17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I moye -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
Representations have been made to me that honorable members are suffering from a complaint known as legislative weariness, and the medical advisers to the Opposition and the Government say that it is highly desirable that some honorable members should have a -short respite from their work. I have discussed the matter with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) representing the Leader of tho Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). When Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 8 inclusive, dealing with eight hills, and a small hill which I propose to present this afternoon, have been passed by this House, and have .been returned from the Senate, the Government will agree to an adjournment of the sittings until the 29th August. The Government has no desire to prevent honorable members from tendering constructive criticism of the measures now before the House, some of which are only small bills. The length of the recess will depend entirely upon the expedition with which honorable members dispose of the items of business to which I have referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move- -
That leave of absence for two months be gaven to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) on the ground of ill health.
During the absence of the Minister, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will act as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Passports fob Officials.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to make to the House regarding the refusal of passports’ to certain specially selected women who were intended for the staff of Unrra I Does the refusal indicate a change, and, if so, what change, in the policy of the Government towards Unrra* If not, on what grounds were the passports refused J
– The Government’s decision with respect to the issuance of passports has regard to the shortage of man-power and woman-power for urgent work. I do not propose to enumerate all of the cases which have come up for consideration. Apart from the officials of Unrra, a great m’any men. and women have applied on various grounds. Generally, the policy for some time has been to grant applications only in special cases. The refusals to which the Leader of the Opposition refers are no reflection upon the individuals concerned, but arise from our great difficulty in obtaining sufficient man-power and woman-power for urgent work. Applications for passports for members of the staff of Unrra were dealt with in accordance .with general policy. With the Minister for Immigration, I examined the special list last Thursday. It contained the names of a number of civilian nurses, and, as honorable members know, wc are very short of nurses at present. Pending an examination of the matter which I propose to undertake in conjunction with the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Immigration, it was decided that only certain nurses who are at present members of the services should -be permitted to proceed overseas. There is no motive behind the Government’s refusal to grant passports to Unrra officials and other applicants other than the desire to conserve man-power and woman-power needed for special work. Frankly, I find it difficult to understand why this drain should he made upon certain classes of our man-power and woman-power, upon which so many calls have already been made.
– Why does the Government permit men and not women to go overseas ?
– A number of men, including two doctors, have not been allowed to go overseas. Therefore, the Government’s decision does not apply to women only.
– One of the great features of the Unrra proposal as laid before the House by the Minister for External Affairs was that Australians would participate in. the work of Unrra. These women have been specially selected for such work.
– As a matter of fact, a number of the personnel in question are listed as stenographer-typists, and they have no other special qualifications.
– I understand that they have
– I am speaking of the list that was shown to me, on Which quite a number of persons are shown as stenographertypists. A re-examination will be made of the applications in respect of Unrra personnel, as we are anxious to help Unrra, but any decision made in respect of such applications must have regard to our position with respect to man-power and woman-power.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the ban on women leaving Australia applies only to women engaged by Unrra, or is it a general ban? Is it not a fact that many women have already left Australia? Does the Prime Minister not think that the prestige of Australia abroad will be adversely affected by this decision ? Will any men engaged for Unrra activities be prevented similarly from leaving Australia to take up their posts? Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Prank Gains, Acting
Director-General of Unrra in the SouthWest Pacific Area, has stated that the passports were refused on some personal grounds ?
– I have made it clear that the principle does not apply to any particular organization. Quite a number of passports have been refused without any disparagement of the individual* concerned. The principle has been, in operation for some time. In a number of cases stenographers required by our allies in the islands and elsewhere, have been refused permission to leave this country because of the urgent need for their services here. Nobody has been refused a permit on personal grounds.
– Will the Minister for External ‘Affairs inform the House whether the policy under which passports to Australian appointees to Unrra have been refused is to be taken as indicating that there will be no participation in international organization, where such co-operation involves the use of Australian personnel possible of replacement by other governments? Does the Minister regard that as in keeping with the spirit of the international organization recently discussed at San Francisco ?
– Australia, as one of the signatories to the Unrra agreement, has the right to- nominate a percentage of the appointees to that body. For that reason, the matter is now being considered by the Prime Minister with the Minister for Immigration and also with my department. Some of the most distinguished appointees to Unrra have already left Australia. The particular cases mentioned in the House to-day will be reviewed by the Prime Minister, and I am quite sUrf that the purpose of the Government is that Australia shall play its full part in the work of this organization, subject, of course to the necessity for examining all appointments to ensure that there shall he no drastic interference with staff necessary to meet local requirements. I am hopeful that a satisfactory settlement of this difficulty will be reached by t11, Prime Minister.
– On the 7th September, 1-944, the Minister for External Affairs, in submitting the motion for the second reading of the bill in relation- to Unrra, said -
In addition to the persons employed on the administrative staff of Unrra, it is anticipated that Unrra will seek the participation of voluntary relief agencies in relief activities for which they have special competence and resources. The extent to which such agencies are used will be determined by the directorgeneral in consultation with the government or recognized national authority of the country concerned.
Will the Minister state whether the persons in respect of whom travelling facilities have been refused were selected by the director-general, in consultation with the Commonwealth Government, or whether they were selected” under conditions which violate the statement made by the Minister to Parliament?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for reminding me of what I said on that occasion. I tried to paraphrase it shortly in reply to the honorable member for Darwin. I think that the principle then enunciated has been carried out, and, subject to the one condition mentioned by the Prime Minister, it will be observed. My speech also indicated that our contributions to Unrra must always be subject to the overriding necessities of the present war effort. The House may rest assured that everything will be done by the Prime Minister and the Government to solve this problem. It should be capable of a solution which will enable Australia to play its part in Unrra without interfering with the man-power, or woman-power, requirements in this country.
Man-Power - Timber Supplies - Country Towns
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen the report appearing in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph which, under the heading “ Civil Constructional Corps Workers for Home-Building. Government will Order Big Release in Next Two Months “, states -
A big release of man-power from the Civil Constructional Corps is expected within the next two months.
It v;is authoritatively stated yesterday that the Federal Government would order the release of large numbers of men from the
Civil Constructional Corps for home-building in New South Wales before the end of September.
If that report be correct, will the Prime Minister see that a proportionate number of members of the Civil Constructional Corps so released will be made available in Brisbane in order to deal effectively with the acute housing shortage in that city?
– The special reference to New South Wales was probably due to the expectation that certain works now being carried out in that State for the British Navy will be completed about September, and a number of men will then be released. The Minister in charge of Housing and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is chairman of the War Commitments Committee will, I have no doubt, keep in mind the proper distribution of such labour as is available in order to ensure that* each State shall get a proper share. Proposals for the release of men from the services have already been explained. We hope to be able to make man-power available, if not quickly, at least steadily, in order to enable the housing programme to be carried out.
– In view of the shortage of timber and the fact that supplies may have to be imported, will the Minister for Works and Housing take action to see that timber resources in New Guinea and other northern areas are exploited in the interests of home building in Australia ?
– The position of New Guinea timber supplies has been examined, and further investigations are being made along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– In view of the acute shortage of houses in many country towns) and in view of the facts that many intending home builders in those towns have plans drawn and approved and the money available for the building of homes, and ample timber is available in these localities, will the Minister for Labour and National Service direct that a reasonable quota of the man-power that is being released shall be allowed for such towns to enable houses to be built, thereby lessening the housing problem ?
– Yes. That is already the policy.
– Can it he carried out?
– The Man-power Directorate has already planned to allocate labour suitable for that kind of work to whatever districts require it as fast as if is released.
– Some days ago, the Prime Minister was good enough to undertake to confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping concerning shipping facilities to the north-west coast of Tasmania. Can the right honorable gentleman tell me when I may expect some information regarding this matter?
– The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) approached me recently concerning the shipping service to Burnie and Devonport, and I promised to confer with the Minister for .Supply and Shipping in 01’der to see whether the service could be improved. I took the Minister for a walk during the lunch hour on the following day, and discussed the matter with him. He told me that he would take it up immediately with the Director of Shipping, Sir Thomas Gordon, and his officers. I hope that he will be able to let me have a statement on the subject within the next few days.
– I have here a letter from a businessman in Launceston, in which he draws my attention to a statement that freight rates from Great Britain have recently been increased, making them 100 per cent, higher now than before the war. His letter adds -
This will mean an advance of approximately 21 per cent, above present rates.
Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether war risks are greater now than they were while the European war was in progress? Can he say why freight rates between Great Britain and Australia should have been increased so much, in view of the present war situation ?
– At first glance, it seems extraordinary that freight rates should be 100 per cent, higher now than they were before the war. I can only suggest that it may be due to the desire of the shipping companies to make greater profits. I am not aware that we have any authority to control freight rates between the United Kingdom- and Australia, seeing that the service will be operated by British ships. The effect which such high freights will have on the price of imported commodities is obvious. The only effective answer would be to have our own ships to pick up such commodities as we need from overseas. .1 shall ask the Director of Shipping to consider the matter, and to provide a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether Mrs. Tenison- Woods, the child welfare expert, has been granted permission to leave Australia in order to take up an appointment with the International Labour Office? If the application has been refused, can the Prime Minister say whether the offer has been renewed, and if so, will he see that facilities are provided to enable her to accept the position ?
– I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable gentleman as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen- the report published in the Adelaide Advertiser yesterday that the allowance of petrol to private motorists in New Zealand will be doubled? As there has been an increase in England also, is there any likelihood of a more generous ration being granted to motorists1 in Australia? Further, can the Minister say whether there will be any easing of the tyre position in the near future?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping will make a statement regarding petrol supplies to-day. The rubber situation generally is worse now than it has been at any other stage during the Avar. The Government is very disturbed about the supply of tyres, and is taking all possible steps to obtain additional raw materials and to develop tie production of synthetic rubber. That is tie best that it can do at the moment.
Statement by Mb. E. J. Ward, M.P.
– Has the Prime Minister read the reports of a speech by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in the Sydney Domain last Sunday, when he advocated something in the nature of “ packing “ the High Court Bench ? Was the Minister expressing the policy of the Government? If not, will the Prime Minister say whether the Government is contemplating any action of the kind advocated ?
– I saw reference in one newspaper to remarks purporting to have been made by the Minister for Transport in the Domain on Sunday. The Minister himself has spoken to me regarding the matter, and has informed me that the newspaper report did not accord with the remarks that he made. ‘The matter has not had the .consideration of the Government. I do not deny that I have not been entirely happy about the High Court. I am not referring to any decisions which it has made, nor do I question the impartiality of the members of the Bench. I do not wish to cast the slightest reflection upon them. However, there have been great difficulties over the court visiting other States. As honorable members know, at least two members of the Bench are very advanced in years. I shall say no more about the matter at this stage, except to repeat that I cast no reflection on any member of the Bench.
– That was not the matter dealt with by the Minister for Transport.
– The Minister has informed me that the report was not accurate, and I have other evidence to support his statement. I accept his word. I know that he is given to using very strong language at times, but on this occasion I believe that what he did say was exaggerated.
– Whenever the Minister for Transport intends to deliver a public speech, will the Prime
Minister make arrangements for him to be accompanied by a recording instrument, so that an accurate record will be made of his remarks? I found it most effective with station 2KY.
– I do not propose to take any such action. If a record had been made of all the statements made by the honorable member for Barker some strange contradictions would have been recorded*
Enfranchisement oi’ Repatriated Prisoners of War.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether, under the bill which was passed, on Friday last to deal with war-time voting at by-elections, a vote will be accorded to repatriated prisoners of war, whether they are enrolled or not? I ask thu question because it has just been raised with me by telegram from Western Australia, and, I suggest that if these men are not covered by the bill, consideration should be given to further amending the law to enable them to vote.
– Last week, the Minister for the Interior mentioned to me that that point had arisen. I understood him to say that repatriated prisoners of war were entitled to vote, and that the necessary provision to enable them to record their votes was being made. iSo that I shall not misinform the right honorable gentleman, I shall verify the information which I have given to him.
– Did the Prime Minister read in to-day’s press a report that Cabinet yesterday discussed proposals regarding an international wool agreement for the disposal of post-war wool clips, and the orderly marketing of accumulated stocks? If that report was. correct, will the right honorable gentleman outline to tha House the main points of the draft agreement which was reported as having been reached at the international wool conference in Great Britain recently?
– As I previously informed the House, a delegation representing the Commonwealth Government, with
Mr. Justice Owen and Mr.N. W. Yeo, chairman and executive member respectively of the Central Wool Committee and representatives of the two wool-growers’ organizations, as advisers, participated in a conference in London with the representatives of the United Kingdomand two other dominions. The conference was not empowered to make a fina] agreement, but unanimously agreed to certain recommendations which, I understand, will he examined by the governments of the United Kingdom and the three dominions. Yesterday, Cabinet considered the proposed agreement, but I am not able, at this stage, to give to the honorable member any information, because this Government must confer with the other governments concerned. If the agreement is adopted by the United Kingdom and the dominions, legislation to implement it will foe introduced in this Parliament, and honorable members will then have an opportunity to discuss it. Meanwhile, discussions will take place between the governments of the United Kingdom and the three wool-producing dominions.
Importation of British Woollen Cloths- Australian Manufacture
– Will the Minister for Defence discuss with the Minister for Supply and Shipping the advisability of instructing the Controller of Woollens to remove all restrictions on the manufacture of double weft cloths in order to obviate the necessity to import them from overseas, and to enable Australia to prepare to export its woollen and worsteds, which are equal to the best in the world?
– In this question, which has been asked from time to time, I have the same interests as has the honorable member for Griffith.
– Then what is preventing the Minister from issuing the instructions ?
– We do not always get our own way in these matters. The position is unsatisfactory. The imported cloth is of a better quality than that which Australian factories are permitted to manufacture, although our own people urgently need these materials. Frankly, I consider the matter should be adjusted without delay, and shall use my influence to that end.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question about the supply of corsets in Australia. Since then I have received a letter from an importer in Sydney assuring me that he has in store 4,500 corsets and that he is not the only importer in Sydney with such stocks. Months ago he applied to the Prices Commissioner for the price to be fixed but has had no satisfaction. Will the Minister have an immediate investigation made with a view to having the situation rectified if the facts are found to be as stated, particularly in view ofthe co-operative and uncomplaining attitude of Australian women during the whole period of war restrictions ?
– I referred the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has supplied the following answer: -
Corsets and corset materials are in very short supply overseas. However, in order to assist importers to take the maximum advantage of any supplies that may be offering, I have directed that import licences are to be granted freely for the importation of made-up corsets from either sterling or non-sterling countries. So far as corset materials are concerned, imports from the sterling area are not subject to import licensing requirements, and merchants are free to place orders for any quantities available. Efforts have been made to obtain allocations of corset materials from the United States. A small allocation has been made for delivery in the third quarter of 1945, and orders have already been placed through commercial channels for the full quantity available during that period. Representations have been made to the American authorities for a larger allocation for delivery in the fourth quarter of 1345 but no decision has yet been given. Any quantities available during the fourth quarter will be allowed to come forward on a merchant to merchant basis. The relaxation of import restrictions does not, however, imply that importers will be permitted to sell corsets above the existing ceiling prices or that price subsidies will be paid. It will be the responsibility of each importer to ensure that his importationsare effected under conditions which enable him to comply with the Prices Regulations. If in doubt the importer should clear that aspect direct with the prices control. This is necessary to ensure that the public is protected against the excessive prices which might otherwise bc charged while corsets remain in short supply.
Publicity - Military Offenders : Allowances to Dependants
– Has the Minister for Information read the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last that the official Army newspaper at Manila had stated that while the world waited impatiently for the invasion of Japan itself, unpublicized Australian divisions had counted 12,000 Japanese dead in the past eight months? If so, does the Minister not regard the statement that the activity of Australian divisions are unpublicized as a reflection upon his department by an official Army publication, or is it a reflection upon the Public Relations Directorate of the Department of the Army? What action does the Minister intend to take to counter the report?
– It is not true for anybody - even the editor of an American Army publication - to say that the deeds of the Australian Army are not publicized. All available evidence shows that they are publicized adequately. I doubt whether the armed forces of any dominion receive as much publicity in Great Britain or in the United States, as do Australian servicemen. The honorable member will realize, of course, that it is not always possible to name divisions which are taking part in operations against the enemy.
– The Americans do it, but we do not.
– The honorable member might not believe our policy to be correct, but it is the policy of General MacArthur, who, I imagine, has had more to do with winning the war than has the honorable member for Moreton.
– I still say that the achievements of the armed forces of other nations have received publicity which ours have not.
Air. CALWELL.- The issuing of communiques concerning the activities of Australian forces is the responsibility of
General Head-quarters. Neither the Public Relations Directorate of the Department of the Army, nor the Department of Information, has the final say in that matter. As soon as it was possible, having regard to security, to name Australian divisions engaged on operations, that has been done. The honorable member may have some cause for complaint that some divisions were not named as early as they could have been, but all the Australian divisions that have taken part in the operations in the islands to the north of this country, have been specified.
– What about senior officers ?
– The honorable member is now raising another issue. I shall see how far it is possible, within the limits of security, to meet the honorable member’s wishes. If what he suggests can be done, I believe that it should be done; but I shall not accept any criticism “of the Department of Information by the editor, whom I do not know, of a publication of which I have never heard, concerning the alleged failure to give adequate publicity to the deeds of our fighting forces.
– Some weeks ago, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that great hardship had been imposed on soldiers imprisoned in civil gaols for military offences. I said that the practice was that, a fortnight after their discharge from the Army, allotments and allowances to dependants ceased. The Minister promised to look into the matter. Has he done so, and will those men be kept in the Army until they have served” their sentences? In the course of the inquiry which the Minister -is instituting into conditions- in detention camps, will he have consideration given to this matter also, so that no hardship may be imposed on the dependants of members of the forces?
– I shall have inquiries made immediately, and the honorable member will be supplied with the information sought by him. I regret if delay has occurred in replying to his earlier question.
Effect of Reduction of Australian Forces
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether there is any foundation of truth in the report published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Saturday, that the proposed reduction of the Australian forces, recently announced by him as Prime Minister, is expected to effect a saving of £35,000,000 in war costs in the first year ? If so, can he say whether it will be possible to pass on to the public any proportion of that saving in the form of reduced taxes, when the financial position is reviewed at the end of this calendar year?
– I am in no way responsible as Treasurer for the press statement to which the honorable member has referred. I have not yet had an opportunity to examine the figures. The reduction of the strength of the forces may not result in reduced expenditure, because many of those to he released from the forces have given long periods of service, and, speaking from memory, I think that their deferred pay will ‘total from £60,000,000 to £70,000,000. That, to some degree, would offset any savings that might result from the discharge of members of the forces. I have not investigated the possible result of the action to .be taken, and I do not know how it will’ he possible to determine it, even when the budget proposals of the Government are prepared. As to a reduction of taxes, I have already indicated that, towards the end of this calendar year, a complete review will be made of the taxation position generally, with the object of finding out whether anything can, or should, be done to reduce taxes in the following financial year.
– About three weeks ago, I asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether it was possible to lift certain restrictions, and he promised to make a statement on the matter in the near future. Is he now in a position to do so?
– I am not yet in a position to make the statement, but I hope to be able to do so before the end of this week.
– In somewhat dramatic circumstances, action was taken two years ago against a number of Australian citizens who were members of an organization known as the Australia First Movement. For a considerable period, Mr. Justice Clyne has been investigating the activities of that organization, and, when I .asked, on the 24th July, when his report would be presented, I was informed that it would probably be submitted to the Government in about a fortnight. When does the AttorneyGeneral expect to receive the report, and what 13 the reason for the delay in its presentation ?
– The matter is in the hands of the royal commissioner, and as soon as his report is available it will be placed before honorable members.
Discharged Servicemen : Direction to Employment
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to what degree the Man Power Directorate can control an ex-member of the forces? I have received a letter from an ex-corporal of the Royal Australian Air Force who has served for five years, and was released on occupational grounds. He was employed on the Victorian railways, where he was promised permanent work. He has been ordered to leave his work and go to another position. He has written to me on the subject, stating that he understood that ex-service personnel with five years service would not be man-powered. I understand that a statement to that effect was made by the Prime Minister. I now ask the Minister whether the man-power authorities can direct a man in these circumstances, particularly when others engaged in the same department, who have not joined the services, cannot be taken from their work.
– The man-power authorities do not direct ex-servicemen. However, as the honorable member is aware, many men have been released to take up some special occupation. When releases are granted in such circumstances by the Army at the request of the man-power authorities, the men so released must follow the occupations for which they have been released. If that were not insisted upon, many men would obtain releases by false pretences.
– They must follow the occupation, but not in a specific place only.
– Except in cases of the kind I have described-, the manpower authorities do not direct exservicemen; upon their discharge, men have the right to go anywhere.
– I sent particulars of a case to the honorable member a few days ago.
– I shall examine that case personally.
-Can the Prime Minister tell the House when the various campaign awards which were announced as having been approved by His Majesty the King at the conclusion of the European war will be made available to servicemen entitled to them? Three months have now elapsed since the decision was made. Will the Prime Minister undertake to expedite the issue of these awards, particularly to personnel who have been discharged from the services?
– I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member and inquire whether the allotment of the awards can be expedited.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill 1945.
Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill 1945.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of an annuity to the widow of the late the Right Honorable John Curtin.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a ‘second time.
This bill is designed to provide out of the Consolidated Revenue an annuity to the widow of the late Prime Minister, the Right Honorable John Curtin, at the rate of £500 per annum. It will be observed that the annuity is to be paid in monthly instalments. Provision is made for the cessation of the annuity in the event of the widowhood ‘hieing terminated by remarriage. The late Prime Minister was member for the division of Fremantle from 1928 to 1931 and from 1934 until the time of his death. He was Leader of the Federal Opposition from October, 1935, to October, 1941, when he assumed the offices of Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. The late Mr. Curtin came to his high and responsible office at the most critical period in the history of Australia. The Allied forces with which Australian forces were associated had been fighting valiantly in Europe and on the sea and in the air to withstand their foes, whose deliberate plans to dominate the world seemed likely to succeed. Japan was a potential menace, but had not yet declared its intentions. However, only two months later it struck without warning and began its onward rush until it captured some of our island territories adjacent to Australia, made prisoners of some thousands of our soldiers and had bombed our continent. Such was the situation which faced the late Prime Minister shortly after assuming office. There was then the gravest danger that our continent would be invaded by a cruel and barbarous foe. At this fateful hour, the Government was constantly faced with critical national situations and momentous decisions had to be taken almost daily. The late Prime Minister devoted his great talents and energies unsparingly towards mobilizing and directing our resources to ensure that our land should remain inviolate.
All honorable members will, I know, agree with me when I pay tribute to the outstanding leadership which the late Mr. Curtin gave to this country in those dark days, and continued to give during nearly four years until, happily before his death, the enemy in Europe had been defeated and in the Pacific danger’ had been removed and victory was no longer in doubt. The enormous volume of work arising out of the war and the great responsibility which the late Prime Minister had to shoulder undoubtedly made serious inroads on his health. Even after making vital decisions involving the employment of members of the forces, or their transport in dangerous waters, his thoughts constantly turned to them, and who knows what he endured in his quiet hours ? It will be recalled that last year, notwithstanding his preoccupation with affairs of state in Australia, the late Prime Minister undertook a most arduous mission to the United Kingdom and the United States of America to enter into consultations concerning the prosecution of the war. The mission involved <a journey of some 30,000 miles, and in all probability took severe toll of his strength. But for the exigencies of war, the late Prime Minister’s widow could reasonably have expected years of financial security and the company of her husband. He, however, spent himself in the cause of his country in its time of peril. I feel that this Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth would wish that his widow should he adequately provided for, and I therefore commend the measure to honorable members for their favorable consideration.
– I feel, as I have no doubt a number of honorable members do, that we should direct our minds in some suitable fashion in the nea-r future to establishing some general rule in regard to matters of this kind, because the discussion of an individual case, however full of merit, as this one beyond any question is, necessarily involves some embarrassment to somebody. Therefore, I should like to believe that at some early stage the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) - and I know that he sympathizes with this view - will feel able to establish an allparty committee to review the whole problem.
– I am prepared- to do that.
– As to the hill itself, I desire to say little except that I support it heartily. The provision being made for the widow of the late Prime Minister is modest enough in all conscience, as she has claims upon this Parliament, through the services of her distinguished husband and through her own services as his wife, which we do well to recognize. I do not desire to take up time on the measure, because I know that any prolonged discussion of a bill of this kind gives rise to some embarrassment on the part of the lady who is to benefit under it. For myself, and I am sure I speak also on behalf of all honorable members, I say this : Let this provision be made for Mrs. Curtin as an expression of the hearty goodwill of all parties in this House. We give it to her - insofar as we are the instruments for giving it - with the utmost cordiality, and with a full recognition of the great services rendered by her husband to this country.
.- In the absence of the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden), I support this bill on behalf of the party. I deplore the fact that the need for this bill arises out of the untimely death of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, something which we all regret. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I believe that the matter of an annuity to the widow of the Prime Minister should not rest on a personal basis. This is the second time within six years that we have had to deal with such a matter, and I should not like to recall the debate which took place when the previous provision had to be made. It is improper that the personal aspect of the matter should be canvassed. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should give freely if we give at all. We should not give grudgingly but with goodwill. When we consider the duties which Prime Ministers have to discharge, and the burdens they have to bear, we appreciate the need for making some permanent provision for meeting cases of this kind. I support the idea that an all-party committee should be appointed consisting, I suggest, of the Leaders of the three parties. If such a committee be appointed, I hope that it will bring in a unanimous report, and that its recommendations will be agreed to unanimously by the Parliament. We should not forget that a Prime Minister attains his high office only after many years of public service, and that he obtains his seat in this Parliament, in the first place, only after years of service to the organization or party with which he is associated. We know that the position of Prime Minister is an onerous one. I can remember only two former Prime Ministers who attained advanced years*. One, I am glad to say, is still with us in the person of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ; another is Sir Joseph Cook. Every Prime Minister, after his period of office, has found himself compelled to restrict himself to light duties. When this subject was being debated on a previous occasion, reference was made to the advisability of introducing a system of superannuation for members of Parliament. The proposal was reported upon by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and by the then honorable member for the Riverina, Mr. Nock, and had, I believe, the general support of honorable members. I hope that the idea will be revived.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed nro forma; progress reported.
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 revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of an annuity to the widow of the late the Eight Honorable John Curtin.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
The bill agreed to, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th July (vide page 4719), on motion by Mr. Drakeford -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When I concluded my remarks on Friday last, [ had explained why private enterprise c ould not be left to run our interstate airways in the future. I had . demonstrated the failure of private enterprise in many ways, and elaborated on the success of a number of government instrumentalities. I had shown how, over a period of years, Australian National Airways had absorbed other aviation companies so that, out of sixteen which were operating some years ago, only nine were now surviving. This company is becoming as great a monopoly as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and great monopolies of the kind have always proved detrimental to the interests of the great mass of the people. The Government must control monopolies, and particularly the air services.
Mr. A. B. Corbett, former DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation from 1939 to 1944, has taken a prominent part in opposing the Government’s proposals for the nationalization of interstate airways. It is deplorable that a man who was a servant of the nation for approximately 44 years should, immediately on stepping down from his high public position, become a “ stooge “ of certain political interests and sell his wares to the Opposition to reinforce its attack on the Government’s great national proposal. It is unfortunate also that this formerly highly placed public servant should have seen fit to cast a slur upon the public servants of the Commonwealth by saying, in effect, that they are not fit to run any government instrumentality. That was a low approach to the subject. As every honorable member will agree, members of the Public Service have worked magnificently in the cause of the nation during the war. It is easy to see whence Mr. Corbett derives his interest in this campaign, because he was recently elected to membership of the Liberal party executive, or some body of that sort, in Queensland. He deals very lightly with the truth in some of his statements. He went to great pains to send to every postmaster in Australia circular notices in opposition to nationalization of the airways. He also had published in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, no doubt at considerable cost, an article which included the following statement: -
I obviously cannot afford to engage in a large volume of correspondence on this matter. I have no direct or indirect financial interest in any airline organization. My interest is that of any citizen who has acquired special knowledge of an industry which seems doomed to disaster by political interference, but which might have done so much, in post-war years to advance Australia, and provide much needed aids for the man in the country.
I say frankly that Mr. Corbett has no great interest in paying for that advertisement. Despite his statement that he has nothing but a national interest in this business, I go so far as to say that, if the sponsorship of that advertisement and the circulars which he distributed throughout the length and breadth of the country were investigated, it would be found that the financial backing came from the Institute of Public Affairs, or some other auxiliary or satellite of the parties in opposition. It is regrettable that this man should, have stooped so low as to attack the Government at the instigation of political organizations which hold views differing from those of the Government.
– The honorable member ought to apologize for his statements.
– I know that the honorable member “cannot take it”. He does not like the truth. He is prepared to do anything to serve the selfish financial interests of those whom he has represented too long in this Parliament. The people have done for all time with the conservatism and toryism which the honorable member represents, and the day is fast approaching when there will be in this country another victory similar to that won in Great Britain a few days ago by Labour, with its nationalistic ideals.
The nationalization of air services is not new ; it has been done in other countries. Canada realized some time ago that it was necessary to have government control of airways and, in spite of all that has been said by honorable members opposite, government airlines in that country have prospered. In evidence of the success achieved, I refer to a speech made in the Canadian House of Commons on “the 17th March, 1944, by the Minister for Munitions and Supply, Mr. C. D. Howe. Dealing with the government-controlled airways, he said -
The work of building a chain of modern airports a.nd of gathering and training an operating personnel was pressed forward vigor ously, with the result that Trans-Canada Air Lines was placed in operation early in 193S. Traffic built up very rapidly, and TransCanada grew until at the outbreak of war its services extended eastward from Vancouver to Moncton, southward from Toronto to New York and from Vancouver to Seattle, and northward from Lethbridge to Edmonton. In the early war years, military requirements made it necessary to extend the service eastward to Halifax, and from Moncton to Sydney and on to Newfoundland, and westward to Victoria. Increasing traffic has made the line an outstanding financial success. Its safety record is .the best of any airline operating anywhere. Had it been possible during the war years to provide equipment to meet travel demands, the financial position of the company would have been still further improved. At the moment, if we could double our equipment, indications are that we would have every scat occupied.
That statement briefly summarizes the story of the achievements of the Canadian Government in this field. It is a happy augury for the Commonwealth Government’s scheme.
I now put the case in favour of nationalization of airways, as I see it. In the first place, the Government, as a duty to the people, should have more than “ outside the horder “ control of air services. Up to the present time, the Commonwealth Government has invested a total of approximately £11,500,000 in assets associated with civil aviation. In other words, the investment of public money is about eight times as great as that of private airline companies. The only assets of Australian National Airways Limited and other airline companies are about 28 aircraft of various types, certain hangars and workshops, and a few ticket offices. In addition to existing assets, the Commonwealth is paying subsidies from public funds for the carriage of freight and mails. Therefore, an obligation rests on the Parliament to ensure that it shall have a definite controlling interest over those assets, so that they may be used to the best purpose. That is an important reason why airline services should -be nationalized, and it must have a. very telling effect upon every honorable member who considers the pu’blic welfare in relation to aviation services.
There is another factor winch must not be overlooked. It is much more beneficial to the nation to have one airline organization than to have a multiplicity of companies. Private competition gives rise to huge expenditure on advertising and. the provision of aircraft and equipment. As I have already said, if any industry lends itself to monopoly control, the aviation industry does. It is better to have one organization with one set of equipment than to have several companies running in opposition to each other, with unavoidable multiplication of overhead costs. Such extra expenditure must naturally be recouped from the public by means of increased charges for services. Consequently, the economic factor must not be overlooked. I’ll it, the Government has a very strong point for the nationalization of airlines. I shall not elaborate it further, but shall deal now with the matter of national interest.
Airways will play a most important part in the development of this nation in the post-war period. Civil aviation is truly a great public utility. At present, air services operate between capital cities and large towns, but after the war, they will be extended to outback areas. The Government must ensure that civil aviation shall serve the national interest. Any set-up in which private companies will operate only the most remunerative services and refuse to fly aircraft to outback areas, although such services may be needed in the best interests of the nation, must be avoided at all costs. In other words, in the post-war period we must remove the profit motive from the operation of air services, because where the profit motive is predominant, the service to the community will eventually suffer. Consequently, the Government, after the war, must ensure that civil aviation shall be conducted in the interests of the great majority of the people.
Another matter which should be closely considered is the future welfare of the aircraft industry in Australia. The Department of Aircraft Production, has a magnificent record of achievement, and lias placed the aircraft industry on a sound footing. Honorable members should understand that after the cessation of hostilities, hundreds of thousands of Australians will be seeking jobs, and the Government will look to the continuance of the aircraft industry as a source of employment. Anything that can be done to develop our industries merits consideration and support in this House. Thanks to the encouragement which it has received from the Labour Government, the aircraft industry has been most valuable to Australia in war-time, and will continue so in the post-war years, as an avenue of employment. By taking control of interstate airlines, the Government will assist the future development of this great industry. In the nationalization of interstate aviation and the development of the aircraft industry, I see a great contribution to the fulfilment of the Government’s policy of full employment for the people.
For other reasons, honorable members should support the bill. To-day, the private companies use all the expensive facilities which the Government has provided for civil aviation, such as aerodromes, ground equipment, radar and the like, but do not make any payment for them. Private companies, which are operating over the most remunerative air routes, believe that the Government should operate the less profitable transport services, for instance, the railways, but leave to the airline companies the highly paya’ble services. In that statement, I have summarized the attitude of members of the Opposition, and the private operators. The companies desire to pick the eyes out of the transport business. Honorable members should consider those points when they are debating the proposal to nationalize interstate airlines. By introducing this bill, the Government does not seek to gain any political advantage. This legislation is a national necessity to safeguard the interests of the people, and ensure the future development of the nation. If the operation of interstate airlines be left to private enterprise, services will be provided only on routes where substantial profits will be assured, and the Government will be left to operate unprofitable services to outback areas. The proper development of Australia after the war will depend, to a large degree, on the facilities provided by air services. “We cannot leave it to private enterprise to provide them. We cannot permit the development of Australia in general and airlines in particular to depend upon the decisions of a monopoly, whose sole object will be the making of profits, regardless of the interests of other sections of the community. Any monopoly of air transport must be controlled by the Commonwealth Government, and not by a small group who will take their instructions largely from overseas. That will occur if we permit private enterprise to continue to control air routes in this country. But if we accept the nationalization objective, as set out in the bill, the vast investment of public funds in airfields and equipment will be used by a government organization in the operation of national transport services that will be conducted as a developmental agency rather than exclusively on a profitmaking basis. The nationalization of commercial air services will strengthen the national defence organization, and provide an assured market for modern aircraft manufactured in Australian factories that require to be kept in efficient operating condition as an insurance against the risks of further wars. In addition, the Government’s proposals will secure the standardization of aircraft types, and that, in turn, will eliminate the unnecessary duplication of stocks of spare engines and other parts required for the efficient maintenance of the machines in accordance with the safety standards determined, at present, by the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of the commercial airlines. Finally, nationalization will eliminate the unnecessary duplication of administrative staffs and buildings, of passenger booking and freight handling offices, and of workshops and hangars, &c.
The advancement of Australia £a of paramount importance to every Australian, particularly to members of this Parliament, and anything that can be done in this country to further the interests of the great majority of the people should receive our wholehearted support. In the nationalization of airways, I see a very progressive step towards making Australia a great nation. I commend the Government for having introduced the bill, and hope that members of the Opposition will consider it from a non-party stand-point, and see in it a means for ensuring the further advancement of the country. They should respect the bill for what it is, namely a truly national attempt to bring under government control a great national utility.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) concluded by appealing to the Opposition not to regard thi* bill as a party political measure. Why, it comes from the very platform of the Australian Labour party. That is the only reason for its introduction. There are no sound reasons. The honorable member also claimed that it was in the interests of Australia’s development that the airways be nationalized, because private companies would operate only services that paid. State railways departments, when examining the possibility of a new railway, send out committees of inquiry to ascertain whether it will pay. We have never had railways built in Australia that were not expected to pay. I do not envisage a departure from that policy in government-controlled airways, when we take development into consideration. The honorable member also said that our future depended on the development of Australia. I agree. But the Government already has in its hands power for the development of Australia by means of railways, great water systems and power stations, with which it will be fullyoccupied, and it would be futile for it to claim that in addition to the expenditure of £200,000,000 on the needless standardization of railway gauges, it needs te expend another £10,000,000 on the acquisition of ….. airways, especially when every available penny is needed to provide homes for the homeless. The honorable member also claimed that it was necessary that the airways be conducted according to one system and as one organization. This hill does not provide for that. It- does not and cannot lay down conditions for intra-state airways or international airways. So there is nothing in that argument. I am not. concerned as to whether this measure i>” constitutional. That may be dealt with by somebody else. My concern is the national interest. At present, the Government has full control of the airways, except that it does not pilot the aircraft, and God preserve us from that! It controls the routes that may he flown. It sets a standard of efficiency for machine.” and air services generally. It con:trols the time-tables. It fixes the freights and fares. It sets the standards of training of air crews and ground staffs. It limits’ the loads. That refutes the statement of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that aircraft crashes may be due to overloading because of the greed of private companies. A pilot, before taking off, must certify to a government official the load his aircraft is carrying. The load must not exceed the limit fixed by the Government. Anyway, a pilot would not be likely to endanger the lives of himself and his passengers by overloading in order to increase his company’s profits. A person claiming to be a responsible Minister ought not to give utterance to such a stupidity. The reason for this bill is to be found in the pressure exerted by the extremists in the Labour movement in Sydney. The Minister and others who think with him forced the acceptance of this measure on the Labour caucus against the better judgment of their colleagues.
– How does the honorable gentleman know that?
– I do know it. Neither I nor any one, if 10,000 feet aloft, would like to have his life in the custody of honorable gentlemen opposite, except, perhaps, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. T have no brief from the airway companies or the shipping companies, which, it is claimed, have secured a controlling interest in some of the airlines. I am inclined to agree that the shipping companies should have big interests in the airways. Their vessels carry our primary products to the overseas markets. Deprived of the profits they earn from the carriage of passengers and mail on Australian airways, they may be forced to r-barge higher freights on the goods they transport by sea. My object is that Australian cargoes shall he carried overseas at freights no greater than those imposed on competing cargoes from other parts of the world. The profits that the shipping companies derive from their airway? operations enable them to keep down shipping freights. Therefore, tho primary producers of Australia, who are linn-sands of miles farther from their overseas markets than are their competitors in other countries, are deeply concerned that no step should be taken to place them at a greater disadvantage. On the Government policy of “ nationalize everything that pays “, the honorable mem’ber for Martin said, “We want to develop this country “, as a justification for the introduction of this measure. I remind the honorable gentleman that two State Premiers are in Great Britain canvassing for the investment of British funds in the establishment of industries in Australia. Is it likely that British industrialists will be inclined to invest funds in the establishment of enterprises here when they realize that as soon as the businesses begin to pay they will be nationalized?
We have seen enough of nationalized industry in Australia. We have the sorry story of the Coalcliff and Lithgow coalmines and the Queensland State enterprises to warn us against socialism. The Queensland Government printed a redcovered booklet, Socialism at Work. But socialism did not work. That Government borrowed £5,110,000 in order to establish State industries and lost £4,447,000 of the Queensland taxpayers’ money within a few years, and the enterprises came to an end. Queensland is not very interested in socialism now. It has learned by bitter experience. The Commonwealth, too, had a bitter experience, from which it should have profited, in operating the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamships. The Auditor-General reported on the 30th April, 1930, that those ships cost the people of Australia £2,144,000. Now, in spite of the history of failure of State enterprise, this Government talks about the nationalization of the airways. In Victoria, £20,000,000 was written off the debts incurred by the State railways, and similar action was taken in Queensland.
– Why not tell the whole story.
– I have cited what the Auditor-General said. I oppose the Government’s proposals not because an expenditure of £10,000,000 is involved, but because I believe that they will mean a repetition of past tragedies. The Government has offered no reasonable excuse for this measure. It is actuated merely by party political considerations. The £10,000,000 could much better he devoted to other undertakings to which the Government is already committed. For instance some of it could be expended on roads and new airfields to ena’ble a vast expansion of air transportation in this country, not only of people, but also of perishable commodities. This work already has been pioneered by the private airway companies. Perishable foodstuffs cannot be transported to markets in the interior of this country by train because of the long journeys. Precious metals also can be carried by air. If permanent services to remote inland centres are to he established more airfields will be required, and £10,000,000 expended on this work would be of immense benefit to the country. In the past, Government money has been spent on the development of ports to provide shipping facilities around the Australian coastline with a view to opening up and developing new areas. Similarly, money should be provided for the construction of air ports. Private airline operators in this country have a record for safety, the carriage of mails, and low freights, which is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. That record has been established despite the long distances between centres and population in Australia. Not only have the airline companies already .built up a great service, but also they have laid the foundations for an even greater one in the future. It is because this industry has been so successful that the Government seeks to grab it. The Government is not interested, for instance, in nationalizing the cream delivery. The farmers, instead of each making butter on the farms, club together and build co-operative factories. Are these now regarded as undesirable monopolies by our socialistic friends opposite? The airline operators, who in the past have rendered such an excellent service to this country, are now being accused of having developed their organizations for their own substantial private gain. Apparently, in the eyes of the Government, private enterprise is undesirable in a community unless it is being run at a loss. As reported in to-day’s press, overseas air transport today, in some respects at least, is cheaper than land or sea transport. Unfortunately, further cuts in fares and freight charges will be prevented by the socialization of this industry.
The .private airline operators have prepared for a great expansion of their services, after the war and for the employment of large numbers of ex-service personnel, both as air-crews and ground staff. During the war, the airline companies have rendered1 a great service. They brought the first all-metal aircraft to this country, and in the early clays of the war, carried out antisubmarine patrols. They convoyed the first contingent of Australian troops to leave for the European theatre of war, and supplied aircraft for the carrying of supplies to New Guinea after Japan entered the war. Also, their substantial workshops and repair organizations have been available for war purposes. In short, they have been responsible, to a substantial degree, for the part that this country has played in the air. The Government is taking over not an enterprise which has failed, but one which has met with outstanding success. The Government does not want unsuccessful undertakings. For purely party-political considerations, and despite adverse legal opinions, this organization, which, under private ownership, has been of great benefit to this country, is to be socialized.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) claimed that, since 1932-33, the Government of this country had paid £3,337,100 to the airline operators in subsidies. When those figures were given, I was inclined to the belief that perhaps these organizations had enjoyed too much assistance; but an analysis of the figures shows that much of what he termed subsidy had been paid for by the carriage of mails, and that, in the last three years, actually a profit of £1,380,000 had been derived by the Government. Of that sum, £400,000 has been paid into Consolidated Revenue. In addition,, the airline companies have been paying 10½d. tax on every gallon of petrol that they have used, company tax, import duties, sales tax, and so on, the estimated revenue from these sources being £2,000,000 a year. That £2,000,000 will now have to be provided by some other means, probably by income tax. The long-suffering taxpayers will not be heartened by the news that a further £2,000,000 is to be added to their burden. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat referred to Mr. A. B. Corbett, M.B.E., who, he said, had referred disparagingly to the Public Service; but Mr. Corbett was a member of the Public Service in Queensland and the former Director-General of Civil Aviation. He also was chairman of the Inter-departmental Committee on Civil Aviation. Mr. Corbett has referred to this matter only because he has been drawn into a discussion of it. He stated’ -
Mr. Forde is reported to have said that the committee of which I was chairman recommended a national corporation. That seems to infer some corporation owned and controlled fay the National Government to operate airlines. I can only say that no such recommendation was made by the committee, and in the unanimous report it gave reasons for opposing nationalization.
Cabinet has that report, hut has never presented it to the House. It is still a secret report, and we may easily guess what it contains. Mr. Corbett gave an indication of the trend with regard to civil aviation in the United States of America, where the Government does not approve of the national ownership of airlines’. In 1934, President Roosevelt cancelled the air-mail contracts held by the private companies and handed them over to the Army. That proved to be a tragic move, for, within three weeks, twelve planes had crashed, whilst seven pilots had been killed and six seriously injured. The climax came on the 26th February, when eight persons lost their lives in a mail plane crash in Utah. The administration was charged with the responsibility for these deaths. Congress, which had supported President Roosevelt by 248 votes to 81, in his decision to hand the air-mail contracts over to the Army, was by now thoroughly alarmed at the position, and demanded the renewal of the commercial contracts. The late president said that he had been assured that the Army Air Force could do the job safely and efficiently, and he added that, he had bought his experience the hard way. Within five weeks of their cancellation, most of the private contracts were renewed. The information supplied, ‘by Mr. Corbett shows that Australia would be merely courting trouble by nationalizing interstate airlines.
The private companies had provided cheap passenger and foods services and a mail service not excelled in any other part of the world, and it must be admitted that they have provided safe transport. The public has been well served by the present companies. It has had the benefit of transport by air of tropical fruits, fish and oysters, and the companies have developed a scheme for the post-war period for the killing, chilling and transport of lamb, and even beef, which will be conveyed to outlying, districts. Yet, with a stroke of the pen, the Government would deprive the public of the benefits of the excellent service provided by the companies, merely because they have made a profit. The only profit which the Government has allowed them to make is one which it considers, just, and the companies have to pay income tax in respect of that profit, probably as high as in any other part of the world. The Government claims that the companies have established a monopoly in the provision of airline services, but it must be admitted that the present position has developed during the Government’s term of office. Australian National Airways Limited formerly had seven large aeroplanes; the Government has made available to it an additional fifteen large steel aircraft, including Dutch planes, making a total of 22 planes. The Government may have sufficient numbers in this House to ensure the passage of this legislation, but the Opposition is able to present convincing argument as to why the bill should be rejected. Ansett Airways Limited., which is one of the small companies, and has about 1,000 Australian subscribers, was not assisted by the Government, as was Australian National Airways Limited. The fact remains that the Government, which favours the nationalization of airlines, assisted the combine by increasing its fleet by fifteen large machines. I have no political feelings in this matter. My sole desire is that the best interests of the public shall be served. The Commonwealth authorities can exercise al] necessary control over interstate airlines, and it should do everything possible to encourage competition between private companies. That is the policy favoured in the United States of America.
Under the plans being laid by the Government for the construction of aircraft, before its machines can be put into commission, they will be obsolete, by comparison with the faster machines now being produced in the United States of America. The American companies providing services to Australia will have to meet with competition throughout the United States of America and Canada. Under the Government’s proposal, there will be no competition as far as interstate services are concerned, and the lack of competition due to Government control will deprive the people of the most up-to-date services. Within the next few years, the transport of perishable products by air will develop markets formerly unknown to us, and it will be possible to deliver butter and fruit, under refrigeration, to people in places where a market for such products was not previously known. So vast are the possibilities of the carriage of passengers and goods by air that it will be foolish to lose the advantages which would naturally follow in the wake of keen competition among private companies. That the full benefits to be conferred by the development of civil aviation should be enjoyed by the people is the hope expressed by the Kingsford Smiths and many other young Australian and overseas pilots, not forgetting to mention members of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. Development will be more stable when it is based on personal endeavours. I ask the Government to reconsider its decision to take over the services which have done so much in the national interest. No other country presents greater opportunities for the development of transport than does Australia. One is prompted to ask a government which, for party political purposes, proposes to nationalize air transport, why it does not attempt to nationalize the air itself, and the birds of the air. If there is to be freedom anywhere, we should find it at least in the air.
.- Statements made by honorable members opposite with respect to the origin of the Government’s decision to nationalize the airlines are sheer conjecture. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) indulged in further speculation on the subject when he alleged that the decision had been rushed through by caucus. The fact is that the ministerial party has decided in the best interests of the nation to nationalize interstate airlines. I can only remind those who do not agree with that view that the Government has a mandate to govern, and it intends to govern in the way it thinks best for the nation. If, in the opinion of the Government, control by the nation of public utilities will serve the public interest such controls will be instituted. Therefore, I do not propose to deal with that aspect of the matter now before the House. The measure has been introduced as a matter of policy. Whilst honorable members opposite may contend that such a policy is wrong, the Government believes that it is wise. I was interested and amused by the honorable member for Wide Bay when he said that the air at least should be free to all. It must be obvious even to him that in order to ensure safety in air travel, air traffic must be subject to strict control and supervision, regardless of whether the services are owned and operated by the Government or by private enterprise. In the interests of safety, certain rules are imperative, and these rules must be observed. The honorable member’s reference to nationalization of the birds of the air is, of course, ridiculous. In this matter the paramount consideration must he the safety of the travelling public. As one who used the early services in this country before Government supervision was instituted, I can say that they were not safe. Indeed, the ‘ history of early aviation in Australia is a sad story. However, Government supervision now ensures safety. I have no adverse comment to make regarding the services provided by private enterprise during more recent years. It has been my privilege to travel by air in other countries, and from that experience I can say that the Australian services are just as efficient and as economical as services overseas. Therefore, I have nothing to say derogatory of the existing airline companies.
However, the issue now before us is monopolistic control of airlines, and we must choose between government monopoly or private monopoly of airlines.
– There is no need for a monopoly of any kind.
– Aviation in Australia is gradually being brought under monopolistic control. Only a few years ago many more companies were operating than are operating to-day. A number of those companies have been absorbed by larger companies. We cannot close our eyes to the evidence of monopolistic development in this sphere. The honorable member for Wide Bay spoke of the system in operation in the United States of America. His contentions are fully answered by the results achieved under Government control in Canada. It must be evident that if the defects of Government control alleged by the honorable member really existed, they would have been revealed in that country in view of its proximity to the United States of America, which is ‘the home of the private companies cited by the honorable member as examples of private enterprise at its best. Trans-Canada Airlines was established as the national air service in Canada by act of Parliament in 1937, and has since proved to be a dependable and valuable public service. Handicapped as it has been, and still is, by the demands of war on personnel and equipment, it has maintained the highest standards of an essential industry, and has laid a sound foundation for the future development of aviation in Canada. To-day Trans-Canada Airlines, as the sole ‘Canadian agency designated by the Government to operate international air services, awaits with interest the results of conferences between governments on matters affecting world air -policy and the completion of international agreements with regard to these services. In co-operation with the Department of Trade and Commerce and other government departments, it has been studying fields in which Canada would expect to participate, and has already surveyed routes to the West Indies and South America. That is a complete answer to the honorable member for Wide Bay, who said that once this Government took over control of airlines in Australia such services would deteriorate because the Government would not 1 undertake the necessary research which ha3 been a feature of private enterprise. Such a view is also refuted by Ohe policy of government departments, in keeping abreast of research in their respective spheres. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has done much work of advantage to private aviation companies. It is mere “ eyewash “ to say that a government monopoly will make no effort to keep abreast of research in order to improve the services under its control, and that, consequently, government-controlled airlines will be-, come stagnant and therefore unsafe. Obviously, such statements are made without thought or any sense of responsibility. They misrepresent the facts, and are designed to lead timid people to believe that government control is inferior to control of private enterprise.
– That has been proved.
– For the benefit of the honorable member I again point to the valuable service rendered by the Postal Department in the field of research. Many members of the technical staff of the department have been co-opted for special work in connexion with the .prosecution of the war. When I was in Canada last year I found that the Trans-Canada Airlines had proved so successful that the Government determined that as from last June private enterprise could not operate air services in that country. From that date all air services were to be operated under government control. That information was given to me by the Assistant Traffic Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railways, who added that his company from that date had ceased operating air services which it had conducted for a number of years. He said that such services were to be taken over by TransCanada Airlines. Although company balance-sheets do not reveal all of the facts, it is significant that in 1942 and 1943 Trans-Canada Airlines showed a substantial profit on its operations in those years.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that the Government, no doubt, would take control of the profitable airlines, at the same time leaving the development of services in remote areas to private enterprise, which he described as the pioneer of aviation in Australia. I believe that the reverse will be the case.
In the past, private enterprise has always left the development of unprofitable transport services to “the Government. I am looking forward to the day when the Government will not only operate interstate airlines, hut will also develop the service as a means of opening up remote areas. And I have no doubt that should it incur loss in such undertakings those now opposing the Government’s proposals will say, “ There you are ! Your government-controlled undertakings are working at a loss “. In a country like Australia, with, its vast distances, development will depend largely upon aviation generally, and that responsibility can best be shouldered by the Government. I look forward to the day when the Government will institute direct services between Hobart and New Zealand and Hobart and Sydney, and will link up our main airlines with overseas services. In that way we can bring visitors to Australia, to their benefit and ours. I see no reason why the Government should not inaugurate a service for the transport of goods also. Already, frozen fish is transported by private aviation companies, and I should like to see government services inaugurated for the transport of fish to the. remote hinterland.
It has been said that Australian National Airways Limited is a Tasmanian company, but it is not. Originally, the company which operated a service from the islands in Bass Strait to Tasmania was a Tasmanian company, but that no longer obtains. I have a great respect for the managing director of Australian National Airways Limited as a businessman, who has done very well out of aviation, but the fact remains that the capital of the existing company has been subscribed by the five shipping companies whose names have already been mentioned in the course of this debate. If aviation in Australia is to be a monopoly, the public interest will be best served by a government monopoly. The Government already owns the aerodromes, and provides the navigation aids, including meteorological services, and nationalization of the airlines service.5 themselves is only a short step further.
, - I hope that all honorable members present have read a delightful little hook called 1066 and All That. If so, they will remember that the writer has an expression of ultimate praise for persons, circumstances or events in the course of English history. It was, the writer says, “a Good Thing”. There was, in other words, what might be called an ideological approach to history. They said, for instance, that the chief cause of the Zulu war was the Zulus, and so it went on. That was .a highly convenient and diverting method of interpreting history. This debate has demonstrated that the same method of approach to the measure now before us is highly convenient and diverting. From the opposite side of the House the main argument has revolved around the ideological concept of government ownership as “ a GoodThing”. I admit that on this side of the House there is a considerable body of opinion which holds that private enterprise is “ a Good Thing “, and there is another body of opinion which holds that a judicious mixture of the two is not altogether undesirable. If we review the debate so far as it has gone, we shall see that, from this side of the House, innumerable examples have been cited of successful private ownership and of the failure of government ownership, whilst on the opposite side there is a concentration on the activities of two great publicly owned institutions, the Post Office and the Commonwealth Bank. I myself have frequently cited the Commonwealth Bank as a highly successful example of government enterprise. A government-owned institution should be operated for the benefit of the people, and in a democracy it should be operated for the benefit of all the people. The great argument against private ownership of public utilities is that they are not operated primarily for the benefit of all the people, but for profit, and that service to the community is incidental.
Now let us consider the Post Office. From a commercial stand-point the Post Office is probably the most successful undertaking in Australia, because last year it made a profit of £4,750,000. What happened to the profits? That is the point. Do those profits go to benefit all the community by giving the service which the Post Office is designed to give? I can assure honorable members that those who live in remote areas do not benefit very much from the profits. Such people, if they wish to get a post office’, have first to gather together all their friends and neighbours in order to put up a case to the authorities for any sort of a post office. They must then guarantee a certain minimum amount of business. That, I suppose, is reasonable.
– This is old history.
– It is old history, yes, but this sort of thing is still going on. That is my complaint. Having established their claim to a post office, and having given the undertaking that they will maintain a certain amount of business, these people in a remote area must then provide the premises for the post office, and also the postmaster or postmistress. Finally, in many instances’, they must erect their own telegraph lines, or at least provide a part of the cost of erecting them. A private individual who desires telephone connexion with a main line some distance away, must provide the posts and wire for the connecting line, or provide a part of the cost. If he cannot put up all the money at once, he must give an undertaking to pay the balance over a number of years. That is the sort of service which country people are getting from an institution which last year made a profit of £4,750,000. In the operation of airlines to outback districts, the people cannot hope for the kind of service which honorable members opposite have been saying they will get. The same complaint may be made against the Commonwealth Bank - its principal service is rendered to those who live in the cities. How many branches of the Commonwealth Bank arc there in country towns ? Not very many.
– There soon will be.
– We can be guided only by experience, and I hope that what has happened in the case of the Post Office will not be repeated in the case of the Commonwealth Bank. There has been much talk about the desirability of opening up remote districts. I have a particular interest in the kind of services which are given to country districts, because I represent a district which is not an urban area. I know some of the difficulties with which people living in the smaller settlements are meeting all the time from all sorts of government-owned and privately owned services when they are organized on a national scale.
I point first of all to conditions along the north-west coast of Tasmania. One of the arguments used by some honorable members, and particularly by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), was that the Government was taking over what had become virtually a monopoly, and that a benevolent monopoly in the form of government ownership was much to be preferred to a private monopoly. He said that in every monopoly was the seed of trouble. With that we can partially agree, but if he believes that this bill will bring about a government monopoly of air services, then he is deluding himself. This bill will enable the Government to operate interstate airlines only. Within each State, airlines must be conducted either by State governments or by private enterprise, and, so far, there is no sign that any State government proposes to enter this field at all. Take Tasmania, for example. Most.people who are not familiar with that State think! of it in terms of two cities, Hobart and Launceston; yet, in one corner of that island, in the area commonly known as the north-west coast, resides one-third of the population of the State. This area provides the best example of decentralized settlement in the whole of the Commonwealth. Along one strip of coast-line 50 miles in length, there are six flourishing towns, nearly every one with a small industry, and behind every one of them is a splendid hinterland of rich agricultural soil. That area, from the beginning of settlement, has been served in transport matters by a direct link with the mainland of Australia. In that respect, the people are closer to Melbourne than to their own capital city of Hobart. In the past, the transport service was maintained by ships and during the last ten years there has also been an air service. However, for some time now, there has been no air service whatsoever between the north-west coast of Tasmania and Melbourne. The Minister for Air (Mr.
Drakeford) has many times conferred with me on the subject. He has agreed to visit Tasmania, and examine the whole position for himself, hut there is a growing feeling among the people concerned that the delay in resuming the air service has something to do with the passage of this bill through Parliament.
– Private enterprise has fallen down on the job.
– That is not the reason. This matter is now controlled by government regulation, as the honorable member could find out if he went a little more closely into it. This proposal will give to the Government a monopoly of interstate air services; the Constitution excludes the ‘Commonwealth from the operation of intra-state services. Therefore, the north-west coast of Tasmania is quite likely to he excluded from Government control, if the Commonwealth Government is anxious to do justice to private enterprise. No internal airways service in Tasmania could possibly operate successfully without the inclusion of the northwest coastal district. The other parts of the island could not provide sufficient passenger and goods traffic to maintain a service. To include that area in any intra-state service would, I assume, exclude it from any interstate service. Then, if our interstate service operated there under conditions provided in this bill, a very grave injustice would be done to the remainder of Tasmania, hecause, to all intents and purposes, all traffic would be direct with the mainland instead of with other parts of the island. I urge the Government, when considering the development of other parts of the Commonwealth, to give very special consideration to my representations on behalf of the north-west of Tasmania, whose present problems may well be pointers to other problems that will arise in the future. Has it occurred to the Government that, under this measure, any .attempt by Australian National Airlines to develop the northwest portion of Western Australia, for instance, must he carried out by means of a direct connexion with Adelaide, Brisbane, or some other centre in another State? Likewise, it will be impossible to develop the outback of northern Queens land unless a service be established between that area and New South Wales. The outback parts will thus be forced to rely for their expansion upon th, activities of private companies’.
– The States will look after those areas.
– The States have given no sign of entering this field, and few of them are likely to do so. Those people who talk in terms of government monopolies should pay attention to providing a service for the whole of Australia, instead of increasing the service to areas which are already well served. Referring again to the northwestern coastal district of Tasmania, 1 point out that two-thirds of all of the produce of that State is shipped from its north-west ports. Therefore, this area will play a valuable part in the development of the Commonwealth’s resources. I predict that, within the next few years, that coastal district will easily justify the establishment of an aerial ferry service operating two or three times daily from each of three towns. The service which that area has at the present time, with the Government in complete control of the situation, gives cause for pessimism about future services under a government system of airlines.
I had not intended to mention points raised by other speakers, but I must refer to the question of whether the Government has a mandate from the people to introduce this bill, although I do so with some diffidence. There is such a thing as political ethics. One supporter of the Government said, I believe with complete sincerity, that even though no mandate had been given by the people at the last election, he was prepared to go to the people and say, “This thing has been done”. That honorable gentleman did not refer to the promise that there would be no socialization of industries, nor did he refer to a statement which meant, in effect, that only war-time measures would be introduced by this Government. We have reached1 a point in governmental business and personal relationships which demands that we give a great deal of careful attention to this matter. Anything that in any way tends to destroy public confidence in the given or implied word of any person or instrumentality in authority, should not be lightly regarded.
Finally, there are a few questions which even those people who are not completely opposed to the nationalization of airlines will ask the Government, and the Government must answer them satisfactorily or stand, condemned. Why was the report of the interdepartmental committee withheld from Parliament? It was prepared by a committee of men whose names should be recorded. They are Air-Commodore J. P. J. McCauley, C.B.E. and Deputy Chief of Air Staff; Sir Harold Clapp, K.B.E., Director-General of Land Transport ; Mr. D. McVey, Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Secretary to the Department of Aircraft Production, and now Director-General of Civil Aviation; Mr. M. B. Harry, Chief Inspector of Postal Services; Mr. W. E. Dunk, Commonwealth Treasury; Mr. P. Hasluck of the Department of External Affairs; Dr. H. C. Coombs, Director-General of Postwar Reconstruction ; and Mr. A. B. Corbett, M.B.E., the then DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, who was chairman. Each of these men had some special qualification, apart from his personal ability, and their findings cannot, be set aside without raising very serious doubts in the minds of interested people. Where is the scheme propounded by Mr. Corbett, as Director-General of Civil Aviation? What does that scheme contain? Why has it not been produced to Parliament? What was the Australian National Airways plan for the development of aviation throughout Australia, which was submitted to the Government? Did this plan, or Mr. Corbett’s plan, propose to serve outback development? Did it give any indication of a good service to islands in Bass Strait and elsewhere? Did it provide a scheme for the transport of perishable commodities? Did it provide for a 3d. per mile passenger service throughout the Commonwealth? I believe that it did. Can the Government, by means of this bill, do these things, not for some of the people, but for all of the people? If it cannot do so, then it has no justification for introducing this measure.
.- This bill has been conceived in dis honesty and is a breach of faith with the electors.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I take exception to that remark and ask that it be withdrawn. The honorable member .cannot say that a bill was conceived in dishonesty.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– If it be your wish, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall withdraw it, but it is an absolute fact.
– Order! The remark was unparliamentary. It is not right to make an accusation of that kind.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are we to understand that any statement made by an honorable member in this House reflecting in any way on Government policy must be withdrawn if a Minister says that it is offensive? This is a new procedure.
– There is no point of order.
– I say without qualification, that the bill has been conceived in a way that does not reflect credit on the Government. That is a modification of what I should like to say, but it conveys to the House and to the country my opinion of this measure. It is a breach of faith with the electors because it has been introduced in spite of a most solemn undertaking given by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin. In a democratic country, every political party submits to the electors a programme that it proposes to implement by legislation. If it is a decent party, it adheres to its programme. When a leader of a party gives an unqualified undertaking not to introduce, in any circumstances, any scheme to socialize or nationalize industry, that man and his party are expected to stand by the promise. On the eve of the last elections, the then Prime Minister made this statement, which bears out all that I say -
They talk about socialization. I have this to say, the Commonweatlh Parliament has no power to socialize any industry. I say further that my Government has not socialized any industry. I say further that my Government will not during” the war socialize any industry.
That is the authority for my introductory remarks. The country accepted the unqualified pledge of the Prime Minister, and his party was returned to power for that reason. Had he not given such a pledge, the Labour party would not have been returned to office. Having been elected to power, its obligation is to stand by its promises. At this late hour, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and his colleagues to reflect on the wisdom of their actions. The fair name of Australia will be besmirched if breaches of faith of this kind are committed. The Government proposes to break a deliberate pledge given to the electors. The people can no longer accept the word of a party which repudiates its promises in this way. The promise which I quoted was not the only one given by the late Prime Minister. In June, 1942, he said -
This Government came into office during a time of great national emergency. It has not abandoned its social programme and it does not regard the postponement of that programme until after the war as an illogical procedure.
That is a definite promise that the Labour party’s programme of social reform would be postponed until after the war. It has not been honoured, because this bill proposes complete socialization of interstate airlines. In April, 1943, the late Prime Minister said -
We have not socialized Australia. We do not intend to do so because we are at war.
In defiance of that clear and unqualified declaration of policy, the Government has now introduced this bill, which will socialize the interstate airlines. This legislation repudiates the undertaking that the late Prime Minister gave on three different occasions. When the Constitution Alteration (Postwar Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill was being debated in this chamber, and subsequently during the referendum campaign, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) promised that the powers which the Commonwealth sought for five years would not be exercised for the purpose of giving effect to a socialistic policy. The Attorney-General declared unequivocally that the Commonwealth required the aviation power in order to co-ordinate the control of interstate airlines, which were to be conducted by private enterprise. By supporting this bill, the right honorable gentleman is not being fair to himself or to the country. The people will not have any faith in the assurances of this Government, which repudiates its solemn promises.
This bill will transform an efficient, competitive industry into a government monopoly. No reason for its introduction has been given, and no necessity for this action has been shown. The private airlines operators, during this war, have rendered invaluable service to Australia. They assisted the war effort by transporting military personnel and supplies from place to place within Australia, and to various islands in the Pacific. They performed an extraordinarily good job, which reflected great credit upon the pilots, engineers and ground organization. The inevitable result of this government monopoly will be to starve small country air services, that depend for their maintenance upon the profits made on the main interstate airlines. As . honorable members opposite are doubtless aware, the interstate airlines are the cream of the service. ‘ They link the great capital cities, and serve the huge populations, which unfortunately, are huddled in them. By taking the cream of the air services, the Government will starve the country lines and as the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) pointed out, country towns will suffer. All that the Government’s proposals will do will be to destroy many air services which, to-day, are serving distant areas most efficiently.
Under this bill, the Government will take complete control of interstate airlines and will prevent any outside competition. Despite the wishes of the public, as shown at the. referendum, the Government proposes to expend £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money for the purpose of acquiring the assets of the interstate airlines companies. Yet the Government pledged its word not to socialize any industry! Recognizing that its venture into civil aviation may result in financial losses, the Government has provided for the reimbursement of the National Airlines Commission from Consolidated Revenue. That is a clear indication that the Government believes that its control of interstate air services will not be a financial success. No people in Australia have had greater experience of the disastrous failure of State enterprise than the residents of Queensland. The Government of Queensland expended £5,000,000 in establishing State butchers’ shops, sawmills, coal mines, cattle stations, and fish shops, and lost £4,500,000 in operating them. On those ventures the taxpayers of Queensland lost £9,500,000, and to-day are paying interest on the money. The whole history of State enterprise has been one of constant failure, and this Government knows it. As I have shown, it expects its venture into civil aviation to fail.
Under these proposals, the Government will link the capital cities with a national airways system. As the crow flies, Brisbane is situated only 60 miles from the New South Wales border, and consequently, will be the first and last port in Queensland at which. the Commonwealth socialized airlines service will call. All other parts of Queensland will have depleted air services.
– If the honorable member believes that, I advise him to examine the bill.
– For the information of the honorable member, I shall cite the opinion of a highly competent authority in support of my contentions. In an interview published in. the Brisbane Telegraph, on the 20th July, the former Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr. Corbett, stated - “Mr. Drakeford, in introducing this bill, is reported as saying that the Commonwealth always had power to control interstate airlines. This is a very contentious question. “ Apart from any legal aspect, which could well be left to the courts, it should be noted by Queenslanders that Mr. Drakeford mentioned that intra-state airlines could not be operated by the proposed commission because of constitutional difficulties “, said Mr. Corbett. “ Mr. Drakeford naively added that ‘ It was hoped some arrangement 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 Commonwealth interstate line must end at the first port of call in Queensland, that is Brisbane “, said Mr. Corbett. “ It cannot legally proceed further north. The Minister hopes ‘ some arrangement will be made to establish these lines which already exist and operate daily throughout Queensland. “When the Commonwealth line takes the whole cream of the inter-capital city tra flitand terminates at Brisbane, it certainly will be very necessary for ‘ arrangements ‘ to foimade for some concern to operate from Brisbane to Cape York, Brisbane to Cloncurry, Cairns to Normanton, Charleville to Bourke. “Whoever takes on these contracts with im interstate heavy traffic to offset the comparetively light traffic on these intra-state lines, must use smaller and lighter planes and charg<higher fares and freights than at present charged by the interstate companies which now operate these services, or they must be heavily subsidized by the taxpayer where no subsidy is at present paid. “ It is proposed to take away from the existing operators so much of their plant as is required by the commission, paying for it. of course, and leaving the operator his ground, his buildings, his unwanted plant and prevent ing him from using any of it in the routes bt’ has pioneered and established over years of endeavour at great cost. . “ Heavy penalties are provided if he continues to use his own plant, but no compensation for plant and goodwill taken over. This sort of thing should certainly prove attractive to overseas capital to come to Australia and establish industries when they see Australian companies so treated. “ The £3,000,000 to .bc set aside to establish the proposed commission is probably for the petty cash account. One Australian company had on order a year ago some £2,000,000 worth of new aircraft to augment its existing fleet.’’
Those observations show clearly that with the interstate airlines service terminating at Brisbane, the remainder of the State north of the capital must carry on with a depleted service, and smaller types of aircraft, resulting in higher freights and fares, because the intra-state airlines will not have the support of the great interstate services. I have known Mr. Corbett for many years.
– What position does he occupy now?
-He has retired from the Commonwealth Public .Service “because of his age. A man of outstanding qualifications, he- served the Commonwealth faithfully for many years, and has always been held in the highest esteem by those who know him. He is an expert on civil aviation, and honorable members opposite should heed his opinions instead of attempting to discredit them.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
- Mr. Corbett made it clear that in his opinion the Government was doing wrong. As Director-General of Civil Aviation he made many efforts to help the Government devise plans for the improvement of the Australian airlines. I regret that his recommendations made three years ago are not to be put into effect instead of the proposals contained in this bill. In February he stated -
Some two years ago in my official capacity us Director-General of Civil Aviation, I prepared and submitted to the Government plans for the whole of Australia to be served by airline routes. These plans which were published in the newspapers early in 1943 provided means by which residents in any part of Australia could travel by at least a once daily air service to any other centre in Australia.
That is not possible under these proposals, which restrict the Government’s operation of airlines to routes between the capital cities. People in remote parts will have to depend on private services deprived of the income for interstate mail and passenger services. Country airlines will starve unless substantially subsidized. That will mean further burdens on the taxpayers. Mr. ‘Corbett went on to say -
These plans also had in view special arrangements to benefit residents in the more remote ureas such as north-west Australia, Northern Territory and western Queensland and New South Wales, by providing fast mail services and passenger fares at three pence per mile, and it was planned for the principal airline companies to provide air freight services to such remote places at very low rates. For example, tropical fruits could be carried to the cooler climates, fresh fish and oysters flown to inland districts.
Practical plans were under consideration by airline companies for killing and chilling lambs, mutton and even beef in country districts and flying prime meat in specially designed aircraft at rates which would be. profitable to pastoralists, the airline companies and the general public. These things can be done by commercial enterprise without any government subsidy or cost to the taxpayer.
I regret that it is not possible to provide means whereby people in outlying areas may obtain health-giving sea food and the people in the cities prime beef carried by air. Mr. Corbett continued -
The largest airline company in Australia supported these plans and was sufficiently interested to place firm orders for some £2,000,000 worth of aircraft and spare engines and parts, some of which will be ready for delivery in 1945. Other airline companies ii I so saw the possibilities and hoped to engage in similar operations as soon as the Commonwealth Government approved of the scheme.
This bill is a retrograde step, which will retard the development of air transport in this country. Mr. Corbett also stated -
Safe and efficient air transport depends on having a very efficient, highly skilled and well disciplined organization trained in the highly complex work of flying operations. Mistakes, slackness and inefficiency in the air generally result in death and disaster to passengers anil crews. A broken down locomotive or defective motor car can stop for repairs and only delay results. A defective aircraft 10,000 feet in the air cannot stop for repairs.
Government-owned enterprises have always ended in disaster. The highly efficient airlines of Australia, which have carried freight and mails at least as cheaply as, if not cheaper than they have been carried anywhere else in the world, will give way to an inefficient government service. Mr. Corbett proceeded -
There is no industry in which ample funds, available immediately they are required, quick decisions by skilled executives, and efficient work by highly trained and experienced men is more necessary than in air transport. The airline companies acquired their experience with their own money over more than ten years of strenuous endeavour and great difficulty.
I make a further appeal to the Government to give to honorable members the opportunity to study the report of the inter-departmental committee on the proposal to nationalize the airlines. We are entitled to see the report. The failure of the Government to release it reminds me that a few years ago it refused to disclose the report of the expert committee that was appointed to prepare proposals for subsidizing the dairying industry. The Government brought down legislation for the payment of a subsidy of $d. per lb. for butter. When, yielding to parliamentary pressure, the Government at last released the report, it became clear that the committee had recommended a subsidy four or five times greater than that. The Government then brought down legislation in conformity with the committee’s recommendations. I have no doubt that the report of the interdepartmental committee on the airlines recommended a course different from that proposed in this legislation. The Government is in honour bound to make that report public. I do not doubt that the Government will refuse on this bill, as it has refused on other bills, to accept amendments designed to improve the legislation. We shall have to leave it to the courts to decide whether this measure is unconstitutional, and I have no doubt that it will do so.
This bill was conceived in circumstances that reflect no credit on the Government, lt is a breach of faith with the electors. It is a repudiation of the very definite pledge of the late Prime Minister not to socialize any industry in the life of this Parliament or during the war. Thic proposal is socialization through and through. When the people refused to give the Government additional powers at the referendum, they believed that they were voting against socialization. The Government will find it difficult to convince the people that there has not been repudiation of a definite pledge, that there has not been a breach of faith, and that they have not been deceived and defied.
This bill gives me more pleasure than many other bills that have been introduced during my membership in this Parliament, because I believe that it is not only a direct step towards the achievement of the policy of the party to which I belong, namely, the socialization of industry, but also because it is a clear indication to the country that we do not intend at the end of the war - nay, even before the war ends - to revert to the old order. There has been a lot of talk by honorable members opposite who apparently have accepted as true all that they have been told by individuals outside Parliament whose only voice in this chamber is that of the Opposition. When one examines for a moment what has been said by Opposition speakers, one finds that there is nothing in it. In the first place, the Opposition has argued that the bill should not have been introduced because the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, declared on one occasion, that during the war, there would not be any socialization of industry by his Government. Secondly, they argue that the Government has no mandate from the people to socialize industry. I shall deal at a later stage with whether or not this measure is a socializing bill. I do hot think that it is. I believe, as I said in my opening remarks, that it is only a step forward. At the same time, how-: ever, I point out to honorable members opposite, that the fact that some years ago, a government of which they were supporters did not have a mandate from the people, did not prevent it, whilst the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Attorney-General, from introducing the Transport Workers Act, which obliged the waterside workers of this country to secure licences before being permitted to sell the only thing they can sell, their labour.
– The Leader of the Opposition was not in Parliament then.
– The Attorney-General to whom the honorable member is referring was Mr. Latham.
– Whether, my statement is correct or incorrect, the fact remains that it was the present Leader of the Opposition who, as Attorney-General in the Lyons Administration, invoked the Transport Workers Act and compelled the waterside workers at Port Kembla to load scrap iron for Japan.
– That is another matter.
– Yes, but one which is directly related to the matter that has been made an issue by the Opposition, namely, whether or not this Government has a mandate to do certain things. The Government has a majority in both Houses of Parliament, and is prepared to accept electoral responsibility for the legislation which it places on the statutebook. I have no apologies to make to my electors, or to- the people of this country generally, for the legislation that the Labour Government has passed. 1 consider that the legislation passed by the Labour Administration is the best, and, in fact, the only worthwhile legislation, that has ever been placed upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth. Some honorable members opposite, no doubt, wonder why this measure is one of the first to be introduced by the Government to counteract the machinations of monopolies in this country. Perhaps the reason is that our airlines are the youngest monopoly in the Commonwealth, and, therefore, should be nipped in the bud. I hope that this is only the forerunner of other legislation which will destroy monopoly interests m shipping and coal so that the people of this country may have what they properly should possess, namely, control of public utilities and national undertakings, which at present are in the hands of a few. people who sit in their offices in London and direct by cable or radio what the Australian people shall do.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that under government control the airline services of this country would be run at a loss, as other government undertakings, such as the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, have been in the past. The honorable member forgot to mention that as soon as the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sold - incidentally, the purchase price agreed upon was never paid - private shipping interests increased freights to such a degree that the loss to Australian exporters in the first succeeding year was equal to the loss that had been incurred in. the operation of the line by the Government. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was. established and run at a loss to provide, in the form of low freight charges, a subsidy to primary producers.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made only passing reference to the power of the commission under clause 30. He said that £3,000,000 would be appropriated to meet losses. Obviously, the honorable gentleman was not applying his mind to the problem. The purpose of the clause is to provide for an expenditure of £3,000,000 should the commission) believe it necessary to extend its air services. Obviously, also it is not contemplated that under government control airline operations will be confined to interstate services. The service will be extended to the Territories of the Commonwealth and also to contiguous countries, with shores to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, such as Java, India, China, South Africa, South America, and the United States of America. No doubt, eventually Russia and Great Britain will also be included in the service if we can counter the already evident operations of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, which today, in the guise of the Royal Air Force
Transport Command, is operating an air freight service to Australia, despite the fact that Australia has not been able to establish a reciprocal service. When the honorable member for Moreton mentioned Mr. A. B. Corbett, I could only think that it was a happy day for this country when Mr. Corbett finally retired from the Department of Civil Aviation.
– It was an unhappy day for the Government.
– I venture to say that there are men in this country far more able to deal with aviation problems than Mr. Corbett ever was - men with flying experience in this war and prior to this war, who know how to handle aircraft and understand the complexities of the management and administration of an air service. That is experience which Mr. Corbett never possessed. Mention has been made of the fact that the Government is not taking any notice of the report made to it by the interdepartmental committee on this subject. To me, that information comes as a fresh breeze, because it is time that a government ceased to take notice of bureaucratic recommendations made to it to suit special purposes1. No doubt, members of the inter-departmental committee knew very well the views of the private airline operators on the matter which was the subject of the report.
– ‘Did the members of the committee shape their report to suit the airline operators1?
– I have not seen the report and I am unable to say in what terms it was couched’, but if I had an opportunity to peruse it, I should have better evidence to offer to the House.
The . Leader of the Opposition stated that the profits that the Government had received from the airlines for the carriage of mail were sufficient to pay the cost of the operations of the Department of Civil Aviation. What the right honorable gentleman has forgotten, apparently, is that in the past the Commonwealth has provided, free of charge to airline operators, aerodrome facilities, radio facilities, including aeradio, which is a splendid service, navigation facilities, in the form of beacons, &c, meteorological information and, where necessary, maintenance for aircraft to enable them to keep to their schedules. If it is argued that in return for this gift the airline companies “ played the game “, I give the lie direct to that statement. Actually the airline companies have not played the game. Early in 1942, Qantas did a good job by taking men and munitions to New Guinea, when they were sorely needed ; but, when the Government decided to carry on that service, the company was quick to make the most of its opportunities. It leased to the Government some Short-Sunderland aircraft which were in such bad condition that the company was almost about to write them off. The Government was then paying £8 an hour for the privilege of flying them. The Government was to allow Qantas to service and maintenance them and the company supplied, at government expense, all of the spare parts required. These parts were put in in the company’s own time, but were paid for by the Government. The whole affair is little short of scandalous. What were formerly outmoded and practically unserviceable aircraft are now almost as good as new, but they are still the private property of the Company, which has modernized them at government expense. It would be wise for the Government to make an investigation of this matter. Where necessary Qantas has made a number of complete overhauls of aircraft. It recently came to my knowledge that it had overhauled a Walrus seaplane at a charge of £14,000. I do not know whether a Walrus is worth that amount. I believe that it could be bought from the manufacturers for less than that sum. In any case those who had to test fly the aircraft after delivery had been taken of it assured me that the work done was of the poorest quality, and that the company had put into the aircraft parts which it desired to get rid of. This matter also should be investigated.
The opinion seems to be held in some quarters that under this measure the airlines will be socialized or nationalized, but nothing is further from the facts. It is only necessary to read the bill to discover that it provides for the establishment of a commission which has certain powers, one of which is to establish and operate airlines. This body will not have the exclusive right to operate them, although the bill contains a clause providing that, if an adequate service is being provided by the commission, it will be competent for the licensing authority to decline to grant a licence to another operator. Those facts in themselves give support to the contention that the measure is not unconstitutional and that it conforms to placitum (i) of section 51 of the Constitution which provides that the Parliament shall have power to legislate with regard to trade and commerce among the States. It may be that the Government will establish one air route between Sydney and Melbourne, or it may establish more than one, but, as the Government does these things, its action will no doubt have an adverse effect on the profits of the private companies. Undoubtedly the government lines will carry the airmails which have been the private companies’ principal source of profit. I hope that the Government will realize the foolishness of its previous policy, and make a charge for facilities which up to the present it has made available to the operating companies free of charge. It would be wrong to suppose that the companies have made a contribution to the advancement of civil aviation in Australia. I do not believe that any of the aero clubs have been subsidized by the private companies. I doubt whether, until recently, the companies have trained a pilot or a wireless operator, or have sought to secure the services of advanced research workers studying, say, jet propulsion. The companies have not tried to build an aeroplane.
– I have known governments to import .locomotives, rather than build them in this country.
– I should like to see the Department of Aircraft Production functioning in the same way as government railway workshops, for the purpose of making aircraft to be flown on the government airlines, thus ensuring that Australia shall be up to date in aircraft production, and in developments in connexion with radar, television and other devices.
Some members of the Opposition, notably the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), have commented on the fact that the bill does not provide for the operation of Government airlines intra-state. That field is still open to private airline operators, but no doubt the commission will not sit idly by and allow a field that requires development to escape attention: Probably it will immediately open negotiations with the various State authorities for permission to operate its airlines within the States, and so further develop the country. To say more than that is to indulge in idle talk, and shows that the Opposition has difficulty in raising valid objections to this measure. I cannot say that I was happy to hear that the position of general manager of the proposed government undertaking had been offered to Mr. Ivan Holyman, and I am pleased to know that he has declined the offer. I know many men much better qualified than Mr. Holyman for this work. They have had first-hand experience in operating not a few aeroplanes with the object of making profits but large numbers of machines when the job had to be done against a deadline. Another feature of the hill with which I am not too happy is the provision for five commissioners. 1 believe that the work could be done by three commissioners, not on a salary basis but on the basis on which the Rationing Commission works. There should be a general manager of the department, who would be directly responsible to the Minister, and in matters of policy he should have the assistance of the three commissioners. Regardless of party politics, all honorable members appreciate the need for up-to-date air services after the war, and even before the war ends, between the States for the carriage of passengers, air mails and freights of all categories. No doubt honorable members generally also realize the importance of establishing airline communications with countries like Java, India China, Borneo, North and South America, New Zealand and New Guinea. On account of the great distances involved, these services might have to be operated at a loss, but such losses could be offset against the earnings of the more profitable air lines between the capital cities. In this respect the Commonwealth must work on an international basis, and show clearly to the world at large that we have airmen and aircraft capable of operating these lines. We should also ensure that these lines are operated in competition with monopolistic companies with head-quarters in England and the United States of America. These matters are referred to in the preamble of the bill, which also indicates the purposes of the bill and its undoubted legality. But the Commonwealth must undertake the important task of rehabilitating the thousands of men who have been trained at great cost to the Commonwealth under the Empire Air Training Scheme. It is estimated that it costs about £3,000 to train a competent pilot. If the Commonwealth operates these air lines, it can guarantee congenial employment to young men who do not know anything else but flying, and who desire to be employed in this way, having been trained under the Empire Air Scheme and having spent most of their war service either in the European or the Pacific zones.
– Is the honorable member advocating that every pilot who wants to be so employed should be so employed?
– Judging by the response to a recent invitation by the Air Board to Air Force officers to become permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force, I do not think that many of these men will offer for such employment. The response was so poor that the Royal Australian Air Force will have to offer something more attractive in order to interest the great majority of our pilots. Most of the pilots whom I know are anxious to return to their former civil occupations upon their discharge from the Royal Australian . Air Force.
– What is the operational life of a pilot?
– It would be very difficult to answer that question, because much would depend upon the kind of operations in which the pilot would be engaged, the temperament of the individual, and many other factors.
– Would the average be ten years?
– If the honorable member asks me whether a person trained as a pilot would be competent to fly an aeroplane for ten years I should say “ yes “, because I know that some pilots now employed by the Australian National Airways Limited have been flying for fifteen years.
– Would they last until they were about 40 years of age?
– Wing Commander “ Scotty “ Allen, who is a particularly good pilot, would he at least 50 years of agc. However, it is extremely difficult to assess the operational life of a pilot.
– I suppose that the honorable member knows that a number of pilots have gone to Australian National Airways Limited and Qantas from the Royal Australian Air Force?
– Yes; a number of pilots were seconded to those companies. They had been trained at the Government’s expense, and were employed by those companies in transport services to New Guinea and Darwin in respect of which those companies made a charge against the Government. I know that that was the case with such companies as W. B. Carpenter and Company Limited, Qantas and Australian National Airways Limited. I do not know whether the same observation applies to (the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Limited in Western Australia, Ansett Airways or Butler Air Transport Company, because those companies have not been doing nearly so much work for the Government as have the other three. However, the three first-mentioned companies have used those men in order to make a profit out of the Government.
– The men to whom I refer are not on loan, but are in full employment with the companies I mentioned.
– It is remarkable that such pilots should continue to wear the Royal Australian Air Force uniform.
– Apparently the honorable member is not referring to the pilots to whom I refer.
– This measure means progress for Australia. Honorable members opposite should not be misled by what private vested interests are telling them. I am surprised, and not a little disgusted, at some honorable members opposite who have spoken on the bill without even knowing its contents. If they had- read the bill they would not need to panic. The bill simply provides for the establishment and operation of government airlines.
– For confiscation.
– The honorable member should read the bill.
– I have done so.
– I should like the honorable member to indicate any clause in the measure that involves confiscation. Certainly, provision is made for compulsory acquisition, but that does not mean that all airlines are to be nationalized, or taken over. The purpose of that provision is to enable the Government to obtain initial aircraft until aircraft now being built for the Government come off the production line. The Government airlines will have to commence by acquiring a number of aircraft from Australian National Airways Limited and Qantas. In the case of Qantas, the f act is that so many spare parts have gone into its aeroplanes, that the original machines have ceased to exist.
– The only change will be that the profits will go to the Government, and not to the companies.
– Yes. Unless it is intended to make large concessions in the way of postal rates, there will, no doubt, be profits. However, it may be that the postal rate on letters will be reduced to 3d. or 2d., or it may be decided that all mail matter, both first and second class, shall be carried by air. The chief consideration is, not the making of profits, but the giving of an effective service to the public. In answer to the honorable member for Maranoa, I point out that it is better that the profit should go into the development of aviation than into the pockets- of private investors whose principal interests lie outside this country.
.- This bill is unnecessary and ill-advised. If passed, it will waste the taxpayers’ money, and expand an already swollen civil service. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) expressed the hope that members of air crew, trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme, who had won such lustre for themselves and for Australia, will be given an opportunity in aviation. I submit that it is better in their interests that they should be allowed to look to private enterprise than that they should be put into the public service. I know these men as well as he does, and I am sure that if he were to take a vote among them he would find that they would favour employment by private enterprise. Already, many of them have joined the private aviation companies. Some of the companies have their own schools for the teaching of ex-servicemen, because it is recognized that no matter how notable a man might be as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, and no matter how many flying hours he may have to his credit, it is necessary that he acquire a special technique before being fully qualified to fly civil aircraft. It is wrong that the future of these young men should be rendered uncertain by interference of this kind.
The honorable member spoke of one aviation company which, he said, is doing bad work, and putting faulty parts into aircraft. I am sorry that the honorable member saw fit to do this. No organization should be attacked in that way in Parliament. If the honorable member believes he has some information on these matters, he should write to the company itself. If he made public statements of this kind outside of Parliament he would be liable for prosecution. I cannot believe that « company which has done such excellent work during the war, including the evacuation of a great many persons from New Guinea, would resort to practices of the kind mentioned to by the honorable member. He said that Australian aviation companies had done nothing in the way of manufacturing aircraft here. I point out that the Larkin company was the first to build a three-engined aircraft to be put into service in Australia. It is a pity that a bill of this kind should be introduced. The action of the Government is dictated by policy, and not by any actual need. It is certainly not dictated bv common sense. The existing airlines are efficient, and have done great work over a number of years. The story of aviation in Australia is one of vicissitude and high endeavour. The pioneers lost money and some of them lost their lives. I was sorry that the honorable member for Watson should have made an attack on Mr. Holy- man as one who was not in the real sense a pioneer in aviation. Does he not know that -Mr. Holyman’s brother pioneered the service between the mainland and Tasmania and that he lost his life in an accident over Bass Strait? It is a pity that the history of aviation in Australia is not better known. If it were, even honorable members on the Government side, bound as they are to socialism, might not be so devoted to the acquisition of the existing airlines.
Reference has been made to Mr. A. B. Corbett and it has been pointed out that he was not an aviator. However, he was head of the Department of Civil Aviation, which has done much to develop aviation in Australia. I admit that that department is not perfect in all its parts. After the crash of the airliner Kyeema,, which resulted in the death of an eminent Australian in the person of Charles Hawker, as well as of other prominent citizens, some of the officials of the Department of Civil Aviation were severely criticized by the board which inquired into the accident. Mr. Corbett was at one time head of this department and had the benefit of contact with capable officials.
– How long was he director?
– For about four or five years, I think.
– Does the honorable member know who employs him now?
– No, and I do not care. This is what Mr. Corbett said -
Political interference and control of airlines would inevitably lead to disaster. Political expediency would certainly override efficient management.
Nothing could prevent political interference and disorganization in any government-owned industry in which untrained and inexperienced Ministers assumed the role of managing directors and disregarded advice of trained executives.
He said he was very disturbed to see proposals being made by the Government which would undoubtedly destroy much of the work done for civil aviation both before and during his term of office.
– That was written for him.
– It does not matter who wrote it. The Government did not seek any expert advice before reaching its decision to acquire airlines. That is my belief. If it did, let the Minister now in charge of the bill say who tendered it. He is silent. The fact is that nobody advised the Government to do this thing. Originally, the Government sought advice from an inter-departmental committee set up for the purpose, but the Government dare not table its report. I have asked it to do so many times. Two years ago, when I returned from abroad, I asked that the report he tabled, but it has not been done. The people of Australia are concerned with the progress of aviation, ft can mean a great deal to them, perhaps more than to the people of any other country. Our requests met with evasions. Before this bill was introduced I asked the Prime Minister to provide honorable members with an ‘opportunity .to examine the report of the inter-departmental committee in order that they might have the benefit of the information contained in. it when discussing this legislation. The bill will be passed this week, and the Government will control interstate aviation. That artless gentleman, the honorable member for Watson, said that the Government would not attempt to do many of the things that honorable members on this side of the House had forecast. But under this bill, the Government may make contracts for the transport of mails, and the Airlines Commission is given general contractual powers. In addition, i he commission may be a common carrier, and may purchase or dispose of assets. The whole story is to be read in this bill.
– What is wrong with it?
– It proves that this is a socialist scheme, although the honorable member for Watson tried to prove that it is not. I am glad that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) has corrected him. This bill is a political move. The control by the Commonwealth of interstate airlines was not recommended by any competent body. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), when introducing the bill, said, inter aiia, that in the interdepartmental committee’s report, certain matters relating to the war were discussed. That was his miserable excuse for refusing to lay the document upon the table of the House. What matters associated with the war cannot be made public if they relate only to civil aviation in Australia? It was a palpable evasion, and honorable members have not the benefit of the views of the experts who compiled that report, and recommended against this proposal. I hardly know the former Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr. Corbett, but I value his expert opinion on this matter. He was prompted publicly to express his views regarding the Government’s intention to nationalize interstate airlines services only because of the evasion and misrepresentation in which Government supporters have indulged in this chamber. On one occasion, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) presumed to read a few phrases from the report, and then declined to lay it upon the table of the House, claiming that it was a secret document. I deplore that aviation in Australia will be injured by this legislation, to the extent that the whole of the staff of the airlines of Australia will become a part of the Public Service. Is not Australia already overloaded with bureaucrats ? Is not almost every activity in Australia socialized at the present time ? Do we think that the results which the private airlines companies are obtaining will be improved under government control? If honorable members opposite will put aside their political beliefs, I think that they will agree with my views.
– Let the honorable member put aside his party beliefs!
– No government, regardless of its political views, can operate the interstate airlines as efficiently as private enterprise does. The whole history of State enterprise has been one of disaster. Earlier, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) described the failures of State enterprise in Queensland, where the Government established State butchers’ shops, fish shops and cattle stations and lost heavily on the ventures. The more forthright among honorable members opposite declare that the policy of the Government is socialization.
– I am in favour of it.
– I admire the frankness of the honorable gentleman, although I disagree with his views. Let us have no doubt about where we are heading. The honorable member is in favour of socializing the interstate airlines of Australia. On the same basis of reasoning, he must be in favour of socializing the manufacture of aircraft and motor vehicles in Australia. Truly, he is a full-blooded socialist. At election time, some honorable members opposite will hedge a little and claim that they are not in favour of the socialization of industry. At the last general election, the late Prime Minister promised that this Government would concentrate on the war effort, and would not introduce a policy of socialization. Now, the Government has repudiated that solemn undertaking. The Government believes that it can operate air services more efficiently than can the private airlines companies. I am afraid that honorable members opposite have adopted a railway outlook when examining air services in Australia. The Minister for Air said that the Commonwealth Government had provided aerodromes and equipment without which privately-owned aircraft would not be able to operate, and therefore, the Government should own and operate the aircraft. On the same reasoning, because the construction of roads is financed from the petrol tax, why does not the Government claim that it should own all the motor cars that use the roads ? Do honorable members opposite not realize that railways are static things, and cannot be switched from place to place with the facility that aircraft may be transferred from one route to another ? The aviation companies have been taxed as heavily as have motorists. Although aircraft do not use roads, the companies are obliged to pay the petrol tax of approximately 7d. a gallon, which is imposed because of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement to finance the construction of main roads. This money is expended on a population-area basis to make arterial roads in each State, so that the more densely populated State of Victoria contributes to the construction of roads in the less-populous States of Queensland and Western Australia. Although the airlines companies pay the petrol tax and their aircraft do not use the roads, the Government adduces the following fantastic argument : “ We supply all the facilities at the aerodromes, such as beacons and radio equipment, and therefore we should own the aircraft and operate the airlines”. That argument cannot be sustained.
Except for one brief mention, the Minister for Air did not pay any tribute to the work of pioneers in civil aviation. Honorable members opposite have complained that the pioneers have been forced out of the business, and that the monopoly has replaced them. That is not true. To-day, there is no monopoly controlling interstate airlines.
– How far short of a monopoly is it?
– It is a monopoly.
– The honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) believe that a monopoly controls interstate airlines. Omitting the biggest companies, the following list, giving the names of independent operators, shows how untrue that claim is : -
Aircraft Proprietary Limited - Operating between Brisbane and Cracow.
Airlines (Western Australia) - Operating between Perth, Wiluna, Kalgoorlie, and Norseman.
Ansett Airways - Operating between Melbourne and Adelaide, and Melbourne and Broken Hill.
Butler Air Transport Company - Operating between Sydney and Charleville.
J. Connellan - Operating between Alice Springs and Nicholson, and Alice Springs and Wyndham.
MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Limited - Operating between Perth and Darwin, and Wyndham and Daly Waters.
Victorian and Interstate Airways Limited - Operating between Melbourne and Hay, and Melbourne and Riverina.
– Were they operating on fish runs ?
– I am sorry to hear that remark from an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. Mr. E. J. Connellan was a young airman, about the same age as the honorable member for Watson, when he approached me and said, “I should like to operate an air service in the outback areas. I have my own aircraft. Is there any hope for me, because I shall be only a small operator ? “ I assured him that I would submit his request to the Government. That young man subsequently operated a most efficient air service. All the services nowin operation did not spring up like mushrooms overnight. The longest air service in the world was established in Western Australia in 1921 by Norman Brearley, a former officer of the Australian Flying Corps. Qantas began a year later. Mr. Hudson Fysh, also a former member of the Australian Flying Corps, has described in the Imperial Review in the following words his experiences in civil aviation after the last war: -
When jo: -riders ran out, the company was (lived from failure by a government contract lo operate a regular air service once a week each way between Charleville and Cloncurry, in Western Queensland.
That was the modest beginning of what for some years has been the biggest air company in Australia. Many others endeavoured to operate - men like Matthews, who was in the air race to Australia, Turner, Shaw-
– And Kingsford Smith.
– And Kingsford Smith, yes. The honorable member probably does not know that he flew on the Western Australian airline established in 1921. That was where he gained the flying hours and the experience that helped to make him one of the best pilots and navigators in the world. To say (hat. those men have been driven out of business by a monopoly is sheer non.sense. I speak with about 30 years’ knowledge of aviation, and I know that but for the hardships undertaken and enterprise displayed by those men the big companies of to-day would not be so efficient. Australian National Airways Limited, which honorable members opposite condemn so roundly, had small beginnings. It took over the service operated by Kingsford Smith and backed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), the service was the first to operate without a subsidy. It was given a poundage for the carriage of mail, In those days aircraft were small, with short range and poor carrying capacity. Airline operators had to be subsidized. But improved design of aircraft led to a greater carrying capacity and range, and airways companies have got beyond the need for subsidies. Kingsford Smith’s was the first service of the new type. His company was driven to the wall by the loss of the Southern Cloud and the cost of the search for it. I saw Kingsford Smith on his last day in Australia before his tragic loss. He asked me to support him in a tender for the service to New Zealand. Accompanied by Ulm, he had flown the Tasman three or four times. Doubtless, had he lived, he would have been given the contract for the service and for which I had promised him support. All this talk about the airways being a monopoly, at which we should throw up our hands in horror, is merely eyewash and a pretext for socialistic action. Captain Miller of the Mae,Robertson-Miller. and others operating air services were pilots in the last war. I instance also the operators of Victorian and Interstate Airways Limited and the Butler Air Transport Company.
In 1934, the Lyons Government laid down, the present air policy. I do not pretend to know its source, but, at any rate, the then Cabinet, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) knows, decided to cover Australia with a network of air services. Tenders were submitted by various companies. The D.H.86 machine was still on the drawingboard, but some tenderers proposed to use that machine. That was when the Qantas company received its wider charter. I then emphasized that it would be fatal to allow all air services to get into monopolistic hands and stressed the case of Butler. I also pointed out that to divide the contracts between several small contractors could prevent monopoly. Butler had flown to Australia from Great Britain in a tiny aircraft powered by a Pobjoy engine. The press reported on his arrival that there was no employment for him. In those days aviation was not so popular as it is now. He tendered for a service and became what he is to-day. Is the Government going to hamper the man that for about ten years has conducted his own service? Does it intend, on the pretext that the airways are a monopoly, to destroy his enterprise and others like it?
– Where does Butler’s service operate?
– From Charleville to Brisbane.
– His service will- not be interfered with by this bill.
– But for the fact that the Government lost the referendum, it would be grabbing all the air services.
– We did not need to carry the referendum to introduce this legislation. We have the power under the Constitution to legislate for the control of interstate airlines.
– I have received from a small airline operator, a pilot in the 1914-18 war, whose name I do not intend to disclose, the following letter: -
This grab at the aviation industry to which I have devoted all of n.y life, comes as a very severe shock, and I am convinced that the whole thing is wrong. This job has been pioneered by a few enthusiasts spread over the last twenty-eight years, and we have met all the difficulties and overcome them, in most cases with considerable personal loss. I do not think that the job of the pioneers is yet finished because while aviation has advanced considerably it has not settled down to a state where it can be definitely said that the ground organization and the proper application of aircraft is understood. Because of this the industry will still need the concentrated thought and effort of men untrammelled by government and departmental procedures.
– Is he affected by this bill?
– The honorable member would know the writer of this letter. Without private enterprise, Great Britain would not have had the Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft that won the Battle of Britain. Private enterprise also produced the Lancaster, the Typhoon, the Mosquito, the Halifax and the. (Sunderland aircraft. Al] the best fighter, bomber and general purpose machines were produced in Great Britain by private companies. Seeing how the Australian airlines have succeeded, this Government realizes that air transport must be a good thing to nationalize. ,So it accuses the Australian National Airways Limited of having bought out other companies and formed a monopoly. If that is so the Government has the remedy in its hands. I do not advocate this, hut it can cancel the charter of any company and give to the “little men”, for whom it continually expresses such concern, the right to operate services.. That would be a better course than the course of socialism that this legislation follows. The Government professes to be concerned with the development of this country. The Minister for Civil Aviation stated certain fundamentals that he believed in. He referred to the social obligation, the economic obligation, national ownership and national development. He based a long story on those four fundamentals. If the Government’s abject is national development it will accept the amendment that I now move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide that the operation of the airlines be left to the existing management and that the amount proposed to be expended in compensation or purchase be allocated to the building of modern airport facilities in the principal cities.”
No flying man will deny that that is not more important than to do what the Government proposes. I challenge the honorable member for Watson to say that it is not more important. Honorable gentlemen that have seen the La Guardia airport, New York, the Tempelhof airport, Berlin, the Schipol airport, Amsterdam, and the aerodromes down the east coast of England whence the aircraft of the Bomber Command took off for Germany know that our airports are inadequate. Advisedly, as a recent passenger on American airlines, I say that our air services are equal to the best but that our airports are inferior. I recall that in 1926, when the Melbourne Aero Club built a club house at the Essendon aerodrome, a reservoir was dug in the middle of the aerodrome. We protested and asked that it be moved to a more appropriate locality. The aerodrome has been considerably improved and extended since then, but it is inadequate for future needs. The Schipol airport at Amsterdam, which I consider to be the best in the world, is virtually a civic and social centre. Amenities such as restaurants and entertainments are provided for travellers. The tarmac consists of about 70 acres of concrete. At this airport also, there are aero clubs and units of the Dutch Air Force, and passenger liners travelling to and from all ends of the earth are to be seen in great numbers. The Dutch policy is private enterprise, and to buy the best. Holland had its own aircraft industry, but for its air services Douglas aircraft were chosen. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs in 1938, I removed the prohibition upon the importation of American aircraft into this country. At that time, American aircraft were not given a certificate of airworthiness, and the duty paid by Holyman’s and other companies was refunded to them. I draw attention to that because of what honorable members opposite have said about the encouragement of aircraft production in this country. By all means let us encourage it; but the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has admitted that the first Lancaster aircraft produced in this country will not make its appearance until the end of 1945. That work is a waste of manpower and materials, when we should be concentrating on other aircraft which we can .build in greater numbers. The whole story is not a good one, but I have not time to go into it to-night. The Mustang aircraft alleged to have been entirely made in Australia were brought here, dismantled and then reassembled. The public should not be deceived in that way. Let us produce all we are capable of producing, but for our airline services let us have the best aircraft in the world. Aviation is only 42 years old. The first flight lasted for 1 minute 43 seconds, and the speed achieved was 40 miles an hour. That was the speed at which some of us learn to fly. To-day, the speed of fighter aircraft is 400 miles an hour, but already the figure has been greatly exceeded. The first plane “ hop “ was made in 1903, the distance covered being 120 feet - approximately the wing span of a Superfortress. When one considers the tremendous advance that has been made in aviation in less than a lifetime, and the fact that our airline services to-day are operating well, one is inclined to believe that the management should not be changed. We must look ahead and ensure that we shall measure up to the standards set by other countries which lead the world in global aviation.
We must think in terms of international aviation. As I have said, Essendon aerodrome was spoiled ; and who will argue that Mascot airport is adequate for a city the size of Sydney? Whilst it would not be proper for me to express an opinion in regard to the cause of the recent air disaster at Mascot, when a huge aircraft crashed into an obstruction shortly after leaving the aerodrome, one must bear in mind that accidents can be minimized by the provision of longer runways. The improvement of our airport facilities would enable the operation of more aircraft, and encourage air transport from other parts of the world. Some of the world’s air routes were pioneered by Australians. It was not until nearly the end of the last war that Bass Strait was flown for the first time. The Pacific Ocean was first crossed by the incomparable Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who, with Captain P. G. Taylor, subsequently made the first return crossing in a single-engine aircraft. It was Captain Taylor also who first crossed the Indian Ocean. The time is not far distant when aircraft will fly from South America to Australia across the South Pole. Already the North Pole is being crossed by aircraft flying between America and Europe. If we are not alive to modern developments and still think in the parochial terms of cow-pasture aerodromes, we shall be hopelessly left behind. I do not suggest that our capital city aerodromes come within that description. They have been improved considerably, but only after repeated representations by the private airline companies and by aero clubs. What is to be the fate of our aerial medical service under this legislation? One can be excused for dwelling a little on a subject which is dear to one’s heart. The aerial medical service was conceived by Lieutenant Clifford Peel, who was killed in the last war. It was brought to fruition by the Reverend John Flynn. As one of those who worked with Mr. Flynn to bring the scheme into operation, I know that over a number of years more lives were saved in Queensland by aviation than were lost by it. The aerial medical service has now been established on a national basis, and with a government subsidy. Apart from the original experiments in Queensland, the service is now operated from other centres, including Wyndham, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie and Broken
Hill. The service covers with circles of safety almost the whole of the inhabited outback regions of Australia. The assistance of the flying doctor is called by means of pedal wireless sets - the predecessors of the radio communication sets used by the troops in this war. They are so simple that they can be operated by a child. Messages are sent out by operating a typewriter keyboard and communication can be established over distances of up to 400 miles. When a call is received radiotelephony advice can be given by the doctor as to what steps should he taken until he is able to reach the locality from which the call is made. That service was started by private enterprise - the Australian Inland Mission, a Presbyterian missionary organization. It is now un-denominational and national. Lt is financed by government subsidies and donations by generous people, and the Wyndham service is financed in Victoria. Mileage to carry out the work is bought from the private airline operators. The medical officers whose head-quarters are at the various centres of the service are paid good salaries. Honorable members can well imagine the benefit that this service is, not only to our own people, but also to aborigines in outback areas. No indication has been given by the Government of what will be the fate of this service when this bill is passed. As I have said, some of the mileage for this service is being supplied by the major airline operators.
– What will become of the aerodromes which have been built throughout the northern areas of this country during the war?
– Let us hope they will be used.
I should like to see every outback town in the Commonwealth linked by feeder lines to our arterial air services. More than one private company has offered to establish services of this kind. Of course, some of them could not be run profitably. If the Government is so sure that the private companies are making great profits, why did it not introduce this legislation earlier? The fact is that the private companies are not making great profits. They are not costing the Government anything in airmail sub sidies because under the system of franking airmail letters now in operation, thicarriage of mails by private companiesreturns small revenue to the Government.
Again I say that this measure is illadvised and will result in the creation of another huge government department. We realize, of course, that the Australian Workers Union is all-powerful in transport matters and that union leaders are very often impatient mcn. Trade union leaders are ambitious men, and, with the present political trend to the left, the airlines might fall under Trades Hall domination. Air Force pilots who wish to hike up aviation as a career will desire to serve in airline companies by whom they will be properly treated and required to operate efficient aircraft. Great improvements should be made in airport construction, and no time should be lost in doing it. Airlines have been operated largely by ex-veterans of the last war. They carried on their work under great difficulties, and many of them sacrificed their lives. In addition to the pioneer pilots whom 1 have already mentioned there was Hinkler, who made the first light aircraft flight to Australia. We have large numbers of trained aircrews to-day, who can see that the air services operate efficiently. Instead of proceeding with this unnecessary, ill-advised and confiscatory measure, which provides for the filching of services which are efficient, the Government should withdraw the hill The money which it proposes to expend for the purpose of taking over the airlines from the private companies could be spent to much greater advantage by improving airport construction throughout Australia, and thereby keeping up with progress elsewhere. I therefor, commend my amendment to the House.
Hr. BRYSON (Bourke) [9.22].- Having listened to the arguments advanced against the bill by members of the Opposition, I draw attention to the following short extract from the secondreading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), in submitting the measure : -
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 conlure. But 1 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.
Every speaker on the Opposition side has introduced the old cry of socialization, and has informed the House that this bill indicates the intention of the Government to socialize the airlines of Australia. I do not offer any apology for the socialization of airways, or any other service required by the people ; but the members of the Opposition should be honest with themselves and the public, and admit that this bill does not provide for socialization in any form. We should endeavour to place the true position before the people. The bill ‘provides for a commission to operate interstate airlines, possibly in opposition to private companies, or to buy out the interests of those companies; but, whilst the government undertaking will provide the interstate services, the private companies will continue to operate intrastate services.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stressed the claims of the pioneers of aviation, and I acknowledge the valuable work done by them, but the real pioneers of aviation will not be found among the big airline companies.. The pioneers who still survive are associated with the smaller companies, to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred. An examination of the bill and. of the air routes shows that the measure will not adversely affect the smaller companies, which are almost without exception providing the intra-state services. The honorable member omitted to mention that fact. The companies that will be affected by this legislation are the large undertakings which are owned and controlled by people who followed the pioneers, and who now have virtually a monopoly of the main airlines of this country. The honorable member should not have misrepresented the position. Some members of the Opposition have ridiculed the statement that a monopoly has developed in the operation of interstate ,-iii-lines, but i!.e fact that one company alone has received 85 per cent, of the payments made by the
Government for the transport of mail matter by air proves that something closely approaching monopoly has been created. Obviously the private companies are conducting their operations, not in the interests of the people as a whole, but in the interests of their own shareholders.
The’ balance-sheet of Australian National Airways Limited for the last year in which it published a financial statement, showed that the profits for that year were nearly as high as the paidup capital of the company. I admit that, having regard to war-time conditions, that company has provided an efficient service, but it has done so, as I have said, solely in the interests of its shareholders. If the private companies fail to make a profit in any branch of their activities, they resort to the simple expedient, of increasing their charges, because their only object is to make profits. Governments are responsible for the provision of proper transport facilities in the community. State Governments and the Commonwealth Government are running our railways, and no one has suggested in recent times that the railways should be handed over to private enterprise. In some States private enterprise did establish railway companies, but those companies were not very successful. Whilst one or two companies may now bcoperating railways in a small way. governments in the past, which were noi Labour governments, and in no way favoured nationalization of public utilities, found it necessary in the interest; of the community to control our railway systems; and our railways have operated, more or less successfully, under government control since those days. We have progressed. We now have at our disposal the most modern means of transport, tho aeroplane. To-day, air transport, both fo>passengers and freight, is already the greatest competitor with our railways, and such competition will become very much stronger as bigger planes are constructed. As the railways are now run primarily in the interests of the community, they must suffer loss through such competition; and that loss will bv met by the taxpayers. At the same time, however, railways so affected cannot babandoned because they remain essential for the welfare of our rural industries being the only means for the carriage of wheat, wool and other primary product? to the seaboard. It will be many years before aeroplanes capable of carrying such cargoes economically are evolved. In these circumstances, the Government, as the owner of the railways, must protect itself against the competition of modern air transport by controlling airlines. Honorable mem’bers opposite have cast slurs upon governments as a whole, alleging that they bungle all undertakings which they control. Hearing the remarks of honorable members opposite one would believe that they had always been in opposition.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has indulged in this fashionable criticism of governments and governmentcontrolled undertakings. However, he informed us that he was a member of a ministry in this Parliament for six years. His remarks, therefore, reflect upon hi* own business acumen and that of hi« colleagues in governments of which he was cither a member or a supporter. He also condemns the party of which he is a member, implying bungling on the part of governments when has party occupied the treasury bench. Of course, I do not defend those governments. The fact remains that government ownership and control in many spheres has been satisfactory, and such undertakings have rendered real service to the people. The Postal Department, for instance, is the biggest business organization yet to be controlled by a government in this country, and no one can say that that department is not run efficiently, or that it has failed to give satisfactory service. Having regard to our sparse population, the work of the Postal Department will bear comparison with that of any organization of any kind in Australia. I am sure that every honorable member will agree with that view. That department is one example of successful government control of a public utility, and postal, telegraphic and telephonic services are as much public utilities as is aerial transport. For that reason, and also because of the importance of efficient aerial transport systems in time of emergency, such as the present, it is essential that the
Government shall control airlines for the protection of the whole of the people.
We must ensure in time of peace that our air transport system is efficient and as capable of serving the national interest as in time of war. That can be done only by government control of airlines. Several honorable members opposite referred to a report of an interdepartmental committee on aviation which was submitted to the Cabinet about three years ago. So far as I am aware, it is not the practice to publish reports of such committees. As a general rule, they are not circulated to the public, hut are supplied only to heads of departments or Ministers for specific reasons. I take it that the report of this particular committee was dealt with in that way. But honorable members opposite have endeavoured to make it appear that the Government is endeavouring to hide something and that it is taking action against the advice of experts in this matter. They have quoted statements made by Mr. A. B. Corbett, who was a member of the Commonwealth Public Service for over 44 yea rs. He had a particularly successful career in the Public Service. He was an engineer in the Postal Department. Afterwards he became Superintendent of ‘ Mails in Sydney and later Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland. Finally, although he did not have any experience in aviation, he was appointed Director-General of Civil Aviation, which post he occupied for the last four years he was a member of the Public Service. One would think that a man who had given his whole life to the Public Service in which he had done much better than the average public servant, would be loyal to the organization in which for so long he had earned his livelihood. But Mr. Corbett, on his retirement, had nothing good to say about the Commonwealth Public Service, or the Government in office at the time of his retirement. Rather than hold his peace, he said, in effect, that the Commonwealth Public Service was no good, that everything in it was rotten, and that Ministers could not be trusted to carry out the duties which the people elected them to carry out. He vilified the Government. I was rather amazed that he should adopt that attitude having regard to his career in the Public Service. A man of high principle working for an employer, in this case the Common.wealth Government, if ‘he believed to be true all the things which Mr. Corbett has said against the Government, would have resigned and entered the service of private enterprise long before the date of his retirement came round. But Mr. Corbett elected to remain in the Service up to the last minute and only upon his retirement attacked the Government. He wrote articles in the same strain to the press. Subsequently, he became a member of the executive committee of the new Liberal party in Queensland and also accepted a position with Airline Operators of Australia, an organization which h opposed to this measure. Judas Iscariot, after he betrayed his Master, had the decency to commit suicide. Mr. Corbett is still going strong.
I hope that honorable members opposite will approach the bill in the proper light, and forgetting all the catch-cries emanating from calamity howlers, examine it without prejudice. In his second-reading speech the Minister asked two questions: Was this proposal in the interests of the people as a whole, and was national ownership and control of civil aviation preferable to a private monopoly? Those questions cannot be answered by talking about socialization, or the pioneering of aviation, or the small companies operating intra-state services. When we consider the safety of the services which are to be conducted, the well-being of the people generally, and the economical running of the enterprise, the only answer to the question asked by the Minister is: This bill is necessary so that, the people as a whole may benefit, rather than a few shareholders who control a monopoly.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill, and he suggests that the money which the Government proposes to appropriate in order to compensate the existing companies should be expended upon the improvement of existing ‘airports, and the construction of new ones. He made particular reference to the aerodromes at
Mascot and Essendon. Let me remind honorable members that these aerodromes, and most of the others now in service, have been constructed by various governments at the cost of the taxpayers. The meteorological service is also provided at the cost of the taxpayers, as is the radio location service, and other uptodate aids to navigation. Now, the honorable member asks that more millions of pounds should be expended upon the provision of first-class aerodromes. However, he does not suggest that the aerodromes should be leased to the aviation companies, but that they should have the use of them, and everything that goes with them ; and that they should continue to run the air “services for the profit of a few shareholders, while the people as a whole foot the bill. I cannot endorse that argument. If the taxpayer has to provide the money which is used in the construction of airports and the provision of necessary services, then the taxpayer should profit from the operations of the airlines. There is only one way in which this can be brought about, and that is by passing the bill now before the House.
– It ill becomes the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) to abuse a civil servant who has given such long and conscientious service to the community. It is a new doctrine that once a man becomes a civil servant he is no longer free to express an opinion of his own. I believe that every man, whether a civil servant or not, should have the right to express his opinion. The fact that some honorable members opposite have suggested that because a man is a civil servant he should keep his mouth shut, and is no longer conscientious if he happens to disagree with the Labour party, is indicative of an alarming trend of thought.
The question asked by the Minister who introduced the bill (Mr. Drakeford), namely, is this bill in the interests of the people as a whole, would be a fair and reasonable one, if that were the only matter to be decided. However, these are challenging times. The war is not yet finished, and much of it may still be ahead of us. We have to make provision for the reinstatement of ex-servicemen, for the reorganization of industry and the setting up of new businesses. In answer to the Minister’s question, I might fairly a3k whether this is the most important matter which we have to consider. In other words, is the Government doing the best thing in the circumstances for the people by nationalizing the airlines, when so many thousands of houses are so urgently needed, when primary industries need assistance, when secondary industries have to be encouraged, when water and irrigation schemes should be undertaken, and when land settlement schemes should be embarked upon? In these circumstances, is it in the national interest that the Government should place in the forefront of its programme an unwanted plank from its party platform, and that it should embark upon this scheme of socialization, contrary to the promise of its late leader, and in preference to more urgent national undertakings? We are told that the immediate expenditure on compensation will be £3,000,000, but I am content to accept the estimate of Mr. Corbett, who places the figure at nearer £9,500,000. I ask my friend, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), that victim of “ Dunstania “, bow he feels about the safety of his political neck when he has to admit to his electors that the Government has no money for water conservation schemes, no money for irrigation schemes, and no money for the encouragement of industry, although, in an attempt to apply its party policy of socialization, it proposes to expend many millions in this way which will not even give the country districts an air service, but will be a factor in maintaining a high rate of taxation. As I have said, Mr. Corbett places the amount at over £9,000,000, and in addition the Government will lose £2,000,000 which the aviation companies now pay each year in income tax, sales tax, petrol tax and customs duty. Over and above that, the Government received from the companies in 1943-44 an amount of £796,546. Do honorable members opposite claim that the Government is likely to continue to make profits under the new system of management? Experience of government ownership does not make us hope- ful. We have the example of the nationalization of the Coalcliff colliery. When it was suggested that the Government should nationalize all the coal mines, the Coalcliff colliery was cited by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his capacity as Treasurer, as an unfortunate example of government ownership. He pointed out that losses had been incurred in the management of the mine, which had shown a lower output per man than any other. He, as Treasurer, did not favour the nationalization proposal.
I shall now refer to some experiences of State enterprise. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) pointed out the expensive failure of State butchers’ shops, fish shops and cattle stations in Queensland. Only the State insurance office succeeded, and the Queensland Government took the precaution of granting to it a monopoly of workers’ compensation in order to ensure an adequate foundation upon which to work. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) referred to the success of the Post Office as a public utility. Undoubtedly, the Post Office has rendered good service, and I admit that it is one of the utilities that should be owned by the Government. I admire postal officials who are trying to render efficient service to the public, despite ministerial policy which is to limit facilities and restrict the service, especially in country centres. The official attitude appears to be to “ reduce expenditure, increase profits, and never mind how poor is the service to the public “. My remarks now are particularly applicable to conditions in country districts. To-day, I received from a resident in an outback district of Queensland a vigorous complaint about the lack of postal services. He pointed out that many years ago, mail subsidies amounted to £1,500 a year, but now the Post Office has reduced the service. He wrote that he was sick and tired of making complaints, and proposed to leave the district. He added that many others would follow his example, because they were unable to get a satisfactory mail service. The policy of the Government is evidently to limit the service and increase profits. If that assessment of the ministerial attitude is correct, it does not reflect any credit upon the Government. I am informed by one of their officials that during the last sixteen years employees of the Post Office have not received an increase of wages, although the cost of living has risen sharply since the outbreak of war.
– For nearly twelve years cf that period, anti-Labour governments were in office.
– I was not then a. member of this House. However, the Labour Government has been in office since October, 1941, and, although the cost of living has risen substantially since that time, the wages of the employees of the Post Office have not been increased.
-Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing the conditions of employees in the Post Office, and mail contracts, to the extent that he is doing.
– In support of my remarks regarding the failure of State enterprises, I shall refer now to tho Queensland Government Railways. Honorable members will agree that the Queensland railways rendered excellent service to the war, but they would have done infinitely better if the State Government had possessed suitable rollingstock at the outbreak of hostilities. As it was, the rolling-stock was out of ,late and now is run to pieces. Our experience in Queensland was a number of increases in fares and freights, coupled with reduced services, apparently to offset the debt.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the State railways should be sold to private enterprise?
– Order ! State railways are not mentioned in this bill.
– The experience ->f State control “ leaves me cold “, and the Government’s proposals in this legislation will “leave the country cold”, because the trunk lines only are covered nui the less payable airlines do not come within the scope of it. On two occasions, the people have refused to grant to the Commonwealth power over intra-state aviation. Country air services are interwoven with the interstate airlines, and depend upon the profits that accrue from them. Surely, that in itself is sufficient reason why the Government should not proceed with this hill.
During the last few weeks, the Government has changed its policy. Having abolished collective control of the Commonwealth Bank, it, is now instituting collective control of interstate airlines. Apparently, the ‘ Government is convinced that a commission must control interstate airlines, but that a governor alone can control the operations of th« bank, although they are infinitely greater than the business of the airlines will be. If the five commissioners are to be employed full-time, their remuneration of £400 a year is a miserable amount. Evidently, the Government is determined to appoint mediocrities to the commission. Perhaps it will be a refuge for defeated politicians after the next election. The former Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr. Corbett, did not recommend that the Commonwealth should control interstate airlines. In fact, he submitted for consideration a practical scheme for linking up the whole continent every 24 hours with a passenger and mail service and a complete plan covering freights, &c. The private airlines companies were so impressed with the proposition that they immediately ordered additional aircraft for the purpose. The Government considered the proposal for two years and then introduced this bill.
Government supporters have condemned the private control of airlines in Australia as a monopoly and described it as outrageous. But the Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), is encouraging overseas firms such as General Motors, the Ford company and the Nuffield organization, with greater capital and assets than Australian National Airways Limited would ever acquire even if this legislation did not become law, to establish factories in this country. When an Australian company, with Australian capital, makes a success of its enterprise, this Government acquires its property. Under such conditions it is farcical to extend this invitation to overseas capital. The policy of the Government cannot create confidence.
This bill is not in the interests of the people as a whole. It is not based on the service that the Government nan render to the community and is not the best way in which to invest the large sum of money that will be required for the acquisition of the assets of the private airlines companies. Rather is the Government neglecting the vital problems confronting us in order to yield to the demands of party politics. As I showed earlier, the Government is rejecting the direction which was twice given to’ it by the people and is careless of the honour of the late Prime Minister. If the Government controls interstate airlines it will mutilate a progressive service which promises, under present conditions, to give effective and efficient service not only interstate but also in country districts. If this bill becomes law, those intra-state services will be retarded or even discontinued.
– I regret that, because of illness, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) is not able to be present to reply to this debate. In my opinion, this bill is one of the most necessary pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced in this House. Air transport will become one of the great public utilities of Australia if we can believe that its development in the past will continue as rapidly in the future. Air transport has become a great, and will become an increasingly greater, competitor against Commonwealth and State railways. When I was Minister for Defence some years ago, the Commonwealth was subsidizing the eastwest air service, although it was competing with the railways to their disadvantage. I hope that the time will come in Australia when all these great transport utilities will be coordinated in one general scheme, so that all the public money invested in the various railway systems shall not be adversely affected by competition from airlines which have been able to develop only because the Commonwealth has expended large sums of money. I believe that about £11,000,000 has been expended on aerodromes and installations associated with the development of air transport in this country. It is perfectly true that a great deal of it would have had to be expended for defence purposes, but air transport itself is associated with defence. One has only to realize the part that aircraft have played in this war to realize that. The amount of money invested in air transport in Australia by the operators is small compared with the Government’s expenditure. What the Minister for Civil Aviation said about the pioneers in air transport not having benefited is perfectly true.
– A lot of the pioneers are still engaged in air transport. I gave their names.
– The airlines companies have steadily come under the domination of people that were not at all pioneers of aviation in Australia. In the further development of air transport considerable sums of money will have to be expended by the Commonwealth Government or by some other authority to provide the aerodromes and other facilities needed. The private airlines operators have not and will not expend money for. that purpose. They are content to use at a nominal cost aerodromes provided by the Government. It is perfectly true that they pay tax on the petrol they use, but all users of petrol pay that tax. The tax applies to drivers of motor vehicles. 1 have supported no other bill so strongly and warmly as I support this one. I was a member of the Cabinet sub-committee that recommended it to the Government. My only regret is that the Constitution confines the Government to interstate airlines, but I do not despair about the prospects of our controlling intra-state airlines. The developing monopoly control of airways is not confined to interstate airlines. Eventually, small operators will be driven out of the field and their services taken over by a monopoly. The Minister for Civil Aviation referred to the number of companies recently absorbed. A move to amalgamate Guinea Airways and Australian National Airways Limited was defeated recently by a group of shareholders of the former company. I will not go into the details, but one large company is making it increasingly difficult for smaller organization* to carry on. Some of the small intra-state airlines realize that they will be swallowed up entirely. The proper monopoly, if there is to be one, is a government monopoly. That is our purpose. The defence significance of government control of air transport needs no emphasis. Air transport is also a great public utility. It competes with the railways, in which millions of pounds of public money has been invested. The bulk of the profit of the major companies has come from carrying service personnel and Government officials. Recently I read a statement that more than 60 per cent, of thu passengers carried had been paid for by the Government. Some of the cost, I admit, was under reciprocal aid. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) talked about what the British Government had plumped for in regard to airlines. I do not think he will get any solace from what it plumped for the other day.
– What did it plump for? Does the Prime Minister really think he knows?
– 1 do not know that the matter of airlines came up specifically, but the right honorable gentleman needs only to read, the press to know that what the British Government plumped for twelve or eighteen months ago is entirely different from what the present British Government is plumping for.
M.r. Menzies. - I shall take the right honorable gentleman’s view on that towards the end of next year.
– All right. The Government that did all the plumping is not doing any plumping now. I repeat that air transport is a public utility that ought to be controlled by Ohe nation. This bill is limited to the acquisition of interstate airlines. I know that its constitutionality is challenged. Time will decide whether the bill is constitutional or not. We believe it is. Had! it been constitutionally possible to legislate for the taking over of the intrastate airlines, such legislation would have been brought down. I hope we shall be able to make some arrangement whereby it will be possible for the Government, in the absence of full control, to share in the control of the intra-state airlines.
A great deal has been made of statements by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) about socialization. This bill is largely a post-war project, because the organization that it provides for cannot be created for some time. The people will have the opportunity next year to give their judgment.
– Hear, hear!
– They need not feel that something has been done on which they cannot pass judgment. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) says “ Hear, hear ! “, but I remember that on the eve of the last general elections honorable gentlemen opposite were loud in their “ Hear, hears ! “ about the impending approach to the people, but afterwards the phrase was “ There, there ! “ I am not afraid of the people’s judgment. The result of the British general elections should not give encouragement to honorable gentlemen opposite. I repeat that it is absolutely necessary that the Government should control air transport. I hope the day is not far distant when all air transport, not merely the interstate air transport, of this country will be under governmental control.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. White’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- Can the Minister at the table (Mr. Dedman) inform the committee what will happen after this bill becomes law, to the Department of Civil Aviation, which deals with such matters as the rates chargeable by companies, the time tables, and the safety of the public? Ithas done good work in the past, and has assisted the aeroplane clubs. Will it be absorbed by the new undertaking, or blotted out of existence?
Mr.Dedman. - It will continue the work which it has been doing in the past.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
. -“ Interstate airline service” is defined as meaning “ a service providing for the transport by air, for reward, of passengers or goods and operating from one place in Australia to another place in Australia and having scheduled stopping places in two or more States “. I refer to that definition because it emphasizes that the scope of this bill is such that it covers interstate services, and notintra-state services. My purpose in rising is to acknowledge the service rendered to the committee by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the speech which he made at the end of the second-reading debate. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), in submitting the motion for the second reading of the bill, pointed out very properly that this measure does relate to interstate services only, yet went on to say that, but for the result of the referendum, the bill would have dealt with all air services, interstate as well as intra-state. That seems to me, and no doubt to many honorable members, to be a very remarkable statement to be made by a Minister who is a member of a government which throughout the whole of the debate inthis House on the bill providing for alterations of the constitutional powers of this Parliament, and throughout the whole of the campaign on the referendum arising from that bill, said not one word to the people of Australia about a proposal to nationalize the airlines. Therefore, it is of great importance that a new Prime Minister, on coming into office, should give the authority of his own statement to the same proposition. The Prime Minister has told us that it is only because of constitutional limitations that this bill does not cover every air service in Australia. All I point out is that, when a government in asking people to vote for an alteration of the Constitution, says to them, “Vote so as to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power over air transport”, but utters not one word either in Parliament or out of it about its design to nationalize the air services, and then after a “ No “ vote submits a measure to nationalize the air services to the limit of its capacity, it must be found guilty of a common fraud on the people.
– I would not expect the Minister for Information to be shocked about that.
– I am shocked at the right honorable gentleman’s audacity.
– I am not any more surprised at the Minister’s attitude, than at his views on the results of the general elections in Great Britain. His delight at the defeat of Mr. Churchill is not surprising to anybody who is familiar with the sentiments he has expressed during the last four years. Even a government which is delighted with its temporary numerical majority in this Parliament could well devote a few minutes to considering whether a proposal of the kind outlined in the bill should be “ put over “ the people of Australia. Will any Minister in this chamber say now that he told the people during the referendum campaign that the power asked for over transport would be used to nationalize air transport?
– I did.
– So did I.
– I said so, too.
– Three Ministers out of nineteen say that they did. I suppose that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) will tell me that he made a great song and dance about nationalizing the airlines?
-Does the right honorable gentleman think that this Parlia ment has not power to make law.respecting interstate transport?
– I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I wish you would not do that, Mr. Chairman. When silence falls on the honorable member for Griffith, my chief joy in Parliamentis taken from me. If the honorable member wants my advice, as apparently he does, on the validity of this legislation
– I do not want that.I desire the right honorable gentleman to answer my question.
– The honorable gentleman really seemed to desire my opinion. My first comment on the matter is that the bill is now, on the authority of the Prime Minister, limited only by reason of the fact that there is some constitutional limit upon the powers of the Commonwealth. If there had been a “ Yes “ vote at the referendum, not only the great monopoly, but also all of the little companies over whom honorable members opposite have shed crocodile tears, and which are providing minor developmental services throughout Australia, would have been brought under the scope of the bill. I am indebted to the Prime Minister for having made it clear beyond argument that that is the view of the Government. I am indebted to him also for another illuminating remark. Although he spoke as he normally does, in the still small voice, he made an important statement when he said in referring to statements made by some honorable members that this bill represents a repudiation of a promise made by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) at the last elections, that if the people disapproved of this repudiation, they could show their disapproval at the next elections. That, to me, is a most staggering proposition. In the course of the debate on this bill, it has been demons trated that the then Leader of the Government, during an election campaign, in order to attract votes which were not true-blue Labour votes, said : “ We will not socialize any industry. We are here to get on with the war, and we do not propose to socialize industry.” We have had two answers made to that, if I may dignify them with the name of answers. In the first, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) gave us one of the most notable exhibitions of sophistry I have ever listened to. He explained to us that there was a great difference between socialization and nationalization -
Mr. Martens interjecting,
– Since the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is prepared to interject, perhaps he might tell us what the difference is. I wonder whether he knows what the difference is after having heard the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction.
– The right honorable gentleman can refer only in passing to what has taken place in the House.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman; but, perhaps I may be allowed to say in the most passing fashion, that it is a new doctrine to me that a government can tear up in the course of a Parliament a promise solemnly made when that Parliament was about to be elected. Apparently Ministers may wave their hands and say, “Well, it is quite true we have broken our promise, but if the people do not like it they can put us out at the next election”. All right, I think that they will do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 (Commission to be common carrier).
.- This clause reads -
For the purposes of this Act the Commission shall be deemed to be a common carrier of passengers and goods and (except as by this Act otherwise provided) shall be subject to the obligations and entitled to the privileges of common carriers of passengers and goods.
I should like to know whether that provision refers solely to airway traffic, whether in passengers or goods, or whether it covers any other activity, such as ordinary road transport? That point has not been made clear. As the clause is drafted it could apply to all forms of transport.
– Does the honorable . member for Balaclava (Mr. White) want me to give a definition of a “ common carrier “ ?
– I suggest that the honorable member will find the definition in any legal reference book.
– If the commission will be a common carrier, as the Minister says, it will be able to carry goods anywhere by any means of conveyance. That means that the commission will not be limited to aerial transport ; it may convey goods by motor vehicle, or other means.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 (Power to acquire).
. -So far as I can ascertain the bill does not provide how aircraft compulsorily acquired by the commission will be valued. Can the Minister throw some light on that aspect?
– I presume that aircraft compulsorily acquired by the commission will be valued by a competent valuer. In any case the honorable member may rest assured that a just price will be paid, because that is provided for in the Constitution. Aircraft which are compulsorily acquired by the commission will be valued by a competent valuer, and if, in the opinion of the owners of the aircraft, his valuation ie not fair, they can appeal to the proper authority.
– What is the proper authority?
– In the last resort, the proper authority will be the High Court.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 43 to 70 agreed- to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 - No. 41 - Hotel, Club, Restaurant and Caterers Employees’ Union of New South Wales.
Black Marketing Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 114.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works and Housing - h. J. Price.
Customs Act - Customs Proclamation - No. 634.
National Security Act -
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (38).
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Textile Industries: Importation of British Woollen Cloths: Clothes Rationing Scale ; Household Linen : Over-Production of Australian Kills.
– Last week the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question in which he referred to large stocks of men’s suits held by manufacturers and retailers, and requested that the coupon rating of standard austeritytype suits should be reduced.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
The position of clothing supplies and coupon ratings is being continuously reviewed by the Rationing Commission and, wherever it is considered possible, reductions are made in coupon ratings. A reduction has recently been made in the coupon rating of men’s suits. The supply position, particularly so far as’ it depends on making-up capacity, does not indicate that further relaxation could be made at the present time without endangering future supplies and creating difficulties for men now being released from the services.
y. - On the 13th June, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked the following question, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Liberal. Party: Appointment of Organizers in South Australia and Queensland.
– On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) and the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) asked the Acting Prime Minister a series of questions regarding the appointment of organizers to the Queensland People’s party and the Liberal and Country League in South Australia respectively.
TheQueensland People’s party applied for and was granted permission to advertise for three organizers. All applications are to be made through the Man Power Directorate and the party has stated that preference will be given to returned soldiers. The Liberal and Country League in South Australia has recently appointed five organizers who have been discharged by the Army on age or medical grounds. All appointments were made with the consent of the Man Power Directorate. The fact that applications are made through the Man Power Directorate and appointments have to be approved by the Directorate ensures that men who might reasonably be made available for more important work are not appointed to these positions. At the same time it is the normal policy of the Man Power Directorate to allow discharged personnel a large measure of freedom in choosing their own employment, except in the case of those specially released on occupational grounds.
Fodder: Chaff Supplies in Victoria.
e. - On the 24th July the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to the supply of chaff to farmers in the north-west of Victoria.
I am advised that there is a serious shortage of fodder in that area and other parts of that State. I am further advised that the Victorian Department of Agriculture is making every possible effort to relieve the shortage but the supplies are not adequate for the needs despite severe rationing. In June 3,770 tons of chaff were supplied to the wheat belt and arrangements have been made to send the Mallee District 1,000 tons of meadow and lucerne hay from a shipment expected to arrive from New Zealand next week. It seems that . the shortage is likely to continue for some months.
Wheat for Pig-raising.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 20th July, the honorable member for Richmond. (Mr. Anthony) referred to the supply of stock feed wheat on the Richmond and Tweed, and to a report that July supplies were not available yet.
I am informed that July supplies were made available at the beginning of the month, and that the August supplies are now being forwarded to those who’ will require feed supplies early next month. With the improvement of natural feed, wheat is not now being supplied for dairy cows, but the monthly quotas for pigs and poultry are .available on the far North Coast on the same basis as for all other parts of the State.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows : -
e.- On the 19th July, the honorable member for .Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked when he could expect a reply to his representations made on the 7th March, regarding the price of stovettes.
The honorable member will recall handing to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) at the beginning of June a letter partially identifying the firm referred to in his statement. An inquiry was undertaken by the Deputy Prices Commissioner, Melbourne, which has involved extensive investigations. A final report is expected shortly and a comprehensive statement will then be made in reply to the honorable member.
Prices Control: Appeals.
e. - On the 18th July the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the recent recommendations forwarded to the Prime Minister by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. One of the recommendations was that an appeal from a decision of the Prices Commissioner should be the inherent right of every trader and that such an appeal should be heard hy a single judge, whose decisions should be final. This, and the other recommendations of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, received very careful consideration and the Prime Minister replied to the representations on the 5th July, 1945. The terms of the reply contained an answer to the various points raised by the honorable member for Fawkner, and I therefore quote that section of the’ reply relating to appeal procedure : -
On a number of occasions since the beginning of the war, consideration has been given to some form of right of appeal from decisions of the Prices Commissioner. The existing procedure adopted by the Prices Commissioner gives the traders the right to appeal for a reconsideration of decisions made concerning maximum prices within which they may conduct their business. This review is carried out by the Commissioner in the presence of one or more of his advisers who are given full opportunity to examine all the facts and to hear the complaints of the trader. Where such procedure has been resorted to, traders have generally been satisfied that their problems have been adequately and fairly considered.
Since the introduction of the price stabilization plan, ceiling prices have been determined for most consumable goods, and any relief which traders require is granted by way of subsidy. The granting of a subsidy is a decision taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer on behalf of the Government. To concede the right to appeal against such decisions would be to admit that the final voice in the determination of government policy should not rest with the Government. It will generally be conceded that this is a position to which no responsible government could agree.
In war-time the administration of controls of prices, man-power, materials, distribution of goods, involves the making of thousands of decisions by persons acting on behalf of the Government. All these decisions inevitably affect not only the general conditions under which industry and commerce may be carried on, but also the financial returns available to traders. It is true that price control is perhaps the most pervasive of these controls, but the principle of the right of appeal against decisions on prices is no different from the application of the same principle to all other decisions. The Government could not agree to admitting this right of appeal generally because it would impair the sense of responsibility of the authorities charged by the Government with carrying out the war-time policy and would greatly slow down the whole administration.
The procedure recommended by the Associated Chambers of Commerce for appeals assumes an over-simplification of the problems associated with appeals. It would be necessary in appeals before a judge to define rules of procedure, to debate what was admissible and non-admissible evidence, to review a wide range of matters affecting the operations of the individual trader and the general financial position of the industry and trade as a whole. There is no doubt that this would involve a very considerable strain upon the Prices Commissioner and his staff who have for a long time now been working under great pressure. The effect would certainly be to cause further delays in the administration of price control and to impair its efficiency.
It is not the intention of the Government to alter the present procedure.
Wak Service Homes.
y.- On the 18th July the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked a question relating to the amount which may be advanced by way of loan to an ex-serviceman for the building of a home.
The War Service Homes Act 1918-1941 limits the amount of assistance by way of loan for the purpose stated to £950. The Government realizes that building costs have substantially increased during recent years. The question of amending the act to provide for an increased statutory loan limit to a sum more appropriate to the altered cost of building is being examined by the Minister for Works and Housing in conjunction with the War Service Homes Commissioner. It is expected that the matter will have early consideration by Cabinet.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked me a question recently concerning household linen, and asked that the coupon rating on such linen be reduced.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
Australia depends for her cotton piece goods requirements to a very large extent on imports from overseas. All indications are that the world is experiencing an overall shortage of cotton goods. In view of the doubt as to the level of future imports of cotton piece goods the Rationing Commission is not prepared to make any reduction in the coupon rating of household linen at the present time.
e. - On the 24th July, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked whether I had been officially apprised of the fact that in certain textile mills in New South Wales, men had had to be placed on short-time work because of over-production.
In reply, I intimated that I would discuss the matter with my colleagues, and I now advise that the Government has no knowledge of men in New South Wales textiles mills being placed on shorttime because of over-production. The Government, however, is mindful thai there is a critical shortage of female labour in the textile industry, and everything possible is being done to influence women to this work. The Government is aware that this shortage of female labour has the danger of unbalancing production, with the consequent difficulty of keeping materials in sufficient flow to those sections which are primarily worked by men. If the honorable member will advise me of the names of the mills that are suffering this alleged disability” I will have investigations made. In regard to the modification of coupon values, the honorable member will be aware that only recently the Rationing Commission made a substantial reduction of the coupon rating of all types of woollen clothing and textiles. Inquiries in trade channels indicate that this relaxation has so far had no material effect on demand and consequent retail sales.
y. - On the 24th July the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked whether representations had been received from returned soldier organizations that the period which enemy aliens reside in Australia before they can apply for naturalization should be increased to ten years.
Representations on the lines indicated by the honorable member have been received. The nationality laws of the Commonwealth and other British Dominions are based on the United Kingdom Nationality and Status of Aliens Act so that uniformity in regard to nationality matters exists throughout the Empire. It would be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to consult the Government of the United Kingdom and the other Dominions before amending its nationality law to extend the present residential qualifications. It does not follow, however, that an applicant is entitled to naturalization merely because he can comply with the five years’ residence qualification. He must have an adequate knowledge of English and be a person of good character, and his loyalty must be beyond doubt- Every application for naturalization is the subject of exhaustive investigation, and every precaution is taken to ensure that an alien who is in any way undesirable or who cannot comply with the requirements of the Nationality Act does not become naturalized. In view of these precautions and the uniformity of the nationality laws throughout the British Empire, it is not considered that there is any call for an amendment of the existing residential requirements for naturalization.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Are bores maintained at Commonwealth expense as a matter of policy?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Enemy Prisoners of “War.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
In the matter of a report in a Melbourne daily newspaper of the 5th July, of a court case in Bendigo, where an Italian prisoner of war was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for an offence against a girl and the sentence was suspended on his entering into a bond to be of good behaviour for three years -
what was the amount of the bond?
What is the intention of the Government in regard to the return of prisoners of war to their own country?
t. - Matters .relating to prisoners of war in Australia fall within the province of the Department of the Army, and I have accordingly forwarded the honorable member’s question to that department for consideration. On receipt of a reply from that department, an answer to the honorable member’s question will be supplied.
Industrial Law: Powers of the Commonwealth.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Can the Commonwealth Parliament make laws as regards -
Can the Commonwealth Parliament pass legislation to implement the resolution of the International Labour Organization Convention of 1935, in favour of a SO-hour week? If so, to what persons could such legislation be made applicable?
t. -It is contrary to practice to answer questions involving the legal interpretation of the Constitution.
t asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What is the number of - (a) Army, (b) Navy, and (c) Air Force personnel exclusively or principally engaged within the Commonwealth Security Service on investigations into civilian activities?
– There are at present 54 army personnel who have been employed as investigators by Security Service since its inception. These persons have, however, not been exclusively or principally engaged on investigations into civilian activities. The figure in respect of Navy and Air Force personnel is nil in each case.
Man Power Directorate: Miss H. J. Armstead.
y. - On the 28th June I promised to have investigations made in regard to the following questions asked by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) : -
The answers are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450731_reps_17_184/>.