17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Formation - War Cabinet - Advisory War Council - Ministerial representationinchambers.
– I inform the House that on the 6th July the Right Honorable F. M. Forde, Acting Prime Minister, waited upon His Royal Highness the Governor-General, and tendered certain advice with regard to the administration of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia consequent on the death of the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable John Curtin. His Royal Highness commissioned Mr. Forde to form a Ministry to carry on the Government. The portfolios allotted were those previously held by Ministers, with the exception that the Honorable J. A. Beasley was appointed Minister for Defence in addition to retaining the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council.
I also formally announce that on the 13th July following on my election as Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, the Right Honorable F. M. Forde resigned his office of Prime Minister, and I was commissioned by His Royal Highness the Governor-General to form a new Ministry.
The Government is constituted as follows: -
Minister for the Army (and Deputy Prime Minister) - The Right Honorable F. M. Forde.
Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs - The Right Honorable H.V. Evatt, LL.D., D.Litt., KC.
Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions, and Minister for Aircraft Production - The Honorable N. J.O. Makin.
Minister for Trade and Customs - Senator the Honorable R. V. Keane.
Minister for Supply and Shipping - Senator the Honorable W. P. Ashley.
Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - The Honorable J. J. Dedman.
Vice-President of the Executive Council - Senator the Honorable J. S. Collings.
Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services - Senator the Honorable J. M. Eraser.
Postmaster-General - Senator the Honorable D. Cameron.
Minister for the Interior - The Honorable H. V. Johnson.
The Honorable H. V. Johnson will assist the Honorable H. P. Lazzarini in his administration of the Department of Works and Housing.
Pending the return of Dr. Evatt to Australia, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production (Mr. Makin) will act for and on behalf of the AttornoyGeneral and the Minister for External Affairs, respectively.
The members of the War Cabinet are - Mr. Chifley, Mr. Forde, Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley, Mr. Makin, Senator Keane, Mr. Drakeford, and Mr. Dedman.
The Government will be represented on the Australian Advisory War Council by the following: - Mr. Chifley, Mr.
Forde, Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley, and Mr. Makin. Non-Government members will be - Mr. Fadden, Mr. Hughes, Sir Earle Page, Mr. Spender, and Mr. McEwen.
Senate Ministers will be represented in this House as follows: -
The Eight Honorable F. M. Forde will represent the Minister for Trade and Customs ;
The Honorable J. A. Beasley will represent the Minister for Supply and Shipping;
The Honorable E. J. Holloway will represent the Minister for Health and the Ministerfor Social Services;
The Honorable A. A. Calwell will represent the Postmaster-General.
– I have already conveyed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) my personal felicitations on his appointment. I desire now, on behalf of the Opposition, to convey to him our congratulations on his attainment of that very high and distinguished office. I also offer the warm congratulations of my colleagues and myself to the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who takes office enjoying the goodwill of all the members of this House.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party). I associate the Australian Country party and myself personally with the congratulations that have been offered to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) upon his appointment to the very important position of Leader of the Australian nation. He has the goodwill and, within the limits of responsible opposition, is assured of the co-operation, of all the members of my party. Also on behalf of myself personally and my party I offer congratulations to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) upon his elevation to Cabinet rank. I am sure that he will bring to the deliberations of the Cabinet that broad Australian outlook which is so much to be desired in such a body.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), on my own behalf and on behalf of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), for the very kindly sentiments they have expressed. Throughout my association with this House, I have received from members on my own side the utmost kindness and tolerance, and quite as much of those qualities as I could reasonably expect from those sitting in opposition. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party extended many courtesies to me during the time that I, as Acting Prime Minister, had the arrangement of the business of the House. I thank them for their past favours, and hope that they will continue to co-operate with me.
– I inform the House that I have this day issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Fremantle, in the State of Western Australia, in the place of the Right Honorable John Curtin, deceased. The dates in connexion with the election were fixed as follows : - Nominations, the 31st July, 1945 ; polling, the 18th August, 1945 ; return to writ, on or before the8th September, 1945.
– At various times, Canada has issued postage stamps impressed with the portraits of prominent citizens, including Sir J. A. McDonald, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir Georges Etienne Cartier, and Darcy McGee. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral discuss with that honorable gentleman the advisability of issuing a stamp of popular value to perpetuate the memory of John Curtin, one of Australia’s greatest sons?
– I shall, as the honorable member suggests, discuss with the Postmaster-General the advisability of issuing a postage stamp or stamps for sale at popular prices, the stamps to carry the likeness of the late Prime Minister. I think the idea is an excellent one, and I shall recommend it to the Postmaster-General.
Plantingof Flowering Gums
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that in Canberra, the garden city of the Commonwealth, there is no specimen of the beautiful Western Australian red flowering gum? Provided there is no horticultural difficulty, will the Minister see that these trees are planted in Perth Avenue, so that the wise men of the East may have an opportunity to appreciate their rugged beauty?
– I was not aware that there were no specimens of the Western Australian flowering gum in the Australian Capital Territory, but I shall have inquiries made, and provided there are no difficulties which cannot be overcome in regard to the transplantation of seedlings from Western Australia to Canberra, I shall be pleased to have the trees planted here as a memorial of my elevation to the Ministry.
Goodwill Shipment to Europe
– In view of the large quantities of woollen goods reported to be held in Australia in excess of the coupon capacity of the people to purchase, will the Prime Minister consider sending to Europe a goodwill shipment of such goods to supplement the supply of used garments given in response to the Unrra appeal?
- Dr. Sutch, who represents Unrra, discussed this matter with me some time ago, and I had consultations on the subject with certain departmental officers, and the chairman of the Rationing Commission. A survey of the quantity of woollen goods available was commenced, but I do not know whether it has been completed. I shall endeavour to expedite the inquiries, and obtain for the honorable member as much information as possible.
– Ilay upon the table the following paper: -
Financial Assistance to South Australia - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission upon the application submitted by the State of South Australia for additional financial assistance for year 1944-45 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
Statement by Premier of South Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction been directed to a statement in the Adelaide Advertiser in which the Premier of South Australia charged the Commonwealth Government with not having granted building permits, particularly one for a business project involving approximately £50,000, and also with having been responsible for delays in soldier settlement schemes? This report is a general indictment of governmental control.
– My departmental officers directed my attention to the statement to which the honorable member referred. It is greatly to be deprecated that a State Premier should make a statement of that character without first ascertaining the facts. Regarding soldier settlement, the proposed agreements have been sent to, and are being examined by, the State governments. Apart from that, the Commonwealth has made it perfectly clear that the States, pending the ratification of those agreements by their Parliaments and by this Parliament, may submit for examination any suggestions relating to soldier settlement. Therefore, if any delay has occurred in dealing with this subject, this Government is not at fault. As to the permit for the erection of a factory, I have not, at the moment, all the facta relating to the application, but I have instituted inquiries. Clearly, in an examination of any application for a permit to extend a factory, account must be taken of the acute housing shortage. For example, an application for permission to build a factory for the production of- comparatively non-essential goods will have to stand over until more homes have been provided for the people. The Premier of South Australia is also reported to have stated that the delay has been caused partly by the practice of sending these applications to the Works Priorities Sub-committee for consideration. The explanation is that applications are sent to that committee in order to obtain a priority for them; that is to say, in order to assist the applicant to obtain the materials required for the work once the permit has been granted. Far from hindering the application, such action actually assists it. 1 repeat that I consider it to be wrong for a State Premier to make such statements without having all of the information at his disposal.
– I understand that a number of farmers and other country residents applied for utility trucks of low horse-power, and that, as the result, some hundreds of such vehicles were released by the British Army at the request of the Australian Government and were recently imported into Australia. As these trucks are listed at prices varying from £550 to £600, compared with their previous cost of about £300 each, will the Government consider granting a subsidy to enable them to be sold at reasonable margins not only by abolishing that increase of the prices which is due to sales tax, landing costs, and customs duties, but also by a government payment? They were despatched from Great Britain because they were urgently required in Australia, but they are still either unpurchased or undelivered.
– It is true that a number of vehicles were brought to Australia from the United Kingdom ; according to my recollection, they were of three different makes. Others were on order from Great Britain when the first shipments arrived here, but, on examination, it was found that the prices of these vehicles had risen ro a most extraordinary degree above pre-war prices, and) as Acting Prime Minister at the time, I consulted the Minister for Trade and Customs and then communicated with the British authorities pointing out that these high prices would be detrimental to the future market for British motor vehicles in Australia. I did not use exactly those words, but I conveyed that impression as tactfully as possible.
– Are the prices of American cars correspondingly high?
– I understand that there has been a general increase of car prices, but the prices of the British vehicles were very much higher than those of vehicles that had previously been received from America, although the American ones may have been of a much earlier vintage, when costs were lower. After 1 had communicated with the British authorities, a conference was held between representatives of the Treasury and the other departments concerned, and finally we established a formula, by which the vehicles mentioned by the honorable member for Wide Bay will, be allowed to reach the public at prices somewhat lower than full cost. I shall have a statement prepared for the honorable member so as not to weary the House with all the details of the matter at this stage. 1 understand that one of the British companies has now intimated that it is prepared to make a fairly substantial price reduction. Presumably it has in mind the prospect of post-war trade. As I have told the House previously, it has not been the policy of the Government to subsidize either capital goods or durable consumer goods. Therefore, although I do not want to penalize the people who may buy these trucks, I am very reluctant to engage in a policy of subsidizing such goods which might ultimately cause a state of chaos. The manufacturers of capital goods and durable consumer goods will have to stand on their own feet. Their products cannot be subsidized.
– Is one of the factors in this case the low price that the Government has fixed for second-hand motor cars?
– No, I do not think so. However, I confess that T. am noi completely familiar with the fixing of prices for second-hand cars. I wish to make it clear that an adjustment- has been made which will enable the consumers to obtain these British vehicles at prices lower than the original prices. I considered that I ought to draw the attention, of British manufacturers and the British Government to the extraordinary rise in the prices of these particular vehicles, both in view of our desire to give trade to the United Kingdom because of its difficult economic position.
– ~by leave - On the 26th June the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) whether the New Zealand Government had recently authorized the resumption of the broadcasting of weather reports, and, if so, whether the Minister would consider authorizing the broadcasting of Australian weather information.
The Minister for Information replied to the effect that that was a matter under ray control as Minister for Air, and, further, that he had no doubt that the restrictions which had been imposed for security reasons would be relaxed as soon as possible.
Insofar as the continent of Australia is concerned, all restrictions on the dissemination of weather information have been lifted as from the 1st July, 1945, as the result of recent conferences held at Manila, which were attended by the Director of Meteorological Services. As a consequence, the broadcasting of forecasts and other information required by primary producers and other interests was recommenced throughout Australia on the 1st July, 1945.
Arrangements are in hand to effect more adequate local services for primary producers through the use of commercial broadcasting stations serving country districts. It is intended in this organization to provide special district ‘forecasts addressed to the needs of the major industries of the country districts concerned, and to supply other relevant information, such as rainfall, river heights and weather warnings applicable to the district, through those media. Thea matters are .at present receiving close attention.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the unsecured advance made by the Bank of Adelaide to W. H. Hodgetts, sharebroker, of Adelaide, complied with the policy with regard to advances laid down by the Commonwealth Bank in accordance with National Security Regulations? If that policy does not cover such advances will it be amended accordingly? Tinder the new banking legislation, will the Treasurer ensure that banks shall not be permitted to make advances to customers on the security of scrip to which the customers have no title, such as the advances made by the Union Bank of Australia Limited to W. H. Hodgetts?
– I do not know that the advance policy of the Commonwealth Bank, as laid down in National Security Regulations, was intended to interfere with the kinds of advances which have been mentioned. The bank would normally make advances on what it regarded as sound securities. The granting of advances to customers on the security of scrip which does not belong to them has given me serious thought for some time, particularly regarding the case to which the honorable member has referred. I took an opportunity to speak to the chairman of the Victorian Stock Exchange some time ago regarding the matter of brokers lodging scrip which in effect waa not their own property, and getting advances from the bank upon such security. I am quite sure that the bank itself would have no knowledge that the scrip was not the property of the broker who lodged it. Such action by a broker would, I think, constitute a breach of the law. I thought that the best way to avoid the possibility of trouble because of action of this kind would be for the stock exchanges themselves to institute a system of audit of the accounts of their members. Since the Hodgetts case has come under notice I have spoken to the chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, Mr. Rowe, who informs, me that that exchange has conducted audits of the accounts of its members during the last nine years with a view to the prevention of fraud.
– That practice is not common to all of the States.
– No. I understand that Queensland has taken similar action, but none of the other States has introduced such a system. I am informed that a letter will be sent to me from the presidents of the various exchanges indicating that all of them have now agreed to institute a system of audit to prevent any misappropriation of funds by their members. I do not think that the Commonwealth Bank could be blamed in any way for what happened in the case under notice. It was an ordinary business transaction in which the Commonwealth Bank would not probe into the affairs of another bank or one of its clients. Perhaps the remedy for trouble of the kind that has arisen would be for the stock exchanges themselves to introduce proper machinery for an audit of all accounts of their members carrying on this class of business.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether, as stated in the press last; week, a series of new reciprocal trade agreements with British Empire countries, including Australia, will soon be negotiated at Washington? Will those agreements replace the existing lend-lease arrangements?
– I have no knowledge of any such treaty. I suggest that the honorable member should address the question to the Minister for External Affairs, who, I hope, will be in his place in this House next week.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether a settlement has been reached in respect of the dispute of employees at the Yelmere bacon factory, Brisbane, or whether there is any likelihood of an early settlement?
– A conference took place over the week-end, and finality was reached yesterday with regard to the matter. A satisfactory formula was arrived at by which the trade union concerned will refer the case again to the Queensland State tribunal, and as the result of that decision the employees resumed work this morning.
Statements by “ Army Spokesman “- Courts-martial.
– Will the Minister for the Army ascertain the reason for the delay in replying to a question asked by me on the 26th June last concerning a statement by an anonymous Army spokesman in reply to certain remarks by the honorable member for Barker? The present Minister for Defence promised to have an investigation made. Will the Minister make a complete statement to-morrow indicating what action has been taken against the person responsible ?
– The reply to the first part of the question is “ Yes “. As to the latter portion, consideration will be given to the request.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform his mind concerning the court-martialling of two soldiers, Cornish and Holcome, andwill he be good enough to let me have a reply on the subject later?
– I shall be pleased to have inquiries made, and to supply the honorable member with an answer as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Information, when selecting press officers for service abroad, give special consideration to the appointment of men who have a sound knowledge of primary industry, particularly when they are being appointed to countries in which there is a possibility of the development of post-war markets for Australian wheat, wool, butter, cheese and other primary products?
– I understand that 30,000 refrigerators are to be manufactured in Australia. Will the Minister for Munitions state whether they are to be manufactured in government factories? If so, will he name the factories and, if possible, give an estimate of the cost of manufacture?
– The manufacture of refrigerators is being stepped up, particularly in order that this much-needed comfort may be made available to those who live in country districts. Firms whose ordinary commercial pursuits include this class of production will be invited to undertake the manufacture of a substantial proportion of the total number.
Criticism by Mr, Archie Cameron, M.P.
– On the 16th May, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), on the motion for the adjournment of the House, voiced complaints in relation to several transport matters, with respect to which he desired information. I regret that the replies have been delayed by the volume of research that was needed. I have had prepared a statement containing all the information sought, including particulars of the case of Phelan’s greyhound dog. It reads -
Importation of 480 tons of flour Victoria to Mr Gambier in competition with local flour mill. - This matter was the subject of investigation by the Australian Wheat Board, who found that only 480 tons of flour were moved into South Australia during 1944 from Victorian mills; this movement was considered so small that the board felt it was not of sufficient importance to warrant interference inan established business. The matter has been further examined by the Deputy Director of Rail Transport in South Australia, and I am informed that Mr Gambier mill only works one shift per day, producing approximately 70 tons of flour per month in addition to their oatmeal output; this does not meet all local bakers’ and household requirements, the balance of which are obtained from other mills operating in Victoria and South Australia, viz., Rupanyup, Warracknabeal and Murray Bridge. It is pointed out that whilst local Mr Gambier bakers do not fault the Mr Gambier mill flour it is desirable that they have other flour for mixing purposes.
Transport of onions Mr Gambier toNew South Wales: General question of transport of 1,000 tons. - An application was received by the Deputy Director of Rail Transport, Adelaide, on behalf of the Onion Growers’ Association,
Mr Gambier, for a programme to be la id down for the transport of approximately 1,000 tons of onions from Mr Gambier for the season. There were,at the same time, individual requests from Adelaide merchants for permission to rail50 tons of onions weekly from Adelaide to Sydney. These requests reached my office on 22nd March, 1945, and were immediately referred to the Controller-General of Food for determination as to whether the whole or portion of the stated order should be transported from South Australia to other States. The matter was investigated by a representative of the Controller-General of Food and on 17th April, 1945, in response to a telephonic advice from the Superintendent of Stores and Transport of that department, it was indicated that a maximum quantity of (100 tons of onions could be transported from the Mr Gambier district to other States, but the balance of the crop was required in South Australia. Arrangements were accordingly made for the necessary rail transport to be provided and the traffic commenced to move on 17th April, 1945. This arrangement was confirmed in a letter from the representative of the Controller-General of Food dated 19th April, 1945.
Transport of 130 tons of onions from Rudolf to Sydney. - At no time was any specific application received by this Department for the transport of 130 tons of onions from Mr Gambier on behalf of Rudolf, and nothing was known of this until an intimation in the newspapers, which report was examined by the Deputy Director of Rail Transport in Adelaide. I am informed that his inquiries showed that it was only a proposed movement, no definite request having been made.
Transport viaBroken Hill to New South Wales instead of via Victoria. - Nothing is known of any specific applications being made for the transport of onions from Mr Gambier to Sydney and Brisbane, and the question of routing traffic from Mr Gambier via Broken Hill would not be given consideration, but as pointed out the general question of the quantity of onions to be transferred from Mr Gambier was decided by the Department of Food Control, on whose representations to this department transport was made available via Victoria to shift the quantity of onions required, via.,600 tons, by the provisionof increased train facilities.
Onions Mr Gambier to Albury. -No applications were made to this department at any time for the transport of specific consignments of onions from Mr to Albury, and nothing was known of the consignments until an announcement appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of 5th May, 1945. when the matter was investigated by the Deputy Director of Rail Transport in Adelaide. I am informed that this officer ascertained that the 130 tons of onions mentioned referred only to a proposed purchase by agents at Albury, and did not constitute a request for transport.
Transport of three-month-old pig account Mann ex Toowoomba. - Not allowed because of necessity to save coal. Reference Goldsbrough Mort Limited, Adelaide. This matter has been investigated by the Deputy Director of RailTransport, Adelaide, and I am informed that he is unable to obtain any information in regard to this complaint and reference to Goldsbrough Mort Limited, Adelaide, shows that there is no record of any such transaction ; nor can any pig breeder by the name of Mann he located who might be able to supply some information.
Transport of hayMt. Gambier to Hamilton, account O’Connor. - This matter was the subject of investigation in March, 1944, when inquiries showed that a letter received by Mr. O’Connor from Permewan Wright and Company of Hamilton advised him that transport facilities were not available. The letter read as under - “ We have yours of the 14th instant. We regret that we are unable to do anything with this hay you mention for the reason that the transport authorities will not allow any fodder to go from South Australia to Victoria at the present time. We have straw and other lines there and have had to cancel them all for this reason. Should the ban be lifted at any time we are interested in your hay.”
Inquiry from both South Australian and Victorian Railways indicated that not at any time was a request made for the supply of railway trucks to carry this traffic account Mr. O’Connor, neither was any request made to my department in regard to the matter. My Director of Rail Transport interviewed the general produce manager of Permewan Wright and Company, who admitted that a request for transport had never been made.
Potatoes, Mr Gambier District to Albury. - At the request of the Assistant Potato Controller, who had made a survey of the potato position at Mr Gambier, it was found in April, 1945. by that officer that 1,000 tons of potatoes were available in that district for which shipping space could not be obtained from Adelaide; he requested that relief might be obtained by rail as potatoes were urgently required in New South Wales country districts, and pointed out that unless shifted within a few days loss would be incurred. Arrangements were made immediately by this department with the Victorian Railway Department for extra train facilities to be provided to move 500 tons within three days after the request had been made, and subsequently further consignments representing the balance wore railed as desired.
Potatoes from Mr Gambier to Adelaide, via Wolseley. - This is the normal route to transport these consignments, and in view of the serious coal position consideration could not be given to the loading of potatoes in broad gauge vehicles at Mr Gambier for transport through Victoria to Adelaide owing to the considerable extra train mileage involved, and also to the wastage of rolling-stock. However, nothing is known in this department of any application having been made for transport via Victoria on broad gauge vehicles, and it is considered that any merchant handling potatoes would not be prepared to make such a request in view of the freight charges involved.
Transport of Greyhound dogs, South. Australia to Orange, New South Wales, account Phelan. - Owing to the need to conserve all available space in brake-vans on passenger trains for the conveyance of urgent defence and civil requirements, and the ultimate restriction in train facilities on account of the coal shortage, it was necessary to restrict the transport of unessential traffic, and with the agreement of the Railway Commissioners of the various States, the interstate transport of racing dogs was restricted. At the time of the application made by Mr. Phelan, it was necessary that all space on interstate passenger trains should be conserved for defence and essential goods, and in accordance with the restriction order, the application of Mr. Phelan, together with many others made about the same time, was declined. It is also mentioned that the question of the relaxation of this restriction was the subject of consideration at the last meeting of the War Railway Committee, when the Commissioners unanimously agreed that in view of the present coal position, no relaxation of this order restricting the carriage of racing dogs, together with other orders of a similar nature, should be made at present. The position has now cased to the extent that this and other similar restrictions can be lifted, subject to the consignments being accepted at the convenience of the Railway Commissioners, and action is being taken accordingly.
Mr.WHITE. - Will the Minister for Air state whether the Royal Navy has applied to the Royal Australian Air Force for the transfer of musterings other than pilots to the Fleet Air Arm? If so, has the application been granted or refused? Could not many surplus musterings be transferred if they so desired ?
– I am not aware of any applications having been made by representatives of the Royal Navy for the transfer of musterings from the Royal Australian Air Force other than for aircrew for the Fleet Air Arm ; consequently, I cannot say whether they have been granted or refused. Probably, some members of the Royal Australian Air Force could be made available in this connexion. As we desire to assist the Royal Navy to the utmost of our capacity, I shall inquire what may be done.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, seen the statement by the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Jenkins, in the Adelaide Advertiser, of Saturday, the 30th June, that South Australian poultry farmers and others had not been given a fair deal by those who control Australian wheat stocks? Were not the allocations of wheat for stock feed for the respective States determined by the Australian Agricultural Council? As a member of the council, was not Mr. Jenkins one of those who determined the South Australian quota of feed wheat? Can the Minister say what method was used by the Australian Agricultural Council in determining the feed wheat quotas of the respective States?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement mentioned. It is correct,as the honorable member says, that the allocations of wheat to the various States were made by the Australian Agricultural Council, of which the Minister of Agriculture of South Australia is a member. I presume that he agreed to the allocation that was made to his State. I understand that the allocations were made on the basis of the consumption of wheat during abase period. South Australia’s quota was fixed on thatbasis. There is a very great shortage of wheat for stock feed purposes, due to the unprecedented consumption on account of the drought. I believe that the previous highest consumption of wheat for stock feed purposes in any year was about 10,000,000 bushels. Some little time ago, before the drought broke, that consumption was at the rate of 50,000,000 bushels a year.
-I ask the Minister for Information whether his assumption of the portfolio of Immigration can be taken by the Opposition as an indication that out of chaos we may have in the near future a statement of immigration policy; or is the new undertaking tobe like the Department of Information - much ado about nothing?
Mr.CALWELL.- My reply to the observation of the honorable gentleman concerning the activities of the Department of Information is that everything that I handle is handled efficiently. I shall be happy to make a statement to the House next week dealing with the immigration policy of the Government. I do not think that it will include provision for the deportation of any members of the Opposition.
Loans to Ex-service Personnel.
– Under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, the maximum amount which an ex-serviceman may obtain by way of loan for the building of a home is £950. As building costs have substantially increased within recent years, will the Prime Minister consider raising the amount to £1,250?
– The point raised by the honorable member is an important one. I confess that I was not aware of the amount which could be borrowed in this connexion. I shall consider his representations in the light of provisions in other acts governing the amount, which may be borrowed, and reply to him as soon as possible.
Release of Long Service Personnel - DischargedServicemen: Direction to Employment.
– A few weeks agothe Prime Minister intimated to this House that service personnel with five years service would be entitled to apply for discharge. No period of overseas service was specified. Are we to understand from the statement recently published that it is now necessary for the overseas service to have been of at least two years duration before that option may be exercisedby the serviceman ?
– The honorable member’s statement that I did not mention any period of overseas service, is not quite correct. I said that the option of discharge would be given, in the first place, to personnel attaining five years’ service, who in the case of Army personnel and Air Force ground staff, have had two years’ or more operational service overseas and, in the case of air crew, have had more than one tour of flying operations against the enemy. A question upon notice by the honorable member for New England covering almost precisely the same matter, will ibc answered to-day.
– Is it a fact that surplus air-crew personnel who have elected to accept their discharge as an alternative- to a remuster to ground-staff duties, have become- subject to Man Power direction, and have been refused permission to return to their preenlistment occupations? ‘Is it a fact that some of these ex-servicemen have been directed to positions less remunerative than those they would occupy with their normal employers? What steps does the Government intend to take to protect the re-establishment rights of these men? Can the Minister give this House an assurance that discharged servicemen will not suffer loss of remuneration as a result of Man Power direction to essential occupations?
– I think that 1. can quite safely give the honorable member all the assurances he asks for. It is not the policy of the man-power authorities to direct discharged servicemen. They do sometimes ask ex-servicemen to undertake more important work than that to which they could otherwise return, and mostly the men agree to do so, because they understand that their rights to reestablishment will not be prejudiced by the passage of time.
– Discharged servicemen cannot take up any employment they like.
– Returned servicemen are not directed to employment. I give that assurance to the honorable member for Wentworth. If he or any other honorable member can cite a specific case in which a discharged serviceman has been forced to take a job against his will, I shall admit that I am wrong.
– Following the recent announcement by the Prime Minister regarding the release of service personnel and the resultant increase of letters to honorable members from those desirous of obtaining their discharge, will the Minister for the Army make a statement as early as possible indicating, when those releases will begin? At present, all requests meet with the reply that the men cannot be released.
– The then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made statements to this House on the 19th June and the 26th June regarding discharges from the fighting services. As those discharges will be not only from the Army but also from the Navy and the Air Force, it would be more appropriate if the Prime Minister, when he deems it necessary, makes a further statement on discharges ‘from the three services.. I shall discuss the matter with the Prime Minister for the purpose of seeing whether any additional information can be given to the honorable member. He will recall that the Prime Minister did mention the dates by which it was estimated certain numbers of discharges could be made. I am heartily in accord with the decision of the Government on the matter, and its directions are being implemented by the three services.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it is a fact that decisions have been taken, or are about to be ta’ken, regarding the disposal of Commonwealth-owned ships? Can, he give an assurance that the ships will not be alienated from Commonwealth ownership, but will be retained as a Commonwealth-owned line?
– I have no knowledge of any suggestion for the disposal of Commonwealth-owned ships, other than small ships which are being sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– I refer to merchant vessels.
– Yes, presumably vessels of 9,000 and 10,000 tons.
– Yes, and to other vessels, also.
– Such vessels are on charter to companies operating shipping services. As a matter of fact, most ships operating from Australia to-day are more or less directly under Government control, and the ships referred to by the honorable member come within the same category. No discussions have taken place regarding the disposal of these ships, and I shall ask the Minister to be mindful in future of the honorable member’s representations.
– Recently, I telegraphed to the Minister for Supply and Shipping regarding alterations to the schedule of the ship engaged in the Bass Strait service. To-day, I received a reply stating that the altered schedule, which now allows one call fortnightly at the ports of Devonport and Burnie, as against weekly calls previously, will permit the carriage of more cargo, and is in the best interests of all concerned. In view of the very strong protest issued by three public bodies intimately concerned in the matter, namely, the Burnie Chamber of Commerce, the Burnie Municipal Council, and the Devonport Marine Board, will the Minister have an investigation made in order to ascertain how much more cargo is likely to he lifted under the new schedule, and whether any advantage likely to be derived in this direction will compare with the disadvantages to which these public bodies have drawn attention?
– I think my best course will be to ask the Director of Shipping, through the Minister for Supply and. Shipping, to furnish a detailed reply to the honorable member’s question.
” THE WOMEN’S VIEW “.
Articles in “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
– Has the Minister for Information noticed a series of articles published in the Sydney Morning Herald bearing the title “ The Women’s View- By One of Them”? If the Minister is of the opinion that the articles are destructive in character, and designed to undermine national morale in war-time, will he point out to the management of the Sydney Morning Herald the very great difference between its approach and that of British newspapers, to the inevitable difficulties which the civilian population must face in time of war?
– I have read the articles referred to, and they are obviously not written by a woman at all. They are written by a “ smart guy “. They might even havebeen written within the precincts of this House. The articles are destructive of morale, as the honorable member has pointed out, but I do not know that any good purpose would be served by calling the attention of the management of the Sydney Morning Herald to the fact that it is damaging the morale of the nation. It has been doing that ever since the war started.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement in the Sydney press that owners and trainers have asked the Australian Jockey Club to withdraw the prohibition on the training of race-horses, because the recent bountiful rains in New South Wales have so improved the position in regard to f odder? If that is so, will the Minister take action to ensure that fodder is diverted to Victoria and South Australia, which are still suffering from drought, and urgently need fodder supplies.
– I have not seen this statement, but I shall have the matter examined, and an answer will be furnished as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that fencing wire in the possession of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is, in the main, unsuitable for use on farms because it is ungalvanized, and therefore rusted, so that it would very soon have to be replaced? Will the Minister consider having supplies of galvanized wire and wire netting made available to farmers?
– The difficulty arises from the acute shortage of man-power suitable to undertake this class of manufacture. I assure the honorable gentleman that I have impressed upon the Minister for Labour and National Service the importance of this matter, and I hope that at an early date the position will be rectified.
Purchase of Building
– Yesterday, the Melbourne Herald published an illustration of a building in Sydney, and stated that a union with strong Communist leanings had purchased it as its national head-quarters. The article stated that Sydney now had a rival of the Trades Hall. The building would include a gymnasium, recreation centre, bookshop, meeting room, restaurant, reading and writing rooms and a film centre. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction investigate this report? If it is accurate, will he ascertain whether the proper formalities for obtaining permission to purchase the building were observed.
– What formalities?
– I should like to know whether the union, of which Mr. Thornton is secretary, made application in the prescribed form to the Treasurer for permission to purchase the building. In view of the demand for building materials to relieve the acute housing shortage, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction confer with the Minister for Works and Housing and the Minister for Supply and Shipping for the purpose of seeing whether priorities were obtained for the structural alterations?
– I do not know whether the honorable member vouches for the accuracy of the report, but if he does, he has been entirely misled. My department has not granted a permit for such a building.
– The building was purchased, and alterations are to be made to the structure.
– My department will not grant any permit for a building of the type described by the honorable member.
– Was a permit obtained for the alterations? This is Nock and Kirby’s building, in George-street, Sydney.
– I am not aware that any application for such a permit has been submitted to my department, but [ shall make inquiries into the matter. In conjunction with the Minister for
Works and Housing, I assure the honorable gentleman that no such permit will be granted in any circumstances.
Position of Mr. H. G. Forster
– Did the Minister for Information read in to-day’s press a report that Mr. H. Gregory Forster had been elected to the executive of the Liberal party? Is this H. Gregory Forster the same person who has caused so much trouble on the coal-fields? If so, will the Minister ‘see that every facility is granted to Mr. Forster to disrupt the Liberal party?
Mr.CALWELL. - I am not aware that Mr. H. Gregory Forster is a member of the executive of the Liberal party, but. I have no doubt that he is a member of that organization. All the “bosses” of capitalism belong to the Liberal party, and the more of them that come out in the open the better it will he for Australian democracy.
– In view of the increasing rate of demobilization, will the Minister for War Service Homes endeavour to obtain from the Treasurer more money for the War Service Homes Commission, without waiting for the Parliament to pass the Estimates later this year?
– A few days ago, the Treasurer stated that unlimited money was available for war service homes, and that the only obstacle was the shortage of labour and materials.
– Realizing that the Commonwealth Government alone does not possess power to construct a railway from Yass to Canberra, I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will be prepared to discuss with the State authorities concerned the advisabilityof giving to that project a high priority in their post-war works programme.
– I recognize the great importance of the work, and am prepared to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that the request made by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, that traders should have the right of appeal against decisions of the Prices Commissioner, has been rejected by the Government. Does this decision mean that the Prices Commissioner himself is the final arbiter, or does the final decision rest with the Minister for Trade and Customs? Does it mean also that no appeal will be allowed to the court on questions of law arising out of the administration of the Prices Commissioner ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs on this subject, and furnish a statement setting out all the facts.
Price in Australia.
– Will the Minister for Munitions inform me whether it is a fact that the price of sheet steel in Australia is much higher than it is in Great Britain and the United States of America? Considering the importance of ‘sheet steel to Australian manufacturers, will the Minister discuss with the company concerned the advisability of reducing the price?
– I am surprised to hear that the price of sheet steel is higher in Australia than it is in Great Britain and the United States of America. I understood that the price in Australia compared favorably with prices in the other two countries. I shall examine the matter to see whether sheet steel can be made available in Australia at a reduced price.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purpose of a bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [4.7]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to obtain a loan appropriation of £150,000,000 for war purposes and also to authorize the raising of an equivalent amount of loan moneys to finance war expenditure. In the year just closed, war expenditure totalled£460,000,000, of which £194,000,000 was met from revenue and the balance of £266,000,000 from loan. The whole of the latter amount was provided by public raisings and Treasury cash balances. It was not necessary toh ave any recourse to bank credit. It is too soon to give honorable members a reliable forecast of the war expenditure for the current financial year, as an examination of the Estimates of departments has not yet been completed. It would appear, however, that the amount required from loan will be less than was needed last year, and the authority now sought, together with the balance of loan appropriation at the 30th June, 1945, namely, £90,000,000, will go a considerable way towards meeting the loan requirements of the current financial year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriations reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini andMr. Chifley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £13,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. The balance of appropriation now remaining is sufficient only to meet the payments to the end of August. The expenditure for the current financial year is estimated at £13,100,000, as compared with £12,021,000 for 1944-45. The amount required for payment of pensions arising out of the 1914-18 war is declining, the increase referred to being brought about by the present war. The following table indicates the trend in both cases: -
Although Parliament is being asked to approve of the amount of £13,000,000, this sum will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately, but will be paid to the trust account as required to enable pension payments to be made as they become due. The rates of pension have already been approved by Parliament, and this measure simply appropriates the amount required to effect payment at those rates.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1936. Honorable members will be aware that the Australian Wine Board, as constituted under that act, consists of nine members, seven of whom represent co-operative, proprietary and privately-owned wineries and distilleries in the wine-producing States, one government representative, and one representative of grape-growers who supply grapes to wineries and distilleries. The grape-growers’ representative is appointed by the Governor-General upon the nomination of the Federal Grape-growers’ Council. Considerable interest in the activities of the Australian Wine Board has been demonstrated by grape-growers throughout Australia constituting the Federal Grape-growers’ Council, as well as affiliated organizations, and because of the close association existing between the grape-growers and the wine-makers, a strong desire to increase grape-growers’ representation on the Australian Wine Board has been expressed. Such a request is considered to be fully justified, particularly as the expansion of the grape industry in connexion with postwar planning will undoubtedly demand attention. It is proposed, therefore, to increase the number of grape-growers’ representatives on the board to three, and section 5 (2) of the principal act is being amended to give effect to this.
Under section 13, of the principal act, members are appointed for a period of three years, but for purposes of convenience in connexion with future administration the hill provides that the appointment of the two additional representatives shall cease upon the expiration of the term of office of the representative already on the board, namely, the 9th February, 1946. Subsequently, all three grape-growers’ representatives shall be appointed for a period of three years, and their appointments shall terminate on the same date.
By clause 3 (1) of this bill, sections 9 and 10 of the principal act are repealed, and new sections are inserted in their stead.
Section 9 calls for amendment in order more specifically to outline the purposes for which fees and allowances are payable to members of the board or deputies of members. It is desirable also to specify that a member of the board or his deputy, if also a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State, shall not be entitled to receive any fees or allowances while engaged on the business of the board, but shall be entitled to receive actual expenses only. A further condition has been made that if a member of the board or his deputy is a person permanently employed in the service of the Commonwealth, he shall not be paid fees or allowances in respect of his services on the board. Such fees and allowances shall be paid to the Commonwealth. In such instances, however, that member or deputy shall be compensated in accordance with the conditions applicable to permanent officers of the Public Service. Such conditions as mentioned above are not peculiar to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act only, but are in keeping with other similar legislation now in operation.
Section 10 as it stands to-day requires the Australian Wine Board to hold a meeting in the month of July of each year at which a chairman for the ensuing twelve months shall be appointed. The board is required to submit its annual report to the Minister in the month of September in each year, in accordance with section 29 of the act, and has found it essential to meet before September for the purpose of finalizing that report. It has not been found desirable to meet in July to appoint a chairman, and again prior to September in connexion with the board’s annual report. Consequently, section 10 is to be amended so that the chairman of the board may be appointed at a meeting held not later than the 30th September in each year, and so save the time and expense of a meeting in July. The bill also makes provision for the appointment of a chairman should that position on the board become vacant during the year.
Consequent upon the increased membership of the board it has been deemed desirable, not only to make a slight increase in the membership of the executive committee of the board, but also to provide that the various interests represented on the board shall be definitely represented on the executive committee. This is a new feature.
Section 12 of the principal act provides for the appointment of a London agency. Such an agency has not yet been, appointed, but will most likely be found essential when normal conditions return, after the war. Should that come to pass and a member of the London agency be a. person permanently employed in the service of the Commonwealth, provision has been made in clause C to apply to thai person conditions in keeping with those referred to in clause 3, in accordance with which that person shall not be paid any fees or allowances, but such fees and allowances shall be paid by the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Bill presented by M’r. Drakeford, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill lie now read a second time. .
In introducing this measure for the nationalization of interstate airlines, J anticipate that honorable members opposite will attack it from the same political party angle as they used in attacking the banking bills. It was apparent in that debate that the speeches of Opposition members were based on party bias in favour of what they call private enterprise. But what we heard was, in reality, the age-old championship of the private profiteer. Socialization, in any form, if anathema to those who believe not that it is the duty of a government to further the interests of the people as a whole, but to safeguard the interests of individual profit-makers. No doubt the word socialization will echo through every speech in this debate from honorable members opposite - socialization, with all the dread foreboding they can conjure. But I would remind them that had this nation depended on private enterprise to organize the country for war, we would not have accomplished one fraction of the marvellous war effort achieved in this grave crisis. The proper approach to this important legislation should be : Is it in the interests of the people as a whole? ls national ownership and control of civil aviation preferable to a private monopoly? These are the real questions, for there is abundant evidence that a monopoly is inevitable in the near future.
I recognize that there exists in certain sections of the community and in the minds of some honorable members opposite, a predetermined hostility. Because of this I make the strongest possible plea for reasoned thinking. If that is granted I have no doubt that the debate which will follow will be profitable, and that the House will pass the bill as a constructive and progressive piece of legislation. Let us be clear in our minds -and understand that to-day, Australia, in common with every other responsible nation in the world, is on the threshold of the Air Age. To understand that is to admit that the debate must go far beyond any question of petty party politics. Far from offering any apology for this bill, the Government is proud to introduce it. It is honest and constructive in purpose, and it has a major national objective.
There should he no need for mc to have to emphasize that aviation is intensely vital to-day as a national instrument, and that inevitably it is a part of the very core of the economic, social, diplomatic and defence policy of the nation. That vital truth has been proved in the heat of war beyond all question. And, if we are to prosper as a nation and play our part worthily in world affairs, it must find full expression in the peace that is to follow. There is little doubt that the end of the war will see a considerable development in civil flying. War, tragic as it always is, has in aviation, as in many other developments, accelerated the rate of progress in engineering and scientific development. Every nation which hopes to maintain any place in the world of to-morrow must take full advantage of the technical and scientific progress achieved during war, and make full use of ite application as instruments for peace. The civil aviation industry in Australia during this war has performed magnificent service. Civil aircraft and civil air crews have been used in war zones to aid our own forces and those of our great ally, the United States of America, in many perilous undertakings. Many of the air transport services required by our Allies have been performed wholly by civil air crews; and many civil aviation personnel joined the Royal Australian Air Force, providing a readytrained nucleus. I mention this to indicate the importance of civil aviation in the air strength of the nation.
For a considerable period in the Pacific war, Australia was a major operational base. Because of this, the Government was’ compelled to provide, at great cost, facilities of all kinds al! over the Commonwealth in the form of air-fields, landing strips, hangars and workshops. The meteorological services which, before the war, were comparatively insignificant, have been expanded to cover the whole continent and the islands to the north. New radio and navigational aids have been installed, employing the latest type of equipment and, whilst the programme mapped out has not yet been completed, airways in Australia, where this equipment has been installed, coinpare favorably with any overseas. Most of this work was due to the urgency of war. It represents a very large capital outlay. Fortunately, much of it will V of value in the post-war development of the internal air services.
If the bill now before the House is examined without unreasoning hostility, it will be seen as a measure comparable with those which gave Australian governments control of the postal services and the railways. Do honorable membersopposite - do any thinking Australians - honestly believe that there is any basic difference between these essential service.* and the operation of national air lines? If they do, then may I disabuse their minds by quoting from an authority whom they, particularly, must heed? In July. 1943, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in a speech with which he opened his election campaign in the Camberwell Town Hall, made a very significant and revealing statement. I quote from the Melbourne Argus of Saturday, the 24th July -
On the question of socialization, Mr. Menzies said few people would have any quarrel with government control of railways, or tramways, or water supply, or such other great public utilities.
Who will deny, “ then, that the nation’s main-trunk airways are, to use the right honorable gentleman’s own words, a great public utility?
An argument very widely publicized by opponents of this measure is that as the Government’s referendum proposals were defeated last year, and as one of these proposals was for Commonwealth control over air transport, the Government, in proposing this measure, is acting in defiance of the expressed will of the people. This accusation is not only unjust, but quite- untrue. Those who charge the Government with breach of faith overlook the all-important fact that the Commonwealth has always had power over interstate air transport, and that this power was not affected by the failure to carry the referendum. It was not a part of the submission to the people. Had the referendum been successful this legislation would in all probability have covered intra-state as well as interstate airlines, but as the powers sought were not granted the legislation has teen drafted within constitutional limitations. In keeping with this misrepresentation, a stream of hostile propaganda has been issuing from an organization representing- certain private air-line interests, and styling itself the Airlines’ Operators Secretariat.. Almost the whole of this propaganda is hopelessly misleading. Not a little of it, I suspect, i.* deliberately so. The activities of this organization, hastily conceived when the Government announced its intention of bringing down this bill, are understandable. lt could, perhaps, have rendered some worthwhile service, but its statements have been so misleading as to make no real contribution to the problem that must be faced, the problem which is the purpose of this bill. But that, perhaps, was too much to expect.
Before I enlarge on the contents of the bill I wish to return to the wider, the national, issue. The Government, being realistic, recognizes civil aviation as a national instrument. Let my first example come from the United Kingdom, where, under the leadership of a Conservative Prime Minister, civil aviation has already been shaped into just such an instrument. In the shaping, the following highly significant statement appeared in a White Paper on the subject, issued in March of this year by the United Kingdom Government : -
Air transport is a service in which the community as a whole has a direct interest. The criterion as to whether a particular route should be flown is not merely: Is it commercially profitable? There are services which are essential in the public interest, but which, offer little or no prospect of a direct financial return. Unlimited competition in the air by private operators would mean that competing services would be concentrated on the remunerative routes; and that the taxpayer, while reaping no benefit from the more lucrative routes, would be compelled to support by subsidies those services which, although desirable for public or social reasons, would initially, at any rate, be run at a loss, and might, in some cases, never show a profit.
The essential point in that statement is the admission that the taxpayers, whilst paying subsidies, are unableto reap the benefits from lucrativeroutes. To this, the private airline operators have no effective reply. We find that while admitting this undeniable truth, the British Government was not prepared totake the logical course, and completely nationalize the airlines, although the evidence in favour of such a course was, and always will bc, overwhelming.
The British Labour party, on the other hand, has pledged itself to nationalize the airways. By the British Overseas Airways Act 1939, the privately owned! Imperial Airways was superseded by the present British Overseas Airways Corporation. When that bill was before theParliament, practically the only opposition to it came, significantly, from Labour members, who complained that it did not go nearly far enough. Lord Swinton,. British Minister for Civil Aviation - himself a Conservative and a very capable’ gentleman - under whose guidance theWhite Paper to which I have referred’ was issued, clearly takes a very progressive view of the matter. The Sydney. Morning Herald staff correspondent in London, on the 23rd February last, reported him as having told a meeting of the Aerodrome Owners Association that the United Kingdom Government regarded no one as having a vested interest in air transport except the travelling public. That is Lord Swinton’s view. But I go further. I say that this Government insists that the so-called vested interest in air transport, far from being confined to the travelling public, belongs to the entire community. Development of air transport on truly progressive lines, as is proposed in this hill, must inevitably have a deep influence on the social conditions which govern the lives of millions of people who may never leave the ground.
Nor is Lord Swinton alone among Conservatives in the British Parliament in his intelligent outlook on this matter. During the debate in the House of Lords on the British Overseas Airways Act L939, the Marquis of Zetland, representing the Government, made this important admission -
Tn our view, si non-profit-making public corporation, set up by statute, will offer greater possibility of advancing British civil aviation than a limited liability company, which must, of course quite properly, watch its shareholders’ interests and also be sure of its subsidies and contracts before it can embark on a far-sighted development programme for the operation of new air services with up-to-date and increasingly costly aircraft.
Taking the other British dominions as examples, we find that in Canada the entire trunk route system, comparable to the Australian interstate airways system, is under government ownership, control and operation. In South Africa all air services are owned and operated by the Government. The New Zealand Government has recently announced its intention to nationalize the whole of that dominion’s airlines.
Now let me outline what the Government sees as the real issues. I put it to honorable members that there are four - the social obligation, the economic obligation, national development, and national defence. Recognizing its social obligation, the Government sees urgent need to insist on the development of civil aviation as a valuable counter to centralization. This, coupled with the nation’s migration policy, is of extreme importance. It will help to ensure that social benefits in keeping with the high standard of living in Australia will be more equitably distributed. This will entail the unfettered extension of air mail, passenger and freight services, which can never be brought to their full pitch of national efficiency while the people are deprived of returns from the more profitable routes. The Government, on the other hand, bases its conception on a realistic appreciation of the truth that to-day, air transport is no longer an end in itself; it is the means t’o an end, a most vital end - progressive national development.
While acknowledging what privateenterprise has already clone in establishing and maintaining developmental services, I emphasize that such operationshave been possible only by virtue of government assistance. It has been claimed that private enterprise could and would equally establish and maintain developmental services, by applying to this purpose profits made on inter-city services. It could, but there is no guaranteethat it would; and even if it did, such services would be inadequate. Private enterprise could be expected, at most, to use only a proportion of its profits to this end, whereas a government agency would not he under the same restraint, and, in fact, under the bill can be directed to establish or continue services which the Government considers necessary in the interests of development. If the commission’s profits on other services should be insufficient to meet the loss incurred on such developmental services, the Government, will make good the deficiency.
The constitutional limitations on theGovernment’s powers to operate airline services will debar the commission from establishing many purely intrastateservices which are desirable in the interests of development.
– Is it intended to prevent journeys between one State and another, not merely between one capital city and another?
– The Government recognizes that it has no power over intra-state services. But it has, and proposes to exercise, power over interstate services. It is hoped that somearrangement can be reached which will result in these services being established and maintained- in the interests of the development of Australia as a whole. The Government will be pleased to explore these possibilities further with the other interests concerned.
The second issue with which the Government is concerned in .bringing down this bill is its economic obligation. This issue raises considerations on which there have been the greatest misrepresentations. Foremost among these is the very vital matter of the degree to which private airline operators rely on government subsidy for profitable operation. I said earlier that I would examine in some detail the various claims and statements made on behalf of private operators by the Airlines’ Secretariat, Some of the arguments used by the secretariat have already been used, in debate by honorable members opposite. In the main, the basis for all these arguments is the claim that major airlines now operate entirely without subsidy, and that they, in fact, return a substantial profit to the Treasury. These statements ignore entirely the Government’s contribution to airline operations by the provision, maintenance and operation of aerodromes, radio and navigational aids, lighting facilities and meteorological services, all free of charge to the operators. The Government has more capital invested in these facilities than is represented by the entire equipment of all the Australian airline companies. But, leaving this major contribution out of the calculation, it can be demonstrated that payment for the carriage of mails on a poundage basis at the present rates constitutes a subsidy to the extent of at least 50 per cent, of the payment made. The fact that current mail poundage payments are a disguised subsidy is recognized by impartial authorities on the economics of air transport. Oliver J. Lissitzyn, in International Air Transport and National Policy, published in 1942 by the United States Council of Foreign Relations, supports this view. Lissitzyn’s work is accepted a3 the most authoritative contribution to the study of this subject. On page 158 he has this to say -
American air transport is still dependent on direct governmental assistance, which, although it takes the form of payment for the carriage of mails, in principle is based on deficit covering. Airlines also enjoy extensive aid, the cost and value of which are incapable of precise determination.
Now, the truth is that air-mail payments are fixed at a rate which bears no relation to the service rendered. One method by which this statement can be tested is to compare the amounts received by the airline operators for the carriage of different classes of freight. Taking the route from Melbourne to Sydney, a distance of 440 miles, as an example, the respective charges are: On passenger and luggage, estimated total weight 200 lb., £6 10s. : 200 lb. of freight, £5 10s.; and 200 lb. of air mail at .0375d. per lb. mile. £13 13s. 9d. The per lb. mile rate of 0375d. quoted is the lowest per lb. milt rate of remuneration paid by the Department of Civil Aviation to air-mail contractors. The comparable pound mile rate for a passenger would be ,0177d., and for freight, .0137d. Thus the rate paid for the carriage of mail is two and a half times that for the carriage of other freights, and twice that for the transport of passengers.
– The Government collects a postal rate on the mail.
– The Government receives an excess postal rate for air mail. A logical explanation for this disparity in rates would be that mail is more costly to handle, and requires more expensive equipment and special staff. But this is not borne out by the facts. Mail is simply a cargo, and i3 more economical cargo to carry than passengers. Unlike passengers, it requires nc ticket office and staff, no air hostess to look after its comfort, and no expensive seating .accommodation. Unlike boxes, cases and many other forms of freight, mail bags can be pushed into odd corners of an aircraft and need little special stacking. Admittedly priority i.n carriage is demanded for mail, but this i* more than offset by the fact that, apart from the certainty of its supply in quantity, a factor which is highly valued bv the contractors, it is the most regular of all cargoes and is obtained without the expensive advertising required for passenger and other forms of freight. To emphasize this comparison, let us examine the conditions governing, the carriage by rail of mails and other forms of freight to ascertain whether the railway authorities1 have found it necessary to charge the Postmaster-General’s Department more than twice as much for the carriage of mails as is charged for other forms of freight. Again, taking Melbourne to Sydney ‘us the basis for comparison, the respective charges are: Passenger and luggage, estimated weight. 200 lb., first-class fate, £4 10s. 3d. ; 200 lb. of freight by passenger train, £2 19s. 7d.; 200 lb. of mail by passenger train, 14s. 8$d. .From this examination we find the following remarkable comparison :- Mail by air, pound for pound, is charged tit two and a half times the cost of other air-freight, and double the co3t of passenger transport. Mail by rail, pound for pound, is charged at one-quarter of The cost of other freight, and one-sixth of the cost of passenger transport. We are forced to conclude, therefore, that the rates charged for the carriage of mail by air are not based on the economic value of the service rendered, but, in fact, do contain a very large subsidy component, which enables the operator to make very substantial profits.
Bui, there is still another aspect to this -an, question. The Airline Operators Secretarial has widely distributed an advertsemen t headed “Subsidy in Reverse :. In this advertisement it is claimed that though the Government has paid to the airline companies £3,167,000 for the carriage of mails, the Govern- ment has received £3,294,000 in return from the airlines in the form of revenue, and thus, to quote this advertisement : f All these payments have been fully returned with a net profit of £327,230 to the taxpayers “. This statement is a complete misrepresentation. The truth is that from this source the Government has not received anything back from the airline companies. The government revenue of £3,294,000 mentioned is a sum received by the Department of Civil Aviation from the Postmaster-General’s Department and not from the airlines. It represents the balance of the amount paid by the people of Australia in surcharges for airmail letters after the Postmaster-General’s Department has deducted its special costs incurred in handling airmail. The amount of surcharge bears no direct relation to the airline operators’ costs, or their re muneration for conveying airmail. It is a tax levied on the public, the proceed* of which pay postal costs, contribute to the provision of aerodromes and other facilities for the development of civil aviation, and provide a fund for thepayment to the airline operators for their share in the carriage of the mali Lissitzyn emphasizes this point in discussing the degree of subsidy included in mail payments to American airlines -
Hie post office, for reasons of public policy, may fix the airmail postage rate at such “a low level that revenues could not possibly cover the cost of the service. The reverse i’salso true. The airmail postage rates might hi: sot at a level so high that the post office revenues might equal or exceed the payment? to the carriers, and yet the payments might include a substantial amount of aid to thecarriers.
Again, Lissitzyn states -
On (United States of America) domestic routes in 1938 and 1940 postal revenue from airmail exceeded payments to carriers . . . lt is obvious that this surplus did not necessarily indicate that direct public aid to domestic air transport had ended.
The opposite, he claims, is the case, and . he goes on to declare -
Public aid, as measured by the excess of airmail payments to carriers over that portion of their costs allocated to the carriage of mails, . amounted to almost 9,000,000 dollars in 1938, . showing little tendency to decrease. The- “ subsidy “ made up 22 per cent, of the carriers’ operating revenues.
Because the Government’s receipts from the 3d. airmail surcharge exceeds the payments made to the Australian airline companies for the carriage of mails, these companies claim they are operating without subsidy. To test the validity of thisargument in yet another way, let v& assume that- the Government has decided . to reduce the airmail surcharge from 3d. to Id., while the mail loading remainsconstant. The result of such a reduction, on the basis of the figures used in the airline operators’ advertisements would be - Receipts from surcharge, £1,098,000;. payments to operators would remain the same, £3,167,000; deficit, £2,069,00.0. Would the operators be prepared to adroit that this deficit represented the amount towhich they were subsidized? If not, then their argument has no basis.
Mr. A. B. Corbett, formerly DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, has estimated that in the post-war period airmail could’ be carried for .01 2d. per lb. Whilst this- is only a forecast, it is apparent that this figure is nearer to the economic value of the service rendered than is .0375d. - the lowest rate at present paid to a company per lb.-mile.
– In what document does Mr. Corbett make that statement?
– He made a public statement to that effect. He has been supporting the secretariat almost from the time the Government announced its proposal to nationalize the airways.
– The Government is hiding the inter-departmental report. Why not make it public?
– The honorable member is concerned’ because the case of the Opposition is so poor, and he wants the Government to make available information in the hope that it can he used in support of the Opposition case. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), in answer to a question, made a statement setting forth the policy of the Government in regard to the report, but I see no reason why the conclusions set forth in the report should not be given to the House.
– Why not the whole report?
– The honorable member for Warringah, who is an exMinister, knows that matters relating to the war were discussed before the committee.
– Only in a general way.
– I know the nature of some of the matters discussed, and I am not going to he baited into disclosing matters which members of the Opposition, if they were in power, would not themselves disclose.
I contend that the facts and arguments I have put forward in this review leave not the slightest doubt of the truth of my earlier contention that the claimsof the secretariat are very far from the truth, and that the profitable operations of the private airline companies are entirely dependent on either direct government subsidy or subsidy in the form of payment for the carriage of mails.
The third issue concerns national development, and this in its broadest sense. This is, in part, interwoven with all the other issues, but it has its own distinctive aspect which calls for clear-cut. government control. Here the appropriate comparison is with the Australian railway services. I have already referred to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition, in which, speaking of socialization, he indicated that there was little quarrel with such government control. But how very rarely is the truth told about the Australian Governmentowned railways! For years they have been maligned by political propaganda distorted to show that they have always been an economic mill stone. Rarely, if ever, is public recognition given to the invaluable part they have played in the development of Australia, or to the rise in property values they have created. The truth is that only the crippling burden of high interest prevents the railways from showing a surplus instead of a deficit. This was quite adequately expressed by F. W. Eggleston in his book State Socialism in Victoria in which he declares -
The normal revenue of the Victorian railways is £13,000,000 per year. After the payment of operating expenses, the percentage return on capital varies from 3½ per cent to 4½ per cent. But capital charges amount to 5 per cent., so there is always a loss in railways accounts.
The fourth main issue with which we are deeply concerned and for which the bill now before the House is very definitely designed, is national defence. In. this respect honorable members should require little more proof than the lessons of the last five and a half years of war. It will, of course,. be argued by opponents of the bill that privately-owned airlines can be adjusted to function in war-time. This is true only insofar as existing services can be impressed for war services but I direct the attention of: honorable members to the pattern of civil aviation as it can be developed under Government ownership; The nationalization of interstate airlines should facilitate coordination between civil operations and Royal Australian Air Force strategic requirements, particularly in regard to types and characteristics of aircraft and engines, development and location of workshops, and facilities for maintenance and overhaul, and in regard to arrangements for temporary interchanges of personnel for training purposes.
Government ownership of the main civil airlines will facilitate encouragement of local manufacture of aircraft and engines, and will allow better coordination of the requirements of civil and service aviation in this direction. These objectives of encouragement of local manufacture and co-ordination of the needs of the Royal Australian Air Force and civil aviation should be attainable without sacrifice of efficiency in the commission’s operations, and the commission, being charged with the responsibility of operating its services efficiently and economically, can be relied upon to represent the mad or strongly if the attainment of the previously mentioned objectives is likely to conflict with the commission’s responsibilities for efficient and economic operation. Should any such conflict arise it will become the duty of the Government so to determine the question as best to serve the interests of the nation as a whole. Government ownership of airlines can be much more than justified by this issue alone.
Now let us examine briefly the history of civil aviation in Australia: It is the history of aviation in all other countries. The first to start were the intrepid pioneers of flying. The earliest flights were largely experimental and not a few of them were accompanied by tragedy. These pioneers were handicapped by lack of capital, frequently by lack of encouragement, invariably by lack of suitable equipment. Indeed, they were handicapped by practically the lack of everything but courage and a determination to keep on flying in the hope that their efforts would be recognized, and that civil flying would become an accepted mode of » transport and communication. Few of them ever made the grade from a commercial point of view, yet their contribution in the development of civil aviation was a very real one. Then appeared what might be regarded as the development of regular local services designed to serve local communities and supported by local interests. Such services were chiefly confined to what might be termed owner-operator undertakings. The resources of these operators were comparatively small, and their services were accordingly restricted-, in both area and extent. Some of these owner-operator services are still being conducted in certain areas of Australia, with the aid of Government subsidies. Many of these local air transport services become, in the course of time, faced with failure as commercial enterprises. The lesson from that is that civil air services require considerable resources for successful operation. The inevitable trend in these circumstances has been that the successful operator has been able either to buy out other operators who found themselves in financial difficulties, or to take over routes which had been discontinued through the commercial failure of former operators.
When it became apparent that public expenditure had made the field of civil aviation profitable for the investment of private capital, the shipping interests - one of the most powerful monopoly groups in the country - decided to kill two birds with the traditional one stone. They decided to extend their profitmaking holdings, and at the same time prevent the new form of transport from endangering their vested interests by competition. What followed? Let us first take a look at the share register. We find listed a proprietary company named Australian National Airways, with the following shareholders: -
That list, honorable members will agree, might well have come straight from Lloyds Register. But where are the great pioneers of aviation - the pioneers in whose names there has been so much sentimental appeal iu the propaganda opposing this hill ? We look for them in vain. There is a touch of irony in the fact that the Very name of this monopoly company is the name under which the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and. his gallant partner Charles Ulm began their brilliant, but ill-fated pioneering air service. The only change in this name is the significant word, “ Proprietary “.
And so we discover that one by one the small pioneer enterprises are disappearing from the register. It is the inevitable process of absorption by a monopoly. This strongly entrenched combine has behind it such resources that the struggling companies have little option but to accept merger or outright sale. Doubtless some, at least, of them were glad to do so, but the fact remains that they are swallowed by a monopoly. The official story of Australian National Airways, Wings of To-morrow, quite a prophetic title, honorable members will admit, reveals the names of eight such enterprises which became merged - perhaps, I should) say submerged! - in this monopoly. Here are the names: - Tasmanian Aerial .Services Proprietary Limited, Holyman Airways Proprietary Limited, Adelaide Airways Limited, West Australian Airways Limited, Airlines of Australia Limited, New England Airways Limited, Rockhampton Aerial Services Limited, North Queensland Airways Proprietary Limited. And how that combine has grown! Whereas in 1938 sixteen companies were operating, in 1944 only nine remained, though the passenger miles flown had more than doubled in that period. Here we reach, perhaps, the most important evidence of all : Between 1.040 and 3944 a total of £1,900,000 was paid to all airline companies in subsidies and mail poundage fees. But that is not all. Out of that total - I repeat it, £1,900,000 - Australian National Airways received £1,350,000, or 70 per cent. Still, that is not all ‘. Latest figures, those for the twelve months ended the 31st March, 1945, show that Australian National Airways received 85 per cent. of the total payments in subsidies and mail poundage fees.
I say that this bill means, quite simply, that the Commonwealth is going to be logical; it is going to take over control commensurate with its obligations and commitments in the development of this essential industry. Since that is our intention, let us look again at the Commonwealth’s stake in civil aviation - a stake that has always been greater than the combined stake of the private airlines companies. According to the latest figures, the Department of Civil Aviation’s investment in capital expenditure is £4,157,000. In addition, the Department of Air and the Department of Aircraft Production, during the war, have incurred very substantial expenditure on aerodromes and hangars, some of which will be of value for civil purposes. The cost of those improvements which are of immediate or potential value for civil use is £7,337,000. Thus the total Commonwealth investment on ground facilities which will be used by civil aviation has already reached £11,500,000, or more than eight times as much as the investment of all the private operators, which is less than £1,500,000.
– The public is asking for more of those facilities.
– And this is the only Government that is likely to provide them. Honorable members will remember, too, that the greater part of this capital expenditure is being used by the private companies without cost to them. If further evidence is needed, I remind the House that to-day the Commonwealth is committed to an enormous expenditure on the development of capital city trunkline aerodromes. For the Melbourne and Sydney aerodromes alone, the expenditure will be about £8,000,000. which is more than five times the value of the airlines companies’ investments.
Having dealt at some length with the considerations which have influenced the Government to decide to nationalize the airlines, and having traversed the main objections put forward by opponents of government ownership, I now propose to explain the provisions of the bil) itself. I first remind honorable members’ of the statements made to th’ House by the Deputy Prime Minister when he gave notice of the Government’s intention to bring down (his bill. That statement from the Government made it clear that the airline companies and those employed by them would be given just treatment. In the matter of compensation to the companies, the final arbiter will, if necessary, be the High Court, whose discretion on any such question would, of course, be fully acceptable to the’ Government. The bill provides for the establishment of a statutory corporation which will be called the Australian National Airlines Commission, which will lie charged with the responsibility of providing safe, efficient and economically operated airline services between the respective States of the Commonwealth, between States and Commonwealth territories, and within Commonwealth territories. The commission’s powers to establish and maintain air services may be extended with the approval of the Minister to cover international services. The commission will consist of five commissioners, one of whom will be the chairman and one the vice-chairman. The commissioners will be appointed by the Governor-General. The chairman will be appointed for five years, the vice-chairman for four years, and the remaining three commissioners for four years, three years and two years, respectively. Commissioners will be eligible for reappoinment for further terms of three years. Normally, meetings of the commission are not expected to he held more often than once a month, although more frequent meetings probably will be necessary in the early stages. The remuneration of the chairman is left for determination by the Governor-General, but that of other members is fixed by the bill at £500 per annum for the vice-chairman, and £400 per annum for the remaining three commissioners. Travelling and other allowances ore to be at rates determined by the Clovernor-Gen era .
The commission is required to appoint h general manager who will be the chief executive officer of the commission. The *taff of the commission is to be appointed by the commission, and recruitment of clerical staff is to be on the basis of open competitive examination. However, authority is reserved to the commission to appoint to certain prescribed positions persons who do not possess all the qualifications laid down in the bill. The salary of the general manager is to be determined by the Governor-General, and salaries of other officers in excess of the rate of £1,500 per annum are subject to approval by the Minister for Civil Aviation. With these exceptions, the commission is empowered to fix terms and conditions of employment of all other persons in the service of the commission. The rights of any officer of the Commonwealth Public Service appointed to the service of the commission are preserved.
The airline services which the commission is authorized to conduct a* a common carrier are those which cross State boundaries or boundaries between a State and Commonwealth territory or which are wholly within Commonwealth territories. The airline licences will be issued to the commission as provided in the Air Navigation Regulations. Provision is made for the commission to contract for the execution of any work or service authorized under the bill, subject to the approval of the Minister in respect of contracts for supplies from overseas in excess of a value of £10,000. Power is given to the commission to purchase and dispose of assets, but where the value exceeds £5,000, or. in the case of leases of land, where the terms of the lease exceeds a period of five years, the approval of the Minister must be sought. The Minister may direct the commission to establish or alter or continue to maintain any particular air service, and if, in compliance with the Minister’s direction, the commission shows a loss in any financial year after making due provision for sinking and reserve funds, the commission will be entitled to be reimbursed by the Treasury.
Provision is made for an initial appropriation of £3,000,000 from which advances will be made to the commission as necessary to enable it to establish and operate its scheduled air transport services. The terms and conditions of these advances, including the security and basis of repayment, are to be determined by the Treasurer. The commission is required to prepare annual estimates of receipts and expenditure. The accounts of the commission are to be kept in a form approved by the Treasurer, and are to be subject to audit by the AuditorGeneral. Rates, taxes and charges, except income tax imposed under any Commonwealth law, are to be paid by the commission. The Minister may authorize also payment of other rates, taxes or charges. The commission is authorized, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, to set aside out of its revenue such sums as it thinks proper as reserves for depreciation or for other purposes. Profits of the commission are to be devoted to payment of interest on advances made by the Treasurer, repayment of such advances, the establishment and development of such airline services as are approved by the Minister with the concurrence of the Treasurer, and in such other directions as are similarly approved by the Minister. The commission is required to furnish to the Minister an annual report and financial accounts which are to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and is to supply such other reports and information as the Minister may from time to time require.
Power is given to the commission to acquire compulsory aircraft and other property, not including land, required for the purposes of the bill, and provision is made for the payment of compensation for assets so acquired. Though there is no legal obligation on the Commonwealth to pay compensation in respect of loss suffered by an operator by reason of an existing airline licence becoming inoperative due to the establishment of the commission’s service, the bill authorizes such compensation for the period up to the date of expiry of such airline licence. The method of dealing with claims for compensation is set out in the bill, including the establishment of a compensation board presided over by a magistrate, to hear and determine claims and appeals. Where either party is dissatisfied with the decision of the Compensation Board, an appeal may be made to the High Court of Australia.
The bill provides that where a licence is issued to the commission for any airline service authorized by this bill and the commission has established that service, any airline licence held by any other person in respect of a service that calls at stopping places served by the com- mission is automatically rendered inoperative as regards transport, other than intra-state traffic, between those stopping places so long as the commission is maintaining an adequate service. It -will be seen therefore that existing airline licences will be unaffected by the bill except insofar as the services operated under those licences cater for traffic which is adequately provided for by the commission’s services. After the commencement of the act no new airline licences will be issued to persons other than the commission or a contractor of the commission authorizing the carriage, between any stopping places on the commission’s services, of certain classes of traffic which the commission’s services are capable of handling adequately.
The limitations in respect of existing and proposed airline services to which 1 have just referred do not apply to international airline services authorized by the Commonwealth Government. The bill contains a prohibition against persons contracting for the carriage of persons or goods for reward on any interstate service or service serving a territory unless such service is covered by an operative airline licence.
Penalties are provided in the bill against any person who establishes or operates a public transport service in competition with the commission, and also for other offences against the provisions of the bill. Claims for damages or compensation in respect of personal injury are limited to certain specified amounts.
The commission is authorized to make by-laws in respect of certain matters, and the usual provision is also made for the making of regulations.
The powers and functions of the commission as set out in the bill do not conflict in any way with the powers and duties of the Minister or of the Department of Civil Aviation under the Air Navigation Regulations, and those regulations, including all the safety provisions expressed therein, will be applicable to the commission’s services equally as to other operators’ services.
In conclusion, I make the plea that honorable members should - to put it in the simplest terms - review this bill in the light of the greatest good for the greatest number. I ask that their criticism shall be fair and constructive, for they must realize that here we are planning for an industry that is more than an industry. We are planning to use a force that only now is beginning to gain its true momentum. The bill marks one of the first great steps to harness this force to the full service of the people. Its real purpose is to translate the mastery of the air into something socially tangible. We are only at the beginning of that task. The impetus and the potentialities of what earlier I described as the air age, are perhaps, not yet fully realized. Who, indeed, shall say what the future holds? And so I believe that whereas this is the beginning, the task of the future will be to change a state of awareness into a state of full production. That will be a task of high national consequence ; it may even be a task of momentous international significance. But if the vision of those holding that trust should be dimmed by a reluctance to admit that this new aerial industry of ours is, in truth, the common right of the people, if they should fail to act in accordance with that declaration, then Australia’s star may begin a decline, and the Commonwealth fall behind in the march of the intelligent peoples of the world.
In this speech I have sought to touch on what is significant, socially and economically. I have said the Government is proud to bring down such legislation. Because I believe that, I believe also that if we fail to act as this bill proposes because certain interests which have acquired certain commercial privileges contend that they hold a prior right to the benefits of this industry, then, the Government will, indeed, have failed in its trust. This Government has no intention of leaving itself open to any such charge. It intends to use every means it possesses to develop and to use this great power - a power that is being generated in the dynamo of aeronautical science. I say finally that the Government brings down this bill in the belief that, in doing so it is laying a firm foundation for a greater service for the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 4th July(vide page 4104).
Clause 21 -
In the case of a war gratuity credited in the Register of War Gratuities to the account of -
a member who is found by a prescribed authority to be blind or totally or permanently incapacitated, and in such other cases as are prescribed, payment in whole or in part may, at the discretion of a prescribed authority, be made at any time after the date of entitlement.
Upon which Mr.Harrison had moved by way of amendment -
That, after paragraph (e), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ (f) a member who desires to establish or re-establish himself in civil life and who is entitled to receive the benefits provided in Division 3, Part VI., of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945,”.
– As I have pointed out previously, this clause provides that, in certain circumstances, payment of gratuity may be made before the due date, whilst clause 22 specifically provides that gratuity may be paid to an ex-serviceman at any time, subject to the approval of a prescribed authority, for the purpose of purchasing a home. The object of my amendment is to bring within the ambit of clause 21 those persons who will be entitled to reestablishment loans under Division 3, Part VI. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. That division does not stipulate what percentage of interest will be payable on re-estaihlishment loans, nor is any period for repayment specified. Certain honorable members have claimed that clause 21 already provides for the classes of persons whom I had in mind when 1 submitted my amendment. They said that the words, “ and in such other cases as are prescribed “, would enable the authority established under the bill to release gratuity funds to persons seeking to re-establish themselves in business. If the powers granted by clause 21 are such that gratuity may be paid to anybody who may be approved by the prescribed authority, there would be no sense in including clause 22 in the bill. The prescribed authority would be empowered, by clause 21, to make gratuity available for the purpose of housing, and in that case, clause 22 would be redundant. In ray opinion the provisions of clause 21 do not extend to men wishing to re-establish themselves in businesses or professions or to use the money for other purposes which I have in mind.
-Since power to approve the release of gratuity is in the hands of a prescribed authority, what is the value of specifying the classes of beneficiaries in clause 21?
– There must be some reason for including those references to specific classes of persons. I wish to make sure that gratuity payments shall be made available for the purpose of establishing ex-servicemen in business. I link my amendment with the reestablishment and employment legislation, which gives to ex-servicemen the right to obtain loans from the Government for such purposes.We shall have the absurd position of a man who wishes to reestablish himself in business having to borrow money from the Government although he already has a credit with the Government in the form of a gratuity, on which interest is accruing at the rate of 3¼ per cent. He may be obliged to pay interest on the loan which he obtains from the Government at a greater rate than 3¼ per cent., and thus he will actually lose on the transaction.For instance, interest payments on the value of war service homes are at a higher rate than 3¼ per cent. This does not make sense. It is quite within the power of the Government to release gratuity payments to men who are able to qualify for reestablishment loans. Such men should have the right to use their gratuity instead of borrowing from the Government.
– Does the honorable member consider that such ex-servicemen should be entitled to draw their gratuity immediately on discharge?
– Yes, if they can establish their right to a loan for reestablishment purposes. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), when referring to my amendment, said that my purpose was to make more money available in the community. I was amazed at such a statement, because the wording of my amendment shows clearly that more money would not be released. It would mean only that some money would be made available through gratuity payments instead of by means of reestablishment loans. For example, a man might qualify to borrow £1,000 for the purposes of re-establishment. He might have £500 of gratuity to his credit. According to my proposal, he would be able to draw his gratuity, and get the balance of £500 as a re-establishment loan. That is a common-sense approach to the matter, particularly as there may be different rates of interest payable on gratuity and re-establishment loans, respectively, to the detriment of exservicemen.
– I hope that the honorable member will not persist with his amendment. There is no necessity for it. I hope also that honorable members will not link the re-establishment proposals with this measure. This bill is not related to rehabilitation; it is merely a provision for the payment of gratuity to servicemen for their services to the nation. The honorable member referred to the interest payable on the gratuity. I hope to see practically all ex-service men and women receive interest on their gratuity for the full period during which the Government is entitled to hold it on their behalf. I am sure that every honorable member will agree with me on that point.
– I, for one, would not like to see the money held by the Governmentfor the full period. In some cases, money expended immediately after a man has qualified to re-establish himself in civil life would be of much more value to him than if payment were postponed. There can be no hard-and-fast rule.
– There is no hardandfast rule. Gratuity can be made available at any time for the purpose of purchasing a house, and clause 21 provides (hat it can be released, in such cases as are approved by the prescribed authority, at any time after the date of entitlement. Any ex-serviceman who could make out a satisfactory case would “have his gratuity released to him. The Government will not benefit by holding gratuity funds. Its purpose is to prevent all of those funds from being liberated in the community at one time. They will amount to a very large sum, and it will be to the benefit of everybody in the community if the Government holds the money for a period.
– Could the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth be taken care of by the prescribed authority?
– Yes, and I am sure that they will be dealt with satisfactorily. When the regulations are framed, the interests of such persons will be preserved.
.- The Minister (Mr. Frost) has said that this matter can be considered quite apart from that of the rehabilitation of exservice personnel, but I do not support that contention. In many cases it might bi> desirable and quite proper for the gratuity to be applied to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in civil life. Admittedly it would be unwise from an economic point of view to unleash, immediately upon the cessation of hostilities, all of the money which will be paid as gratuity, but the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asks that we should lay down clearly that in cases such as he has mentioned consideration should be given -to making the gratuity available. I am inclined to agree with the Minister that the clause meets the position. It covers payments on account of certain classes of individuals’, and not payments for certain purposes, but it might he desirable to alter the concluding portion of the clause by inserting after the words “ in such other cases “ the words “ and for such purposes “. I hope that as a matter of policy no hardandfast rule will be applied to the types of cases in which payment of the gratuity may bc made at the discretion of the prescribed authority. The Minister has indicated clearly that the type of case mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth will be considered by the prescribed authority.
– When the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) first indicated his amendment I considered it rather unnecessary, because of the express terms of the last three lines of the clause, but that impression has been removed by the statement of the Minister. When this clause was previously under consideration he said that the parliamentary committee had recommended that loans for business purposes such as those provided for under the rc-establishment legislation could not be contemplated in relation to this bill, and he referred to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) for confirmation of that statement. He has again told us that one of the reasons why he cannot accept the amendment is that it might cause the injection of a flood of purchasing power into the economy of the country, but before he concluded his remarks he said that the last three lines of the clause, in effect, did what the amendment was designed to do. The honorable member for Wentworth remarked that as specific provision is made in another clause for the gratuity to be applied to the housing of exservicemen, provision could also be made to enable it to be used in the purchase of a business for an ex-serviceman. That might result in his self-rehabilitation, which would be far better than rehabilitation by the governing authority. There seems to be little difference between the views of the Minister and of the honorable member for Wentworth. If the Minister cannot accept the amendment at this stage, I trust that he will take cognizance of what has been said in this discussion, so that any amendment considered necessary may be inserted in the bill before it becomes law.
– These matters could be provided for in the regulations.
– I shall be satisfied if the Minister will assure me that the regulations will make provision for the gratuity to be used in cases such as those referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– They will.
– I assure the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Parramatta (Si, Frederick .Stewart) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) thatt he deliberate intention of the parliamentary committee was that the prescribed authority should not be hamstrung with regard to special cases such as those which they have in mind. In view of the trend of this discussion it may be advisable to place on record what the committee stated in its report. It said -
Cash Payments. - The Committee reviewed the provision in the War Gratuity Act 1920 and agreed that cash payments might be approved in whole or in part to the following persons entitled to the gratuity: -
I interpolate here that paragraphs d and e have been embodied in one paragraph in the clause under consideration. The committee’s report proceeds -
It is also recommended that, in approved cases, credit may be made available towards the cost of erection or purchase of a home for the member. After careful consideration as to whether credit should be available for other purposes, the Committee decided not to recommend any extension.
The Committee did not favour inclusion of the following categories which were covered by the 1920 Act:-
Member married since discharge;
Persons in necessitous circumstances other than those included in (d) and (e) above.
With regard to the case of members married since discharge, the Committee took the view that it was impossible to distinguish between those members and the large number who may have married during service, and, in fact, those who had married before their entry into the Forces but may not have established homes. If it were decided to permit cash payments in all such cases, the amount of the cash payments would be so large as to nullify the effect of deferred payment for five years.
Investment in Approved Companies. - The 1920 War Gratuity Act made provision for investment of gratuity in approved companies. The Committee, after reviewing the manner in which this provision operated, reached the conclusion that it would be in the interest of members generally if authority was not given in the new legislation for such investments.
Applications for Gratuity. - The procedure after the 1914-18 war was that all members having claims for gratuity were required to make application setting out the particulars on which the claim was based.
Having heard evidence as to the condition? in this war, including an explanation of the records procedure, the Committee considered it was essential that all members having a claim should be required to make application. The claims could then be checked against the records and any periods in dispute subjected to special inquiry.
It is clear that the committee devoted considerable attention to the matter. The subject could be considered from various aspects, but at no stage of the proceedings did the committee endeavour to tie down the prescribed authority by preventing it from dealing with caseson their merits. I claim that the bill as drafted meets the intentions of the committee, and as one who signed its report I support the argument advanced by the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Upon the recommendation of a prescribed authority, made in pursuance of an application by a member, the Minister may authorize the then present value of the whole or portion of the war gratuity to which the member is entitled to be transferred to the War Service Homes Commissioner or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority for the purpose of being credited by the Commissioner or other authority, by way of deposit or otherwise, towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a dwelling-house for the member, and the whole or portion of the war gratuity may. thereupon, be so transferred.
– This clause implements the recommendation of the parliamentary committee that in approved cases the gratuity mightbe made available towards the cost of erecting or purchasing a home for a member of the forces. The clause provides that the Minister may authorize an immediate cash payment on behalf of those servicemen who purchase homes from the War Service Homes Commission or any other approved authority. That would automatically exclude many servicemen who have chosen other methods of financing their home purchases, because the War Service
Homes Commission has not been able to accommodate them. I move -
That the words “ to the War Service Homes Commissioner or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority “ be left out.
The effect of the amendment would be that any serviceman who has been compelled to resort to a private method of finance in establishing himself and his family in a home should have the right to apply for his gratuity to be used for the discharge of his debt in respect of the purchase of his house. Why should a distinction be made between servicemen who have been fortunate enough to obtain financial accommodation from the War Service Homes Commission and those who have been compelled to resort to private finance? Whilst the gratuity owing to the serviceman would be earning interest at the rate of 3£ per cent., he might have to pay 5 per cent, for money borrowed privately for the financing of his home. Even those who receive financial accommodation through the War Service Homes Commission have to pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent. My amendment would bring the clause into complete uniformity with the recommendation of tho parliamentary committee. The Minister has rightly claimed that this bill closely follows the recommendations of that committee. In this respect, it does not, because the committee did not recommend that the transfer of the gratuity should be limited to the War Service Homes Commissioner or any . other authority, but on the contrary definitely recommended that any serviceman who had incurred a liability in respect of the purchase or erection of a home should be entitled to ask for the payment of his gratuity forthwith. In an earlier debate, the Minister claimed that the immediate unloading of the large sum represented by the gratuity would be undesirable. With that contention we are in general agreement. At the same time, unless a portion of these many millions of pounds is unloaded before the end of the prescribedterm, the danger sought to be avoided on the conclusion of hostilities will be real and pressing. It might be a good thing if a proportion of the total amount were released at once in cases such as are covered by my proposal. The main burden of my contention is that the clause in its present form does not harmonize with the recommendation of the parliamentary committee. Amended as I propose, it would do so.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has raised a point that warrants an explanation from the Minister. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), a member of the parliamentary committee, has stated specifically that, in the main, the bill gives effect to the recommendations of that committee. The honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out that, this clause departs from a recommendation of the committee, which reads -
It is also recommended that, in approved/ cases, credit may be made available towards, the cost of erection or purchase of a home for the member.
The committee did not recommend that the gratuity should be transferable only to the War Service Homes Commission or any other authority. Many servicemen might desire to finance themselves wholly or in part by the use of the gratuity, without reference to the War Service Homes Commission or any other authority. - The clause, as framed, does not cover the cases cited by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– From the arguments that have been advanced,” one could deduce that an attempt was being made to prevent the ex-serviceman from obtaining his gratuity. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will bear me out in saying that all the arguments that have been raised on the bill were considered by the parliamentary committee. In the view of the Government, it would be inadvisable to release the whole of the money directly after the cessation of hostilities. But that does not mean that the Government desires to deprive the ex-serviceman of it. If a widow or a blinded serviceman needed the gratuity for the erection of a home, it would be made available. All contingencies arc covered by the clause. The aim is to ensure that the recipients of the gratuity shall derive the utmost benefit from it.
– The Minister has emphasized more than once that the parliamentary committee considered all these matters. I agree that it did. All that I am now asking is that he shall implement the committee’s recommendation. This legislation does not do that. If the Minister will substitute for the language of the clause the exact phraseology of the committee’s recommendation I shall be satisfied. What objection can he have to the adoption of that course?
– Why alter the bill if no greater benefit will thereby be conferred?
– In nearly every other phase, the legislation is almost a verbatim copy of the committee’s recommendations. The use of. the word “authority” raises a very serious1 doubt. I am not asking for the granting of an arbitrary right. Under my amendment the recommendation of some authority would still be required, and the Minister would be empowered to exercise discretion. What objection can the Minister have to placing the matter beyond dispute, by using the language of the committee’s report, as has been done in 98 per cent, of the legislation ?
– If any greater benefit would be conferred, I would accept the amendment. Everything is covered by the clause.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Under the clause, amended as I propose, credit could be made available towards the cost of erection or purchase of a home for the member. I want to omit the reference to the War Service Homes Commission or any other authority. The word “ authority “ has a definite implication. It does not. cover the private financing of a home by the member. I cannot see - and the parliamentary committee could not - why a member who, perforce, had to resort to private finance because the War Service Homes Commission had a vote of only £200,000 this year, should continue to pay 5 per cent. on the accommodation he obtained, when he has a credit balance in the gratuity account on which he receives an interest rate of only 3£ per cent., or why he should be in a worse position than his fellow serviceman who was fortunate enough to have his requirements met before the £200,000 was exhausted.
– To what £200,000 is the honorable member referring?
– The amount voted for the War Service Homes Commission in last year’s Appropriation Act.
– The honorable member heard the Treasurer say that an unlimited amount is available to the commission.
– Then I shall submit a few applications which I hope the Minister will not reject, as he did previously. All that I ask is that the Government shall stand by its proud boast that this legislation is in strict conformity with the recommendations of the parliamentary committee. In this instance, the bill departs very seriously from a recommendation of the committee. That arouses a suspicion, which could be quickly allayed if the Minister would agree to adopt the language of the committee’s report.
has only one objection. I am not sure that there is any substance in it, but I shall state it as I see it. The whole case of the honorable member rests upon what definition is placed upon the term “ other authority approved by a prescribed’ authority”. The honorable member for Parramatta has in mind a serviceman who, after his discharge, may have an opportunity to purchase a house from a private person. His concern is as- to whether the term “ prescribed: authority “ would cover that private person. I am not sure whether it would or not. I suggest that the Minister might obtain the advice of the Crown law authorities.
– The matter will be considered when the regulations are being drafted.
– I am sure that the Minister, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), will bear me out in saying that the parliamentary committee went very carefully into this matter. It had in view only two objectives when it framed the recommendation to which the honorable member for Parramatta has referred. The first was that it was nationally desirable that every ex-serviceman should become a householder and home-maker as soon as possible after the war. The second was that in doing so he should get the very best value for his money. Those two considerations are beyond question or challenge by any authority anywhere in the country. The next point which, the committee had to consider was what means should be adopted to give effect to those two objectives when the matter was resolved into one of practical administration. In that connexion, the committee was confronted with the point that the honorable member for Parramatta has raised, and it recommended against the use of this money for other purposes, but, specifically, that in approved cases credit may bc made available towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a home for a member.
– Clause 22 does not make that provision.
– Clause 22 reads. -
Upon the recommendation of a prescribed authority, made in pursuance of an application by a member, the Minister may authorize the then present value of the whole or portion of the war gratuity to which the member is entitled to be transferred to the “War “Service Homes Commissioner or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority for the purpose of being credited by the Commissioner or other authority, by way of deposit or otherwise, towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a dwelling house for the member, and the whole or portion of the war gratuity may, thereupon, be so transferred.
The committee deliberately used the words “ cost of the erection or purchase “.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8.0 p.m.
– The objective of the War Gratuities Committee was to get ex-servicemen settled into homes of their own, and the committee believed that, in a great majority of cases, the men would, in fact, be dealing with the War Service Homes Commission. Tn .South Australia, the Housing Trust, the Savings Bank of South Australia, and the State Bank are all concerned with home building. They are government institutions, and come within the definition of “ authority “. I should like to know whether the term “ authority “ also covers a private individual who might be prepared to finance the construction of a home. It has not been laid down that ex-servicemen shall obtain homes only through a. government instrumentality. Were that so, there would have been no point in. the committee recommending that, in approved cases, credit may be made available towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a home for a. member. The next point is the method to be followed in dealing with war gratuity bonds. As a matter of fact, there will not be any bonds as such, but only certain block credits in the Commonwealth Bank. If the Government makes an advance to a serviceman for the purchase of a home, and allows him to use his gratuity to defray a part of the cost, the commission will have so much less owing to it on account of the home, and the Government will owe so much less to the soldier on account of his gratuity. No one will be, in that sense, any better or any worse off. The most the servicemen can gain is 1 per cent, on an amount up to about £100. The justification for this lies in the fact that the greater the interest which a man holds in his asset the better it is for him and for the Government also. It is better that the man should own his home, than that the Government should owe him something by way of gratuity, and that he should owe the Government something for the purchase of the home. The committee had. in mind two objectives - first, to get the men into homes and settled down and married as soon as possible; and, secondly, to devise certain safeguards against the easy realization of war gratuity credits so that the men would get the best possible value for their money. It was demonstrated after the last war that when men could go on to the market and make any sort of a deal they liked regarding the purchase of homes, their war gratuities, in many cases, were of very little value to them, because the cost of the homes they purchased was increased .by almost exactly the amount of the gratuities which they had at their disposal. We must realize that economic conditions after the war will .be disturbed, and property values will not be stable. Men will be coming out of the services with five years or more service to their credit, and many of them will have suffered a great variety of privations. They will be only too anxious to get themselves settled into homes as soon as possible. In the circumstances, if they have the right to dispose of their war gratuities at such a time they will derive little benefit from them.
– They would not get value for their money.
– That is so. That is what the committee had in mind when it recommended the imposition of checks upon the free realization of war gratuities.
– Having regard to the explanation which we have just heard from one member of the War Gratuities Committee, and in view of the fact that the Minister has stated that the bill represents an attempt to give effect to the recommendations of the committee, I move -
That Hie clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 22. In approved cases, credit may be made available towards the cost of erection or purchase of a home for the member.”
Those are the exact words of the recommendation of the committee on the point, and if the Government desires to give effect to the recommendation I cannot see how it can refuse to accept the amendment. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) was a member of the War Gratuities Committee, and he must know what were its intentions. His1 signature appears on the report, and he must, therefore, desire to give effect to its recommendations. Evidently, there is some doubt in the minds of members of the committee whether the word “ authority “ includes private financing. If it is desired to enable the ex-serviceman to make his own arrangements for financing the construction of his home, then my amendment is necessary.
– I cannot understand why the honorable member has moved this amendment. The bill as it stands meets the needs of the man who wishes to build his own home, or who wishes to apply a part of his gratuity to the purchase or construction of a home. Most of the men will acquire homes through the War ‘Service Homes Commission, and their war gratuity credits will simply be handed over to the commission.
– What about the man who cannot get a war service home?
– The majority of them will be able to do so.
– 1 know of cases in which the Minister himself signed letters saying that there was no money for the construction of homes.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said that there is plenty of money for war service homes. Any delay in their construction has ‘been due to a shortage of materials and labour. When an amount of £200,000 was made available for war service homes, it could not bo expended because we could not get materials and labour for building. I have the Treasurer’s word for it that if we had wanted £2,000,000 or £10,000,000 for war service homes it would have been available. I cannot accept the honorable member’s amendment. I should do so if I thought it would .be of any benefit, but I cannot see that it would be.
.- I am sure that the Minister wishes to meet the objections that have been raised on this side of the House. I have before me the recommendation of the War Gratuities Committee in which it is stated -
It is also recommended that, in approved cases, credit may be made available towards the cost of the erection or purchase of, a home for a member.
Clause 22 of the bill does not give effect to this recommendation. It states1 -
Upon the recommendation of a prescribed authority, made in pursuance of an application by a. member, the Minister may authorize the then present value of the whole or portion of the war gratuity to which the member is entitled to be transferred to the War Service Homes Commissioner or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority . . .
If the word’s “ or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority “ mean only governmental or semigovernmental bodies, the position is clear enough, but I understand they are also intended to include any person or building society.
– A legal officer has assured me that they do not include such persons or societies.
– The position can be made quite clear by making the clause read “ or any other authority or person approved . . . “. It, may be that an ex-serviceman desiring to build his home through a building society would, if he could obtain the use of his gratuity immediately, be able to have his cottage erected practically free of excessive debt. My proposal should commend itself to the committee.
– This clause will not prevent the ex-serviceman from doing that.
– Whilst clause 21 may support the Minister’s contention, [ fail to understand why he does not make the position perfectly clear. All honorable members are striving to attain the same objective, and I have suggested a form that will enable us to achieve it. If my suggestion be adopted, honorable members will be giving effect to the recommendation of the parliamentary committee. In other words, the adoption of the amendment will enable a prescribed authority, upon its recommendation and in pursuance of an application made by an ex-serviceman, to transfer the present value of his gratuity to any approved person. This provision will not lead to abuses.So long as the Minister possesses a discretionary power, the ex-serviceman will be protected against exploitation by jerry builders or any outside interest, and will be able to utilize his gratuity in the way that will be to his greatest advantage. Consequently, no objection should be raised to my proposal. As the clause stands, the recommendation of the parliamentary committee cannot be given effect.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The amendment proposes to insert in this clause the exact words contained in the recommendation of the parliamentary committee. Certain other clauses include the precise words of the recommendations of the committee, and I fail to see why a departure has been made in this instance. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suggested that, the only benefit which would accrue to the ex-serviceman, if the objective of the amendment were realized, would be the saving of1 per cent, in the rate of interest payable on the money advanced to him. Whilst that, in itself, would be adequate justification for adopting the amendment, an even more cogent reason is that the ex-serviceman would be able appreciably to reduce the financial obligation incurred in the purchase of his home. That would give to him a greater equity in his property, and he would not be obliged to pay interest at the rate of 5 per cent, on money borrowed from private sources for the purchase of a home, because the War Service Homes Commission had not been able to provide a dwelling for him. I urge the committee to accept the amendment, which is a reproduction of the recommendation of the parliamentary committee.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) put -
That after the word “ authority”, second occurring, the words “ or person “ be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 26
TheCHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The honorable member for Boothby explained that he was reading a document, and did not notice that the committee had divided. He did not ask permission to cross the chamber, and at the time he spoke, the tellers had been appointed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 (Provision for dependants when not adequately provided for by member).
– This clause places upon a prescribed authority the responsibility to decide whether a member of the forces neglected or failed to provide adequately for his dependants. The war gratuity will be paid to the ex-serviceman in recognition of the risks that he has personally taken in the performance of his duty in defending his country, and clause 23 lays down the general rule that the gratuity shall be inalienable except as prescribed. The conditions under which the gratuity shall be alienable are set out in clause 26. I fail to understand why this provision has been inserted, because thegratuity is the entitlement of the ex-serviceman, and is paid to him by a grateful country for the risks that he has taken as a member of the forces. I cannot see why, in these circumstances, the money should be directed, in whole or in part, to the satisfying of claims that might be made by dependants. I can understand that, in certain cases, this might be just, but the powers provided in this clause appear to be unlimited. The definition of “ dependants “ is very wide. It includes the wife, widow or children, including ex-nuptial children, of a serviceman and any person who is or was wholly or partly dependent for support upon the earnings of the member during his period of service or, subsequently, at any time before his entitlement to war gratuity. Will this cover the de facto wife? Will she be able, by reason of her dependency upon, the ex-serviceman, to obtain some of his gratuity, which represents the acknowledgment of a grateful country for the risks which he has taken in its defence? Another strange aspectof this clause is that the prescribed authority is required to decide upon such claims before the date of entitlement. The date of entitlement, according to the bill, will be six months after the cessation of hostilities. That requires some explanation. Will the Minister say whether hostilities will be considered to cease when peace is declared, when fighting ends, or at some other time? The period of rehabilitation will be a very unsettled time for the ex-serviceman. In common with some other honorable members, I have had experience of what happens to a soldier after demobilization. Some men may find it very hard to settle down, and they may have to deal with many domestic difficulties during the period of their re-establishment in civil life. Why should the pressure of departmental authority be applied to them at this stage? Psychologically, it will be unsound. The mere fact of a man being called upon to make a determination regardingallotments from his gratuity at that time may cause more domestic upsets than would ordinarily occur. Anyhow, why should the Government buy into domestic brawls ? I cannot see any good reason for this. The matter could be covered in a more general form.
– Compulsory allotments are made from servicemen’s pay now.
– Yes, and that is sufficient cover for dependants. The gratuity which is something additional to the normal payment for service, should not be plundered on behalf of dependants. It is a special payment for risks taken. The fact that a higher rate is paid for overseas service than for home service, in which very little risk occurs, makes the payment a thing apart. Therefore, I urge that the clause be negatived.
– This clause is similar to the relevant section of the War Gratuity Act 1920. Therefore, there can be no fear of it being unjustly used. Any claim to gratuity payments must be considered by the prescribed authority. Applications will not be granted haphazardly. De facto wives, to whom the honorable member for Wentworth referred,would not be regarded as dependants. This provision worked satisfactorily after the last war; there were no hardships or injustices.
– Will the Minister read the definition of “ dependants “?
– I have read it many times, and I cannot see how any injustice can be done to ex-servicemen.
– The justification for this clause rests on two. grounds. The first is that the committee has. already agreed to clause 25, in which a somewhat similar provision is made in relation to unfortunate persons who have become mentally unfit. The committee has agreed that, in such cases, the payment of gratuity may be made for the benefit of that person or of some or all of his dependants. The second ground is that, when a man becomes a member of the armed forces in a British community, he does not surrender either his rights or his obligations as a citizen. The basis of the pay schedules of the Navy, Army and Air Force is the recognition of the obligation of the enlisted man to his dependants. Whilst the gratuity is intended, in the first instance, as a slight expression of the country’s gratitude for what the fighting man has experienced, nevertheless, at no time can these men be absolved from their responsibilities to their dependants. The question at issue is, in fact, whether the committee will decide that the dependants shall suffer, although entirely guiltless, many of them being children who have not asked to be brought into the world. If a man should fail in his obligation to his dependants, notwithstanding whatmay be contained in clause 23 regarding the inalienability of war gratuity, that obligation cannot be removed from him. If the prescribed authority considers that an injustice has been done to his dependants, the Parliament ought to decide that they are more entitled to the gratuity than the man who has wronged them. Therefore.I support the clause as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
The amount of -
any war gratuity; or
anyinterest credited or paid to any person in pursuance of this Act, shall not be liable to income tax under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, and shall not be deemed to be property or income for the purposes of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1944 or the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1945.
– This clause provides that the gratuity shall not be regardedas property for the purpose of interpreting the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act or the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Surely equal justice should, be done to those who arc in receipt of widows’ pensions. The bill provides that, in certain contingencies, the widows of fighting men shall be entitled to receive gratuity. It would be poor treatment of them if, upon receiving the gratuity on the termination of hostilities, the fact of that payment precluded them from receiving the widow’s pension during the year in which the gratuity was paid. I believe that that will be the effect of the clause.
– That can be dealt with in the regulations.
– But it is not mentioned in this clause.
– It is meant to be.
– Then . move -
That the following words be added: - “ or the Widows’ Pensions Act .1942-1944.”.
The Minister has said that this aspect will be dealt with in the regulations. Surely regulations cannot override the specific terms of the clause! I am sure that it is not the wish of the Government that a widow should lose her pension in the year in which she receives the gratuity paid for the services of her dead husband to the nation. I am prepared to force a division on this issue if the Minister will not listen to reason.
– I shall accept the amendment.
– Thank goodness for something.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 32 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill .reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th July (vide page 4055), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure was introduced prior to the unfortunate recess caused by the death of the late Prime Minister, the Right Honorable John Curtin. It is described as. a bill for an act “ to provide for the provisional administration of the Territory of Papua and that portion of the Territory of New Guinea no longer in enemyoccupation”. Any legislation designed; to restore civil administration to Papua and New Guinea should be applauded. It is essentia] that we should return to thoseTerritories those who through the stressof war were forced into exile and have been clamouring to be allowed «to go back to their homes. Great responsibilities devolve upon this Parliament in respect of Papua and New Guinea from the strategic, humanitarian and economic points of view. We have learnt by bitter experience in this war that New Guinea is not only a barrier against invasion but can also bc a stepping-stone to Australia for an enemy. Some members of the Opposition have discussed the matter from that aspect in the past, and some members of the Labour party before they were in office opposed measures submitted by us for the defence of that area. New Guinea will always be an important place from a strategic point of view, and no doubt after the war we shall have to garrison it with troops, lay down air-fields and make other provision which will enable the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force to operate from that region instead of being wholly based in Australia.
We have a tremendous responsibility to the natives of New Guinea, and it is incumbent upon us to provide for their enlightenment and development to the greatest possible degree. We should make sure that the treatment received by them is beyond criticism. Generally speaking, the natives have been well treated in the past. Our policy towards the native population in Papua and New Guinea has been infinitely better than that towards the Australian aborigines. Sir Hubert Murray, who formerly administered Papua, was for years in the forefront as an anthropologist and humanitarian, and he placed the welfare of the natives before considerations of economic advantage. The Opposition will support any measure genuinely designed for the betterment of the condition of the natives ; but we should act wisely, and not spoil native races who are not ready for some of the proposals which the Government lias advanced in this bill. Australia has paid a definite subsidy to ensure the financial stability of these Territories, which by means of taxation could have been made self-supporting. They applied mere revenue tariffs, and the native labour was not so fully employed as it might have teen. After the last war Australia received a mandate over a portion of New Guinea and gold discoveries of a phenomenal kind attracted people to that Territory in large numbers, with the result that the development was quicker and of a more advanced kind there than in the southern portion of New Guinea. Under a wise administration and by humane ordinances designed to ensure the welfare of the natives, severe penalties being provided for those who oppressed them, the welfare of the local inhabitants and the development of the Territory wore assured. The Opposition and the Government are of one mind in desiring progress on those lines.
We are told that this measure is a temporary one and will operate only until six months after the. cessation of hostilities. The Administrations of Papua and New Guinea are to be merged. The Executives and Legislative Councils of those Territories will be suspended, and they will cease to carry out their function.’. The local legislatures consisted of representatives of the people, some appointed and others elected, and they knew the country and its difficulties. Whilst the merging of the two Administrations is desirable, this was not done previously because the Territory of New Guinea was governed under a mandate and Papua was a part of the Commonwealth. It must be agreed that for simplicity of administration the two territories should be merged, but the rest of the bill needs careful examination. No reference is made in the title of the bill to the fact that the measure deals with the industries of the territories, and I consider that the Government has spoilt the bill by reason of the industrial provisions. The food and housing of the natives and town planning are among the matters with which the bill deals. The legislatures of these territories being in suspense, the control will be exercised entirely from Canberra. There will be remote control from the Federal Capital of every activity of the miners, planters and merchants. If a classic example were desired of the muddling that that could induce, honorable members have only to read the report of Mr. J. V. Barry. K.C., who was appointed by the Government to investigate the conditions which prevailed in Papua at the outbreak of the war with Japan. The report showed that chaos resulted from the fact that different departments controlled the various activities in that territory, and the results might very well have been more serious than they were. Fortunately in the last emergency the military commandant at Port Moresby was placed in complete control - even of the civil administration. The Japanese were within a few miles of Port Moresby when the final decision was made. Previously there had been indecision, because certain orders were sent to the civil administrator and different orders were given to the commandant. This was not done wilfully, but there was conflicting administration by two efficient men who were authorities in their own particular spheres. This proved - that control from Canberra of a territory thousands of miles from the Commonwealth capital with regard to the pay and other working conditions of the natives is too disastrous to be supported by any democratic government.
Let us examine some of the proposals submitted in the bill. The zeal of the protagonists of the measure has outrun their common sense. They speak first of trusteeship. The care of dependent peoples has- always been looked upon as almost a sacred trust by British communities. Nobody can deny that British colonies have always been managed with a desire to see that the native population is not exploited. In New Guinea and Papua we have allowed the local legislatures to make the ordinances. In every way the native has been safeguarded against exploitation. His dietary scale has been laid down, his hours of work have been fixed, and -labour contracts have to be signed by his employer. Policing and inspection are insisted upon at all rimes. [ do not claim that the conditions are perfect in every respect. The position must not remain static, because we must gradually train the natives to a higher education and to increased responsibilities. If we suddenly enforce labour laws which might be applicable to a completely civilized democratic community, overpay the natives for their work, and give to them too much leisure, we shall be spoiling them instead of raising them gradually to the stage which we desire them to attain.
The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) had a conference in Sydney in December last at which representatives of the various missions operating in New Guinea and Papua, administrative officers, anthropologists, and representatives of the planters and everybody else associated with operations in the two territories were present. Whilst no recommendation was made, opinions were sought from all of those people and the concensus of opinion was that the indenture system which operates to-day should be preserved in some form ; but, because one missionary and one anthropologist, as opposed to the opinions of more than a dozen others, insisted that because in Fiji and Ceylon there was no indenture system, there should be none in New Guinea and Papua, that view has apparently been swallowed whole by the Government. We know that the peoples of Ceylon and Fiji have reached a more advanced stage of development than have those of Papua and New Guinea. Ceylon has democratic government, and the people enjoy the franchise. They control their own affairs except with regard to defence. In Fiji the natives have had a century of development, and the Government has brought Indians into the country. These were a problem at first, but, being more advanced than the Fijians themselves, they have learned to live in harmony with the natives, and the people generally are far ahead of the majority of the natives of New Guinea and Papua. Although there is a certain number of more or less sophisticated natives in places like Moresby and Rabaul, many of the natives are backward to a degree that is not paralleled in any other part of the world. In the interior of New Guinea there are dwarf races and in the Mount Hagen region we find a Semitic giant type. Only a small proportion of the natives of that territory can be taken into employment at present. Most of the country is unexplored.
– All who are sent 0U by the mission stations are taken into employment, and there are thousands of those.
– The mission station,are doing extremely good work, but I am referring to the other natives not reached by them. Those near the seaboard and those whom the recruiters bring in are only a small proportion of the total population of about 1,000,000. Talk of a 40-hour week, treble pay, a dietary scale laid down by a dietitian, and the waiving of written contracts of employment, would fill these men with amazement. This is not the place to hammer out such propositions. If civil administration is to be restored, the officers should be permitted to return to Papua to frame and give effect to the ordinances that may be necessary at any given time. No one with the slightest knowledge of the subject will deny that that would be the best plan. It has worked before, and it would work again. Here we have a co-prosperity plan, conceived possibly by the Trades Hall for the benefit of the Papuans, and a sort of new deal for New Guinea. There is abundant evidence from residents of the Territory, if the Government wants it, that these measures are not necessary to-d!ay. It seems to me that the Government has been inspired to take action because of the International Labour Office Conference.
– Does not the honorable member regard that as a good reason ?
– The honorable member rather misunderstood what the whole subject was about. Although he attended the conference, he cannot recite the terms of item 5 of the agenda. They were these -
In pursuance of the objective of free labour in a free world, the principle is affirmed that the slave trade, and slavery in all its forms, shall be prohibited and effectively suppressed in all dependent Territories. ‘. . ;
– What is wrong with that?
– Is the honorable member William Wilberforce? Does he believe that there is slavery in New Guinea? I am amazed that in this year of 1945 there should be in a democratic Parliament representatives who believe that an indenture system is slavery. It is no more slavery than the apprenticeship of a youth to a trade.
– That depends on what the honorable member describes as slavery.
– Slavery was abolished long ago. I believe that one of the delegates to the International Labour Office Conference really thought that there was slavery in New Guinea. The report of the Minister leading the Australian delegation contains this passage in regard to the recommendation in respect of the suppression of slavery, prohibition of the use of opium, forced or compulsory labour, recruitment of workers, special types of contract of employment, &c. -
This recommendation is of an extremely important character. The principles contained should be applied in respect of dependent Territories in which Australia is interested. The standards laid down are minimum in character. It is open to the Commonwealth of Australia to improve on these standards and thus give a lead to other nations in the progressive improvement of the living conditions of the people’s of dependent Territories.
At the same time, he complained bitterly that at the conference he had insufficient advisers. Simply because it sounded grand when somebody at the conference denounced slavery, as has been done in America for many years, even before the Civil War, and it is popular to sing “ John Brown’s Body “, the Australian delegates to Philadelphia said : “ Let us have some of that, and we will improve on it “.
– We want a free and an enlightened native race.
– But what about the white people who settled there? Is the honorable member prepared to settle there and employ members of the enlightened native race? Not a word does the bill contain about the settlers who have fought against the trying climate and other natural difficulties, have suffered from malaria, and have lived without the amenities that can be enjoyed in any part of Australia. At the conference held in Sydney, the consensus of opinion was in favour of the retention of indentured labour.
– That is not true.
– I said the consensus of opinion. There were those who believed that it should be reduced to smaller dimensions, and those who opposed it straight out. The principal opponents were the two persons I have mentioned. The Seventh Day Adventist Mission spoke well of the planters and of the way in which they had discharged their obligations. Yet the Government proposes that recruiters of labour shall be abolished; in other words, the employer will have to go out personally and find his labour.
– There will be no more “ blackbirding “.
– Evidently the honorable member does not know that that practice disappeared many years ago.I point out that the labour which the recruiters engaged was voluntary. Nobody was forced to work. In Australia, a man has to report to the manpower authorities as soon as he leaves the Army, and he is pushed into a job whether he likes it or not. The bill specifically provides that the employer must personally enlist his labour. There are three systems in operation in New Guinea and Papua - indenture, nonindenture if within a distance of 20 miles, and contract. Sometimes it if found more convenient to carry out work at contract rates, but the indenture system is that which generally prevails, on plantations principally, and in mines. Yet the Government without having given the matter sufficient thought, proposes to abolish the indenture system. Most of the planters in New Guinea are servicemen of the last war. When the German properties were expropriated, they were taken over by ex-servicemen. The Government wisely considered that these men would be literally in the front line when trouble arrived, and they were. The task of running their properties successfully has not been an easy one. During the depression years, when the price ofcopra fell to a very low figure, their terms with the Government were that they were to make repayments in respect of their properties on a sliding scale according to the price of copra. That arrangement enabled them to remain on their properties. The New Guinea branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has communicated with me in these terms -
The New Guinea Branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League views with alarm the proposed restricted period of indenture for native labour in New Guinea.
In actual fact employers always fed and housed their native labour on a high standard and the suggested increase in wages causes no concern. If the Government enforces the period of indenture to one year the effect will be that employers will bc obliged to engage at least double the number of their pre-war strength.
Pre-war a period of at least three months elapsed before a native was competent to perform even a labourer’s work and it took many years to train them to special jobs.
The vast majority of plantation owners are members of the League and they face ruination if increased overhead charges are enforced by short-term indenture.
We have received advice to the effect that some plantations at present in operation do not propose to undertake any further development in view of the impossibility of gauging post-war markets for rubber and copra in competition with such countries as Java and Malaya.
That is not a light protest. I was Minister for Trade and Customs when the acute position in relation to copra arose. I visited New Guinea and interviewed the planters from Kavieng to Moresby and Samarai to Madang. I found that the rubber growers were in great difficulties. They could not compete with the rubber growers of Malaya, whose production costs were much less because they employed Chinese labour. Therefore, an arrangement was made whereby Australian manufacturers were to take the whole of the Papuan output at a price profitable to the growers at the time. I brought down legislation to renew bounties on every form of primary production for a period of ten years.. That was in 1937. This resulted in a lot of men remaining in New Guinea up to the outbreak of the war with the consequence that the rubber output was increased. They were subsequently ordered out of the territory, and the Administration went with them.
– Some of them were glad to get out.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Those men are a credit to Australia. Instead of seeking the easy life of the cities, they have cultivated and developed the territory, and assisted to enlighten the natives. Now, the Government proposes to compel them to sign up employees not for three year.? or two years, but for one year. No recruiter is to be allowed to bring in labour from a distant district. All employees are to be given three months off after a year’s employment. No employer in a city could carry on his business if his apprentices, whom he had signed on for five years, were allowed to have three months off after they had done a year’s work. The honorable member for Adelaide asserts that a lot of the planters, were glad; to leave the territory. Possibly some of them were. Many of them will not return under the conditions which the Government intends to impose. I have received many letters on the subject. One letter, from a person who has been in the territory for many years, will give some idea of what the conditions are like. It reads -
Learning from the daily papers of Mr. Ward’s intended legislation regarding the Papuan natives, I, in common with all who know Papua, and the conditions of life there, was almost petrified with indignation and amazement in contemplation of its certain results on the industries of the Territory.
Those industries might have been better developed. Sir Hubert Murray, great anthropologist and humanitarian, did not believe in putting economic matters before native welfare. He told me so when I suggested that Rona waterfalls near Port Moresby should be harnessed for the generation of electricity, and that roads should be made so that settlers would not have to travel long distances on horseback or make their own roads. The letter continues -
And also on the life and work of the white population whose years of toil have already been swept away, and who are already facing ruin through the exigencies of war. As one who has lived and worked there, which Mr. Ward has not done, and who has employed native labour, which also Mr. “Ward has not done, and who in a small measure, understands that difficult thing, the native psychology, in which understanding Mr. Ward seems lamentably lacking, I am writing to enlistyour sympathy and help for the people who so badly need it … A planter who must attend to his plantation cannot spare the time to take weeks away from it, visiting, in canoes, and on foot, the many villages of the Territory, in order to find labour.
Now it is proposed that officials in Canberra shall draft ordinances prescribing that the working week shall consist of 44 hours or 40 hours, and the natives shall be paid so much. It all sounds so easy, but the net effect will be to cripple the territories in the north which proved to be the bulwark of Australia in this war, and may wellbe the same again. The Government, instead of creating difficulties, should be devising methods to encourage men to settle in Papua and New Guinea. Former settlers now in exile should be helped to return. I agree that the natives also should be considered, but it is going somewhat far to talk about housing plans for the natives, and a new die try scale, &c, when it is well known that the natives prefer their own communal village life. Much has already been done in the way of educating them. It is proposed to cut down the period of indenture, and to compel the employer to repatriate the natives, taking them back to their own districts either on foot or by canoe. Who would be a copra-grower under such conditions? Is the Government shutting its eyes to the competition which will develop from ot her tropical countries? Even before the war the competition from Malaya was fierce, and planters in Papua and New Guinea would not have been able to carry on except for Government assistance. In the past, legislatures were set up in New Guinea, and this Government is proposing most undemocratically to abolish them.
– Perhaps conditions in Malaya will be improved after the war, and it will not be so dangerous a competitor in the production of copra.
– We must face things as they are. An administration had been set up in New Guinea staffed by men who were world authorities in their work. Young men were recruited as patrol officers and district officers, and honorable members opposite would have been proud had they visited the interior of
Papua or New Guinea, and seen one of these young men administering the affairs of a population of 10,000 or 15,000 natives. They would then have been compelled to pay a tribute to the administrative genius of men of our race. They established hospitals, created administrative machinery and settled the tribal difficulties of the natives in their areas. The Government is now proposing to do a foolish thing in attempting to govern New Guinea by ordinances framed in Canberra. The administration will be conducted by an exchange of telegrams between New Guinea and Canberra. There will be divided control such as there was during the crisis in Papua at the beginning of the war with Japan, and this system of remote control will lead to inefficiency.Government control, whether by a Labour Government or any other kind of government, does not make for efficiency. There should be a minimum of Government interference with the operations of planters. The natives should, of course, be protected, and there should be wise and democratic administration. That we have had.
– Is that not Governmentcontrol ?
– There was local control, but if officials in Canberra are to prescribe hours of labour for the natives and conditions governing industry, settlers and planters will be discouraged. The Minister for PostwarReconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should confer with the Minister for External Territories in an effort to encourage the settlement of New Guinea. Generous terms should be offered, including grants of land such as were made after the last war. Here is an extract from a letter written by a planter in exile -
Many of these Papuan and New Guinea white residents have suffered the horrors of Japanese invasion and destruction of their homes and possessions. Some were murdered, others made prisoners, and others escaped after terrible hardships. Those who reached Australia have existed through temporary employment, awaiting the opportunity to return to their homes to rehabilitate themselves with the aid of their war damage compensation and the anticipated sympathetic treatment of the Government that was to some extent responsible for their misfortunes. The Atlantic Charter and talks on security for all encouraged them in spite of their long exile and
USS of the income of their properties, but the speech of the Minister in introducing this bill has cast them’ into despair by its apparent hick of any consideration for their rights and future security. They now wonder whether they will be justified in putting the war damage compensation into what may be losing ventures and wasting further years of their lives in throwing good money after bad. [ feel that a grave injustice has been done to the white population of New Guinea. I am prepared to support any measure for the gradual improvement of the conditions of the natives, but those conditions are already equal to the best in the world, having regard to the standard, of their civilization. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Bill be withdrawn and referred to a Select Committee for report >i.s to whether the Bill meets the requirements nf the Territories concerned, and to seek advice upon the best methods for restoring Civil Administration, for the welfare of the native population ‘ and for the economic development of Papua and New Guinea “.
This matter has not been properly considered. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) gave a promise at Philadelphia that the system of indentured labour would be abolished. This undertaking was given without due consideration of what it would involve, and the Minister for Externa] Territories has since been trying to work out how it is to be done. He called a conference in Sydney recently, but it did not produce the result that was hoped for. The return of the civil administration to New Guinea should be hastened, and settlers should be restored to their properties. The proposed system of remote control from Canberra is wrong and foolish, and should be strongly opposed.
.- I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on this measure dealing with the future control of New Guinea. Although he launched out on a voyage of exploration, he did not really reach New Guinea at all - at any rate, not the New Guinea with which this bill deals. He confined his remarks to a remote conception of New Guinea which exists in his own mind as a place designed for commercial enterprise. As a matter of fact, he was wrecked on the shoals around this old theoretical New Guinea long before he reached the New Guinea to which this bill refers.
This measure has been framed in the light of what has taken place since the outbreak of war. The enemy having been pushed back in New Guinea, the civil administration is taking over. In accordance with the promise of this Government and of all democratic governments, the. natives are to be given the benefit of a new order. The Minister for External Territories appears in a new role in introducing legislation affecting the administration of New Guinea. From my association with him I know that he has this matter very much at heart. The honorable member for Balaclava can see New Guinea only in terms of profits to company directors, and through the eyes of disgruntled planters, who, however, are only too anxious to get back. He has told us that the planters will not return under the conditions offered by the Government, and that ex-servicemen will not settle in New Guinea because the Government has decided that the natives shall be paid an additional 5s. a month. The Government’s proposals have been attacked from the quarters from which an attack was to be expected. Immediately after the Minister for External Territories made his second-reading speech on this bill, the Sydney Morning Herald flounced on to the scene in its usual manner with this comment -
If the Minister means all he says, presumably the native population is to be inducted forthwith into the highest state of civilization as understood at the Trades Hall.
That is this paper’s typical one hundred years old approach to the subject. So far as it is concerned nothing has happened since its first building was erected in Hunter-street and some one decided to cover in the Tank Stream. 1 remind the honorable member for Balaclava that we have progressed since then. There is to be a new order for all men, whether black or white. For how long can we, as a community of - Australians, dedicated to the. principle of a White Australia, sustain the notion that the largest island in the world - if we regard Australia as a continent - is to be exploited by a handful of whites. Are we going to plan for 1,000,000 natives, or for 3,000 or 4,000 whites, or are we going to plan for both, having in mind the fact that the black man is in possession? It must be borne in mind that the administration has never alienated the natives’ land. Such administrators as Sir Hubert Murray and McGregor always insisted that the natives should be left in possession of their land. It was only with the development of such industries as gold-mining and planting that there began an intensive drive in the eastern States of Australia against the preservation of good conditions for the natives. We have, in this country, a proud doctrine called the White Australia policy, which is very dear to our hearts. In carrying out that policy we have a dedication to 1,000,000 natives. The proof to the genuineness of our feelings regarding a White Australia will be in the kind of deal that we hand out to the subject race over which we have control. To the propositions contained in this bill, we find, not violent opposition, but solid support from intelligent people, anthropologists and missionaries, who have lived in New Guinea. Professor Elkin, who is Professor of Anthropology at the Sydney University, expressed this opinion : -
The whole thing hinges on whether we think r million natives up there should be given first preference, or whether a thousand planters should get it. Personally, I’m all for the million.
Main objection to the indenture system was that it relied on penal sanction for a civil contract.
Natives who went off to visit their families before their two or three years had expired could be fined or gaoled. “ The indenture system has led to a number nf abuses “. he said. “ It ie almost impossible to police the Native Labour Ordinance in mandated territory. There have been a number of cases in which an employer has assaulted natives. “Tn most cases natives are re-indentured, which means they are away from their own villages for five or six years. When they do go bank they are misfits “.
The whole problem of New Guinea revolves around the statement of that well known authority that the taking of the natives from their villages tends to destroy not only the whole native culture, but also the natives themselves. When I was in New Guinea recently, I was amazed to find, on examining statistics, that the .main cause of the death rate was not malaria, septic ulcers or the tropical diseases about which we hear so much, but tuberculosis caused by malnutrition. Contrary to general belief, New Guinea is not a lush land. It is a colourful, green land, drenched by torrential raine and swift flowing rivers, but many parts of it do not compare, for richness, with Java, and the lush areas have been most effectively exploited by private enterprise, including planters and gold-miners. The natives themselves have received very little benefit from the white man’s occupation. We are detribalizing them. In the old days, white men went among the villages and recruited labour. Of course, the natives had to volunteer to serve their white masters, but when they left the villages, they did not return for years. It then devolved upon the women to tend the gardens, but they were not able to do so. either through inability to perform the hard work, or because they could see that the whole tribal system was breaking up. The result was that they drifted towards the plantations, and the New Guinea native became rapidly detribalized.
The bill will instil some measure of dignity into New Guinea. Because we whites have gone to the Island we must remember that our mission is to see that the native retains his dignity and tribal rights, and eventually becomes the possessor of the country once again. A ‘ friend of mine, Who served with the Royal Australian Navy during the attack on the Philippines, told me that when he landed from an assault craft, a dark gentleman stepped from behind a jungle bush and said, “ Welcome to the Philippines, in the name of democracy “. When we go back to New Guinea after the war, we can proudly say that the natives can welcome us back to Papua and New Guinea in the name of democracy. We return with a system that specifies not only the amount of money that the native may earn, but also a concrete plan for his health, and education, the establishment of the tribes, the gathering of native history and folk lore, the erection of wireless stations, and the development of a successful native community, as the Americans have done in the Philippines. These objectives will require the expenditure of a considerable sum of money, but I have no doubt that it will be forthcoming.
The concrete proposals that are contained in. this bill are most progressive. The work which the Commonwealth Government has done in NewGuinea, and particularly in the Mandated Territory, will not be lost upon the new world security organization which replaces the League of Nations. The discussions which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has had on trusteeship were on very sound ground, because our work on behalf of the native can bear the closest scrutiny. But we must be vigilant, because certain forces in New Guinea seek to make the native a pack-horse and a beast of burden. It is all very well to talk about developing the country. During the last 25 years New Guinea has not been developed to the fullest capacity. The planters themselves have faced the hazards of climate, malaria, loneliness and a certain isolation from the mainland, but, in other respects, chey have enjoyed more advantages than a man usually gets in the tropics, and certainly in the Belgian Congo, Equatorial Africa and parts of Borneo. The civilized man, who went to New Guinea, insisted on civilized standards, and the Labour Government, with a dedication to 1,000,000 natives, must insist upon improved standards for them.
The first step in this plan has been to increase wages. Hitherto, wages in Papua were 10s. a month and- food; the payment has now been increased to 15s. a month. Even that is little enough in view of the services which the natives have rendered to us since Japan entered the war. The honorable member for Balaclava based his assessment of a fair wage for the natives on the hard statistics of commerce. But only a few months ago, we were talking about the “ fuzzy wuzzy angels “ who bore Australian soldiers to safety over the. Kokoda trail. Magnificent pictures were published in the press depicting the association of the native of New Guinea and the Australian soldier. For one who is almost a professional protaganist for ex-servicemen, the honorable member for Balaclava has quickly forgotten the services that the New
Guinea natives rendered to Australian soldiers. He demanded that commercemust ‘return to New Guinea after the war, and that the native must resume hia? place as the beast of burden. An intolerable situation would ‘arise, he said, if the wages of the native were increased by 5s. a month. That is the only conclusion which can be drawn from the letters that he read to the House. He stated that he had received communications from ex-servicemen who felt disgruntled because of this bill. If honorable members will study the measure, and read the second-reading speech of the Minister, they will see that these are humanitarian additions to the policy that has been in operation in New Guinea in the past. Even in New Guinea time marches on. There is nothing: dramatic about them, except the drama of good, sound, common sense allied to a humanitarian outlook. There is nothingto prevent the 4,000 planters from returning to New Guinea, except the feeling; that they will not be the overlords for alltime. We must bring these two groupsof people closer together, and emphasize that the man who must be looked after is the native rather than the planter.
The introduction of a 44-hour working week seems to have disturbed the honorable member for Balaclava. His traditional attack on any improvement of working conditions has leapt across the Pacific, and he finds that it is a had tiling indeed for the hours of labour of the native to be reduced from 55 to 44- a week. If he had paid as much attention to the native as he does to the man who thinks that New Guinea is a happy hunting ground and the place where laisser-faire economy can skim off the cream, he would realize that the natives of New Guinea are not immensely strong fellows. They range from the pygmies of Mount Hagen to the Polynesians on the sea-shore. They a-re willing, and very adept. They listen to the white man’s orders, and obey them implicitly. They can be trusted. I fail tosee that, because they possess those attributes, they should be exploited. We should endeavour to improve their conditions. Honorable members should not forget that a portion of that great island is ours as a mandate, and what we do for the natives will influence the judgment of the world as to whether we properly look after a subject race.
As I mentioned earlier, Australia is “dedicated to the white Australia policy. This policy has been attacked from all quarters, and recently by a prominent member of the Liberal party. He suggested the adoption of quotas, and other means for introducing coolie labour into this country. Some people would like us to treat the 1,000,000 natives in Papua as the 60,000,000 “untouchables” are treated in India, and then claim that wo have an ideal colonial administration. The plan and the dream behind the policy of the Labour Government in relation to New Guinea is to elevate the natives. They were our allies in wartime. Ungrudgingly, they gave their services as carriers in terrific ordeals when the battle raged, not on the coast where transport was easy, but over the razorback ranges. The natives stuck to us most loyally, and resisted the infiltration of the Japanese. In very few instances have they had with, the Japanese any contact which would Iki subversive of our own war effort in the north. By virtue of that loyalty alone, we should see that those natives arc given the best possible deal.
The missions have dealt with the education problem, but the Minister in his second-reading speech has a much more- ambitious scheme, and the native will be taught many more things than he has been taught to date. This is a fascinating subject, but the bill limits discussion to certain points. However, I should like to make an appeal to the Minister and to this Parliament to see that in any plans which we have for New Guinea, we shall attend to the problem of the man leaving the tribe. The whole danger to New Guinea has been in the indentured labour system, and I heartily congratulate the Minister upon having had the courage, in the face of a few old tories, who have made a lot of money out of New Guinea and regard it as their vested interest, to say that “the indentured labour system must be modified immediately.
The honorable member for Balaclava referred, rather flippantly, to food scales, a>nd I hope that the Minister will, in due course, see that ration scales are increased. Experts should ensure that the correct calories and vitamins are included in the diet of the natives, not so that they may carry heavier burdens for their masters, but so that they may feel that they are human beings, under a humane government. Food is an important matter. As an observer who was in New Guinea before the war and just recently, I believe that most of the natives are not properly nourished. “When they are employed by a white man, their ration scale is better; but in their own villages, they have a definite struggle for existence. In addition to producing crops for food, the natives should he encouraged to produce crops the sale of which will return money to them. There should be one money-producing crop in each village, under the control of the head man, so that there would be ready money in the pockets of the Papuans to enable them to buy comforts at the trading stores. In view of the £3,000,000 of loose money that has been circulated to the natives, I hope that the Government will establish its own trading posts so that the money will not go back into the rapacious maws of those who have looked upon New Guinea as their oyster, or as a place to earn money quickly, and from which others should be excluded. It is extraordinary that, after 25 years of mandated control, there are not more people in New Guinea than there are at present. The men on the spot have done reasonably well, and under their own administration they can do better still. New Guinea cannot lie like a green pearl in the ocean forever without having some development. It is interesting to note that the Government has decided what sort of development shall occur, and has settled on the policy that the welfare of the natives shall be of paramount importance. Profits will be a secondary consideration. I congratulate the Minister on having found a compromise between the plans of the anthropologists and the profit-seeking of the capitalists in framing a new order for New Guinea, which I believe will be completely satisfactory.
My final point relates to the future of the native himself. At present, a man leaves his village and is away for four or five years, during which time he becomes detribalized, and the village deteriorates. There should be some means by which that man can use the experience which he gains with the white men in order to educate his tribe. To-day, when he leaves his village, he becomes a boy on a schooner, a houseboy, or a. plantation worker, and when he returns to his home, all that he has gained is a boredom with hard work and a certain amount of distrust of the white man. It would be a good plan to provide an education system for these men while they work for the white men in order to provide them with rudimentary training so that, when they return to their villages with prestige and the money that they have earned, they could he set up as leaders of culture. With tlie tribes being better fed and producing money-returning crops, men could be returned to their villages from service with the white mcn to build up gradually a core of pride as a basis for the continuance of the old native culture. A peep at the legends of the New Guinea natives shows that they had a very extensive culture, which has been virtually wiped out by the white man. The use of pidgin English, and the constant emphasis placed on the fact that he is just a “ black boy “ in his own country, has depressed the native. We should teach the native basic English and forget this barbarous pidgin. We must lift the native up if we are to discharge our responsibilities to the full. In the development of New Guinea after the war, the _ future of the native village life should be made secure. The formula for that development can bc found in the work that has been done by successful administrators of Vew Guinea iti the past. This bill is an earnest indication of a new deal for the dark races of that territory. It means that we have decided that, although we shall proudly sustain the policy of a White Australia, we shall also, if we have subject races’ under us, eventually provide them with conditions comparable to our own. We shall ‘be fi bie to stand before the world and justify * >n r policy, and still be able to say that, in any country over which our flag flies, there are no “ untouchables “ except those capitalists who consistently endeavour to exploit subject races.
.- This bill is very important, because it provides us with an opportunity to express our views regarding the steps to be taken for the future development of an area which contains nearly 1,000,000 natives. The measure does not admit of any party political disputation, and 1 propose to deal with it strictly along the lines of our obligation to these people of New Guinea. I preface my remarks by confessing to an abysmal ignorance c’ conditions in New Guinea, except insofar as I have been able to inform myself, very inadequately, through reading. J refer particularly to the illuminating reports of Sir Hubert Murray, which J believe will be regarded as outstanding features of the history of colonial administration. I have some knowledge of native conditions in other parts of th«world, which it has been my privilege to observe, and I consider that a vital issue faces Australia in Papua and New Guinea, having regard to the state of development we have reached. In whos<interests are the Territories of Papua and New Guinea tobe developed! Many planters have invested their money there, and they are not. represented in this Parliament. Their interests should receive consideration. We should not disregard the fact that many returned soldiers of the last war endeavoured for many years under the encouragement given by previous governments, to establish themselves in that country. When the war came, they had to leave as compulsory evacuees, and most of them have not yet returned. If I must distinguish between the natives and those white men, I haveno hesitation in saying that our first obligation is to the native people. That obligation arises from plain justice and morality, and, in view of all the thing.5that we have said in the past, we mus’ discharge it to the best of our ability. I am not hopeful that we shall do so as well as some speakers have said, because I have in mind the fact that w* still have an unsolved problem in Australia in relation to our own native people. Anybody who looks objectively at the history of the Australian aborigines must be convinced that they have had a very raw deal from the white man. I do not pretend to know the answers to the problems of New Guinea, and I shall not try to forecast how long it will take to elevate the natives of that country to some semblance of an appropriate standard of living, not as we see it, but as they, as the result of education, will seek to achieve it. Many generations will be born before the visions of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) materialize. However, we must start upon the road to. development at some time. Whilst. I may differ from the Minister’s approach to this problem in general terms -I cannot be particular since I cannot place great reliance upon my own judgment in this matter - nevertheless, the objective of all honorable members must be to see that we develop this country in the interests of its inhabitants.
– Would not the honorable member prefer local administration to do that job rather than this Parliament?
– I shall come to that in due course. There is a danger that we may make the wrong approach to this problem, not deliberately, but because our minds have been conditioned by the old colonial system of exploitation in the interests of the white man - I use the word “ exploitation “ in its economic sense, not in any other way. The future of the country must be moulded according to the best interests of the natives. It will be developed not entirely by the natives, but through the assistance of white men with capital and with every other form of help that we can give. In other words, it will be developed by a partnership, in which we will be the guiding partners who seek to make no profit. The real question embodied in this bill is whether the proposals submitted by the Minister are reasonable. [ should like to have heard him say more about the reasons which actuated him in deciding to establish a provisional government. For some time past I have urged the return of civil government to Papua and New Guinea. I am glad that this bill has been introduced, but I am certainly not satisfied that it represents the best approach to the problem. I am disturbed that, for three years past, the services of Mr. Leonard Murray, the Administrator, have scarcely been used in dealing with the problems of these Territories. I am also disturbed that we should have delayed for so long in restoring civil administration to the Territories. When American forces landed in Hollandia, the Dutch administrative forces followed almost on their heels in order to re-establish civil administration. We have delayed too long in doing likewise. Therefore, I have certain observations to make and certain questions to ask of the Minister. I should like to know why the services of Mr. Murray and others have not been used more fully, and I. should like the Minister to inform the House of the extent to which they have, in fact, been used. I believe that they have been employed only in a fragmentary sense, although these men have extraordinary knowledge of conditions in the Territories. I am suspicious of certain military officers in those territories. Perhaps my mind is naturally suspicious, and, if so. I stand condemned for that, but I have noticed what appears to , be an endeavour by some military officers to establisha vested interest in the Territories with a view to securing priority of claims for administrative jobs there after the war.
I am very disturbed to see a bill introduced for the purpose of establishing a provisional government. I do not see why, at this stage, a permanent administrative organization should not be established. I realize that the Government cannot lay down a plan to deal with every problem that will arise, but it could establish a permanent administrative system which could adapt itself to deal with problems as they arise. The Minister has said that, under this bill, it is proposed to suspend the legislative council, the permanent civil service as provided for by the Papua Act and the New Guinea Act, the judiciary, and some other functions of government.
It is proposed to govern the country, in substance, by ordinance, from Canberra through the Administrator, because clause 11 provides that the Administrator must obey the instructions given to him. The Minister also said that all officers of the preceding civil administration may apply for their previous positions. But this hardly meets the case. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the Government has no military officers in mind for such positions. Of course, the mere fact of a man being a military officer should not disqualify him. In fact, any military officer with overseas service whose qualifications are equal to or better than those of Mr. Murray and others should be appointed in preference to him. However, 1 have a shrewd suspicion that certain military officers, with neither the background nor the experience of Mr. Murray and other senior administrative officers who ti ave given their lifetime to the problems of those Territories, are seeking to elbow their way in. That should not be permitted. I do not think that that would be in the interests of the natives. Men who have been trained to understand them, and, as Sir Hulbert Murray has said, to “think black” will be able to give the best service in carrying out what should be the common objective of honorable members on both sides of the House. What is to be clone by the Production Control Board of New Guinea? May we have some figures as to the cost of the administration of “Angau”? f am told that it is in the region of £2,000,000 a year. I should like a comparison to be made with the cost of the civil administration prior to the war. The duties are substantially the same although I agree that certain additional responsibilities have been superimposed. I am informed that the total budget before the war was much less than £250,000. I should also like a statement as to the reason for any wide divergence with regard to administrative costs. That would assist us in deciding whether it would be wise to hasten slowly. I desire that the natives shall have a better deal than in the past. I am not particularly concerned about whether that will affect profits, if the properties and plant of men who have been making a living there for the best part of their lives have depreciated, they should be compensated. We must, however, first determine what policy shall be pursued, and to the degree that the former residents have suffered injury because of the war and the policy it brings in its train they should be compensated.
I understand that sugar is indigenous to New Guinea, yet sugar may not be produced there. The reason given is that its cultivation would clash with the internal economy of Australia. The local planters were told at one stage that they could sell their sugar overseas, but they were not permitted to do that because of the effect on the sugar export trade of Australia. The market for copra varies considerably and the production of that commodity is a precarious undertaking. Rubber is of importance. We have learnt in this war how dependent we are upon supplies of rubber from the Indonesian empire. When we were cut off from the sources of raw rubber we had to seek supplies of synthetic rubber from the United States of America. Possibly the only economic way to develop the supply of synthetic rubber is to use a petroleum base, as the vegetable base has, I understand, been proved to be uneconomic. Therefore the production of rubber in Papua and New Guinea is of the utmost importance to Australia. I believe that an import duty of 2d. per lb. on rubber has been imposed in the past. If we arc to carry out the policy indicated in the bill, how are we to train natives to tap the rubber tree? The Government says that its policy is that natives shall not be employed beyond the fixed term of one year. I understand that natives are now supplied under a recruiting plan carried out by the Government, and that they are provided at a cost of £4 a head for a two-years’ term. Some system of recruiting i> necessary whether it be carried out by the Government or by private peopleunder contract. I suggest that if natives were provided on a basis of two years’ service, the maximum) service obtainable would be only about eighteen months and sometimes the period’, would be much shorter, because of the difficulties of transport and of keeping the natives at their work. I am not concerned as to whether the indenture system is the best one or not. I do not feel, qualified to express an opinion of any’ value on that matter, but we should bebetter informed than we now are beforewe commit ourselves to the policy enunciated by the Government.
Therefore, I urge the Minister in. charge of the bill to hasten slowly. Therecan be no great urgency for two or threemonths to bring the measure into operation. An opportunity should be given tfr consider the proposal advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava for the appointment of a select committee to investigate this matter on a non-party basis. One example will give point to my argument. If natives are to be provided for a period of only one year, their actual period of employment may not be more than nine months. I am advised that about five months are occupied in training a native to tap n rubber tree without injuring it. I am anxious that the natives shall have a square deal, and the proper way to ensure that is to agree to the appointment of a select committee so that all aspects may be considered. We should not rely entirely on the advice of Ministers who are guided by departmental officials.
I should like to know what the Government has in mind with regard to the training of experts to deal with the affairs of these Territories. I read a book some time ago by Dr. Lambert entitled In Paradise, which dealt with the native races of the Pacific, and I was impressed with the extraordinary ability displayed by some of the natives in different parts of Oceania. The author showed that they had even become medical men and had devoted themselves to their duties with extreme assiduity and loyalty. I have been impressed by the Dutch approach to the problems of the development of the native races in Indonesia by training their administrative personnel with regard to the customs of the people amongst whom they are sent to serve. In New Guinea, under ,Si.r Hubert Murray’s administration, good progress was made along those lines, and I should like to see that policy continued. It will be noted that in the policy marked out by the Government plenary control over the Territory is to he vested in the Minister at Canberra. “Whilst the Administrator is to be given full powers to administer the Territory, he must carry out his duties in accordance with instructions given to him by the Minister. No employer can employ natives except under the licensing system. The number of persons who may be employed in any industry or by any firm will be determined at Canberra. This indicates over-centralization of authority. Much is to be said for the immediate return to these Territories of full local administration, direction being given only as to the general policy to be adopted. Sir Hubert Murray trained many young men, and numbers of them have joined “ Angau “. To officials of this type the safety and development of the native races could be entrusted. We should be better informed than we now are before we commit ourselves to the general principles of the bill.
.- We have listened to several well-reasoned speeches, particularly that of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Every honorable member is desirous that the best policy shall be pursued for the care and protection of the natives of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. The question of trusteeship is most important and has been stressed by the Australian delegates to the Uncio conference at San Francisco. The duties of the white races to the coloured peoples have been vividly brought home to us. I congratulate the Government on the approach that it has made to the problem. Unfortunately, our record in relation to native races in our charge has been in some respects far from what it should have been. From the indications that have been given to us by Ministers, 1 believe that the deficiencies are to receive attention in the near future. Already, something has been done by way of admitting the natives to benefits which approximate those given to the white race in this country. One may say that, from a developmental point of view, only the surf ace of New Guinea has been scratched, and that the Territory still has great possibilities. Heavy pioneering work has been done by the human effort of the coloured people of the country, who have been used as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. That labour has been cheap, and has been used in preference to the machines which modern science has made available to us. Reference has been made to certain forms of production that have been developed in part, but the great possibility of developing the timber industry has not been mentioned. According to my understanding and study of the Territories, great forests of timber are available for development and exploitation. There is also considerable room for expansion in relation to minerals. We know that gold has been mined with much profit. So far, however, the history of gold in the territory has been very much the same as its history in Australia; only that has been taken which was easy to get. There must still remain a great reserve of gold which can be won.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman did not believe in the dreadful stuff !
– It still has a commodity value. I do not believe in making it essential to the financial system. There are also great possibilities of developmen t in relation to oil. The discovery of oil would be of immense advantage to Australia. I hope that no impediment will be placed in the way of exploration for oil. Previous administrations would not allow operations to be conducted by companies that were prepared to go into undeveloped territory under any conditions the Government liked to lay down, and to search for oil without expense to the Government. The point most stressed by other honorable members is the sacred duty that we owe to the natives to see that they shall be given, every chance to develop the heritage that is rightly theirs. We must be prepared to co-operate with “them and not exploit them - which, unfortunately, has been largely the record up to the present time. It has been well said that the British race has a very definite genius for colonization and development. I believe that to bo true. [ do not consider that, in the matter of the exploitation of native labour, we have transgressed as much as other nations. Our approach to such problems has been on the humanitarian plane. Therefore, [ am gratified that the Government has brought down a measure such as this. Imperfect though it may be in some details, at least it is an earnest of what the Government intends in relation to broad policy. It is a beginning, and I have no doubt that it is not to be regarded as immutable, but that whatever changes may be necessary to give effect to the (general principles of the policy enunciated by the Minister will be given legislative form from time to time.
Something has been said in regard to the centralization of the administration at Canberra. I ta»ke it that the proposals (before the House actually involve, not the centralization of the administration, correctly speaking, but the centralization of responsibility. After all, the Government is responsible for the welfare of the natives and for the development of the Territory.
– Does not the honorable member believe in. a local legislature?
– I do. We shall get it under this legislation. The administration will guide and direct the welfare of the Territory, and only those ordinances which it. recommends will be given legislative effect in this House. Something has been said also about making happier the lot of the natives in New Guinea. Surety that is the objective at which we must aim. Because of the appreciation which the natives in New Guinea have had of the administration in the past, we have had their kindly cooperation in this war.
– There have been certain serious qualifications of that during the last three or four years.
– I appreciate that in certain parts of the Territory there was collaboration with the Japanese by isolated groups of natives. I am speaking of the general attitude of the natives to the Australian troops in New Guinea. Thai, it has been one of the most friendly co-operation can be testified by thousand? of troops who have benefited from. it. 1 draw a comparison between New Guinea and Malaya. In Malaya, the number of our troops should have been sufficient for the task entrusted to them, but because of exploitation of the natives by the dominating- white race their response, instead of co-operation, was either passive resistance or active collaboration with the invaders. Therefore, we have every reason to show our appreciation of the co-operation of the natives in New Guinea by going forward with our task of trusteeship, winning them still further to our side by making their lot happy and enabling them to develop their culture and their country. By helping them, we shall help ourselves to build up an outpost which will be strong and sound for the future defence of the mainland of Australia.
I noted recently some complaints’ in regard to certain phases of the administration of New Guinea and Papua, not unrelated to the difficulties with which we have been confronted during and because of the war. These are having a most detrimental effect on the native population. Indentured’ labour has been kept for too long from the villages. Under the Production Control Board, the conditions in regard to food, medical attention, and extended hours of labour, have deteriorated greatly. There is also the matter of recruiting. Prior to the war, recruitment of the labour required for ordinary production was by means of the voluntary system, whereas now labour is impressed.
– Labour has definitely been impressed for the many jobs that have had to be done.I quote from a newspaper of a recent date-
InPapua at the present time there are over 16,000 indentured labourers. This is 50 per cent, more than were employed prior to the war. In Lae alone, the capital of the Mandated Territory, there are 4,000 indentured labourers. Of course, 160 act as waiters in t he officers’ and O/R’s clubs.
Experts consider that the maximum that can be allowed to leave the village without causing destruction of the tribal life and depopulation is 33 per cent, of the able-bodied men for limited periods only. In many villages to-day between 60 per cent, and 70 per cent, of the able-bodied men have been away for up to five years.
All native labour is controlled by the Native Labour Department of Angau. Angau is the military administration unit combining the functions of the two civil administrations which were operating in Papua andthe Mandated Territory respectively prior to the war.
The Native Labour Department is almost entirely a special wartime growth. Although there are former members of the administration associated with it, ithas been recruited mainly from the ranks of ex-planters and traders whose experience in handling natives was deemed to be valuable.
Frequently such people are the last who should be put into these positions, as they represent the most hide-bound defenders of the code of caste, which prevailed in the islands prior to the war.
Native labour is utilized on a most prodigal and wasteful scale. Most of that controlled by the Army is employed on road building and other construction works. Because hordes of natives at 10s. per month are cheaper than modern equipment, the methods used are such that they would have been regarded as primitive even in the days of the Pharoahs.
Some labour is let out by Angau to the Production Control Board. This is a Government instrumentality which supplies labour and materials for plantations that have been brought back into production and acquires the whole of their output at prices fixedby the Board.
The demand for rubber and copra is keen and as the Board has planters’ representatives on it, it is not surprising that prices are high enough to leave a handsome margin of profit for the plantation owners.
Formerly the indenture system was voluntary, but to-day all native labour is conscripted and in the case of the Production Control Board, conscripted for the use of private profit.
– What did the honorable member expect, under a Labour Government ?
– I am not concerned as to what sort of Government it is, so long as it is prepared to revise the system. I am also concerned at the fact that under the stress of war, the natives are suffering by reason of a rather short food ration and the lack of medical attention. The newspaper article continues -
The Army ration scale for natives is quite good, but the Production Control Board has reverted to the pre-war ration scale, whichis condemned by all experts. Medical services over recent years have been much improved, but are still pathetically inadequate.
For the most part they are available only to the native labourers, and the women and children, on whom the future of the race depends, receive little attention.
Recent inspections of native villages have revealed a sorry state. A conservative estimate places the destruction of pigs, which is the only meat diet available, at at least 75,000 over the last few years. Numerous villages are now completely without pigs, and this means that the natives are subsisting entirely upon fruit and ground crops.
Undernourishment is universal in these villages.
Although no figures are available there can be no doubt that the birth-rate is declining rapidly, as a consequence of the absence ofthe able-bodied men for so long. Hundredsare dying in the villages from undernourishment and disease.
In those territories that have been occupied by the Japanese, the situation is even worse. At Bougainville, for instance, it is reliably estimated that between 20 and 25 per cent, of the natives have died of starvation.
The demands of the Army for native labour are stillexpanding. The Production Control Board is opening up new plantations as fast as it possibly can, and is demanding more labour. Planters are now being allowed to return, and will require even more labour than in pre-war days to bring their properties back into production.
If this state of affairs is allowed to develop, then the villages are going tobe completely denuded of able-bodied men, and the race must die.
The Government has established a War Damage Commission, to assess damage to the property of white enterprise, : and it will probably have a bill of about .£3,000,000 to meet. lt is believed that compensation is to be paid lo Burns Phil]) mid other traders and planters even to the lust tree damaged and the last piece of blotting paper left upon their office desks as they evacuated.
Unless Dr. Evatt’s protestations of trusteeship at San Francisco are to be regarded as the merest eyewash, the Australian Government must be prepared to meet considerable expense in rehabilitating the native populations, whose claims are far more just.
Changes will also bc necessary in the personnel of the Administration to ensure that n real policy of native welfare is proceeded with.
Above all, the able-bodied natives must he allowed to return to their villages. This is no problem of post-war reconstruction, but one of immediate urgency.
Unless steps are taken now, Australia will have another vanishing race on her hands mid will be placing against her name an even darker blot than left by the parsing of the
– “What evidence has the honorable member to support that state- ment?
– I made a general statement, and it cannot be denied that among all sections of the community there are people who are prepared to exploit their fellow men. That is why there has been cruelty and injustice in the past. I commend the Government for what it is attempting to do. How far it will succeed only time can show. I hope that no effort will be spared to provide in the administration of New Guinea an ideal example of how coloured populations should be controlled, so that in this matter we may be able to give a lead to the world as we have done in regard to social legislation.
– I agree that the discussion on this subject should not be on party lines. Every one in Australia is in some, measure responsible for the administration of the Territories under our control, though it is .true that the Government of the day is responsible for initiating, legislation and devising a system of administration. It cannot be denied that, in the past, native labour waa exploited by some people for their personal gain, or for the gain of those whom they represented. However, we have progressed, and after di ve years of war we realize now that we must accept greater responsibility for the natives of the Territories, many of whom have shed their blood in. our cause. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) speak in derogatory term3 of the work of the International Labour Office, and of the part played by (he Australian delegation to the recent conference. I had the honour to be one of Australia’s representatives at that conference. Ti I understood .the honorable member rightly, his references tended to disparage Australia. Therefore, 1 desire to place on record the decision that was reached at the conference, a decision to which the representatives of Australia subscribed their names. As with all questions coming before the organization, only general principles could be laid down. I quote the following from the Internationa! Labour Office publication Minimum Standards of Social Policy in Dependent Territories -
The dependent territories differ widely. Their peoples ure of many races, religions and cultures. Their economic and social structures are varied. Some are largely selfsufficient; others are much dependent on world trade. They may have a strong indigenous culture of their own or a vert primitive background ; and all these types of culture have been influenced in different measure by western culture. They arc subject to different metropolitan countries and to different degrees enjoy a measure of local autonomy. Yet, with all these difference*, there are common factors which have led public opinion to class all dependent territories as “colonies”, but not unnaturally have led to widespread confusion as to the nature of “ colonial “ conditions. At the present time, moreover, when the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancementand social security figure among the declared intentions of the United Nations, it is possible to trace certain very general lines on which advance in standards of living may be expected to proceed in dependent territories viewed as a whole,and the very general problems which ar e likely to be raised and in the solution of which theInternational Labour Organization is concerned.
In the report ofthe Australian delegation to the conference, a document which has been tabled in this Parliament, the following appears at page 35 -
Whereas it is desirable to state the fundamental principles of social policy in dependent territories, and to provide for the extension of the application to such territories of accepted international minimum standards and for the improvement of these standards, in order to promote the attainment of the aforesaid objects;
The Conference makes the following recommendations: -
Each member of the International Labour Organization should take or continue to take such steps as are within its competence to promote the well-being and development of the peoples of dependent territories through the effective application of the general principles set forth in Part I. of the Annex to this Recommendation.
That provides an answer to the criticism that has been levelled at the Australian delegation . which attended the International Labour Conference in Philadelphia last year.
– Did not the Australian delegation promise that the indentured labour system would be abolished?
-I have, read to the House the general principles that were laid down ; more than that I do not propose to do. Indentured labour is not under consideration at present. The honorable member accused the Australian delegation of having neglected its responsibilities, and I have disposed of that accusation.
– The honorable member read only a part of the report.
– The conference, and the Australian delegation, agreed to those general principles, and it was left to the various countries, which control native races, to apply those principles in their own way. When dealing with social conditions, or employment, the International Labour Conference prescribes only general principles. Any attempt to work out details would create great difficulties, because of the differing conditions existing in the various countries that are represented at these conventions. At Philadelphia last year, 35 nations were represented, and delegates came from South American States, European countries and Australia.
– FromPatagonia and Liberia.
– Yes. When so many nations with different ideologies are represented, it is impossible to work out in detail how a recommendation shall he given effect. Only general principles can be adopted. The approach which the Commonwealth Government is making to this problem is believed to be the correct one; but, as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) so aptly stated, time alone will show whether it is right. No one can say with any degree of certainty what the next few years will bring in this regard, but this bill is evidence of t he Government’s sincere desire to give a better deal to the coloured people in Commonwealth Territories.
The development of those Territories and their resources has been referred to during this debate. Sir Edgeworth David has stated that, whereas the potential hydro-electrical power of Tasmania is about 1,000,000 horse-power, the potential hydro-electrical power of New Guinea is between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 horsepower. The development of that power, and the exploitation of the gold and timber resources of New Guinea and Papua, will yield great wealth, and some one must accept the responsibility to see that, in’ the process of this development, native labour shall enjoy a reasonable degree of protection. The physical and mental development of the natives must also receive attention. In future, they must be treated as human beings. To the “ fuzzy-wuzzies “ we owe a great debt of gratitude. They rendered splendid assistance to Australian troops against the Japanese.
– Do not the natives owe anything to us?
– The debt is mutual. However,I am not concerned at the moment as to whether we owe to them more than they owe to us. We must decide what we shall do for them in the future. After all, weare equipped with greater mental powers than are the natives, and it is our duty to raise their intellectual standard. They certainly have great physical capacity. If we create the new administration outlined in the bill, it will not be immutable like the laws of the Medes and the Persians. If some of the proposals do not give satisfaction in practice, they can be changed. The bill will not centralize administration, and, in my opinion, no good purpose can be served by appointing a parliamentary committee to examine this matter. Sufficient is known of the problem of Now Guinea to enable us to prepare for its civil administration during the post-war period.
As I stated,I participated in this debate principally to reply to the charge levelled at Australia’s representation at the International Labour Conference. I made it clear that the delegation did not. run away from its responsibilities, or complain that it did not have sufficient advisers on this subject.
Mr.White. - That complaint is contained in the report.
– Only in general terms. The Australian delegation had only two advisers. After the plenary session had been completed, various committees’ were formed and sometimes eight or ten of them sat simultaneously. Australia, with three delegates and two advisors, could not be represented at the meetings of every committee. Canada, with a population of about 11,000,000, had 30 delegates and advisors. Those facts mayenable the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to appreciate some of the difficulties confronting the Australian delegation.
Although specific provision is not made in the bill, 1 assume that religious organizations will have the same freedom in future as they enjoyed under the original civil administration in New Guinea and Papua. I should like the Minister to clarify the position when he replies to this debate. In the past, the missionaries rendered valuable service, and should not be discouraged from doing so in future. This bill deals with an Australian problem, and we should discuss it dispas sionately. Its sole purpose is to give equitable treatment to the native races under our control.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
NorthernTerritory: Dippingof Cattle : Army Interference with Civil Administration - Australian Forces: Release of Long Service Soldier - Australian Prisoners of War: Harrowing Publicity.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
. -I desire torefer to thesupply of cattle from the Northern Territory to the Adelaide market. On this subject,I have received a letter from a doctor who lives in the Adelaide hills and is interested as a part-owner of a station in the Northern Territory. On a previous occasion, I referred to the action of the Army Veterinary Section in insisting on the dipping of cattle moving southward, even to the extent of moving the cattle 24 miles north before starting a journey of 380 miles to the south. The head of the Army Veterinary Section in the Northern Territory was, in peace-time, an officer of the Department of Health at Canberra. Therefore, an appeal from the Army’s decision to the Department of Health is futile. It is merely an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. The man who wrote to me stated -
With reference to the paragraph in your letter about the double dipping, I rang up Captain Bishop who was until a year or so ago the Chief Veterinary Officer in the Northern Territory for 23 years, and now resides at No. 2, 4th Avenue, Helmsdale. Captain Bishop has seen cattle from the high rainfall area of the Territory go through Newcastle laden with tick but as they went south the tick fell off and althoughsome even reached the Alice before falling off, there has never been an outbreak ofRed Water south of a well defined line. We have held Newcastle for 60 years and during that time thousands of cattle from the tick infested areas have passed through Newcastle along the stock routes, but in all that time and with all those cattle we have only had seven cases of Red Water, owing to the climate being too cold for the tick to exist over a certain period of time.
One of the most severe meat shortages that we have ever known exists to-day, and it will continue for some time.
There is practically no likelihood of fat stock supplies in .the southern parts of Australia satisfying the demand for some time to come. Yet, although there is plenty of fat stock in the north, a junior officer is able to hold up meat supplies to the rest of Australia by introducing regulations which have never previously operated in the Territory. As 1 informed the House about two weeks ago, a South Australian inspector informed me that, in twenty years of experience at the Adelaide cattle markets, he had never seen tick on Northern Territory cattle. That was under a system of single dipping. The Army is usurping civil powers in the Northern Territory, not only in this matter but, also in others which have no relation whatever to the requirements of the Territory. It is either deliberately or mistakenly - I hope mistakenly - holding up essential supplies of beef for the southern areas. About n fortnight ago, the Adelaide abattoirs had one of the smallest yardings of cattle ever known in that, city. Most of the cattle which were of good quality came from the Northern Territory. They had been driven hundreds of miles to the railhead, but they were still in good condition. Squatters from Central Australia have recently told me of their experiences. One man, whose station on the northern track 1 have visited, said that, in nearly 30 years in that area, he has never had any trouble with tick on his property. He is carrying about 2,500 head of cattle at the present time, and cattle are driven through his property on the way to Alice Springs.
It is time for some Minister to take a grip of the Army in the Northern Territory. The Government must lay down that the Army’s job is to fight and not to interfere with civil administration. People there are experiencing all sorts of cursed interference from the Army. [ raised the question recently of people in the Northern Territory being compelled by the Army to buy three pounds of margarine before obtaining their ration of butter. I received a letter from a Minister on the subject, and forwarded the information it contained to a resident at Katherine. To-day I received an answer which said that, although my letter stated on ministerial authority that if margarine were returned to the quartermaster’s stores the purchasers could have their money refunded, the Army said that it knew nothing about such a provision. The Government should put the Army in its proper place. I am an army man, and I have defended the Army in time of peace and in time of war. But the Australian Army to-day is engaged in dammed near everything under the sun, including many things that it is not, qualified to handle. One of the worst cases, which will be debated before long, relates to some blessed “brains trust” which is supposed to be producing a genius to run NewGuinea and Papua. That is not the business of the Army at all, nor is it the business of the Army to interfere in purely civil administration in the Northern Territory. It is time that the civil administration took charge of the Territory or was kicked out altogether. I hope that the newly-appointed Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will soon make a trip to the Northern Territory. I should be happy to accompany him, and I hope that the Minister for “Works will come, too. The three of us could investigate the state of affairs there, which urgently needs, cleaning up.
– I have something to say in the interests of a young man who, I am sure, must be affected by the Prime Minister’s decision that men must be released from the Army after five years of service. This is the sad case of a youth who enlisted at the age of sixteen years and four months. His mother was able to have him released by the Army because he was under agc. However, he immediately assumed another name and enlisted in the name of a friend. He fought in Libya, at El Alamein and elsewhere, and in Syria, and later came back to serve at Lae and other places in New Guinea. Of the five years in which he has been in the Army, he has served two and a half years abroad. He did not return to his mother until he reached the age of 21 years recently. When he returned to his home he found, to his horror, that his mother was in a very bad state of health. In fact, her doctor reported that he would have to take her away. The lad is the woman’s only living relative. Her medical adviser is also a consultant to the Army. He claims that the mother’s mental state is serious. He has prescribed temporary treatment, but claims that it will be necessary for her to enter hospital eventually so that more active measures may be taken. The soldier was very concerned, and, at the doctor’s suggestion and with his support, applied for release from the Army in order to care for his mother. The application also had the support of his commanding officer, on compassionate grounds. In April of this year, another doctor, a friend of the lad, stated that it was absolutely essential for him to be released on compassionate grounds, as he alone would be able to care for his mother in her sad condition. The official report of the investigations of the area officer were sent to a higher authority on the 5th July. In spite of these facts, the lad was shipped away to Borneo as the result of a decisionby some “ big-wig “. I hope that the Prime Minister will treat this case as being one in which the Army has acted contrary to the determination and the wishes of the Government, and, I am sure, contrary to the report of the investigating area officer, which I ask the Prime Minister to examine. The soldier is fretting about his mother. He has willingly served his country for a long time , and, in view of the desperate state of health of his mother, he should now be released. I hope that the Prime Minister will take up this case and ensure that justice shall be done.
– The allegations made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) warrant immediate investigation. I shall take an early step to discuss the matter with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who, he claims, is responsible for the restrictions. The honorable member has been kind enough to hand to me the letter containing the allegations, and those I undertake to have investigated immediately. I shall also place before the Minister for the Army the statements made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser).
– I bring to the notice of the House a matter which I believe is causing considerable worry and sorrow to people with sons, brothers or husbands prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. Recently, several people have mentioned to me the anguish that they are suffering from photographs and accounts published in the press of ill treatment of Australians and Americans imprisoned by the Japanese. Only last week, in Armidale, the case of the mother of a soldier serving in Bougainville was brought to my notice. She had two sons. One was captured the Japanese in Malaya. He died two years ago, but she has only recently heard the news of his death in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Her husband was killed in March. When she sees these photographs and accounts, her sufferings are great. Another complaint comes from one of my constituents, who writes -
I am enclosing a photograph that appeared in the Sunday Sun of the 8th July, showing ill treatment of prisoners in Japanese hands, there was also an accompanying article on the ill treatment of prisoners. . . . Can any earthly good be done by printing such things. To me, it could only bring untold agony to any one who has relatives in Japanese hands. I can speak first-hand on this, as my wife has a brother in Japanese hands, and what she suffersthere are thousands of others doing the same.
I do not know whether the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) saw this illustration, but it is a photograph of, apparently, an American, who may have been a soldier or a civilian, whose body is lying stretched over a sink in some Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. The letterpress reads -
This prisoner of the Japs, believed to be a white man, died trying to get a drink of water from a sink in the Darvao Penal Colony Hospital, a Jap P.O.W. camp on Mindanao Island. His body and 150 others were found by Army authorities in and around the buildings, where they were left to starve by the Japanese.
I put it to the Government that, as my constituent says, in his letter, no earthly good can be done by the publication of such photographs and accounts of atrocities inflicted upon prisoners of war by the Japanese. One could understand that if the war situation were desperate and every effort were needed to key the people to the utmost effort it might be necessary to publish these harrowing pictures, but, with the war passing to a victorious conclusion and the Japanese nation facing probable early defeat, I can see no reason whatever for them, and I think the Minister will agree with my view. I suggest to him that he take up this matter with the Government to see whether it is not possible, without censorship, to have the press of Australia agree not to publish these harrowing photographs and stories, in view of the sorrow they are causing to many people with relatives in Japanese hands. I hand to the Minister the publication complained of.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 105.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 - No. 40 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint- men ts - Depa rtment -
Commerceand Agriculture - R.H. Lawrie, J. S. McGahey.
Health- W. L. Sayle.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Rocklea, Queensland (2).
Postal purposes - Bankstown, New South Wales.
Nationality Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 98.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security “(General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Essential materials (No. 14).
Liquor (No. 3).
Feminine outerwear (No. 2).
Knittedgoods (No. 2).
Taking possession of land,&c. (13).
Use of land.
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (71).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 50.
National Security (Rationing) Regulations Orders- Nos. 93-99.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Order - No. 94.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premiers -
Queensland (dated 19th June, 1945).
Western Australia (dated 4th July, 1945).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 100, 101, 102, 106, 107.
Wine Grapes Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 104.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circuluted: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Clothes Rationing : Double-weft Cloth.
– On the 3rd July the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) directed a question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction regarding the shortage of double-weft cloth. The honorable member asked whether Australian manufacturers are able to obtain1s. 6d. a yard more from sales of their cloth to New Zealand, compared with the price on the Australian market, thus causing a shortage of doubleweft cloth locally.
This matter has received the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has supplied the following answer : -
The export of cloth to New Zealand will have little effect on the supply position in Australia because of the quantity approved by the Government for export, only 27 per cent, has been ordered in better-class cloth, the balance being standard lines. It is a fact that approximately 10 per cent, higher price is allowed for New Zealand sales, but this has not increased the quantity of better class cloth exported. The supplies of better class cloth to Australian tailors will increase when the labour position in Australian mills permits increased production to be undertaken. The Government approved of the export of a limited quantity of cloth to New Zealand for the purpose of assisting local manufacturers with a view to post-war trade.
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question in connexion with payment of a subsidy on eggs. The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Representations have been made to me by the Poultry Farmers Association, and from other quarters, requesting substantial assistance to the poultry industry, to compensate producers for losses incurred in consequence of enforced sales of laying poultry due to the shortage of poultry feed, and the resultant reduction in egg production and loss of revenue to the producers. There has been a shortage of poultry foodstuffs for some months, and it is probable that the shortage must continue for several months yet. Opinions as to the loss likely to be sustained by producers from this cause have varied very widely, and as stated by the honorable member, the Poultry Farmers Association has expressed the opinion that a subsidy of 9d. a dozen on eggs should be provided by the Government.
On the basis of Australian egg production in 1944-45 such a subsidy, for twelve months, would amount to approximately £3,750,000.
Whatever reduction of egg producers’ income may ultimately be attributable to this cause. I am satisfied that at present it is quite indefinable, for it has not yet taken place. It may be that in the future some reduction of egg production attributable to the feed shortage will be apparent, but it is not yet possible to determine this. At the moment egg supplier to agents’ floors in all States are substantially greater than at the same time last year. For example, in the week ended 9th June, the percentage increases of such supplies were as follows: - Queensland, 51.74; New South Wales, 31.37; Victoria. 21.98;South Australia. 39.92; Western Australia, 8.45; Tasmania. 79.29.
These figures clearly indicate the impracticability of assessing at the present juncture whether egg production has been affected by the shortage of foodstuffs to date, and to what extent it may be affected in the future from the same cause.
A special committee has been established by the Government for the purpose of considering applications from primary industries for financial assistance and when the industry is in a position to present the full facts to the committee, they will be examined and consideration given as to whether the circumstances justify the granting of a special subsidy, and if so, the extent of the assistance considered justified, and the method by which it should be applied.
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question in connexion with the availability of sulphate of ammonia in the Commonwealth. I now furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
In consequence of strong representations by the Government, the Combined Food Board, at Washington, has agreed to an increase in thesupply of sulphate of ammonia to Australia for 1945-46. Provided shipping space can be arranged, it is hoped that approximately 56,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia will be available for Australian agriculture in 1945-46. This figure represents a substantial increase upon the amount made available in 1944-45.
While the distribution of sulphate of ammonia as between States is within my jurisdiction the practice of obtaining recommendations from the Australian Agricultural Council, on which body each State is represented by Its Minister for Agriculture, has been followed.
Although the Australian Agricultural Council agrees upon certain overall figures for specific crops in each State, the actual distribution of these allocations to individual farmers is a matter for the appropriate State Department of Agriculture. State Departments of Agriculture are in the best position to determine the most efficient method of making the maximum use of the limited supplies available.
In view of the more favorable indications regarding the supply position of sulphate of ammonia for 1945-46, it is hoped that more sympathetic consideration can be given to the requirements of coastal citrus growers.
I have been fully alive to the effect of the sulphate of ammonia shortage on all crops in Australia, including citrus. My appreciation of the position is indicated by my repeated representations for additional supplies from overseas, and the more favorable indications for 1945-46are due in large measure to these representations.
Canned and Dried Fruits: Overseas Markets.
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked a question concerning overseas markets for Australian canned and dried fruits, and I now advise the honorable member that before the war the production of canned and dried fruits surplus to Australia’s local requirements was exported to overseas markets, principally to the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, with small quantities going to some Eastern countries and the Pacific Islands. The war has caused a marked increase of the demand for both products, and there has not been sufficient production in Australia to meet all the demands made on this country. Therefore, the available supplies have been allocated to the different demands as equitably as possible, and after consultation with the London Food Council and the Combined Food Board, Washington, which bodies endeavour to direct the distribution of foods in short supply to meet essential demands. Australia’s canned fruit has gone in the war years chiefly to our own services, the Royal Navy, the United States of America and other Allied services, the British War Office (for the forces in India, Burma, &c.) and the Australian civilian population; some small quantities have been sent to New Zealand, Ceylon, India and the Pacific Islands for civilians. The distribution of the present year’s pack will also be along those lines. The need for the preservation of the export markets for canned fruits is fully realized. Discussions have been going on with the United Kingdom for the purpose of arranging the re-entry of our canned fruit into the United Kingdom commercial market; and the United Kingdom Ministry of Food desires to assist in this as soon as the demand for services’ requirements eases. It is anticipated that an appreciable allocation will be made for this purpose from next year’s pack. The shipments now going on for civilians in New Zealand, Ceylon, India and the Pacific Islands are intended not only to meet some of the requirements of those countries but also to keep Australian brands on the markets. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Australian Canned Fruits Board, which is the statutory body responsible for the overseas marketing of canned fruits, are in close touch on the export problems and will take all possible action to retain our markets. The dried fruits packs during the war have been allocated for various requirements in agreement with the London Food Council and the Combined Food Board. The principle followed has been to take care of the requirements of the services based on Australia, the Australian civilian population, the export markets of New Zealand, Canada, Ceylon and the Pacific Islands with the remainder (the largest part of the pack) going to the United Kingdom. This means in effect that the export markets have been maintained during the war, although there has been some fluctuation in the quantities exported, due to differences in demands for the services and for Australian civilians and to the size of the pack. This year’s pack, for example, is a very light one owing to drought conditions, and it totals only about two-thirds of last year’s production.
The result is that all users have been cut down to some extent with quite a considerable reduction to the United Kingdom. The Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board is the statutory authority which controls the export marketing of dried fruits and the hoard works in close consultation with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture on export matters.
y. - On the 28th June the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked a question concerning deliveries of potatoes by a grower in Tasmania, and asked whether delivery of potatoes grown under contract could be increased.
Inquiries have been made, and I now advise the honorable member that the difficulty arose because the grower delivered to Hobart, instead of to Launceston, the latter being the delivery zone which the grower and his partner had themselves nominated. The matter had not been brought under the notice of the Deputy Potato Controller by the grower, but it has now been adjusted. The growers admit that no blame attaches to the Commonwealth in the matter. I mention that there are grower members of the advisory committees in all States. The advisory committees meet the Deputy Potato Controllers regularly, and any complaints can be brought forward quickly, discussed, and generally adjusted without delay.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The recent statement of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner that prices of meat would be reduced in the spring, referred to conditions in southern Australia where meat prices have been raised above normal levels to meet drought conditions. It is not proposed to reduce prices in Queensland where the normal price movements are not the ‘same as in southern Australia. There is no justification for the inference that thi decisions of the Prices Commissioner retard production. Any views which are submittal by the producers will bc welcome.
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to . the honorable member’s questions are a? follows : -
Army - Instructions have been issued to all formations, both on the Australian mainland and overseas, to ascertain the personnel who are eligible and who desire to exercise their option of discharge.
Air - Personnel have been invited to submit applications. 2, 3, 4 and 5. In the Acting Prime Minister’s statement to the House on the 19th June, he emphasized that the special releases from the forces are to be made in a graduated manner and stated that it is obviously impossible to release men with operational experience immediately on the attainment of five years’ service, without regard to the organization of units and the effect on operational plans.
In the further statement on 29th June, the Acting Prime Minister said that the following are to be the progressive totals of the minimum number of special releases to be effected by the dates mentioned -
He also repeated his earlier statement that the releases are to be arranged in a graduated manner in order to avoid disorganization of units and interference with operational plans.
e asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Coal-mining Industry:rail Transport.
y. - On the 13th June the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question relating to a proposal for the construction of a section of railway between the Richmond Main railway and the West Wallsend-Cockle Creek railway.
I have conferred with my colleagues in regard to this matter. It is noted that the proposal was the subject of a special investigation by the New South Wales Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Appropriate Commonwealth authorities have also, during the period of the war, reviewed the project in the light of our war commitments.
The question of the inclusion of this work in the post-war programme is, in the first instance, a matter for consideration by the State Government.
Migration. mr. Chifley.- On the 30th May, the
Honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question relating to the grant of assistance to discharged American servicemen to return to Australia.
I now inform the honorable member that it has been approved that an. American service man or woman who is discharged in the United States may be granted passport facilities to enable him or her to come to Australia without being required to obtain a landing permit provided that - (a) he holds an honorable discharge from the United States Forces, and a valid passport visaed by a British Consular Officer; (b) he is in sound health; (c) he is in a position to support himself and dependants (if any) in Australia; and provided also that nothing is known to his detriment. The Australian Legation in Washington acts as the coordinating and allocating authority for passages from North America to Australia, on which run there is at present a shortage of passenger accommodation. Each case is considered in relation to the other applicants for passages by sea to Australia and to the available shipping.
Enemy Prisoners of War.
y. - On the 21st June the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked a question relating to the position of German and Italian prisoners of war held in Australia.
I inform the honorable member that there are 1,567 German prisoners of war and 17,757 Italian prisoners of war detained in Australia, of whom 1,523 Germans and 17,551 Italians are held on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, which bears the cost of their maintenance. The employment of prisoners of war is governed by articles 27 to 33, inclusive, of the International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, to which the Commonwealth is a ratifying party, and by regulation 29 of the National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations. The decision made by the
Commonwealth Government to use prisoner of war labour in Australia was due to the acute man-power shortage. Prisoners of war are engaged largely upon food production and other national requirements. Prisoners of war in Australia are treated strictly in accordance with the abovementioned convention, which provides, inter alia, that prisoners of war will -(a) receive a food ration equivalent in quantity and quality to that of the depot troops ; (b) be permitted to establish their own canteen at which they shall be able to procure, at local market prices, food commodities and ordinary articles, the profits accruing from such canteens to be utilized for the benefit of the prisoners; (c) be permitted complete freedom in the performance of their religious duties, including attendance at services of their faith. Rates of pay, including work pay, of prisoners of war in Australia are governed by articles 23, 24 and 34 of the convention. With regard to Italian prisoners of war who are employed by private employers in rural industry, the difference between1s. 3d. a day work pay credited to the prisoners of war and the amounts payable to the Commonwealth by the employers is credited to the United Kingdom Government. In accordance with International Convention, all prisoners of war held in Australia will be repatriated as soon as possible after the conclusion of the peace.
Deathof Ian Munchenberg.
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked a question relating to the death of Ian Munchenberg, a seaman.
Inquiries have been made into the matter, and I now inform the honorable member that Ian Walter Munchenberg was signed on as assistant steward on a Norwegian steamer at Port Adelaide on the 23rd February, 1944. His monthly wages were £A.71s. 3d., plus £A.17 13s.1d. war risk bonus. He died of smallpox at Bone, Algeria, on the 18th April, 1944. According to information supplied by the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission, no money was due to him at date of death, but, on the contrary, he was in debt to the vessel to the extent of £13 19s. 7d. As stated by the honorable member, one allotment of £10 had been paid to his mother. It has also been stated that his effects did not warrant fumigation expenses and were destroyed. This may have been necessary on account of the disease from which he died. The engagement of the deceased was not subject to the Navigation Act or the Merchant Shipping Act, and it seems that compensation in respect of his death would be payable only if Norwegian law so provided. It is not possible to extend benefits to Mrs. Munchenberg in accordance with the provisions of the Seamen’? War Pensions and Allowances Act, as this act only applies if a deceased seaman loses his life through” war injury”.
World Youth Conference: Australian Representa tion ; I n t ern ati on al Youth Committee.
– On the 28th June, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked the following questions, uponnot ice: -
The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 4. I have received a letter from a body described as the International Youth Committee, informing me that that committee had selected Mr. W. J. Weston, of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, and Mr. H. B. Williams of the Eureka Youth League, to represent it at a proposed World Youth Conference. I am informed that the World Youth Conference is being called by an organization known as the World Youth Council located in London.It is understood that none of the member organizations of the British Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organizations (whichin- clude such organizations as the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, Scouts and Guides) is represented on this body. The World Youth
Council has not received any official support from the United Kingdom Government and has been informed that no facilities can be granted by the United Kingdom Government for the attendance of delegates from abroad to the proposed conference in August.
Public Service: Transfer of State Officials.
y. - On the 2nd May, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked a question in regard to the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the services of certain State public servants in connexion with the implementation of the Government’s plans relating to employment and social services.
It was then intimated that the proposals did not envisage the compulsory transfer of State public servants to the Commonwealth, but that a detailed statement would be prepared. I now inform the honorable member that officers who will be eligible for transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service as permanent officers will be those State permanent officers -
State temporary employees and other temporary employees appointed under regulation 10 of the National Security (Man Power) Regulations will be eligible for temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service.
I reiterate that no State officer will be transferred to the Common wealth against his will. He will have the option of electing to transfer, and before he is asked to elect he will be given full details of the conditions which will apply to him after transfer, and the position which he will occupy, with its classification and salary range, &c.
n. - On the 4th July, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) referred to a letter which he had received from the Young Pastures Protection Board, protesting against the Government’s action in releasing . 303 ammunition to civilians. ‘The honorable member asked if I would have inquiries made as to why such powerful ammunition is required by users, and if I would take action to ensure that such ammunition would not fall into the hands of irresponsible persons or persons who would use it for subversive activities.
I have had inquiries made and have ascertained that this ammunition is surplus Army stock which has been released through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Three million rounds were made available for distribution through trade channels. This release was made as a result of the innumerable requests received by the Minister for the Army from primary producers who required the ammunition for the destruction of pests such as dingoes, and from professional kangaroo and crocodile shooters. The majority of these requests were received from Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The demand for . 303 ammunition has mainly arisen from owners of . 303 rifles, who purchased these rifles from the Department of the Army prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. It is understood that each application to purchase a rifle was carefully checked by the Army before a release was granted. All orders for . 303 ammunition must be accompanied by a police permit. The honorable member can be sure that the Government is taking every precaution to ensure that only bona fide users will obtain supplies of this ammunition.
Sugar: Shortages in New South Wales Country Districts.
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question regarding the supply of sugar in country districts of New South Wales.
I am informed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is Minister in charge of rationing, that there is a shortage of refined sugar in New South Wales, due to insufficient man-power being available at the refinery. The Deputy Director-General of Man Power, New South Wales, has been asked to make special efforts to provide increased man-power for the refinery. Meanwhile, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is giving special attention to any districts short of sugar which are brought to their notice by the Sugar Wholesalers Association.
y - On the 29th June, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred to the supply of kerosene-operated refrigerators to the western districts of Queensland. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following statement on this subject : -
Owing to war-time needs, the production of refrigerators in Australia since February, 1942, has been reduced by approximately 50 per cent. During theyears 1942, 1943 and 1944, there has been a considerable demand for kerosene-operated refrigerators by the Allied fighting services, which has absorbed the major portion of the available production. The number of kerosene-operated refrigerators available for civilians has been the few remaining after the service demands have been met.
There has, however, been an increased demand by civilians for this particular type of refrigerator, particularly from people living in remote country areas, whose visits to their supply centres are restricted by rationing of tyres and petrol, and who are therefore compelled to store large quantities of perishable foodstuffs.
The Division of Import Procurement is fully aware of these circumstances, and has given a high priority to all applicants living in remote tropical areas, such as exist in Queensland, but the applications that have been received outnumber the refrigerators available to such an extent that it is unavoidable that many deserving applicants cannot be satisfied.
Actually, over the past two years, Queensland, which has a population of approximately oneseventh of the total population of the Commonwealth, has received one-third of the refrigerators available for distribution to civilians. It must be remembered that the production of refrigerators in Queensland is very limited, and that distribution in that State has been obtained by transporting refrigerators from the southern States in the face of considerable transport difficulties.
The present position is that there are approximately 1,500 permits for kerosene operated refrigerators, held by residents of Queensland, awaiting fulfilment. The Division of Import Procurement is also holding a further 900 applications, for which permits will be granted as soon as there is a reasonable chance of the leeway being overtaken.
It will be appreciated, however, that Queensland is not the only State where severe conditions of living obtain, and residents of other States must also share in whatever refrigerators become available.
The production of these refrigerators is, of course, conditioned by the available man-power and materials and I am conferring with my colleagues, the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Munitions, with a view to implementing a programme of increased production.
Clothes Rationing: Overcoats and Outerwear.
e. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), after referring to a letter received by him concerning merchants’ stocks of woollen clothing, asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs discuss with the Rationing Commission the matter of reducing the number of ration coupons needed for those articles of clothing, in view of the facts set out in that letter?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
I desire to advise the honorable member that appreciable reductions in coupon ratings of woollen piece goods and woollen garments became operative on Monday, the 9th July. These reductions are additional to substantial reductions in piece goods, underwear and hosiery, already made since the beginning of June, and are in accordance with the policy of the Rationing Commission to keep the coupon scale continuously under review and to make any relaxations immediately the general supply position permits.
DistrictWar Agricultural Committees.
– On the 19th June,I promised the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) thatI would have inquiries made and provide him with answers to the following questions : -
I now provide the following answers : - 1 and 2. The statement was made without the knowledge or consent of the chairman of the committee. TheNational Service Officer is a member of each District War Agricultural Committee whose district may embrace some part of his area. National Service Officers have been regular in attendance at meetings and through their membership very close cooperation is ensured between the District War Agricultural Committees and the Man Power Directorate. It is, of course, true that the district committee cannot have the final say in many of the matters discussed. Final decisions must be given by the Directorate of Materials Supply in the case of various materials, or by the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in respect of man-power releases. It is obvious that, with man-power and materials in extremely short supply, the final decision must be left to some central authority which will have the over-all picture of the needs of the State. Despite these limitations the great majority of the recommendations of the committee have been implemented and the DirectorGeneral of Man Power states that there is definitely no conflict between the Central Executive of the District War Agricultural Committee and the Man Power Directorate in this matter. 3 and 4. Everything possible is being done and will be done by the Man Power Directorate to supply man-power to the firms engaged in the manufacture of galvanized iron, wire netting and piping. These items have in fact been placed in group (1) of the directorate’s order of priority.
Division of Import Procurement.
e. - On the 5th July, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following questions: -
I promised to obtain the information, and have now received the following answers from the Minister for Trade and Customs : - 1. (a ) In Australia (as at 30th June, 1945) - 2,045. (b) In the United States of America (as at 31st May, 1945) - 394 (Australian War Supplies Procurement) . (c) In Canada (as at 3 1st May, 1945) - 25 (Australian War Supplies Procurement). (d) No persons are employed in Great Britain by either the Division of Import Procurement or Australian War Supplies Procurement. The staff of Australian War Supplies Procurement in North America undertakes work on behalf of departments other thanthe Division of Import Procurement. It has been estimated that more than 50 per cent, of the administrative expenditure incurred by Australian War Supplies Procurement is attributable to work done on behalf of the other departments.
However, many of the commodities we need to import are still in critically short supply and in some instances allocations of these commodities for supply to Australia can be obtained only if the transactions are handled as government orders. The United States of America and Canadian Governments have announced their intention to continue lend-lease ‘and mutual aid until the end of the war against Japan, and so long as supplies are made available to Australia under lend-lease or mutual aid it will be necessary to route the transactions through government channels. Government cash purchase of some items will also remain necessary for some time because of conditions governing the supply from overseas countries. However, as soon as the special circumstances which have made it necessary to arrange importation of these items through government channels are no longer present, it is the intention of the Government to allow the goods concerned to be imported through normal commercial channels. re-establishment: Mr. J. S. Ryan.
– In answer to the questions asked by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on the 3rd July, of the Minister for Repatriation, a further reply has now been furnished by the Minister for Trade and Customs to parts 3 and 4, which read -
The reply is as follows : -
Yes. Mr. Ryan’s request for a quota was rejected by my officers in the first place because he was not in the tobacconist trade prior to enlistment. However, in consideration of the fact that he is unable, owing to war injuries, to follow his previous occupation and, seeing that he is being trained as a hairdresser by the Repatriation Department, I have decided to grant him a quota to operate as from the 1st July, 1945.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The present policy provides that, in dealing with applications for discharge or transfer to nonhazardous duty on compassionate grounds, discharge or transfer may be approved where the circumstances reveal that the applicant is the sole surviving male member of a family, the others having been killed or being prisoners of war.
s asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Man-power : Direction of Exservicemen.
t asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minis ter in Charge of theCouncil for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact, as stated in a recent issue of The Land, that the Chief of the Division of Animal Industry in New South Wales, Mr. Max Henry, has said that research work into the effect of D.D.T. as a control for buffalo-fly and blow-fly pest had been held up owing to shortage of supplies? 2.If so, will he make inquiries as to whether D.D.T. is being sold to the general public, in ample quantities, underthe names of “ Leetal “ and “ Exterminal “ in New South Wales and Queensland respectively, and will he make arrangements for a wider distribution to Queensland users, especially those engaged in primary industries?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for
Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.(a) No. (b) No.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450718_reps_17_183/>.