17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Pamphlet on Banking Legislation.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen a pamphlet entitled The People’s Savings,, which has been circulated widely throughout Australia by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, under the signature of its chairman, Sir Samuel Hordern? Does tha Australian Mutual Provident Society claim to be wholly mutual, and to devote its profits solely to; the benefit of its policy-holders? If so, will the Acting Prime ‘ Minister have an investigation made in the interests of policy-holders, with a view to determining whether or not money belonging to policy-holders has been illegally used in the distribution of the circular? Will he also ask the chairman of the society to state in what way he considers that the investment of his policy-holders will be endangered by government legislation? If the chairman admits that there is no danger to his policy-holders in this connexion, will the Acting Prime Minister request him to circularize his policy-holders to that effect?
– I have seen a circular issued by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, having some reference to the banking legislation that is now before this House. As the Australian Mutual Provident Society is a mutual society, with n large number of policyholders and, presumably, policy-holders of all classes, I considered that it had acted unwisely in intruding in the politicial field.
– Did the honorable gentleman hold the same view when the head of that society approved publicly of the Insurance Bill?
– Whether the com.ments of the head of the society had been foi’ or against the insurance legislation, I should have considered that he was justified in expressing- his opinion because the matter is one in which he is directly interested. I am prepared to examine the matter raised in the latter portion of the question, even though criticisms of this nature do not cause me n great deal of concern. Honorable members may care to discuss the matter when the Insurance Bill is before them.
– Has the attention o f the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to the press statement by an Australian Imperial Force lieutenant, just back from Kew Guinea, concerning shortages of munitions and supplies in the Wewak area? Does the confidential report submitted to Cabinet by Senator Eraser confirm the grave charges that he makes? Does the Government intend to table that report? Is it a fact, as is reported, that there is abundant evidence of an improvement of the equipment position in forward areas as the result of the debate on the matter in this House?
– I have not seen the statement referred to. It is very difficult to digest all the misstatements that are made in this House, without bothering about those that are published in newspapers. I am not aware of any shortage of equipment. A report was made by Senator Fraser to the Government, and the portion dealing with equipment has already been disclosed to the House. The Government does not propose to table those parts that are entirely confidential. The report was made by a Minister of the Crown to the Prime Minister.
– Is the confidential part of the report separate from the rest?
– I think the Prime Minister himself informed the House that the report was in two sections, one of which dealt with equipment, while the other dealt with matters associated with the campaign, regarding which the Minister had made certain observations. That part of the report relating to matters other than equipment was for the personal information of the Prime Minister, and will not be tabled, any m,ore than would any other private document submitted for the information of the Leader of the Government.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, as the press has stated, the Government is experiencing difficulty with its plans for the release of members of the fighting services who have served for five years and have had operational experience, the number to be released having been greatly underestimated? Has the Government considered the position of men who enlisted in the middle of 1940, which was one of the most productive recruiting periods of the war? Will the Acting Prime Minister assure the House that these men will not be debarred from the benefits of any scheme that may be evolved?
– I read in a newspaper yesterday the statement that the Government was experiencing certain difficulties. I thought that I had made it clear in my statement last Friday that a general principle had been decided upon by the Advisory War Council, to which the War Cabinet had agreed, and that the details of graduated releases remained to be worked out and recommended. War Cabinet, and the departments concerned, are now considering the details. I agree that probably there will be some difficulty in arriving at a completely satisfactory graduation of releases. I assure the honorable member that the matter will be examined as quickly as possible. When further details are available, they will be made known either by me or by Ministers in charge of service departments.
British Comedians : Banning of Records
-Can the Minister for Information say whether it is a fact that popular recordings by well-known British comedians, although played regularly over the British Broadcasting Corporation, have been banned for useby Australian broadcasting stations? If so, will the Minister say who constitute the authority which decides whether or not records shall be banned, and what qualifications are required for this delicate and important task? Does the Minister not feel that if “London can take it” Australia can, too?
Mr.CALWELL. - I have no detailed knowledge of the subject-matter of the honorable member’s question,but I would say that any banning of recordings of comedy turns from the London stage must necessarily be on the ground of good taste, and would have nothing to do with security censorship. It may be that London can take certain things that London ought not to be asked to take; and it may he that Australia is being regaled with alleged music and alleged comedy that Australia should notbe asked to take. The Postmaster-General is looking into the matter of records about which complaints have been made from time to time. I shall bring to his attention the suggestion offered by interjection by one of my colleagues that we might substitute for the banned records some recordings of the comedy speeches made by lending members of the Opposition.
– On the 29th May I received a letter from the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction, in which it was stated that negotiations for the peace-time use of country factories formerly used for the making of munitions were proceeding, but were seriously hampered by such considerations as freight charges, and the reluctance of executive and technical staff to move to country towns. The letter added that one important British group had already declined on this account to take over a country factory. I ask the Minister whether something can be done through the Secondary Industries Commission to ensure that factories no longer required by the Government for the manufacture of armaments shall continue in operation in some other way, so that people who went to work in the towns in which those factories are located and thereby involved themselves financially shall not be thrown out of work? Will the Minister negotiate with the Government of New South Wales (1) for the purpose of inducing it to grant freight concessions on the output of those factories, and (2) to ascertain whether it can make use of surplus factories? Unlike the Commonwealth Government, the State governments are not restricted by the Constitution in engaging in industrial activities. It would, perhaps, be a good thing if representatives of the Government of New South Wales wereseconded to the Secondary Industries Commission.
– The Secondary Industries Commission is endeavouring to get private enterprise or State governments and instrumentalities to use some of the munition factories for which the Commonwealth Government has no further use. The Government of New South Wales, or the government of any State, would be quite in order in approaching the Secondary Industries Commission if it had in mind the utilization of any of the factories available for disposal. For example, the Government of Victoria is negotiating with it for the use of a government factory for the purpose of supplying building materials. I shall take up the matter personally with the representatives of the Government of New South Wales and see whether there is any use to which it can put some of the factories in which the honorable gentleman is interested.
– I ask the Treasurer whether representatives of the taxpayers’ associations of Victoria and New South Wales have conveyed to him their views that the taxation system is unjust and inequitable, especially’ in relation to a taxpayer with a young family who pays tux out of proportion to that paid by a person with few domestic obligations? If so, as the Government will shortly be call upon to frame its budget, will it, in considering its taxation measures, take action to rectify the anomalies referred to?
– An endless stream of representations comes from the taxpayers’ associations, and I cannot remember the particular representations referred to by the right honorable gentleman. Consideration is given to all representations, including those by the associations mentioned. I have made it clear already that under the pay-as-you-earn system it is desirable that taxation measures shall be reviewed before the beginning of the financial year. That was done early this calendar year in respect of the next financial year. It is perfectly true that many people were not satisfied with the review. Towards the end of this calendar year taxation measures will be reviewed and if any change in the taxation structure is intended, the necessary measures will be brought down early in the next calendar year to cover the financial year 1946-47.
– by leave - The declaration of the surrender of Germany, signed on the 5th June in Berlin by the representatives of the Supreme Commands of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and France, acting by the authority of their respective governments and in the interests of the United Nations, completes the military act of surrender concluded at Rheims on the 7th May and ratified on the following day in Berlin. The Aus tralian Government has been consulted as to the terms imposed upon Germany under the declaration, and is thereby associated with the general arrangements prescribed for the control of Germany in defeat.
The Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, and the Provisional Government of France, have announced their intention to consult with other countries in the exercise of the supreme authority which they have assumed in relation to Germany. This supreme authority is now vested in an Allied Control Council for Germany, consisting of representatives of the four governments. The Australian Government welcomes this statement by the allied representatives and intends to be associated by appropriate means with the work of the ‘Control Council. Australia will, further, take advantage of an offer by the United Kingdom Government to participate, subject to the primary needs of the war effort against Japan, in the British element of the Control Commission machinery. In these ways, the Commonwealth Government will be directly associated with the major responsibilities involved in completing the demilitarization of Germany and the uprooting of all traces of Nazi-ism from Germany’s national life. ‘Such association with the task of shaping a democratic future for Germany after its unconditional surrender is in keeping with the Commonwealth Government’s policy expressed in a statement to the House of Representatives on the 8th September, 1944, by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt)-
The primary question in Europe is the future of Germany. Action to meet the immediate situation which will arise when Germany surrenders will obviously include measures for the occupation, disarmament and control of Germany and will, of course, have great influence on the long-term policy which will be followed as a result of the later general peace settlement. For this reason, the Government deems it important that, even at the armistice stage, some provision should be made for associating with these immediate measures all of the countries which have taken an active part in the war against Germany and are entitled to have a voice in the final disposition of Germany.
– By a question in this House and in subsequent conversations, T directed the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the withholding of drought relief payments from wheat-growers- who did not sow their seed last year, and who, nevertheless, are suffering the full effects of .the drought. Will the Minister inform me whether their position has yet been clarified; and will payments be made to them?
– Some time ago, the honorable member directed my attention to this omission, and I regard the position as serious. When I was in Albury, a deputation, arranged by the honorable member, waited on me and pointed out that the weather had been so dry that farmers had found it utterly impossible to sow seed. In fact, they showed wisdom in not attempting to sow seed, because their efforts would have been in vain, and the seed would have been wasted. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States specifies the conditions under which drought relief shall be paid. It seems extraordinary to me that, to date, the wheat-growers to whom the honorable member referred have been debarred from that relief, and I have issued an instruction to the chairman of the board, who is a Commonwealth official, to consult again with the Department of Agriculture in Victoria for the purpose of ascertaining whether this position can be corrected. It is wrong and cruel that these farmers should be denied relief, because they are suffering more acutely than are farmers in certain other areas who have already received payments.
PRICE op Milk - Report of Professor Giblin.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the newspaper report is correct that Professor Giblin’s report on the claims of the dairyfarmers in the Sydney metropolitan. zone for an increase of the price for milk has been handed to him? In view of the desperate plight in which dairymen have found themselves for some time past, and the uncertainty prevailing in the industry, will the honorable gentleman lay it on the table so that honorable members and persons intimately interested in the dairying industry may know the results of the investigations? If the Acting Prime Minister is not prepared to table the report, will he explain his reasons for withholding it?
– Professor Giblin was instructed to prepare a report’ on the price of milk in the Sydney metropolitan zone, particularly for the Prime Minister’s information. He has completed this report. It is a lengthy document and was written in the belief that it would be for the personal information of the Prime Minister. For that reason, I do not propose to lay it on the table. Professor Giblin reached certain conclusions, the principal one being - and I do not suggest that these are his exact words - that the decision of the Prices Commissioner was justified in the circumstances. I am prepared to allow the two honorable members who have been specially interested in this subject, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), who has made many representations with regard to it, and the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) to see the report.
– I have more milk producers in my electorate than have many other honorable members.
– The honorable member for New England has also been persistent in his representations on this subject.
– The honorable member for New England knows that I have no desire to do him any injustice. I shall be glad to allow him and other honorable members specially interested, who have made representations on the subject, and, in fact, all the members of the House, to read the conclusions reached by Professor Giblin. The report itself dealt with & great many matters which were intended particularly for the information of the Prime Minister. As I stated recently, a general review is being made of the price of whole-milk and butters-fats. The investigations have been in progress for some weeks, and the subject has .also been examined during the last two or three days by the three Ministers associated with price stabilization and by the Minister for Commerce and .Agriculture.
I hope that at a very early date I shall be able to make an announcement on the subject, particularly having regard to the effects of the drought in the dairying districts.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Minister of Finance in New Zealand has intervened to prevent the Bank of New Zealand from using shareholders’ funds to finance propaganda against the New Zealand Government’s banking proposals? The Bank of New Zealand is sending out a circular appealing to all its shareholders, including those in Australia, for funds for this purpose. In view of the fact that the Associated Banks in Australia are spending the funds of tens of thousands of shareholders in untruthful propaganda n gainst this Government’s banking proposals, without having obtained the approval of such shareholders, will the Treasurer inquire into the nature of the action being taken by the Minister of Finance in New Zealand to see whether it is possible to take similar action in Australia?
– I have seen a number of circulars that have been issued. One of the interesting things about the great volume of pamphlets and leaflets issued by the trading banks in Australia regarding the banking legislation now before this Parliament is that I was informed by at least one representative of the banks about twelve months ago that a serious shortage of man-power existed in the departments of the trading banks. I was amazed, later, when I noted the great volume of labour and effort which, apparently, they had been able to employ in issuing circulars, either through the press or directly to their customers. A great deal of the time of the employees must have been devoted to this purpose. Such action was a contradiction of the statement that they were lamentably short of man-power. I shall examine the matter raised in the second portion of the question, in order to ascertain what was actually done in New Zealand. I may say at once that I am rather disinclined to bother about the campaign because, if it is having any effect at all, it is in the direction of assisting the proposals which the Government has placed before this House.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read the report published in last night’s Melbourne Herald, to the effect that woollen knitted goods, particularly, are piling up in factories in Victoria. One factory has on hand £15,000 worth of stock, and the management is contemplating the discharge of employees? If the report is correct, will the Minister take up with the Minister ‘in charge of rationing the matter of issuing additional clothing coupons to enable extra purchases to be made? Can he indicate when the production will be such as will enable the restrictions on the purchase of clothing to be relaxed?
– I am not aware that large quantities of knitted goods are available, hut cannot be disposed of under the present rationing scale. I am sure that the Rationing Commission is capable of assessing the availability of goods, and the possibility of their disposal under the existing scale, and am confident that it would make any alteration of that scale which might be necessary to quit any surplus by making it available to the public. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife
– by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), in the course of a question to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), asked whether that honorable gentleman considered that further delay in the determination of the case of Mrs. Mary Pedvin was “ fair treatment to the woman concerned, who, incidentally, is still being dunned by the Government”. While I was answering the question, the honorable member interjected -
Will the Minister see that these dunning letters which Mrs. Pedvin is still receiving from the Department of the Interior shall be stopped ?
I replied that they should be stopped. I have made inquiries, and have been informed that since the investigation by the parliamentary committee was commenced, no letters of any kind have been sent to Mrs. Pedvin-
– That is not correct. The amount of the arrears is still being added to her account.
– No letters of any kind have been sent from the Department of the Interior to Mrs. Pedvin, nor has any demand been made on her for the rent that is in dispute. I shall wait until Tuesday next for the honorable gentleman to produce a letter, so that I may test the truthfulness of the department.
– During this week, the Minister for Munitions, in reply to a question, said that, in view of the acute shortage of wire netting, he would take measures to determine the possibility of importing wire netting under lend-lease from the United .States of America. Will the honorable gentleman approach the appropriate authorities, so as to determine the possibility of releasing service personnel for the manufacture of wire netting in Australia, particularly at Whyalla or Port Pirie by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited?
– I have already intimated to the House that certain facilities are available at Newcastle for the manufacture of wire netting. The governing factor is the securing of men of the right type, because only those of the highest standard can be employed on this class of work. We are trying to obtain that essential man-power. In the meantime, we shall try to get supplies from overseas in order to relieve the present acute shortage of wire netting.
– In the absence of the- Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask the Acting Prime Minister to give an assurance to the women of Australia that, in the review of manpower distribution which, I understand, is now in progress, careful consideration will be given to the urgent need for lifting the restrictions on the delivery of meat, groceries, &c, in view of the tremendous strain imposed on housewives, particularly young mothers, upon the maintenance of whose health and vitality the future welfare of the nation so largely depends.
– Some aspects of the matter mentioned have already been considered, particularly by the - Production Executive. It is realized that some of the restrictions - many of which are physical rather than governmental - do impose hardship on housewives who have to carry heavy parcels. However, the lifting of restrictions would not entirely overcome the difficulty, because the general resumption of deliveries would be affected by the shortage of rubber and petrol, and even of horses and fodder. I can assure the honorable member that the matter is being examined, and that every effort will be made to remove the restrictions.
I ask honorable members to place on the notice-paper any further questions they wish to ask.
– I desire to raise a matter of privilege. It appears to me that the privileges of honorable members’ are being seriously curtailed. It was the practice for many years for a certain portion of each sitting day to be set aside for the questioning of Ministers. This morning, members of the Liberal party have been allowed to ask only three questions. Most of the time has been taken up in the making of statements by Ministers. I protest against the curtailment of question time.
– I do not think that any question of privilege arises. I have previously ruled that Ministers may at any time refuse to answer questions. When the Leader of the House asks that further questions be placed on the noticepaper, it has always been taken as an intimation that Ministers will not answer any further questions’ without notice.
– Well, I protest against it.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th June (vide page 2755).
Clause 22- (I.) There shall be a Governor and a Deputy Governor of the Bank, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General, and shall hold office during good behaviour for a period not exceeding seven years but shall be eligible for re-appointment. (2.) The persons holding office as Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank immediately prior to the commencement of this Part shall, subject to this Part, continue to hold office for the remainder of their respective periods of appointment. (3.) The Governor and Deputy Governor shall be paid such salary and allowances as the Governor-General determines.
.- This is a clause which requires a fair amount of examination. We know that under clause 9 the direction of banking policy is to be in the hands of the Treasurer, and the Government refused to accept any amendment to1 that clause. Therefore, it becomes all the more important that we should carefully consider clause 22 which provides for the appointment of a governor and a deputy governor. One defect in the clause is that no minimum term of appointment is specified. It will be permissible for the Government to appoint a man from year to year, so that he would be particularly subject to the pressure which the Treasurer, by virtue of clause 9, would be able to bring to bear upon him. Therefore, I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “years” the following words be inserted: - and not being less than three years “.
The Governor of the bank, who is to occupy an exceedingly important position, should be given some security of tenure in his position so’ as to protect him as much as possible from outside pressure. ‘I believe that it should also be provided that he can be removed from office only by a joint resolution of both Houses of Parliament, as is the case with members of the judiciary. It should not be possible for a man occupying the position of Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to be removed at the mere caprice of the Government; he should be removed only on the ground of grave misconduct, or total incapacity to do the job, and it should then be done by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
Six EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [11.12]. - Apart from clause 9, Part V. of the bill, which relates to the management of the Commonwealth Bank, and which I think is the most important part of all, especially in view of the fact that it is proposed to make the Governor a mere cipher, so completely is he to be under the control of the Treasurer. I believe that it is necessary to strengthen the hand of the Governor as much as possible so that he will be able to defend to the last ditch the expert policy which he and his advisory councillors decide upon in the best interests of the bank and of Australia. For that reason, I support the amendment. If a man of 64 years of age is appointed, it may not be desirable to keep him in office for more than three years, but that should be the minimum period, because it would probably take a man at least three years to put his plans into effect. As the Governor of the bank is being made so subservient to the Treasurer, he should be given the same sort of protection as is afforded to High Court judges under the Constitution. High Court jud’ges are given a life tenure of office. That issue does not arise here, but it is further provided in “the case ,of High Court judges that they shall receive such remuneration as Parliament may fix. I believe that a similar provision should apply to the Governor of the bank, particularly in view of the possibility that the Treasurer and the Governor may come into conflict. That outstanding safeguard in the Constitution as far as judges are concerned should also be inserted in this bill, which should also provide that, during his tenure of office, the remuneration of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank shall not be diminished. First, the minimum period of appointment should be at least three years. I am agreeable to the period of seven years proposed in the bill as the maximum, but I endorse the view of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that the minimum also should be stated and that it should, be three years. Secondly, the salary of the Governor should be fixed in this bill. There was wisdom in omitting from the original Commonwealth Bank Act a provision stipulating the salary of the Governor, because the child had not been born, but now it has grown into manhood, and, for many years, there has been a standard rate of remuneration for the Governor. That amount will be accepted by the present incumbent who, I understand, is to continue in the governorship. Thirdly, it should be provided that the rate of remuneration shall not be diminished during his term of office. Fourthly, we should safeguard against the Governor being removed from office merely because he has disagreed with the Treasurer on a matter of policy; the only grounds for removal should be proved misbehaviour or incapacity. That is a reasonable provisionto make. Surely the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will be the most important figure in the financial life of Australia. He should be built up in every possible way so that he shall have the confidence and respect of every one and so that all, regardless of political views, shall feel that he is disinterested and detached in the decisions that he makes and is hot influenced by considerations of monetary reward, or of being thrownout of office, or anything of that character. Other clauses of this measure provide that the ‘treasurer may override the Governor. This committee has already decided that, and I have said whatI had to say. I flunk the people, eighteen months hence, will say a great deal more. The Governor will be appointed because of his expert knowledge and experience of finance. Why, when he is made chairman of the Advisory Council, is it provided that he shall have no vote on that council ? That is the most Gilbertian provision I have ever seen in legislation. First,heis told that as chairman he must attend all meetings of the Advisory Council, and then he is told that he shall have no vote on the advice to be given.
Mr.Lazzarini. - That is childish. There will be no voting in the Advisory Council.
– The Minister for Works does not understand the problem. Perhaps the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is also interjecting, does.
– I do. This council will advise the Governor. Of what use would it be for him to have a vote on advice that that committee will be tendering to him ?
– This bill contains no provision that the advice formu lated by the Advisory Council shall be tendered to the Governor, to the Treasurer orto any oneelse. It goes at one invacuo and nothingis done.
– The provisions relating to voting are purposeless because the Treasury officials will be able to outvote the others.
– Yes. That is a matter with which I intended to deal later. The position of the Governor vis-a-vis the Government and visavisthe community, and the provisiotis relating to the Advisory Council, are so inextricably tied together that they must be considered together.
The CHAIRMAN (Sir.Riordan).Order ! This clause deals with the term of office of the Governor and the Deputy Governor. The Advisory Council is dealt With in a subsequent clause. I ask the right honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to clause 22.
– Yes. After the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah has been disposed of I shall move an amendment.
Amendment (by Sir Earle Page) negatived -
That, in sub-clause (3.), after the words “ The Governor “ the following words be inserted : - “ shall be paid a salary of Four thousand pounds per annum which shall not be diminished during his period of office”.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Vacation of office of Governor and Deputy Governor in certain circumstances).
– I rise to put a query to the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini). I notice that the clause provides that -
The Governor or the Deputy Governor shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
he engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
Section 19 (3) of theexisting Commonwealth Bank Actcontains a different provision. It provides-
TheGovernor and Deputy Governor shall severally devote the whole of their time to the duties of their office.
In the Commonwealth Bank Bill, introduced in 1930 by the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, for the establishment of a reserve bank, clause 18 was in those terms. Now, there is to be a change, I have no doubt that there is a good reason for it, and I ask the Minister to explain what it is.
– Sub-section 3 of section 19 of the existing act, which provides that the Governor and Deputy Governor shall severally devote the whole of their “time to the duties of their office has been omitted as this sub-section could be interpreted to prevent the Governor and Deputy Governor from undertaking voluntary work as trustees for charitable organizations and from acting as treasurer or trustee of a fund such as the Gowrie Scholarship Fund. That is the only reason.
Clause agreed to.
The Bank shall be managed by the Governor.
Mr.FADDEN (Darling Downs- Leader of the Australian Country party) [11.30].- I move-
That the words “ the Governor “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words:-“ a Board of Directors composed of the Governor and seven other Directors. Subject to this Act, the seven other Directors shall consist of (a) the Secretary to the Treasury; and (b) six other persons who are op have been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry “.
The substitution would reinstate the provision of the present Commonwealth Bank Act and be in conformity with the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems -
The ‘present method of government of the Commonwealth Bank is by a Board, appointed by the Commonwealth Government, and consisting of a Governor-, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six Directorswho hold office for a term of years and retire in rotation. The Board elects its own Chairman. We are of opinion that this method of government is. generally satisfactory.
I emphasize that the royal commission unanimously agreed to that recommendation, and one of the members of the commission was the present Treasurer. If, as the result of the depression and the general activities and development of the Commonwealth Bank, the royal commission, after a most searching investigation, came to the conclusion that the financial and economic struc ture of Australia could best be served by the continuance of the Bank Board, surely that system should be preferable to a one-man dictatorship. Under clause 9, banking policy and the control of financial institutions will be in the hands of the Treasurer. That means that the control will be in the hands of caucus, which, in turn, means that it will he in the hands of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions or other industrial Caesars. In those circumstances, it is obvious that the monetary and banking system will be subject to political wire-pulling, and the entire financial structure and the value of our currency must assuredly be endangered.
The government of the day will be able to use the Commonwealth Bank for furthering its own financial policy. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer admitted that. Honorable members opposite have not attempted to disguise the fact that the Government will seize this opportunity to implement the Government’s financial policy. In those circumstances, the people’s money will be subject to such control as the government of the day desires to impose. Once political control of the public purse has been superseded by caucus control exercised secretly through the Treasurer, the real power will pass from the democratically elected representatives of the people to a coterie of alleged financial experts and dictators outside the Parliament. Then the Commonwealth Bank could be compelled to advance depositors’ money at the direction of the Treasurer on entirely unsound financial principles. The Government might decide to give effect to a plan for soldier settlement, and could commit this country and this Parliament to the expenditure of large sums of money over which the elected representatives of the people would have no control whatever. If some honorable members imagine that the warnings which I have given may be exaggerated, I refer them to the Royal Commission on the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia, in 1934. The commission disclosed a condition of affairs exactly parallel to that which is likely to arise under this legislation, in view of the personnel who will be entrusted with the financial policy of the nation.
The royal commission found that the accrued actual and estimated contingent loss on account of the Agricultural Bank and, its allied institutions was £12,304,600; that the allegations of the trustees that in advancing recklessly they did so under ministerial direction had ‘been proved by evidence in the cases of the Esperance land settlement, the Kalannie miners’ settlement, and the 3,500 farms scheme, including the miners’ settlement at Southern Cross. Finding No. 9 stated -
The trustees by their conduct became administrative heads of a department for carrying into effect a policy of land settlement dictated to them, from time to time, by Ministers in control of the Department of Lands, and/or allegedly in control of the Agricultural Bank.
Finding No. 10 read -
If the allegation of the trustees that they were purely instruments for carrying out ministerial policy is correct, then political interference in the development policy and internal administration of the bank ha3 had ii disastrous effect on its control by the trustees.
The 33rd finding was most significant. It read -
All political interference in the management of the bank and the control of its policy must be abolished.
That unfortunate financial experience was the result of maladministration and political control of banking in one State, We have only to multiply those disastrous results in order to envisage the dangers that may accrue from allowing the monetary and banking system of the nation to be controlled by one man, who, in turn, must submit to the dictates of outside ibodi.es and; to political interference. Incidentally, that man subscribed to a unanimous recommendation by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in 1937, which stated -
We are of opinion that this method of government is generally satisfactory.
Further evidence in support of the amendment is not required to convince honorable members, depositors of the banks, and taxpayers of the dangers that will result from abolishing the Commonwealth Bank Board, and placing the control of banking and credit in the hands of one man. This Parliament cannot afford to make one (man a finan- cial dictator in Australia. The obvious course to pursue is to reinstate the Commonwealth Bank Board, which was constituted by legislation introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1984. The contention that one man can control and implement a desirable financial policy for this country is ridiculous in the extreme. The only reason that can :be offered for this clause is the desire of the Labour party to grasp the opportunity to implement its financial policy, and abolish the private trading banks. The Commonwealth Bank Board is an indispensable safeguard for the future security of the savings of depositors.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, because the principle of it is in direct conflict with the policy that has been outlined by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and endorsed by the Government. The principle contained in this clause is one of the planks of the platform of the Labour party, and every Labour member of Parliament has advocated the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board and the restoration of control by the Governor. When the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) created the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1924, thereby putting shackles on the institution, the Labour party, which was then in Opposition, vowed that at the first opportunity it would abolish the hoard. The speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) did not break any new ground. I prophesy that everything which honorable members opposite will say on this clause will” be a tedious repetition of their second-reading speeches.
– I did not deal with, the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia in my second-reading speech.
– It would have been well worth the right honorable gentleman’s while had he paid some attention to the disasters that have fallen upon people in many countries of the world through the failure of private banks.
– The honorable gentleman cannot get the Savings Bank of New South Wales out of his mind.
– I was talking about private banks, but I remind the committee that it was a clique of political crooks which closed the Savings Bank of New South Wales. That was made very clear in the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems of which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was a member.
– That is not so. The Minister is speaking an untruth, and he knows it.
– The statement is made in the report of the commission, a study of which can leave no doubt whatever in the minds of thinking people that politics closed the bank.
– Lang’s politics !
– It was closed as the result of political propaganda. The present Chief Justice of Australia, Sir John Latham, while he was Leader of the Opposition in this House, two or three times made statements that were calculated to assist that propaganda against the savings bank. Honorable gentlemen can refer to Hansard to find his exact words. The Leader of the Australian Country party referred to the closing of the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia, a governmentcontrolled institution. I have cited the closing of the Savings Bank of New South Wales, because the right honorable gentleman also dragged that into the debate. That bank was undoubtedly closed for political purposes, and not because of any failure of one-man control. The history of the closing of the bank is well known, and it is a sorry political story which reflects adversely on honorable gentlemen opposite. The Government will not accept this amendment, because to do so would be to reverse the policy on which the bill is based. That policy was adopted deliberately and unanimously by the Government and its supporters, and all the talk of honorable gentlemen opposite will not deflect us from our intention.
– I would not have risen at this juncture except for the illogical reply that the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) made to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). He completely clouded the issue. It is obvious .that the Minister does not understand the provisions of the bill, and, therefore, is quite incapable of explaining them to the committee. All he can say is that management of the bank by a governer instead of by a board of directors is in accordance with the Labour party’s platform and that the Labour party will stand on that principle. As this clause is, in my opinion, the most important, though perhaps the shortest, in the bill, I hope that some other member of the Government will make a reasoned reply to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– ‘The result would be the same.
– Surely we are entitled to a logical explanation of the Government’s proposal in. this regard. The eight words of this clause may be fraught with tragic consequences to the economic fabric of the Commonwealth, and to the welfare of its, ,people. The clause unquestionably provides for the political control of the bank. When politicians begin putting their sticky fingers into the financial affairs of the country it is time that the people took action, as I have no doubt they will do as soon as opportunity offers. There is no provision whatever in this bill to oblige the Government to consult independent financial experts when problems arise. It is true that an_ Advisory Council is to be appointed, but it will consist of public servants and officers of the bank. Far too great a responsibility is being reposed in the Governor of the bank. He will be, in effect, a financial dictator in Australia, for he will have control of the whole of the finances of the country and will be able to influence our industrial and economic development in every way. The Governor, however, will be subservient to the Treasurer, who, in turn, will he under the domination of caucus and the industrial and political organizations which control the Labour party. This is a most undesirable state of affairs, which cannot do anything to engender confidence by central banks in other countries in the central bank or the financial policy of Australia. The ramifications of this system of control will extend far beyond matters of internal concern, for they will go out to all other countries with which we have financial relations. Experts overseas will not be impressed by this system of banking control. Yet all that the Minister for Home Security has to say about it isi that it is the policy of the Labour party, it is set down in the political bible of the Labour party! and it must be put into effect. This plank was placed in the Labour party platform many years ago, when our financial and economic affairs were very different from those of to-day. Yet the Minister can give us no logical reason for adhering to this outmoded method of managing our monetary affairs. Not a single argument has been advanced to show that the system of control that the Labour party is seeking to apply is any better than, or even as good1 as, the existing system. In my opinion it is highly essential that provision should be made for consultations with financial experts in regard to our banking procedure and financial policy. We need the help of such experts m weaving the financial and economic fabric of the nation. Honorable gentlemen opposite have made no effort whatever to prove that the Government’s approach to the problems of banking and monetary practice is any better than the existing methods. All that has been said is that the bank must be subject to political control; that is the Labour party policy, and it must be applied. Because of the influence of pressure groups, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was forced to consult the Australasian Council of Trade Unions before the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill was introduced, and the Government has been prevented from even invoking the law against coal miners and other striking trade unionists. Pressure has been exerted, at the instigation of these groups, on the private banking institutions of this country. Until logical arguments are advanced which will convince me that that ig not likely to be repeated, I shall oppose the clause and support the amendment. It appears to me that we have to delve deeply to find the reason for thi3 vendetta against the bank board,. Th-roughout the second reading and committee stages of the bill, bitterness, class consciousness and ‘hatred have .characterized almost every observation by Go- vernment supporters. Apparently, they are revengeful because the bank board was not prepared to accept the policy laid down by the Labour party in 1930-31. That is the sole basis for their desire to abolish this board of responsible mert, whose actions have been dictated by consideration for the welfare of this country. I intend to oppose the clause until I aru convinced by logical argument that one man, who will be shorn of all expert assistance in financial matters, will be better able than a board to deal with all the ramifications of international finance involved in a central banking policy.
– <I recall to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) certain historical facts which, apparently, he has forgotten. The most outstanding impression that I have of the Parliament of 1929-31 was the extreme bitterness with which he and his colleagues assailed the Scullin Administration during the last eight or ten months of its existence, and the vote which finally threw that Administration into the discard. It is interesting to hear him say now that the policy embodied in this clause, which the Leader of the Austraiian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is endeavouring to amend, has been the continuous .and persistent policy of the Labour party. No statement could be farther from the truth. Although the Minister can have incorporated in Hansard any observations he cares to make, it is unfortunate that the public records contain only the legislation that is passed by this Parliament, The policy of the Labour party when it was in office from 1929 to 1931 was to have a board of directors of the Common wealth Bank. The bill which made that provision was passed by this chamber without a division on the second .and third readings, and was sent to the Senate in 1930. It is idle for the Minister to say that the present policy has always been followed by the Labour party, and that it did not agree with what was done in 1.924, because, in. 1-930, six years after I had been responsible for a board being placed in control of ,th.e Commonwealth Bank, the best that could be done by the Labour Treasurer pf tha.t day was to appoint a board identical in character. Evidently, the confidence engendered by the previous hoard was so great that it induced the Labour party at that time to believe that that was the best form of control of this institution. Anybody who realizes the multifarious interests that are involved in a general financial policy must recognize how ridiculous it would be to entrust to one man all the duties that have to be discharged. A parallel would be, asking a skin specialist to operate on a duodenal ulcer, to perform an obstetric operation, or to prescribe for all medical ills. “What has been the practice in ordinary life? With the progress of medical and other science, specialization has been adopted. During the last twenty years, the Commonwealth Bank has been controlled by men drawn from all sections of the community, so that every point of view might be considered when financial policy was being determined. A. similar position exists in this Parliament, which is more or less a cross section of public opinion. In a municipality, the clerk or engineer is not expected to “ run the whole show “. Aldermen, or councillors are elected to represent the different wards, and by combining their experience and knowledge they bring into proper perspective the functions they have to discharge. That would appear to have been the policy of the Labour party when it still had a sense of responsibility. The bill introduced by Mr. Theodore in 1930 was productive of the most interesting and constructive debate that had ever taken place in this Parliament. The Government of that day accepted numerous major amendments, because it realized that there must he fundamental agreement upon finance, as is the case in connexion with repatriation, housing, and other vital matters which touch the very roots of our economic and. family life. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said: “I go to the Governor of the bank and say to him, That ismy opinion; think over it”. Apparently, that is a way of telling the Governor what he has to do. It cannot be recommended. I have been in public life for many year’s, and have handled many difficulties, as all politicians necessarily must. It does not pay to try to ram one’s opinions down the throats of other men. The right method is to discover what is mutually agreeable.. Surely, that is the way in which the world has to be handled! How is the great international organization being discussed at San Francisco to function if everybody insists to the last gasp upon the acceptance of his view and is not prepared to make the slightest concession to the views held by others ? That is the attitude of the Government on this bill. Yet our representatives at San Francisco are criticizing the stand that is being taken by Russia ! Government supporters would profit by studying the history of their own party in regard to policy on this matter, as it was enunciated in the bill introduced by Mr. Theodore in 1930. Clause 13 of that measure provided - (1.) The Reserve Bank shall be managed by a Board of Directors composed of the Governor and not more than eight other Directors, all of whom shall be British subjects, appointed in the manner set out in this Part. (2.) Subject to this Act, the other Directors shall consist of -
Clause 20 provided - (3.) Of the five Directors first appointed in pursuance of that paragraph-
Meaning clause 13 (2) (c) - one shall be appointed for a term of five years, one for a term of four years, one for a term of three years, one for a term of two years, and one for a term of one year. (4.) Thereafter each Director shall be appointed for a term of five years.
The Labour Government of that day believed, as we did in 1924, that continuity of policy was needed in connexion with financial control, to which end there should always be on the Bank Board some directors with a knowledge of the reasons for action that had been taken. Surely that is reasonable! I have listened in vain for one syllable charging the Bank Board with having fallen down on its job during the war. In the full glare of light, the board has performed its functions magnificently during the last five years, and has handled one of the greatest monetary crises Australia has ever experienced. The Treasurer dare not say that it has not been sufficiently complaisant to meet the desires of the Government on every occasion. What need is there to alter a practice that has produced such results? In my profession a man who gives satisfaction is not “ booted out” in favour of a new practitioner. The Government must be composed of half-wits if it deposes men who are doing their jobs efficiently. At a time like the present, when everybody in the world is looking for stability, we should retain what has proved eminently successful during a financial crisis. Australia is the only country in the world in which such stupidities are being perpetrated. Giving complete control of so many activities to a governor is the silliest thing that could be imagined. Even if the Government is not prepared to have a board, surely it should avoid such a stupidity as an Advisory Council without power! One Minister has said that the matter is really of no consequence, because the council will be only advisory. If a different system from that which now prevails is to be adopted, at least make it worthwhile by having the council of control composed of the managers of the Industrial Finance Department, the Trading Department, the Rural Credits Department, and the Mortgage Department, all of whom deal with special functions, and in collaboration would provide a real perspective of the whole of the operations that have to be conducted by the Governor in his supreme position. We might then be able to say that the council was of real value, and not a Gilbertian body such as is proposed. Gilbert and Sullivan, had they been alive, would have used this proposal as a theme for a play which, set to music, would have delighted audiences for centuries. I support the amendment. If it be lost, as I fear it will be, judging by the stolid expressions on the faces of government supporters, I hope that the Government will accept my advice to use the best brains in the bank. The men in charge of the various departments would surely be the best” and most experienced obtainable, and they should be in a better position to advise the Government than would junior officials of the bank.No doubt, the Secretary of the
Treasury will be an experienced man, but he should not be placed in a position inferior to that of the Governor. Therefore, let the council consist of the heads of the various special departments of the Commonwealth Bank. This is a constructive suggestion which should relieve the Government of the embarrassment which it experienced when the matter was being discussed in caucus.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and I desire to add one point to what was said by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), about the previous policy of the Labour party. The bill introduced in 1930 by the Scullin Government, which commanded an overwhelming majority in this House, contained all the essential provisions for the appointment of a board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to the “bill as it left this House, but in case there should be any misapprehension, let me quote the following provision from the Government’s bill as it was presented in all its pristine beauty: - 13.- (1.) The Reserve Bank shall be managed by a Board of Directors composed of the Governor and eight other Directors appointed in the manner set out in this Parliament. (2.) Subject to this Act, the eight other Directors shall consist of -
The bill has been referred to as Mr. Theodore’s bill, but it was not the proposal of one man. It was the proposal of a Government which had a majority of more than two to one in this House. Therefore, I may take it that the bill did not represent a compromise between opposing elements, but represented the real view of the Government at that time.
The settingup of a board to control the Commonwealth Bank is in accordance with practice everywhere else in the world. It has been realized in every other democratic country that if you are to have a central hank adequately equipped with large powers, the management must be in a high state of stability. How do you produce stable management for an institution of that kind? Do you achieve it by putting at ite head one man who may be constantly undermined by his political superior, or do you produce it by setting up a panel of men representing a variety of experience, and possessing corporate strength in the judgments a.t which they arrive? Honorable members, who are most of all familiar with the political machine, have only to recall the advantages of the Cabinet system in order to be at once convinced of the advantages of the board system of management for a central bank. Why do we have the Cabinet system? Why does Cabinet meet and evolve policy? Because a Cabinet decision possesses- strength and solidity that no decision of a single Minister could possess. Otherwise, we might just as well have seventeen or eighteen individual Ministers each attending to his own department, never meeting in Cabinet, and never arriving at any corporate decision. The whole essence of establishing a. committee, whether of Parliament or of experts, or of people of wide experience to conduct a bank, is, first of all, that a corporate judgment is likely to be sounder because it will proceed from a variety of experience; and, secondly, that a corporate judgment is inevitably a stronger and more solid judgment than a judgment arrived at by one man. That is the overwhelming argument in favour of a board of directors for this great central banking institution.
What does the Government say to that? The question is purely rhetorical because, in fact, the Government says nothing. The capacity of the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) “for masterly silence, when real arguments are presented and have to be answered, is almost without parallel. But. what will the Government say after this bill is passed ? T have no doubt it will say, “We have an Advisory Council. . We have given yon something which is just as good as a board of directors. It has all the advantages of wide experience and corporate judgment “. Therefore, I propose to consider these excuses. Clause 28 of the bill sets up an Advisory Council. If ever there was a piece of hocus pocus in any bill, it is clause 28.
– That is the phrase of the Assistant Treasurer.
– I do not mind what we call clause 28, whether we describe it as hocus pocus, jiggery pokery, or plain humbug. There is to be the Advisory Council instead of a board of directors. One member of the Advisory Council is to be the Governor of the bank, but he is not to have a vote. It is true that the Minister assisting the Treasurer, with his usual optimistic innocence of the terms of the bill, has interjected that there will be no voting in the Advisory Council - that it i3 not a voting body. When he reads clause 28, he will discover that it is a voting body, and .that the Government aims to exclude the Governor from the voting. Under the Labour party’s banking bill of 1930, not only was the Governor to be a director with a vote, but he was also to be the chief director. Under the present measure, he must sit and listen to what others tell him. And to whom must he listen? They will be either his subordinates in- the bank, whose advice would be available to him in any circumstances, or they will be officers of the Treasury, whose advice would be equally available, if not to him, then to the Treasurer, in any circumstances. The Advisory Council is to be a body of subordinate officers. It is to come together from time to time and offer advice to the Governor. It will even vote on matters if necessary, and the Governor is to sit there almost as joss-like and almost as silent, as the Minister now at the table. If ever there was a miserable subterfuge, it is this. In this fashion the Government is departing from the principle of corporate responsibility in the administration of the central bank, and substituting for it, not the rule of a man whose position is strengthened by legislation, but of a man whose position is weakened by the fact that, at any moment, and in regard to any problem, he may be overruled by the Treasurer of the day.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I “was astonished to hear the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) suggest that the Labour party had always supported the idea of placing the Commonwealth Bank under the direction of one man. His statement was convincing proof that the stories which we have heard about the rough passage which this bill had through caucus were true. It is evident that there were wide differences of opinion in the Labour party on the subject of the control of the bank. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have pointed out that in the bill which was introduced by the Scullin Government in 1930 provision was made for placing the bank under a board of directors, the arrangement being similar to that ‘introduced some years earlier by the right honorable member for Cowper when he was Treasurer. The present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) endorsed the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, when recommending the appointment of a board of six directors, in addition to the Governor, one director to retire each year. Later on, in his memorandum of dissent and reservation, the Treasurer said -
I realize, however, that a government-owned central hank, with ample powers, whose policy is determined and directed wholly toward furthering the interests; of the community by men of capacity and courage, is a most important feature of any banking system. Because of this, I have joined with the majority nf the commission in considering how a system, in which, in addition to the government-owned central bank, there are privately-owned trading banks, can beat be operated.
At that time, Mr. Chifley was content that the control of the bank should rest with a board of directors. It is evident that, at the time the royal commission made its report, the present Treasurer was in agreement with it on that point. Government spokesmen have time and again attempted to reassure the public that this bill will not bring about the nationalization of banking and the destruction of the private banks. Many honorable members on this side have correctly said that to have the Governor in complete charge of the bank means that under clause 9 he will be the political instrument of? the Government of the day. That will apply to successive governors under successive governments. L. C. Jauncey in his work Australia’s Government Bank shows that both Mr. King O’Malley and the late Mr. Andrew Fisher laid down the principle when the Commonwealth Bank was founded that it should be entirely free from political interference. The Australian Labour party conference at Brisbane in 1908 affirmed that principle. The first Governor of the bank, Sir Denison Miller, who is referred to by honorable members opposite as its best Governor, specified as a condition of his acceptance of the post that he should be free from political interference” One of the main reasons why it is essential to have a directorate in charge of this bank was stated by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) in his second-reading speech, when he likened the Bank Board to windows admitting light to a building. Undoubtedly, the future Governors of the Commonwealth Bank will be men who have spent their lives from boyhood in the atmosphere of the bank. The advisory councils that will advise successive governors will be bank officials with similar backgrounds, or bureaucrats from the cloisters of Canberra whose lives have been divorced from the realities of life. None of them will know anything about .industry and commerce. So it is imperative that people with experience of the business life of the community shall be available to give to the Governor, whose life has been one of detachment from the outside world, the benefit of their direct knowledge of the affairs of this country.
Last night, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) said that one reason why there had been such large numbers of refusals of applications to the mortgage bank from primary producers in Victoria was that there were few branches of the Commonwealth Bank in Victorian country towns, in consequence of which those who desired to make applications to the mortgage bank had to fill in forms and forward them to the head office in Melbourne. Many unskilled in these matters Lad filled in the forms incorrectly, and the applications had been refused. The whole position, he said, was most unsatisfactory. If the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank is unsatisfactory under present conditions, how much more unsatisfactory will it be when the bank is removed from the control of practical men, who know the difficulties under which farmers labour. A striking aspect of the failure of the Mortgage Bank to live up to expectations is the seeming neglect of the officers of the bank to pay regard to the rules under which mortgage banks have operated since the eighteenth century in Europe. In Germany, the lowlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, mortgage banks made their first appearance. There are two kinds of mortgage banks. One is the mixed mortgage bank and the other is the pure mortgage bank. The pure mortgage bank deals with long-term lending on mortgage only. The Commonwealth Bank is a mixed mortgage bank.
– ‘Order! I think the honorable gentleman is getting away from the clause.
– No. I am trying to demonstrate the inability of an unassisted governor to understand the difficulties in operating a mixed mortgage bank of the Commonwealth Bank type. If you will listen, I think you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that, although I may appear to be diverging from the clause, I am actually hitting it on the head all the time. In mixed mortgage banking, the mortgage department advances to farmers on mortgage the money they need in order to buy live-stock, and. the general trading department advances the money they need for their day-to-day activities. In the Commonwealth Bank there is a complete lack of realization of how a mixed mortgage bank should work.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I think you are developing an argument on types of banks. The clause says that the bank shall be managed by the governor.
– The governor of the bank is unable, because of his having been educated in the system of banking operating in Australia, and because of his lack of the practical knowledge that a board of directors experienced in farming activities possesses, to realize how necessary it is to give long-term accommodation through the mortgage bank and short-term day-to-day accommodation through the trading bank. Under this bill, it is impossible for this hank to do that. It is, therefore, necessary to have a board of directors able to point out how essential these things are.
Last night, stating why he thought that there should not be a board of directors, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) adopted an attitude which is rare for him of sneering at the men who have served on the Commonwealth Bank Board. Of one man he said that the only apparent reason for his appointment to the board was that he was one of the finest polo players Australia had ever produced.
– The man himself said that.
– He may have. Mr. Ashton and the honorable member are of different types. Mr. Ashton is modest - an attribute that has never been attached to the honorable member. He was a very fine polo player, but he was also one of the best station managers and pastoralists in Australia. Probably no other man could put the view of the pastoral industry and the wool industry of Australia, on which the wealth of this country is founded, better than he could. It ill-becomes the Treasurer to sneer at him because he was a polo player. If I wanted to make that kind of remark, I could ask why the honorable gentleman himself, who wa3 once an engine-driver, is Treasurer of the Commonwealth. I see no reason why a man who hag been an engine driver is disqualified from becoming Treasurer, or filling any other position if he has the brains required to do the job. I repeat that it ill-becomes the Treasurer to sneer at Mr. Ashton for having excelled a/t polo.
I refer the committee to clause 8 which says - lt shall be the duty of the .Commonwealth Bank within the limits of its powers to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed with the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this ac.t and the banking act 1945 in such a manner as, in the opinion of the bank, would best contribute to -
Economic prosperity and welfare will never come to the people of Australia through a hank controlled as proposed, instead of by a board of directors.
.- The speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite compel me to say a few words. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) eulogized what the Commonwealth Bank had achieved during this war. We all agree that it has achieved great things. The main reason is that the Commonwealth Government was courageous enough to bring down regulations under which the Commonwealth Bank can look after the welfare of the country by controlling the operations of the private banks. I remind the right honorable gentleman that when the Commonwealth Bank was in its infancy, before it had a board of directors, it made remarkable achievements in the war of 1914-18, when the then Governor, Sir Denison Miller, raised £350,000,000 for the welfare of this country - a tremendous amount of money at that time.
– Was not most of that for war, or was it all for welfare?
– Of course it was for the war. If that war had been lost we should have had no welfare.
– The bank has done great deeds in this war.
– I admit it has, but the responsibility for that has been mainly taken by the Commonwealth Government. When the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) was Prime Minister for a short period, the private banks found that they had too much money and did not know what to do with it. Then the Curtin Government laid down regulations which showed them what to do with it.
– The Curtin Government did not do it at all. That was done before Labour took office.
– Order !
– The proposal of the Government is to create a council to advise the Governor. It will consist of men with great experience of banking and finance, gained either in the service of the bank or in the service of the Treasury. Who better than men who have mastered the intricacies of economics and finance in Australia could advise the Governor? The Advisory Council will be a training ground for future governors. When Sir Denison Miller retired, the Commonwealth Government had to search the country for a successor. The brilliant young men from the banking staff who will be on the Advisory Council will be trained for the position of governor. That is a wise policy.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had much to say about what the Scullin Government intended in 1930 when it introduced legislation to set up a reserve bank. I remind the right honorable gentleman that that legislation was introduced before the Labour party had the bitter experiences of the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1931, when the Government was told that it must lower the standard of living of the people. No real government could risk a repetition of that. The main reason why the bank board is to be abolished’ is because we do not wish to have a recurrence of that state of affairs. The right honorable gentleman also said that the Governor would have no vote in the Advisory Council. The relations between the Governor of the bank and the Advisory Council will be like those between the managing director of a company and his advisory staff. The members of the council will come into contact with all branches of industry that enter into negotiations for loans. When the members meet once a month under the chairmanship of the Governor of the bank, they will be able to tender certain advice to him. Would it not be ridiculous if the Governor were able to exercise a vote in the determining the advice that he should accept?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr.Riordan).Order! The honorable member is not discussing the clause or the amendment.
– I am replying to the objections which the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Menzies) raised to this clause. The Governor will be responsible for executive decisions. If he chooses to accept any advice that the Advisory Council may tender to him, well and good!
– Order ! The committee is not dealing with the Advisory Council.
-But the Advisory Council will tender advice to the Governor of the bank.
– The committee is dealing, not with the Advisory Council, but with clause 24, which provides that the bank shall he managed by the Governor, and with the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
– I am only answering the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should retain the Commonwealth Bank Board. As I stated, the Advisory Council will tender advice to the Governor.
– What has that to do with the Bank Board?
– It is the reason why the Government proposes to abolish the Bank Board. The course which the Government is adopting is a. wise one. Instead of the members of the Bank Board being persons of the type eulogized by members of the Opposition, including one who was known only as a proficient polo player, experts from the bank and the Treasury will comprise the Advisory Council, and tender advice to the Governor. In my opinion, that is the proper thing to do, and in the future, some of the young men who will be members of the Advisory Council, will be available for appointment to the office of governor.
– I have waited in vain for the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) to explain why the Government has incorporated a totalitarian principle in this clause. In the conception of any socialist regime, many forms of democracy as we know them, must disappear. Mr. Churchill has made that clear to the people of Great Britain, and Australians would do well to heed his warning. The only explanation which has been given for the inclusion of this totalitarian principle is that 30 years ago, the Labour party considered that the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled, not by a board but by a governor, and that policy has remained unaltered. I shall tell the committee why the Labour party has pinned its faith to the principle of one-man control. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated, a board has a corporate responsibility. The last thing that this Government desires is to have a number of persons sharing the responsibility. The Labour party proposes to place the Governor in sole control of the bank, because one man is much more susceptible to political influence or considerations of expediency than are a number of men. I support the amendment.
Question put, -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mk. W. J. F. RlORDAN.)
Majority . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ who shall be free from political interference”.
My purpose in submitting the amendment is that the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), when replying to previous contentions advanced by honorable members on this side of the chamber, declared that the Government had decided to revert to the system of control of the Commonwealth Bank which operated when Sir Denison Miller was governor. If there is any sub.stance in the claim that this bill will restore the old order, in which the governor of the bank was supreme, honorable members opposite will prove it by accepting this amendment.
– - Is the honorable member really serious?
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asks me whether I consider that the Governor will be free from political interference. In submitting my amendment, I am endeavouring to put into words the claim by the Minister that the old order will be restored by this bill. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who introduced, the original Commonwealth Bank Bill in 1915, made the following remarks at the first function that he addressed after the inauguration of the bank: -
This institution is now established as a going concern. It will stand upon its merits and must not be subject to political influence, either in support or derogation of it. It is now quite outside the political arena. Banking is not a political matter.
– That statement was made in reply to criticism that it was.
– I do not know whether the words were in reply to criticism’. The amendment is selfexplanatory. If the Government insists upon placing the governor in supreme control of the bank, we must revert to the system which operated when Sir Denison Miller was Governor, and preserve the bank from political machinations.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
In the event of a vacancy in the office of Governor, the Deputy Governor shall perform the duties of the Governor and shall have and may exercise the powers and functions of the Governor.
– I move -
That, after the word “ shall “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ pending the appointment of a Governor “.
This is not an amendment of principle, but it is necessary to remove ambiguity. Clause 22 provides that there shall be a governor and a deputy governor of the bank, and clause 29 states that the governor shall attend and preside at all meetings of the Advisory Council. I consider that this clause should include a provision that -
In the absence from duty of the Governor, the Deputy Governor shall perform the duties of the Governor and shall have and may exercise the powers and functions of the Governor.
I intend to move a second amendment to that effect. We must realize that there may be a temporary vacancy in the office of the governor. The amendment I have moved is designed to ensure that in the event of a vacation of the office for any reason the deputy governor shall perform the functions of the office pending the making of a new appointment. The other amendment that I intend to move is intended to provide that during a temporary absence from duty of the governor, the deputy governor shall exercise the powers and functions of the governor. The clause in the bill is vague and ambiguous. The present Treasurer may know how he would interpret it, but in the course of time it will be interpreted by what is stated in the clause. In view of the fact that the governor of the bank is charged with such important responsibilities, we should put his position beyond any doubt.
– The Minister at the table (Mr. Lazzarini) does not seem to realize the importance of this point, otherwise he would have said something about it. Clearly, two contingencies have to be provided for - a vacancy in the office and a temporary absence from dutyClause 23 deals with the vacation of the office of governor and deputy governor in certain circumstances. It is necessary to provide that in the event of such vacation of office, the duties of it shall continue to be discharged. Apparently, no consideration has been given to the circumstances that may arise in the event of a temporary absence from duty of the governor through illness or otherwise. I consider that such a matter should be provided for in the bill.
.- The provision in this bill is similar to provisions in other bills dealing with the same matter. I take it that honorable gentlemen opposite do not suggest that any government would allow such an important office as that of governor of the bank to remain vacant for an extended period.
– I do not know, but I would hope not.
– No doubt the normal practice would be followed and the office would be filled as quickly as possible.
– But supposing the Governor of the bank becomes ill?
– In that case he would not vacate his office, and it could be taken for granted that the deputy governor would discharge his duties.
– Where is that provided for in the bill?
– It would be automatic. When the Leader of the Opposition is absent from his place in the House his deputy naturally steps into his position. That is what would happen if the governor of the bank became ill, or was temporarily absent from duty. It is normal practice.
– Does not the Minister realize that this is a serious matter?
– This bill has been drafted, iri this regard, in the customary terms, and I am assured that the position is adequately safeguarded. The Leader of the Opposition is stretching his imagination unduly if he foresees difficulties.
.- This is not a normal bill,’ so normal procedure is not sufficient. Abnormal provisions are required to meet abnormal circumstances. The governor of the bank will have extraordinarily wide powers under this legislation, and will, in fact, control the financial .policy of the Commonwealth. We should not leave any doubt about the taking of prompt action by the Government to fill a vacancy in the office of governor. A new appointment should be made as quickly as possible after the office becomes vacant. I therefore - urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to examine carefully the points that have been raised, in order to satisfy himself that a vacancy will be filled without delay whenever it arises.
– A point that could have been settled with tolerable ease by a sensible Minister has now become more serious. The Minister should have been able to give an explanation to the committee, but he has indulged in a display of utter childishness. The honorable gentleman does not seem to realize the need to provide not only for a vacancy in the office of governor but also for temporary absence from duty. The governor of the bank will exercise wide powers under this legislation and we should not risk an extended vacancy in the office. In the existing Commonwealth Bank Act, express provision is made that in the temporary absence through illness or otherwise of the governor the deputy governor shall discharge the duties of the office. Apparently what was good enough for a Labour government in 1930 is not good enough for a Labour government in 1945. This is not a trifling matter, and I urge that proper attention be given to it; otherwise it may be necessary, in six months or so, to bring down an amending measure to make good this- deficiency.
– I do not pretend to be versed in the intricacies of the law, but I am advised that although a provision such as that referred to by the Leader of the Opposition was formerly included in bills of this description, the point is now covered by the Acts Interpretation Act, which enacts that in the event of the absence of an officerincharge his deputy shall assume the duties of the office.
– That does not deal with my point that a vacancy in the office should be filled, in every case, without delay. I consider such a provision to be supremely important.
– This bill has been drafted with extreme care. I have had the advice not only of the senior Crown Law officers, but also of my distinguished and learned colleague the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). In the circumstances honorable members will realize that I am reluctant to accept amendments that have not been thoroughly examined. I am assured that the Acts Interpretation Act provides for the discharge of the duties of the office of governor in the event of a temporary absence from duty. However. I give the committee an undertaking that I shall have the point thoroughly examined. In the meantime I ask honorable members to agree to the clause.
.- I do not make any profession of understanding legal phraseology, but I can read plain English.
– Surely the honorable member realizes that, for a lawyer, there is no such thing as plain English.
– That makes it all the more necessary that we should be quite certain that the points that I have raised are adequately covered. I cannot see any provision in the bill which authorizes the Deputy Governor to discharge the duties of the Governor when that officer is temporarily absent through illness or otherwise.
– I am assured by the Crown Law officer present that the Acts Interpretation Act covers the point.
– I am concerned lest there should be any ambiguity in regard to the matter. Acceptance of the amendment would be reasonable.
– What has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the mover of the amendment (Mr. Hutchinson) would make the position clear. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said that the hank would continue to function even without a governor, with the Deputy Governor acting in his stead. That has been the burden of our complaint - that it really does not matter whether there is a governor or a deputy governor, because the Treasurer will see that this bank shall operate under political control. His explanation has made that perfectly clear. As the honorable member for Deakin has said, the Governor will have to take the chair at meetings of the Advisory Council. By reason of the provision in clause 28, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Deputy Governor are to be members of that council. Let us assume that the office of governor has become vacant, and the duties are being discharged by the Deputy Governor. Obviously, the Deputy Governor, as a member of the Advisory Council, would have a vote, whereas in the position of governor he would not, although he would preside at the meetings of the council. The more one studies the bill, the more complicated it becomes. It is necessary to have some safeguard, so to ensure that, upon the office of governor becoming vacant, a temporary appointment shall be made until it is possible to make a permanent appointment. I am concerned at the statement of the Treasurer that the bank will continue to function even though the office of governor may be vacant. That is what we fear - that the bank will be under the direction of the Treasurer.
– I move -
That the following words be added: - “ In the absence from duty of the Governor, the Deputy Governor shall perform the duties of the Governor and shall have and may exercise the powers and functions of the Governor.”.
Apparently, the Government refuses to clarify the clause; nevertheless, the Treasurer has promised that the matter will be further considered. The Deputy Governormay aspire to appointment as governor, and he may be much more amenable to the Government than would a governor appointed within a reasonable time.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28- (1.) There shall be an Advisory Council to advise the Governor with respect to the monetary and banking policy of the Bank, and with respect to such other matters as the Governor refers to the Advisory Council. (2.) The Advisory Council shall consist of -
Department of the Treasury, who shall be an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth and shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral: and
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraphs (c) and (d) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has described the proposed Advisory Council as a “hocus-pocus” body. The reason for its constitution, no one can give, not even the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister assisting him (Mr. Lazzarini). It is to consist of the Secretary to the Treasury, the Deputy Governor, an additional representative of the Department of the Treasury, who shall be an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth and shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral, and two officers of the bank. Under the terms of clause 27, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Governor are to establish a close liaison with each other, and keep each other fully informed on all matters which jointly concern the Department of the Treasury and the bank. Clause 9 provides that, in the event of any difference of opinion between the bank and the Government, the Treasurer can instruct the bank as to what it shall do, and the bank must carry out such instructions. For some extraordinary reason, Heaven alone knows what it is, there are to be two Treasury officers, three officers of the bank, and the highest ranking bank official - who will not have a vote, and will not count for the purposes of a quorum, yet will be the chairman at meetings of the council. Quite easily, a most curious position could arise. The Advisory Council, having on it three officers of the bank, might give to the Governor advice different from that given by the Secretary to the Treasury or the Treasurer. The Governor will be placed in a dilemma unless he accepts the advice of the Treasurer in conformity with the provisions of clause 9, in opposition to advice tendered to him by the Advisory Council. Sub-clause 5 of the clause we are now considering provides that the Secretary to the Treasury and. the other Treasury official on the Advisory Council shall be paid £600 a year in addition to their ordinary salary, presumably for sitting on the Advisory Council and giving advice. Yet every public servant is obliged by the oath of office that he takes, to give advice gratuitously to the responsible head of his department.
– I have wondered why the Treasury officers should receive additional remuneration and the bank officers not.
– The additional remuneration of the bank officers is a matter for determination by the Commonwealth Bank.
– Presumably, the bank officers on the Advisory Council will do exactly the same work as the Treasury officers. If it be fair to pay to the Treasury officers an additional £600 a year, surely the bank officers also should receive that extra remuneration ! However, the chief point in my amendment is that the Advisory Council is quite unnecessary, because those who are to sit on it will be public servants, who could give advice without the medium of this advisory body. But the council could be made very effective if those appointed to it were from outside the service of the bank and the Public Service. We have been told that the policy of the Government is not to have a bank board. Surely its policy ought to be to obtain the services of the most responsible and informed men in agriculture, commerce, finance and industry, who could give to the Governor of the bank the practical advice which he might not be able to obtain in other quarters ! I know that Government supporters, particularly some of my loudmouthed friends on the back benches, have a “sublime and simple faith in the efficacy of professors and doctors, whom I have heard derided at other times when there were other customs. I have heard Professor Copland maligned and slandered by them. “ The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner : this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes “. Professor Copland has been elevated to be the keystone of the temple. The Government has sublime faith in professors, doctors, and doctrinaires such as are to be appointed to this Advisory Council.
– On a point of order, I ask what connexion there is between the matter being discussed by the honorable member for New England and the clause.
– The honorable member for New England is referring to persons who are to be appointed as advisers to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bani;.
– I realize that, in speaking about some of the josses which the young member for Martin (Mr. Daly) worships, possibly I have offended his susceptibilities. The Advisory Council will operate much more effectively if to its deliberations be brought a real practical knowledge of the affairs of life, than if it is formed of persons uninformed of economic realities and dependent on the whim of the Government of the day for their positions and the extra remuneration of £600 a year.
.- Ever since I first saw this bill, I have wondered at the origin of Division 2. It seems to me to be really the outcome of a nightmare, suffered by either the draftsman or the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself, because it does not seem to have any form, substance, meaning or any other characteristic which one can understand. The proposed Advisory Council will be the most extraordinary body ever constituted. The head of it is to have no vote. When I described that as an anomaly, the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) said that any one who gives advice does not have a vote, or vice versa; I am not quite sure, because he was so confused. The officers of the proposed body are already available to the Governor of the bank. Under the terms of clause 27, the Secretary to the Treasury will have to establish close liaison with the Governor. The two of them will have to meet frequently, not merely once a month. Obviously, the Secretary to the Treasury will have numerous opportunities to consult with the Governor. The Advisory Council is to have two other members of the Commonwealth Bank, who will be in hourly contact with the Governor if he chooses to consult them. There will also be the Deputy Governor. I take it that the additional representative of the Treasury will be the Assistant Secretary of the department. If the Treasurer considers that officers of his department should be given extra work, I have no objection to their receiving additional remuneration. That is a wise proposal, and probably the only feature with which I am in sympathy, because those officers have to do a considerable amount of work. Whether there is an advisory council or not, there will have to be much closer and more constant liaison between the Treasury and the bank than there has been in the past, if the Treasurer from time to time overrides the Governor in the conduct of the affairs of the bank. I cannot understand what the Advisory Council will be expected to do. Will it make a written report to anyone? Will the public, or Parliament, or other bankers know what advice it tenders? Are we to know whether or not the Government rejects its advice? Shall we know whether its decisions are reached by a majority of the whole council, or only by a majority of a quorum, which would not be a majority of the whole council? The Governor of the bank should have associated with him the heads of the various branches of the bank in order to discuss policy, and to help him to get matters into their- right perspective. Under this clause, only two officers of the bank, besides the DeputyGovernor, will be on the council, whereas there are four or five separate departments of the bank. Under this legislation, the heads of most of the (branches cannot be present at meetings of the council except as spectators. This council will be like Melchizedek, who was said to have had neither beginning nor end. No one knows what are to be the functions of the Advisory Council. what advice it will give, and what will be done in regard to the advice offered. No provision is made for reporting to Parliament about matters on which the council have given a decision, and Parliament will not know who was responsible for any given policy, whether the Governor of the bank, the council, or the Treasurer. I cannot see how this provision can possibly tend to increase public confidence in the bank. If I could, I should support it.
– It is not often that I disagree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but I must do so on this occasion. He said that this proposal had been conceived in a nightmare. Well, a nightmare, however horrible it may be, is always definite and clear cut. but this proposal is essentially hazy and indefinite. The Advisory Council, which is to be set up under clause 28, will be no adequate substitute for the Bank Board on which are men with outside contacts and a knowledge of the industries and economy of the country. The Bank Board, by virtue of its composition, has a knowledge of matters of national importance. It can feel the pulse of industry, both primary and secondary, and is able to offer useful advice on banking policy. This Advisory Council, however, will not be equipped to perform the same function. It is to consist of a collection of Treasury and bank officials. First, there is the Secretary to the Treasury, an excellent man, who is doing a great job, but his outlook is confined within Treasury _ limits. He must necessarily be associated with banking, but in the final analysis it is he who advises the Treasurer. Then there is the DeputyGovernor of the bank, an additional representative of the Department of the Treasury, and two officers of the bank. It would appear that the Treasurer, anticipating criticism on the ground of political control of the bank, has sought, to meet it by appointing to the AdvisoryCouncil a majority of bank officials. This, however, is no protection against political control, because there is another clause in the bill which provides that, in the event of a conflict of opinion between the Treasurer and the bank, the opinion of the Treasurer shall prevail. However, if the bank officials stand firm in their claim that the Government’s financial policy is likely to wreck the country, there is a way to deal with them. Sub-clause 3 ofl clause 28 provides that the representative of the bank and the Treasury on the council shall be appointed for a term not exceeding, three years, but shall be eligible for re-appointment. Thus, if they prove recalcitrant, they will be thrown out on their necks at the end of three years for their show of independence.
– This clause must be considered in conjunction with the infamous clause 9. The Advisory Council might properly be called a committee for “passing the buck”. Clause 28 provides that there shall be an advisory council to advise the Governor with respect to the monetary and banking policy of the bank, and with respect to such other matters as the Governor may refer to it. It is provided in clause 9 -
Clause !) - (3) H the Treasurer and the Bank are unable to reach agreement, the Treasurer may inform the Bank that the Government accepts responsibility for the adoption by the Bank of a policy in accordance with the opinion of the Government and will take such action (if any) within its power? as the Government considers to be necessary by reason of the adoption of that policy.
It is obvious that the Treasurer will have a council appointed that will carry out his instructions. Let us consider the constitution of this Advisory Council. First, there is the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, who if directly responsible to the Treasurer himself. Then there is the Deputy Governor of the bank, another government official, who is bound to take instructions f,rom the Government. There is to be another representative of the Treasury also, and he, too, will be subject to government domination. Finally, there are to be two officials of the bank, and just as the officers of the Treasury must obey the Treasurer, so the officers of the bank must take their directions from the Governor of the bank, and he, in the final analysis, must take his directions from the Treasurer. Ii is not necessary to go any farther to see what an impotent body this will be. and how insecure will be the members’ hold on their positions, particularly if their advice conflicts with government policy. The members of the council, oth er than the bank officials, are to be paid £600 a year. Clause 31 provides that the council shall meet “ at least once in each month “, so that payment may be at the rate of £50 a meeting, which is not a- bad salary. If the Government wants an effective council to advise on banking policy, it should appoint one, the members of which would have the same outside knowledge and experience as have the members of the present board. For that reason, I support the amendment of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), so that there may be an effective advisory council, and not merely a body which will be a proxy for the Treasurer.
– The Government, by providing for the appointment of an Advisory Council, is attempting to throw dust in the eyes of the people. In effect, it says, “We recognize the virtues of the Bank Board. Now that we propose to place the bank under the control of a Governor, we are going to appoint an advisory body which will take the place of the board.” The great advantage of the Bank Board was that its members were drawn from various walks of life. Those charged with maintaining the financial stability of the country should have a fair working knowledge ofl the trade and industry of the country. The idea behind the creation of the Bank Board was that it should consist of men with a knowledge of all the main branches of industry, agriculture and commerce - not with the idea that they would become competent bankers in a few months, but that they should bring with them into the boardroom a knowledge of what was happening in the industrial and commercial world so that, with the aid of that knowledge, a sound banking policy could: be evolved. In the world chaos that will prevail after the war it will be essential in the interests of sound economy for the technical officers and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to have the counsel of men practised in all branches of industry and constantly in touch with international trends. The Advisory Council will be a most extraordinary body, utterly lacking representation of any branch of business except banking. Primary production, industry and commerce will be voiceless. First, we shall have the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, an officer of the Government; then the Deputy Governor, then another representative of the Treasury to be appointed by the Governor-General, which means the Government; and the remaining two members of the board will be two officers of the bank, who will toe appointed by the Treasurer on the recommendation of the Governor. The Governor will preside at the monthly meetings of the Advisory Council, but not have a vote, ostensibly because he may be incriminated in a corporate vote. What about the Deputy Governor, when he is carrying out the duties of the Governor? He may equally be incriminated. The Advisory Council is another indication that the Government’s policy is to achieve political control of the monetary and hanking policy of Australia. It is merely an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the people.
– I remind the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that the Secretary to the Treasury receives as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board exactly the same salary as it is proposed to pay him as a member of the Advisory Council.
– Is that any reason why the Government should find him a job at £600 a year.
– That fee is paid not only to the Secretary to the Treasury but also to a number of other people on the Bank Board. The Government is firmly convinced that no one can serve two masters - that a man cannot serve the interests of the country, as a member of the Bank Board, and, at the same time, serve private interests. I need not elaborate on that basic objection to private interests being associated with the Commonwealth Bank.
– Is the Treasurer suggesting that members of the Bank Board use the knowledge they thereby gain to serve outside interests?
– All this talk about members of the Bank Board knowing about general finance is plain “ hooey “. No doubt members of the Bank Board are practical business men,but that does not give them qualifications to direct national banking.
– But it would qualify them to become Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– That is perhaps quite true.
– And therefore, control the banks.
– The Treasurer has to survive two ballots, one at the hands of his constituents and the other at the hands of the members of his party, but members of the Bank Board are elected by nobody and responsible to nobody. At least, the Treasurer is responsible to somebody.
– The members of the Bank Board are selected by the elected Treasurer or the Government of the day.
– Many members of the Bank Board were selected because they were friends of, or associated with, the Treasurer of the day. The Advisory Council will consist of the Deputy Governor of the bank and two officers of the bank and two representatives of the Government - the Secretary to the Treasury and another Treasury officer. They will meet each month to discuss with the Governor various problems associated with the bank itself or with general financial policy. Whatever may be their decision, whether it be unanimous or a majority decision, it will not matter unless it influences the Governor, who will have heard all the discussion, whether concerning general banking policy, advances, the flotation or conversion of loans, or any other phase of the bank’s operations. The Governor is a member of the Bank Board, but 1 do not think his advice has ever been very much sought by it. Apart from bank officers who attend meetings of the Bank Board as observers, he is the only representative of the bank present. Whether honorable members regard it as good or evil, henceforth, the Governor will be advised by his own officers and by Treasury officers at a round-table conference. He will ask for advice on whatever problems face him. Whatever suggestions are offered will be discussed. Whatever advice is offered, whether it be unanimous or not, he will be able to accept or reject it. One honorable member opposite talked of the need for the Governor to consult heads of bank departments. I agree. I have no doubt that he does that now. He will be able to do so in the future, and, as in the past, he will be free to accept or reject advice. The Advisory Council will be purely a consultative body.
– If honorable members desire to get down to the truth about this Advisory Council they can do no better than look at sub-clause 5, which provides that the Secretary to the Treasury and the other representative of the Treasury shall be paid £600 a year. The first thing that leaps to the eye is that the bank officers are not to be paid £600 a year or anything extra for their work for the bank as members of the Advisory Council. The bank officers are full-time employees of the bank as the Treasury officers are full-time employees of the Crown, and, therefore, will stand on exactly the same footing and have exactly the same responsibility. It is not to be suggested, is it, that the Treasury officers will be more conscientious about the performance of their duties than the bank officers or that they will burn more midnight oil in studying problems which come before the bank? Why is it that the Treasury officers are to be paid £600 a year extra in respect of their membership of the Advisory Council, and the bank officers nothing? There is no mystery about it. It has been the practice within the Commonwealth for many years for the permanent head of the Treasury, who does not get a very large salary, to be given an extra £600 a year as a director of the Commonwealth Bank in order to bring his salary up to reasonable proportions. If you abolish the Bank Board you abolish the £600, unless you find some other post to which you can appoint the permanent head of the Treasury for which the £600 can be paid.
– The Governor of the bank receives nothing extra for his membership of the Bank Board.
– That is so, but the - Secretary to the Treasury receives £600 a year on. top of his salary of £1,700 a year, or whatever it is. I have no quarrel with that. He is entitled to it. But, proposing to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board, what is the Government to do in order to increase his salary to what it should be? It knows that it will buy trouble with the other permanent heads or near heads, from the Clerk of Parliament down, if it increases the salary of the Secretary to the Treasury by £600. So, some agreeable committee on which he can serve must be found. Then, of course, it cannot give the £600 to the permanent head of the Treasury and nothing for the second Treasury man who will be on the Advisory Council. So to him, too, £600 a year is to be given. But, when it comes to the bank officers, who are probably worse paid than either Treasury official, the -Government says, “No. You will have the same task, occupy the same time and accept exactly the same responsibility, whatever it is, but not a penny shall you get by way of extra remuneration “. I have only to look at sub-clause 5 and think of the background to come to the conclusion that whatever words I used about this matter -earlier should be repeated with emphasis.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that members of the Commonwealth Bank Board could not serve two masters, that they could not serve the bank and private interests at the same time, and that they had to serve one or the other. I expected him to follow that immediately with the statement, “I am not implying that those men used inside information in order to benefit their private interests I asked the Treasurer, by way of interjection, whether he was implying that they had used knowledge gained as members of the Bank Board for the benefit of their outside interests? But, instead of replying, he elaborated by saying that the qualification for membership of the Bank Board was to he a friend of the Treasurer of the day. The Treasurer made a serious charge. He said either too much or too little, because his words, when published in Hansard, might be used subsequently on the public platform by some irresponsible person who, not knowing precisely what the- Treasurer had in mind, will interpret the words literally to show that members of the Bank Board were serving two masters and were using the information that they obtained, as members of theboard to further their personal interests.
T hope that the honorable gentleman will make a suitable correction.
Previously, I referred to the Advisory Council. Having heard the reasons for its creation, I am fully convinced thai it will be a “ phoney “ body and no more titan a mask for the Treasurer and the Government. The Labour party has said : “ We shall abolish the Bank Board. What can we substitute for it? We must convince the people that some board will exist to give advice to the Governor “. But the public will not realize that all the officers who will be appointed to the Advisory Council will be cither subordinates of the Governor or of the Treasurer.
The bill provides that the Governor of the bank aud the Secretary to the Treasury shall work in close collaboration. There will be an exchange of opinions between them. Why, then, has the Government decided to appoint an Advisory Council, the members of which are already advising the Governor of the bank and the Secretary to the Treasury? Why must there be a council to advise the Governor on matters about which he has already been advised, either by his own officers or through Treasury officials ? This council will have no value whatever.
– My previous remarks must not be construed as reflecting on the honesty of any person. I said that no man can serve two masters. That view was expressed by a famous Figure in history.
– It was a reference to God and Mammon, was it not?
– My remarks were not intended to convey that a member of the Bank Board would use any information that he obtained in that capacity for the purpose of making some personal gain. However, his principal occupation or association might he with some business firm, and if hp were called upon to make a decision between the general national interest and the industry in which he was personally interested, his judgment, unconsciously, perhaps, might not be influenced entirely by the national interest.
– How would the honorable gentleman apply that statement to members of Cabinet?
– I do not propose to say more on this subject. Every Prime Minister and Treasurer knows that when a vacancy occurs on the Commonwealth Bank Board, there are many applicants for the position.
– That applies also to the Parliament.
– At one time I had visions of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) becoming a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board and I thought that he was passed over for much, less worthy citizens. The position is that the Treasurer must recommend to Cabinet a person who, in his opinion, would be suitable to become a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. He says, “I have known this man for a long’ while. He is a decent fellow. He might not know a good deal about banking, but he is associated with a particular phase of industry”. So the Treasurer makes a recommendation in favour of that gentleman.
– Every other member of Cabinet then disagrees with him, and he has to think of another name. I know all about it.
– Of all the applicants for the position, only two or three may be known to Ministers, and Cabinet is placed in a difficult position in making up its mind. The man who has his mind made up before going to a conference is always at a great disadvantage compared with those who have not made up their minds. The Treasurer might make a certain recommendation, but as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, the recommendation might be rejected, by Cabinet, and another applicant must be considered.
– That is how caucus elects Ministers’.
– Not quite. A lot of nonsense is talked about these things.
– What sort of nonsense?
– W6 are dealing- with human nature, and, although honorable members indulge . in heroics, they know how these things happen. However, I rose only to state that I did not reflect upon the honesty of any person. I did not say that any member of the Bank Board had used his position for personal gain; but the Government does not consider that persons with private interests should be members’ of the board.. I have had some personal experiences of happenings on boards. A matter has arisen which has affected a person’s private business interests, and he has retired, or did not vote on it. Nevertheless, his influence is always felt when the matter touches his personal interests.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) does an injustice to the many people who have served on boards of all descriptions, and have divorced their private interests from their public duty. That statement applies to members of Parliament, and to members of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– That has been true in war-time, when the country had been in peril, but I think that what I said is applicable to normal conditions.
– It does not do justice to men who have loyally served this country in peace-time as well as in waT-time. Members of the Bank Board would never allow their private business to influence them to act in a manner contrary to the national welfare. The principal role of the Commonwealth Bank is to advance the national interests. The members of the Advisory Council will not have had any commercial experience, because they will be officers of - the Treasury Or the Commonwealth Bank, and be subordinate to the Secretary to the Treasury or the Governor of the bank. None of them has had any experience of commerce, other than what he may have gained- in his departmental activities. Therefore, the community will not have the advantage of knowledge that is required to advance the national interest. Instead of appointing an advisory council, the Treasurer should state unequivocally that the Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of the Governor and himself. That will be the true position. The Treasurer will naturally direct his own officers. On matters of high policy, he will intimate to them what the Government considers should be done, and instruct them to see that its view is given effect. All circumlocution would be abolished if the Treasurer were a member of the board.
Question put -
That the paragraphs proposed to be left out (Mr. Abbott’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman– Mr. W. j. F. RlORDAN.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
The Governor shall attend and preside at all meetings of the Advisory Council but shall not be entitled to vote and shall not be counted for the purposes of a quorum.
– It is obvious from the wording of this clause that it is mandatory for the Governor to attend all meetings of the Advisory Council. I intend to move an amendment which the Government will surely accept if it will accept any amendment of any description. I move -
That the word “ shall “, first occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “may”.
If this amendment is agreed to, I shall then move that after the word “ council “ the words “ except in the case of illness “ be inserted. The purpose of these amendments is so obvious that I shall not delay the committee by enlarging upon them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 33 agreed to.
Clause 34 (Agents).
– In view of certain decisions which were reached at the conference of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, held in Melbourne last Easter, at which an instruction was given to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction on the subject of preference in appointments, I bring to the notice of honorable members the report of the conference which appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 2nd April, the introductory ‘ paragraph of which read -
Highlights of the discussions yesterday at the Victorian conference of the Australian Labour party were an attack on the Federal Ministry for appointing men and women who were enemies of Labour to high positions, and warnings by Federal Ministers that if the Labour movement in Australia was not united and disciplined, it could be smashed by the Liberal party.
The conference considered a report from the executive which stated, in part -
Your executive was perturbed because ‘ of the number of complaints of appointments made by federal departments without inquiry as to the standing of the persons appointed with their respective industrial organization.
The report also stated -
Mr. D. Lovegrove, of the central executive, said that unless the Government exercised greater care in the selection of its overseas representatives, and in making appointments to high government and public positions, it would find itself the target for an orgy of back-stabbing which would lead to its early end.
I have no doubt that an intention exists to appoint as agents of the bank persons of a particular political philosophy. That is the object of this clause. In country districts in particular we shall find, no doubt, that the bank’s appointees will hold certain political views. That must be the effect of the instructions given at the Easter Labour conference in Melbourne. Hitherto Commonwealth Savings Bank appointments in country districts have teen confined very largely to postmasters. I. should like to hear the Treasurer’s views on this subject, particularly having regard to the Easter conference decisions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 37 agreed to.
Housing: Man-power FOR Basic Industries - Australian Army: Equipment; Case of Private 0. K. Everingham: - Utility Trucks fob PRIMARY Industries - Dairying Industry - Canberra: House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife - Lethal Weapons : Illegal Traffic - Real Estate’ Transactions.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- So much has been said in recent days in this chamber on the problem of housing that 1. may be accused of repetition in discussing it again, but it is of such paramount importance and urgency that I am obliged to do so, particularly because of the fact that more and more men are being discharged from the services and will need, homes. The tragic plight of some of these homeless ex-servicemen is a mutter which requires our most earnest attention. This afternoon I shall confine my remarks to a particular aspect of the problem that has not been widely publicized, but which is so urgent as to demand the highest priority. My proposition is that the possibilities of the implementation of any housing programme, however beneficent it may be from the point of view of the Government, rests upon the availability of men and materials for the key building trades in the various States of the Commonwealth. Unless the resources ofl these key trades be developed and increased, our housing programme cannot be adequately grappled with, and the plain fact is that many of the building trades are, to-day, in a condition of decay from which, in the absence of vigorous action, there can be only a tardy and difficult resurrection. This situation ii no compliment to the Government, which has known of the problem for a very long time. In July, 1944, when the manpower situation was, perhaps, not so pressing as it was in the earlier stages of the war, the Government announced that 20,000 houses would be built, in Victoria in the first year after the cessation of hostilities. I propose to deal with Victoria, because I know the situation in that State best, though I have little doubt that similar conditions exist in all the Australian States. In August, 1944, Mr. D. Doyle, president of the Building Industry Congress of Victoria, which consists of representatives of all branches of the industry, including designing, manufacturing and construction, stated that the industry was in a bad way. He declared that it would be impossible to undertake an adequate housing programme until supplies of basic materials and a considerable number of operatives became available. We all must realize that home-building. on a proper scale will be impossible unless materials, such as bricks, roofing tiles, plumbing materials, and a hundred and one other items, can, be put on the market in reasonable quantities. It is, therefore, a matter of the greatest urgency that steps should be taken immediately to provide stocks of these essential needs. The supplies will need to be not only up to but in excess of pre-war requirements. He pointed out that, with the lag in building greater Melbourne alone would be faced with a post-war programme requiring an expenditure of £19,000,000 in the year after the war, and preparation would have to be made immediately if the programme were to have any chance of accomplishment. . He reminded his readers that during the last two years this industry had taken every opportunity to warn the public and the
Government that no relief from the housing shortage could be expected until this necessary preparatory work had been put in hand. Perhaps I should mention how this estimated basis of £19,000,000 was made up. In order to cope with the housing shortage, it is expected that this programme will have to continue for ten years. In working out this figure, the building industry congress made provision for the inclusion of alterations and additions to homes, at the rate of 14.2 per cent, of the total, this being the prewar proportion. In England, the proportion of repairs and additions in the pre-war period was 28 per cent, of the total building costs. In view of the lag that has occurred in work of this type, it seems likely that the proportion of 14.2 per cent, will have to be at least doubled. In arriving at the estimated annual expenditure of £19,000,000, provision was made for the erection of 9,500 dwellings in the year by the State Housing Commission, at a cost of £7,600,000. This is approximately one-half of the Government’s announced programme of 20,000 homes. No provision was made for the man who has his own block of land and wishes to build a house to his own design. It can be assumed that the demand for housing of this type is not likely to be less than it was in 1941, when the total value reached was £6,572,600. Therefore, that figure has been used in arriving at the total estimated expenditure for greater Melbourne. The Federal Housing Commission, in its interim report, recommended that one-half of the houses to be built each year should be erected by such bodies as the Housing Commission, and that the other half should cater for the needs of the independent house builder. The figures that I have given have been widely published and have never been contradicted; therefore, it can be assumed that the estimate of £19,000,000 per annum is not far short of what the building industry will have to achieve in order to make a substantial reduction of the present housing shortage in Victoria. Building in that State is being carried on to a value of approximately £3,000,000 per annum, but that includes public works and departmental works which have not been taken into account in making the estimate which I gave earlier. The work being done on actual housing at the present time would not reach a total value of £1,000,000 per annum.
That brings me to the feature which I. desire to emphasize. We were told recently that the Government proposes to release a large number of men to engage in a building programme. We have anticipated that housing will leap ahead in consequence of those releases. But the plain fact is that these key industries, which must first manufacture the materials required by the building industry - bricks, tiling, plaster, timber, and other accessories - are able to carry out to-day only this small proportion of the work, a minute part of which is devoted to private housing. I shall give figures that have been taken from a recent survey. They may be affected slightly by later releases, but I am assured that they have not been materially altered. The men employed on the manufacture of the bricks required for the metropolitan area of Melbourne prior to thi; war numbered 1,075. The estimated number employed at the present time is 200. I understand that there has been a slight increase since these figures were taken out. No one will claim that the size of the pre-war housing programme satisfied this country. There were between 500 and 600 men engaged in the manufacture of roofing tiles prior to the war, and at the present time the number is 100. In the production of timber, the number prior to the war w,as 4,174. and at the present time it- is 2,418.
– What is the honorable gentleman seeking to establish?
– That there has been decay in the key industries on which it housing programme must be based. T have pointed out that the urgency of this preparatory work was impressed on the Government in August, 1944, when it announced .a certain programme. According to the figures I have given, it would not be necessary to release hundreds of thousands of men from the services. The number needed to carry out the necessary preparatory work to place these key industries in a healthy state, is comparatively small. I remind the House that a considerable proportion of the limited number of men engaged in the timber industry is employed on Government work; thus these men are not available for domestic housing. In the manufacture of fibrous plaster, 1,200 men were employed prior to the war, and the number, to-day is 240. In quarries the number em-ployed prior to the war was 500, and the number to-day is 244. Hard. wood millers employed 5,500 men prior to the war, and they employ 3,700 to-day.
– The deficiency, on the figures already given by the honorable member, is about 6,000.
– That is so, in one of die two major States, and probably the State which has the biggest housing problem.. If the Minister seriously argues that the number of men needed to carry out this programme when the matter was first brought to notice in August, 1944, could not have been obtained by an effective comb-out of the Service establishments, I shall not accept his view of the position, and I am certain that the public will not.
– The honorable gentleman knows more about strategy than those who are in charge of it.
– I do not make that claim. But members of Parliament and heads of Government, who have not been trained in strategy, have been able, at times, to show to those who have had control of large numbers of men in the sei- vices that the national economy would be better -served by having a smaller number of service personnel and a larger number associated with the national economy. Lloyd George did that during the last war, and it has been done by every self-respecting head of a government in the history of administration.
– The circumstances of this war are different from those of the last war.
– The Minister would like lo engage in a lengthy disputation in regard to the problems that confront his Government, but I am not going to be “ fobbed off “ with an argument of that sort. I am convinced, and I am sure the country is, that if this problem had been tackled with resolution when warnings were given, the decay into which these industries have fallen would not have -been allowed to develop. Another interesting aspect is, that apprentices being trained for the plumbing and carpentering trades have been diverted to other industries because of the shrinkage of the volume of activity of those trades in Victoria. “Whether or not it will beeasy to recover them from- the work they are now” doing, I cannot say; but certainly, that should not have been allowed* to happen when the Government could see ahead the programme that had to be undertaken. I emphasize this aspect, because 1 do not believe that it has been treated wisely and publicly. We have all dealt in general terms with the problem of housing. Everyone wants to see a large-scale housing programme implemented speedily. The tragic feature is that, because of the decline of key industries on which a housing programme must be based, delay must occur in applying men to the task of building homes. This should not have been permitted. I hope that there will be no further delay in seeing that these basic industries shall rapidly be restored to a virile condition.
– Last Friday, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I read two letters from commissioned officers in the battle areas of Maprik and Bougainville and last Tuesday, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. ‘Chifley) made in this House a statement which purported to be a” reply to the allegations of one of those officers. I have referred that reply to the officer in question, who is in a battle area, and have asked for his comments upon it. I shall defer judgment in connexion with the matter, pending the receipt of his observations. Having regard to his local knowledge, and the fact that he is a captain who has risen from the ranks .and has had about five years service, I prefer to accept his views rather than those of a brigadier who is fighting the war with a pen, probably in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.
– That is not fair. The advice” came from head-quarters.
– I believe that we are “ having our legs pulled “. Disquieting statements were published in the Melbourne press yesterday and the Sydney press to-day, regarding the lack of equipment at Maprik. The author of them is another commissioned officer, at present on leave from that area. Briefly, he alleges that men suffered unnecessarily, that attacks were held up, and that the whole of the campaign was delayed in the Maprik Village area south of the Toricelli Ranges in February and March, because of a serious lack of supplies and services. I quote the newspaper statement - “ In one instance, at the beginning df April, my company took u village west of Maprik and should have pushed on. But through lack of supplies the attack had to lose momentum, enabling the .Japanese to build up their defences. When we were able to resume tb advance about three weeks later, we had many casualties that could have been avoided had we been able to push on from the start.”. “ In this area “, he continues, “ risks of typhus, malaria and dysentery were bad and were aggravate by the shortage of clothing replacements. As n result, wastage through sickness was far greater than it should have been.”. “ When boot replacements could not be got, many of the men went out on patrol with their bouts in -inch a state that thuy were walking on their bare feet. They never complained; because they knew it was no use.”. “ Three-inch mortars are among the most effective weapons in jungle warfare. Through lack of supply of bombs, attacks often had to be put in without 3-in. mortar support. This caused unnecessary casualties.”.
The officer has made this further allegation -
Troops were supplied with flame-throwers, “which were useless us fuel and compressed air were not supplied to operate them. “He concluded with this statement -
Signal equipment was in short supply. Some batteries in use were marked “Hot to be used after May, 1944 “.
These allegations are serious, and cannot be lightly treated by any responsible member of this House. They corroborate first-hand evidence supplied to me from time to time by officers on active service. The complaints are becoming so strong, that honorable members cannot refrain from discharging their obvious duty to soldiers in the field by ventilating them in this National Parliament. Last Friday, I quoted a letter which contained a most serious allegation. It stated -
This battle began the operations in north Bougainville, which included the taking of Tsimba Ridge. During that period, we lost 32 killed and 04 wounded. We had no sup- porting tanks. Tsimba Ridge took U9 over two weeks to take, with the loss of 9 killed and 22 wounded.
Much time was spent on Tuesday last in explaining away certain photographs which I produced, but they constituted only part of the criticism which I offered, only a part of the criticism which I offered. In particular, the reply did not cover the allegations of unnecessary loss of Australian lives due to the action of a responsible officer holding the King’s commission. The implications are that where there were once 32 Australian soldiers, there are now 32 white crosses on some tropic island. Thirty-two Australian mothers have only memories instead of strong young sons - just because some tanks arrived too late. Ninety-four young men, who left these shores in the full vigor of their manhood will return to their wives and relatives maimed and broken, ju?t because some one blundered.
Up to the present, no reply has been given to the letter from Captain W. F. Lee containing serious criticism of Army equipment, which I quoted in this House on the 2’7’th April. This matter, too. should be attended to. Consequently, I make no apology for raising the subject once more. If my efforts result in the saving of one soldier’s life that would have been lost had I remained silent, then my efforts will have been worth while. The present position is not satisfactory. Complaints are being made by too many responsible persons. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), whose views on this .matter are known, to see that action is taken. He is as anxious as I am that matters should be put right. I want to know whether we are to be told, the truth, or whether we are to go on having our legs pulled.
– About eight months ago, a contract was entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom for the importation into Australia of 1,200 utility trucks. This was supplemented by another contract for the importation of 1,300 standard chassis, which were to be sent out unassembled, and without tyres and batteries, &c, as is the practice in the trade. I understand that the
British Government agreed to the export of the vehicles only ‘because they were to’ be supplied to persons engaged in the production of foodstuffs urgently required. The vehicles began to arrive in Australia five months ago, but very few of them are yet on the road. In no instance has the Department of Supply and Shipping decided on price, and certain distributors have to dispose of the vehicles on condition that the purchaser agrees to pay whatever price the Government might choose to charge. I am informed that the ultimate cost, after the ii dd iti on of duty, primage and sales tax will be in the region of £600 per vehicle, whereas the ordinary trade price would bo between £425 and £470, according to the quality of certain of the fittings. The trucks are a war-time job known in the trade as “ ugly ducklings “, and they would be difficult to dispose of in ordinary times. It appears that no government department has yet been game to take the responsibility of fixing a price because it is not willing to bear the loss which would result if the vehicles were sold at competitive prices. I want the appropriate Minister to make a statement next week stating the terms and conditions under which the vehicles were purchased from the Government of the United Kingdom, how many have arrived in Australia, how many have been delivered to distributors, how many are still ‘in stock, and why a selling price has not been fixed.
– The honorable member suggests that the price fixing authorities have been slow in making a decision?
– Somebody has been slow. Action should be taken to clear these trucks, seeing that a great many motor vehicles are standing in parks under the control of the Army and other authorities,’ vehicles that are obviously no longer wanted for war purposes. There should be an inquiry into the activities of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in order to determine whether it is disposing of war materials quickly enough. According to press statements, since the conclusion of the European “War, some factories in the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain are resuming peace-time prodiction immediately. If that be so, and I have no reason to doubt it, the Government will find itself in difficulties if it does not take immediate steps to dispose of war material that has been piled up. I should be glad to have a statement from the Government next week about the 2,500 utility trucks.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government the case of NX436G9 Private O. K. Everingham, of the 2nd/2nd Dock Operating Company, Royal Australian Engineers, Australian Imperial Force. This man was courtmartialled and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and. discharged with ignominy from the Army. He is at present serving his sentence in Long Bay Gaol. He is now 24 years of age, is married, and has a child ten months old. His father wrote to me on the 25th April last, forwarding a copy of a letter which he had sent to the officer in charge of New South Wales Line of Communications Area at Victoria Barracks, dated the 11th April, 1945. In that letter he said that the boy had served in the Middle East and in the campaign in the Owen Stanley Ranges in New Guinea. He had been through some of the heaviest bombing raids, and came back on leave, suffering badly from nerves. During his leave he got married, and while his unit was stationed at Wagga he absented himself without leave. I do not say the man should not be punished for a military crime, but the boy’s father claims that his son was of a highly nervous temperament, which came from his mother, who was admitted to the Gladesville Asylum on the 8th July, 1935, and died at Orange in January, 1936. In his letter, the father outlined the medical history of the mother’s family, which showed that there was insanity in one of the boy’s aunts and also in an uncle. Immediately I received the father’s letter I sought permission to see the prisoner at Long Bay Gaol, and on the 6th May, through the good- offices of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I” was allowed to interview him. I spent the whole of the morning discussing his case. He told me that he left for the Middle East on the 1st November, 1941, reaching there on the 9th February, 1942, with the 7th Division. He saw action in the
Middle East, and after returning to Australia went to New Guinea on the 9th September, 1942, where he fought through the campaign in the Owen Stanley Ranges. On the 8th February, 1943, he joined the 2nd/2nd Dock Operating Company, Royal Australian Engineers, and left New Guinea on the 19th July of the same year to return to Sydney. While he was absent without leave his unit went back to New Guinea. He was court-martialed and sent to the detention camp at Lae. There he struck his superior officer, was tried by field court-martial, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Long Bay Gaol and was discharged from the Army with ignominy. I particularly wish to bring under the notice of the Government the fact that there is hereditary insanity on one side of the boy’s family. His father wrote to the Department of the Army as far back as the 11th April, but it was net until the 14th May that he received the following reply: -
Your communication of the 11th April, 1,945, in which you make an appeal on behalf of your son, NX436H9 Pte. 0. K. Everingham is acknowledged.
On receipt of your letter, arrangements were made to have your son medically boarded, which was completed on the 4th May’, 1945, and advice has now been received that he is fit for detention and fit for imprisonment.
This medical board included examination by specialist psychiatrist and the information yon forwarded concerning your wife’s brother was also before the board.
The delay in replying to your communication is regretted, but was duc to the many arrangements necessary to parade your son before a suitable medical board.
It will be noted that the letter does not say that the medical board looked into the history of insanity in the family. I cannot see that there is any excuse for the long delay, seeing that there are plenty of alienists in Sydney, and the prisoner was at Long Bay Gaol. Mr. Everingham also makes a serious charge regarding the boy’s treatment at Long Bay. He says that the son had an attack of malaria while in gaol. The gaol doctor walked through, and the boy asked for some malaria tablets, but the doctor went on without taking any notice. This lad contracted malaria in the Middle East, and it is the general experience of malaria victims that hard labour induces a recurrence of attacks.
I wrote to the Minister for the Army on the 11th May, telling him that I had visited the gaol to interview this lad. I told the Minister the story which I have just told to the House. But I have not yet received a reply to my letter except a formal acknowledgment. .1 ask the Acting Minister for the Army to allow me to examine this man’s file, and the report of the alienists who examined him, as well as the reports of the medical officers who examined him upon enlistment, in order to enable me to ascertain his medical history prior to enlistment, and also that of his family. On two occasions I have asked the Acting Minister for the Army for that permission, but on each occasion I was fobbed off, being told that the papers were in the custody of Colonel Bowie Wilson. This case is a disgrace. A study of the man’s medical history and that of his family would probably show that it calls for special treatment. Yet, I as his parliamentary representative am denied access to papers which might throw light on that aspect of the case. I recall a similar case during the last war when I was ordered to defend a man in the British Army who was charged with desertion, in respect of which he was liable to the death sentence. Having regard to the fact that, if found guilty, he would -be sentenced to be shot at dawn, that-man was the most apathetic towards his case of all persons who had to deal with it. When I delved into his medical history I found that he had fits as a boy, and when I wrote to his medical adviser I ascertained that both his parents were epileptics, and that the boy himself was an epileptic I believe that if the medical history of this lad at Long Bay were investigated, it would be found that his desertion was due wholly to nervous condition brought about by hardships suffered on active service. I am not one of those who say that a soldier who commits a crime against military law should not be penalized. Such offenders should receive the punishment prescribed under military law. At the same time, however, in many cases the penalty prescribed in respect of military crimes is out of all proportion to that prescribed in respect of similar civilian crimes. Whereas, for certain military crimes a soldier may be sentenced to imprisonment for two years, a civilian would probably be fined only £5 for t he same crime. In the latter instance, finger prints would not be taken. But many soldiers who have committed similar crimes are to-day confined in gaols, and are placed among criminals of the worst type. When I visited Long Bay Gaol to see this lad, I inspected his charge sheet and noted that he had a clean record as a civilian. He was the decent son of a farmer in the New England district. And his previous record in the Army showed only minor offences. He is now serving a sentence of imprisonment for two years for a crime which, as it appears on his charge sheet at any rate, would be considered to be a minor crime in civil life. While I was at the gaol 1 saw all sorts of criminals with whom this lad is now obliged to mix. He appeared before me dressed in the criminal’s garb, wearing his number prominently displayed on the left hand side of his coat. Some time ago I inquired how many soldiers were now in civilian gaols a8 the result of sentences by courtmartial. I have not yet received a reply to that question which still stands on the notice-paper. But my information is that in civil gaols in New South Wales alone there are at least 500 ex-soldiers. Many of these men volunteered for military service. Although some of them may have committed crimes, and some may be hardened criminals, many of them arc not criminals’; but to-day their souls and bodies are Totting in civil gaols where they are confined with offenders of the worst type. It is about time that the Minister for the Army investigated these cases. Neither he nor the Acting Minister has yet seen at first hand the conditions under which these men fire incarcerated in civil prisons.
.- I again bring to the notice of the Government the parlous condition of the dairying industry. Apart from the housing shortage, the revival of this industry is probably the most vital problem confronting us to-day. It is a twofold problem, involving, first, our need to increase our population; and, secondly, the urgent necessity to step up our food production. Despite the fact that, conditions in the dairying industry threaten many farmers with disaster, the Government remains apathetic towards their needs. No other industry has played a greater part in closer settlement than has the dairying industry. It is the most effective means of opening up virgin country. To-day, Great Britain is crying out for increased supplies of foodstuffs, and the food problem is even more acute in Continental Europe. This problem has been staring the Government in the face for a long while. We have received urgent appeals through such organizations as Unrra for additional supplies of foodstuffs, particularly dairy products, for shipment to devastated countries of Europe; and we shall also require substantial supplies for the populations of the islands to the north of Australia. Despite these facts the Government has permitted the industry to deteriorate. All of us agree that the best migrant is the native born Australian. No industry can do more to help us in that respect than the dairying industry. Our rural population is the healthiest section of the community. Children on farms can obtain at first hand the rich fresh foods requisite for health, such as, butter, eggs, milk, vegetables and bacon. All of those foods are available in large quantities on dairy farms*; whilst the children of farmers also have the advantage of life in the open spaces. However, the Government has entirely disregarded the advantages of the industry also from that point of view. Let us examine the serious position of this important industry on its production side. In 1920-21, butter production in Australia amounted to 93,000 tons. In 1939-40, the year of the outbreak of war, that production was increased to 212,000 tons; but since that- year production has steadily declined, and to-day the industry is in a critical condition. In 1943-44, butter production had dropped to 157,000 tons, and in 1944-45 to 139,000 tons, or a drop of 73,000 tons since 1939. Butter exported in 1939, totalled 113,000 tons, whilst last year only 40,000 tons was exported, representing a decline of 73,000 tons, or 66$ per cent. We promised in 1940-41 to send 100,000 tons of butter to Great Britain, but we supplied in that year only 77,843 tons; and in the following year exports dropped to 41,568 tons, or a drop of 663 per cent. On the basis of receiving 100,000 tons of butter, as we promised to supply in 1940-41, Great Britain rationed its people to 2 oz. of butter a week for every man, woman and child. In view of the fact that last year we supplied only 41,568 tons of butter, that ration will have to be substantially reduced. Even in Australia, our original ration of 8 oz. of butter a week to each person has been reduced to 6 oz., because of the decline of production. The point I make is that dairy production is continuing to decline. The serious plight of the industry is also emphasized when we study the figures in respect of the production of milk. A production of 1,254,000,000 gallons in 1940, dropped to 1,076,000,000 gallons in 1943-44, whilst the estimated production for the current years is only 996,000,000 gallons. The main reason for this decline is lack of man-power and materials, a general falling off in dairy herds, and ever-increasing costs making it unprofitable to produce. The Government’s present policy in respect of man-power is futile, mainly because it refuses to pay regard to the conditions existing on farms. Honorable members can cite thousands of cases of aged parents who allowed their farmer sons to enlist five and six years ago and who now find it impossible to carry on their farms. I urge the Government to tackle this problem by making an investigation of actual conditions on the farms. Unless the Government does so, and realizes the impossible task confronting aged parents, who have only the assistance of very young children, in carrying on their farms, it will not find a solution to the difficulties confronting the industry.
Farmers are also seriously short of essential materials such as wire netting, piping, pumping and irrigation plant, snare machinery parts and motor tyres. Only to-day, I received half a dozen letters from constituents asking whether there was any chance of obtaining supplies of these articles. They have been recently reduced from No. 2 to No. 4 priority. Why? The Government must stop tinkering at our man- power problems. Only this morning, the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), in reply to a question, said that the shortage of wire and wire netting was due largely to the fact that sufficient skilled labour was not available. The manufacture of wire does not call for special skill. In any case, thousands of persons have been released from munitions factories and the Civil Constructional Corps. More men should be released. The tragic condition of the dairying industry is shown by the extraordinary number of sales of dairy herds advertised in country newspapers. The appalling conditions under which those engaged in the industry have had to struggle for the last six years can no longer be tolerated. It is within the power of the Government to assist them by enabling them to obtain labour and materials and, certainly, by providing a greater subsidy to offset the increased cost of production. A demand on behalf of dairy farmers for an increased subsidy to offset those increased costs was first made by Opposition members in 1940. The Government yielded to constant pressure to the minor extent of appointing an expert committee in 1942 to go into the matter. At short notice that committee furnished its report to the Government, which promptly put it into cold, storage, forcing honorable members to debate the plight of the industry without knowledge of its recommendations. When the Government, yielding to public opinion, ultimately released the report we found that the increased subsidy that the Government in the meantime had given to the industry was but a fraction of what that committee had recommended. I had better recount the full story.
As the result of our representations, the Government, in July, 1942, appointed a special committee, consisting of practical and experienced men, to report upon matters affecting the dairying industry. That committee, like members of the Opposition, recognized the urgency of the matter and within eleven days submitted an interim report. That report recommended that immediate steps be taken - I emphasize the word “immediate” - to secure a minimum return to the dairyfarmer of not less than ls. 5^-d. per lb. of commercial butter. It recommended that, to ensure such return, prices on the Commonwealth market be increased by 3Jd. per lb. for butter and 2d. per lb. for cheese, and that the export value be increased by 3d. per lb. for butter and 2d. per lb. for cheese. These recommendations were made by men whose knowledge of the requirements of the dairying industry is recognized throughout the Commonwealth. Instead of doing what the committee had recommended arid what I, with other members of the Opposition had so strongly advocated, the Government, after two to three months5 delay, introduced the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill. Although the special committee recommended an increase of 3-Jd. per lb., the Government, by its subsidy proposal, granted an increase of about five-sevenths of a penny.
It is futile for the Government to engage on a costly food campaign if it neglects the needs of the dairying industry. The Dairy Industry Production Costs Committee has now prepared a case for an increase of the butter subsidy, based on the marked increase of the industry’s costs since 1944. I understand that the case is based on the return to dairymen of at least 2s. per lb. of commercial butter all the year round. An extra subsidy is also claimed for drought losses. [Extension of time granted.]
Those are the recommendations of practical men and they should receive prompt and sympathetic consideration. It will be interesting to see whether the Government accepts the recommendations or rejects them, as it rejected the recommendations made in 1942. This will test the sincerity of Professor Copland, who is not noted for his sympathetic consideration of the dairying industry. Further delay will be dangerous. The falling off of production is tragic. Dairy production has received scant consideration from the Government. The industry must now be given justice.
.- The first matter to which I desire to refer is the case of Mrs. E. J. Pedvin. Yesterday I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) a question about the dunning of Mrs. Pedvin by the Department of the Interior for her alleged arrears of rent. The Minister challenged me to produce by Tuesday next letters or other documentary evidence that dunning was taking place.
– Letters, I said.
– I shall produce evidence that dunning is going on. This treatment of the wife of a prisoner of war is a scandalous reflection upon the Government, and it reflects no credit on the committee appointed months ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to determine the issue as between Mrs. Pedvin and the department. I accept the Minister’s challenge to produce evidence, and on Tuesday I shall prove conclusively that the department is persisting in dunning Mrs. Pedvin.
– Produce the letters.
– I will produce the evidence. The Minister’s red herrings cannot divert public attention from the actions of the Government.
– The honorable member said he could produce letters. Let him do so.
– I will produce evidence. I will produce everything unsatisfactory to the Minister.
– We should like to have the truth.
– It will be a good story, too, when it is told in full.
– The .Minister is chairman of the committee whose inquiry has dragged on for considerably longer than should be necessary to investigate a very small affair and report on it. It appears that there is deliberate procrastination. No other reason for the delay is advanced than the absence at San Francisco of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who is a member of the committee. It is generally known, however, that the report was practically complete before he left Australia.
Recently, I asked the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) a question regarding the possibility of lethal weapons, such as sub-machine guns, finding their way into the community direct from the munitions factories in an illegal manner. Although the Minister stated that such weapons in the hands of the police in Sydney had been examined, he had not yet satisfied himself that they were of Army issue. lie mentioned only four weapons. In the press to-day, there is a report bya high police officer that there are 24 submachine guns in the hands of the police. I do not know the types of these weapons, but it is evident that they are from Army sources, munitions factories, or some other government source.
– Thehonorable member said previously that they had come from Lithgow.
– I did not say that they had come from Lithgow. I merely stated what had been reported to. me, namely, that it. was the general belief that the weapons were being obtained from Lithgow. I ask the Minister for Munitions to investigate the matter in an endeavour to determine whether that was the case. The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley). should not endeavour to put words into my mouth. Hansard will show exactly what was said. The Minister for Munitions, in his unctuous: reply to my question, indicated quite clearly that he regarded it as a public scandal that a member of this Parliament should ask such a question. I t would have been more fitting had he expressed horror at the fact that people are losing their lives owing to the use of these lethal weapons inhold-ups by gunmen. I repeat that these weapons must be coming from the Army authorities, munitions factories, or some other government source. They are not privately manufactured weapons so far as we know. They have been manufactured for the Army. Every weapon so produced bears a serial number, and it should not be difficult to trace the channels through which the weapons now in the hands of the police have passed-. An investigation should reveal to whom the weapons were issued originally, to what’ units they were passed on, and, ultimately, to what members of those units they were given.Itis the duty of the Government to obtain that information because of the increased number of these weapons which are finding their way, into the hands of the members of the underworld. Instead of simulating mock indignation, the Minister for Munitions could better serve the nation by takingthe matter up with his colleague, theminister for the Army. Undoubtedly.. there are many of these weapons still in the hands of gunmen. This dangerous traffic must be stopped.
– I wish to draw the attention ofthe House to conditions relating toland transactions in Victoria. A short time ago the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself admitted thatland transactionswere reaching a chaotic state. There is a good deal of truth in that statement, but the reason is not to be found inland values themselves but in certaininstruc tions which the Treasurer has given and in the war powers delegated to a board, which sits behind closed doors and refuses to hear representations from parties concerned in land transactions.. This is an outstanding example of unapproachable bureaucracy. I shall* read to the House a letter which will: explain the points which I wish to raise. It was written by Mr. W. C. Balmford. Commonwealth Actuary, to the general secretary of the Real Estate and Stock. Institute of Victoria, 60 Market-street.. Melbourne. It states -
I am in receipt of your letter of 24th May. in which you seek clarification of the presentposition under the Economic Organization Regulations of salesof country laud. I wish, to advise that the Treasurer recently issued instructions that the control under the Economic Organization Regulations should, inthe main, be limited to -
the prevention of any increasein the price of land.
. the limitation of any increasesin rates of interest,
the restriction of unnecessary borrowing and
the undue accumulation of country land.
I have little to say about numbers 1 to 3.It is number 4 to which I wish to refer mainly; The letter concludes -
TheTreasurer takes the view that those persons who already own what may be regarde’ as a living area, should not be allowed to borrow money in order to acquire any further land’. He is also opposed to the acquisition ofcountry landby people who are not genuine primaryproducers unless it is clear that they are going to divest themselves of their other business interest’s, to take up permanent residence on the land and to work the property themselves.
Who will administer these very vague directions, when no lead is given in any bill or regulation in regard to the determination: of who is a genuine primary producer, or what is au undue accumulation of land? One can understand the chaotic condition prevailing, in view of vague instructions such as these. At present there is nothing to determine what is a living area of land, or if there is I do not know of it, and I do not think that the Treasurer knows, of it. Therefore, three members of a board will actually determine what is a living area, and what is an undue accumulation of land., voicing their opinions against those of men who have had years of practical experience. The next point is that only genuine primary producers are permitted to buy laud, and then only if they intend to live on it. Does that mean that because [ am a member of Parliament I shall bc unable to buy laud, or that if a father of a serviceman wants to buy land for his sou. he cannot do it? The letter mentions an instruction that a person living in a city or doing business other than a rural occupation shall not be permitted to purchase land, even though the property may be required for a rotative in the fighting forces.
– I think that the honorable member is exaggerating.
– I am not. That position could arise. Is it any wonder that these vague instructions, which the Farmers Debts Adjustment Board in Victoria is trying to interpret, are putting land transactions into a chaotic condition ?
– Should people be allowed “ an open go “ to purchase land now?
– What have sales of land to do with the conduct of the war? If the Government desires to embark upon a policy of closer settlement, it should introduce the necessary legislation, acquire land and settle people upon it. But to give vague instructions regarding the “ accumulation of land “ and “genuine primary producers “ is nonsense. What is a primary producer? The gentleman who wrote to me on this subject is the secretary of the Real Estate and Stock Institute of Victoria, and is also one of the most practical persons on the land. He is employed by Dennys Lascelles Limited, and has been in charge of property for years. Yet according to Mr. Balmford’s letter, he ls not a genuine primary producer; because he has other interests., he is npt supposed, to purchase more land. Yet he is a more practical primary producer than the three members of the Farmers Debts Adjustment Board in Melbourne, who. determine whether a person is a primary producer. If these vague instructions are npt made more explicit, considerable difficulties will arise. In fact, they have already arisen. I urge the Treasurer to remedy without delay this impossible situation.
.”-The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) flatters himself when he issues warnings about circumstances that may arise if the housing problem is not quickly solved. The Government is watching the situation very closely. In 1943-44 many people, when their existence was at stake, had a different conception oi this problem and were not concerned with making bricks, barbed wire, netting wire, or tiles. Any suggestion that the Government should have encouraged a high rate of production of those materials would have met with their scorn, and properly so. But circumstances alter oases. People feel safe to-day because of the valiant efforts of Australian and Allied fighting men, who owe much of their success to the supplies and equipment provided for them. ‘ They have been able to drive the enemy some distance from our shores. The Government now recognizes its responsibility to adjust its domestic economy, but that adjustment cannot be made so simply as some honorable members suggest. The war in the Pacific is still very important, although the enemy is being forced to retreat. Australia has entered into a number of commitments, and the Government does not propose to repudiate them. The Government considers that, as the campaign against Japan develops, it can state a case to Washington and London, setting out the changed circumstances, to justify reducing the strength of the Army in accordance with the statement made in this House a few days ago. But those alterations cannot be made easily and will require a good deal of consultation with other Allied countries. The Government is aware that houses cannot be built without bricks, timber, slate, piping and tiles; before the housing programme can be commenced the production of the necessary materials must reach a certain level, and that will require about six months. The honorable member for Fawkner should not think that the matter has been overlooked by the Government, which is anxious to improve the position as early as possible.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) again referred to the supply of equipment to Australian forces in battle areas. The Opposition has failed badly in the equipment controversy, because all of its charges have been proved to be baseless. Last Friday, the right honorable gentleman exhibited in this chamber certain photographs of Australian Army equipment, and the Sunday newspapers gave great prominence to them, but his allegations, which were supported by those photographs, were proved to the satisfaction of all reasonable members to be unjustified. The right honorable gentleman stated that lieutenant-colonels and others were supplying him with information and were able to write to him about the number of casualties. I suppose that, if a private attempted to convey such information to a member of Parliament, the censor would intercept the letter and the man would be dealt with.Some of the people who write these letters are endeavouring to engage in a form of sabotage. It has been stated that these people are willing to come forward for the purpose of giving information about the equipment position. My view is that they should be given an opportunity to do so, in order that their statements may be tested. I recall that a war correspondent was very lightly dealt with, perhaps properly so, for a certain offence, and I recollect that various photographs were published with misleading captions. Evidently politics in connexion with this controversy have reached a very low level.
– It does not appear to be unimportant to front-line troops who require equipment.
– A few days ago, I entertained a private soldier at luncheon and heard a story about equipment entirely different from those recounted by members of the Opposition. The troops have praised the work that has been done, and realize the difficulties confronting the Government in getting supplies to them in certain battle areas. This controversy has a political purpose, but to date, it has not been successful. I may suggest to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that an opportunity be given to those who so desire, to come forward for the purpose of giving their information. All of them appear to be colonels and lieutenantcolonels.
– The honorable member has quoted the opinions of colonels and lieu tenant-colonels.
– We have quoted the opinions of privates, sergeants, captains and colonels.
– That is an afterthought. If the background of those gentlemen were traced, it might be found that they occupied prominent positions in the anti-Labour parties before the war. Some of these statements should be tested fully so that, they may be exposed.
– What about the letter which Captain Lee wrote to me?
– If the Minister will issue that invitation publicly, the majority of troops will offer to give evidence.
– I should like them to do so. The right honorable member for Darling Downs referred to Captain Lee. As that gentleman has not crossed my path, I am not able to refer to him authoritatively. However, the Government has cross-examined closely a number of persons about the supply of equipment.
– Did the Government cross-examine privates, colonels, or generals ?
– We cross-examined the persons who bear the responsibility in this matter. If they are not competent to perform their duties, or do not give correct information, there is only one course to follow with them, The same law should apply to them as would apply to ordinary soldiers. They should be put in a place where they would no longer have this responsibility.
The honorable member has probably, on a number of occasions, been in the same position as I was in the crossexamination of these gentlemen. We have fully tested the matter from all aspects. I shall ascertain what has been done about Captain Lee’s charges.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to a matter of importance to which I listened with attention. He gave a practical exposition of a matter which, as he states, should have received attention long ago. I do not consider that persons engaged in the disposal of these vehicles should be put in the position in which he says they find themselves. If the prices authorities failed to arrive at a decision regarding prices, they have, I think, had sufficient time to do it. The honorable member said that the matter was first referred to them in January. I shall take the direct course of approaching the prices authorities to see if a decision can be obtained.
– Will the Minister also inquire regarding the importation of Bedford trucks from the United Kingdom ?
– Yes. Good service can be rendered by honorable members in directing attention to matters of this kind, because Ministers are not always aware of what is taking place.
Reference was also made to the dairying industry. That matter is outside my province, but the figures cited by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) appeared to contradict his statement. According to my notes he said that in 1940, the production of butter amounted to 93,000 tons, whilst in ] 943-44 it was 157,000 tons and in 1944-45 139,000 tons.
– The Minister is mixing butter figures with milk production figures.
– On the figures presented by the honorable member, he appeared to have made a good case for the Government, because the production in the last couple of years was shown to be greater than, in 1940, when an antiLabour Government supported by the honorable member was in power. The honorable gentleman also referred to milk production, which he said had dropped since 1940. The honorable member spoke of the export trade and directed attention to certain comparative figures, but he failed to mention that until recently nearly 500,000 Americans have been living in Australia or in the SouthWest Pacific Area, and that we have supplied them with foodstuffs.
– The Government had commitments to Great Britain.
– Those commitments can be measured in more ways than one. We have a commitment to Great Britain to hold Australia, and in honoring that obligation it was necessary to provide food for the people who were fighting for u3. Therefore we were fulfilling that commitment.
– Production has continued to decline.
– The honorable member takes a “ cock-eyed “ view of the position. A good effort has been made byAustralia. I hesitate to mention the drought, which has seriously affected production, because the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture (Mr. Scully) was, of course, responsible for that. It is most unfortunate that he did not cause rain to fall when it was needed.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to a military offender serving a sentence in a civil gaol. The case may he better than he represented it to be. I agree that there is some reason for objection to putting military offenders with seasoned criminals in State penitentiaries. The honorable member also claimed special consideration for the man he mentioned because of the past medical history of the family, but, because there is insanity in a family, it does not necessarily follow that the children would be mentally afflicted. I am disposed to be generous regarding the matter. I shall take it up with the Minister concerned and let the honorable member peruse the file. If I could help this man I should like to do it. .
It is true that I am chairman of a committee which is investigating the case of Mrs. Pedvin. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that this woman is still receiving dunning letters. I shall inquire whether that is so. When the honorable member first said that these letters were still being sent by the department I remarked that I would take whatever steps I could to stop them, because no pressure should be put on Mrs. Pedvin until the completion of the committee’s investigation. I am informed by the officers of the department that the rent collector calls in the usual way, and that that is all that has happened since They deny that any letters have been sent by them. I must leave the matter at that, until other evidence is produced. If further evidence is forthcoming, I shall endeavour to see that nothing is done to prejudice the case.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act - National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (88).
House adjourned at 5.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Impressment of Small Craft.
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Mr.Scully. - The information is being obtained but delay will ensue because of work involved’.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice-
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
Re-establishment of Ex-servicemen.
r asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for
Comm erce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Mr.Scully.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows- 1 and 2. A special committee wasappointed to investigate the dairying industry, Which recommended an increase of 37/3d. per lb. The Government did not immediately give that amount, but from the 1st April, 1043, a subsidy Of £6,500,000 was paid. This meanta far greater return to the dairy farmer than that which would have been obtained had the committee’s original recommendation been accepted.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
Mr.Chifley-Theinformation is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
s asked the Minister in Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
Will the Minister make urgent inquiries into the report that research conducted by the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide shows that an oil extracted from theGeraldton wax plant contains all the attributesof penicillin without the disadvantages associated with that drug?
– This research is being undertaken at the suggestion of Sir Howard Florey and is an extension to Australian flora of work being carried out at the University of Oxford. The oils extracted from a variety of Australian plants have been examined for bactericidal properties. The oil from the flower of the Geraldton wax plant has proved to have a higher bactericidal action than any other plant which has so far been tested at the institute. However, the institute has ‘made no claim that this oil is superior to penicillin. So far, only a small amount of the crude oil has been obtained, and it is impossible to make any definite statements as to its usefulness as a therapeutic agent until pure samples have been prepared;. The crude oil is now in process of purification.
War-time Restriction s.
s asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australianair Force: ILL Treatment of Airman.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450608_reps_17_182/>.