17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and’ read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjournto to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Post-war Strength and Nature.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister able to indicate the probable post-war strength and nature of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, and thus furnish information for the benefit of those who may contemplate a career in them after the general demobilization of the services has taken place?
– The Governmentis not in a position to make a statement at present. Numerous factors will have to be considered before a decision can be made.
Censorshipof Political News
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information concerning the censorship of news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whereby a Mr. McCall must approve of any political statement madeoutside the Parliament by any member of it before such a statement can be broadcast? Is it true that, under this censorship, if the Acting Prime Minister announced the end of thewar with Japan in the corridors of this House, that announcement could not be broadcast to a waiting world if Mr. McCall were at lunch, or were unavailable for any other cause? Does not this place too much emphasis on the importance of Mr. McCall?
– Something has come to my notice in relation to the fact that Mr. McCall is the censor of political news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not know whether the censorship relates to statements inside or outside the House. The only complaint that I have heard is that, at times, news may be released at an hour when Mr. McCall is not available to censor it. His judgment has not been questioned. I am not acquainted with all the details.I had proposed to make diplomatic inquiries.
Strike on South Maitland Coal-field.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is intended that members of the Maitland District Deputies Association shall be prosecuted for breaches of the Coal Control Regulations. Is not the present strike an outstanding example of a refusal by those members to accept a ruling of the New South Wales Industrial Commission? Why have prosecutions been withheld ?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me some days ago foa- information in regard to this industrial dispute, and when he mentioned the matter again yesterday, I pointed out to him that I had prepared a statement, but had not been able to bring it up to date because of further developments. Before lunch to-day, I obtained additional information from the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley). That statement is available for presentation to the honorable gentleman. The matter in dispute was heard by Mr. Justice Cantor. He upheld the management in regard to a deputy named Wilson against whom certain allegations were made. A strike occurred as the result. Last week-end a conference was held between officials of the organization, a representative of the Coal Commissioner - I believe it was Mr. Negus - and the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and agreement was reached ‘between the parties. I understand that that agreement was repudiated by the deputies on Monday night. I discussed the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and set out the particulars in my statement to the honorable member. To-day an attempt is being made by the deputies’ association, with the representative of the Coal Commissioner, to get the men back to work to-morrow. I do not condone what has happened; I deeply regret it because of its serious effects on the supply of coal.
– In view of what has happened, will the men be prosecuted?
– I indicated in the last paragraph of my statement that if the men resumed work to-morrow prosecutions would probably he waived. That paragraph clearly sets out the position.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the amounts to be allocated as adjustment money in connexion with the various pools covering the subsidy on stock feed have yet been paid to the Australian Wheat Board as a set-off against its overdraft? Will he give favorable consideration to the proposal of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation that the Australian Wheat Board should compute the amount which should be paid to it and .finally adjust the payment in order to bring it into conformity with the price realized for wheat apart from stock feed?
– There has been delay in making the adjustment owing to some legal difficulty on which the Australian Wheat Board has asked for a ruling. Owing to pressure of work in the Crown Law Department, the ruling has not yet been given, but I do not expect that there will be any delay in making the adjustment when it is delivered. The suggestions made by the Wheat-growers Federation have .been considered, and everything possible will be done to make a satisfactory decision on the contentious matter of the amount to be paid in respect of stock-feed. I assure the honorable gentleman that it is not the Government’s intention to do anything that would interfere in any way with the agreement previously reached between the Government and the Australian Wheat Board.
– In view of the Acting Attorney-General’s statement that the Communist party has been responsible for two major acts of attempted fifth.col unl 111mn during the war, in each of which Mr. E. Thornton has been the party’s eager spearhead, and in view of the protest by the executive of the Australian Workers Union against Mr. Thornton being permitted to represent Australia at the World Trade Union Conference at Paris, will the Acting Attorney-General, on the grounds of security, request the Minister for the Interior to refuse to grant a passport to Mr. Thornton to leave Australia owing to the clanger to the Commonwealth through being represented abroad by such a delegate?
– The two incidents referred to by the honorable member occurred1 some time ago.
– But Mr. Thornton has not changed his. spots.
– The two incidents are fairly well known; sometimes it is wise that the community should be reminded that such things have happened. On the subject of security, in relation to Mr. Thornton’s declaration against the White Australia policy, I doubt whether that statement could be brought within the compass of a security investigation. However, I am very much concerned about this matter, and I con.sider that every step should be taken, by those of us who dissociate ourselves from this man’s declaration and his policy generally, to let the world at large know definitely that he does not represent Australian Labour opinion on this sub ject.
– Is the’ Government going to pay Mr. Thornton’s expenses?
– No. A number of conditions must be complied with before a passport can ‘be issued, and an import- ant one is that a clearance be granted to the applicant by the Taxation Department. 1 hold the view, and I hope that my colleagues agree with me and will support me, that we should examine very closely the utterance of this man in any part of the world and should take early steps to repudiate any of them, whether they have relation to the White Australia policy or any other subject, which conflict with the views of the Labour movement in Australia.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether Mr. Thornton can go abroad to represent the Australian trade union movement withouttravelling facilities, including a permit, priority, &c. ? Unless his trip is ‘financed overseas, can he go abroad without being provided with facilities in foreign currency through permission of the Commonwealth Treasury? If the answer to either or .both of those questions is “Yes”, does the Government propose to provide Mr. Thornton with facilities to travel ?
– Mr. Thornton would not be able to travel unless facilities were provided, including those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Unless finance is provided overseas, Mr.- Thornton would require to have credit made available to him. Therefore, the answer to the right honorable gentleman’s first two questions is “ Yes “. As to whether the Government will provide facilities for Mr. Thornton to travel, I shall have the matter examined in consultation with the Acting Attorney-General, having regard to what he hae said.
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral made a very serious charge of fifth-column activity against Mr. Thornton. It would appear that both incidents to which he referred occurred before Mr. Thornton went abroad as the official representative of Australia. 1 ask the Acting Prime Minister why, in those circumstances, he was permitted to go abroad as the official representative of Australia? What factors influenced the Government in bearing the cost of his journey? What was the total cost to the taxpayers as the result of that action of the Government?
– My recollection is that Mr. Thornton went abroad as a representative appointed by the trade union movement. I am not clear as to what the incidents were that were the subject of the question asked by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) of the Acting Attorney-General. I have arranged to discuss with the Acting Attorney-General the payment of expenses to delegates to overseas conventions. I shall let the honorable gentleman have a statement on that matter.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the question asked by the Acting Attorney-General which reads -
In whose corner is Mr. Thornton going to be if the views of the Australian Labour movement clash at Paris with the views of international communism, of which he is one of the senior Australian apostles?
Has the Government any power to veto his appointment or to take such action as will forestall any possible embarrassment to the Government and Australia through any misrepresentation of view on Australian economic policies?
– I have not seen the statement. I have no doubt that the Acting Attorney-General is quite capable of answering questions relating to the views which he has expressed, and also that, on any matters which he considers to be of moment to Australia, he will represent his views to the Government.
Free Passages - TRANSPORT from Great Britain.
– by leave - Under the regulations issued in accordance with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, provision has been made for the grant of free passages to the Commonwealth for the wives, widows and children of members of the Australian forces .who, during the war, have married abroad. In view of the fact that honorable members have made frequent representations to me with a view to accelerating the transport to Australia of these wives and children, I have much pleasure in informing the House that 50 wives and 28 children of Australian servicemen arrived in Sydney from the United Kingdom this morning. The majority of these wives and children are dependants of Royal Australian Air Force personnel. ‘Comprehensive arrangements were made for their reception and entertainment on arrival, and, in this connexion, I quote the following extract from a letter I received this morning from the wife of an Australian serviceman who arrived in Tasmania from the United Kingdom: -
I have received many letters from my folk in Britain since arriving, and it has been a wonderful help to them in the parting to know that the reception we received on arrival in this country was so wonderful and that everything possible was done to enable us to feel welcome here. So it is not only my sincere thanks I send to you, but also those of my dear parents back in London.
It is considered that, despite shipping difficulties, the flow of wives and children of Australian servicemen to Australia is satisfactory. Five hundred and fifty-four applications for passages have been lodged in the United Kingdom on behalf of wives, and 200 for childrenThree hundred and forty wives and 131 children have arrived in Australia. These figures refer to actual application* for passages only, but I am obtaining information regarding all wives and children of servicemen still overseas in respect of whom applications have not yet been lodged. Dependants of servicemen are now coming to Australia in large numbers since the cessation of hostilities in Europe, and we hope that they all will be here before long. The number which I have mentioned dom not include those who have come from Canada, the United States of America and the Middle East.
– Neither does it include the English widows of servicemen.
– Yes, it includes a number of widows from Great Britain.
– I have received an air-mail letter, dated the 4th June, from the widow of an Australian pilot in Great Britain. After relating that she , had interviewed the Australia House authorities, the letter continues -
They say that no widows of Australian servicemen have left this country for Australia, yet the Minister for Repatriation informs you otherwise. Also, in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 10th April, 1945, there is published a statement made by Mr. Frost, the Minister for Repatriation, to the effect that 424 wives and 140 children had arrived in Australia; this included six widows, leaving only the small number of twenty widows to be transported to Australia. When I asked the repatriation people at Australia House about this, I was informed that these widows must have been Australian born, as Australian-horn widows are the only ones who have left the country.
Will the Minister investigate this matter and ensure that the twenty women who were left behind are included in the next draft?
– I shall investigate the matter. Some widows of Australian servicemen have arrived in Australia from Great Britain. As they were married overseas it is improbable that they are Australian born. Since hostilities have ceased in Europe, we hope to bring all wives and widows of Australian servicemen to Australia within a few months.
Prices- Victorian Supplies
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the latest alibi of the Premier of Victoria regarding his government’s failure to maintain fodder reserves? Is he aware that the Premier of Victoria has stated that Victoria’s inability to build up fodder reserves against drought is due to the action of the Prices Commission in fixing the price of fodder at too low a level? Will the Minister arrange for a reply to be sent to Mr. Dunstan pointing out that Tasmania has provided Victoria with 7,000 tons of fodder, Western Australia is providing 14,000 tons and South Australia 8,000 tons, whilst New South Wales has already provided 16,000 tons and is, I understand, to provide another 2,000 tons for Victoria. In view of this, will the Minister ask the Victorian Premier to explain how it is that other States have been able to conserve fodder and sell it to Victoria at the price fixed by the Prices Commissioner?
– The points raised by the honorable member relate to matters administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs through the Prices Commissioner. The Prices Commissioner has been in touch with me on the subject and is preparing a kill statement about it, which will not show Mr. Dunstan in a very favorable light.
– As railway washaways and wet weather in Western Australia are, I understand, likely to hold up the deliveries of fodder to the seaboard of that State, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what the effect will be on the maintenance cf supplies to Victoria? Has he any information about likely deliveries to Victoria within the next few weeks?
– The honorable member for Bourke, who is concerned about fodder supplies in his area, informed me that he intended to ask this question. The SS. Koolenay Park, carrying 450 tons of fodder, and the SS. Kenilworth, carrying 2,150 tons, are due to arrive in Melbourne within the next week. The latter consignment is the fodder that was to be diverted to New South Wales, but I have arranged that 1,550 tons will be unloaded in Melbourne owing to the conditions that have occurred in Western Australia. The SS. Skagerak is at Fremantle, and is scheduled to load 500 tons for New South Wales. There is doubt whether the Skagerak will be able to call at Victoria. I have asked my officials in Melbourne to watch the position closely. If the Skagerak is unable to call, they are to take at least another 500 tons of fodder off the Kenilworth. With the consent of the Minister of Agriculture in New South Wales, 2,000 tons of rice hay and straw, which is being harvested in New South Wales, is to be diverted to Victoria. Cutting of that hay was under way, but wet weather has delayed operations. As soon as the weather clears the cutting will be continued, and the hay made available to meet the emergencies that have arisen in Victoria.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether it is a fact that no contract* for the production of vegetables are to be allotted this season to the Western District of Victoria?
– It is not a fact. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has approached me on this subject, and I have been in contact -with the Deputy Controller-General of Food, Mr. C. Massey. I have asked for a report upon this work, which is carried on through the State Departments of Agriculture. In a telephone conversation, Mr. Massey informed me that there had been a considerable reduction of contracts for vegetable production throughout Victoria in some specific varieties such as carrots, of which a considerable reserve is held, beetroot, and other root vegetables. The production required in the forthcoming season will be much smaller than that required last season owing to the fact that service demands will not be nearly so great as previously. I have asked Mr. Massey to arrange that the reduction shall he made proportionately in the various districts. The Government has been reluctant to reduce the contracts, but, in view of the declining demand, it has had no option but to do so.
Releases - Establishment Investigation Committee - -RE-ORGANIZATION
– Can the Minister for Air inform me whether there as any truth in the report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 15th June that members of the Royal Australian Air Force were kept standing in the rain for an hour and a half at Bradfield Park while the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Sewell, addressed them on the subject of releases? If the report be true, will the Minister take steps to prevent a recurrence of anything of the kind?- If the report is not true, will he state the facts of the case?
– by leave- The honorable member was good enough to inform me that he intended to ask a question on this subject. The report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph read -
More than 500 returned Royal Australian Air force air crew officers and mcn who paraded m the rain at Bradfield Park yesterday morning were offered three options. . . .
One of the officers said : “ The men were forced to stand for more than one and a half hours on the parade ground, despite several downpours of rain which drenched them. “ Permission to got under cover was refused by the Commanding Officer (Wing Commander Sewell), despite the fact that he spoke from a sheltered- doorway. This caused considerable unrest among the already discontented aircrew men.”
The report purported to give the effect of an address by the commanding officer at No. 2 Personnel Depot, Bradfield Park, Wing Commander F. A. Sewell, D.F.C. It is, however, untrue and deliberately misrepresents what took place at the parade. According to the newspaper, an officer claimed that he and some 500 men had to stand in the rain while the commanding officer addressed them from a sheltered position. This was a gross injustice to Wing Commander Sewell, who has had wide experience in the handling of men. The tacts, since supported by voluntary statements signed by numbers of personnel present, and handed to the commanding officer, were that men had been assembled on their normal parade. To acquaint air crews of a recent Air Board order concerning new conditions of discharge, Wing Commander Sewell read the order aloud to the assembled men. The reading occupied fifteen minutes.
Before it was concluded, light rain began to fall. Wing Commander Sewell immediately said: “Gentlemen, I do not intend you to get wet. I will dismiss the parade and call you in after it ha* stopped.” The men immediately left for their respective messes. There were hundreds of witnesses to testify that they had not been kept in the rain. At no time was the commanding officer under shelter, nor was he wearing a top-coat. The parade was resumed five or six minutes later, when the weather had cleared. The remarks attributed to Wing Commander Sewell, concerning personnel giving statements to newspapers and the great concern of the Air Board at the adverse publicity, which claimed that highly skilled men were doing nothing around the depots, were definitely untrue. Wing Commander Sewell said : “ Now, gentlemen, Air Force Head-quarters are having a very difficult time at present. It is a period when we should give all our loyalty and fullest co-operation to the Air Force. It is against regulations to make any statements to the press. I ask you not to go to newspapers, for the reason that statements made often become very distorted.” The silence of the airmen was due to the fact that they were on parade. Despite Wing Commander Sewell’s advice to the officers about giving statements to the press, apparently an irresponsible officer made a statement which showed that he had completely misunderstood the orders that had been read verbatim by Wing Commander Sewell. Wing Commander Sewell had taken particular care to clarify the position of men placed on reserve. It was false to suggest that the men were annoyed because no pronouncement about discharges had been made. All the officers and men were given a clear, concise statement by the commanding officer when he read the Air Board order detailing the several alternatives open to personnel should they wish to secure discharges or stay in the service. He particularly emphasized that personnel transferred to the reserve in accordance with the order would, for the purpose of all financial and other entitlements accruing from their service, be treated as discharged men. This meant that they would draw their deferred pay in the normal way. After Wing Commander
Sewell’s address, 66 officers applied for discharge, as they were entitled to do under the Air Board order that had been read to them. I deplore the statements that frequently are published in the press without any attempt at verification. To me, the purpose seems to he to cause dissatisfaction and to affect adversely the morale of members of the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Can the Minister for Air name the personnel of the Establishment Investigation Committee of the Royal Australian Air Force? The names of the committees in the other services have been already announced.
– The names have been given in a statement released to the press to-day. The chairman is Mr. later, an ex-Attorney-‘General and an ex-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, who has had military service, and in addition has been the representative of the Australian Government at Moscow. The other members are : Group Captain Richards, Deputy Director of Organization of the Royal Australian Air Force, and Mr. Gerald Packer, who has had a very wide and lengthy experience of Air Force matters, but is now a civilian.
– I ask the Minister for Air how long it will take for the reduction of base establishments of the Royal Australian Air Force to be completed? Also, in view of the decision to grant surplus air crews the option of release or remuster, will he consider discontinuing the so-called “ refresher “ courses, by means of which many men who have had operational flying experience overseas are taken off flying duties? These courses are known as “ scrubbo “ courses, and should be discontinued during the interim period of re-organization.
– I cannot say bow long it will take for the investigating committee to complete its report, but it has authority to commence work immediately, and I have asked it to report promptly with the object of making reductions of a substantial nature as soon as possible. The second part of the honorable member’s question relates to a very involved matter. My opinion is that men who have returned from operational service should not be ex pected to go through refresher courses with the object of being disqualified from further flying duties. I know that many allegations that the courses are designed for this purpose have been made in the press. Those statements are not justified by the facts; they have been greatly exaggerated. I agree that the men who are to be disposed of so that they can take up civil occupations should not be subjected to the type of tests, which, because of their lack of refresher training and of experience of the types of aircraft used, are likely to disqualify them from further flying. I appreciate the value of the service rendered by these men. They should be treated considerately, and 3 believe that they are receiving considerate treatment notwithstanding the continued misrepresentation of the facte by the newspapers for a definite purpose.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether a war agricultural committee, operating in a district close to Sydney, recently compiled a report giving specific instances of potato, vegetable and other essential crops having had to be ploughed in because of bungling by officials? Did the committee concerned ask that a copy of its report be forwarded to Commonwealth and State Ministers for their information! ? Did the Director of War Agricultural Committees, Mr. Crane, or the head-quarters of the organization in Sydney, refuse point-blank to permit the report to reach Ministers? Has the Minister seen a copy of the report referred to? As taxpayers’ money is involved, will he arrange for it to be tabled in the House next week?
– I have not seen the report mentioned, and have received information in regard to the matter only indirectly. The right honorable member is aware that the administration of district and local war agricultural committees is directly under the Department of Agriculture in the States concerned. So far as I am aware, no report has been withheld from Commonwealth and. .State Ministers. I should take a most serious view of such action.
– Will the Minister make inquiries ?
– I shall secure all the information available, and call for a report as suggested.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction when we oan expect the establishment of the employment service contemplated by the Re-establishment and Employment Bill?
– The employment service under the Re-establishment and Employment Bill is being developed. Difficulties associated with the engagement of individuals from State departments are being gradually overcome. It is hoped that this service will be available almost immediately when the legislation has been passed. I am assured that, meanwhile, rehabilitation services are. being provided for discharged servicemen, and that there has not been any complaint of inattention to rehabilitation matters.
– Will the new service supersede the existing service of the Department of Labour and National Service ?
– The functions will be quite separate from those that arc being discharged at present by the Department of Labour and National Service. This will be an entirely new service, and will be for the specific purpose designed. As soon as all the difficulties have been overcome, the service will be provided on a national scale.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the extreme delays, extending up to nine months, that are occurring in meeting orders by primary producers for supplies of wire netting, fencing wire and galvanized iron? Will he consider importing from overseas sufficient quantities of these materials to meet all demands by primary producers?
– T am aware of and very much alarmed at. the serious delays that are occurring in this connexion. The position is becoming more acute daily, because the requests for materials that are urgently required for essential purposes are increasing. The DirectorGeneral of Agriculture is making inquiries and securing reports, but the future is not at all reassuring. I have asked him to make to me a submission that I may place before the Production Executive and Cabinet, with a view to devising speedy means for securing quantities that will meet the most urgent demands.
– Is it true that H.M.A.S. Australia has been despatched to Great Britain for repairs and that before its departure many members of the ship’s company who fought in the South-West Pacific campaign were displaced by men with little or no active service? If so, can the Minister for the Navy say why?
– It is true that H.M.A.S. Australia has gone to the United Kingdom for essential repairs and re-equipment. When a ship of the Australia class proceeds to operational waters it is necessary to add considerably to its complement. Many men classed as gunners’ assistants are carried only when the ship goes into waters where operations are expected. On the return of Australia to the port of Sydney after having been damaged in action, it was determined that the extensive repairs would have to be made in Great Britain. So the extra men carried for operational purposes were transferred. Others who volunteered for transfer also left the vessel. I am not aware of any additions having been made to the ship’s personnel, but I shall have inquiries made, and make a further reply to the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping with a view to the lifting of the few remaining restrictions on the manufacture of men’s and women’s clothing? The man-power used in the policing of styles would be better used in some other way in the war effort.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is chairman of a sub-committee of Cabinet which is examining controls generally. We shall give very close consideration to the matter raised by the honorable gentleman.
– In the Acting Prime Minister’s statement of last Monday regarding the settlement of exservicemen on the land, he is reported to have said that 21 projects, involving 360,000 acres, for such settlement had been submitted by the New South Wales Government. Can he say whether the Commonwealth Government proposes to grant licences to the prospective settlers on those farms to grow wheat, or to enter into the whole milk trade? Will the settlers be given the same treatment as regards production as is given to any other farmers in the Commonwealth?
– I do not know that there has been sufficient time for the Commonwealth Government and the State Government in conjunction to investigate the suitability of the land offered by the State Government for various agricultural pursuits. I shall endeavour to ascertain the exact position for the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make a statement regarding the situation arising from the strike of sugar-workers in Victoria? Are negotiations still proceeding, and is the Government involved in the negotiations? When does the Minister expect a resumption of work?
– The negotiations are proceeding. The managing director of the company concerned, Mr. Rofe, is meeting the representatives of our people in Sydney to-day.
– Whom does the Minister mean when he refers to “our people”?
– The representatives of the trade unions -the people to whom I belong. The conference is proceeding in Sydney to-day.
– In view of the in creased strength of the forces now operating in the South- West Pacific Area, and the general improvement of the war situation in this theatre of war, will the Acting Prime Minister again discuss with the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington the feasibility of retaking Ocean Island and Nauru in order that phosphatic rock may be produced from those islands for the agricultural industries of Australia? Our primary industries are badly in need of phosphates, and a resumption of imports of phosphatic rock would increase food production.
– This subject was discussed by the Advisory War Council when it was raised by non-government members some time ago. It was the subject of representations by the Prime Minister during his visit to the United Kingdom, and, at a later date, further representations were made by the Government to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I do not wish to go into details, but at a recent meeting of the Advisory War Council it was stated that when the Deputy Prime Minister was in Washington recently he made special representations on this matter. Everything possible is being done to arrange for a resumption of the production of phosphatic rock at Ocean Island and Nauru Island.
– In view of the international activity in securing extensions of leases of oil-bearing country throughout the world, will the Government consider acquiring, by lease or otherwise, the mineral rights to oilbearing islands near Australia in the interests of Australia’s future development, both industrially and otherwise?
– This question requires extensive examination. I promise to have the matter considered by the Government in the national interest.
Debate resumed from the 19th June (vide page 3282). on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
, - We are called upon to vote from Consolidated Revenue an amount of £55,557,000 towards the services of the country in the financial year 1945-46. During the preceding year £505,000,000 was appropriated for war purposes. We have not yet seen the budget for next year, and we do not know what the Government proposes to do to reduce war expenditure, and in other ways to lighten the burden of taxation on the people. The responsibilities of the Government are great in time of war, and it has been clothed with great powers which it has freely used. New departments have been created, and organizations established which it will be hard to disband unless the Government is firm. We did not make preparation for war, and we were a Jong way behind our opponents when the war started. We do not want to be as far behind in our preparations for peace. Like other overseas countries, we should set about preparing for peace now, and one of the first and most important steps is to reduce taxation. A great part of the revenue raised by taxation is devoted to servicing our national debt. At the beginning of this year Australia’s indebtedness was £2,367,000,000. This problem of indebtedness is one of the most serious which will face the postwar world. After the last war, a conference of nations was held to consider international debts, and some progress was made towards solving the problem, when the Government of the United States of America withdrew its delegates, and the conference fizzled out. I am sure that a safe and equitable solution of internal debts could be found by international agreement if the nations of the world would devote their energy and initiative to seeking it. [t should be possible to relieve the nations of much of the excess burden of debt which is largely responsible for keeping taxes at a high level. Once this problem was solved, it would be possible to resume normal international trade, and a period of peace and prosperity would be ushered in.
I hope that Commonwealth expenditure next year will be greatly reduced. I cannot see why it should be necessary to expend £500,000,000 this year on the war because the danger of invasion has passed and no new activity has been started. There is no need to maintain a great military organization with hundreds of thousands of men under arms in Australia, and vast stores of material and equipment, as if we were still expecting to be invaded. The danger of invasion has passed, and if we are to prepare ourselves against the next invasion threat we ought to get back as quickly as possible to normal economic conditions. The Government should appoint a committee, either from outside this Parliament or from inside it, to examine war expenditure with a view to reducing it. The service authorities are still retaining the use of great buildings, and are keeping out of use quantities of machinery and great numbers of motor cars, as well as tyres and petrol, for which the community has urgent need. Man-power should be released from the services to embark upon, forms of production which are already well under way in other countries. Only last week, we read in the newspapers that the Nuffield organization at Coventry expected to export 100,000 motor cars by the end of this year. We must look to our laurels if we hope to take our place in the commerce of the post-war world. Eighteen months ago, I urged that 200,000 men should be released from the services, and at thai time many honorable members thought my request ridiculous. Since then, about 100,000 have been released in dribs and drabs, and we were informed the other day that it was proposed to release another 50,000 before the end of the year. Many of these men have been engaged in active operations, and in the intervening eighteen months they might very well have been employed in industry. For the lack of their labour we have already, to a considerable degree, lost outplace in the markets of the world. Our concern after the war, should not be merely to find work for our present population. We must develop new productive industries which will provide work for an increasing number of our people. Trade is the lifeblood of the country. Our prosperity must rest upon it. Everything possible should be done, therefore, not only to regain the place which wo formerly held in world trade but also to occupy new and more important positions. Only in this way shall we be able to meet our financial commitments. But we are in danger of losing some of the markets which we formerly supplied. We know, for example, that France is doing its utmost to increase its output of wines, whereas Australian production has deteriorated due to war conditions and drought. Steps should be taken to revive this industry and many others that have suffered from the same causes. We must do our utmost, also, to increase our water and power resources in order to stimulate industry. After the last war many returned soldiers were established in the wine industry. We shall have to find room for many more in this and other industries in the near future if we expect to maintain and develop our trade. The Government should have in mind the welfare of both the workers and the proprietors of various industries which may need assistance.
It is particularly important that every effort should be made to associate scientific investigation with our industrial and commercial enterprises to a greater degree than ever before. It will be necessary, in the years to come, for us to produce in greater quantity and better quality and with more ease if we are to hold our position in the world’s markets. In the past both Russia and Germany have realized the importance of linking science with industry, and Great Britain, as we know, wa3 in the vanguard in this respect. In Canada between 200 and 300 experimental farms have been established under the control of qualified scientists, and primary producers from all parts of the Dominion visit these institutions from time to time in order to obtain instruction in the latest and most scientific methods of operating their various enterprises. In Australia we have an important production belt in our coastal areas in the east and in the west, but great territories of our inland country have been practically neglected except for raising sheep and cattle. An indication of what can he done has been given to us by Russian scientists, who have developed a type of early ripening wheat that can be grown in the short summer period in the Caucasus mountain area and even within . its snow belt. Australia, of course, has some achievements to its credit. Not many years ago
Mr. Remnard Corser. we had to import all the rice consumed in this country, but by the application of scientific methods and the provision of water conservation schemes, we are now able, in normal times, to grow more rice than wo need for home consumption. Any wise expenditure that we may incur in encouraging the adoption of scientific methods will repay ns tenfold and more. 1 advocate that practical men associated with various industries should be sent abroad from time to time to make investigations of the latest scientific developments in other countries. In the past we have sought the aid of scientists to deal with the bot-fly and the blow-fly pests, but we need to do much more work of that kind than has ever been done in the past. In particular, we need to develop industrial activities on the positive side, and not to confine our attention to the eradication of pests. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ha? done fine work, and, given due encouragement by increased finance, it could do much more.
We shall need to provide new methods pf transport to take our surplus primary products to overseas markets, and in this respect I direct attention to the importance of maintaining, in proper condition, the many air-fields and air-strips that have been constructed in different parts of Australia for defence purposes, some of which to-day, unfortunately, are almost deserted and are deteriorating rapidly. We shall need to adopt air transport for goods as well as passengers in the days to come. The dairy-farmers of New Zealand have produced a cheese of low fat content which will be sought after by the people of Europe. They have also developed other delicacies of the dairying industry by the use of fat oils, which can be transported abroad :by air without refrigeration. We shall need to engage in investigations of that description, and we should be making arrangements now to do so, in order that Ave may be able to take advantage of markets that will become available immediately the war in the Pacific ends.
I trust that the Government will give earnest consideration to these suggestions, apart from any thought of party politics. We shall need especially to give earnest consideration immediately to the land settlement of our ex-service personnel. A great deal has been said in this House lately on that subject, and I shall merely point out that already 60,000 ex-service nien and women have returned to civil life; yet, so far, not one agreement has been made between the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to land settlement. I know that the settling of our men on the land is to a considerable degree a State responsibility. I do not make that accusation against New South Wales, because it was settling servicemen on leaseholds before the agreement was suggested. I urge the Government to ensure that practical men shall direct operations under the agreements which the States have been asked to sign. Theorists and economists may be necessary for some purposes, but they should not have the guidance of the practical operations that are necessary to ensure the prosperity of primary producers. Housing, generally, is being held up. I do not know what provision, man-.power and materials, the Government is making. Millions of feet of first-class timber, and large quantities of imported galvanized iron, have been used in the construction of buildings throughout the country which are now unoccupied. The whole of that material should he sold for use in the building of homes. Why leave the matter until after the war? Many controls should be discontinued. Only yesterday, I pointed out that the War Service Homes Commission will not make an advance for the building of a home on a miners’ homestead lease, despite the fact that that is the only form of tenure that is available in mining areas, small and large, in Queensland. Yet freehold tenure is opposed to the convictions and the policy of the Government 1 Banking institutions, building societies and the like are prepared to advance money for the erection of. homes on miners’ homestead leases. Local authorities and other bodies should be empowered to issue permits for the building of homes in their areas. That would be of the greatest possible assistance. Mutual societies, such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, have millions of pounds available for the purpose of housing, and, if permitted, these funds would enable homes to be built by those who desire to obtain them.
I urge the Government to be a little more generous in connexion with releases from the Army for the assistance of primary producers. There are still many sad cases, and they are becoming sadder as the days go by, because the parents are becoming older. It is almost impossible to secure on any ground the release of men from the Army. I blame, not the Army, but the regulations, for which the Government must be held responsible. The Man Power Directorate in Queensland has been advised that men may be released for employment in the timber industry and the sugar industry, yet appeals for releases to enable garages to operate fully, so that they may make necessary repairs to combustion engines that art used on farms, are rejected. Persons who desire to do oxy-welding cannot obtain supplies of gas because, so they are told, gas containers are scarce. That excuse was offered two years ago. These containers are made of metal. Hundreds of tons of metal that is useless for other purposes and is stored and dumped throughout Australia, could be made into containers. Metals establishments are being closed because they have completed their war contracts. Why should they not make some of these containers? A sufficient number could be made in a few weeks to meet demands for the next five years.
I trust that the Government will give attention to these practical suggestions. Small though they may be, they mean a lot to the men in primary industries. I believe that the -Government is sincere in its latest plans for the release of men from the services. Yet when men are released, what happens? The Repatriation Department says that it will assist them to become rehabilitated. Take the case of the man who wants to undertake painting work. After a period, he may obtain the paints that he needs; but he then finds that he cannot .purchase ladders because they may not be made. If he is able to obtain second-hand ladders, he finds that he cannot get brushes which are in short supply. The Administration should be practical, so that men who wish to follow a trade could purchase the whole of their requirements. Only yesterday, I received a letter from a man “who said that he had exhausted all his financial resources, including his deferred pay, and was now waiting to purchase ladders so that he could undertake painting contracts. The re-establishment of exservicemen should bc done thoroughly.
In primary .production generally, this country would be well advised to revert to producer control, with the greatest possible exclusion of government control. The great dairying industry has been developed by that means. Organizations of producers would be able to find the markets that they need, and they would have a standing in the community. New Zealand is working along these lines. That dominion has a shipping line for the transport of its butter to England and Scotland, and additions to it have been made during the war. The price of New Zealand butter on the overseas market is Id. per lb. higher than Australia can obtain. In every way, it is leaping ahead of us. We’ are merely staggering along under conditions which may lead to destruction if they are allowed to continue.
I hope that, in the next budget, the Government will prune considerably the war expenditure. With a smaller Army, and the war receding farther and farther from our shores, we should turn our time, attention and money to post-war production, and make preparations for those who are to live in this country in the days of peace.
.- 1 have heard repeated ad nauseam the statement that the Communist party is a part of the Labour movement. There is some truth in the suggestion that thatparty is supported in every way by those who are opposed to the Labour party. In 1934, the Secretary of the Comintern in Russia, Mr. Dimitroff, issued a statement that was published in the Australian press, that no member of the Labour party was to .be opposed a;t general elections, but that rather the Communists should support the Labour party and, if the results of a Labour Administration were not to their satisfaction, tell the country openly that the Labour party was not prepared to do what they sug gested. That practice has been followed4, throughout the Commonwealth, except inmy electorate, where I have had the privilege and honour of being opposed by a Communist on’ five occasions. Th<Executive of the Australian Labour party in Queensland ha3 instructed thai all Communist candidates shall be placed; last in the order of preference on theballotpager. In my electorate, the Communist candidate on every occasion hai been given, by Labour voters, the No. 4 preference, and that only ‘because there have not been five candidates. We are very well aware of the intentions of the Communist party. Excusesfor that party were made by a Mr. McCarthy in Townsville, in a debate with a gentleman of the cloth of the sam (.name. He said : “ We are not concerned about what they do in Russia, or anywhere else. We are going to use our own methods in Australia to achieve our objectives, which may not be similar to those of other countries”. The Communist party, like the Liberal party, twists and turns in every direction. From 1939 up to the present time, it has consistently altered, its course. Before Russia was attacked by Germany, its cry was: “Hands off Russia! This is a capitalist war, and we should not have anything to do with it”. But where Russia entered the war, the Communist party became an advocate of conscription, and urged that every able-bodied iri an should be sent out of this country to fight. Before doing so, however, it made sure that its members were in sheltered industries, and thus were nol liable to be called up for military service abroad.
The most consistent attacker of the Communist party in the Commonwealth has been the. Australian Workers Union, to which I have belonged for many years. At all times, it has been quite open in itf attacks. During a State election campaign in Queensland about six years ago, the gentleman who had opposed me so often - F. W. Patterson, a barrister av law and a very great scholar - was supported by members of the organization that now has the name of the Liberal party. They canvassed from farm to farm, and distributed literature in> Bowen and the farms surrounding itr in the attempt to defeat the uncle of ihe honorable member for Kennedy in this House (Mr. Riordan - Dick Riordan, a Labour man. It is to the credit of some of the members of that party that they said that they were not prepared to support a Communist at any cost. The majority of them, however, assisted Patterson, because they wanted to destroy the Labour party. That is the aim also of he Communist party. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to “ shed crocodile tears” about the possible fate of this Government. Their one object in life is to defeat the Labour party, and they are actuated by economic considerations. The honorable member for Gippsland admitted it. At nearly all general elections the Communists’ second preferences have gone to anti-Labour parties, showing their readiness to go to any length to wreck the Labour movement. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite have the infernal cheek to rise in this chamber - and, with grins on their faces, say that this party i3 supported by the Communists. “We can no more prevent the Communists from supporting us than could the Liberal party prevent them from going on to the hustings and publicly proclaiming their support of the Liberal party if they made up their minds to do so. The honorable member for New England, in a low whisper, yesterday said that the Labour party supported the Communist party. He said that in New South Wales Mr. Lang had formed the non-Communist Labour party. Mr. Lang knew as well as I know that the Australian Labour party was as opposed to the Communists as was his party, but his party was set up as a part of the dirty game of politics. His intention was to destroy, if he could, the Australian Labour party, just as the members of the New Guard, which represented the political opinions of honorable gentlemen opposite, similarly tried to destroy the Labour Government in New South Wales led by Mr. Lang, not because of any personal objection to him, but because of a great fear that he would interfere with their economic interests. They would have put Mr. Lang behind bars in Berrima gaol to achieve their objective. The honorable member for
New England chided the Labour Government for having removed the ban from the Communist party. When the ban was imposed by the Menzies Government J publicly expressed my disapproval of it in this chamber. I said that it was better to let the Communists espouse their cause above ground than to drive them underground. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was the Attorney-General in the Menzies Government, knows that on the files of the Attorney-General’s Department are the roneoed sheets that were issued by the Communists in defiance of his Government’s edict, against Communist newspapers. The Communist newspapers were not suppressed, but driven underground. The Communists surmounted the ban in devious ways. Not being able to stand against me as a Communist, as he avowedly is, Mr. Patterson, at the general elections before last, nominated as “ independent socialist “, whatever that may be, but, regardless of how he described himself for electoral purposes, he was then, as he is to-day, and always has been, an out-and-out Communist. I say without fear of what any one thinks that the ‘Curtin Government did right in lifting the embargo. Every one in the community has the right to state his views publicly. If a man infringes the law heshould be appropriately dealt with, or, if the law is insufficient, it should be amended; but no man should be denied the right to be heard., whether his message be political, economic, social or religious. I am a believer in the rights of the individual and in freedom of: speech, and am not prepared to suppress my opponent because I do not agree with what he says about me. To do so would be entirely wrong. Some members of the Liberal party are honest enough to admit that they support the Communist party. I wonder where the Communists get their money from? They bought the Newsletter in Sydney for £25,000, a substantial part of which was paid in cash, and as far as 1 know, it still belongs to them. In and around Sydney, they also operate some very fine bookstalls from, which Communist literature is sold. I do not blame them for doing their best to spread their doctrine, but, the source of their income would bc a matter for wonder, but for the fact that their objective is exactly the same as that of the Liberal party, namely, the destruction of the Labour party.
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) could say where their money comes from.
– I know as much about the Communist party as he or the honorable member does. For twenty years before I entered this Parliament, and ever since, I have’ fought the Communists. The honorable member for New England said that a Communist named Jeffries had been appointed by this Government to an important position, f do not know if that is so, but, if it is, I regret it, because Jeffries is a saboteur, [n whatever position he has occupied, he has been for many years a disruptionist and no man with his record should occupy an administrative position, because, wherever he may be, his objective will be sabotage. The Communists, like the Liberal party, want to break the Labour party. I do not care whether that is their objective if they are honest enough to admit it. The Communists have never tried to mislead any one. They have said openly that it is their intention to get control of the industrial unions and political institutions of this country. Surely to God, we can watch them and ensure that they shall not. It is of no use for workers to say that the Communists have pulled the wool over their eyes, because the Communists have never hidden their intentions. Every publication, printed or roneoed, issued by the Communist party in every State of the Commonwealth, clearly states that the intention of the party is to smash the Labour party. Dimitroff, in a printed article, told the Communists to get key positions in the workshops and the shearing sheds, because they could thereby ensure that only the literature that the party wanted to have distributed should be distributed. I know that in my own electorate Communist literature is freely circulated, whereas Labour party literature, including the Queensland Worker, is dumped by the Communists where the workers cannot get it. Dimitroff told the Communists not to worry about paid positions, because the position of shop steward was much more useful. I know what is done.
It is difficult to detect the distributors of the literature. Unfortunately, the workers “ fall “ for it. The unions call meetings, and, when the decent men have become disgusted and left, the adherents of communism carry resolutions purporting to represent the opinions of all. To-day a lot has been said about “Ernie” Thornton. If the industrial unionists are prepared to elect him to represent them at a world conference. God help them! I would deport “ Ernie “ Thornton and every other Scotsman like him from the. country. The two mines in my electorate are mostly manned by Scotsmen and a worse nest of Communists I could not’ imagine. I do not think those Scotsmen had a decent feed until they came to this country; but now they are “in the money “. I suppose some one will say that (here are also Irish Communists, but they are few. Unthinking people do fall for the Communist ideals. They are forced into that by irksome things in their daily lives. They believe that many - of the restrictions and other conditions of warfare which affect them could be avoided, but, if the Opposition parties were in office, their Government would be compelled to do the same things.
– But better.
– They did not make much of a fist of their joh when they were in office. In order to throw some light on the source of the Communist party’s funds I intend to quote an article published on the 19th March, 1945, in the Queensland Worker, concerning the Baillieu family’s association with the Communist party. If it is not true, it is a wonder that Mr. John Reed has .nol taken time off to issue a writ against the Queensland Worker, because it would be a profitable venture, since it has valuable assets in property and plant. The article is as follows.’ -
That Communists have received financial hand-outs from wealthy sections of the community to conduct anti-Labour campaigns has long been the opinion of the Labour Movement. But it is not every day of the week that a wealthy man comes into the open with the admission that he has helped to finance the “Corns.” Yet that happened recently, when Mr. John Reed very well known in the South. and married toone of the wealthy Baillieu clan, declared to the world that his wife’s money, and his, had been used to back a Communist election campaign.
To innocent electors who are taughtso resolutely by the anti-Labour press that the nation would become undone under Labour’s control, it might appear incredulous that a Baillieu would associate with Communists, even at a long distance.
It might also appear very mystifying to the rank andfile of the “Commos “, whofire thebullets made by the intellectuals in secluded occupations, that money from the wealthy class would be used to break down Labour.
There is not one rank and file Communist in Australia to-day who has not been taught to regard the Baillieu group in the financial world as being a group to combat.
The name of Baillieu is well known in Australia, Britain and America. The family has been associated with some of the largest and most profitable industrial and business undertakings ever launched in the Commonwealth; wealth has simply oozed from the varied paths along which the family has traversed.
However, the fact remains that Mr. John Reed, who is editor of a publication called Angry Penguins, wrote a letter to the Communist paper. Guardian (Melbourne), protesting against on article therein.
The Communist article arose out of a hoax which had been perpetrated on Angry Penguins, by two “ poets “. who had trapped Angry Penguins into publishing some faked verses which were bailed as being the work of a poetic “ genius “.
It should be explained that Angry Penguins has published verses which nobody can understand except those who claim to have exceptionally rare gifts, and meaningless (to the untutored eye) reproductions of paintings which are in the category of ultra-modern.
Possibly, because Angry Penguins was made the laughing stock by the poetical jokers, the Communist Guardian decided to criticize, and in doing so, a writer named Neel Counihan had the following to say: - “ Each issue of Angry Penguins has revealed that wealthy John Reed (married to a Baillieu), self-acclaimed genius Max Harris, primitive’ painter Sid Nolan, and political theoretician. Albert Tucker, have adopted a more and more anti-working class, anti-Soviet position. The bulk of their journal, available for ‘ red-baiting ‘, remains strangely unaware of the menace of Fascism “.
Mr. JohnReed was naturally up in arms. He wrote to the Communist Guardian, which refused to publish his letter. So he let fly another barrel in a recent issue of his own Angry Penguins, in the course of which he stated: “I am married to a Baillieu; how terrible! The fact that my wife may be a human being, and a very fine one at that, of course does not enter into the picture at all. No, she has money, and that is the end of the story! “ The fact that her money and mine, too, has been used to support the Communist party election campaign is, of course, quite irrelevant. The fact that our money has also been used to help one of the Country party leaders is also, of course, quite irrelevant. The fact that I was treasurer for Malcolm Good’s Federal Election Campaign Committee is also quite irrelevant. . . . “
So there we have it. Nothing could be plainer than that bold statement.
Rood’s remarks clinch the opinion held by many Laborites that the “ Coms.” are being financed by other than members.
It is all very fine for the Thornton’s, the Miles, and the Sharkeys to stump the country breathing fire and brimstone against capitalism. They will have something to explain to the dupes who have been doing their work for them !
They will have something to explain, too. when they come before trade unionists who are loyal to Labour.
None of these men belongs to Australia. I am amazed that so many trade unions are prepared to accept as their leaders and highly paid officials men from other countries who know nothing about Australia. If these men were the saviours of mankind, as they claim to be, they would stay in their native lands where there are more people to be helped than in Australia. However, Australians are easy going, and apparently rather stupid: in this connexion, and they allow themselves to be led by these people, who are not fit to represent them. If Mr. Thornton had to submit his name to a properly conducted ballot of Australian unionists, I am sure that he would: not be chosen to represent the Labour movement. I regret that the trade unions have been so misguided as to select as their representative at the Paris conference, a man who has no Australian outlook, who is opposed to the White Australia policy, who is a menace to the Labour movement, and whose conduct is very convenient to the Opposition in this Parliament.
.- I am glad to know that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) dislikes the Communist party, and I congratulate him on having the courage to rise in this House and say what he thinks of the Communists. In recent months we have discussed on more than one occasion the inroads which Communists are making into the political structure of Australia ; yet, until to-day, not one member of the Labour party had told the House his real views on communism;
– I waa fighting the Communists before the honorable member was heard of in this country.
– But the honorable gentleman was not game to tell them to their faces what he thought about them.
– Does the honorable member know that I have helped to contribute to the revenue of this country through the forfeited deposits of Communist party candidates who opposed me at elections?
– Yes, and I hope that the right honorable member will continue to do so. However, there is a great difference between that and coming out in the open to expose the danger of communism to the nation. I was delighted to see that at least one honorable member on the Government side of the House had the courage to express his views. Nevertheless, the honorable member for Herbert made some statements which I cannot accept. He said that Communists were receiving some form of support from the Liberal party. The honorable gentleman’s statements could not have been further from the truth. No two political parties are more bitterly opposed than are the Liberal party and the Communist party. He endeavoured to support his argument by quoting a newspaper article which stated that a Mr. Reed and other reputedly wealthy people had contributed to the funds of the Communist party. It is quite probable that that statement is true. I know a number of rich people who are Communists. They are prepared to give of their energies, and their fortunes if necessary, in the interests of the Communist party. The fact that people in all walks of life are willing to place their services and fortunes at the disposal of a party whose only mission is to disrupt this country and establish a dictatorial totalitarian state is indicative of the great danger of communism. The honorable member for Herbert should learn more of the facts before accusing us of having anything to do with the Communist party.
– I spoke about what has been done by the honorable member’s party.
– But the honorable gentleman produced no evidence. He asked where the Communists obtained their funds. Let him look closer to home and investigate the funds of the trade unions, which to-day are largely in the hands of the Communists and have larger sums at their disposal than the financially poor party to which I belong. The Liberal party has insufficient money to carry out its policy in full, and any suggestion that it helps the finances of other parties, particularly the Communist party, is ridiculous. On some other occasion I shall tell the House my full views about communism. I know a lot about it, having had a great deal to do with it. However, the time at my disposal is brief, and I wish to refer to another important but less controversial subject.
The Acting Prime Minister said a few days ago that he would inform the House early next week of the details of proposed releases from the armed forces. Men who have had overseas service and have been in the forces for over five years should be discharged as soon as possible. However, there is another deserving category which I have not heard mentioned in this House. It includes the sons of small business men and farmers who- to-day, owing to advancing yeaTs or sickness, are no longer able to carry on their business. In the turmoil of war, we have failed to realize that the passage of six years has affected to a marked degree the working ability of men over the age of 60 years who are carrying on small businesses unaided. When a man is younger than 60 years, the passage of time makes little apparent difference to his working powers and general ability, but, when he has passed the age of 60 years, each year takes its toll. Such people need the help of their sons, who should be given a high priority for discharge from the armed forces. I have details ,of a number of typical cases. Onelady, who is well advanced in years, carries on a dairy farm and an unofficial post office while her only son is serving in the Army. She has been ill, and is unable to obtain help, and, therefore, wants: her son to return to aid her in carrying on her arduous duties. A mau aged 70 years is compelled to carry on entirely unaided on a farm of 120 acres devoted to dairying and potato-growing. although he is in poor health. Another dairyman over 70 years of age, with an only son in the services, has to milk 30 cows and do all the farm work without assistance. A lady who conducts a small bakery in a provincial town in my electorate has no assistance. She has become ill, and it is impossible for her to continue in business without the assistance of her son. A farmer, aged 75 years, is carrying on a dairy farm, with 30 cows, and has no assistance apart from his wife, who also is advanced in years. Another man, aged 70 years, has a farm of 120 acres, of which 35 acres is devoted to potato-growing. He and his wife must do the work. A man conducti 112 a small grocery business in a town in my electorate has broken down in health, and. he is helped only by his wife, who also is ill. Another case is that of a farmer, aged 73 years, with one son, who has been in the Army for four years. The farmer has just had a surgical operation, and, owing to his state of health, he will be compelled to sell his farm unless the son is discharged from the Army. A blacksmith in a populous dairying district has had. a complete breakdown of health, and his only son, who is serving with the forces, has not been released. This man’s business is of the utmost importance to the local community, because he has been maintaining and” repairing farm machinery; this work is absolutely essential to the prosperity of the district. Another man, over 65 years of age, conducts a grocery business and the local branch of the Savings Bank. Both he and his wife have just had to undergo surgical operations, and they are unable to continue their business, which is important to the populous district in which it is established. Another man, who lives about 10 miles from my own home, is the main storekeeper of] the area, and also runs a dairy farm. He is over 70 years of age and is unable to handle supplies of fodder and chaff without the assistance of a younger man. “Unless his son is discharged from the services he will be compelled to go out of business, and the district will suffer as a consequence. A man and his wife on a dairy farm, with about 40 cows, are also in difficulties. The husband has very high blood pressure - judging by his appear- aiice the rating must he well over 200 - and the wife suffers from diabetes. In spite of their dangerous state of health, and against the doctor’s orders, they are carrying on the farm in the hope of saving it for their son.
All of these cases which I have mentioned deserve the highest order of priority for discharges from the services for three important reasons. The first reason is that it would be an act of justice to release the sons of these people who, since the beginning of the war, have worked without intermission, many of them for seven days a week and from ten to twelve hours a day, in productive occupations, ruining their health and virtually driving themselves into their graves. The second reason is that they are trying to keep their businesses or farms for their sons. If those businesses go by the board, more problems will be created, for the Government to handle, and, in addition, the sons will lose their patrimony. The third reason is that all pf these people are carrying on services which are essential to the community. Their sons should be given priority for discharge. The number is not very large. I have been notified of, and have investigated, only about twenty or 30 cases. All the applications which I have so far made have been refused by either the man-power authorities or the Army authorities. I” urge the Government to review its policy in this regard, and to arrange for the speedy discharge of these men.
Frequent references have been made in this House to the shortage of wire netting and rabbit traps required for the control of the rabbit pest. In Gippsland, rabbits’ are increasing very rapidly, because labour and equipment are not available with which to cope with them. Damage to the amount of hundreds of thousands ofl pounds is being done every year by rabbits, particularly to vegetable crops in my .district. Shire councils have suggested to me that the situation might be met in part by increasing the fixed price of rabbits from ls. Id. to ls. 7d. a pair as an inducement to trappers to engage in this work. They also suggest that more rabbit traps should be made available as these are again very hard to obtain. This ia » matter which con- corns the Ministry of Munitions, and I believe that, with goodwill and energy, the shortage could be overcome. Finally, it is suggested that more freezing space should be provided, so that rabbit carcasses may be held until they go into consumption.
[4.34J. - We are now considering a bill the purpose ofl which is to appropriate £55,557,000 to cover expenditure for a period of three months to the 30th September next. Honorable members must give serious consideration to the way in which this money is to be expended, and must insist that expenditure be kept to the minimum. In considering these matters, honorable members should be guided by the observations and criticisms of the Auditor-General. Every honorable member should consider himself as one of a Vigilance committee charged with the responsibility of seeing that money shall not be wasted, and that requirements shall not be overstated. We must pay careful attention to the report of the Auditor-General whose duty it to keep a careful watch on public expenditure. The latest report of the Auditor-General is, unfortunately, not available in printed form. We have been given to understand that the pressure of work at the Government Printing Office is so great as to prevent the printing .of the .report so that it may be circulated to members of Parliament and the public. We have before us. only a brief, typewritten statement, and this report, brief! as it is, relates to expenditure only up to the 30th June, 1944. Thus, the report Ls placed before us twelve months after the period to which it relates. I do not believe that anything can excuse the Government for not having placed in our hands a printed report long before this. I know from experience that it is impossible to have a document of the dimensions of the Auditor-General’s report ready immediately after the close of the financial year, but the delay in this case seems to have been of extraordinary duration, even allowing for shortage of man-power and other difficulties.
I have repeatedly drawn attention to instances of appalling waste, extrava gance and inefficiency as disclosed in previous reports of the Auditor-General. During the election campaign of 1.943, I promised that if my (party were returned to power a searching investigation would be made into public expenditure. 1 promised that there would be a financial stocktaking with a view to preventing extravagance and unnecessary expenditure. We know, of course, that war means waste. Up to 1942, there may have been some excuse for inefficiency, and for what we would now be justified in regarding as extravagant and unnecessary expenditure, but the time is long past when Parliament, as the trustee of the taxpayers, can close its eyes to what hak been going on. Speaking in March of last year on the subject of the AuditorGeneral’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1943, I drew attention to his criticism of inefficiency, extravagance and maladministration in the departments of the Prime Minister, the Interior, Trade and Customs, Commerce and Agriculture, the Navy, the Army, Air, Supply and Shipping and Munitions. At the time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised that there would be a thorough investigation of the charges with a view to preventing the wasteful expenditure to which the Auditor-General had drawn attention. In spite of this promise, however, the Auditor-General has had occasion once again to refer to wasteful expenditure, some of it by the same departments which he had formerly criticized. I quote the following from his most recent report: -
Department of the Interior.
Allied Works Council. - Regarding materials. &c, made available to various constructing authorities and contractors either by direct purchase from the supplier or from stocks ou hand and equipment supplied by the Allied Works Council to service departments on payment, accounting work was found to be unsatisfactory in some sections. Instance.were disclosed where materials were supplied to contractors engaged on jobs under firm price contract but had not been paid for by th, contractor nor had adjustment been made in the contract price. In one such case, £8.000’ was recovered.
A departmental survey of cost plus con tracts in the Sale district of Victoria, disclosed deficiencies in building materials amounting to £2,967. Pressure of construction work and hurried alterations in projects necessitated by war-time exigencies caused difficulties in the check of supplies of materials and transfers between jobs and permitted opportunities for misuse of materials. Arising out of the investigation the services of the resident architect were terminated and action taken to establish safeguard to obviate future losses.
In many instances expenditure on jobs continued to exceed the estimate of financial authorities.
Civil Constructional Corps. - lt was noted in the Northern Territory that though the volume of work fell off, and a number of employees naturally decreased, the administrative staff expanded. At April, 1944, wage employees, civil constructional aliens and free labour totalled 6,21(1 and staff 637. The figures at January, 1945, were 3,016 and 837.
In October, 1944, the Deputy DirectorGeneral stated that as soon as circumstances permitted a reduction would be made and that with the work in many sections still in arrears, it was not considered advisable at present to dispense with any officer’s services.
Owing to lack of control and of co-operation between the wage-paying and the allotmentpaying authorities, over payments of allotments amounting to large sums resulted, much of which it has not been possible to recover. The department attributes these over-payments to the abnormal conditions obtaining in the early stages and the constant movement of personnel.
Requisitioned cargoes of diverted vessels. The matter of financial adjustment by service departments in respect of cargoes taken over on arrival of vessels is still in an unsatisfactory condition. Undue delay has occurred on the part of those departments in the checking and taking on charge of the goods and in furnishing advices to the Division of Import Procurement of goods actually received. No price invoices covering diverted cargoes supplied to the service departments has been furnished by the Division of Import Procurement up to the 30th June, 1944, consequently, no cash adjustment with the division has been made regarding such cargoes.
Tea Control Board. - An audit of the board’s account made at the 30th June, 1944, showed the board had not maintained satisfactory accounting records.
Food Control. - Nett expenditure on emergency stocks si nee the inception of the scheme has been reduced during the year by an excess of receipts over expenditure of £211,775 and now stands at £090,562. Since the close of the year losses have been revealed and further considerable losses are anticipated.
Losses arising in the purchase processing and laics of vegetables to a total value of £144,456 have been reported. The main contributing factors were the perishable nature of the products, defective processing specifications and non-observance of specifications. Compen- sation payments totalling £24,747 to growers >f vegetables have been made in special circumstances
Regarding the nitrate of soda subsidy, a number of unsatisfactory features in regard to these transactions, concerning control and accounting, has been taken up with the department. The appointment of an internal auditor has been made by the department with a view to improving the accounting position. Commerce owed Munitions over £200,000 for nitrate supplied to the agent for distribution. Large amounts which could be paid to Commonwealth public account were held in private hank account for unduly long periods.
Department of Labour and National Service. financial records of equipment purchase and supplied by the Department of Munitions to training schools have been established to 30th June, 1944, but no departmental action has been taken to verify the existence of the assets by stocktaking or signed inventories. The unsatisfactory position in this respect was referred to in my previous report.
Department ok the Army.
It was mentioned in my previous report that departmental officers were investigating unsatisfactory features relating to stores transferred from the Middle East to Australia. Efforts to remedy the position have been unsuccessful and the department is preparing a report seeking approval to close the investigation.
Ordnance Stocktakings. - Arrears are still in evidence and delay in presenting discrepancy lists in respect of stocktaking effected still obtain.
Unit Stores. - The standard of accounting at many units leaves much to be desired. Staffs were appointed in the earlier stages without proper training in store accounting and until recently adequate instruction was not available. At some of these units discrepancies have been particularly heavy.
Unit Stocktakings. - Stocktakings are still in arrears. Unsatisfactory features: Delay occurs in assembling courts of inquiry or the appointment of officers to investigate discrepancies following stocktaking. Results of investigation are frequently inconclusive and, although losses may be heavy, the department is usually unable to determine individual responsibility owing to lapse of time, movements of staff and necessary employment of untrained staff.
In some cases unit records and documents could not be produced.
Australian Electrical Mechanical Engineering Workshops. - Accounting for stores at these workshops in one area was found to be unsatisfactory. In two instances it was not possible to effect an audit owing to the absence of stock records and relevant vouchers. In the majority of workshops a full internal check had not been exercised. No stocktaking results have been made available to audit.
Losses on Consignment. - Large losses of stores and supplies have occurred in consignments to New Guinea and Darwin. Losses were particularly noticeable in “rationed” commodities and stores of an attractive nature. The department has given the matter much attention and in a recent letter to this office, after reviewing the steps taken to safeguard stores, at ports of loading and discharge and in transit, stated, “ It is considered that the above precautions and the service instructions issued from time to time provide as full safeguards as are possible.”
Notwithstanding the safeguards in force losses continue to occur on a considerable scale.
Regarding claims for chattels impressed or taken over in evacuated areas, £510,431 was paid to 30th June, 1044, in respect of claims for chattels, vehicles, general merchandise, 4c., left behind in Darwin, Port Moresby and other evacuated areas by the Army, and which were impressed, requisitioned or deemed to have been taken or used by Commonwealth authorities or the Allied armed forces.
Examination of the accounts paid to date revealed instances where payment has been made for goods left behind by merchants, and which are not a normal issue to the services, for example, pianos, spirits, liquors, soft drinks, tobacco, cigarettes, toilet preparations, &c., nor does there appear to have been any acknowledgment of receipt of, or accounting for, such goods.
Boards of Inquiry and Losses by Theft. - In my previous report the view was expressed that Commonwealth interests were insufficiently protected under existing military regulations and related procedure in regard to losses of cash and stores by theft and other causes by army personnel. The matter is still under review by the Departments of the Treasury and the Army.
Although some improvement is revealed in stocktaking, it is still far from satisfactory. From July, 1040, to June, 1043, 304 stocktakings were effected of which 107 only have been investigated and results submitted to audit.
In 1943-44, approximately 250 stocktakings were undertaken and only 33 have been completed and submitted to the date of this report.
At Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters a small stocktaking investigation section is engaged primarily in cleaning up arrears, but it is evident that a greater effort than that at present being made will he necessary - if they are to be overtaken within a reasonable period. Up to the present investigation has been conducted by correspondence from the central office. This has proved ineffective, and in consequence it is intended that units throughout the Commonwealth shall be visited in an endeavour by inquiry on the spot, to clear up arrears.
DEPARTMENT op Supply and Shipping.
Stevedoring regulations provide for the establishment of waterside employment committees.
An audit of the cash advances to committees at Townsville and Cairns reveals unsatisfactory features in relation to the collection of public moneys and finance generally, due mainly to the department’s failure to issue adequate instructions regarding such matters.
The financial control of a hotel which had been taken over at Townsville to accommodate waterside workers transferred from other ports was insufficient and open to abuse.
These matters are receiving the department’s attention.
The financial books of the Salvage Board did not reflect the true position at 30th June, 1944, mainly due to lack of co-ordination between the Department of Supply and the board. The board has not reconciled the amount shown in the books for equipment and stores with the stock on hand and progressive records of stock have not been adequately maintained.
Canteens have been established on the board’s ships to provide liquor and tobacco for sale to the crows. The books of account do not reflect the correct position of these accounts, necessary adjusting entries being considerably in arrears. Requests have been made for the reconciliation of ledger accounts with stewards’ stocks immediately on the return of each operating vessel, but so far without satisfactory results.
Department op Munitions.
The financial statements relating to one factory remain uncertified by audit as far back as 1940-41 and for another to 1941-42, as it was considered that the statements presented do not show accurately the factories” financial position.
Statements in relation to 1942-43 for a few factories also remain uncertified pending departmental explanation of audit queries.
A matter which attracted attention has arisen from the reduction in the volume of munitions production. The reduced demand required fewer operatives but there were manpower difficulties in transferring the surplus to other employment.
Production of stocks of components was therefore continued with excess of service requirements and the cost was charged to production as for service orders.
Regarding armament annexes, annexe records and accounts for production costs are examined by departmental investigation officers but the department reconciliation of progress payments is very much in arrears.
Many annexes have been in production without the completion of any formal contract document between the Commonwealth and the annexe operator.
Advances and progress payments totalling £2,408,361 made to annexe contractors for capital expenditure on buildings, plant, equipment and installation charges to 30th June. 1944, were unadjusted at that date.
Such advances Will be adjusted upon receipt of statements of expenditure examined by cost investigation officers. Pending those examinations no authentic departmental records of the assets of the Commonwealth purchased from such advances can be prepared.
The position of outstanding amounts due to the department in respect of machine tools sold and loaned on a rental basis is not satisfactory. The necessity of the prompt selection of the arrears has been represented to the department from time to time.
Departmental accounting instructions require the establishment within thu trust account of certain subsidiary control accounts, hut action has not been taken to implement the instructions. Until such control accounts are introduced a satisfactory audit of these accounts cannot be completed.
Machine tools are transferred on loan to contractors either on a rental or rent-free basis. Hiring agreements are negotiated in respect of machines subject to rental charges, but to 30th June, 1944, many agreements had not been completed.
Delay has occurred in establishing departmental control ‘ accounts for all approved projects.
When -this report was prepared the expenditure incurred in connexion with projects for which control accounts had not been established totalled f 1.974,897. Where controls are operating, the accounts have been balanced to 30th June, 1943, only. A satisfactory audit of the transaction of the various projects cannot be completed in the absence of control accounts.
Although results of stocktaking of materials in stores throughout Australia have been advised during the year, effective use could not be made of the certificate of stocktaking because satisfactory reconciliations had not been effected between the quantitative records kept by the stores and transport branch and financial control records maintained by the chief accountant- Departmental action in this regard is being taken.
Certain stocks valued at £741,655 as at 30th June, 1943, were held by contractors on behalf of the department pending their being utilized in production.
No departmental stocktaking of such materials have been effected and no reconciliations have been made with departmental records, but the departmental intention was to undertake the preparation of stock sheets at the end of March, 1945.
Outstanding sundry debtors, including amounts owing by government departments, at 30th June, 194.4, amounted to £3,485,872. This figure is £791,248 less than last year.
While an improvement has been noted, a disquieting feature in these accounts is the large discrepancy - £60,268 - disclosed between the control account and the sundry debtors ledger at 30th June, 1943.
Representations on the matter have been made to the department.
In December, 1940, a directorate was established and orders placed for the purchase of reserves of materials for use in production of armoured fighting vehicles.
The directorate ceased to function in November, 1943.
Total expenditure incurred on the purchase of reserves of materials for the project was £122,261 to 30th June, 1944.
Audit examination has revealed unsatisfactory features in the departmental accounting for these stores. There was lack of coordination between the directorate and the chief accountant in the control of the movements of stock, and consequently it has not been possible to ascertain whether contractorsengaged on production have been debited with the cost of materials delivered to them and whether excess materials supplied have been satisfactorily accounted for.
It is understood that the directorate took delivery of many lend-lease items without furnishing the necessary documentary evidence of delivery.
Audit has not been able to ascertain the location of the relative accountancy records since the directorate ceased operation about November, 1943.
Representations have been made to the department on the foregoing matters but at the date of preparation of this report, the queries had not been satisfied.
Regarding the transport section, munition stores and transport branch, Victoria, an adverse report on- the activities of this section was made last year. Audit representations have been attended to by the department which now claims that past defects have been remedied.
In regard to the matter of over-payments, referred to in .last year’s report, settlement with the contractor was made on legal advice, and following a departmental examination of the position. The settlement was for a substantial amount in the contractor’s favour, and included a large amount in the aggregate previously deducted for discount but found not to have been deductible because of the departmental delay in passing claims.
Financial statement of the munitions stores and transport branch for the years ended 30th June, 1943, and 1944 have not been submitted to my officers.
I am sure that honorable members will agree that the story told by the AuditorGeneral of the manner in which the taxpayers’ money is being used and the lack of proper accountancy procedure is extremely serious. In times when the people are subjected to very high taxation, and are frequently urged by every means at the Government’s command to contribute to war loans, it is highly regrettable that such a state of affairs should exist. The Government must recognize its responsibility in this matter. The statements of the Auditor-General in his current report are unfortunately similar to remarks that he felt obliged to make in his report for the year ended the 30th June, 1943. The two report? constitute a grave reflection upon tb( administration of tho Government which is the custodian, for the time being, of the people’s money. The taxpayers are entitled to expect that value will be obtained for all public money that is expended, and that to the greatest degree possible waste shall be eliminated. Owing to the inefficiency and the maladministration of the Government, the expectations of the public have not been realized.
Dealing with some comments in the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1943, the Minister for Munitions said -
The comment of the Auditor-General can be described as exaggerated and giving a distorted picture of the situation. Most of it appears to he directed at the Victorian section.
The Auditor-General referred to these observations in his latest report and proceeded as follows: -
The inference is quite correct; the paragraph in question was headed “ Munitions Stores and Transport Branch, Victoria “.
X have been greatly concerned at the Minister’s statement as it is my invariable practice where comment or criticism is considered necessary, to state the position as moderately as possible and to avoid overstatement in any respect.
As regards the branch in question, my officers had been endeavouring for a considerable period to secure improvement in its accounting and control. The Treasury had also taken action.
In these circumstances it is most regrettable that, in referring to the latest report of the Auditor-General, the Minister for Munitions saw fit to observe that the Auditor-General was not a production man, and had only a rather theoretical knowledge, and that for those reasons he would prefer to be guided by the production men. It is serious that a Minister should regard so lightly such an important document. The Parliament is entitled to a reply from Ministers to the various statements that the AuditorGeneral has made, but the observations of the Minister for Munitions in regard to criticism of his own department cannot be considered as satisfactory in any sense of the word. The Auditor-General is a highly responsible public servant who has been charged by Parliament with the duty of examining public accounts and reporting direct to the Parliament on any matters which, in his opinion, re- quire explanation. The Auditor-General is, in short, the examiner, the investigator and the observer in regard to public expenditure. It is his duty to bring to the attention of Parliament instances in which the expenditure of public money has not been properly accounted for, and to report upon waste and inefficiency that have resulted from inadequate administrative procedure.
I notice from the latest report that the expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Department was scrutinized. No doubt it will be from the vote for this department that any expenditure necessary in connexion with the visit abroad of Mr. E. Thornton to attend the World Labour Conference in Paris will be met.
– It is quite obvious to everybody that the arrangements for such travel will have to be made by the Government. This Parliament is the trustee of the taxpayers, and it is entitled to a full explanation of how certain proposed expenditure is to be met. If public moneys are to be used directly or indirectly to meet any expense incurred in connexion with Mr. Thornton’s visit overseas, the people should be informed of it, particularly as this person has been declared by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to be unqualified, by reason of his statements about the White Australia policy, to represent the trade unions of this country or the Australian Labour party. His fifth-column activities make him unfitted to represent Australia in any capacity whatever. That being the position, I emphatically protest against any public expenditure, either directly or indirectly, in connexion with the projected visit overseas of this gentleman who has been appointed by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to represent the trade union movement of Australia. Those who believe in constitutional government, the system of. conciliation and arbitration, and the general principles of democracy, must realize the dangers to which these are being subjected by the growth of Communist activity in Australia. The Labour movement must take stock, and recognize that it is being whiteanted by the propounding of foreign doctrines, which are of no advantage to Australia and are absolutely opposed to the principles of constitutional authority and parliamentary government. Those who believe in such principles must combat to the utmost degree the cancerous growth of Communism in our community. Therefore, we should not, either ‘by remaining silent or by lending encouragement, associate ourselves with the granting of facilities to an avowed Communist who proposes to attend a world trade union conference, and undoubtedly will misrepresent the opinions that we hold and the principles that we espouse. The Government should not expend one penny, either directly or indirectly, on the provision of facilities or for any other purpose in connexion with Mr. Thornton’s travels, hut must take every step to preserve the parliamentary authority that we all wish to uphold. I reiterate, with all the emphasis of which I. am capable, that the Governmentshould be mindful of its responsibility in connexion with the expenditure of public money.
The Auditor-General’s report is a scathing indictment of inefficiency and mal-administration Pages of his report have been devoted to weaknesses in the accountancy methods followed, and the impropriety of certain public expenditure. Because of the manner in which taxation has soared, and the difficulty, which the Government experiences in raising by loan the funds that it needs, we have the inescapable duty of ensuring that there shall be value for every pound expended. The Government must not shirk its responsibility to eliminate waste and inefficiency. There is only one copy of this year’s report of the Auditor-General. Having regard to the contents of both that document and the report for the preceding year, the Government should appoint a committee of reputable and prominent practising accountants, to investigate the various matters dealt with, and report on means whereby the present unsatisfactory position may be remedied. The Government must not overlook the fact that this latest report deals with expenditure that was incurred twelve months ago. Doubtless, the next report also will reveal an appalling state of affairs in connexion with the accounts for the present year. As custodian of the public purse, the Government should take the matter in hand as speedily as possible.
– A; every sitting, this House has presented to it evidence of the weakening of the Parliament’s authority over public finance. The point made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should commend itself to every member who recognizes bis responsibility to exercise control over Government expenditure. The right honorable gentleman has stated that the Auditor-General, who is the one authority to which this Parliament can look for an impartial and effective examination of public accounts, has presented a most critical report, practically twelve months after the expenditure to which it relates was incurred. That report is not available to either the public or the Parliament in printed form. We have been told that the reason is that the work of the Government Printing Office is congested. I have no doubt that there is a good deal of congestion in that office. My sympathy goes out to the overworked Government Printer, who has had to produce the thoroughly unnecessary publication prepared by the Government: Digest of Decisions and Announcements. So far as I have been able to gather, that is not only a useless document, but also an additional burden on the Government Printing Office and on public finance.
– It is not properly a digest; it is propaganda.
– I am reminded that it is not a digest in the proper sense, but is propaganda “ blurb “ on behalf of the Government. In a recent issue, the complete text of the banking legislation was reproduced, although the printed bill was available to the public. In either the same or another issue, the full text of the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was printed. It does not appear to give a balanced presentation of the views of the Parliament as a whole. The excuse that the Parliament should be denied printed copies of the Auditor-General’s report because of congestion at the
Government Printing Office, is not satisfactory. If it is necessary to augment the staff of that office in order that’ there :shall be expeditious printing of documents that have first priority, steps to that end should be taken. I have no doubt that there is idle man-power in many munitions establishments, which could be diverted with advantage to a task of this importance. The Parliament is hampered in the discharge of its responsibilities in the present circumstances. I have been fortunate in that I have secured a type- written copy of the report, and thus have additional details of one item which, I am sure, has affronted the tax-paying public. Prominence has been given to it in the report, and it provides a further illustration of the casualness with which the Executive is prepared to treat the Parliament and the people in its handling of public moneys. I refer to the use of public funds for propaganda purposes in connexion with the referendum campaign. Recently, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether he proposed to place before the Parliament a supplementary appropriation to cover expenditure on the “ yes “ case in the referendum campaign. The right honorable gentleman replied that, as ho had not the printed report before him, he was not able to say what would be done. That was a mere evasion of direct criticism by the Auditor-General, who had pointed out that, in the examination of expenditure accounts, he was required by the provisions of the Audit Act to ascertain whether the moneys shown therein to have been disbursed, were legally available for and applicable to the services or purposes to which they had been applied or charged. He wenton to say that the opinion had been expressed to the Treasurer that the vote under notice - Post-war Educational Campaign - was not clearly related to the purpose for which it had been used, and was not legally available and applicable to meet the expenditure referred to; therefore, a supplementary appropriation was considered necessary under a clearer and unquestionable description. Between the lines of that comment one can read as scathing a criticism of Treasury action and Executive indiffer- ence to the rights” of the Parliament, &s one could imagine. Yet, although the Treasurer is aware ofl the correspondence that has passed between himself and the Auditor-General, he is not prepared to state definitely whether or not he proposes to seek a ‘supplementary appropriation. The amount charged against the accounts for the year covered by the report was £5,226, but the additional sum of £43,050 has since been incurred in respect of the same activity, and will be included in the accounts that will be covered by the next report; therefore, we are dealing with an expenditure of almost £50,000. According to the AuditorGeneral, parliamentary authority for that expenditure should he obtained.
Yesterday, the munitions programme was discussed ‘The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) mentioned the colossal expenditure on, and the infinitesimal results that had resulted from, the production of tanks. He was attacked by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin).
– He was very effectively answered by the Minister.
– I shall endeavour to counter the Minister’s reply, and I hope that I shall do so effectively. The Minister claimed that the proposal to manufacture tanks in Australia had been approved by the Menzies Government, and that the bulk of the expenditure had been incurred prior to the assumption of office by the Labour Government. He said that in January, 1942, three months after the present Administration had assumed office, the tanks produced were given their first trials. All of these statements may be correct. But they may give a thoroughly unbalanced picture of what is taking place. I do not criticize the government - in fact, I was a member of it - that decided to manufacture tanks in Australia when we had no knowledge of what resources would be available to us from other countries. We were in the gravest peril, and action had to be taken urgently to meet our requirements.
– Nobody criticized it either.
– No, but the point I am leading up to, in which the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), so, one of the custodians of the public finance of the Commonwealth, should he interested, is that, as the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) pointed out, America was able to supply all the tanks we needed. He said -
The first tests were made about three months nf tea- I took office as Minister for Munitions. Subsequently. America was able to supply in great numbers the tanks that this country so urgently needed.
The Minister, in reply, criticized my attitude, saying that I was faint-hearted and did not have faith in the ability of Australian industry to handle the job. I had enough information to know that the programme was a. failure, and that it represented an unnecessary additional charge upon our resources of labour and material. But the Minister persisted, and now, in order to evade proper criticism, he tries to mislead the Parliament by saying that the bulk of the expenditure had been incurred when he took over the Munitions Department.
– What did Mr. Essington Lewis say about it?
– Unfortunately, he is not in a position to speak for himself. I have a great regard for his capacity and share the gratitude of every Australian for the work that he did in the munitions programme.
– Then why does the honorable member criticize him?
– The problem of a balanced allocation of national resources does not concern the Director-General of Munitions. He handles his own problem in the best way he can. It is the responsibility of the Government to determine the allocation of men and materials. We were able to see in 1942 that the continuance of the tank construction programme was a wasteful use of our limited resources. An equally important hut more pressing matter is the aircraft production programme. As, at one stage of the war, it was sound policy to manufacture tanks, which policy later became unsound, so too, early in the war, it was sound policy to manufacture aircraft, but now, on the facts brought to my notice, that policy is an additional unnecessary burden on our resources. What disconcerts me is the reluctance of the Government to make available sufficient information on which this Parliament could form a sound judgment. I put a scries of questions on the notice-paper last week relating to the number of Beaufort, Beaufighter, Mustang and Lancasteraircraft ordered by the Government. I” went on to ask for the details as toexpenditure, authorized and actual, in respect of each group. The Minister replied -
It is not desirable to publish information as to the numbers of aircraft ordered by the Government, or of the authorizations of funds and expenditure which are included in the secret estimates of expenditure for defence and war services. However, the information will shortly be furnished privately to the honorable member.
I ask honorable members to take a commonsense and realistic view of that reply: The implication is that to publish secret data as to the number of Beaufort, Beaufighter. Mustang and Lancaster aircraft ordered and the expenditure authorized and incurred thereon would in some way benefit our remaining enemy, the Japanese. Every day newspapers report raids on the mainland of Japan by upwards of 500 Super Fortress bombers, and raids on Japanese-occupied territory by carrier-borne “aircraft. Are we seriously told that to reveal to the Australian public the relatively minute number of aircraft ordered by the Commonwealth Government would aid the Japanese? I am’ not prepared to accept that for one moment. The only reason, on a realistic view, that can be found for the reluctance of the Government to disclose that information is that it is reluctant to disclose facts which will redound to its discredit. I have reason to believe that the expenditure on the manufacture of those aircraft greatly exceeds the amount authorized by the Government. I also have reason to believe that the programme is not’ only behind schedule but also will not give us results, when it is fulfilled, which will justify the diversion to it of men, material and money. How will the enemy be benefited bv knowing that the Government has ordered a necessarily small number of Lancasters, when we know that they wall not come off the production lines for another year or two? It is the same with the other types. If this Parliament is to have proper control over expenditure of public moneys the Government should readily make available to it the information on which a sound judgment can be formed. No Government is entitled to use the cloak of national security beyond the extent that the war situation legitimately requires. It is stretching the meaning of “national security” to improper lengths to say that disclosure of the small numbers of aircraft called for from our own factories would have a hearing on the capacity of Japan to resist. If, on a balanced judgment of the facts presented to us, we come to the conclusion that the aircraft programme is wasteful of engineering capacity and labour and materials, we should look in other directions for ways in which to use our engineering capacity. We have been told that eighteen months will elapse before we can have an Australian motor car on the roads. We know that most of the motor vehicles in use, even for essential purposes, are so old as to be barely roadworthy, but, despite the urgency of building our own motor vehicles, we are postponing the venture in order to carry on a programme which has gone beyond the point of real usefulness.
My final words will conceit the subject of; migration, because it, too, links up with the useful expenditure of public money. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) last night announced the opening in Paris to-day of an exhibition called “Australia at War and at Peace” in which he said -
The .purpose is to publicize Australia in liberated European countries to assist migration.
Apparently, public money is being expended on the furnishing of that exhibition and on labour. I would be the last to criticize any action of the Government to stimulate the migration to Australia of desirable types, but it is quite clear from what we have been told by the Government and the answers to inquiries sent out by the Department of the Interior that the Government has no policy on migration in respect of Europeans. Who is to attend to inquiries at the exhibition? What policy is the Government going to announce to people who ask if they can .come to Australia? Who are to be considered desirable immigrants? Last week I sent to the Department of the Interior a letter on behalf of a man of Norwegian, descent living in Victoria asking whether his fiancee, a Norwegian girl, could obtain permission to come to Australia. 1 am sure that we would welcome Norwegians, who are of a very fine type. The first answer to the query was that it was regretted that the application had to be refused. Not one word of explanation ! No suggestion that the lady in question was undesirable! No suggestion that there was some policy under which she should be excluded at present ! We all know there are shipping difficulties which will delay the passage of even those authorized to come here, but it should be possible for the Government to indicate to people who wish to come here and who would be welcome that when shipping is available they shall have the opportunity. If the Government is not able to announce its policy it should devise a better official letter than is being sent to people who it re making these inquiries. They are merely told that the application is refused without any indication being given of the reason for refusal. They are not told whether they should renew the application at a later date.
– Was the application made by a person in Australia ?
– It was made by a man living in Geelong, who is engaged to a Norwegian girl. The man referred th<? refusal to his State’ parliamentary representative, who passed the case to me. i wrote to the Department of the Interior, and was told that the request had been refused because the Government had not yet formulated its policy for the admission of people from European countries.
– To whom do prospective migrants in England apply if they wish to come to Australia?
– I understand that they apply to Australia House, where they are given the same answer. If the department at Canberra which deals with migration cannot inform a member of this Parliament of government policy, how can an official in London be expected to do so? While this situation exists, we are trying to stimulate interest abroad in Australia.
– And sending Mr. Thornton to Paris to represent us.
– The kind of migration advocated by Mr. Thornton does not commend itself to most members of this House. Presumably, that will be the policy which he will express when he goes abroad, not merely as his own but also as that of the trade unions of Australia.
I do not wish to impede the passage of this bill, and I hope that later in the year we shall be able to discuss these matters in greater detail during the consideration of the budget proposals. Sufficient has been said in the course of this debate to show that the weakening of Parliament’s control over public expenditure, due to large sums being grouped under secret headings because of war-time expediency, leads to a condition in which waste is almost an accepted circumstance. The war is regarded in Government circles as sufficient justification for the unprofitable use of public funds. The Parliament, if it has any self-respect, should be vigilant to safeguard the public purse. That is an historic task, which is being rapidly abandoned because the Executive is treating it casually as a mere rubber stamp. I hope that some honorable members opposite who have a sense of historic value and some regard for the part which Parliament should play in safeguarding public funds will make their own criticisms of the cases of wasteful expenditure which must have come to their notice only too frequently.
.- The request for Supply under this bill gives to us an opportunity to discuss governmental expenditure generally and to consider whether it is being carried out wisely or not. Whilst we have had opportunities to speak of government wastefulness on other occasions, we should be recreant to the trust imposed in us if we did not draw attention as often and as forcefully as possible to items of what we consider to be extravagant expenditure. In fairness to the Government, it must he conceded that war-time conditions call for lavish expenditure and therefore we can expect a decrease of efficiency in the use of public funds, lt is natural’ that there should be a lack of close supervision in times of grave emergency, because the chief consideration is to obtain results; finance is a secondary consideration. However, most honorable members consider that the time has now come to make a close revision of government practices, in order to prevent the perpetuation of wasteful forms of administration. Representations have been made to the States, on behalf of Commonwealth departments, asking for co-operation in the continuance of special controls after the war. We must watch this trend very carefully. There is a very interesting article on this subject in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. It is temperately worded, but very much to the point. It draws attention to a report ‘by Mr. Bradley, who was commissioned to inquire into retail shopping practice in relation to rationing problems. Mr. Bradley stated -
I find that after two to four years’ experience of war- time organization and controls (and the probability of further continuance for some time) with new departments involving new methods and working under the difficulties of war-time conditions, the time is opportune for a review of the work, organization and co-operation in the four following departments : - Rationing, Prices, Supply and Import Procurement.
Any honorable member who contradicts that statement must be completely careless of the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. We, as well as the Treasurer, are the custodians of public funds. The principle of war-time control is right, but now is the time for us to revise controls. The war position has changed, and trade will soon flow more freely from Great Britain and the Continent. Consider what is happening in Commonwealth departments. We read of numerous prosecutions of small shopkeepers by the Prices Commission. Representatives of the Commission visited Holbrook and Culcairn some weeks ago, and, as the result, a woman conducting a little shop was fined £25 at Albury court for overcharging Id. for a packet of cheese, and a hairdresser was fined for exceeding the fixed price for a haircut. In Canberra recently a woman conducting a small shop sold a vase for ls. above the fixed price because it happened to be the last one in stock, and she was fined £25 for doing so. Many such cases come to our notice. I do not say that the regulations governing these matters are wrong in essence, but it is wrong that numbers of men should be employed to harass small traders when there are more important jobs to be done. Tho convictions of certain coal-miners have been waived and fines which were imposed on them have not been collected. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was asked to-day whether miners involved in the present hold-up in New South Wales would be prosecuted. He said that the Government was waiting to see whether the men would go back to work to-morrow.
– Why is the honorable member always condemning the Australian worker?
– The honorable member is a newcomer, and, therefore, we ‘suffer his interjections patiently. I am attacking the strikers, not the workers. I shall give the honorable member a little advice now, seeing that he will not be here after the next elections. I address this also to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), who has been interjecting. If he believes in Australia and the Australian worker, he should take steps to see that the worker’ is protected from the parasites who prey on him. The coal-miner would work if he were allowed to work. I should like to see all decent members of the trade unions licensed, and protected from such men as the honorable member, who will not fight those who deny to the worker the chance to earn a decent living. I repeat that the Government has important work to do. Instead of employing a large number of public servants to investigate multifarious pettifogging offences, it should concentrate on the bigger issues. Within the Department of Supply and Shipping there are all kinds of. minor departments which cause numerous delays in the handling of requests that come be fore them. For instance, the section dealing with machine tools and gauges is festooned with red tape. If a person wishes to buy a certain tool, he must obtain a permit from that section, and that involves delay. That sort of control is unnecessary now, although it was necessary at the beginning of the war when there was a scarcity of equipment. Every sort of; transaction between merchants to-day must be scrutinized by some department or another, and sometimes three months elapse before permission is given for a deal to be completed. For example, a man may import some commodity which he did not stock before the war. He must apply to have a price fixed, and this involves the filling in of forms in quadruplicate or more, and the wasting of a great deal of time. This harassing of business undertakings is likely to create unemployment everywhere but in the government departments. Although approximately 66 per cent, of; the men engaged in the building trade, one of our most important industries, have transferred to the armed forces and other war-time activities, and only 5 per cent, of them have returned to the trade, there has been an increase of 68 per cent, in government administrative departments. The time has arrived to stop this great expansion of governmental activities. Ministers should tell their departmental heads to dispense with all superfluous regulation, scrutiny, and form-filling which hamper trade. The Government must consider ways of providing employment for ex-servicemen. Any preference which these men may obtain from the Government will be of little importance if private employers are prevented from enlarging the scope of their activities. If the Government hampers small private employers, it will limit the number of opportunities for employment o£ exservicemen. The shopkeeper who closes his shop for hours each day because he cannot cope with the regulations which prevent him from handling certain classes of goods will not he able to employ more men. Obstacles to trade must be removed if employment is to be encouraged. Another embarrassment to trade is provided by the Division of Import Procurement, which was set up to regulate the flow of imports. This division should now be reduced to skeleton dimensions. As a matter of fact, it has .outgrown its parent, the Trade and Customs Department. I understand that it now employs more persons than does the Trade and Customs Department itself. Merchants who wish to import goods must send several copies of their order’s to the department and seek permission to buy. What all the copies are wanted for T do not know. The department does the buying, and importers who know what costs ought to ‘be tell me that they are sometimes billed for charges which the department is unable to explain. Traders who have not registered are unable to get supplies from overseas. I have myself conveyed to the Minister complaints from small traders who did not see the advertisement in the newspapers that applications for goods had to be lodged by a certain time. Frequent complaints have been voiced regarding delays in the distribution of goods actually obtained ‘by this department. Sometimes, goods, including textiles, have not been distributed for months after being received. This is confirmed in the Bradley report previously quoted. A further hindrance to trade exists in the necessity to obtain permits to build. I am not now referring to the Department of War Service Homes, but even for buildings for civil purposes fewer than half of some 30,000 applications have been approved. Even after approval has been obtained, the applicants must take their chance of obtaining supplies, and government departments have preference over private builders. On a previous occasion, I cited the case of the printer in a small way who wanted a stove for his office. He had been trying ever since the previous winter to obtain from the Department of Supply and Shipping an order to buy a stove. I took the matter u,p, and he got his permit in time to buy the stove for the following winter, but he then found that he had to start all over again to get another permit to buy the piping. This sort of thing is so crazy as to suggest Alice in Wonderland. The time is overdue for a revision of all such controls. Ear from doing that, however, the Government has permitted departments to expand. The Rationing,
Prices, Supply, and Import Procurement sections should be either cut down drastically, merged, or abolished.
Apart from the restrictions which the Government has placed upon private trade, it has itself been responsible for grave extravagance. I quote the following from a report by the secretary of the Federated Chambers of Commerce: -
Price control should be revised immediately and price stabilization subsidies should be paid without amy examination of profits, the federal secretary of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Wilkins, said yesterday. Subsidies should be paid without any means test, and disallowance in whole or in part of subsidies by the Prices Commissioner should cease, Mr. Wilkins said. Application of a means test by reference to net profits involved inequity between individual traders. Disallowance of subsidies had forced individuals to sell goods below cost price.
If a firm, by a change of trading methods, or by the exercise of. economy, increases its profits, the Prices Commission immediately concludes that it has been guilty of profiteering, and an examination is made which results in, a serious disruption of trade. There appears to be room for investigation when criticism comes from so authoritative a source as the Federated Chambers of Commerce.
I believe that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into charges of wasteful government expenditure, including waste in the Munitions Department and in the manufacture of aircraft. Reference has been made to the manufacture of tanks. Responsibility for waste in this respect has been denied by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), but the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out that he criticized the project as long ago as 1942, yet the Government persisted with it. ‘ Now, there are rows of unfinished tanks at a place not very far from here, and not one of those tanks is capable of propelling itself. Before they would be capable of getting into action the enemy would have to come and attack them, yet £7,500,000 has been expended on their manufacture.
– The Government o? which the honorable member was a supporter was responsible for most of that expenditure.
– I do not care who was responsible for it. I would condemn wasteful expenditure of: that kind, no matter by whom it waa incurred. When complaints were made that workers at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow were engaged in making pencil sharpeners instead of rifles and machine guns, the Minister disclaimed all knowledge of it. Then he bad the matter examined, and read a long report in which reference wa3 made to the manufacture of precision instruments. That sort of thing will not go down with the taxpayers. Then there was the matter of the manufacture of pistole. I do not know what government was responsible for this venture, but I know that only about 400 pistols were made, and dividing that number into the difference between the capital and production expenditure on the project, and the price at which the factory and tools were eventually sold, the pistols cost about £S28 each, or, roughly, the price of a house. When that sort of waste is going on, of what use is it for Ministers to grow lyrical in press statements about the fact that they control £100,000,000 worth of munitions factories which will be turned over in peace-time to the manufacture of civil requirements? The building up of such an enormous estabment out of public money is nothing to boast about, when the people are so heavily taxed in order to provide the money. The real point to be considered is, has the money been expended wisely? The enterprise and initiative of private individuals should be given scope to provide after the war the things which the community needs.
Those who travel by train between Canberra and Melbourne can see near Wangaratta a wonderful factory, and I believe that there is a duplicate of it somewhere in New South Wales. No smoke has ever issued from any of their chimney stacks. The factories were built for the purpose of rolling rods and aluminium sheets. The aluminium ingots have not yet been produced, although the Government has allocated £3,000,000 for the establishment of the industry in Tasmania. This expenditure is sheer waste when aluminium is a drug on the market. Just because there was a moment of panic at one time during the war about aluminium supplies, the Government proposes to embark upon this enormous expenditure. I know that the proposal is popular with Tasmanians, because they want to “ boost “ their State, but the fact remains that Canada and the- United States of America can supply us with all the aluminium we need for very much less than the cost of producing it for ourselves. For the amount of £3,000,000, which it is proposed to expend on establishing the industry in Tasmania, we could lay in a stock of aluminium that would supply our needs for many years.
– The old cry!
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) always barracks for his State, but it is a waste of time, money and labour to go on with this project. I should like to know what was spent on the aluminium rolling factory at Wangaratta, and the other in New South Wales. I should say that the factory at Wangaratta must have cost very little less than this Parliament House, namely, about £750,000. I understand that in the electorate of Wimmera a wonderful factory has been built for the production of petrol from wheat. It has cost about £3,000,000, but it has not produced enough petrol to take a Minister on one of his weekly jaunts from Canberra to Melbourne in a fluid-drive Chrysler. Expenditure of that kind is a stupid waste. Now the Government is proposing to embark upon a programme of nationalization of banking and interstate air services. Probably it hopes to make the air services as efficient as the present railway service between Goulburn and Canberra. If there is anything which the Government has not yet made plans to socialize, I have no doubt that it will “ have a go “ at it as soon as possible if they hear of it. Members of the Government are not businessmen, and they are allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by enterprising departmental heads. Government departments have a habit of growing to huge dimensions. The Government is the custodian of the. taxpayers’ money, and should see that it is expended, wisely.
Recently, I put a question on the notice-paper seeking information about the cost of manufacturing Rolls Royce engines in Australia. The Government proposes to manufacture 100 such engines, and already £650,000 has been expended on the provision of tools and jigs. The actual production cost of the engines has not yet been calculated, but [ believe that more than the original amount voted has been expended. Although the chief of Aircraft Production, perhaps in an unguarded moment, has informed the Government that very soon all aircraft will bc fitted with jet propulsion units to the exclusion of the internal combustion engine, the Government is proceeding gaily with its project to manufacture Rolls Royce engines. I happen to know more about this general subject than can be said in this House, and I know that many millions of pounds have been wasted. The Government has committed itself also to the manufacture oi’ Lancaster aircraft in Australia, and proposes to continue with the project. Why can it not obtain such aircraft from Britain now that the war in Europe is over, and fly them out here as the Americans fly aircraft to the Pacific? The Lancaster manufacturing project might very well be dropped, and the workmen diverted to more useful occupations. We know that we can make such aircraft here, but why should we try? I am an enthusiast for Australian industry, but I cannot see why we should keep about 30,000 men working in the aircraft industry when there is no need to do so.
Sitting suspended from fi to 8 p.m.
– Before dinner, I had stressed that the time has come for a thorough investigation of government expenditure. I have referred to the report of Mr. Bradley, K.C., into certain government activities in relation to traders. The report exposed a serious lack of co-operation and co-ordination between government departments. Mr. Bradley referred particularly to the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Division of Import Procurement, and the Rationing Commission. Early attention should be paid to those who are really occasioning serious loss to the community but who, hitherto, have been allowed to go unscathed. I refer in particular to those individuals who are causing industrial dislocation in New South Wales. Apparently, the
Government is not prepared to visit the penalties of the law upon these individuals, but if it is to administer the affairs of the country impartially it must do so. It would seem that Ministers are quite ready to protect people who are aiding and abetting these industrial law-breakers and forcing other citizens into unemployment. Coal production is absolutely essential to the maintenance of our industrial activities. If coal production declines, serious repercussions are at once apparent in general industrial activities.
It is time that the Government curtailed the operations of the Division of Import Procurement which to-day is engaging in merchandizing to a far greater extent than the needs require. This division has done good work in many ways, but the need for its activities is rapidly disappearing. Private merchants could do much more effectively and less expensively a great deal of the work that is at present being done by the Division of Import Procurement. I do not say that all controls can be abolished at once. I say that all controls should be examined to ascertain whether they are still necessary.
The Directorate of War Organization of Industry recently advertised in the press that, manufacturers who wished to embark upon new manufacturing activities of any kind must still obtain permits to do so. This is a great handicap to people engaged in small businesses. The larger industrial organizations can afford to send representatives to Canberra to present their case, but people carrying on small businesses cannot afford to do so. Within the last fortnight a small manufacturer was fined £5 for making an arm chair, because he had not formerly made that type or it did not conform in some way. It is Gilbertian that such things are happening in this country where so many are doing so little for so much. Probably it would be a good thing to provide some honorable gentlemen opposite with arm chairs so that they could retire comfortably from Parliament. Some of the wartime regulations that still remain in force are totally unnecessary. The Directorate of War Organization of Industry is still placing restrictions on the opening of new businesses. Even discharged service men and women who want to open small businesses are being prevented from doing so. I have been surprised that so few ex-service men and women are being given full-time training. I suppose about 200,000 persons have been discharged from the forces and from war establishments of one kind and another. Approximately 11,000 of these individuals have applied for training; some 5,000 were approved, but only about 1,000 are being given full-time training. This makes it all the more necessary that reasonable latitude should be allowed to discharged mon and women to open small businesses if they desire to do so. Most of those who have applied for such permits have been refused them.
– Only one case of the kind has come under my notice and I had a victory in regard to it.
– I have had numerous cases, but so far have not had a victory. The Directorate of War Organization of Industry should not be permitted to hinder the congenial settlement of dipcharged personnel in small businesses.
This directorate is also responsible for the issue of permits for the building of homes. Less than half of the persons who have applied for permits have succeeded in getting them. But even when a permit has been obtained from the Directorate of War Organization of Industry it is still necessary to obtain a permit from the Department of Supply and Shipping to purchase the necessary building materials. The fact is that our people are still enmeshed in regulations which, in some respects, bear comparison with the controls that were in force in Nazi Germany. I do not desire to hurt the feelings of honorable gentlemen opposite, but I cannot refrain from declaring that the process that our people still have to go through of registering for this and that purpose with this and that authority, and of; filling in forms under this and that regulation, is reminiscent of totalitarian administration in certain European countries before the war. I know that some honorable members opposite are completely socialistic in their outlook, and consider that everything can be done by the State better than by private individuals; but if those honorable members desire to be considered; democratic, in any sense of the word, they must review their attitude. We should give private enterprise the benefit of the doubt, and our people should be given the utmost freedom, to do the things that they wish to do. We should not attempt to force every activity through a government bottle-neck, such as the Division of Import Procurement. That organization is, to-day, top-heavy, and it is due for a complete overhaul, as also are other departments which I could name. De-control is necessary and urgent.
I favour the suggestion, that a royal ( commission be appointed to investigate ‘ governmental expenditure, particularly in regard to munitions and aircraft production. I have already mentioned that Although we have spent £7,500,000 on the tank manufacturing project we have not put one Australian tank in the front line. The revolvers we have manufactured have cost £828 each. Our small arms factories are, to-day, diverted to the production of pencil sharpeners and the like. The reply which the Minister for Munitions gave some time ago to ti question I asked on this subject was almost fantastic. The honorable gentleman said that what had been done was - in pursuance of the general plans for expansion of manufacturing in Australia. They are a superior piece of mechanism, calling foi tools and gauges of the type employed in arms manufacture. The employment in the small arms group of factories has ‘been reduced by 70 per cent, and Army orders for small arms and machine guns are being decreased further at the moment. It is considered most inadvisable, however, that the skilled employees at the Small Arms Factory, who can be employed only upon mass-production precision work, should be further dispersed at this stage in the prosecution of the war. It would be disastrous if. through a sudden emergency, additional arms and machine guns were required and we had not maintained the key staff to produce them. In the interregnum, therefore, they are being employed usefully in the production of precision articles of the nature indicated. Such employment is in pursuance of a policy which has been determined throughout the manufacturing industry whereby firms customarily employed upon defence work can be employed in less-essential production during the lulls in urgent defence requirements.
If the need for the production of munitions has declined, personnel engaged in that work should be released for more essential engineering service. The manufacturers of agricultural implements in Australia have advertised’, as honorable members1 know, that farmers cannot expect full deliveries of agricultural implements until a full re-allocation of manpower has been made. The Government should release workers not needed in munitions establishments for employment where they are badly needed.
I have referred earlier to the manufacture of aluminium ingots in Tasmania. It is proposed to spend £3,000,000 on that project. T regard this as quite unwarranted expenditure. Aluminium fabrication plants have been established at “Wangaratta and. at a place in “New South- “Wales at a cost of about £1,000,000 each, but not a rod oP aluminium has yet been rolled there. The proposal to establish this industry was made at a time when there was a scare because of the world shortage of aluminium, but, to-day, aluminium is practically a drug on the world’s market ; yet the taxpayers’ money is being wasted on this enterprise. Aircraft manufacturing was begun in this country in 1937 when the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was established. The Wirraway type of machine for training purposes was produced at a fairly economic price. It is a copy of the American 2STA 33. Tiger Moths were also produced by private enterprise at a fairly moderate price. In due time also Beaufort bombers were produced at a cost ‘of about £20,000 in excess of the English price, and they did good service, but they are now practically obsolescent. lt is deplorable that the Government should proceed then with the Lancaster programme seeing that these machines could be made available by Great Britain in large numbers. The men now engaged in this work in Australia could be released for more essential jobs.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) make a good case on the subject of immigration. I understandthat an exhibition is to be opened in Paris within the next few days with the object of encouraging French people to emigrate to Australia. If the Government had a real migration policy, and if we had the machinery available, T have no doubt that we could obtain many desirable migrants from Great Britain. I have received a letter from the wife of an Australian airman, prominent in both this war and the last war, who is now retired from the Royal Air Force and serving with a flying air transport auxiliary in England. He desires, to come to Australia with his wife and family, but when he made application at Australia House for a permit he was asked the most ridiculous questions, such as had he an Australian passport and the like. The official at Australia House said that he would grant an exit permit to the husband for himself and his family only if the Australian Government sent a cablegram to the effect that the man was wanted to do a special job in Australia which no man here was capable of doing. The writer also said she knew of two Australians who were called up in the British Army instead of having the opportunity to join me Australian forces and who could not return. An Australian girl, who had served with the British forces, had also been trying for nearly two years to return to Australia. All of these had been given similar replies. It is almost impossible for Australians who are in Britain to-day to secure return passages unless they have gone there only recently. This matter should be adjusted at once by an instruction to the High Commissioner. Many hundreds of young aircrew members in Bomber Command would come to Australia if they were- given the opportunity. They have made friends with Australian air crews, and want to migrate to this country. If Australia does not make it possible for them to come here, they will go to Canada, South Africa or NewZealand. This country needs a much greater population than it has. Statisticians have estimated that, by 1955, our population will be stationary, with the. death-rate and birth-rate balancing. The meagre population that we have to-day will not enable us to .hold this country against a determined aggressor. That lesson has been taught us in the present wai-. Our population is less than two persons to the square mile, whereas that of Britain is about 400 to the square mile. T have had a letter from, an
Englishman who, at one time, lived in Australia, but is now in the Indian Army. He has informed me that he is always advocating migration to Australia, and endeavouring to induce many “ tommies “ and officers to come here. His commanding officer visited New Delhi to learn what Australia was doing in regard to the migration of British troops to this country after the war, but the High Commissioner could not give any definite information. At Australia House there is a long list of Britishers who have made inquiries with a view to migrating to this country. The Government is lax in not enunciating a policy. Of course, the problem of repatriation is prominent in its mind, and rightly is given precedence. But there should be planning for future migration. We could obtain both adult and child Britishers. Let Australian towns adopt people from British towns. I saw in Coventry huge quantities of clothing that had been sent from Melbourne in the days of the worst disaster which the people of that city had experienced and there is much affection there for the Australian city that helped them. British towns only need to be assured that Australian, towns will take into their community a given number of people, and help them to settle down, and I am quite -sure that those people would come here. There should be a short-term policy for immediate migration, and a long-term policy embracing suggestions of that kind.
I mentioned at the outset of my remarks that this bill, which covers every Commonwealth department, should be carefully scrutinized. Every Minister and departmental head should so organize the departments as to make economies wherever they can be effected. The Auditor-General has made strong comments concerning wasteful expenditure. 1 have not read his report, because it has not been circulated, but I have read newspaper excerpts from it. He has paid particular attention to munitions, factories, and has stated that large numbers of men in them are not doing any work. That is not the fault of the men; if the work i3 not given to them to do, they have no choice in the matter. But it will be the fault of the administration if those conditions are allowed to continue.
Nor is it fair to the taxpayer, who is the most heavily burdened in the world, that he should be asked to provide revenue to keep men in idleness, when industry and food production are undermanned. The Government should not incur any expenditure on Mr. Thornton’s visit overseas, as it did on the last occasion.
– The honorable member’s time ha; expired.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [8.20 J. - This is an occasion when one can discuss almost any subject. I shall make a selection from the large number of grievances which one could parade with a good deal of justification, had one the time and the inclination.
I refer, first, to the most unsatisfactory manner in which questions are dealt with by Ministers. A fortnight ago, J asked a question in regard to the compulsory dipping of cattle in the Northern Territory, for consignment to the Adelaide market. Fourteen or fifteen day* have elapsed, yet I have no reply to send to my correspondents, indicating to them what is the will of the Commonwealth Government.
– Was it, a question upon notice?
– The matter was raised on the motion for adjournment, and a Minister promised that he would have it investigated immediately, yet so far nothing has transpired. The matter may have been settled. If it has been, I have not been informed and am, therefore, not able to advise the cattle owners in the Northern Territory, on whose behalf 1 made representations, as to what they should do.
The second matter that I raised on’ th, same day relates to the action of th, Army in forcing people at Katherine to purchase a quantity of margarine with the butter ration to which they are entitled under the rationing law of the Commonwealth. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) promised a hasty inquiry, and gave quite a satisfactory assurance. But good words have not been followed by deeds of any sort up to date. I assure the Minister for the Army, on whose behalf the Minister spoke, that if such a matter came before rue as a Minister and I did not have an answer within 72 hours, somebody would he looking for a job. 0
Another matter has been under consideration for a fortnight. I had not raised it previously in this House, although 1 had approached the Minister in regard to it. I refer to the complete absence of food supplies at Borroloola, near the Gulf of Carpentaria. After fifteen days, I took the matter up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (“Senator Ashley), and was informed in
H brief note that I received last night that, despite the fact that the wireless message sent to me yesterday stated that these people aro completely out of food, the steamers belonging to the John Burke Company are not running. Apparently, therefore, the whole universe has to stop revolving. I hope to have better advice to-morrow. These people live in outoftheway parts. The Government, by its own acts - the wisdom of ‘which I am not questioning at present - has prevented the running of normal services. On that account, its obligation is greater to ensure that people in out-of-the-way parts who rely on such services shall receive that to which they are entitled.’
I have another “gem”. About a fortnight ago, I. mentioned the failure of the Prices Commissioner to determine the prices at which certain utility vehicles should be sold in Australia. I pointed out that those utilities were in two classes. They were brought to Australia by arrangement with the British Government, to assist in the production of food. I have received letters from persons who have tried to purchase them; they say that they are not able to stand up to the conditions that have been laid down A man whose avocation is in the stock industry in Victoria determined that he must have a car of some sort. He has been obliged to pay £467 for a small English utility of war-time manufacture and to sign an undertaking that he will pay any additional amount which the Prices Commissioner may fix. I stated recently that, judging by information I had received from men in the trade, I believed that the Government contemplates a loss of from £150 to £200 on each of these motor vehicles. I take no exception do the excellent statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley), who is not responsible for the administration, in this matter, that information on the subject would be supplied to me. To-day, I received from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) a letter which stated -
In the first instance, some delay ‘ was occasioned toy the difficulty in obtaining final costs from overseas. Negotiations have taken place with the United Kingdom Government regarding prices and an announcement a± to ultimate prices will be made as soon as the United Kingdom Government has furnished its reply to our latest representations.
That does not tell me anything. It does not tell the prospective buyer anything. It does not tell the man who has paid a few hundred pounds down and has given a blank cheque for the remainder of the price, what he is to do. It does not enable the merchants, some of whom have 50 of these vehicles in their show windows, to tell the inquiring public what the price is to be. I can merely assume that the Commonwealth Government has imported, as a government venture, no fewer than 2,500 vehicles, and does not know what price it has to pay for them in the United Kingdom. If that is an example of government in business, I hope that we shall have less of it. I trust that before long I shall have definite answers to questions of this description. I could add to those that I have mentioned. There are others that I. want to raise shortly. If I cannot obtain answers, I shall have to move an adjournment motion in order to focus public attention on what is being done. Some acts of administration would tax the patience of Job; even his patience broke down finally. I do not profess to be quite so patient as that Biblical character. There are conditions which demand urgent ministerial attention. Apparently, that attention has not been given.
One of the most important matters that will have to be considered in the post-war period is the defence establishment in the Commonwealth. 1 refer to this matter for the reason that, not long ago, the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), as Prime Minister, made in this House a certain statement and moved “ That the paper be printed “. I understand that he gave an undertaking to the Opposition that, in due course, and not very far ahead, an opportunity would be afforded for a debate.
– There has been too much talk on other matters.
– I presume that the Minister is referring to certain matters in which the interest of -the Government has been greater than it has been in the future defence of Australia. I should not be in the least surprised, in view of the slight interest that it had in the defence of Australia until it had assumed office. We are being driven speedily into an almost impossible position in relation to defence. In San Francisco, there is an important international conference, the results of which must affect the foreign policy of Australia and must impose upon the Commonwealth certain obligations or certain restrictions, or both simultaneously, in international affairs. Before the Australian delegation went to San Francisco, I pointed out that the members of it were not informed of Australian public opinion; that they were leaving without any debate having taken place in the House of Representatives or the Senate, although they should have an indication of the view of the Parliament on these matters. They will be no better informed as to the view of the Parliament when they return than they were when they went away. I have read as much of the proceedings as I have been able to read. They seem to have been rather peculiar. It would appear that the stage has been fairly well dominated by the intellectual and ex-judicial colossus from the front treasury bench, but to what degree I do not know. Whether it will be as Robert Burns said, “ for Britain’s guid - for her destruction “, I do not know, but I have very grave doubts whether even the Curtin Government knows to what the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is committing Australia at San Francisco. We have a very loquacious Minister for External Affairs. Outside the opening speech by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), whose speech, I think, was not his own, we have not heard from him. But what they have agreed to, and the Lord only knows what it is, will seriously affect the defence set-up of the Commonwealth of Australia after the war. In addition, the defence set-up will be seriously affected by tactical and other lessons learned a3 the result of operations in which we have been engaged- at sea, on the land and in the air over the last five and a half years. These matters Will require the most serious consideration of this House. In fact, on this matter, I think the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) last night deserves the earnest consideration of all service Ministers, and certainly the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman).
The first thing that has to be decided is whether the post-war defence system is to be oast into three separate and almost watertight, thought-tight and contact-tight departments of the Navy, the Army, and Air. Experience in this war has shown once again the necessity for the closest collaboration between all arms of the services, each having its own role, which it can play better than can either of the other two, but, nevertheless, none of them able for very long to perform its role independent of the assistance and co-operation of the others. But, as things stand and have stood since the war began, the head of the services is a civilian, not >a serviceman at all. I hope that the chief of ‘ the combined staffs in the post-war defence set-up, the man selected to shoulder the responsibility of advising the Commonwealth Government, will, at any rate, be a man with personal, practical service experience in the command, of the forces of one of, the three arms. The more experienced he is in contact with the other two arms the better it will be. Mixed up with this are not only the considerations to which I refer momentarily, but also considerations of internal policy. Whether the Labour party is to revert to the policy that it espoused when it took office in 1941, or whether it is to lay down, as it is laid down now by this Government, that every able-bodied man in the Commonwealth shall be liable for military service overseas, is a question which will require some resolution on the part of the Labour party if it is to remain in control of the treasury bench when the war ends. None of us can say when that will be, but we hope that it will be very soon. Those are a few passing thoughts which I put into the minds ofl Cabinet Ministers.
Before closing, I have a few words to say about the position that will inevitably face the Government as the result of its failure to deal with demobilization in a practical and realistic way. Every one of us has a certain amount of correspondence arising out of requests for releases from the forces. Those releases are chiefly asked for on agricultural grounds, namely, that the men, if released, will be employed on the production of food; but, in my experience, other important grounds are buildings and repairs, and the taking over of businesses which have been run for a number of years by men who came out of retirement to enable younger men to go into active service. I think that, in certain quarters, there is a hold-up. I am not quite sure where it is, but I have my own ideas, having had some association with one of the armed services. Once you set up an armed service, there is a tendency on the part of those in charge of it, to hate like poison the thought of allowing any man to go outside their control. Matters concerning the strength of the armed forces are matters, not for the service chiefs, but for the Government. I have a strong suspicion that, in too many instances, individual Ministers and the Government collectively have not taken a firm stand in regard to the laying down of conditions that the country is entitled to expect. We went through a crisis in 1942, and to a certain degree in 1943, but no reasonable man could say that last year this country was faced with any likelihood of invasion, let alone any likelihood of imminent invasion. It was not even a remote possibility from the time that certain conquests took place to the north. Unless I am hopelessly incorrect, we have scattered round the coast of Australia all sorts of defence installations, manned by men, and, in some cases, women, who have no more hope of rendering service in the defence of Australia than they would have if they were located at the South Pole. I see no sign of the Government taking a stand on these matters and insisting that services redundant to the defence of Australia shall go out of existence. The policy enunciated by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) only yesterday docs not contain that assurance and does not contain any implication upon which one could found such an assurance. It said that men would be released who had seen certain service or were required for certain civil occupations. Let us consider the proposal for the release of men with five years’ service. I understand that the obstacle believed to exist is the withdrawal of those men from forward areas. 1 was a member of an infantry battalion in 1918 when word came to France that men. with four years’ service were to be withdrawn, and they were withdrawn whether in the line or not.
– During the biggest battles of the whole war.
– Yes. They were ordered to report back to head-quarters. That happened time after time. When it was decided, that officers and non-commissioned officers were needed to train recruits they were ordered to train recruits regardless of whether their units were in the line or not. A sergeant-major of mine was ordered on the 19th December at 8 p.m. on the eve of the attack on Polygon Wood, one of the biggest “ scraps “ in which the Australian Imperial Force ever took part, to return to the south of England for training purposes. Notwithstanding that his unit was to be in the thick of the fighting nothing could be done about it and he just had to go back. The position now is that if a man is in a forward area, nothing can be done about it and he just has to stop there. If the state of affairs in forward areas is such that the commanders have not sufficient reinforcements to take the place of such men, something is radically wrong with the High Command. I would not care how many badges he wore or how much red tape he had round his hart, if any officer came to me and said that the exigencies of the military situation did not allow it, I, as one with a low military rank who has seen these things take place, as has the honorable member for Corangamite, another infantry man, would soon let him know otherwise. We who have seen these things say that if the Government is determined that this can be done, it can be done. I have had letters from the fathers of mcn who went from, my electorate early in the war to England as members of the 9th Division and are somewhere in the north now. If the Government desires to carry out that policy, it can be carried out, and, if certain men in charge say it cannot be done, there is one effective way of dealing with the situation, and I do not need
Co go too deeply into that. In regard to agriculture let me tell the “War Cabinet that we are facing a food crisis, the like of which no Australian Government has ever faced since the days of Macquarie in New .South “Wales. Owners have had to kill off poultry because of lack of wheat. Ministers may quote any confounded statistics they like, but men like me, cattle-owners in dairy districts, know how many cows and calves are going to the slaughteryards. Calves are not being reared. Herds are not being kept up to strength. These things are cumulative whether they exist in dairying or fruit, production. “We know how orchards have slipped back back because pruning and cultivation have not be carried out. Poultry runs, piggeries, dairies, vegetable gardens - all are deteriorating. The problem will come to a head before very long. The only remedy is for the Government to give up its tardy policy in regard to releases. For once, let it be on top and lay down the man-power policy that the circumstances of the country require. Ministers are the men who conduct war; they decide what Navy, Army or Air Force shall be raised. If the Government is doing its job, the “War Cabinet decides what campaigns shall be conducted. That is not the responsibility of service chiefs. It is of no use for Ministers to tell me that this lion, that lion or this leopard is in the path. The responsibility is on them and no one else. I warn the Government that when the day comes when the shortage of food can no longer be hidden, excuses can no longer be given and seasonal conditions no longer be blamed, we on this side shall have a little more to say. Bountiful rains are falling in many of the drought stricken parts of Australia, and the prospects for a good season are reasonable. Grass at any rate will be plentiful, whatever the effect of the rain may be on sown crops. Once those conditions apply the Government will find that, as in politics, good seasons make good governments, so, in food matters, shortages in good seasons make thundering bad governments. The Government will haveto answer next year. It will be called to account. It will have a ticklish task in giving an account. We have had statements galore, torrents of words. If we had had as much rainfall last year as we had words, there would have been no drought and no food shortage, but,, unfortunately, that is not so. I do not intend to say anything more at (themoment, because I believe that certain matters may come up in committee. 1 leave it at that in the hope that the things I have said have penetrated the minds of the responsible Ministers. If they are not attended to, there will be no courseopen to us, but to take parliamentary action to vindicate the rights of the taxpayers affected by maladministration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Issue and application oi £55,557,000).
That the clause he postponed - as an instruction to the Government - that no moneys be spent from the sum* granted in this bill towards providing facilities for travel outside Australia to one E. Thornton, and as a protest against the said E. Thornton proceeding overseas, because, in the words of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the said E. Thornton, by his statements against the White Australia policy, has disqualified himself from representing the trade unionists of the Commonwealth of Australia or the Labour party, and because the acts of “ fifth column “ activity, of which the said E. Thornton is adjudged guilty by the VicePresident of the Executive “Council, render him unfitted to represent Australia in any capacity whatsoever.
I submit this motion because it is obvious that, from the money proposed to be supplied in this bill, expenditure will be incurred by the Government in various ways in making available .to Mr. Thornton facilities for attending the Trade Union Conference at Paris in September next. 1Such facilities were “provided by tie Commonwealth Government to Mr. Thornton on another occasion, when public money was expended in order that he could attend, as the accredited representative of the Labour movement in Australia, a conference from which he only recently returned. It will bc necessary for Mr. Thornton to have a passport, and this will involve certain clerical work in the Department of the Interior. It will also be necessary for him to satisfy the Taxation Commissioner that he has paid :all taxes due by him, and this will involve a certain amount of governmental expenditure, which will be provided’ from funds proposed to be supplied under this bill. Furthermore, if the statements of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) are to be credited, Mr. Thornton’s trip abroad will necessitate certain expenditure by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The only way, consistent with the forms of Parliament, in which I can protest against Mr. Thornton being sent overseas to represent the Australian trade union movement is by the means which I have adopted. It is important that Australia should be adequately represented overseas, and it is essential that the Australian Labour movement, in particular, should be represented by a man whose views are those of a majority of members of the trade unions. On the authority of the Acting Attorney-General, we know that Mr. Thornton cannot possibly represent a general consensus of Labour opinion. Also, we have evidence of a protest against Mr. Thornton’s selection made by the Australian “Workers Union, one of the most powerful trade unions in Australia, which stands foursquare for arbitration and conciliation as opposed to the revolutionary methods of the Communist party, with which Mr. Thornton is so actively associated, lt is vital, not. only in the interests of the Labour movement, but also in the interests of our national integrity, that the man sent abroad to represent Australia at this important , conference should hold’ views and principles in harmony with those of the average Australian worker. The Acting Attorney-General has said that Mr. Thornton, by his outspoken opposition to the White Australia policy, has disqualified himself from the right to represent the trade unions of Australia. This is what the Minister said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’ at the 18th June -
Warn ing- the annual conference of the Australian Labour party yesterday that if there was to be a “ new order “ there must be discipline, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, Mr. Beasley, said: “ You must not think that because , you have a Labour Government rOt/ can do as you damn well like”.
Mr. Beasley bitterly attacked .the Communists without actually naming them, and said he was amazed that Mr. Thornton, who had criticized the White Australia policy, should be selected to represent Australian workers at the Trade Union Council Congress abroad.
The honorable gentleman also said’ -
Recently, they had had an attack on the White Australia policy. It amazed him tha( thu man who made these utterances should be selected to represent the Australian worker* at a trade union congress abroad. Such an appointment would put Labour men and women in a bad light in the eyes of their fellow unionists in other parts of the world.
If it had not been for the White Australia policy, the Japanese would have been able to infiltrate into the country as they hnd done elsewhere.
Because of the White Australia policy they did not have to fight an enemy in their roar: they were able to go forward and do the job.
According to to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Acting AttorneyGeneral also made the following further comments : -
Speaking particularly of the White Australia .policy, Mr. Beasley asked “ in whose corner Mr. Thornton was going to be, if the views of the Australian Labour movement clashed with the views of the international communism, to which Mr. Thornton was one of the senior Australian apostles? “ It is opportune that Mr. Thornton should talk of fifth columnism in trying to evade the inevitable consequences of having shown his party’s full anti-Australian hand on the White Australia policy,” Mr. Beasley said.
During the war two major pieces 01 attempted fifth columnism in this country have been the work of the Communist party, and in each of them Mr. Thornton has been the party’s eager spearhead.
These facts cannot be denied or ignored. Every member of this Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that public money, which represents contributions from the earnings and savings of the people, shall not be dissipated: in sending overseas a man whose activities at all times are opposed- to the general desires of the average Australian citizen. This is what Mr. J. T. Lang had to say about Mr. Thornton, in his book Communism in Australia -
The meteoric rise to power and position ot Ernest Thornton, boss of the Amalgamated Ironworkers and Munition Workers Federation, is a case history that must be studied for a complete understanding of what makes the internal works of the Communist machine tick.
Thornton controls an organization with an annual income of £150,000. He goes abroad armed with the credentials of the Commonwealth Government, and with all expenses paid, as well as a generous tarpaulin muster to meet incidentals. He has bis own newspaper with a special permit for newsprint. Inside the union, his word is law. Outside, he is one of the props of the Curtin Government.
Yet Thornton has only been prominent in the affairs of the Ironworkers Union for eight years, and was actually expelled from the Communist party in 1932. Still a young man, Thornton has found Australia a Land or Opportunity. But he had many moments Df doubt before he finally saw the light ot Marxism beaming ahead.
Associated with Mr. Thornton in the Communist movement in Australia is Mr. Sharkey, and I refer to his book, The Trade Unions, in which he expresses appreciation of valuable assistance given in compiling the publication by a number of comrades, including Mr. Thornton. This fact is referred to by Mr. Lang in his hook in which he stated -
Once in control of the Ironworkers Union, Thornton quickly put into operation the Communist feeling and practice of trade unionism which is supposed to end in a revolution.
Mr. Lang went on to say that the Ironworkers Federation developed a shop, committee organization under the leadership of Mr. Thornton. Mr. Sharkey, in his book, referred- to the shop committee in the following terms : -
Organizing for shop committees in the factories is a foremost task for the Communists. The shop committees play a most important role in the preparation and mobilization of the workers for strike action. They play an important role in leading the strike, and combating betrayal and reformist leadership.
In a revolutionary situation, the shop committees would be one of the chief instruments for drawing the whole of the working class into the fight, into the street and the general revolutionary struggle.
After the seizure of political power by the workers, the shop committee’s role is again extraordinarily important. Party comrades, therefore, must set about preparations for establishing a factory committee where one does not exist, and strengthening and guiding it where it does exist.
That passage expresses the principles and the desires of Mr. Thornton’s closest supporter and most active Communist comrade. Those are the principles to which the Government will subscribe if it wastes taxpayers’ money by permitting Mr. Thornton to go abroad as the representative of the Australian trade unions. That is why I have submitted my amendment to the committee.
– The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has simulated a frenzy of passion in moving an amendment which gives prominence to a man who does not deserve it. The right honorable gentleman talked about the expense that this Government would incur if Mr. Thornton went abroad, whereas, in fact, the Government will not be required to make any expenditure on his account. This man will not be a representative of the Government. His expenses will be paid by the trade unions. The right honorable member spoke of the cost of. issuing a passport and of obtaining a clearance from the taxation authorities. That line of argument merely shows the hollowness of his pretence that the Government will be put to expense. Those items are only small. The fact is that this so-called Australian patriot who leads the Australian Country party in this chamber wants to withhold from the Government Supply to the amount of £55,557,000 which is required to carry on the services of the nation and to pay our fighting men and our public servants for the next three months. That would be the real consequence of the amendment if it were agreed to. In effect, he wants us to stop the war against Japan. The right honorable gentleman may laugh as much as he likes, but I remind him of Oliver Goldsmith’s reference to “ The loud laugh that bespeaks the vacant mind”. If ever the Communists were given prominence in Australia, the right honorable gentleman has given them prominence to-night - a prominence to which their numerical strength in this country does not entitle them. He is .only trying to raise the old bogy of the socialistic “ tiger “, hoping that he will be able to delude the electors. I charge the right honorable gentleman with deliberately attempting to hold up the nation’s war effort for political purposes. He has moved that clause 3 be postponed. Postponed until when - to-morrow, the next day, or next year? This amendment is really a motion of censure in another guise, and the right honorable member knows that it is. Any attempt to interfere with the Government’s control of the public purse amounts to an attempt to censurethe Government’s administration, and the Government must treat it as such.
– Did not the Labour Government get into power in that way?
– Yes, but not by attempting to hold up the prosecution of the war. “We got into office because the people knew that we were determined to prosecute the war more vigorously. 1 am not associated with Mr. Thornton, or with anything he stands for. I have been fighting the Communists in my electorate for the last twenty years.
– Not very successfully.
– Yes, successfully.
– Why, Port Kembla is full of them.
– There are a few Communists in Port Kembla who are as loud-mouthed as is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). Because they make a great noise they get the idea that they are in a majority, but Communists who stand for Parliament generally lose their deposits. They receive more financial support from, those whom the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represents than they ever receive from the Labour party. This man Thornton has been given a prominence which he does not deserve, amd it has been done by members of the Opposition who are seeking to embarrass the Government.
– 1 support the amendment. It is ridiculous that the Minister for Works (Mr. “Lazzarini) should say that we are trying ito hold up Supply. He knows that the
Government has a majority, and that this bill will be bludgeoned through either to-night or to-morrow. The moving of an amendment of this kind is the only way in which the Opposition can direct attention to irregular procedure. I do not know Mr. Thornton, but this amendment i3 a protest against the proposal of the Government to pay the expenses of an acknowledged revolutionary, who is going abroad as the representative of an important section of the Australian community.
– We are not paying his expenses.
– In answer to a question which I asked in the House I was informed that the Government was paying his fare on his previous trip.
– That was in regard to another conference.
– I asked whether the Government had chosen Thornton to represent the Australian trade union movement in London, whether he was a Communist, whether the Government thought that he was n fit and proper person to represent Australia, and whether the Government was going to pay his expenses. The question was only partly answered. No answer was given to the question as to whether Thornton was a Communist, and whether the Government thought he was a fit and proper person to represent Australia. I was informed that the Government wa3 not paving all his expenses, but that it proposed to pay his fare, and that the amount had not yet been computed. Some time later. I asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) whether any further information had been received regarding the proposed visit of Thornton to London, and he said that none was available, but that he would look into the matter. That was a. month ago. Why should the taxpayers of Australia pay the fare of a revolutionary to attend a congress in London, when he is the representative of a party which is the enemy of democracy? Why should the Government make itself the instrument of sending him abroad? It is all very well to say that he has been chosen by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, or the Australian Labour party, or some other alphabetical organization, but the fact remains that the
Government has committed itself to pay at least a part of his expenses. If any one wants to know what a Communist is let him consult any political dictionary, and he will learn that a Communist is a member of a revolutionary, minority party whose policy it is to seize power by violence. As Mr. Churchill said -
Every act of goodwill, of tolerance, of conciliation, of mercy, nf magnanimity on the part of tile Governments or States is to be utilized for their ruin. Then when the time is ripe and the moment opportune, every form of lethal violence, from revolt to private assassinations, must be used without stint or compunction. The citadel will be stormed under the banners of liberty and democracy; and once the apparatus of power is in the bauds of brotherhood, all opposition, all contrary opnions, must he extinguished by death. Democracy is but a tool to be used and afterwards broken.
Thornton is the representative of such an organization, and honorable members opposite must be familiar with its machinations, and must know how Communists have infiltrated into trade Unions and captured key positions. They have even entered the schools and universities, where they are poisoning the minds of the young by indoctrinating them with alien ideas. Questions have also been asked about the proposal to send representatives from Australia to a youth organization congress abroad. That, of course, is nol connected with the present matter, but the Government should adopt towards it the same attitude as towards the representative of the trade union movement, lt should refuse to issue travel permits and priorities. It should insist that if this man goes to the conference, he goes for what he is, and is not sponsored by the Commonwealth Government, nor paid for by it.
– Whether or not there is any merit in this amendment, it is well that wc should know exactly what we are talking about, and that we should have in our minds a clear idea of what we are being asked to vote for. It is generally known that, some time ago, an invitation was received from Sir Walter Citrine and Mr. Walter Bevin to. send trade union representatives to an international trade union congress in London. The Com monwealth Government recognized that; the purpose of the conference was a good one, namely, to promote united action, among allied nations with a view to ensuring a better war effort. It wasdecided to accept the invitation from the British Labour movement, which wasworking hand in. hand with the .British Government. The invitation was to send, two delegates, and we told the trade unions in Australia that we would pay,, not all their expenses, but their fares.. At that time, id; had merely been decided’ that representatives would be sent. Nodecision has been made as to who the representatives would be. Eventually the representatives were chosen according to the methods laid down in the Versailles Treaty for the selection of delegates to the conference of the International: Labour Office. At first the British Government had it in mind to invite delegates from neutral countries, but it wasfinally decided to receive delegates only from allied nations. As I have said,., when the Government agreed to pay thefares of the delegates it was not known, who the delegates would be. I do not suggest that it would have mattered, at that stage if we had known. Something has arisen since then. All wc knew was that the delegates would beelected from, and by, the largest industrial organizations in the country, in accordance with the principle laid down for the International Labour OfficeYears ago, the Bruce-Page Government tried to depart from this principle, and to exercise a veto in respect to the delegates chosen. When I was sent to Geneva, we had to defy the Bruce-Page Government on this point. At the same conference of the International Labour Office, the Japanese delegates asked the international labour group not to accept their credentials as a protest against the actionof the Japanese Government in choosing: the delegates rather than allowing themto be chosen by Labour organizationsAll that the Government did in this caseis to give its blessing to the proposal to send representatives of the Australian trade union movement to the congress in London. We wanted representatives of our trade unions to sit, around the conference table with the representatives of other allied countries, and so we agreed ito make transport facilities available, and to help to pay expenses. The delegates were elected afterwards. They are not tie representatives of a political party, but of the industrial movement, and it was for the industrialists to decide who should represent them.
– The Government has the right to say what shall be -done with the taxpayers’ money.
– I am coming to that. I do not think that the mover of “the amendment would object to anything that I have said so far. It has been for so long the custom to do this that it has become a law of usage. The trouble at present is that honorable gentlemen opposite are confusing two conferences which arc about to be held : The conference of the International Labour Office, which is held annually, and attended by representatives of the employers, the -employees, and the Government, and a certain trade union conference to be held in Paris, which will be attended by representatives in the appointment of whom the Government has no say. I do not think that the representatives to attend the International Labour Conference have yet been chosen by either the employers or the employees. I know that the preferential vote that must be taken by the six trades and labour councils of Australia to make the nominations of the employees’ representatives has not yet been taken, so Mr. Thornton could not have been appointed to represent the employees.
Everybody knows that the Communist party is a political body. Its candidates contest elections in the political arena against the candidates of other political parties, including the Labour party. lt will surely not be said, therefore, that the Communist party is allied with the Labour party. Of course, it is of no use to close our eyes to the fact that included in the membership of trade unions in Australia are many Communists. Some of them understand the Communist philosophy, but many of them could be called camp followers, for they simply march behind some of the intellectuals who to-day are leading the Communist party.
– Is the objective of the Communis’ t party revolutionary?
– Those who understand the philosophy of communism must agree that it is revolutionary.
– The Opposition wants to make them revolutionary by denying to them democratic rights.
– I do not desire any help in the making of my speech. [ have never denied that I am a socialist.
– And not of a pale tin either.
– I was a socialist long before I had a vote.
– But we arc talking about communism.
– The honorable member for Fawkner asked me whether the philosophy of the Communist party was revolutionary. I say it is, but I point out that the philosophy of the socialist party is also revolutionary, but that word has many interpretations. I have even heard honorable gentlemen opposite talk about revolutionary changes that have occurred from time to time in this, country. The word has many meanings. I believe in the socialist policy. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that I am not “.pink”. I do not tie tags on myself. I merely point out that the Communist party is revolutionary .and that honorable gentlemen opposite from time to time have spoken , about revolutionary changes in this country.
However, I shall return to the subject of these two conferences. The trade union conference is not being held under the auspices of this, or any other Government, so far as I know. It is a gathering of industrialists. The representatives to it will be elected by trade unions.
– By the Australasian Council of Trade Unions only?
– I do not think so.
– Will the Australian Workers Union, the biggest industrial union in Australia, have a voice in the election of representatives to it?
– This is a trade union conference. The Government has not decided to pay anything towards the cost of sending Mr; Thornton, or anybody else, to this conference, nor has it agreed to assist in any way with regard to transport. It has not yet been asked to do so. Therefore, there is no substance whatever in this amendment, which I regard as frivolous and illogical. I ask honorable members to reject the amendment and let us get on with the business of the country. If honorable gentlemen opposite wish to ascertain the intentions of the Government in regard to the meeting of expenses of delegates to a certain conference, they should ask the Acting Prime Minister a question on the subject and they will get an answer to it; but they are, in fact, making a charge in relation to certain events which have not yet occurred’.
– The Chair does not propose to allow a general discussion on communism on this amendment.
– The committee has had the advantage of hearing two statements from Ministers concerning this amendment. One was made by the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) in what I may perhaps be allowed to describe as a voice of thunder. The other was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in what I shall call “the still, small voice “. But neither honorable gentleman has given us an answer to the questions1 that have been asked. In conformity with your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall confine myself to the problem raised by the amendment. The Minister assisting the Treasurer said, in a rather dashing w.ay, that if the amendment were agreed to the war would stop, or something else rather serious would happen; if the acceptance of the amendment did not involve the recalling of troops from various theatres of war, it would at least interfere with the war effort. I point out to the honorable gentleman that the purpose of the amendment is to cause the postponement of the consideration of clause 3 as an instruction to the Government to do a certain thing. If, therefore, the honorable gentleman wishes to avoid the dangers he foresees he has only to influence the Government to accept the amendment. The remedy is in his own hands. The Minister for Labour and National Service has gone to some pains to establish that this gentleman. Thornton, who is going abroad to attend a trade union conference, has not been selected by the Government and is in no way associated with the Government. All I desire to say about Mr. Thornton is that his record in this country is very well known. His conduct, until Russia entered the war, was about aa nearly treasonable as the conduct of any man could be.
– Then why did not the Menzies Government deal with him?
– We dealt with certain persons holding similar views, and this Government released them as soon as it assumed office. The activities of this man Thornton were devoted, in 1940 and in the beginning of 1941, to the obstruction of, the war effort of Australia. At a certain conference in 1940r Thornton sponsored an amendment which demanded a negotiated peace and condemned the war as imperialistic. That amendment was tabled by him at the very moment when the battle for Britain which, as we all know now, was the battle for tho world, was at its height, and when Australian troops were engaged in extremely serious operations in the Middle East. This man is the leader of a revolutionary movement, and the revolution envisaged is not of the mild academic kind to which the Minister for Labour and National Service referred, but of a kind that would, cause blood to run in Australian streets. Let us make no error about that. TheCommunist movement is not like the socialist movement with which the Minister for Labour and National Service hasassociated himself, which seeks revolution through peaceful, parliamentary and- constitutional means. The Communist movement seeks a red revolution. This man Thornton went abroad some time ago to a conference with which Sir Walter Citrine was associated. He did not represent the Government on that occasion, but was chosen to represent the Australian trade union movement. It is now a matter of record that the fares of this delegate were met by this Government. We have not yet had a clear assurancethat they will not be met also on this occasion. Indeed, this w,hole matter could he brought to a head quickly if the
Government would answer a few perfectly simple and straightforward questions. The first question I ask is: Does the Government give an assurance that no fares or expenses of any kind will be met for this man by the Australian Government? If that question is answered with a resounding “ no “ then the amendment becomes utterly necessary.
– The right honorable member would be very glad, for he could make some political capital out of it.
– My next question is this: If the Government does not propose to meet his fares or expenses, does it give the assurance that no overseas currency will be provided for him by o: through the Treasury? - because, as appeared to-day at question time, no man can go abroad on a task of this kind unless he is able to have funds in dollars, sterling, or whatever the overseas currency may be; and he cannot have that without the permission of the Treasury of this country, unless, of course, it is found for him by somebody outside Australia. The question is very simple: Does the Government give the assurance that no such provision will be made?
– Is not that a mattei for the Government to decide?
– Does the. Minister mean to tell me that that is a matter which the Government ought to decide in secret, and which ought not to be communicated to the Australian people?
– It will be communicated at the proper time.
– This is the place in which the Australian people are to be heard. This is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. All of u3 represent scores of thousands of Australians. If there is one place in which these questions may legitimately be put and properly answered it is the Parliament of Australia.
– I said that the Government would choose the time.
– The Minister knows perfectly well, because he has had a long experience in both the industrial movement and the Commonwealth Parliament, that if the Government does not propose to meet the expenses or provide the financial facilities to which I have referred, it can quite easily say “ no “; and if that be done, and it is added to the repudiation of Mr. Thornton’s capacity to represent the trade union movement, offered this morning by one Minister, then at least the position will be clarified to that degree. But if the Government says, “ We shall consider that matter at the proper time. We are not disposed to tell you people in Parliament what we are going to do about it “, then the people of Australia will come to the conclusion that Mr. Ernest Thornton is going abroad to represent the Australian trade union movement, to some degree at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. It is no use our imagining that the Australian trade union movement is a negligible body. There is not one honorable member opposite who would not say at once that it is a very great association of organizations. From their point of view, it is the greatest and most representative body of men that is to be found in Australia. And the man who represents it in. the eye of the world at a world conference is going to be regarded as the Australian representative. If Australia is to be represented abroad by a man whose activities have been subversive, by one who looks forward to revolution, and does not even speak the same language as the genuine members of the industrial movement of Australia, then it will be the Government’s responsibility. This is not a matter of building up a man who is negligible, and giving to him publicity that he would not otherwise achieve. We might have considered at one time that the Communist movement in Australia was negligible. But no man, and certainly no trade unionist, oan have doubt any longer that the Australian Communist movement is the enemy not only of Australia, but also of the genuine Labour party and of genuine industrial activity for industrial ends.
I have put my two questions. All that I desire is to have a clear answer to them. In the light of those answers, the Parliament and the people of Australia will be able to judge.
– With the “soft answer that turneth away wrath “, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) appeared to smooth the ruined feelings of the committee. But in doing so, he mentioned Sir Walter Citrine in connexion with a previous conference of trade unions in London. I remind him that at that conference a remark was made to Sir Walter Citrine, or alternatively it was made to him privately, that might have a bearing on the Government’s refusal to give an undertaking that it will not pay any of the expenses of Mr. Thornton, or make sterling available to him. Mr. Thornton remarked to
SiT Walter Citrine, “ The unions are not controlled by the governments, but the governments are controlled by the unions “.
– That has been denied.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) has quoted Mr. Thornton as having said that the Government had to be careful, otherwise the unions would withdraw their support from it. Possibly because these statements are true, there is an absence of eagerness on the part ofl honorable members opposite to engage in this debate. The Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) accused the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) of having given prominence to this man. A senior Minister, and not the Leader of the Australian Country party, first gave prominence to Mr. Thornton in this connexion. It is rather significant that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was at one time the Leader of the Non-Communist party in this chamber. It would appear that he is running true to form. Perhaps the evasion of the Minister assisting the Treasurer, who was not a member of the Non-Communist party, indicates a desire to defend the Communists.
– The honorable gentleman is telling an untruth.
– If the assurances asked for are given, the matter will end. The Government paid the fares of Mr. Thornton when he last attended a trade union conference abroad, and if it is not prepared to assure honorable members that it will not use public funds to pay his expenses on the present occasion, we shall be entitled to suspect that it. intends to do so. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has informed the committee that this man approached as close as was possible to treason at the beginning of the present war. If the money of the taxpayers is to be used to send abroad such a man to represent Australian trade unionism, the Government will have a heavy accounting to make for its misuse of public funds. It seems to be poetic justice that the Communist party should challenge the Government as it has done. The object of the amendment is to give to the Government the opportunity to state its position in regard to that body, which was banned by the Menzies Government, and released from the ban by the present Administration. It is significant that, having been given that fortunate break, the Communists should seek to bite the hand that lifted from their shoulders the burden of being declared an unlawful organization. The matter should be placed in proper perspective. I have no doubt that those who succeed us will be interested to see how such matters were determined by a Labour Government. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th June a portion of a report headed “ Attack on White Australia’ Policy”-
Criticising the “ White Australia.” policy, Mr. E. Thornton, national secretary, told the national conference of the Federated Ironworkers Union yesterday that no workingclass organization could tolerate discrimination based on colour or religion. … A new approach to the problem of immigration, free from prejudice or notions of racial superiority, is needed. We do not desire to sec Australia flooded by a great immigration of Asiatic people, but only for the same reason that we do not desire a flood of Italians or Swedes, or oven Englishmen to enter this country in a haphazard way.
That was a strong statement by a man whose fares had been paid by the present Government when he went abroad to represent the Australian trade union movement - to which a Minister referred earlier in the day as “ our people “. When he was asked whom he meant, he replied, “The trade unions”. This gentleman was rightly taken to task by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who seems to be the only honorable gentleman opposite who is trying to keep within the known limits of Labour’s policy in that regard, and .is the only member courageous enough to have a “ crack “ at the men who are threatening the whole fabric of Labour - indeed. the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th June reported the Vice-President of the Executive Council in these terms-
The Acting Attorney-General, Mr. Beasley, .. id to-night that in his attack on Monday on the White Australia policy the general secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, Mr. K. Thornton, displayed a. basic non-Australianism, which was not however, surprising when it was encountered in Mr. Thornton.
Yet that man has been selected to represent Australian trade unionism overseas! ft wild be recalled that when he previously went abroad on a similar mission lie Was responsible for the invitation that was issued to enemies of the Allies to attend the conference. Although he has been challenged by the Vice-President of the Executive Council on account of his “ basic non-Australianism “, he is to have his fares paid by the present Government or at least will have sterling made available to him. The VicePresident of the Executive Council also said -
Mr. Thornton* proposed immigration on a quota system without discrimination of race and colour would inevitably create in Australia unassimilable cells of non-Australianism. Those cells would suit the purposes of a party which, like Mr. Thornton’s, is attempting to break down the ideals of democratic Australian Labour in favour of a system in which Australia’s entire way of life would be dictated from outside Australia.
Of course, it will be dictated from outside Australia. The Communist party is endeavouring to supplant the present Labour policy, which is an Australian policy, by a policy dictated from outside Australia. Honorable members opposite are still silent. Apparently, they are prepared to allow the movement to which they belong to be thrown into the discard, because they fear that they might say something that might outrage the militant trade unions, to which they look for support. Then we find that Mr. Thornton, answering the Vice-President of the Executive Council, on the 19th June, said -
Possibly it is because Mr. Beasley is incapable of understanding the general viewpoint of the Labour movement, but understands only the viewpoint of the small, narrow, and bigoted anti-Communist section, that he is unable to comprehend bow a Communist can represent the viewpoint of the Labour movement as a whole. lt seems to me that a lot of honorable members can and do understand how he can represent Labour as a whole. Continuing, Mr. Thornton said -
Mr. Beasley says we had no fifth column ‘ir enemy in the rear in this country. We did, but it was composed of some Germans, some Italians, and some Australians, who wen violently anti-Communist - as Hitler was. They shared. Mr. Beasley’s views in this respect, anyhow.
He carried the attack right’ back to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Honorable members opposite are prepared to see a senior Cabinet Minister traduced in this regard.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order ! No senior Minister is involved in the amendment.
– We come to the 20th June when the Vice-President of the Executive Council is reported as having said -
I reiterate my expression of amazement at the choice as Australian representative at an overseas trade union conference of a man who. like Mr. Thornton, belongs to an antiAustralian political party, and who, under instructions from the overseas bosses of that party, has committed himself in public, in opposition to a principle which for more than a century, has been basic to the bona fide Australian, working class movement.
That a Communist cannot represent the view of the Australian Labour movement as a whole has been abundantly proved at every election, Federal or State, at which a Communist, with true colours flying, has contested a working-class constituency.
He further said -
Mr. Thornton, for instance, twice lost hi> deposit in opposition to Mr. Scullin, M.P., hi the Yarra electorate. If. the Ironworker*’ Union imposed at its election the. full safe-, guards provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act - if the rank and file of his union had had the same opportunity of demanding all his views, as the electors of Yarra had - his contest for the federal secretaryship he now holds might have had similar results.
I put two questions to Mr. Thornton -
What is he now going to say if he if asked to report overseas on the Australian workers’ view of the White Australia policy, which has preserved for the Australian worker his living standard and his democraticfreedom ?
In whose corner is he going to be it the views of the Australian Labour movement clash at Paris with the views of international communism, of which he is one of the senior Australian apostles?
That is my final quotation because it seems to me that that places the position in true perspective. We also should like to know what corner he will be in. We do not want to see Australia embarrassed by bis support of international ideas on these matters. He is likely to be an influence because he will bear the stamp of Australian unionism, and we all know that in the right quarters all over the world the Australian trade union movement has a proud name. The Government should consider carefully the amendment and give the assurance asked for.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-The amendment moved by the Leader of. the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), [ submit, is entirely irrelevant to the matter before the Chair, namely, the appropriation of certain moneys for the further conduct of the war, civil administration and! certain social services existing or intended. The amendment was moved for base political purposes and regardless of its consequences to Australia. The man Thornton referred to by the right honorable gentleman and other honorable members opposite was elected, I understand, unanimously, democratically, and constitutionally, by 400 delegates of hundreds of thousands of workers all over Australia to represent them at a conference overseas. The maintenance of our democracy and constitutionalism is the very ideal for which we are fighting. Irrespective of his political views, are we to deprive him of hia democratic rights? I am not concerned with what his views may be, even though they be diametrically opposed to what I have always stood for. Suppose he does stand for atheistic communism, which is opposed to our ideals of Christian democracy, or that he did in the past stand for revolutionary action as against constitutional reform, which is the policy of the Labour party whose principles I espouse, the fact remains that he was democratically elected to represent Australian trade unions at a forthcoming international conference. It is not the Conference of the International Labour Organization which holds regular meetings but a convention of representatives of trade unionists in all parts of the world. That is the issue. We may disagree with this gentleman and those who support his ideological out-_. look, but would we not, by the intolerance expressed in the amendment, be driving him into the methods for v_hich. he has stood in the past? There are, unfortunately, many workers in this country who do stand for the ideology of revolutionary communism. What has been the cause? Why is Thornton a Communist? I understand that he was a Barnardo boy. Embittered, no doubt, by what he saw in the slums of London, and here, too, he became a Communist. The Communists have a programme which possibly appeals to many of the workers. The best way to offset has views and approach is to set up a better programme. That is what, is before us - a programme of social reform by constitutional methods which will preclude the necessity for communism for which he and others stand. The attitude and methods of honorable gentlemen opposite are designed rather to bring about the very methods the Communists espouse. Raking over past history does not get U3 very far. There have been mistakes on both sides. The policy of appeasement at Munich, and, even in our own country - for instance, the sending of scrap iron and pig iron to Japan - drove the Communists of Russia into the Nazi-Soviet pact. One can go into the past and talk about “ fifth column “ activities and such. One has only to go back to 1932 - T shall not enter into personalities - when we had the nearest approach to civil war that we have had in this country, and the New Guard was prepared to march on Parliament House.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the amendment.
– Involved in this amendment is the old red. bogy. If carried it would be likely to have disastrous consequences internally and externally. Are we to affront our ally, Russia, by saying that, regardless of what may have happened in this war, anybody in this country with communistic views is to be treated as a pariah with no democratic rights or privileges? That is what the amendment means. Our representatives at San Francisco are trying to create a spirit of goodwill towards Russia.
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the amendment, [do not want to have reason to repeat that direction.
– We are dealing with the prosecution of the war. We are appropriating money for war purposes. We are concerned to ensure that we shall have the goodwill of our allies in this war. One of them is Russia. One way in which we can lose that goodwill is by repeating the errors of the past, by affronting Russia, saying, in effect, that anybody in this country with communistic views is an outcast. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) read extracts regarding Mr. Thornton’s views, and that is what is involved in this amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order I What is involved in this amendment, is the question of Mr. Thornton’s views on the White Australia policy, and his “ fifth column “ activity. Russia is not involved in any degree.
– Well, the amendment involves Mr. Thornton’s views on the White Australia policy, and, whether we agree or disagree, he has the democratic right, as well as the honesty and courage, to express ‘ those views. That is what is involved. It is wrong to try to deprive him of his right to express his views. The White Australia policy affects millions of Asiatics, among whom are our allies, Honorable members opposite are prepared to raise any issue, racial or religious, to split the workers of this country. We are trying to create goodwill with our allies, but the intolerance, suspicion and mistrust that honorable gentlemen opposite are creating may bring about a situation similar to that which caused this war.
– I very strongly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The two speeches made by Ministers in reply to the right honorable gentleman were the most astounding that I have heard in this chamber. The issue is not Mr. Thornton’s work as a Communist, but the fact that the Labour Government is permiitting to go overseas to represent the Australian trade union movement a man who, on the evidence of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mt. Beasley), has twice been guilty, during the war, of acts which he, in a kindly way, described as the acts of a fifth columnist, but which history will judge as the acts of a traitor to his country in its hour of direst peril. In 1940, when Great Britain’s fortunes were at their nadir, and when the Empire was the only bulwark standing between the forces of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and the rest of the world, Mr. Thornton, at a trade union conference in Sydney, moved an amendment which would have taken away th© support of those unions from the war effort of the Empire, paralyzed Australia’s war effort, and reduced our capacity to assist Russia when it was later attacked by Germany. That was his first act of treachery to the country which he has adopted as his home. As the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) said, in answer to a question which I asked earlier to-day, that is past history. The second act of treachery to Australia, as the Minister pointed out, is a very recent one. It was his betrayal of that principle which alone can maintain the integrity and living standards of Australian workers and prevent this country from disappearing in a yellow sea, a principle to which all true Australians subscribe - the White Australia policy. When this subject was under discussion at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, Australia’s right to maintain that policy was in the balance, as it has been before. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out recently that he had to fight with all his energies to convince the assembly of the League of Nations that it was essential that Australia should maintain that policy. Australia is a small and weak country, and it cannot maintain this vital policy without the support of the rest of the Empire. At the very moment when its fate hung in the balance at San Francisco, Mr. Thornton brought out his declaration that the White Australia policy should be abandoned. As the Acting Attorney-General rightly pointed out, he is a traitor to his country. This man is to be the representative of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the most powerful trade union organization in the Commonwealth, and he is the president of the Ironworkers and Munition Makers Unions. His appointment was backed by all the prestige of those important positions. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) complained that we were giving to him a prominence which he did not deserve. Nothing that I or any other honorable member can say would give him any more importance than that already given to bini by virtue of his position in the trade union movement. He is to be sent to Europe to express Australia’s point of view at the International Conference of Trade Unions. He is bound to no policy, he has denounced the White Australia ideal, and he gives complete loyalty to an un-Australian organization. Nothing that we can say can add to his importance. Both Ministers who have spoken on this motion salved their consciences, and, like another gentleman, Pontius Pilate, they washed their hands of the affair, and said that Mr. Thornton would not go abroad as the representative of the Australian Government. They admitted, that on a previous occasion, a part of his expenses had been paid by the Government, but they said that on this occasion his fares might or might not be paid by the Government. The point was not clarified. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said that Mr. Thornton, because he had been chosen according to section 13 of some convention signed at Versailles at the time of the Peace Treaty, had been elected according to law as Australia’s representative, and that ipso facto, the ‘ Government must give every facility to Mr. Thornton to enable him to go abroad as the representative of the Australian trade unions.
– I said that we had not been asked to give assistance yet.
– But the Minister knows that the Government will be asked. The honorable gentleman has a charming personality. He is suave and his manner is delightful. His voice is never raised above a normal pitch. But he submits the most specious and plausible arguments that I have ever heard in this chamber. He did not say that facilities would not be made available to Mr. Thornton. He merely said that the Government had not been asked to make them available. We know that it will be asked, and we know what its answer will be, if it runs true to its previous form. It will make every possible facility available to Mr. Thornton to enable him to attend the conference in Paris. Another point made by the Minister was that the selection of the union’s representative had nothing to do with the Government. I say that the Government should be closely concerned with the choice of a representative to express the views of the Australian working people at such an important conference as that which will be held in Paris in September. I am not unsupported in my views, because the central executive of the Australian Workers Union, at a meeting in Sydney on the 19 th June, resolved unanimously -
Public utterances of Mr. Thornton showed that his views on working class philosophy and policies were diametrically opposed to those of the Australian Labour movement and the majority of Australian unions.
Mr. Thornton was not a fit and proper person to represent, and, in fact, could not represent Australian unionists at the conference or any oversea trade union talks.
On the evidence submitted by the Acting Attorney-General, this man is a traitor to his country. In effect he is not one whit better than the man who is being tried for treason in London at the present time, “ Lord Haw Haw “. Why should Mr. Thornton be permitted by the elected Government of the people to leave the country in order to make treacherous and wickedly harmful statements to the detriment of the Australian people? If Mr. Thornton goes overseas as the representative of the trade unionists of Australia, who number over 1,000,000, he will speak with a voice of great authority. If he utters at that conference statements such as he has made in this country with regard to the White Australia policy, his words will be seized upon by every representative of the coloured nations and of coloured workers of the
United States of America. They will stress: to their governments the fact that the lawfully elected representative of Australian trade unions condemned the White Australia policy, that rock upon which the foundations and fabric of Australia rest. This Government is on trial and must prove its sincerity by dealing properly with this traitor. If it will say that it will break with the Communist movement and. prevent Mr. Thornton from going overseas, then the Opposition will be prepared not to press the amendment.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) seems to develop a great deal of heat about anything at ali which he discusses in this chamber. I have been absent this evening on important business, but I understand that an amendment has been submitted as a direction to the Government to prevent Mr. Thornton from going to Paris as the representative of the Australian trade unions. The Government will not accept any amendments to this bill. I make that clear now. It is here to govern, and it will govern. I am sorry if I appeared discourteous by not being present in the chamber when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) were speaking; I make a practice of listening to debates whenever possible. I confess that I do not know the exact nature of the conference at which Mr. Thornton will represent the trade unions. Honorable members opposite claim that the Government should not pay any of Mr. Thornton’s expenses during his trip overseas. I assure them that the Government will not be paying any of Mr. Thornton’s expenses at the conference. Certain statements were made to the effect that this Government does not support the White Australia policy. The Labour party, unlike the predecessors of the present Opposition parties, has been a consistent supporter of that policy. Therefore, I treat all this talk about White Australia from honorable members opposite with cynicism. The Labour party has always championed the principle of a White Australia. It has been said that some of those who support the Government have various defects. Well, I say that some of those who support the Opposition would be glad to see coolie labour in this country. I have seen statements by quite reputable people about the desirability of using coloured labour to develop the back areas of Australia, and they have not been supporters of the Labour party. As- for the provision of credit for people travelling abroad, I have never, as Treasurer, dealt personally with any application of the kind, and I should be surprised to learn that any other Treasurer ever did so. Such matters are dealt with by an officer in the Treasury, who acts after consultation with the bank, and letters of credit are given or refused, according to the merits of the applications. I cannot say who gets letters of credit or who does not. For instance, quite recently a very prominent supporter of the Liberal party went abroad, but I cannot say what letters of credit he obtained, nor for what amount they were issued. His application was dealt with in the normal, routine way by the bank and the appropriate officer of the Treasury. I am not going to give an undertaking that I will interfere with the principle that all applications must be judged on their merits, nor do I propose to disturb the present practice. The issue of a passport in this case will be dealt with in the regular way, namely, by an officer of the Department of the Interior, whose duty is to attend to such matters. He will exercise his judgment in this as in other cases. Such matters are not dealt with by governments, and 1 do not know who gets passports.
– Does not the Security Branch have a look at applications?
– I take it that applications are scrutinized by the officer concerned and by the Minister, and that all relevant particulars pertaining to them are taken into account. I doubt whether any Minister other than the Minister for the Interior has anything to do with it.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) has accused Mr. Thornton of treachery.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has proved that he is quite capable of looking after himself. The expenses of Mr. Thornton to this congress will not be paid by the Government. It has been the practice of this and previous governments to pay some of the expenses of delegates attending meetings of the International Labour Office - representatives of both employers and employees. In this instance, we are concerned with a trade union congress, and the expenses of the delegates will not be paid by the Government. The statement made by Mr. Thornton regarding the “White Australia policy does not represent the views of the Labour party, nor, I think, of the people of Australia, the great majority of whom want to keep Australia white.
– They do not want communism.
– I could, if I chose, discuss what constitutes- communism and what constitutes fascism. I remember when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was stamping around this country bearing all the marks of a first-class Fascist.
– I want to tell the Treasurer that that is an absolute lie.
– 1 will repeat what I said. There was a time when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was stamping around this country, and his actions bore all the marks of a full-blown Fascist.
– That is an absolute lie.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).That expression is unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member for Wentworth to withdraw it.
– 1 withdraw the statement, and I ask the Treasurer to withdraw his remark that I was a Fascist. I object to the term.
– As the remark is offensive to the honorable member, and in deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw it. I repeat that the Government will not pay the expenses of Mr. Thornton, and that other matters pertaining to his projected trip abroad will be dealt with entirely on their merits.
– I rise to a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Treasurer. He said that there was a time when I was stamping around this country like a
Fascist. I have no doubt that he was influenced by statements that 1 was a member of the New Guard. I never was a member of that organization. I was a member of a political party that was strongly opposed to unconstitutional action. The statement of the Treasurer was offensive.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has given an undertaking that the Government will not use public money to defray the expenses of Mr. Thornton on his trip overseas. It puts us in a position different from that disclosed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who admitted that on the previous occasion the Government had given an open cheque to certain people who went abroad on certain missions. He said that the Government had agreed to pay half of the expenses of delegates on those missions, but did not know, and did not care, who the delegates would be. I am amazed at the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). He reminds me of the man who was washed up on the shores of a cannibal island and, entering into a discussion with the cannibal chief, said, “ I believe in democracy. I admit that you represent the majority. I am in a minority, but even if you do not agree with me, I have the right to express my views; and you, being in the majority, have a perfect right to carry out your policy “. Under that system we know what the end of the honorable member would be on a cannibal island, and we know what will be the end of the Labour party in its association with Mr. Thornton. Sooner or later the Government must recognize certain principles with respect to overseas delegations, particularly as these delegations are becoming more numerous and are being arranged for all sorts of purposes. The first is that any public money expended in respect of such delegations must be expended in terms of the Constitution. Parliament has the right to expend money only for constitutional purposes. It has no other legal or moral right to expend public money. It may be that under the Commonwealth’s external affairs power the Government has the right to send delegations to overseas conferences which are held in consequence of certain commitments entered into by the Government. In such cases its expenditure will be legally incurred. But the Minister for Labour and National Service is prepared to guarantee, on behalf of the Government, the payment of half the fares of delegates before they are even selected, and the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), and later the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said, in effect, that they did not know exactly what the proposed conference was about. Those are the most slipshod statements with regard to public money that I have ever heard. Ministers at least should inform their minds as to what such conferences are about, and whether Australia can be legally represented at such conferences, before they commit the Government to payments of this kind.
– I said definitely that the conference was an industrial conference.
– But the Minister did not know exactly what the conference in London was about. The Minister for Labour and National Service made the same admission. He said also that he was not quite sure what the Paris conference would be about. Thus we find ourselves in the most delightful” situation in which Ministers are prepared to expend public money in the payment of expenses of delegates to conferences overseas about which they know nothing at all and do not trouble to inform their minds. There was a time when the party organization of which Mr. Thornton was a member was declared illegal by a previous government; but somebody, I do not know whom - perhaps it was Abou Ben Evatt; - has since declared it to be legal, to the utter confusion and distraction of everything in the Commonwealth, industrially and otherwise. With regard to the conference recently attended by Mr. Thornton, about the rights and wrongs of which the Minister for Labour and National Service cannot even guess, the Minister said that he hoped that one result of that conference would be a big improvement in Australia’s war effort industrially. I should like the
Minister to say whether, as the result of Mr. Thornton’s attendance at that conference, the Government has been enabled to obtain the production of one more ton of coal, or additional production of anything else. Since Mr. Thornton’s return, he and his friends have placed obstruction after obstruction in the Government’s industrial path. It is time that honorable members opposite stood on both of their political feet in these matters. They cannot get anywhere by the appeasement attitude taken up by the honorable member for Reid, whose talk about these delightful fellows, who preach revolution and practice it, is all nonsense. And they practice everything that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) attributed to them, and a lot more about which he did not speak, but of which he is fully aware. If the Labour party does not put them in their place, they will shortly be in the place now occupied by the Labour party in the politics of Australia. Let honorable members opposite remember that the Labour party stands between the Conservatives, who introduced the White Australia policy - it was not a socialist, or Labour, Government which was responsible for that policy-
– It was the price paid by the honorable member’s crowd for office.
– It is time that honorable members opposite realized that if there is going to be an uprise of the Communist party in this country, the Labour party will be the party which will be crushed between the upper and nether . millstones. In the future, we require to be a little more careful in these matters. I am glad that the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Makin) is now present in the chamber. In selecting delegates to attend conferences overseas, it is unthinkable that a man who is charged with the things with which Thornton has been charged by the Vice-President of the Executive Council could be sent by any government to represent this country in any capacity outside Australia. It would be just as sensible for the British Government after the next elections to say that William Joyce was fit to represent it on some mission overseas. If anything further were to be said about the disqualifications of Mr. Thornton in this matter, I have no doubt that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) could speak feelingly on the subject, because it was Mr. Thornton who, on a previous occasion, dubbed the Minister as the champion cheer-chaser of New South Wales.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Fadden’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. j.f. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
– I desire to refer to the suspension of Deputy Wilson and the trouble at Millfield Colliery. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a statement on this subject to-day in which he said that there was no doubt about legal authority for the action of thecompany in suspending Deputy Wilson. Wilson has denied’ that he committed any breach of the regulations, but Mr. Justice Cantor, in his judgment on the matter, said -
I amsatisfied that the management acting for the employer in good faith and as a reasonable man exercising his rights as an employer, suspended Wilson - I find no evidence of victimization of Wilson in the offence alleged or of failure on the part of those concerned to apply their minds fairly to the facts.
In view of those remarks the compromise that was made was very strange. The representative of theCommonwealth Coal Commission met representatives of the Deputies Association in conference with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley). The Acting Prime Minister has stated that further evidence was available to show that Wilson was unjustly dealt with, and he has asked that the whole matter should be reviewed. I now ask the Acting Prime Minister whether this was not the nature of the compromise that was entered into: Wilson was to remain suspended and no permanent appointment was to be made to his position in, the meantime. The colliery would continue to operate until the judge had heard further evidence or, until 30 days had elapsed, during which no further evidence was produced. It appears that the Government’s representative had other ideas. . This is the gravamen of my complaint. The Government’s representative considered that the colliery should be taken taken over by the Coal Controller. The reward of this company for having observed the law is that it is to lose control of its own colliery. In these days that seems to be the reward of all industrialists for obeying the law. Even though they observe the awards of the courts they know that they may be penalized, notwithstanding that some of the workers may have gravely and grossly transgressed the laws of the country.
Apparently, Mr. Pellew, Acting Production Manager of the Coal Commission, was to he appointed Controller of1 Millfield Colliery. This, of course, was not asked for by the deputies. The action was taken by the Government in order to placate persons who had broken the law, and it is in accord with the weak-kneed policy of this Government. The mineowners did not break the law, yet the Government goes out of ite way to appease the workers! The result has been, of course, that the leaders of the men have said, “Boys, the Government is on the run. We have got more than we asked for. Let us not wait until the matter comes before the tribunal. It cannot decide in our favour, because the management had the right to suspend Wilson. The finding of Mr. Justice Cantor showed that that is so. Therefore, let us strike again immediately, for, of course, the Government will settle the matter out of court in the usual way as soon as pressure is put upon it and Wilson will be reinstated “. That is exactly what happened. Everything that Judge Cantor said, and what the Acting Prime Minister himself has said, proves that the management was right in the action which it took; yet the Government continues the policy of appeasement which it laid down in the early days of its term of office. At present 24 mines are idle, and 20,000 tons of coal is being lost each day. The Acting Prime Minister admitted in his statement to-day that the deputies had broken the law and were liable to prosecution; but the Government will not prosecute. These men have been off work since last Wednesday, yet the Government proposes to wait and see what further action the men will take before it decides what its course will be. The case against the miners is clear. The management of the mine acted within the law, but the mine was taken over by the Government; the deputies acted outside the law and have not been prosecuted. They are being given another chance. Notwithstanding the Government’s intervention, they are on strike, and will remain on strike because of the Government’s weakness. If the strike continues, notwithstanding the statement by the Acting Prime Minister, will these men be prosecuted? I do not think that they will. Already they have been on strike for four working days during which production of coal amounting to 80,000 tons has been lost. That is the price that the Government has to pay for its policy of appeasement. At one time, 80,000 tons of coal might have assumed gigantic proportions in the eyes of the people of this country, but it is a mere bagatelle compared with the tonnage that has been lost this year. During 1945, 800,000 tons of coal, or an average of 34,800 tons a week, has been lost to industry through disputes on the coal-fields. The position is much worse than it was last year, when the average weekly loss was 30,000 tons. Last year there were certain small reserves of coal, but to-day ‘there are practically no reserves. The Coal Commissioner said this morning that gas rationing would be introduced in Sydney on Friday unless the miners resumed work immediately. It is only a step from gas rationing to the rationing of electricty, which may result in a hold-up of vital war industries. I deplore the growing practice of this Government of encouraging the flouting of the law by militant trade unions. This weakness is bringing about a state of industrial chaos and anarchy, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself admitted. Such action in time of war can only be described as treasonable. I warn the Government that statements made in this chamber and elsewhere by responsible Ministers criticizing the judiciary, and the actions of Ministers in interfering with the course of law - I refer particularly to the now famous Commonwealth railways case in which certain directions were given to Mr. Gahan, and to the overriding of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the Connolly case - can result only in the complete destruction of the democratic system, which, of course, is the objective of the Communists. The Government, in effect, is supporting the Communists by permitting courts and other democratic institutions of this country to be brought into disrepute and held to ridicule. It is time that this flouting of the law was regarded seriously. Knowingly or unknowingly, the Government is playing into the hands of the Communists. Either the law must be supreme or we shall revert to the law of the tooth and the claw, which is the law of the jungle - a state of affairs which we are rapidly approaching. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister to take action, even at this late hour, to uphold the law of this country, otherwise we can say goodbye to democracy.
– I do not propose to reply to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) at length. Earlier to-day I made a statement on this matter which I think was a fair account of what has happened. As I said, the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, made certain recommendations. He hoped that certain meetings would be held to-night. So far, I do not know what are the results of those meetings and I do not propose to form any judgment, or to make any further statement, until I have that information. I repeat that if work is resumed to-morrow and coal is produced - after all, that is the main concern of the Government and the country - prosecutions- will not be launched. That is a fair and honest statement. If the meetings do not decide on that course, I shall consult my colleagues to-morrow in regard to the action which will be taken by the Government.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) L10.55].- Service Ministers might well look at a Treasury instruction which reads -
In all cases, it is the responsibility of the purchasing department to decide upon the purchase which will best serve the interests of the Commonwealth.
The price to be paid will be a question of primary consideration, and in some cases it may be outweighed by such further consideration as suitability, quality or the time of delivery.
That paragraph may explain some of the deficiencies in regard to the quality, or the rate of delivery, of equipment purchased for the services. The instruction continues -
A service department may indicate the capacity of an individual firm to meet a requirement, but that should be used only as a helpful guide and not as any subtraction from the responsibility of the purchasing department to determine the placing of orders.
It should be patent to service Ministers that, in the purchase of necessary equipment - small arms, guns, aircraft, or any thing else - if the purchasing department and not the services themselves is the principal authority, and can decide matters of price, quality, and time of delivery without consulting the services, there will be wrong deliveries. There should not be a Treasury outlook when purchasing war equipment. A few pound? may be saved, but lives may be lost.
The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act contains anomalies, which will be admitted by every one who has a knowledge of its provisions. There is need for an overhaul. The allparty committee of ex-servicemen in this Parliament might well be consulted, with a view to amendments being made within a reasonable time. In considering an application for a dependant’s pension, the means test is applied to the parents of servicemen. One or two sons of a family may have been killed. They may have been contributing to the upkeep of the home, but if the’ parents have an income which exceeds £1 19s. a week each, they are not entitled to a pension. That is the cause of bitter disappointment to many parents-.
The wife of a service pensioner who was married to him subsequent to 1932, is not entitled to a pension. That matter needs adjustment.
The entitlement tribunals are too static. It is too difficult to get a case before one of them. They have the stock answer, “ This is not relevant, and we cannot heaT it “. I have had that experience. It would be better to abolish those tribunals, and allow cases to be referred quickly to a court, than to give dissatisfaction to any ex-serviceman. The assessment tribunals are doing their work very well. But a soldier from Western Australia, for example, may state his case to an entitlement tribunal in Victoria. He may not be able to call witnesses. The department has the file, and his claim is refused. He mus.t apply again within twelve months. If the department merely says that the further evidence is not relevant, his case is struck out. That is scarcely democratic. Although the Minister has no power to make an alteration, or to direct a tribunal, he could at least ensure that substantial justice would be done.
– The honorable gentleman is not proposing that the Minister should influence the tribunals?
– I am not. When I was a Minister, I called the Repatriation Commission together and explained that it should ask for an interpretation by the Government, or suggest an amendment to the act, in cases that were not covered. I informed it that in no part of the act were men such as ex-prisoners of war covered. When appearing before an entitlement tribunal on behalf of the widow and family of an ex-prisoner, I have taken cognizance of unusual difficulties. There is room for alteration of the act, which is not by any means perfect. Representations on the subject have been made by many organizations. Amendments to modernize the act would have the support of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and the Minister might well consult with the allparty ex-servicemen on the subject.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
. - I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to reply further to the question that was asked to-day by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I believe that it was based on a statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I greatly regret that any newspaper should publish a statement likely to cause a good deal of uneasiness, and certainly a lot of dis satisfaction, among naval personnel who believe it to be in accordance with fact. That sort of thing can only have a serious effect on those associated with Navy personnel and can be regarded as little removed from what would be done by a fifth columnist. As Minister for the Navy I am always available to give, within the bounds of security, full information about naval matters. There is absolutely no reason why the press or anybody else should indulge in mis-statement or exaggeration. The allegation that 60 per cent, of the regular crew of H.M.A.S. Australia were replaced before she sailed for England is not correct. In actual fact, of those previously serving on Australia, approximately 1,000, only 151 were drafted elsewhere before she sailed, leaving 85 per cent, of the personnel that returned from an operational area on the ship when she left for the United Kingdom. Thepress report also alleges that, “ Permanent base officers, especially those stationed at Flinders Naval Depot, comprised the nucleus of the officers on board “. On the contrary, only four officers came from Flinders Naval Depot, and only one of them has not had sea service in this war. In any case, it is a mistake to assume that because an officeror rating is at Flinders Naval Depot, he has never been to sea or in action. A point disregarded in the press report is that H.M.A.S. Australia is going to waters which are no longer hostile. For that reason, some of her personnel - for example, some of her higher gunnery ratings - were not required for the voyage. We should remember that Australia is still at war. It is essential to maintain a reserve of this class of personnel to meet any emergency. Apart from these, some of the personnel withdrawn were taken off the ship at their own request, others because their demobilization from the Navy had been approved, and only seven because they were regarded as unsuitable. That statement is complete. I hope that there will be no further press reports calculated to create disaffection and ununcertainty amongst those associated with the forces.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Standardization of Australia’s Railway Gauges - Report by Sir Harold Clapp, K.B.E.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Public Service - Systems of Promotion and Temporary Transfers - Report of Committee of Inquiry.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Utility Trucks for Primary Industries.
Y.- On the 8th June, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked whether there had been delay in determining the price? of motor vehicles imported from the United Kingdom. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer: -
In the first instance, some delay was occasioned by the difficulty in obtaining final costs from overseas. Negotiations have taken place with the United Kingdom Government regarding prices, and an announcement as to ultimate prices will be .made ag soon as the United Kingdom Government has furnished its reply to our latest representations.
Food Conference in London.
– On the 15th June, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked a question relating to the representation of’ Australia at a food conference held in London last week.
As the right honorable member is no doubt aware, conferences took place in Washington in April last between the United Kingdom and the United States of America on the world food position, and in these the dominions were consulted in detail. In London, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Murphy) waa frequently in consultation with the Ministry of Food. He left this country with full information of the Australian position and has been kept up to date by cable. An assessment of world demand relative to supplies that could be provided was arrived at and the result showed a serious deficiency. The United Kingdom then thought it advisable to explain the position direct to representatives of a number of European countries with a view to bringing home to them the extreme gravity of the food situation and impressing upon them the urgent necessity for doing everything possible to increase home production and so reduce their import requirements. The meeting, which commenced on the 14th June, was expected to last two days. The Commonwealth. Government was informed of the meeting. No suggestion was made that the Government be represented and it was not deemed necessary to take any action in this respect.
Coal-mining Industry: Strike on South Maitland Coal-field*
y. - On the 15th June the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question regarding a dispute on the northern coal-field.
I then promised to have a statement prepared setting out the whole of the circumstances, including the attempts that have been made to remove the difficulty that caused the stoppage. The facts in regard to the dispute at Millfield Colliery, which led to a stoppage of all mines on the Maitland coal-field may be shortly summarized as follows : -
A deputy named Wilson was suspended from his employment because it was alleged against him that he had placed his initials together with the date of prc-shift inspection on certain working places in the mine in question at a time earlier than that permitted by the law. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act a deputy is compelled to make an inspection of the mine and of all working places between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., and it is generally admitted that it would bc a serious offence for a deputy to make an inspection before the hour stipulated, particularly as the safety of employees is involved. Wilson, the deputy in question, denies having committed any breach of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, and further denies that the markings in the mine are his, and states that’ he knows nothing ‘of them at all. Industrial matters relating to deputies are within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission of the State of New South Wales and the dispute which arose following the suspension of Wilson came before Mr. Justice Cantor of that Commission. In a lengthy judgment, His Honour stated that he was “not satisfied that Wilson did not place ths markings where they were found before 3 a.m. on 6th April. I am satisfied that the management acting for the employer in good faith and as a reasonable man exercising his rights as an employer, suspended Wilson. I find no evidence of victimization of Wilson in the offence alleged or of failure on the part of those concerned to apply their minds fairly to the facts “. The judge concluded that portion of his judgment by stating that it was not a matter in which the commission should intervene, and he refused to make an order for Wilson’s reinstatement. Following on this judgment, the members of the Deputies Association in the Maitland district held a meeting and resolved that none o’f the mines in that area would work until Wilson had been reinstated. As a result of that resolution, mme 24 mines were idle on Thursday and Friday of last week, with a loss of about 20,000 tons of coal each -day. On Saturday morning an officer of the Commonwealth Coal Commission met the representatives of the Deputies Association in conference with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, Senator Ashley Officers of the Coal Commission were tremendously concerned as to their ability to supply coal to essential consumers if this stoppage was to continue into the following week. Representatives of the deputies indicated that they had further evidence which could be produced to support Wilson’s claim that he had been unjustly dealt with, and asked that the whole matter bc reviewed. In an effort to ensure the smooth running of the colliery pending the production of such further evide”.e. it was decided that the colliery should operate under an authorized controller until such time as the judge of the Industrial Commission hud considered such further evidence or for 30 days if no such further evidence was produced. Wilson was to remain suspended and no permanent appointment was to bc made to fill his position in the meantime. A written agreement embracing the terms of settlement was signed by the executive officers of the Deputies Association representing each’ district in the State, and all minus in the Maitland district resumed work on Monday. In pursuance of .the agreement arrived at, the Coal Commissioner took all steps necessary to take over control of the mine and appointed Mr. G. pellow his assistant production malinger, as the authorized controller, whilst notice in writing of this action was posted to the secretary of the company owning the mine on the same day, Monday. On Monday night the deputies employed at the Maitland mines held a further meeting and refused to accept the terms nf agreement referred to, although advised to do so by their responsible officers. They resolved to again cense work until Wilson had been reinstated, and as a result the mines were thrown idle ami in yesterday and to-day. The State Council of the Deputies Association immediately convened a meeting of all councillors in Sydney and yesterday curried a resolution ordering a resumption of work on the terms of the agreement arrived at on Saturday, and the meeting of those concerned is to be held to-night at which all officials of the association will attend. It is true that in ceasing work the deputies have broken the law and are liable to prosecution. I notice that the Coal Commissioner has made a public statement drawing intention to the splendid record of mine deputies during the whole course of the present war mid expressing his regret that the foolish attitude of the Maitland men should have tarnished their otherwise excellent reputation in such matters. The Government is advised by the Coal Commissioner, and I have his permission to say Unit he will not recommend prosecution against the deputies if they accept the advice and direction of their officials to resume work without delay. Tn reaching this decision, the Commissioner informs me that he is influenced not only by the high regard he has for the past service given by the deputies to the industries during the war, hut also beenause he firmly believes th:it such a decision will he in the best interests of future production.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450620_reps_17_183/>.