. It is good land, and not as the Minister was misinformed into thinking, a worthless property. It was entirely praiseworthy for him to stock it and to contribute by his labour, within the limits of his power, to the mitigation of the food shortage. It is true that he did not have broad acres or extensive river fiats, and that his contribution was relatively small, but it was sincere and praiseworthy. With great respect to the Government, of which I am a supporter, I think that he should now be discharged. I hope that he will be, and allowed to return to his home, as so many have returned to their homes and farms-. That would be consistent with the declaration made ;by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) this afternoon. No doubt the person charged was absent without leave. No doubt also he should not have walked out on the Army, but I think that he should have been discharged long ago on the very good ground1 that he was the only person in charge of a small farm, with stock requiring immediate and constant attention. In my opinion he should have applied for exemption as a conscientious objector. That seems to be his state of mind, and I can understand and respect it. His father is unable to help him, as he is in a precarious state of health and frankly admits that he cannot tell the hour when his call may come.
I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), because he is in sympathy with such a case as I have outlined, in the confident belief that he will convey these representations to the Acting Minister for the Array, and that as a result there will be a double discharge. This man should not be kept continuously in detention, but, in accordance with Government policy as indicated to-dayby the Acting Prime Minister, he shouldbe allowed to return to his farm and to the good work which he was doing there.
.- This month, a very distinguished public servant, in the person of Dr. J. H. L. Cumpston, the Director-General of Health, and Director of Quarantine, is to retire, and it is fitting that a tribute should be paid to him for the valuable service he has rendered to the Commonwealth during the last 35 years. After a notable medical career, he entered the Commonwealth Medical Service, for the foundation of which he was chiefly responsible. His first big job was to handle the malignant influenza epidemic which broke out immediately after the last war. He did it with conspicuous skill, and succeeded in confining the epidemic to two States. He also established the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, which has done extraordinarily good work in the way of research and in the preparation of sera which have been responsible for the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives. In 1926, he was responsible for the creation of the Federal Council of Health, consisting of. the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health, and the DirectorsGeneral of Health of all the States. Under this council, public health administration in the States was coordinated to the great benefit of the public. In 1936, he was largely instrumental in the creation of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which has co-ordinated the work of those scientific societies which concern themselves with public health. He initiated inquiries into nutrition, and the work of some of his officers, particularly that of Dr. Clements’, has been highly commended by some of the best authorities on nutrition in the world. During the last few years he has, through one of his senior officers, Dr. Holmes, been engaged upon co-ordinating the efforts of civil and military medical authorities. I am glad that the Minister representing the
Minister for Health is present, because I am sure that he will support me in paying a well-deserved tribute to Dr. Cumpston.
I desire to bring to the notice of the Government the matter of. country telephone services. Twenty years ago, when the Bruce-Page Government was in office conditions affecting the installation of country telephones were greatly liberalized. It was arranged that £65 of the actual cost of installing a subscriber’s telephone would be borne by the department, and if five or six subscribers joined in using the same line, the department would put up £65 in respect of each of them. Under this arrangement, many country residents were able to obtain telephones. During the depression, this arrangement was suspended, though I do not think that it ought to have been, and it has not been restored. It is more imperative now than ever that country residents should be provided with telephone facilities. Many of the men are away with the forces, and the people remaining at home have difficulty in getting about because of petrol restrictions. I have received a communication from the secretary of the North Haven Progress Association, at Laurieton, a small tourist resort and timber town about7 miles off the railway. Attempts have been made by the association to obtain telephones for five residents, but the department has stated that the service will cost them £36 each to install. They think that this charge is extortionate, and they cannot pay it. They are prepared to find the money if the department will allow it to be paid in the form of rent for the telephones. The department has offered to defray half of the cost of installation, and if the people concerned are prepared to erect the poles it will meet all the cost. The secretary of the Progress Association has forwarded to me the following summary of correspondence which has passed between his association and the department : -
I have been instructed to acquaint you with the particulars pertaining to a request to the Postmaster-General’s Department by the North Haven residents for the provision of a telephone service.
After preliminary talks and correspondence, proposals as follows were made by the District Telephone Officer. These proposals were made for seven original subscribers. “ The department is prepared to undertake the whole construction of lines to the premises of all the interested parties with the exception of Mr. Suters. His proposed line would terminate at Mr. Latham’s. The balance of the line would have to be erected and maintained by him.
As the cost of this construction would exceed the permissible maximum expenditure it will be necessary for each of the interested parties to make a cash contribution at the outset of £36. This cash contribution would beregarded as rental paid in advance and until such time as it was liquidated only half the basic rental would be payable by the subscribers.”
Details of rentals by each individual subscriber are then given - “Should, however, the foregoing be not acceptable the department is prepared to consider assistance in reducing the capital cost involved. The residents could conjointly supply and deliver two 26-ft. and 72 24-ft. poles and dig the holes in accordance with departmental specifications which are as follows: -
Two 26-ft. poles, diameter at top 71/2 inches, at base 11 inches, to be placed 4 feet in ground; 72 24-ft. poles, diameter at top 7 inches, at base 103/4 inches, to be placed 4 feet in ground.
Timber - tallow-wood, ironbark or grey gum.
These poles, of course, would need to be laid out along the route of the line and would be handed over to the department free and unconditionally. It would also be necessary for the residents to carry out the necessary clearing in accordance with departmental requirements. If the foregoing conditions were acceptable this would eliminate the payment of a cash contribution.”
The following points were raised and answers received by letter: -
Reply. - The proposal has been considered as a group and the cash contribution allocated accordingly. The amount of £36 per subscriber is to be regarded as a lump sum contributed towards the cost. If more subscribers come in at the commencement it is possible that a reduction in the cash contribution would be made.
Reply. - With regard to future subscribers this feature would also be considered and a proportionate amount, having in mind the number of applicants credited to the original parties.
Reply. - Your submission regarding the waiving of rental would be tantamount to the provision by the department of a free service The regulations do not permit this. You will appreciate the position that the proposal can only be considered at present on the basis of service to the intending applicants and cannot have regard for uncertain future features.
A reply has been sent to the District Telephone Officer that the terms as set out are not acceptable to the parties concerned.
I would ask you, Sir, to examine these proposals from the viewpoint of an impartial observer.
We, the residents of North Haven are situated 2 to31/2 miles from the public telephone at Laurieton, Mr. Suters at Green Hills is over 5 miles away, and the only telephonic communication is a private line to Mr. Lee’s store.
The amount asked for from the applicants appears to be large, when we consider that the department is bearing portion of the con struction costs, and when considered together with the terms of repayment can only be regarded as prohibitive.
You will notice that the money advanced is to be “ regarded as rental paid in advance “, yet, when we suggest that the whole of the annual rental be remitted, we are told that this would be “tantamount to the provision by the department of a free service “. We are unable to reconcile these two statements.
You will also notice that no mention of any interest is made, yet, this money would, to all intents and purposes, be a loan to the department for constructional purposes, and, in our opinion, should, as a loan, bear interest.
The suggestion that the parties concerned might supply and erect 74 poles, and also clear the line and hand same over free and unconditionally was not considered worthy of discussion.
We respectfully ask you, as our member, to investigate the position here, and satisfy yourself of the justice of our claims for a telephone service. We feel that the department should be able to provide a service at a cost and on terms that would enable us to enjoy the benefits of that service on conditions that would be satisfactory and to the mutual advantage of both parties concerned.
Thanking you in anticipation,
I ask the Treasurer to take steps to ensure that the request of these persons is acceded to, and that favorable attention is also given to other applications of the same kind. The provision of telephone facilities would make the lot of the country resident a great deal easier, and would reduce his production costs. When the policy in regard to country telephones was liberalized twenty years ago it was found that, although the country lines themselves might not pay, their installation resulted in increased business on trunk lines in the locality.
I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to make an early decision regarding the price to be paid for wheat next year, and the amount of assistance which it is proposed to give to the dairying industry.
– We have now entered the month of June, and practically no wheat will be sown after this month. The advance for the ensuing year should be fixed, and announced immediately. I have asked that it be fixed at 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. as a minimum. I am convinced that the Government could not lose on such a guarantee because the price of wheat overseas is very much higher.
It is vital that the Government should announce without delay what measure of assistance it proposes to give to the dairy industry, because it is about the 1st July that farmers make up their minds whether they will carry on with dairying during the next season or turn over to some other form of production. A sum of at least £8,000,000 will be required to prevent a further decline. I ask the Treasurer and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to give to this matter their immediate attention. In doing so, I remind them that if a decision be made within the next week, it may be possible to prevent a further decline of this industry.
.- I bring before the House a question of great importance to the dairying industry; it relates to the competition of margarine with butter. I shall trace briefly the history of the manufacture of margarine in this country. Before the war, there was considerable perturbation among dairy-farmers because of the competition of margarine with butter, and the threat to the dairying industry that it represented. As the result of agitation by dairying interests and their Parliamentary representatives, both Commonwealth and State Parliaments passed legislation to restrict the output of margarine. One of the principal arguments used against its manufacture was that a substantial portion of its ingredients - coco-nut oil and palm oil- came from Pacific Islands, where they were produced by black labour. That was held to be unfair competition with butter produced in Australia by white labour. 1 understand that in the United States of America and other countries margarine is now manufactured, not from the oils that I have mentioned, but from oil extracted from the soya bean. I am informed that 75 per cent, of the margarine now manufactured in the United States of America has soya bean oil as its main ingredient. I understand, too, that persons in Australia who are interested in the sale of margarine are endeavouring to establish soya bean cultivation on a large scale in this country, so that they will have available the raw material that they require - a raw material which cannot be challenged on the ground that it is the product of black labour. Various attempts have been made to establish the soya bean in Australia, but for various reasons, the chief of which appears to be that a suitable type of beanhasnotbeen used for experimental purposes, they have not been successful. However, I understand that there is a type of soya bean suitable for cultivation in this country. My purpose in speaking is to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) whether it is a fact that he has sent Mr. D. M. Shand to the United States of America to secure information regarding the introduction of the soya bean to Australia, and to search for suitable types, and whether such action is in any way connected with the desire of the manufacturers of margarine to engage in stronger competition with butter. I do not suggest that the Minister has sent Mr. Shand abroad with that intention in mind - I do not even know whether Mr. Shand has left Australia - but I emphasize the importance of dairying to the economic structure of this country.Anythingthat islikelytoundermineitsfoundationisa seriousmatter.TheAustralianeconomy doesnotcallfortheproductionofsoya beansonalargescale,althoughinlow- wagecountriesitisanextremelypopular vegetable.IfMr.Shandhasleftfor theUnitedStatesofAmerica,orpro- posestodoso,Ishouldliketoknow what the Government intends to do when he returns with information which may make easy the production of soya beans in Australia, and accordingly will encourage the manufacture of large quantities of margarine, to the detriment of the dairying industry.
.- I. bring to the notice of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) what may appear to he a small matter nationally, but is nevertheless a matter of importance to the individuals concerned. It arises out of the case of an Englishman who enlisted in the Australian ImperialForce and fought with Australians in the Middle East, Libya, Greece and Crete. In the last-mentioned country he was taken prisoner, but he has since been repatriated to Australia, where he arrived last December. He has been told that he may return to England if he can get a passage on a vessel. It is impossible for a serviceman to book a. passage to England, but the shipping companies will take him there if he is willing to work his passage. That he is willing to do. The official document relating to this man contains the following information: -
This soldier has been attached to Medical Boards, at Royal Park since December, 1944.
He was in Australia, partly on pleasure and partly on business when war broke out.. He was unable to get to England to enlist, so enlisted in Australia in October, 1939. Went overseas April, 1040, serving in Libya,. Greece and Crete. Taken prisoner of war in Crete, 1st June, 1941.
He was repatriated to Australia, returning in January, 1944, since December, 1944, has been at Medical Board, Royal Park.
The Army is willing to release him providing; he can get a passage to England.
Scott is a married man, home address,1 Church-street, Cromer, Norfolk, England. He is sober, steady, reliable and very willing. He is used to Army medical nursing duties and is highly competent.
I shall hand the document to the Minister with the request that he pass it on to the appropriate Minister. It seems unfair that this British soldier, who has served with the Australian forces, should not be able to return to his home and his family, from which he has been separated for six and a half years, especially;, as hostilities in Europe have ceased. He is, as I have said, willing to work his passage.
– I take the first opportunity provided by the forms of the House to bring before the Government the unsatisfactory position in relation to the equipment of Australian forces in the battle areas of the Pacific. I do this in the discharge of my duty, and I urge the Government to institute a searching inquiry. I again stress the necessity for an allparty committee of members to visit battle areas at the earliest opportunity, so that they may get first-hand information on the subject. If the information which I propose to place before the House is correct, matters are far from satisfactory. Only this morning I received a letter from a captain in the Army on this subject. I shall not give his name to the House, but am prepared to give it confidentially to the Acting Prime Minister if he desires it. This VX man, whose Army number is under 5000, says -
We all followed with keen interest the recent debate on Army equipment and also the statements it brought forth from members of the Government.
As Captain Bill Lee is also a friend ot mine and I read whore you quoted extracts from his letter to you, I thought you may be interested in the enclosed snaps.
Although you were not successful in your efforts to force the issue on this occasion, 1 assure you, Sir, the statements attributed to supporters of the Government have not only “brought ridicule upon themselves, but have also done their (party a great deal of harm.
Each and every one of the troops in this area has had some experience of the problems -nf equipment; it being their main topic of -conversation for some weeks prior to the matter being brought before the House.
Had the worthy Senator Eraser visited this area the day his statements became known to the troops, I venture to say his reception could be likened to what “ Lord Haw Haw “ can expect on his triumphal return to London.
Would you be kind enough to post the -enclosed snaps to my home address as I am Anxious to add them to my collection gathered in the Middle East.
Over there I took several snaps showing the humble Arab’s small ass hauling the primitive wooden plough, the same type as was employed in Biblical days.
The snaps enclosed, you will agree, Sir, don’t reveal much evidence of our mechanical age or any appreciable progress during the past one thousand nine hundred and fortyfive years.
Before describing the photographs, I will read a letter which I received from a lieutenant, normally a resident of Townsville, whose people I have known for many years. This young man writes -
Parliamentary debates on the lack of army equipment have been read with great interest here. We all commend Captain W. F. Lee’s outspoken letter. I intend to give you similar examples of lack of equipment in North Bougainville and you are at liberty to use the statements whenever you wish.
Let me give you a few examples -
This battalion began the operations in North Bougainville, which included the taking of Tsimba Ridge. During that period we lost 32 killed and 94 wounded. We had no supporting tanks. Tsimba Ridge took us over two weeks to take with the loss of nine killed and 22 wounded.
Tank officers who inspected the ridge later say they could have taken it in twenty minutes without loss. Almost everywhere we fought in that area tanks could have been used.
The 20th Battalion, which followed have also lost many nien unnecessarily. I believe that General Blarney has promised a squadron of tanks and another regiment of 25-pounders for this section, in the meantime the troops fight on.
Lack of water transport is, however, the greatest blunder of the campaign. The campaign which was originally planned to finish by the 3rd June, looks like extending into October or November. This unit went into the central sector around Smith’s Hill after the Tsimba show. Recently we came out and now sit in Torakina awaiting barges to take us north. It looks as though we will sit here for some weeks for there are not the barges to transport us nor the -barges to keep us supplied if we do not move up to join the remainder of the brigade.
Shells for 155 mm. and 75 mm. guns have been rationed to so many a day from time to time. The excuse was that they could not be purchased from the Americans.
Senator Fraser’s visit of two days was quite insufficient for any man (particularly a civilian) to grasp the true equipment position. As a visitor he mixed with senior officers and men in the ranks. Most of the former are not game to speak their minds for fear of their jobs and few men have sufficient knowledge to discuss such things as army equipment. The knowledge of the man in the ranks about such things is based on “ mulgas “ and rumour. The men who can give the true picture are company commanders, platoon commanders, platoon sergeants and section leaders. Their jobs are not vital to them and they have a good knowledge of what is required, for they are the men who direct and fight the battle.
Never has a campaign in any war blundered along in such an unenterprising manner. Lack of equipment, particularly barges, tanks, naval craft for bombardment of enemy shore installations, aircraft, heavy engineer equipment and many other items” tie the hands of the commander to a campaign of hard slogging and deprive him of any opportunity of making a bold and imaginative plan to quickly crush enemy resistance here.
It is high time that the people of Australia were made aware of the true facts for the army cannot fight its own battles in the political area.
I have endeavoured to give you a true picture of our part in this muddling campaign. The instances I have quoted are just a few, ot the lack of equipment and the direct results thereof. They are facts, not expressions of opinion and I hope they will be of some assistance to you.
To the best of my ability I will describe the photographs. It is a pity that they cannot be screened by the Department of Information in order that their message may be more graphically and forcibly placed before the Government and the public. No. 1, a photograph depicting natives working under the supervision of a Digger, bears this inscription -
Maprik Branch of A.W.C. won’t see Australian Army held up for lack of equipment.
Fraser: “20-ft. surf at Aitape prevented landing of bulldozers.” New Guinea - April, 1045.
No. 2, a photograph depicting natives working under army supervision and carrying tree bark, bears the inscription -
Australian Army earth removers, Mark I. Tree bark was in use before Senator Fraser pushed his first wheelbarrow. New Guinea - May, 1045.
No. 3, a photograph showing natives pulling a grader, bears the following: - “Now let us to the task. There is not a week, not a day, not an hour we can lose.” - Churchill, 1940. iSo pull like hell. The Australian Army ‘drome grader Mark I., leaselend from New Guinea natives. April, 1045.
No. 4, a photograph depicting a large number of natives pulling the grader, bears the inscription -
Flat out. P.B.T. Mark I. grader in action. “ Never in the history of human conflict was so much owed by so ‘many to so few.” New Guinea - May, 1045.
No. 5 is a photograph of eight Australian soldiers making a grader, and bears the following : -
Canberra debate, April, 1045. Senator Fraser: “Never was the Australian Army better equipped than at present.” Stone-age grader Mark I. Senator Fraser is not among the 17 Brigade Australian Army personnel.
No. 6 shows a large number of natives pulling the grader with Diggers looking, on, and bears the inscription -
M.H/R.’s Canberra statement: “Australian Army equipment is identical with that used by U.S. Forces in the South-West Pacific.” What would you “think? New Guinea - May, 1045.
No. 7, a further photograph, showing the natives pulling this grader at a later stage of their operations, bears the following : - “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”- Churchill, 1041. Grader Mark I. Australian pattern. Fraser: “Australian Army has all the necessary equipment for the present successful campaign.”
In No. 8 the natives are inspecting the grader, and the picture has this inscription - “ All I have to offer is blood, toil, tears and sweat.” - Churchill. Wait until he sees the Australian Army grader Mark I. New Guinea - May, 1945.
No. 9, another photograph showing natives at work, bears the inscription -
Australian army earth removing equipment. One thousand yard haul by GO natives. ‘Drome construction. New Guinea-May, 1945.
It is pathetic that one has to bring such evidence before this House. I recognize my responsibility in this matter. I know that the Government has placed undue reliance upon the information that has been conveyed to it with regard to the equipment of our forces in New Guinea. However, it is clear that a searching and immediate investigation is warranted in the interests not only of the Government, the people and our soldiers but also our war effort generally.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) the undue delay associated with Professor Giblin’s inquiry into the price to be paid to suppliers of milk in the Sydney and Newcastle milk zones. I should like to know the reason for that delay, and why a price has not yet been declared. This afternoon I received the following telegram from Mr. Sedgwick, president of the Milk Zone Dairymen’s Association : -
Please endeavour ascertain delay in declaring milk price and Giblin report.
All honorable members will recall the unfortunate position which arose in Sydney early this year in connexion with this matter. At present these dairymen are experiencing the worst conditions they have ever experienced. They are now in the throes of an acute drought, and cannot obtain fodder for their herds except at exorbitant prices. An independent inquiry by a firm of accountants sponsored by the Sydney Morning Herald revealed a serious discrepancy in the figures used by the officials of the Prices Branch and showed that these milk suppliers were entitled to a higher price than that fixed by the Prices Commissioner. After I had asked many questions on the subject, Professor Giblin was appointed some weeks ago to investigate the whole matter, but up to date we have not heard whether he has furnished a report. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister to expedite that report, because these dairymen are practically being driven mad as the result of their worries.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) dealt with the matter of drought relief to the dairying industry. Under directions from the Government, I have written to the various Departments of Agriculture in the States concerned, and asked them for an estimate of the cost of affording such relief. I have also asked whether, in the provision of such relief, they are prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth on a £1 for £1 basis. Up to date I have not received replies from any of the States, although I wrote to them on the subject a considerable time ago. The Government now has under consideration the matter of general subsidies, and I believe that at an early date the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will make a statement to the House on that subject. I understand also that his statement will deal with the matter raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) concerning Professor Giblin’s investigation of the price to he paid to dairymen who supply milk for sale in the Sydney and Newcastle zones. I am informed that the Acting Prime Minister has given instructions with a view to expediting that report.
It is true, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said, that I have sent Mr. Shand to the United States of America to gather information which would enable us to determine the possibilities of soya bean production in Australia. Some of the information given by the honorable member was new to me. The soya bean is a wonder plant, tt is used for over 200 purposes in the United States of America, where the production last year exceeded 200,000,000 bushels. It is used in many war production industries, and also in the production of plastics for the manufacture of motor car and aeroplane bodies, whilst the oils of the bean form the basic ingredient of special food preparations. Although the bean has been known to agriculture for centuries, its value has been increased a hundredfold as the result of scientific research. For this reason, I sincerely hope that we shall be able to establish soya bean production in this country on a firm basis. I hope that it will take the place of much of our war-time vegetable production, particularly in the New England district and other parts of the Commonwealth. I have been requested by apiarists to arrange supplies of soya bean seed, because of the value of the plant in their industry. I believe that the fears expressed by the honorable member for Richmond are unfounded. I have no doubt that should we be able to establish the plant successfully in Australia, it will be of great benefit to our internal economy, and will not adversely affect the dairying industry. I hope that Mr. Shand’s mission to the United States of America will prove successful.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) rereferred to the retirement from the Commonwealth Public Service of Dr. Cumpston, the Director-General of Health and Director of Quarantine. Every honorable member will agree that we should pay tribute to this distinguished public servant for the monumental work which he has performed’ for the benefit of the nation. I understand that the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) has already made a public statement drawing attention to the great work performed by Dr. Cumpston during the 35 years he has been in the service of the Commonwealth.
I shall bring to the notice of the appropriate Ministers the matters raised by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
A most important question was raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and I should like to state the facts briefly, if I shall be in order in doing so.
-Order ! Having ruled the honorable member for Warringah out of order, I cannot permit the Minister to deal with the same subject.
– I merely wish to justify the action taken by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may justify his action in his own way, but I cannot permit the Minister to deal with a subject which I have ruled out of order.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and shall reserve my remarks for another occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 79.
National Security Act -
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - No. 20.
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Order - New South Wales (No.6).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78.
House adjourned at 5.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Coupon Rating for Knitting Wool.
On the 23rd May, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) asked the following question: -
The coupon rating in respect of knitting wool is so high that persons desiring to knit cardigans and other garments for themselves find that the number of coupons they have to tender for the wool that they need is greater than would be required were they to purchase the articles factory made. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs have the coupon rating for wool examined, with a view to making such a reduction as will encourage persons to knit their own garments, thus saving man-power and popularizing the use of wool?
Furthermore, the Rationing Commission, in pursuance’ of its policy of making relaxations in the coupon scale whenever the supply position permits, recently decided upon the following alteration in the coupon scale for handknitting wool, to apply from the commencement of the new rationing year on 4th June, 1945:-
Petrol: Surplus and Deteriorated Supplies.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– On the 17th May, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the case of Driver Brouff, who had presented himself at the Sydney Showground Army Depot with his six children on the 11th May, and stated that his wife had been away from home for ten weeks and that he had been refused a discharge from the army.
The honorable member was advised at the time that the matter would be investigated, and it is now established that immediately the position in regard to this member’s family had been brought to the notice of the Army authorities, he was granted compassionate leave pending investigation into the case, with a view to the member’s discharge. The representations made on behalf of the member were that employment was available to the soldier as a carter with Messrs. Tassiker and Company, storekeepers, at Warren, which would enable the soldier to be at home each night with his children. On investigation of the case, it was decided that the soldier should be discharged on compassionate grounds and a telegram to this effect was dispatched by the Army Head-quarters authorities to Sydney on the11th May, which was the date of the newspaper article referred to by the honorable member.
e asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
y. - On the 25th May, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked a question regarding the discovery of monacrin, a synthetic drug, which it was suggested would be an effective agent for use in battle areas in order to combat malaria.
I desire to inform the right honorable member that the recent press references to “ Monacrin “ gave a somewhat misleading account of a valuable group of drugs known as the acradine series. To this group belong atebrin, widely used in malaria, and acriflavine and proflavine, well known antiseptics in common use for some years. Dr. Adrian Albert, of the Sydney University, a Senior Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council has chemically built up 107 of these acridine substances in order to find those with the greatest antiseptic action. Included in these is 5-amino-acridine, which has the additional advantage of not staining red or yellow like other antiseptics of this group. This 5-amino-acridine has been marketed by one firm for over a year as “ Monacrin “, by another as “ Acramine “. This is a useful substance for the local treatment of most infected wounds, but prolonged use causes tissue damage. It cannot be used for injection, nor taken by mouth, and therefore does not reach infections of the blood and of the deeper organs and tissues, as is possible with penicillin, which has the advantage of a wider means of application to reach infected sites. Monacrin has no use in combating malaria.
War Service Homes.
e asked the Minister for
Repatriation, upon notice : -
– The answerstothe honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.6,748 for all classes of assistance under the War Service Homes Act, the figures for the respective States being: - New South Wales. 2,754; Victoria, 1,613; Queensland, 589; South Australia, 823; Western Australia, 699; Tasmania, 300. 2. (a) The total number of homes built or assisted to build prior to the outbreak of the present war was 21,412, the figures for the respective States being: - New South Wales, 6,620; Victoria, 5,014; Queensland, 3,269; South Australia, 3,413; Western Australia, 2,400; Tasmania, 696.
The War Service Homes Commission has also discharged 122 mortgages and com pleted the purchase of 36 homes on behalf of applicants since the outbreak of the present war.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450601_reps_17_182/>.