17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Ambon Operation - Demobilization
– Will the Minister for the Army make before the conclusion of this sessional period a full statement in regard to the tragedy that attended the despatch of an Australian force to Ambon? Was that force sent without adequate equipment or medical supplies, and with only three days’ supply of small arms ammunition? Have any remnant* of the force been found? What number survived ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain all the information the honorable member requires, and to make it available to him before the conclusion of this sessional period.
– Will the Minister for the Army state whether, if service with the Commonwealth Military Force? and the Australian Imperial Force ha; not been continuous, or service with the Australian Imperial Force has been broken for reasons not occasioned by the default of the member, the assessment of service, under the points system of demobilization, will date only from the commencement of the last period of service? If so, why?
– I shall consider the question, and reply to it to-morrow.
Disappearance op Aluminium.
– Has the Minister for Aircraft Production read the published reports that a large quantity of aluminium, made up specially for aircraft fabrication, the property of the Department of Aircraft Production, disappeared a few months ago, and was subsequently discovered in the form of aluminium kitchen utensils? In view of the references in this week’s Smith’s Weekly to specific brands on sheets of aluminium found in one factory, to the dismissal of a Commonwealth employee, and to allegations in regard to a swindle by Government employees, has the Minister any information to give on the matter? If not. will he order a searching inquiry, and make a statement upon it next week?
– I am never greatly impressed by anything that appears in a publication of the type of Smith’s Weekly, but as the honorable member evidently sponsors the charge I shall have inquiries made with a view to satisfying him as to the correctness or otherwise of the statements that have been made. As I have reason to know that extravagant and at times totally incorrect statements have appeared in Smith’s Weekly, I cannot place any reliance on the reports it publishes. If, however, the honorable member, who occupies a responsible position in the Parliament of the nation, believes that the charge calls for an. investigation, I shall comply with his wishes and have an investigation made.
– Having regard to the fact that Sir Edmund Herring, Chief Justice of Victoria, delivered a judgment on Tuesday in favour of the plaintiff in the case Hunter v. Kelly and the
Commercial Bank of Australia, and awarded him £36,000 damages, will the Prime Minister consider using the recent banking legislation to ensure that members of the public will be safeguarded against similar fraudulent practices in the future?
– I did see a report of court proceedings in which a verdict was given against a bank, but I do not know the circumstances of the case, lt does not appear to be an instance in which the banking legislation recentlypassed by the Parliament should be used to control either the bank in question or its customer. I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman.
– It was an action at common law for damages for conspiracy and fraud.
– The circumstances appear to be such as to lead me to believe that the matter can be dealt with by the ordinary processes of the law.
– That must be so, seeing that a verdict has been given.
– I present the eighth report of the Broadcasting Committee relating to broadcasting parliamentary debates.
Ordered to be printed.
Alleged Illicit Traffic in Weapons.
. - by leave - Last night the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that he felt aggrieved as the result of replies given by me to questions submitted by him a few weeks ago regarding an allegation of trafficking in weapons which had illicitly been taken from the .Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. He has endeavoured to substantiate the charges by referring to a report which appeared in certain newspapers. I have no wish to be unfair to the honorable gentleman who presented his case last night in a temperate manlier. I do not say that in making these charges the honorable member is doing other than what he believes is right, but I wish him to refer to the question which he originally submitted to me. He then referred to sub-machine guns of the Owen and Sten types. The honorable member alleged that components of those weapons had been taken illicitly from the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, assembled, and sold to members of the underworld, find he asked me to make inquiries. The honorable member should realize that, not only is his own honour and good name involved, but also the honour and good name of those who work at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. In my previous statement I told the House that no guns of the Sten type were manufactured at the Lithgow factory. Therefore, there could be no traffic in arms of that sort. As for the Owen gun, the only parts which were ever at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory were brought there from Lysaght’s works, but no, complete weapon could possibly have been made from the parts in store at Lithgow. Acting on the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond. I got in touch with the Criminal Investigation Department in Sydney, and a check was made of every gun which the police held. This proved that none of the weapons held by the police could possibly be in any way associated with the allegations of the honorable member for Richmond. Every weapon except one was fully accounted for. * Last night, the honorable member tried to make out that he was aggrieved, and that an injury had been done to him, by the statement which I had made. He sought to justify his previous allegations by referring to court proceedings in which a man had been convicted of misappropriating certain rifle parts from the .Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. I emphasize the fact that they were rifle parts, not sub-machine gun parts. I have had an investigation made of the matter, and I have been supplied with the following report : -
Concerning the employee of the Lithgow factory who was convicted of stealing ammunition. This ammunition was not stolen from Lithgow factory, but from an ammunition depot in the district, controlled by the Army (or Air Force). The two employees who were convicted of stealing guns just recently; when the houses of these two men were searched, it wass revealed that the weapons in their possession were two standard .303 service weapons, and attempts hae been made to convert these to sporting rifle* with the object of using them as such. Also, their conviction covered the stealing of two telescopic sights for use on these rifles. All components stolen by these employees have now been recovered, with the exception of one rifle, which the Police Department have under investigation at the moment.
No evidence whatsoever has been found that suggests anything in the nature of trafficking in this class of weapon with the underworld. As I have said these two men were converting the weapons for sporting purposes, and intended to use them for those purposes. Therefore, the original charge made by. the honorable member has not been justified; aa.d notwithstanding the explanation he gave last evening, he would still bc well advised to exercise more care in the future in making sinister allegations against any body of men, whether they be employed in factories, or elsewhere.
- by leave - The half-truths uttered by the Minister-
– The honorable member will not improve’ the position b;v indulging in unparliamentary language.
– I regret that the statement made by the Minister (Mr. Makin), when he knows the facts, doe.5 not do him justice. I admit that my implication that Sten and Owen gum were manufactured at Lithgow was incorrect. However, I submitted that matter for investigation by the Minister on the basis of information supplied to me ; and the fact that weapons of those classes are not manufactured in Lithgow doei not disprove the remainder of the allegations contained in my original question which was as follows: -
I direct the attention of the Minister for Munitions to the fact that law-abiding citizens have recently lost their lives, and others have been assaulted, held up and robbed by gangsters and gunmen who have gained illegal possession of lethal weapons. It hag bees reported in the press that many of these weapons are sub-machine guns of the Sten and Owen types. Allegations have been conveyed to me . . .
I said that they were allegations - that some of these weapons have been supplied to members of the underworld by certain employees of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, who appropriate weapons or parts of such weapons which on test are found to be not up to Army standards. These em ployees then assemble the weapons, put them into a usable condition and dispose of them at high prices to members of the underworld. Will the Minister have this allegation investigated . . . lt was an allegation, not a charge - by having sub-machine guns which the police have seized inspected to determine whether they are normal army issue?
And this i* the crux of the question I asked -
Will he have the organization at Lithgow regarding the disposal of rejected parts so tightened up as to prevent their falling into unauthorized hands? Are appropriately heavy penalties prescribed for employees found guilty of the conduct complained of?
That was the question I asked, and the Minister in subsequent attempts to answer it belittled me for having made allegations which he said did not contain a scintilla of truth. The matter then rested for a couple of months; but apparently the Police Department in New South “Wales took cognizance of the matter. Two months after I had raised this matter, there appeared in the Lithgow Mercury the following report : -
Following a sensational series of arrests on Friday night, when police searched three dwellings in the Littleton area, and recovered a large quantity of ammunition, rifles, components, tools, two spanners manufactured at the S.A.F., and two telescopic sights, a man was charged with stealing f 140 worth of Commonwealth property, and two others with having stolen goods in custody.
That was the story of the arrests. If that is npt sufficient to prove the truth of my statement, I come to the report in the same newspaper on the 17th August, eleven days after the story of the arrests had been published, of the prosecution and conviction of the persons arrested. The Minister, in his apologia for what had occurred, said that the rifles had been taken for conversion for sporting purposes only. The magistrate said that 71,000 rounds of ammunition had been stolen. That would allow of a lot of sport. .
– Wherever it came from, it can kill people at whom it is fired.
– -I could put some of it to good use.
– I hope the honorable gentleman does not intend to commit, suicide !
– The rifles were -stolen from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. That is under the control of the Minister, who said that the restrictions and regulations were such as to make it virtually impossible for these things to occur ; but they did occur, and it was only as the result of investigations by the police, and not by the Minister, that the control was tightened up. I direct the attention of the House to the comments made’ by the magistrate, and remind honorable gentlemen that the Minister said that the rifles had been taken for sporting use. The magistrate, Mr. Soiling, according to the report in the Lithgow Mercury, said that the men had stolen enough ammunition to start a war of their own. Yet we are expected to believe that the thieves were a couple of innocent boys who wanted to shoot kangaroos. That arms might easily have got into the hands of the underworld is borne out by remarks made by the solicitor who appeared for the defendants when they appeared before Mr. Soiling. He said that they had been used as “tools” by other persons. If representations made publicly in this House to Ministers are to be treated in the fashion in which the Minister for Munitions has treated my representations in this matter, there is not much sense in our bringing abuses to their attention for the public benefit. I shall say no more at present. I leave the verdict to the police magistrate who convicted these men of stealing guns and components from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which, according to the Minister’s statement two months ago, was an impossibility.
– INDO-CHINA. ‘
– In -view of the uprising of native peoples in Indo-China, which has already involved British troops and may in the course of time involve Australia, and which will certainly have far-reaching consequences, will the Prime Minister ask the Attorney-General to take the matter up with the Security
Council of the United Nations? This would he more fitting than to appeal to our late enemies, the Japanese, to intervene in the uprising. Action by the Security Council might prevent an extension of the conflict.
– I am extremely reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of any nation or to make any representation for such interference to he made.
– British troops have already been involved.
– I do not propose to go into that. Frankly, I am not disposed at this stage, with the information at my disposal, to make any such representations.
English Wives of Servicemen
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the position regarding the provision of passages to Australia for the wives of servicemen overseas? I have here the case of a pilot officer who was shot down over Germany, was a prisoner of war for two and a half years, and afterwards married an English nurse. Before returning to Australia he called at Australia House, London, to try to make arrangements for the repatriation of his wife. He was told that he would have to wait until he arrived in Australia. On arrival in this country he applied to the department and was told that he should have attended to the matter in England. In view of the great muddle in the department, I ask the Minister to take steps to ensure the immediate transport to Australia of English wives of servicemen.
– The honorable member refers to muddle. There were difficulties in bringing wives of servicemen from England to Australia, because no shipping accommodation was available for many months. We have now arranged for the transport of a number of these women, and a ship carrying 200 wives of servicemen left yesterday for Australia. We hope to bring many more in the near future. Servicemen may now apply in England for transport for their wives. At one time, when only four or five passages could be made available each month, it was essential for applications to be made in Australia. At that time, servicemen overseas did not know to what theatre they would be sent next, and probably wives would not have wanted to come out unless they knew definitely that their husbands were in Australia.Under present conditions, applications can be made in England. I assure the honorable member that, if he will give me the particulars of the case which he mentioned, I shall make every effort to arrange for the transport of the woman to Australia as early as possible.
– Several local governing bodies in my electorate are anxiously trying to obtain road-making and road-mending machinery, particularly such machines as were impressed from them by the Allied Works Council. Can the Minister for Works and Housing state whether any road-making machinery, such as graders, can be procured for these councils, which are in urgent need of them?
– When the Allied Works Council impressed for war purposes road-making and other machines, it either purchased or rented the plant from the local governingbodies. Unfortunately, some of the machines have worn out in the interim, and would be oflittle use to the local authorities. For such machines the councils were paid. However, the Allied Works Council is doing its best to avoid inflicting any hardship upon the municipal and shire councils. WhenI became Minister for Works and Housing, I immediately made efforts to obtain machines for sewerage work in country districts. Admittedly, there is a shortage of the necessary plant, but the Allied Works Council is returning to the local authorities as rapidly as possible any machines which can be used for this work. In addition, we are doing our best to obtain machines to replace worn-out ones.
Japanese Surrender in Netherlands East Indies.
– A few days ago, I asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs to explain why representatives of the
Netherlands Government were excluded from the surrender ceremonies on Dutch territory, and the honorable gentleman promised to obtain the information. I ask him whether he is now in a position to reply to my question?
– I may be able to supply the information early next week.
Woollen Cloth fob Sports Wear.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform me whether it will be possible in the near future to permit the manufacture of woollen cloth for sports clothes - for example, white woollen material for tennis trousers, &c. ? I ask this question for two reasons : First, the desirability of meeting the constant demand for sports clothes, and, secondly, the necessity to promote the use of wool in the manufacture of clothing.
– Offhand, I am not able to indicate to the honorable member just when his request can be met. Yesterday, I heard the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) complain that sooner or later Australia would become a nation of nudists.
– There is no white material in the trade to-day.
– There is a shortage of ordinary suitings, and the factories at the moment need all their productive capacity for that purpose. We are committed first to meet that demand, and, having done so, we shall do our best to meet the demand for sports clothes.
– I direct the attention of the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the following telegram which I have received : -
Conditions Queensland Egg Board chaotic. Poultry-fanners desperate. Eggs accumulating all farms whilst empty cases are held back at Exhibition Grounds. Request immediate investigation.
Australian egg producers have had a very rough deal. As the result of the shortage of poultry feed, they have been obliged to slaughter a big percentage of their flocks. Will the Minister ensure that no further hardships shall be inflicted upon this industry? Will he immediately ascertain by telegram the cause of the difficulty, and take action to relieve the situation?
– An immediate investigation will be made, and I hope to be able to supply the desired information tomorrow.
Investigations in Borneo.
– by leave - In view of the great anxiety of next of kin, I desire to make it clear that specially trained Army officers are making every effort to locate Australian Military Forces prisoners of war in Borneo, and trace those still reported as missing in that area. The task is proving very difficult, as, from information so far received, it is known that, prior to the Japanese surrender, prisoners of war were moved by the Japanese from their known locations to other parts of Borneo. Every endeavour is being made by the interrogation of recovered prisoners of war in Borneo and Japanese personnel to obtain information about the movements of prisoners of war in that area, and the fate of those still posted as missing. All such information is being actively pursued. The task is proving more difficult because the Japanese burned down the Sandakan prisonerofwar compound, in which Australian prisoners of war had been confined, thus preventing the obtaining of any evidence which might otherwise have been available.
Whilst it is sincerely hoped that the efforts to locate further prisoners of war will be successful, it is feared from advices already received that the death-rate among prisoners of war will be high, due mainly to the meagre food rations issued by the Japanese and the apparent lack of medical facilities for the sick. Information received indicates that, whilst some graves of prisoners of war at Sandakan bear the name of the deceased member and in some cases his regimental details, many are without any means of identification. The Japanese have been ordered to provide nominal rolls of all deceased prisoners of war in this area.
Food, medical supplies, including blood, penicillin and sulpha drugs, and medical personnel have been flown in to meet all emergencies, and the evacuation of those so far recovered is proceeding with all haste, subject only to the fitness of the men to travel. The Commonwealth Government fully sympathizes with the next of kin and relatives of these men. They may rest assured that no expense or effort will be spared to trace their ultimate fate. As definite information comes to hand, the next of kin will be immediately advised.
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
-Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that, about twelve months ago, the Rural Reconstruction Commission submitted a report dealing with the financial and economic reconstruction of farms? If so, what action, if any, has been taken by the Government on the findings in that report, and when may we expect a detailed statement of the Government’s policy in respect of rural industries, promised in the White Paper on Full Employment? As the war is over, and as rural workers coming out of the services and war factories and desiring to settle on the land are in the dark concerning the Government’s rural rehabilitation policy, can the Prime Minister make a statement regarding it?
– I think that the right honorable gentleman clearly understands that the Government is not dealing with rural settlement other than the placing of ex-servicemen on the land. The War Service Land Settlement Agreements Bill deals expressly with the settlement of ex-service personnel.
– My question relates to the commission which was appointed to inquire into rural rehabilitation and make recommendations on the matter.
– The Government thought that it was its duty to appoint that commission to make a complete review of the whole problem of primary production, particularly as the export of primary products is a matter for Commonwealth decision and management. It was considered that all related matters should be the subject of a report for the benefit of, not only the members of this House, but also the people of the various States. I cannot indicate offhand that the Government will formulate a policy with regard to the land settlement of civilians as distinct from ex-servicemen. When the soldier settlement scheme is being put into operation, the Government may be able to survey the whole field, but that will have to he done in agreement with the State authorities, as the Commonwealth has no power to acquire property for soldier settlement, and it has not the necessary administrative machinery to deal with all matters relating to such settlement. Even the bill now on the notice-paper covers two different agreements fixing the relations between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the land settlement of servicemen. I shall ascertain whether a general statement can be prepared and submitted to the House when the Government has further considered the matter.
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself intoa Committee of Ways and Means.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 26th September (vide page 5985).
Proposed vote - Reciprocal Lend-lease to Unites States Forces, £20,000,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £44,549,000.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr.Riordan).Yes.
She taxpayer, or even the Government, I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to rule that the divisions may be considered separately.
– I am merely following the usual practice. . There is no alternative to the submission of the proposed vote as a whole.
– I rise to order. It is scandalous to submit these important divisions as a whole. The estimates for “ Other War Services “ deal with very important matters, which justify minute consideration by the committee, and particularly by a vigilant Opposition. I enter an emphatic protest against the ruling that the proposed vote shall be considered as a whole. The Government should not obstruct the Opposition. Our aim. is to co-operate with it as much as possible, but not to the neglect of the definite duty that we have to perform. The budget and Estimates have been presented in a slovenly fashion, and we have to make the best use of the meagre information that has been supplied to us.
– I repeat, that I have no alternative to the submission of the proposed votes as they appear in the Estimates.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the vote be considered by departments.
.- The Government should accede to the request of the Opposition. It desires to speed the passage of the Estimates, and our aim is to help it in that respect. But that can be achieved, only if the Government will co-operate with us. If it chooses to adopt a stubborn attitude, it cannot expect our co-operation. The motion of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is in accordance with established practice. Under some State legislation, a minimum period of three or four weeks is allowed for the discussion of the Estimates; yet the Government is attempting to impose a limit of only a few hours. There should be free and full discussion. No Government worthy of the name would object to that. I urge the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who appears to be in charge of Government business, to accede to our representations so that the pasage of the Estimates may be facilitated.
– The Opposition is not entitled to say that debate has been stifled, or that it has been denied a reasonable opportunity to review the Estimates. The committee sat until almost 2 a.m. to-day, and a full opportunity was afforded to honorable members to deal separately with each of the major defence departments. It will be noted from the printed Estimates that the proposed vote “ Other War Services “ is in the same category as the earlier proposed votes thatwere considered as a whole. All the other war departments are under the general heading that I have just mentioned. It is not inconsistent with proper usage for the departments, which appear under the general heading “ Other War Services “ to be taken en bloc. Honorable members have had a full opportunity to examine the expenditure of each of the war departments. The procedure is perfectly regular and consistent with the practice that has been observed in this chamber. It is most unfair for honorable members opposite to say that they have been denied an opportunity to discuss any item of expenditure. There has been no attempt to restrict debate. Ministers have gone to considerable pains to explain the various matters to which reference has been made.
– I have discussed this matter with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the Government is prepared to take the vote “ Other War Services “ in two parts, if that is acceptable to the committee.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
That the vote be considered in two parts, viz. : - Divisions Nos. 101-205 and Divisions Nos. 206-225.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling Downs-
Leader of the Australian Country party) [11.25]. - I draw attention to an item which is included in the proposed vote of £12,846,000 for the Department of the
Treasury. I refer to “ Other Items, £41,700,000”, in Division 194- Price Stabilization Subsidies. The total proposed vote for the division is £12,500,000. It seems extraordinary that the Government should see fit to designate an item involving an expenditure of only £500,000, namely, “ Recoup of basic wage adjustment”, and yet include a much larger sum under the general heading “ Other items I desire details of the expenditure under that heading.
I also seek information regarding the £300,000 for peace officers, under the heading “ Special Appropriations as I am at a loss to understand why so large a provision is deemed necessary in a year of peace.
– That is so, but nine months of the year will be in the post-war period. When I was last in Brisbane I attempted to enter the Federal Members’ Booms on a Saturday morning, but was intercepted and interrogated by peace officers. I do not know -why the public funds are being wasted in this way. A satisfactory explanation of the item, should be given to the committee.
– - The services of nearly all the peace officers have been dispensed with.
– On several occasions I have referred to the importation of 2,500 utility trucks from the United Kingdom. This is a long and sad story. I have no desire to move members of the committee to tears, although the taxpayers have reason to weep. The Government pleaded a grave shortage of utility trucks and prevailed upon the United Kingdom Government to permit the export to Australia of 2,500 utilities of four different British makes. Some of the vehicles were sent to distributors in the hope that they would be able to put them into use, but the distributors could not ascertain the prices placed on the trucks. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) made an explanation which, however, was no more satisfying than are most ministerial statements. Ultimately, the trucks, which were of 10 horse-power and 12 horse-power, were priced at from £426 to £475 each. In answer to a question, the Minister for Trade and Customs admitted that at those prices the Government would lose at least £56 on each truck, but men engaged in the motor trade say that the prices represented a loss of at least £156 on each truck. It’ is interesting to note that as soon as the prices were announced, many of the prospective purchasers cancelled their orders. I should like details of this extraordinary deal. I understand that the trucks were obtained only because it was represented to the United Kingdom Government that they were badly needed to enable primary producers in Australia to provide food needed by the people of Britain. The trucks were of war-time types, but no arrangements were made to provide bodies for them. I have had a look at some of the trucks in Adelaide, and they lacked parts which had to be installed before they could be sold. Questions asked of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) produced only evasive and unsatisfactory replies. I should like to know whether the department expects the trade to buy the trucks outright or merely to sell them on commission. Is it proposed to allow Commonwealth and State Government departments to buy trucks at a reasonable price? If not, the Government will find itself left with a large number of trucks on its hands, and the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. The deal was completed without the Government having come to any arrangement about price. It is usual for buyers, except those in government departments, to find out the price before they sign up for the purchase of anything. A full statement on the subject is long overdue.
– 1 should like some information about the activities of the External Affairs Department in regard to Unrra. For this purpose, £3,000 has been placed on the Estimates for this year, as compared with £50,000 last year, although the record shows that, of the £50,000, only £1,170 was expended. The original idea was that Australia would make a substantial contribution to Unrra, and, as a primaryproducing country, would supply food and other necessaries for distribution by the organization. Therefore, an amount of ?50,000 was placed upon the Estimates for administrative expenses alone. Now, after the mountain has been for some time in labour, it has produced a mouse in the shape of an actual expenditure of only ?1,170. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) spread himself effusively at the Lapstone conference, and created the impression that Australia was going to take a very active part in the work of Unrra. It now appears that, unless we propose to pull out altogether, something more should be done than has been provided for in the Estimates. Even persons who have been selected by Unrra to go abroad to work for that organization are not permitted to leave the country.
– That matter has been adjusted.
– It is true that some persons have been permitted to go, but I know of medical officers who have been offered positions by Unrra, hut have been refused release to enable them to take over their new work. Not so long ago, we were to show the world what we Australians were going to do about Unrra. The Minister for External Affairs hit the headlines almost every day when he spoke on the subject. Some explanation is due to the other signatories co the agreement as to why we have not honoured our undertakings.
There is a reference in the Estimates, under the heading of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, to conferences on industrial matters. I firmly believe that it is necessary, to hold a number of conferences on industrial matters considering the state of industrial anarchy which prevails in New South Wales, and, indeed, in some other parts of Australia, also. There might well be a conference to consider the strike of the ironworkers whose offence is regarded as so grave that the union has been deregistered. This arose out of the fact that when the judge of the Arbitration Court proposed to inspect conditions in certain factories, the men were ordered to cease work. Now, the Ironworkers Union has lost the protection of the Arbitration Court, but why should it worry about that when there is in. power a sympathetic Com monwealth Government which is prepared to give the men everything they want? A large number of the 6,000 men now on strike at the iron and steel works at Port Kembla are members of this organization. I suggest that the Government should take the same action in the case of employees at Port Kembla as has been suggested in the case of the waterside workers, and it would have the support of the true-blue unionists at Newcastle. This is what the treasurer and district organizer of the anti-Communist committee of the Federated Ironworkers Association said -
We intend to press for secret ballots in all branches of the union on n motion of no confidence in Federal, State, and branch executives, and to ask the Government to appoint a competent officer to supervise the ballot.
Because of Communist infiltration of the unions with the object of seizing control of the whole trade union movement, the Government should consider ordering the taking of secret ballots under the direction of Government supervisors. On the 4th September, the Industrial Commission ordered the deregistration of the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Mr. Justice Kinsella, in his judgment, said that it was hard to imagine a more flagrant example of contempt of court than the obstruction of the administration of justice which had been committeed or a more wilful challenge to judicial authority^ Mr. Justice De Baun, he said, might well have treated the acts of the association as criminal contempt of court, but forebore from doing so.
Mr. Justice Kinsella continued ;
It is apparent that the facts disclose such a deliberate and premeditated challenge to the authority of the commission that unless the association repudiates the actions taken on what purported to be its authority or otherwise to indicate that it is prepared to observe its obligations under the law. either the association or the commission must vacate the field nf industrial arbitration.
In this challenge by the Federated Ironworkers Association to the Industrial Commission the Government should uphold the law. Conditions have come to such a pass that two members of the commission have said that either the association or the commission must vacate the field of industrial arbitration. I urge the Government / to stand behind the commission in this matter. The order of deregistration was made because of the association’s order for the cessation of work at two factories when Mr. Justice De Baun went to inspect them with a view to making an award. The decision to cease work had the approval of the committee of management of the Newcastle branch of the association, and the national council had been informed of the intended action and had taken no steps to countermand the cease work decision. This means, of course, that the Federated Ironworkers Association in New South Wales has lost the protection of the Arbitration Court. Members have no wages or conditions that the law of the country recognized. They have no right of access to any tribunal of the land to seek justice if the employers decide to cut their wages and reduce their conditions. But they believe, apparently, that they have sympathetic and. exceedingly tolerant Commonwealth and State Governments, because they are largely representative of the 6,000 men who are at present involved in a general stoppage at the works of Australian Iron and Steel Limited and Lysaght’s (Port Kembla) Limited. I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Thornton, who is representing the Australian trade union movement at the Trade Union Congress overseas, and who is the leading Communist in Australia to-day, will be pleased to hear that his instructions are being carried out in his absence. Towards the end of 1941 he wrote a pamphlet in which he said -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years. These are not just sporadic strikes that are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes, because we make strikes our business.
In view of Mr. Thornton’s position as a leader of the trade union movement, and the fact that the Federated Ironworkers Association has been deregistered and cannot now claim the protection of the court with respect to wages rand conditions, it is high time that the Government called x a conference to discuss the position.
Steps should be taken to ensure that the unions do not take complete control of Australian industry. After hearing the explanations of the Minister on the two matters I have raised, I may have something further to say with regard to them.
.- I direct attention to a grave anomaly in respect of the fixation of prices in the butchering trade in Tasmania as the result of which retail butchers are being treated most unjustly. I have in my hand a press report of police court proceedings in Hobart a few days ago in a case in which a master butcher was alleged to have over-charged for meat. During the hearing of the case the representative of the Prices Commissioner, Mr. W. E. Cox, admitted that it was impossible for the retail butcher to sell meat at a reasonable margin of profit unless prices were fixed for meat on the hoof. The report reads -
Mr. Cox, who represented the Prices Commissioner, said the trouble with the trade was that butchers set out to compete against one another instead of working together. Despite the fact that meat prices were fixed on a retail basis, butchers were (forced into the position of having to overcharge to make a profit. “ We have had dozens of butchers in court from time to time said Mr. Cox. “ The public is being constantly overcharged for meat.”
The defendant said butchers were not willing to pay the prices charged at the abattoirs for meat, but were forced to do so. The Prices Commission had done nothing to help them.
The whole position, said Mr. Cox, was that there was no legal power to fix the price of meat “ on the hoof “.
Live cattle have not been declared and the Prices Commissioner has no legal power to fix prices on the hoof. This is most unjust. Retail butchers are compelled to compete at auction sales of fat stock and, at the same time, to adhere to retail prices fixed by the commission. In these circumstances, many retail butchers have been forced to close their businesses. I know of a number who have gone bankrupt. They are advised by the commission that they should not bid a figure which would preclude them from selling at the fixed retail prices. If they followed that advice the public would be left without meat. It is quite easy for the Prices Commissioner to tell retail butchers not to enter into competition with each, other. That is an ideal impossible of realization. I have had an opportunity to examine the boots of some of these retail butchers, and I am con- vinced that they must either break the law or go bankrupt. This is the result of the anomaly whereby the Prices Com.missioner can fix retail prices only and not wholesale prices. The retail butchers are compelled to purchase on an open competitive market and to sell on a controlled market. The objective of the Government to prevent increases of the cost of living is most laudible; but retail butchers should not be compelled “ to carry the baby “. If the Government cannot devise a more equitable system for the fixing of prices in the trade, it should permit an open competitive market both on the hoof and in the shop, or a controlled market at both ends. Let us have one, or the other, ft is impracticable to ask retail butchers not to hid high prices at the auctions, because, if they did not, butchers from other parts of the district or State would do the bidding and get the fat stock offering. They would be forced to close their shop3 and there would be no meat for the public. On the advice of the Prices Commissioner, on one occasion the retail butchers failed to bid, and secured no fat stock at all. The people of the town were without meat for several days simply because the butchers had carried out the Prices Commissioner’s suggestion. I realize that the problem is difficult, but why should the retail butchers be compelled to carry the burden? Price on the hoof cannot be fixed equitably. It cannot be fixed definitely on a per lb. basis, because prime steer beef is worth very much more than poor-quality beef. F do not know how the difficulty can be overcome, but the control is unfair to the retail master butchers, who are compelled to buy on a competitive market and sell on a controlled market. It may be possible that a round-table conference between the retail butchers, the pastoralists, the Prices Commissioner and the public could arrive at a solution, but meanwhile it is unfair that the retail butchers should be forced either to “ carry the baby” or in the words of the representative of the Prices Commissioner, break the law.
– Some months ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to take up with the British manufacturers of motor vehicles imported by the Division of Import Procurement the high price that they are forced to charge for their product because of excessive war-time production costs and the heavy freights and insurance charges, which, when all the revenue charges levied by the Governmentare added, inflate the cost to the public of a 10 or 12 horse-power utility truck to about £550. I also asked him to impress upon the Government the need to waive all the charges imposed by it on the vehicles by way of customs duty, primage and sales tax and to subsidize the sale of the vehicles to essential users. I understood from the Minister that the result of his representations to the British manufacturers was an expression of agreement that a disservice to their export trade would be done if the vehicles were allowed to remain at a high price. I also understand that in their own interests the manufacturers have decided to reduce the cost of their cars. If that is so a long time has passed without action.
– The trouble was not at this end.
– I realize that the high cost of the vehicles is the result of the inflated war-time costs of production, freight and insurance. But a great deal could be done at this end to relieve the situation by the remission of the taxes levied on the vehicles. I could cite scores of people whose livelihood depends on their having trucks to transport their primary products to the railhead for consignment to the markets, but who cannot buy them. Only two days ago I received a letter from a fruit-grower whose crop will be harvested within a few weeks. Neither he nor his neighbours have the means whereby to get their fruit to the railway. He blames the Government for his not being able to buy a truck. I have tried without success to correct the position. Eight weeks ago he applied for a permit to buy a truck but has not yet been supplied with one. Two years ago, in order to tide himself over, he spent £200 on an old truck; but it is absolutely useless and his expenditure was a total loss.
E ask the Minister to expedite the issuance to essential users of permits to huy vehicles. I also invite the Minister to explain the whole system. Certain firms have the trucks for distribution. I want to know their system of distribution. How does one buy a truck from a distributing agent? I am informed by my correspondent that passing his orchard daily are trucks carrying all sorts of goods and that those trucks have been bought either during the war or since the termination of hostilities in Europe. In one sense this man is an isolated case in that it would appear that scores of other people are able to buy trucks, whereas he is not; but, in the general sense, he is not isolated, because there are hundreds of men like him similarly placed. They should be given priority. Control over the distribution of the trucks should not be lightly handed over to distributors by the Government without precautions being taken against the distribution of the trucks to non-deserving people while people upon whom the prosperity of the country depends have to go without. Farmers, who cannot possibly be in day-to-day personal contact with distributors, should not be allowed to have their claims passed over in favour of city-dwellers to whom possession of a motor vehicle is not so imperative. I have written to the Minister about this matter, and I hope that he will give it his immediate attention so that the crop that this man has been tending for twelve months since the last harvest shall not be lost.
.- The results to both the producer and the consumer of the fixation of meat prices have been criticized by honorable gentlemen opposite, but they should be cognizant of the problems that faced the Government and the efficiency with which they were handled to the advantage of all sections interested, the growers, the butchers and the public. We have had considerable trouble with people who have sought to exploit the controls for their own profit. The Government pegged wages and endeavoured to peg prices in order to stabilize the economy of the country and prevent undue inflation, which would have brought ruination, not only to the primary producers, but also to the wageearners and the business community. This action is deserving of praise rather than criticism. The cost of living index figures show that the policy has been highly successful, although it has caused expense in the payment of subsidies. For instance, potato-growers receive about £13 10s. a ton for their products, which are released to wholesalers at about £6 10s. a ton. The difference is paid by the Government. However, the industry as a whole has benefited. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), in referring to meat prices, said that the industry, had been working under unfair conditions. Before establishing its meat control organization, the Government arranged a conference with producers, wholesale operators, and retail butchers, and it was decided to adopt a policy which would cause the least possible degree of interference with established’’ practices in the industry. The butchering section of the industry did not want the Government to handle meat any more than in normal times, and the growers asked to be allowed to sell their stock at auction or in the paddocks, and to be allowed to have it killed on their own account and sold on the hook. The Government agreed to this, although I considered at the time that the industry could be handled more efficiently if the meat were consigned to the Government, killed on the owners’ accounts, and released to the butchering trade by the Government. In this way a greater measure of control would have been maintained over prices and supplies to the community. Nevertheless, one of the great achievements of the Government has been to provide adequate meat supplies for the armed forces, for Great Britain, and for local consumption during a very severe drought. The chief problem was to bring about equitable distribution of supplies. The Government’* solution was to introduce rationing in order to reduce civilian consumption and release additional supplies for Great Britain. In this connexion the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) hai placed a question on the notice-paper asking the Government to lend support to a movement for shipping greater quantities of food to Great Britain, although he has on at least two occasions criticized the Government’s policy for obtaining additional meat supplies for the United Kingdom. His actions are contradictory, and [ fail to understand his purpose.
– My concern was with the buying public, not with the butchers.
– If black-market meat is allowed to come on to the market, it will be impossible, to that extent at least, to provide additional supplies to Great Britain. Rationing was introduced in order to reduce home consumption and release the desired quantities for Great Britain and the armed services. Had rationing been loyally supported, the Government would have had little trouble in doing what it set out to do. The majority of butchers abided by the Government’s decisions, but certain operators tried to defeat the rationing scheme by purchasing stock at prices above the established market prices and selling the meat on the black market without coupons. I understand that the quantity of black-market meat sold in Melbourne represents about 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, of the rationed requirements. That quantity represents so much meat lost to Great Britain. The Government must endeavour to eliminate black marketing.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that the ration for Melbourne is being exceeded by 30 per cent, by means of the black market?
– Yes. Stock is bought by the black marketeers above established prices and is retailed to the public at a profit. “When a woman goes to a black marketeer’s shop to buy the week-end joint he merely throws the meat on the scales and charges, say, 5s. 7d. for it, although the legitimate price might be 3s. 6d. or 4s., and does not demand the full coupon value. Butchers have ways of overcharging the people without telling them that they are doing so. Most of the big meat firms have co-operated in the scheme, but some small buyers have tried to defeat the plan by resorting to the black market. For that reason drastic action had to be taken by cancelling licences and diverting stock supplies from those men to the honest butchers. The stock-raiser has nothing to worry about, because present prices for stock are, on the average, about 35 per cent, higher than when the Labour Government first took office. The average grower would rather receive stable prices over a long period than receive a high price at one market and a low price at another market. The selling of lambs at about £2 10s. a head on the black market has done nothing to help the growers who suffered from the drought. It has been said that these men are entitled to high prices in order to compensate them for their drought losses. But the growers who obtain illegal prices are not those who were most adversely affected by drought conditions They are the men who live in irrigated areas and areas more favoured by rain and who suffered least. The men who suffered most are trying to restock their properties and, instead of being able to buy sheep at £1 5s. a head, they have to pay unduly high prices, which are usually at least £1 a head above the fixed price. I understand that a substantial proportion of stock sold in the Victorian markets - in some cases up to 80 per cent, of the total yarding - comes from other States. The peak of the lamb season is approaching and considerable quantities of this meat will be available for export to Great Britain. Lambproducers keenly desire to maintain this trade with the United Kingdom. But the export price is lower than the local price for lamb and the Meat Controller desires to bring the two prices into closer relation so that lamb shall be freely available for the export trade. Otherwise, retail butchers will purchase nearly the whole of the supplies for the local trade and only small quantities will be exported. Last year an unduly large proportion of lambs was purchased by the local trade and exports were considerably less than they should have been. The policy- of the Meat Controller is to divert a larger quantity of lamb to the United Kingdom and prevent blackmarketing interests in this country from obtaining the bulk of the supplies of lamb to the exclusion of the export trade.
– Does the honorable member expect that a reasonable quantity of lamb will he available for export this year ?
– In Victoria, as the result of drought, only from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of the normal quantity of lamb will be available. In New South Wales, because of the exceptionally good season, there will be large quantities of lamb. In other States, production will vary, but in the aggregate, lamb production this year will be substantially less than in a normal year. Victoria, which is the principal lamb-producing State, will be the greatest sufferer this year, but New South Wales, which has had a wonderfully good season, will market large quantities. Because the total lamb production of the Commonwealth will be substantially less than in a normal year, the Meat Controller must ensure that the export of lambs to Great Britain shall be maintained. I hope that I have convinced honorable members of the difficulty of controlling meat supplies. In the production of munitions, we decide that a certain number of units are required and if man-power and materials are available, we can manufacture the desired quantity. But in the meat trade we set a certain target. If we have a good year the supply exceeds the target and we may experience difficulty in handling and disposing of some of the stocks. If an adverse year is encountered, the target is not reached and supplies are short. That has been the position in Australia. Recently, the Government was obliged further to reduce the quantity of rationed meat available to the public in order to divert meat supplies to the United Kingdom. Meat is the commodity which is in shortest supply in Great Britain and the most difficult to obtain. Until recently, the United Kingdom obtained exceptionally large quantities of meat from the United States of America, but because of changed conditions considerably less meat is now available to Great Britain from that source. Australia must do its utmost to make up that deficiency. We are endeavouring to do so, and at the same time we are protecting the interests of the producer. The average price of meat to-day is 35 per cent, higher than it was three or four years ago. The interests of the wholesaler are being protected, provided he observes the ceiling prices. The interests of the retail butcher will be protected, because he is allowed & fair margin of profit on the wholesale price. Each butcher receives a quota to enable him to carry on his business. Meat supplies must be distributed under a quota system in order to protect the interests of the small butcher. If the Government were satisfied merely to supply meat in exchange for coupons, large butchers might secure the whole of - the available stocks by using various trading methods to get coupons. The small butcher would be crushed out of the market, because he would not be able to obtain non-coupon meat. If housewives could get better treatment at the large butcher shops, they would naturally make their purchases there. The quota system ensures that all butchers shall receive a fair proportion of the available supplies. I ask honorable members to realize that the solution of the problems of the meat trade is not easy, but the methods of control are functioning satisf actorily. No trade interestshave been unduly penalized. The persons who have been most severely penalized are those who tried to defeat the Meat Controller, and thereby brought trouble upon their own heads.
.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) accused me of having been inconsistent. He said that I had asked that increased supplies of meat be sent to Great Britain, but that I objected to the action of the Government to control black-marketing in meat in Melbourne. Honorable members will recall that last week, I directed attention to the action of the Meat Controller in seizing the stocks of certain wholesale butchers. I definitely am in favour of increasing by every possible means the supply of food for Great Britain, and that can be done. On several occasions, I have suggested that rationed foods available to the Australian public should be further reduced. We should endeavour to eat less and export more. When discussing food rationing with many people, I have never heard any complaints about the quantities of rationed goods available. Nor have I seen any great diminution of the figures of people as the result of food rationing. Additional supplies of rationed goods can be made available to
Great Britain by reducing the existing ration scale here, particularly the sugar ration. At present, each person is allowed 1 lb. of sugar a week. That was equivalent to our normal consumption of sugar. Not the slightest reason can be advanced for not reducing the sugar ration, and sending the surplus stocks to Great Britain, which urgently requires sugar and sugar products.
The honorable member for Darling accused me of having opposed the action of the Meat Controller in seizing the stocks of certain wholesale butchers in Melbourne. In common with all honorable members, I am strongly opposed to black-marketing. Undoubtedly, there has been a good deal of black-marketing in meat in Melbourne and other cities.
– Melbourne is getting a bad reputation.
– It is following in the footsteps of Sydney. I dislike the example which Sydney sets.
– The position in Sydney is not so bad as it is in Melbourne.
– Sydney is setting a bad example, and Melbourne may be tempted to follow when it sees how Sydney “ gets away with it “. My objection was raised, not at the principle underlying the action taken by the Government, but at the manner in which the action was taken, because it resulted in members of the public being deprived of the meat which they were entitled to purchase in exchange for their coupons. Two days after the Meat Controller acted, no fewer than 150 retail butchers had no meat, and customers were not able to obtain supplies for the week-end. I still voice my strong objection to the manner in which the Meat Controller acted, and ask that, before any further action is taken to seize stocks of meat from wholesale butchers, the parties concerned should be summoned to a conference for the purpose of determining how supplies shall be made available to the retail butchers for sale to the public. We do not desire to make conditions more difficult for the people, who to-day are still suffering inconvenience as the result of war-time restrictions.
We all agree that the greatest possible assistance should be given to exservicemen, first in the matter of repatriation and employment, and then with regard to housing. After the first world war, application was made to the War Service Homes Commission for 37,000 houses for ex-servicemen, and the requirements of all applicants were met; but during the last few years the Government ha3 provided practically no homes for ex-service personnel. Until eighteen months ago, only about twenty more war service homes had been erected since the commencement of the second world war. Despite many applications for homes for ex-servicemen, little has yet been accomplished to relieve the position. The proposed vote for the War Service Horner Commission for this year is £91,000 as compared with £67,000 last year, an increase of only £24,000. The administrative staff of the Department of Works and Housing is to be approximately the same size for the coming year as last year The amount provided for salaries is, after all, a measure of the activities of the department, and. only two or three architects and a few clerks are to be added to the staff. In other words, the department is apparently not planning for an extension of housing activities. If we are to have a housing programme commensurate with the requirements of returned servicemen, an increased staff is obviously needed; but it appears that the department has miserably failed in this matter.
The report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission dealt with war service homes to some degree, and recommended that preference in allotting government finance should he shown to exservice personnel, special consideration being given to the urgency of the needs of, first, discharged defence personnel and other eligible persons as provided in the War Service Homes Act who should receive a proportion of the dwellings available; secondly, those inadequately or unhygienically housed; and, thirdly, those with low incomes. The report of the commission further stated -
As the liberal terms and conditions of home pureha.se proposed in this report compare favorably with those at present provided for in the War Service Homes Act, and are better inasmuch that they provide for subsidy to meet high building costs, and, further, as provision is made for erection of housing for letting, if necessary at sub-economic rents, which is not provided for in the War Service Homes Act. service personnel would not he it a disadvantage if the recommendations in this report he. enacted and the present schemes he not continued.
The commission considered that service personnel should be treated on the same basis as people with low incomes and with inadequate housing accommodation, but [ submit that that is not a proper attitude for the Government to adopt. Returned servicemen should receive preferential treatment, and more liberal financial assistance than that received by other members of the public. I hope that the Government will make a determined effort to provide housing on acceptable terms to persons with war service. Before the Government embarks upon a scheme of public works, attention should be given to the erection of war service homes.
– Would not the honorable member provide the returned serviceman with a job first?
– A man cannot work unless he has a roof over his head.
– What is the use of a roof over his head if he has not a job?
– At this stage, houses should be given priority over public works.
– How many war service homes is the Government budgeting for?
– So far as I can see, it is not budgeting for any war service homes. It is not even budgeting for an increased staff to deal with an accelerated building programme. Time is passing, and men in the armed forces are now returning, but there are no houses for them. ‘The provision of homes is a matter of urgency.
Last year the expenditure in respect of the Division of Import Procurement was £410,394. The estimate for the current year is £398,000, or only £12,394 less than last year. I should like the Minister to say on what grounds the proposed vote can be justified? Lendlease arrangements with the United States of America have ceased, and as the Division of Import Procurement has been concerned almost entirely with lend-lease goods, a smaller sum should suffice for this year. Surely, the large staff that has been employed hitherto is no longer necessary.
The work of the Rationing Commission is tapering off, as from time to time the need to ration goods will pass. Yet the Estimates show that £394,000 will b.e required this year, compared with £509,931 last year. That is a reduction of only about 25 per cent., which does not seem sufficient. For the office of the Prices Commissioner the sum of £520,000 is included in this year’s Estimates. That is more than the expenditure last year, namely £490,794. The larger vote this year calls for an explanation, but I doubt whether a satisfactory explanation can be given.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [12.34J. - The vote for the Division of Import Procurement is only £12,394 less than the expenditure in 1944-45. We should know what the policy of the Government in regard to this division is. Does the Government intend to maintain this huge organization, and if so, for what purpose? The division was established to deal with lend-lease goods, but with the cessation of lend-lease arrangements the necessity for a huge department has disappeared. If it is intended that the staff shall be retained to deal with ordinary goods of commerce, I express the opinion that the time is ripe for a return to pre-war methods, under which goods were imported through ordinary trade channels and came under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs.. Should a shortage of dollar exchange make necessary a curtailment of imports from the United States of America, that could be done by a rationing of dollar exchange by the Commonwealth Bank. The vote for the Division of Import Procurement includes £700,000 for salaries and allowances, less £424,000 estimated to be received in respect of administrative expenses included as overhead charges in invoice price of lend-lease and other goods. There is a footnote that the £700,000 includes approximately £327,000 to be expended in the United States of America. In the press this morning it was reported that the British Ministry of Shipping had decided to divert ships from the Panama Canal route in order to save dollar exchange. In the light of the problems associated with dollar exchange, these Estimates should be revised. If some of the large staff of the division now in the United States of America were dispensed with, a considerable saving could be effected. For rent of New York offices £27,000 is to be set aside. That sum is £3,267 less than the expenditure last year. “With the curtailment of imports from the United States of America, and the cessation of lend-lease arrangements, the premises now rented in New York could be vacated and smaller and less expensive offices taken. Last year, £17,609 was expended in the purchase of motor vehicles and other mobile plant under division 203. This year £10,000 is to be provided for that purpose. Maintenance of motor vehicles and of mobile plant, workshop and garage equipment, stores, tools, &c, cost £7,140 last year. Why is £10,000 set down for this year?
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to the importation of motor utility trucks from the United Kingdom. I draw attention to the delays associated with the fixing of prices on goods brought to Australia. [ have in mind particularly motor trucks required by primary producers. Some months ago a primary producer in northern New South Wales purchased a Fargo truck from Dominion Motors Limited, of Sydney. It was in stock and should have been released quickly, but there has been a delay of more than four months in fixing the price for the truck. Even now that matter has not been decided. The man concerned requires the truck urgently to shift wool and other produce from his farm and to bring goods from the railhead 30 miles away. Surely the shortage of staff is not so acute as to cause such long delays.
Mr. HUTCHINSON (Deakin) ,[12.43 J. - I again raise the subject of exports, particularly of meat, to Great Britain in the hope that I shall get more information on the subject than I was given last Tuesday. During the next few months there will he great difficulty in maintaining exports to Great Britain at a reasonable level, particularly if the present rate of consumption in Australia be continued. It is rumoured that for a period of two or three months lambs will be acquired by the Government, but the Minister concerned has said that the Government has not given consideration to this matter. Nevertheless, press statements that the Government intends to acquire lamb;1 at a fixed price continue to be made. Should lambs be acquired, one section of the community will suffer. In normal years in the flush of the season, the price of lambs is based on export parity, but in abnormal time? prices differ. For instance, in October and November, when lambs are available in greater numbers than at other periods of the year, the price falls. The present year is not normal ; lambs are not coming forward in large numbers. Because of the drought demand by graziers for lambs will he greater than in normal years.
Silting suspended from 10.45 to 2 JIO p.m.
– I have received information which confirms what has appeared in the press. In the next few months, all lamb suitable for export is to be exported, and animals that are bruised or have other blemishes are to to bc kept in Australia for home consumption. That may not be straight-out acquisition, but it is a form of control that is tantamount to acquisition. If all lamb is acquired and graded, the price must revert to export parity. The usual number of lambs will not be placed on the market, because of the losses caused by drought, and graziers will operate in the fat pens with a view to obtaining suitable lambs for restocking purposes. Those conditions would not prevail in a normal year, when hundreds of thousands of lambs are marketed in the months from September to November and the price sinks to export parity. I am just as anxious as any other honorable member, and the graziers’ desire as keenly as any other section of the people, that existing exports of meat shall be maintained and, if possible, increased. But the export of food to Great Britain is not a matter which affects only this section of the producers. It is a community responsibility, which Australia should shoulder in order to preserve its dignity. If this form of acquisition is put into effect, what will be the result? The leading stock journal of Victoria, Stock and Land, of the 19th September, announced that lamb was realizing ls. per lb. on the hoof in the Melbourne saleyards. The producer who marketed a 32-lb. lamb would obtain 34s. 6d., after allowing 2s. 6d. for skin value. If this control be exercised, a producer marketing a 32-lb. lamb will receive only 19s. 10d., and thus suffer a loss of 15s. a head, compared with the producer who has been marketing lambs within recent weeks. If there is one pari of the country with which honorable members are familiar, it is those districts between Wagga and Melbourne; because, in the early months of this year, when they had to sit up throughout the night while, travelling between Canberra and Melbourne, they had an opportunity to observe it. All of them know that that country suffered very severely from drought. The northeastern portion of Victoria had never previously been so badly affected by drought conditions. Stock were fed with whatever food could be obtained - carrots, potatoes, wheat, or anything else - in order to keep them alive, particularly the fat lambing ewes. For months, the producers incurred great expense in keeping their sheep alive, in the expectation that they would obtain some additional return when the fat lamb season arrived. Many of them will have few, if any, lambs; on the average, the reduction of lambing throughout the great bulk of the holdings from the Riverina south, as well as in other very large areas of Victoria and South Australia, has been at least 20 per cent, or 30 per cent. These producers expected a return slightly higher than their normal receipts, when their fat lambs were placed on the market in the concluding months of the year. Yet the Government now says, not to the community generally or even to the general run of producers, but to. lamb producers alone, “ We intend to reduce your prices to export parity. You shall shoulder the responsibility of the nation in regard to exports”. Bad though the times have been through which they have passed, I do not believe that one of them would not be prepared to make some contribution. In the past, they have had to accept export parity. They expected to obtain more than usual this year, but they realize that exports must be maintained at the highest level possible. But they also consider that the community generally should have some responsibility, and that they should be assisted by the Government in connexion with the prices that they receive for their lambs. That could be done by the Government defraying a portion of the difference between market and export prices, or by giving some concession in respect of killing charges which would raise the price of those lambs by £d. or Id. per lb. I trust that the Government will give consideration to one or other of those methods.
A further point to be considered is that the present position has not arisen suddenly. Every producer throughout Australia knew months ago that it was likely to occur. I believe that the Government also was aware of the trend months ago. If it was not, there must be something wrong with its advisers. Being confronted with the problem, steps should have been taken to ensure that justice would be done if the market price were forced down. Those producers who, because of the locality in which they are operating, have to market their lambs at a particular time of the year, should not be singled out for attack.
It seems definite that Australia cannot continue to feed itself on the present basis and cannot expect to maintain exports at the level of past years, because of lack of supplies and the necessity to restock many properties the flocks of which have been depleted by drought. What is the estimated quantity by which meat consumption in this country ha8 exceeded that allowed under the rationing system ? I have no doubt that the Government and the rationing authorities have been aware for months that there was something radically wrong with the rationing scale, or the consumption of meat in relation to it. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, what effect will it have on our exports ? The Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) informed us recently of the position in regard to exports to Great Britain. He said that quantities of foodstuffs awaited shipment, and would be exported as shipping became available.
I should like to know whether we have maintained our meat exports to a reasonable degree, and what will be the effect on them of the demobilization of thousands of men. It should be appreciable, because when the men return to their homes the waste will not be equal to that which occurred under war conditions; consequently, the position in regard to our exports to Great Britain should be eased. What about our exports to Great Britain of canned meats and other canned foods ? All of these matters are worthy of a considered statement. The people are anxious . to he informed. I have bean somewhat amazed to find that the people of Melbourne have suddenly awakened to the existence of a food shortage. Letters have been written to me and to other honorable members, concerning the despatch of food to Great Britain. We have been well aware for months of the need for exertion with a view to expanding production, so that we shall be able to meet all the demands that are likely to be made on us. There is now a general awakening among all sections of the people, and the Government must give the matter its deepest consideration. I trust that more information will he supplied to me, particularly in regard to acquisition and exports, before the committee passes this item of the Estimates. I regret exceedingly that, on account of illness, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is not present, so that he might personally answer the questions of honorable members. Nevertheless, the department has highly qualified experts who are aware of the situation, and they should be able to give to the Acting Minister a considered reply to the points that I have raised.
– I am concerned about the activities of the Attorney-General’s Department in regard to nurses in Australia, particularly the harsh treatment meted out to Nurse Wagland, of Maryborough, to whose case I referred on the motion for the adjournment of the House some time ago. I did not engage in the controversy until I had read in the press the statement that the Maryborough Hospital Board had decided unanimously to communicate with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and to do everything possible to stay any proceedings that might be taken against this nurse. I hoped that the Government would give favorable consideration to resolutions that had been passed by Labour organizations in Maryborough, and I stayed my hand until the Attorney-General’s Department had the impudence to announce that it had no intention of allowing this nurse to make a martyr of herself ; that it would not have her sent to gaol, but would issue a garnishee order on her wages, in order to obtain payment of a fine that had been imposed on her. It was then that I came into the picture for the first time, and I have been supported by the returned soldiers’ organization of Maryborough. This nurse had trained for three or four years under the Gladstone Hospital Board, and then applied for a transfer so that she might do an obstetric course. She made several applications to the Gladstone Hospital Board, but received no satisfaction. She went to Maryborough for a holiday of three weeks. She required an assurance regarding the date upon which she should start her training, and applied to the Man Power authorities at Maryborough and obtained an appointment at the hospital. From there, she went to the maternity hospital having again seen the local Man Power authorities. During her period at this hospital, she again visited the Lady Musgrave Hospital, and was given an appointment for the 5 th May under the Maryborough Hospital Board. She advised the Man Power authorities regarding her new position, and received altogether three communications from Brisbane Man Power office directing her to return to the Gladstone Hospital. On each occasion she visited the local Man Power authority and on the third occasion was advised to communicate personally with Brisbane. A ticket to travel had also been sent to her. She, however, was determined to go on with her training. She wrote to this effect, and received no reply except a summons to attend court. However, being employed in a hospital, she was in a reserved occupation, and was unable to attend. She wrote the full particulars in a letter to the local magistrate, but he, being a member of the hospital board, very properly did not sit to hear the case. l t was heard by a magistrate from Rockhampton. The Maryborough Hospital Board complained that the evidence did not reach the magistrate who heard the case, and that the relevant circumstances were not considered. The nurse was convicted and fined £5, with £3 9s. costs. “We know that when the coal-miners or wharf-labourers go on strike, and are prosecuted, convicted and fined, their fines are eventually remitted, and .’their friends rush around cheering them. Very different treatment, however, was meted out to this nurse. The Maryborough Hospital Board was powerless to move the Minister and his department in. her behalf. When particulars were sent on to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) for action, he instructed the Solicitor-General, ‘Sir George Knowles, Dot to take any further action, but we know that he did, and his action was in keeping with his determination to persecute this nurse.
In the statement prepared by the Maryborough Hospital Board three reasons were given why it stuck to Nurse’ Wagland. The first was that when one trainee at the Maryborough Hospital walked out, and was duly reported to the Man Power authorities, no action was taken, for a reason which I will not state, although it would be to my advantage to do so. The Deputy Director of Man Power said that he would take no action in that case, and the board lost an employee at a time when the staff was short. The second reason advanced by the board was that the Maryborough branch of the Australian Labour party had reported the case of an enemy alien who had repeatedly defied the man-power order to work outside Maryborough. The Deputy Director of Man Power had refused to act in this matter, also. In my own district, a local authority had obtained an order of the court that a certain employee should return to work. Several appeals were made to him, but still he has not reported; yet a nurse, 22 years of age, with several years’ hospital work to her credit, is victimized because she transfers to another hospital to secure her second certificate. A third reason is that the man-power authorities have already insisted that the Mary- borough Hospital Board shall release trainees who wish to gain second or third certificates, but it did not apply similar conditions to the Gladstone Hospital in respect of Nurse Wagland.
Sir George Knowles has claimed that the Gladstone Hospital Board was very short of staff, but the Maryborough Hospital Board, says that it, also, has been very short of staff, and that it cannot afford to lose this nurse. Sir George Knowles appears to have dug up quite a lot of evidence about the case that is not available anywhere else, and he persists in using it against the interests of Nurse Wagland in an effort to bring her to her knees. He persists in doubting statements of the nurses and of the Maryborough board, but not those of the Gladstone board, and I fear that the Acting Attorney-General supports him. On Tuesday week, I spent practically the whole day going from the Minister for Labour and National Service to the Acting Attorney-General, and on to Sir George Knowles, discussing this case. The Minister for Labour and National Service told me that he had given instructions that the garnishee order was not to be enforced. I know that instructions had been given .that the prosecution was not to be proceeded with; nevertheless, it continued. He suggested that I should see Sir George Knowles in order to learn the position about the garnishee order, and the quashing of the verdict. Sir George Knowles suggested that I should try to see the two Ministers together. I tried to do so, but because of a meeting of War Cabinet, the Acting Attorney-General was unable to be present. Eventually, a conference was arranged at which Sir George Knowles gave plenty of reasons why the conviction should not be quashed. All the time his principal argument was that they could not allow this girl to make a martyr of herself, and he repeated that the Gladstone Hospital Board had been very shorthanded. He declared that Nurse Wagland had taken the place of somebody else at Gladstone who held first right to leave in order that she might train for her second certificate. Nurse Wagland, however, states that she did everything above board, and that she had not left until arrangements had been made to fill her place. Sir George Knowles insisted that the girl broke the law. “We know that she was certainly not conscious of breaking it, but there are many others in. this country who have wilfully, and even defiantly, broken the law, and. when they have been fined for it, have had their fines remitted. A week before the conference to which I have referred, I had been advised by the Acting AttorneyGeneral to write to Nurse Wagland asking her for an assurance that she would be satisfied with a remission of the fine. I did so, and she replied saying that she wanted the conviction quashed, «s well as a remission of the fine and the costs ordered against her. At the subsequent conference between the Ministers, Sir George Knowles, and myself, Sir George gave numerous reasons why the conviction could not be quashed. I eventually accepted the position that it might he difficult to do so, and it was agreed that 1 should make a suggestion regarding the fine. I said that I would try to get Nurse Wagland to he satisfied with a remission of the fine. I would not have been able to give the information now except that “Sir George Knowles himself broke the undertaking which waa reached, and the matter has been reported in the newspapers.
– Why not see Sir George Knowles about it?
– He is in the gallery. I have seen him so often that I do not want to see him again. He is a strong man now that the Attorney-General is away, and he has a young nurse to deal with. It was agreed that if I could get from Nurse Wagland a statement that she would be satisfied with the simple remission of the fine, a recommendation to that effect would he made to the Governor-General. Acting in all good faith, I communicated on the 21st September with her, and Sir George Knowles must have known that I could not have received a reply for personal presentation until the 25th September. In the intervening period, he took further action to assure that some of the nurse’s wages would be collected at once. In the Maryborough Chronicle of Saturday, the 22nd September, I found that Nurse Wagland had made the following statement on the previous day: -
I have this day received the following telegram from the Deputy Crown Solicitor, Brisbane : -
I am instructed to inform you-
Instructed by whom, the Commonwealth Solicitor-Genera] ? - that consideration has been given to the question of taking steps for enforcement o! payment of fine recently imposed on you and it has been decided to give you an opportunity to make a first voluntary payment of £1 on account of the fine, such payment to be made to the Clerk Petty Sessions, Maryborough, to-day. If this payment is not made steps will be taken to garnishee your salary due on 24th September. It is understood that you propose for remission or reduction of penalty. I am instructed to inform you that on receipt of your application it will be fully considered and submitted to His Royal Highness.
At my conference with the Ministers, at which Sir George Knowles was present, the promise was extracted from me that I would not tell the girl or any one else of the procedure in approaching the Governor-General. I kept my word. Yet I find that the Solicitor-General himself conveyed the information to her in those terms. That is evidence of his vindictiveness against this 22-year-old nurse. Nurse Wagland also told the press -
I have received a letter from Mr. B. H. Corser, M.H.R., and at his request, I have applied to the Acting Attorney-General stating that I will be satisfied if the fine is remitted in full as it is apparent that it would be a costly process to have the conviction quashed by the High Court.
She was reluctant to take that course because she would have rather have gone to gaol than pay a fine imposed for what she regarded as an injustice.
– Why did she not obey the law?
New South Wales miners and the waterside workers break the law but go scot free. The only persons on whom the honorable gentleman, who is trying by his screaming to exploit the methods of mob psychology, expends any sympathy are those from whom he hopes to get group votes. This young woman will not understand why her wages were garnisheed after I had written to her requesting her to drop the demand that the conviction be quashed.
Last night I wrote to the Acting Attorney-General informing him that he had the necessary letter from the nurse and asking for a reply that evening. The Maryborough Chronicle of the same date also published a report of the deliberations of the Maryborough Hospitals Board on the case in the following terms : -
Having gone as far as it can in an effort to have the conviction against Nurse Mona Wagland quashed and the ?o fine waived, Maryborough Hospitals Board last night unanimously decided that a garnishee order received yesterday, ordering that ?1 be deducted from her wages on Monday next, must be complied with . . .
Mr. M. Phie. ; I cannot see how they can garnishee her. The conviction was a fine of ?5 in default fourteen days levy and distress. If she refuses to pay the fine they must gaol her.
Honorable members will remember that the Attorney-General’s officers in their determination not to allow Nurse Wagland to make a heroine or a martyr of herself, wiped out gaol as the alternative to the fine. They did this on their own initiative. That was stated in the Sydney press.
– There was a paragraph in the Sydney press to the effect that the Attorney-General’s Department would garnishee her wages and would not put the girl in gaol.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department put that in the press ?
– I believe the press. It was true, for the garnishee order arrived later at Maryborough.
– Then the honorable member is credulous.
– Where would the press get the information but from the Attorney-General’s Department? I made that statement three weeks ago and it was not denied. According to the Maryborough Chronicle the chairman of the board said -
A strange thing about it is that the garnishee order is dated yesterday, and the telegram is dated to-day, yet they came from the same office. We just can’t do anything more about it. We received a previous garnishee order which we ignored, but we cannot ignore this one-
Councillor J. Farrell. - What is wrong with us paying the ?1 between us?
– We could not do that. Why do it before her application for a remission of the fine is considered? If she pays any money she forfeits any right to appeal against the conviction.
I am not fighting this battle from a political point of view. I am fighting it on behalf of a girl whose professional services are needed by the nation. With mc- I have everybody and every organization in Maryborough, and, I believe, I have the support of every fair-minded person in the community. My object is to ensure that this nurse shall receive the same consideration as is frequently meted out to the coal-miners after they have been convicted for breaking the same law as this girl was convicted of having broken. The strength of her claim for justice is intensified now that the very regulations that she was convicted of having broken have been cancelled. The Minister for Labour and National Service tried to prevent the case from going to the court originally, but it reached the court despite the fact that he asked Sir George Knowles to stop it. The garnishee orders are still being enforced. Another was issued yesterday. Even if she had wanted to make the first voluntary payment which she was asked by the Deputy Crown Solicitor te make, but which, of course, she would not have made; she did not have the opportunity to do so because the arrival of the telegram coincided with the lodgment with the hospitals board of the garnishee order. She still contends that she was wrongfully convicted, and, in order to nullify the garnishees, she has notified the man-power authorities and the hospitals board that she has ceased work and will not collect any moneys that have been garnisheed. This deadlock might have been averted had Sir George Knowles kept faith as I did and observed the truce reached at the conference under which the Ministers had undertaken that if I persuaded the girl to waive the demand that the conviction be quashed and merely asked for the remission of the fine, the matter would be considered by the Governor-General in Council. I am at liberty to state that she has offered to work without pay until the 24th October, or until the hospitals board is able to obtain some one to take her place. She intends to live with her father in a private capacity in the hope that some day she may be able to resume, without being harassed, training for her second nursing certificate. The first examinations for that certificate are only four weeks off. Under this legal barrage she has not been able to study. -She is a victim of bureaucracy. Efforts made to effect a pacific settlement have been thwarted by the deliberate flouting of ministerial promises by the permanent heed of the Attorney-General’s Department, who has persisted in hounding her in order to drag from her the £5 fine, which ah» regards as having been wrongly imposed upon her and the promised reply to her letter has not come to hand.
Kr. HOLT (Fawkner) [3.15].- Honorable members admire, as I do, what has been one of the most spectacular features of the Australian munitions effort, namely, the production of optical munitions. In the early part of the war, the difficulty df procuring optical munitions from other parts of the world made our position most serious. Before the war, large supplies of optical goods, particularly precision instruments, reached Australia from Germany and Great Britain; but when supplies from the principal sources either ceased or were greatly curtailed, Australia was thrown back on its own resources. All honorable members and all sections of industry will praise the results which flowed from the optical munitions effort. This industry, which has proved itself to be a key defence need and one which no government having a balanced defence policy oan allow to languish, will pass through its most difficult period in the next few months. Necessarily, the demands for optical munitions will taper off, and the industry has not been in existence sufficiently long to develop a strong peace-time production which would enable it to withstand the competition which is to be expected once supplies from overseas - are admitted to this country. If the industry is to be maintained even as a nucleus for future development, it cannot rely upon orders for optical munitions alone. Clearly, items in public demand, such as spectacle rims and lenses, will need to be produced in order to give sufficiently large turnover ,to enable the industry to be kept in operation, so that precision in struments which will be in much smaller demand may also be made.
That being so, I direct the attention of the Minister (Mr. Beasley) to a recent decision of the Department of Trade and Customs. Unless this decision be altered immediately, it is likely to smash any prospect of maintaining this young key industry. The decision will permit, without any restriction, the importation of spectacle frames, complete spectacles, magnifying and reading glass from countries within the sterling area, and licences are to be issued to a value equivalent to 100 per cent, of the base year for spectacle frames and industrial goggles, and 50 per cent, of the remainder, such as ‘Spectacles, magnifying and reading glasses from the non-sterling area. When supplies were cut off from Australia during the last four years the manufacturers were encouraged by the Department of War Organization of Industry and the Division of Import Procurement to develop the manufacture of frames, mountings and lenses.
Prior to the war, 95 per cent, of all ophthalmic and precision optical requirements were imported. Since 1940, the industry has developed rapidly, and during the last twelve months, approximately one-half of Australia’s requirements has been produced in this country. Admittedly, the quality and finish of the articles are not yet so good as the best articles imported from overseas, but considering the great difficulties in obtaining raw materials, plant and staff, the accomplishment pf the manufacturer’s has been outstanding. Over 1,000,000 units of spectacle frames and mountings have been produced, plus large quantities of spectacle lenses, cases, sun glasses, &c. In addition, large quantities of machinery and equipment, not obtainable from overseas, have been manufactured to enable factories, workshops, and the profession to carry on. Tens of thousands of precision instruments were manufactured for the services, entailing the production of more than a million precision lenses and prisms. The various precision staffs, which have been trained at great cost, and have produced these instruments, are now being transferred to. increase the production of ophthalmic products. Recent developments and improvements in quality and finish have been rapid, and it is expected that, before long the articles produced by Australian craftsmen will equal the best that are produced overseas.
I ask the Government immediately to reconsider its licensing instruction. Before any licences are issued, the industry suggests that the various factories, most of which are situated in Sydney, but some of which are located in Melbourne, should be inspected by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to enable him to see what has been done, the potentialities of this industry, and its value to the defence of Australia. By making an inspection, he will be able to ascertain the capacity of the industry to satisfy a considerable proportion of Australian requirements for optical goods. It is conceded that it would not be practicable to manufacture the total Australian requirements at present, and that an acute shortage of ophthalmic items exists but the industry could produce about 50 per cent, of the_ Australian requirements during the next twelve months. Whilst it would normally be prepared to accept the decision of the Tariff Board regarding the measure of protection which should be granted, and is already preparing a case for submission to the board, the industry fears that twelve months will elapse before a decision has been reached, and unless emergency action be taken to enable a reasonable share of the Australian requirements to be manufactured locally the industry will not have much hope of survival. The manufacturers believe that ample supplies of all types of ophthalmic requirements can be supplied either from local factories or Great Britain.
Earlier, I mentioned that under the licensing instruction the Government will permit the importation from the sterling area of certain optical items up to 100 per cent, of the base year, and from non-sterling sources up to 50 per cent. Lf, as the industry claims, the total Australian requirements can be met either from English sources, which would bc within the sterling area, or from Australian factories, the adoption of my proposal should conserve dollar resources at a time when, owing to the cessation of lend-lease, we are likely to be pressed to restrict to a minimum our demands for dollar exchange. The industry ha* made out a case which would justify an immediate examination by the Government and the Minister. The honorable gentleman has always shown himself to be a great champion of Australian industries and will know from his own experience as a member of the War Cabinet what this industry has meant to our war effort. I hope that he will bring to the notice of. the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) the comments which I have made on this subject.
I now ask the Minister (Mr. Beasley) to transfer from his role as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to that of Acting AttorneyGeneral. While I am addressing him, 1 ask the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) also to pay attention to my remarks. I invite the Government to tell honorable members its attitude towards a deliberate industrial policy of “ go slow “ which is being developed in Victoria, and, I believe, which will spread to other States. In Victoria at present, this policy is being conducted under the persuasion and instruction of the building trade unions, and under the leadership, in particular, of a Mr. Don Thompson, who both personally and industrially will be well known to most honorable members opposite. The policy differs, I believe, from many of the serious industrial disputes which are coming to the notice of the Government, because I cannot imagine a more cruel or mean decision on the part of an industrial union than one which affects, not only the rate of construction of homes at a time when the housing shortage is desperately acute, but also the cost of construction. It would be difficult to imagine a more shortsighted policy on the part of Australian unionists, when we consider the impact of it upon their fellow-Australians and f el low-unionists.
I do not need to labour the subject of the housing shortage in Australia. It is known to all. Nor do I need to labour the fact that if we are to house Australian working men adequately, and provide the amenities which a modern home should possess, at a cost within the range of their wages, building construction must take place as rapidly and as cheaply as modern technique and equipment’ will permit. Yet we find that in Victoria - and possibly this is merely a prelude to action in other parts of the Commonwealth - the unions have set out deliberately to foster this “ go-slow “ policy. If employees in this industry have grievances, they may seek redress from the Arbitration Court. But that is not the course which is being pursued by Mr. Thompson and his colleagues. They are going from job to job endeavouring to persuade the workers to go slow, and Mr. Thompson claims, with some distorted sense of pride, that his activities are meeting with almost complete success. This goes beyond an ordinary industrial dispute between the employer and employee. I am concerned at what appears to be the inactivity of the Government in regard to this matter. I am not satisfied with the attitude of the Government generally towards industrial disputes and the statements made earlier this week by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) have weakened, if anything, whatever confidence we may have had. The honorable, gentleman said that he held a brief for the Australian workers and that an undertaking had been given that the Government would not take sides. I leave honorable members to ponder that statement. The Acting Attorney-General is directly concerned in the matter, for it involves the administration of our industrial legislation. The fact is that the Government has a dual responsibility. It. is under obligation to make available tribunals which can quickly consider industrial disputes and make speedy determinations; and also to see that such decisions are enforced so that the authority and prestige of tribunals may be upheld. It must be borne in mind, too, that there are at least three parties to industrial disputes. Obviously, employers and employees are involved, but it should not be assumed that agreement between them is all that is necessary. It cannot be said that a dispute is satisfactorily settled merely by an agreement that will place an additional burden upon the general community. For instance, a coal- mining dispute over wages could not be > said to be satisfactorily settled by the employers granting a 10 per cent, increase of wages and by the employees consenting to a 10 per cent, increase of the ‘price of coal. That is the simplest illustration I can give to prove my contention that the third party to industrial disputes, the general community, must be considered. The Government has a responsibility, in relation to the construction of homes, to ensure that the go-slow methods which, at present, are white-anting the building industry shall not be allowed to spread. The people who require homes are entitled to protection from workers who go slow. I hope that the Government will not allow a handful of individuals to impose their will upon the whole community and, as a result, retard the construction and increase the price of homes. The general public should be safeguarded from such a stupidly misguided policy.
– I wish to utter my protest against the proposal that has been made in this chamber to-day that the price of lambs should be fixed at 6id. per lb. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) who, I understand, is the chairman of the Meat Control Committee, has said that the price of lambs should be fixed at that figure in order to enable graziers to restore their flocks to normal. Such a statement could be expected from a person who knew nothing about the meat industry and who did not realize what it involved. The honorable member for Darling does not seem to realize that the graziers have passed through three very severe drought years. He certainly does not realize their true position.
– The honorable member represents more graziers than does the honorable member for Bendigo.
– That may he the Minister’s opinion, but it is not a fact. The honorable member for Darling really represents the Broken Hill miners. Hia suggestion was also strongly resisted by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). It was an astounding proposition to come from an honorable member who claims to know something about sheep-raising. The suggested price of 6-£d. per lb. is ridiculous. In New Zealand, where graziers, unlike “those of Australia, have not been afflicted with a succession of serious droughts, the price of lambs was fixed last year at 9d. per lb. to the producer, and this year it has been fixed at 9½d per lb. [ am amazed that such a damaging proposal should have been made, having regard to the tremendous setback which our graziers have suffered within the last few years from both climatic conditions and man-power shortages. I bring to the notice of the Government the following telegram which f have received to-day: -
Congratulations your stand on meat reported Argue yesterday. Lamb producers are dismayed at report Sun yesterday regarding acquisition of lamb for Britain at CJd lb. Extra cost of producing lamb this season owing to feeding ewes since February is 5d. lb. New Zealand export price lambs last season 9d., this season 9Jd. lb. to producers and New Zealand had no drought. If Government confiscates, lamb price should be at least Did. Ib. to producers. Australian Primary Producers Union endorses your statement. (Signed) RODGERS, Vice-President,
Although, because of the unsympathetic treatment they have received, primary producers have been forced to organize, it is unfortunate that numbers of men have not yet linked up ; hut there is little doubt that a continuance of the policy of this Government in respect of stockraising will force producers to join their associations in order to fight for their rights. I am convinced that adherence by the Government to its present policy will result in a serious shortage of meat in both Melbourne and Sydney. Apparently the Government is accepting the advice of the representatives of the big exporting companies which, in pursuit of their own interests, are as ruthless as hungry tigers in seeking their meat. It would appear that the professors of economics and other officers of the _ Department of Commerce and Agriculture who advise Ministers have agreed to the proposals of the exporting companies, and the Government is accepting their recommendations. The honorable member for Darling has argued that by fixing the price of lamb at the figure that has been suggested the re-stocking of properties will be accelerated:
– I am certainly opposed to the proposals of the honorable member for Darling. His statement in that regard is about as true as his statement that most of the meat reaching the Melbourne metropolitan market to-day it coming from the irrigation areas.
– I said that it was coming from other States, largely New South Wales.
– The honorable gentleman also said that a large proportion of it was coming from the irrigation areas. Probably our best irrigation areas arn in the Shepparton to Kerang districts but only a small proportion of Melbourne’s meat comes from there at the present time.
– How much is coming from the Werribee farm in these days?
– Because of this Government’s policy some meat from the Werribee farm which, in my opinion, is not fit to feed to dogs, is reaching the Melbourne market. The western district of Victoria is supplying a considerable quantity of meat to the Melbourne market, and substantial supplies are also arriving from Gippsland, but very little is being sent from the irrigation areas. In spite of the fact that for years our graziers have found the utmost difficulty in feeding their stock and have had to resort to hand feeding in many areas, the Government is proposing to adopt this ridiculously unsatisfactory price. Government policy has made it extremely difficult for graziers to obtain any fodder at all for their stock in recent months. I regard many aspects of Government policy as most unsatisfactory, but I sincerely trust that Ministers will not be so utterly stupid as to permit the price of lamb to he fixed at the figure suggested by the honorable member for Darling.
.- The pathetic story of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), to which the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) contributed an earlier chapter, is most unconvincing, coming, as it does, from honorable gentlemen who in the early days of the war supported the price control policy instituted by the Menzies Government in the interests of the whole community. Obviously primary producers cannot expect to enjoy the advantages of fixed prices for the goods they buy and not accept any disadvantages that may be attached to fixed prices for the commodities they sell. They cannot expect an absolutely free market as sellers and a controlled market as buyers. Substantial subsidies are being provided at present to enable payable results to be realized by primary producers in respect of the goods they market both in this country and overseas. I wholeheartedly support the Government’s subsidy policy, and I ask myself whether the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Deakin may not have been stampeded into expressing the view they have uttered to-day. Certain selfish sections of primary producers are concerned about only their own particular industries and circumstances.
– I have no lambs.
– I have, and so, 1 think, has the honorable member for Deakin. I am prepared to accept any alight burden that may be involved in price fixing, because I realize that the overall effect of the policy is substantially beneficial to all sections of the community. I believe that, speaking generally, to be the view of the great majority of primary producers. Every man who has a commodity to sell, in a community in which there is a surplus of money and a shortage of goods, obtains a substantially higher price than would be paid in normal circumstances. I noted with interest the statement of the honorable member for Deakin that the lamb yield this year will be down by 20 or 30 per cent. I believe that to be true ; the reduction may be even greater. But the honorable member did not say that the price realized for lambs has been almost twice that obtained when the yield was up to the average. He wants the best of all possible worlds for himself, and hang the rest of the community! I do not intend to be stampeded by meetings of people at Newmarket, many of whom are more interested in gaining their own selfish ends than in advancing the general interests of the community. I am not impressed by the stories of the sacrifices of stock-raisers in this country. I know that the primary producers have had hard times and have made substantial sacrifices, but so has every other section of the community during the war. “Without exception, the honest farmer will admit that he has never been better (off in his life in regard to income, taking into account the fact that we have been at war for six years. That has been my experience, as well as the experience of the honorable member for Deakin and the honorable member for Bendigo. Why are they not honest enough to admit it? I challenge them to produce their income tax returns for the last six years, and to compare them with the returns which they submitted for the six years during which they sat like “numskulls “ and “ dummies “ behind the tory government which administered the affairs of this country prior to the war. If I am proved wrong, I shall retract every word that I have said. I have heard about the unfortunate producers in the Riverina. It is true that they have had a very difficult time on account of the drought. I have passed (through droughts and other hard periods during the 30 years that I have been on the land, but no tory government in peacetime came to my assistance. I sat on a wagon and carted wood to the local hotel, when the receipts from my farming operations were not sufficient to maintain me. When drought strikes the country, the wheat-farmers in the Riverina receive assistance. I do not disagree with that policy.
– What about the graziers ?
– The graziers do not raise fat lambs, as the honorable member well knows. Pat lambs are raised mainly by wheat-farmers, small mixed farmers in irrigation areas, and others who farm in the good-rainfall areas. The grazier raises lambs for the growing of fine merino wool, not for the fat-stock market. Let us consider what the Government has done for the graziers and fat-lamb raisers, despite the impact of war. During the drought, the wheat-growers were given relief by means of a subsidy amounting to £1,800,000. Their crops had been a failure, and were not fit to reap. They fattened a substantial number of lambs, and the incomes of gome of them were probably higher than they would have been had they garnered their wheat for grain. The assistance that they received was the equivalent of £1 a head on 1,800,000 lambs. In addition, the small quantities of wheat reaped were bought at a substantial concession from the Commonwealth. These sales were rightly subsidized by the people. Some appreciation of the concessions ought to be shown. The farmers also derived the advantage of freight concessions on wheat, hay, and other other products brought from “Western Australia, and many of them received substantial assistance in the form of freight bounties on fodder brought from the United States of America and Canada. Taking into consideration the impact of war, no government that has ever occupied the treasury bench did more for the primary producer than has been done by the present Government. I repeat my challenge to the honorable members for Deakin and Bendigo to reveal the income tax paid by farmers in their own or any other constituency. If I am proved to be wrong, I shall be more humble than T am to-day. Because of the facts that I have stated, I am not impressed by the complaints that have been made. Prices Control is the creation of an administration supported by honorable members opposite. They endorsed the principle and set the machine in operation, and we have accepted it as one of the good things that they did while they held the reins of office. Fundamentally, the action complained of is being taken to deal with black marketeers and racketeers. Honorable members opposite have been urging action along those lines, yet when it is taken and some guilty people are hurt they are the first to protest. The aim is to assist the people in Great Britain, whose needs they glibly proclaim. The Prices Commissioner and the Meat Controller, subject to the control of the Minister, will ensure that the lamb-raisers shall receive an adequate price for their product in any market to which they may send it. I am not impressed by all this humbug. > -j
– I am not impressed by the heroics of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). He is a most likeable chap outside the chamber, and usually inside also. We appreciate his most emphatic statements. He u probably the best producer of smokescreens that the Government has. Were he seated on the front bench, I doubt whether we should be able to see the Government on many occasions. What is to happen to the meat industry in the next few weeks, is a very vexed subject. The press yesterday published a statement in regard to the proposed acquisition - that is what it amounts to - of lambs at 6£d. per lb. For an export lamb of 30 lb., which would be well over the average size, that would mean only 16s. 3d.
– That is only a rumour. The honorable member is putting up an “ Aunt Sally “.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON According, to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the matter is as good as settled. He defended the proposal very well, although his defence was based on entirely wrong premises. The committee is entitled to a categorical statement as to whether the Government doe3 or does not intend to give effect to price fixation and the acquisition of fat lambs. If it does not, its easiest course is to ‘say straight out that there is nothing in the story, and that it is purely the product of somebody’s imagination. The industry would then be set at rest. Should the Government fail to grasp that opportunity, it stands to reason that, whether or not there is acquisition the market for fat lambs will be adversely affected in the meantime. In such circumstances, the sufferers will be the producers, about whom the honorable member for Ballarat is so very gravely concerned. I have no wish to peruse the income tax returns of other persons. My own gives me all the headaches that I want, and I have no desire to share those of other people. The- honorable member for Ballarat mentioned drought relief. Should the price be fixed on the basis of 6$d. per lb., or any other figure, many ewe lambs which ought to go -into the drought affected areas for restocking will be sold to the exporters.
If the market be left open, those who wish to secure young animals for reblocking will’ be able to determine the price that they should bid. The honor- able member for Ballarat would be the first to admit that the restocking of drought affected areas has a paramount claim on the ewe lambs. I was interested by the eloquence of the honorable member for Darling this morning. Honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber have asked time and again during this year that the Government should make some effort to assist in the restocking of drought affected areas. Probably the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell), and I am certain the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith), are interested in this matter. So far, the Government has not adopted the suggestion. Cf the proposal of the honorable member for Darling, which is not a press rumour, be given effect, namely, that there shall be a fairly even price for sheep over a period of time, or if the price of fat lambs be fixed at 6£d. per lb. or any other figure, the responsibility for restocking drought affected areas will be shifted from the shoulders of the Government to those of the producers of fat lambs this year. By an act of administration, the Government will deliberately depress the price of lambs and thereby assist in the restocking, hut the cost will be borne by the producer of lambs this year. I point out, especially for the benefit of the honorable member for Ballarat, that if the income tax returns of the producers are as he says they are, they will disclose that, under this Government, a higher proportion of their net income has gone into revenue than has been the case at any other time in the history of the Commonwealth.
– That applies to every taxpayer,
– There is a moral responsibility on the Government to ensure that the cost of restocking shall be borne not by one set of primary producers to the exclusion of all other taxpayers, but by the taxpayers in general, in view of the fact that the Treasury, admittedly, has benefited so greatly from primary production in the last few years. The honorable member for Ballarat waxed eloquent about incomes and sub sidies. I have never been one of those who believe that we can become wealthy by taxing ourselves, nor can we subsidize ourselves into prosperity.
– I did not hear th« honorable member object to the drought relief proposals.
– I supported them for the reasons I have just stated. No primary producer to-day is in as good a financial position as the munitions makers working on the costplus system. The report of the AuditorGeneral states that ships which cost £25 a ton to build in the United Kingdom are costing £70 a ton to build in Australia, whilst the cost of building wooden ships in Australia is £256 a ton under the cost-plus system. It is my considered ‘ opinion that the primary producers have a long way to go before they catch up with the munitions makers, or even the munitions workers. On the farms, stations, and dairies plant and equipment are in a much worse condition than in any factory. The Division of Import Procurement has devoted a great deal of energy to importing machinery for secondary industries, hut very little has been imported for the primary industries.
– Nothing the honorable member can say will convince me.
– The age of miracles would have to return before I could convince the honorable member. He is an avowed socialist, but he is one of those who pray every night for socialism, “ hut not in our time, 0 Lord “. No land-holder can be at heart a socialist; he must be a conservative.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) was careful to cite as examples men who are farming in high-rainfall areas.
– That is so, and even if some of them have made reasonable incomes during the last three or four years, it must be conceded that the Government has taken a tremendous whack out of them in tax. Moreover, their properties must necessarily have deteriorated in productive capacity, just as has the honorable member’s own property at Woodend. Even the farmer who has done well will find that, .by the time he buys fencing wire and galvanized iron, and puts his property in order again, most of the financial fat will have disappeared from his ribs.
The honorable member had a good deal to say about price-fixing. I had something to do with this matter in the early part of the war, and during the period of my administration I absolutely refused to fix the price of meat or potatoes. We achieved our purpose in another way. We let it be known quietly in the Sydney market that if the price of potatoes went above £20 a ton, I would open the Australian market to New Zealand potatoes.
– And the honorable member’s department paid the potato producers at Ballarat 25s. a ton to let their potatoes rot in the ground.
– That did not happen during my regime, and I will not answer for by brother’s sins. Pricefixing has gone too far, and stupid things are being done, some of them in my own electorate. Under the zoning system, a man living on one side of the road is allowed to send whole milk to Adelaide while the fellow on the other side is not, but the man who is not allowed to sell whole milk may not send his cream to the factory on the milk lorry which starts only 50 yards away. The honorable member for Ballarat is assisting the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I regret that he is not a member of the Cabinet. If there had been a national government, I should have liked to have had him as my assistant. These matters will become “ hot “ politics before very long if the Government tries to tinker it fat-lamb prices as was stated in the press yesterday, and as was hinted at by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who also is some kind of ministerial assistant.
– If- the Prices Commissioner does not give a better deal to wool-spinners they will close their factories and we shall have to rely once more upon imported woollen yarn. The Government should do everything possible to encourage the development of the wool-spinning industry in Australia. Difficulty will be experienced in providing enough suitings to meet the needs of demobilized servicemen. Indeed, the demand cannot be overtaken unless the mills work overtime. The commissioner has fixed the price of spun yarn at a figure which must have the effect of causing a number of mills to close down, thus making it more than ever difficult to provide suits for discharged servicemen.
Since 1940 the Prices Commissioner has increased the price of woollen yarn by only 3d. per lb., the latest increase being Id. per lb. At least 90 per cent, of the yarns produced are single 20’s. count or under. Let us compare this increase with the steep increase of the cost of manufacture. I understand that the price of raw wool has increased by 6d. per lb., while female wages in the spinning industry have increased by 32.65 per cent., which, expressed in terms of cost per lb. of yarn, works out at about 3£d. Thus, on those two items alone, the increased cost of manufacturing yarn is 9½d., without taking into account loss of productivity and wear and tear on plant, &c. On the subject of the loss of productivity the following article appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 13th September: -
The acting general secretary of the Aus tralian Textile Workers Union (Mr. A. R Loft) said that the industry had a shortage of 3,200 operatives, 80 per cent, female labour. Genera] result was a falling off in production, particularly in the knitting section, which was also being retarded in civilian programming by coupon rating.
Hie weaving section was held up becameof the falling off in spinning. Manufacturers last laid their case before the Prices Com missioner in October, 1044, and the result wai1 announced in July of this year in the raising of the selling price of certain types of wool by Id. per lb., described as “ ridiculously inadequate “.
The decrease of productivity is due not only to the reduced number of employees in the industry, but also to the reduced output per employee as compared with the output before the war. That loss of productivity is a great factor in increasing costs of production. The margins allowed to spinners in England are in many instances considerably better than those allowed to Australian spinners. No one can gainsay that every encouragement should be given to Australian spinners to spin woollen yarn here rather than that wool should he exported to England either as greasy wool or wool tops, and bought back as yarn or worsted. The Prices Commissioner has power dither’ to encourage or retard this basic Australian industry. It appears that this matter has been given wide publicity because in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 28th August the following report appeared: -
Many of Australia’s large wool yarn spining mills would have to close because of the refusal of the Prices Commissioner (Professor Copland) to grant price increases to the industry, mill executives claimed yesterday.
These spinning mills were the sole source of the supply of Australian wool to the knitting manufacturers, they added.
Some knitting mills reported that yarn supplies had already dropped so much they found it impossible to keep their machinery fully occupied.
Others are turning to cotton and rayon substitutes, which are, in the main, imported.
The secretary of the Australian Wool and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia (Mr. H. Snape) said yesterday: “The Prices Commissioner, however unwittingly, is working against our national interests . . .”. ff the mills turn to the spinning of substitute yarns an additional threat to the Australian wool industry will develop. The mills should be encouraged to spin woollen yarns in the interests of the woolgrowing industry on which the prosperty of this country depends, but the Prices Commissioner is not using his powers in that direction. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said, “You cannot subsidize yourself into prosperity “. That is a fundamental principle. Yet the Prices Commissioner is telling the operators of mills that are unprofitable at the pegged prices to apply for subsidies. Some mills, I acknowledge, are receiving subsidies. But that is not the right way in which to maintain our prosperity and to develop a basic industry. The spinning of substitute yarns should be discouraged. [ ask the Minister to confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs’ (Senator Keane) with a view to the giving of greater encouragement to Australian spinning mills, first, to encourage the development of Australian industry, particularly in the spinning and weaving of wools, and, secondly, to try to prevent the mills from spinning substitute fibres to the detriment of the wool-growing industry which is fundamental to the Australian community.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to complaints that have been brought to my notice about the treatment of certain small businesses by the Division of Import Procurement, which is denying them the supplies that they need and is supplying wholesalers only. This case is very similar to that referred to last night by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in respect of the disposal of machinery. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the large corporations were being given advantages refused to smaller companies. I have received a complaint from the manager of a large retail photographic house in Sydney about the way in which the Division of Import Procurement is disposing of photographic materials. I understand that the division relies for its advice on an offiecr who is also an executive of Kodak Limited. In consequence of the advice tendered to the division by him the small competitors of Kodak Limited and Harringtons Limited are being denied supplies of films and other photographic goods without warrant, so far as I am able to judge. If the market were free the firm would have the right to supplies, but under the regulations it has to obtain a permit to buy from the Division of Import Procurement. Its application has to be approved by the executive officer of the wholesale house acting in his capacity as an officer of the Division of Import Procurement. That makes it impossible in what should be a free country for the firm to get the supplies it needs. I should like the Minister to undertake that this complaint will be investigated. The complaint is made by Camera Specialists Limited, whose address is 147a Elizabeth-street, Sydney. I know the firm well because as one interested in photography, I have done considerable business with it. I know that it provides a useful service to the public. During the war it used its stocks of film for defence purposes. The letter from the manager informs me that although there are considerable quantities of photographic materials, especially 35 mm. film, in Australia, the Division of Import Procurement refuses to release them except to wholesale houses. The only wholesale houses in Sydney are Kodak Limited and Harringtons Limited, and the man controlling the photographic materials section of the Division of Import Procurement is an officer of the former company.
– Does that not apply to all boards created by the Menzies Government?
– I do not know who appointed this man. I am only giving vent to a complaint similar to the complaint made last night by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that only the larger organizations can get anything from Commonwealth departments. If the Minister requires further information I shall give him the letter to read. I should like to have the complaint investigated, because I think unfair discrimination is occurring.
I suggest to the Government that, with the cessation of hostilities, much more should be done to ease the rationing of commodities, not only for the benefit of the public, but also for the convenience of retailers, who have to employ staff to abolish coupons for goods the rationing of which is no longer necessary. For example, I think that tea rationing could easily be eliminated. The Government is in a better position to know the facts than I am, but it seems evident to any one who goes around the country that almost every one has all the tea required. If tea rationing were lifted, the fractionally greater consumption that might result would be offset by the saving of labour. I do not think that the possibility of slightly increased consumption is sufficient to justify the retention of rationing. Some publicity has been given in the press to prospects that within the next few months certain articles of clothing will be removed from the ration scale. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) should be more explicit as to what is intended, because I know that many people, in anticipation of the easing of clothes rationing, are inclined to dispose of their coupons with less thought than might otherwise be the case. A definite statement confirming or denying the vague hints ought to be made at an early date.
The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is in London conferring with the other representatives of the United Nations. Probably within a year or so the peace conference will be held, at which the splitting up of the world will take place. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government should negotiate with the Government of Portugal with a view to acquiring Portuguese Timor. Those of us who were in the inner councils know the difficulties which Australia experienced when hostilities with Japan appeared imminent, in trying to persuade the Government of Portugal to agree to any proposal to defend the territory. In fact, Portugal did not agree to any suggestion which would enable us to make preparations to defend that outpost of Australia. As late as July, 1941, only a few months before Japan struck at Pearl Harbour, numerous Japanese agents were operating in Timor in all kinds of disguises. We knew that they were there, but we were impotent to take action against them. Before the peace conference is held, the Government should consider the advisability of acquiring Portuguese Timor. Of course, I do not suggest that we should seize the territory, but we should come to some financial arrangement with Portugal to take over wholly the Portuguese interests in the island. After all, the territory is notimportant to Portugal. It has little commercial value and is only a remnant of the old Portuguese Empire. If Australia does not acquire Portuguese Timor, some other country might use it as a base for operations against us on a future occasion.
, - Reputable and responsible citizens in north Queensland have protested to me against the decision of the Government to close the offices of the Security Service in Cairns, Innisfail, Ingham and Townsville. The office at Rockhampton will be retained to serve north Queensland. If the Government considers thai the Security Service should be retained in that area, Rockhampton is not the most suitable town in which to have the office. During the war the area north of Townsville required careful surveillance because most of the alien settlement was located there, and security officers were very active. The people of north Queensland had a more trying experience than did the people of any other State. Now, residents who knew what occurred there during the last few years are amazed that the offices of the Security Service in towns north ofRockhampton are to be closed. This is a matter of extreme urgency because the offices at Cairns and Innisfail will be closed next week-end and the offices at Townsville and Ingham will be closed on the 3rd and 4th October next. I hope that the Minister (Mr. Beasley) will favorably consider my representations.
I emphasize the desirability of giving practical support to the wool publicity campaign. The Parliament has passed legislation to approve the expenditure in the next twelve months of £750,000 on a progressive publicity campaign to stimulate the use of wool. The most practical way in which to encourage the use of wool is to exempt woollen goods from the present clothes rationing restrictions. Many firms have stocks of woollen goods, which, if they were offered coupon-free to the public, would be quickly disposed of.
I invite the Minister to give a, satisfactory reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) concerning the persecution of Nurse Wagland. Every honorable member who heard the speech must have been impressed with this ironical treatment of the nurse - ironical because the most courageous industrial action that the Government could take, after its record of appeasement and spineless attitude which it has shown towards striking unionists, was to inflict a fine on the nurse in the circumstances described by the honorable member. I do not desire to be misunderstood. I do not encourage the breaking of the law. In my opinion, the law should always be obeyed, but it should be enforced without fear or favour. However, in this instance, the treatment of the nurse has been entirely different from the manner in which the Govern ment has appeased strikers. Lawlessness and industrial anarchy are widespread throughout the Commonwealth. This week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of drawing attention to the wave of strikes which is sweeping New South Wales, and no one was impressed with the Government’s reply. The honorable member for Wide Bay indicated that an arrangement which had been entered into regarding remission of the fine imposed on the nurse had been repudiated. Regarding the waiving of fines, it is extraordinary that the Government applied to this nurse a code different from that which it applies to strikers, who dictate its policy. On the 19th April last the Sydney Sun published the following news item: -
Fines totalling nearly £1,500 imposed on more than 500 New South Wales coal-miners have been waived.
This is the result of an agreement reached by the Federal Government with all sections of the industry.
The penalties, which ranged from £ 1 to £5 with costs, were imposed for various breaches of National Security (Coal) Regulations, including absenteeism.
The miners were dealt with at special courts at Newcastle, Cessnock, West Maitland, Wollongong and Portland.
In very few cases was any payment of the fines made.
The actual decision of the Commonwealth on guarantees of increased production being given by the miners’ leaders was to overlook all uncollected fines and all previous breaches of regulations under the National Security Act governing the industry. It also provided for remission of fines imposed that were paid between 21st October, 1943, and 1st November, 1943.
As the result of that action, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked certain questions on the 20th April. The Hansard report reads -
– Has the Acting Attorney-
General seen a report in yesterday’s Sydney Sun that clerks of petty sessions in places where fines were imposed upon coal-miners in 1943 had been advised by the Department of Justice within the last two weeks that the fines had been remitted in accordance with a notification from the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles? Is it a fact that these fines, ranging from £1 to £5, with costs, imposed under the National Security (Coal) Regulations for breaches, including absenteeism, totalled nearly £1,500, and that 500 miners in Newcastle, Cessnock, West Maitland, Wollongong and Portland were involved? Will the Minister explain why this action was taken, especially in view of Mr. Justice Davidson’s comment during the proceedings of the Coal Commission yesterday that once we started imposing penalties and then remitting them, the law ceased to be effective and became a joke?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member has not been brought to my notice, and I shall have to make inquiries in order to learn whether or not the lines are to be remitted. As a matter of fact, the remission of Ancs is not a new procedure. For a long time past, successive administrations have remitted fines in certain circumstances. When it has been considered that fines should be remitted, that has been done, and I have signed many authorities for remissions. No doubt, other honorable members, who have administered the Attorney-General’s Department in the past, have done the same. However, I shall inquire into the matter.
The Government waived the fines which had been imposed upon the striking miners, but courageously stood firm against the nurse. I remind honorable members that her breach of the regulations was committed, not during the war, but after the cessation of hostilities. It is ridiculous that the Government should subject her to this humiliating treatment in view of its record of appeasement of strikers.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), in a most impassioned speech, which consisted largely of noise and contained no solid argument, used as an illustration his own property, and the properties of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and myself. He stated that the income tax returns would show that we had fared satisfactorily under the present Government. I direct attention to the fact that the honorable member selected two farms which, being situated in an area receiving heavy rainfall, did not suffer to any serious degree from the drought, and an irrigation farm where fat lambs are not at present produced. Within 3 miles of my residence the country is suffering from the effects of drought, and it is impossible to obtain water for irrigation purposes. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction may be amused, but the subject is not amusing to the people who, last year, did not harvest a bag of wheat although they are first-class farmers. The rainfall in the area last year was 870 point* compared with an average of 17 inches. These people did not harvest a single sheaf of hay, yet the honorable member for Ballarat thought it proper to refer to their income tax returns.
– I referred to income tax returns for the last six years, and I did not mention the exceptionally severe drought years.
– The people in this area have- bought high-priced stock from the Western District. They could not buy any close at hand.
– They would not have a large number of lambs from such stock this year.
– As a matter of fact they will have a few lambs, though the percentage will be very small. It is deplorable that the Government should seek to penalize such people. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to an amount, of £1,800,000 provided by the Government for drought relief for primary producers, but he did not mention that the cost-plus system that operated in connexion with secondary industries for war purposes cost the country, on a reliable estimate, between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 a year.
– I believe that that system was introduced by the previous Government.
– That may have been so. The honorable member for Ballarat also said that no fat lambs were produced in the Riverina
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honor able member said that the graziers in that area devoted their attention to fine wool. Obviously, he knows very little about the subject, for in the Riverina country, stretching from Albury to Balranald, tens of thousands of fat lambs are produced annually under normal conditions, and are marketed at times in flocks of from 3,000 to 4,000. Very few, however, have been marketed in the last two or three years because the flocks have been decimated by drought. The graziers found it difficult to obtain. fodder for tie stock they had, because the Government muddled the whole situation and declined to accept advice. It cannot escape its responsibility by attempting to throw the blame on to the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria. If Ministers had been ready to accept advice from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earl Page) and some other honorable members on this side of the chamber the difficulties of the position could have been substantially eased. [ conclude by advising the honorable member for Ballarat not to make wild statements and to keep to the truth when he is attempting to refute the statements of other honorable members.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to the reduction of the security organization in north Queensland. I find it difficult, on occasions, to meet the criticisms of honorable members opposite, for, at one moment, they accuse the Government of maintaining expenditure at an unreasonably high rate, and at another, they complain because the Estimates have been pruned. They change their ground so frequently that it is not possible to follow them. I do not know why the expenditure on the security organization at Rockhampton is being maintained at such a high figure. It may be that the establishment there is being treated as a kind of final clearing station. I shall have the subject investigated, and furnish more detailed information to the right honorable gentleman. The Government will do its utmost to adjust the security organization to the changed conditions. The war is over and a security organization of the dimensions that existed last year is no longer necesary. This was a most costly establishment. Personally, I considered that the cost was too great. It should be possible for officers of the police force in the various States to cope with most of the security work which will now have to be done.
Reference was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) to the estimates of expenditure in relation to Unrra.
– I said that £50,000 was provided last year, and, although only £3,000 was expended an amount of £5,000 was being provided this year, and I asked for an explanation.
– Australia’s, contribution to Unrra has been fixed at £12,000,000. The small amounts provided in the Estimates before the committee are for administrative purposes only. Australia is under an obligation, of course, to contribute towards the central organization of Unrra.
– Was the £50,000 a stab in the dark?
– Honorable members generally must realize that when the Estimates were being prepared it was extremely difficult to fix the amount that might be required under this heading. Perhaps the original plans for Unrra were made on too lavish a scale, and a more realistic view is now being taken.
The Leader of the Australian Country party asked for an explanation of the nature and the expenditure proposed for subsidies. This relates to imports other than tea, and to coal, firewood, textiles and apparel, differences in sea rail freight, rubber production, clothing trade award in relation to female wages, hay and chaff, drugs and chemicals, and colliery workers’ compensation.
– Does the item “ textiles “ include rayon ?
– No. ‘ .Numerous other items have been referred to, concerning which I am unable to give detailed information, but I shall bring the remarks of honorable members to the notice of the appropriate Minister.
– Is the honorable gentleman able to say anything in regard to the industrial matters that have been mentioned ?
– I am sure that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) will give consideration to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on industrial conferences, and also to other views that he has expressed. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to optical munitions. It is true that the persons engaged in this industry rendered exceptionally fine service during the war. Without their assistance our position would have been critical in certain respects. A great deal of capital, skill and energy have been applied to this industry, which has developed considerably. I understood the honorable member to ask that import licences should not be issued with undue haste. My view is that licences should be issued only after careful examination of the reasonable prospects of manufacture in this country.
– That is the request of the people concerned.
– That would be a proper approach to the subject. In the meantime it would be advisable for those interested in the optical industry to prepare a case for submission to the Tariff Board.
– That is being done.
– The Government is bound in matters of this kind by the provisions of certain international agreements, particularly the Ottawa Agreement, but I am sure that adequately supported submissions to the Tariff Board will be sympathetically considered.
Refference has been made to the employment of, peace officers. An inquiry into this organization was instituted some months ago, and recommendations were made to the Government. Since then, however, the whole situation has changed and the Government is approaching the subject in a more general way. This organization has been extremely costly.
– Not, I think, in relation to salaries.
– The organization has cost the country more than £2,500,000. Salaries were fixed according to the determination of the appropriate tribunal, in this case I think the Public Service Arbitrator.
– Will the Minister reply to my remarks about the adoption of goslow tactics in industry?
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) may have something to say on that subject.
– What about the remarks of honorable members on the Prices Commission?
– My best course is to refer the speeches to the Minister for Trade and. Customs. The policy of a department that I do not administer is not a matter for my determination.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), has again raised the case of Nurse Wagland. He has stated the case according to the information he has received, and, naturally, it stresses the interests of the affected party. But there is another side to it. I have received from the Solicitor-General a report which reads -
With reference to your request to me to inquire into the facts concerning the prosecution of Nurse Wagland in respect of her failure to carry out the direction of the Deputy Director of Man Power, Brisbane, to commence service at the Lady Musgrave Hospital, Gladstone, which she had left some weeks before, I have ascertained that Nurse Wagland had been employed at the Gladstone Hospital for about four years, and had completed the course for her first certificate. She applied orally for recreation leave and this was granted for the period from 27th January to 1st March, 1045. The secretary of the Gladstone Hospital Board has informed me that at the time of Nurse Wagland’s commencement of leave he had no knowledge whatever that she did not intend to “return, as she had not submitted a resignation. (In passing, it may be mentioned that the legal position appears to be that, even if sh<had submitted her resignation, it would nol have been effective until approved by the man-power authorities. )
After Nurse Wagland had commenced leave, the secretary learned from some of the other nurses that she had stated that she did not intend to return and that, as her father wai* a sergeant of police, he could get her out of it.
On the expiration of her leave, Miss Wagland approached the National Security Officer at Maryborough, stating that she had finished her training and asked him for employment. He placed her temporarily as a sister at St. Mary’s Hospital (a private hospital in Maryborough) while awaiting her release from Gladstone.
Meantime, when she did not return to Gladstone on the expiration of her leave, the Gladstone Hospital Board reported the matter to the man-power authorities, and in consequence, a telegram was sent to her by the Deputy Director-General of Man Power hi Brisbane directing her to report to the hospital at Gladstone. On receipt of this tele- fram she saw the National Service Officer at Maryborough, and stated that she refused to return to Gladstone, stating that she was entitled to a sister’s position. She expressed her desire to remain in her then present employment. A few days later she took up a position at the Lady Musgrave Hospital at Maryborough to do obstetric training. The National Service Officer wrote to the Deputy Director-General of Man Power, Brisbane, and recommended that she remain in heT present position at Maryborough.
On 12th March, 1945, the Gladstone Hospital Board wrote to the Deputy Director-General of Man Power protesting against Miss Wagland’s failure to return to duty and stated that her action, in addition to being a flagrant disregard of the regulations, had the result that another nurse who was her senior and entitled to release prior to Nurse W:agland had been retained at the Gladstone Hospital. The Deputy Crown Solicitor was informed by the Deputy Director-General of Man Power that the other nurse also desired to be released to do obstetric training and was entitled to release in priority to Nurse Wagland.
I want the committee to remember that fact. There is an ethical code in all walks of life. Throughout the war, the Gladstone Hospital, in common with all other hospitals, has had considerable difficulty in obtaining nursing staff. The duty of hospital boards and staffs is to look after the interests of the patients. If a member of the nursing staff relinquishes her service, some patients may be left without proper attention, and such action is not usually taken by the members of this high and honorable profession. Nurse Wagland knew that a nurse senior to her, who was due for release in order to undertake obstetric training, was about to be released; consequently, Nurse Wagland took her leave and did not return. I do not think that anybody will approve of that action. The report continues -
The Deputy Crown Solicitor was also informed by the Deputy Director-General that the action of Miss Wagland caused inconvenience to the Gladstone Hospital and has given rise to dissatisfaction among the staff.
I can understand the honorable member for Wide Bay stating the case for the Maryborough Hospital, which is in his electorate. I should regard it as his duty to make all the representations that were open to him. I admit that he did so, with great patience and courtesy. But the representative of the electoral district in which the Gladstone Hospital is located must be conceded to be equally entitled to claim that the patients in that institution shall receive proper attention, and that no nurse shall place it in difficulty by unlawfully relinquishing her position. Nurse Wagland took her leave, refused to return, and boasted that compulsion could not be applied to her as her father was a police sergeant.
– The Minister will agree that I did not mention a girl agains.t whom action was not taken, although she had left the Maryborough Hospital and had said that her uncle was a Labour member of Parliament.
– I cannot be held responsible for all that has happened. I am not complaining about the honorable member putting his case as strongly as he can. He will admit having informed me that the Australian Labour party in Maryborough was actively hostile against the Attorney-General’s Department because of the action it had taken in this case. The incident has received a lot of publicity. Rightly, the public has a warm and generous regard for the nursing profession, and if there was any harsh treatment of nurses the public reaction would he that the culprit ought to be “ drummed “ out of the country. In the present instance, the right of the senior nurse to be released was greater than that of Nurse Wagland. I am entitled ‘to claim that Nurse Wagland should return to the Gladstone Hospital and allow her senior to undertake her obstetric training. That would be in accordance with the ethics of her profession. I have been told that the Australian Trained Nurses Association has interested itself in the matter. I should expect that association to advise Nurse Wagland to return to Gladstone until she can in turn be released for obstetric training. She resolved to defy the Gladstone Hospital Board, the National Security Regulations, the man-power officers, the Government, and all other authority, and said, “I shall go to gaol “. The report of the SolicitorGeneral continues -
The next step was that on 5th April, 1945, the National Service Officer at Maryborough wrote to the Deputy Director-General and stated that he had ‘seen Miss Wagland on 3rd April, who had told him that she flatly refused to return to Gladstone in any circumstances. It was pointed out to her that her action was no”t in accordance with the regulations. Subsequently, Nurse Wagland was directed to return to the Gladstone Hospital and a rail warrant was provided. She did not do so and returned the rail warrant. On 26th June, 1945, a summons was issued against her in respect of the termination of her employment without the permission of the (Deputy Director-General. In reply she wrote a. letter to the Stipendiary Magistrate at Gladstone, in which she stated that her case rested on the fact that she had completed her training as a nurse and wanted to do obstetric training.
It is true, as the honorable member for Wide Bay has said, that any colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) directed the withdrawal of the summons that had been issued against Nurse Wagland. Unfortunately, the case had already been heard before his request reached the Attorney-General’s Department.
– Is not that justification for remission of the fine?
– I am about to deal with that point. Every honorable member will appreciate, as does the honorable member for Wide Bay, that the proper approach must be observed. I feel that it is my duty to defend the SolicitorGeneral, because he cannot defend himself here. The report continues -
She stated that she had asked for a release and had been given no satisfactory answer. She said that the position which she had obtained in Maryborough had been obtained with the consent of the Local National Service Officer and that on each occasion when she had been directed by man-power in Brisbane to return to Gladstone she had interviewed the National Service Officer at Maryborough. He had told her that he would get in touch with the man-power office in Brisbane. On the occasion of the direction issued to her to return to Gladstone the National Service Officer at Maryborough had advised her to write a letter to the man-power authorities, Brisbane, stating her case, which she did. She said that if she returned to Gladstone she would be doing the duties of a trainee nurse and did not desire to be held back from security her second certificate. She also said that she had applied for enlistment with the Royal Australian Nursing Service.
The summons which had been issued against her for failure to return to Gladstone was originally set down for hearing on the 13th July. When the matter came before the magistrate he stated that he had received a long letter from the defendant entering a plea of “ not guilty “ and setting out certain facts. The ‘ magistrate stated that in the circumstances lie would not proceed ea> parte as he had decided that the defendant should be given a further opportunity of appearing and substantiating her plea of “ not guilty “. He therefore adjourned the matter to the 10th August. Consequent upon this action, the Crown Solicitor’s agents communicated with the Deputy Crown Solicitor and stated that in view of the fact that the acting magistrate wlm was on the bench on the 13th July would not act on the bench on the 10th August, it would be necessary to have a fresh summons issued since the permanent magistrate was a member of the Hospital Board and could not, therefore, take the case. The stipendiary magistrate at Rockhampton agreed to go to
Gladstone to hear the matter on the 10th August. The defendant did not appear. The magistrate agreed to hear the matter ex parte and the defendant was convicted and fined £5 and ordered to pay £3 3s. professional costs and 6s. costs of court. In default of payment forthwith, the defendant was ordered to be imprisoned for fourteen days at the Maryborough gaol.
It was at once stated in the press that Nurse Wagland would not pay the fine, but would go to gaol. No action was taken for her committal to gaol, but, on the other hand, as soon as the Deputy Crown Solicitor, Brisbane, saw the report of the case, he communicated with the Clerk of Petty Sessions so as to prevent any action in the direction of committal. The Deputy Crown Solicitor informed the Clerk of Petty Sessions that he proposed to recover the fine and costs by applying the provisions of regulation 114 of the National Security (Supplementary) Regulations, which enables proceedings to be taken by way of garnishee upon non-payment of a fine. Nurse Wagland threatens to resign from the Maryborough Hospital if proceedings are taken by way of garnishee.
It had been the intention of the Gladstone Hospital Board, on the return of Nurse Wagland from leave, to release a nurse senior to Nurse Wagland in order that she might do her obstetric training, which cannot he done at the Gladstone Hospital.
The Attorney-General handled this matter, and gave instructions that a garnishee order should be applied as an alternative penalty to imprisonment. The honorable member for Wide Bay said, that provision had been made for somebody else to take Nurse Wagland’s place when she went on leave, and she herself wrote that everything was aboveboard in what she did when she left Gladstone. The point is that the nurse who took her place was to relieve another who desired to do further training. It is evident, therefore, that Nurse Wagland has not told quite the whole story.
– I would be prepared to believe her as much as I would, those who have supplied information to the Acting Attorney-General.
– Nurse Wagland said that, by refusing to return, she bad not left any patients unattended, and that everything connected with her action was above-board, but that was not correct. Arrangements were made for another nurse to be employed in consequence of the proposal to release the senior nurse. The action of Nurse Wagland in not returning to her post at the expiration of her recreation leave was not only a contravention of the regulations, but it also prejudiced the position of a colleague at the Gladstone Hospital hy, in effect, “ jumping “ that colleague’s prior claim to release. The secretary to the Gladstone Hospital Board has sent the following telegram : -
Wagland’s action most flagrant, selfish breach regulations experienced here, sharp contrast behaviour nurses other theatres. Condemnation most likely replace sympathy were facts fully known.
The honorable member for Wide Bay discussed this matter courteously and helpfully, and I have no desire to place him in a false light. At the conference which he mentioned we did discuss the remission of the fine, and we pointed out that we could not set aside the conviction. As for the remission of the fine, the procedure is for a submission to be made through the Attorney-General’s Department to the Governor-General, with whom the final decision rests. If I were to say that the fine would be remitted I would be usurping an authority which, in fact, T do not possess. Nurse Wagland has already paid, unwillingly, fi of the fine.
– She has not paid it.
– It has been deducted from her salary. We could pursue the matter to the end, and garnishee her salary wherever she worked. Even if she did not work, the matter would still hang over her. That is not proposed, but honorable members will agree that her conduct was open to criticism. The case has been heard, and a fine imposed. I now give the honorable member an assurance that a submission will he made to the Governor-General through the Attorney-General’s Department for a remission of the fine, in whole or in part.
.- I listened with close attention to the history of this matter as detailed by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley), and also to the presentation of the case by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). I take leave to say, that from my experience of the law, and from some little experience in the high office of Attorney-General, I believe that the nurse in question has been treated with extraordinary lenity. So far from being ill-treated, she has been well-treated.
– Yes, they might have shot her.
– The law is not of such a gross or punitive character as to enable such a thing to he lawfully done. When the case came before the presiding magistrate, as it did in due course, it was accompanied by a voluminous statement in writing from the accused person. Usually, statements in writing made by an accused person in courts of law receive very short shrift.
– That is what she got.
– Does the honorable member suggest, that when a case is brought before a court by summons or some other kind of indictment, we should applaud a procedure in which the accused person does not appear before the court, but submits representations in writing? Is it suggested that the accused should be able to satisfy the administration of the law by a long letter of personal explanation? I suggest that such a course is inimical to the principles of law, which require that’ a person charged should answer that charge in person, or, at least, by some other effective and recognized method, and not by writing a personal letter, which cannot be tested by the ordinary processes of examination or cross-examination. I find myself in this case supporting the Attorney-General. On the ground of ignorance of the law or for some other similar reason I might have well been on the other side. But in this case the magistrate took an unusual course, possibly because Queensland is a State of magnificent distances and because he felt that the interests of justice would, perhaps, in the long run, be served by taking some notice of an ex parte statement submitted by an accused person. He adjourned the case for a sufficiently long period to give the accused person an opportunity to appear in the court. The person did not appear in the court ; he made no answer, and was fined £5. The prosecution, presumably, was ready on both occasions with its witnesses in attendance to go ahead with the case. I am not always favorable to regulations of the type under which this nurse was prosecuted ; I think they lend themselves to use with severity. But I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that the magistrate did give her a second chance to appear, which she seemingly ignored. Having regard to the facts, I think that the Minister has more than justification for assuming that she regarded the charge lightly and even contemptuously. That is proven indeed by the subsequent events in which she demanded that the fine imposed on her should be wholly remitted. “Well, that is curious. I do not know the accused. I do not know anything about the circumstances other than what I have heard from the honorable member for Wide Bay and the Acting Attorney-General. But I assume on the few facts I have that she was more than well treated under the law.
With one point made by the Acting Attorney-General I take leave to disagree, namely, that it is for the Governor-General to remit fines or to refuse to remit fines, as he thinks fit. That conception of gubernatorial duty I respectfully decline to accept. I think that the Governor-General is, according to all constitutional precedent, bound to give effect to the advice of his Ministers, and I should be shocked and disquieted to hear that the Governor-General had failed to give effect to any advice given to him by his Ministers in this case, and had acted, as one might say, “ off his own bat “. The honorable member for Moreton contended in an interjection that that was the practice before the Statute of Westminster was passed. It was never he practice, but it has become undubitably clear as the result of the adoption of the Statute that it is not the practice now.
The treatment of this nurse, unlike that usually accorded in the industrial sphere to nurses as a whole has been good. With hesitation and with great respect to the Minister at the table and to those also who have eloquent friends to plead their cause in this chamber - that is to say, in the interests of those, the great majority, who have neither friends nor influence - I express the hope that the fine will not be wholly remitted. Having followed the case as stated by the honorable member for Wide Bay, and having heard the Minister in reply, I see no reason why there should be any remission, though, perhaps, something might be granted as a concession to the nurse’s ignorance of the law.
– Am I to apply the same rule to the coal-miners?
– I am saying nothing about the coal-miners. If the coalminers have been guilty of a dereliction of duty the law should be applied to them also. I suggest that the interests of justice will not be served by the unlimited addition of other cases to that of the coal-miners. It is true, but trite, that two wrongs do not make a right. I hope that I have made sufficiently clear I think that if the Minister has erred, he has erred on the side of leniency rather than on the side of oppressive conduct.
.- One must agree that the law should be obeyed. We have upright officers of the law, and the Government is determined to enforce it. It will ruthlessly execute its duty, regardless of how painful it may be, so long as the person concerned is not a member of an industrial organization, or cannot strike back.
– Not ruthlessly, I hope.
– The Minister (Mr. Beasley) showed that hardship had been inflicted upon another nurse as the result of Nurse Wagland’s failure to obey the law. It could also be shown that our fighting services suffered hardships as the result of the failure of the Government to deal, in accordance with the law, with many industrialists who have defied it. The gravamen of the complaint is the discrimination which has been exercised against Nurse Wagland, who is powerless to defy the law, compared with the unwillingness of the Government to prosecute organized industrialists who flout the law.
– Does the honorable member say that the Government baa raised or reduced the standard of justice?
– I agree with the view which the honorable member for Batman (Mr, Brennan) expressed in his speech. From a strictly legal standpoint, it was temperate and logical. I congratulate the honorable member upon it. To be consistent, I could not urge the Government to waive the penalty imposed upon Nurse Wagland when I have insisted that the law should be enforced against unionists who have defied it. I merely point out that the Government should administer the law impartially. The law must be obeyed equally by Nurse “Wagland, by the niece of a Labour member of Parliament, and by any other person or body of persons. As honorable members are aware, the law exists for the protection of the whole community. It is not an instrument with which to oppress some individuals. The law may cause them inconvenience, and even restrict their liberty, but it is for the common good that we should have a law-abiding community. I shall not plead with the Minister to remit the penalty which has been imposed upon Nurse Wagland. The Government itself must decide that. As the honorable member for Batman properly pointed out, this is not a matter for decision by the Governor-General. We know perfectly well that, under the formalities of the law, the final decision does rest with the Governor-General. In the same way, the Royal assent to Commonwealth legislation rests with the GovernorGeneral. But his decision is made on the advice of the Executive Council. Therefore, the responsibility for dealing with this case cannot be put aside by saying that the Governor-General will ultimately make the decision.
The law should be either enforced or repealed. If a person breaks the law, the penalty must be exacted, and I believe that the Minister made out a good case regarding Nurse Wagland’s defiance of the law. But a very sound case could also be made against the strikers who are causing far more injury to the community than did the small infringement of the law by Nurse Wagland. She broke the law in order to suit her personal convenience. She did not desire to return to Gladstone where she had trained for nearly four years. She wanted to select an occupation with a better status, probably in a place where she wished to live. But to-day, so many people are violating the law, not for any personal advantage, hut merely to show their defiance of authority. I shall not contend that the penalty inflicted upon Nurse Wagland should be waived, while I advocate that the Government should enforce the law against strikers in industry. But if we are to observe constitutional rule in this country, let justice be done impartially.
Proposed vote agreed to.
.- 1 direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to some of the very difficult problems which have been created by the decision of the Deputy Directors of Man Power. To support my contention, I propose to refer’ to several typical cases in Queensland. An application was made for the release of a serviceman, who had a long period of service and desired to resume his civil occupation in a sawmill and joinery works at Southport. He had been a key man. The sawmill and joinery works are providing most of the timber used in the construction of houses on the South Coast. In fact, the erection of homes is proceeding in that limited area more rapidly than in any similar area in Queensland. The man-power authorities refused the application, stating that the quota of 200 men allotted by the Minister had been exceeded.
– Was this a recent case?
– Yes, I received the letter in Brisbane last Monday, shortly before I returned to Canberra. No one can justify this absurd decision. I should like the Minister to inform me on what grounds it was made. About 750,000 homes are required throughout Australia, but before they can he erected, we must create reserves of building materials. All servicemen who have had long periods in the forces should be released immediately. I refer particularly to key men who, before they enlisted, were employed in the production of raw and manufactured materials for the building trade. If those men were released now for the purpose of accelerating the production of these materials, they would create employment for thousands of men in the construction of homes and factories. If this suggestion were adopted, it would accelerate demobilization. The decision of the Government to fix an absurdly low quota of 200 men is wasting time, opportunity and money. When troops are retained in the Army unnecessarily their morale is affected, and they suffer from neurosis. If this occurs, our war pensions bill will be considerably larger than it otherwise would be.
As I have often pointed out, aged men and women have, during the war, worked on dairy farms and in other branches of primary production, while their sons or former employees were in the Army.
Now the health of those elderly people is broken, and they desire to obtain the release from the services of their sons or former employees. But whenever an honorable member . applies on their behalf he receives the stereotyped answer that the man has not a sufficiently long period of service, or did not serve for two years overseas, and, therefore, cannot be released at this stage.
– Those requirements no longer apply.
– The honorable member is incorrectly informed. I urge the Minister to alter the policy of the Government, and release these men immediately. I cannot imagine a more foolish reason for retaining men in the Army than that given by the Deputy Director of Man Power in Brisbane.
I have received from the secretary of the Hospital Employees’ Union of Queensland a letter dealing with the shortage of staff in the mental hospitals at Goodna, Ipswich and Toowoomba. It states -
Female workers in mental hospitals in this State are very restless and likely to commence a regulation strike at any time. A “ regulation strike “ will mean that the nurses will staff only such wards as the number of nurses available will permit, consistent with safety of nurses and efficency of ward administration. Those wards for which nurses are not available would be left without staff.
Causes of the shortage are lack of applicants, excessive resignations and dissatisfaction with working conditions, including wages. Man-power authorities in Queensland have given much time and effort in their endeavours to staff the hospitals. They have directed hundreds of females to work at hospitals, but it has been customary for those directed not to turn up. One batch of nearly 100 women who were discharged from air craft industry were directed to work at tb, mental hospitals, but only two women responded. Many women sent to work in the mental hospitals were most undesirable in character and were a danger to the discipline and well-being of the staff.
We are hoping that women will soon bie released from the various women’s war service organizations in appreciable numbers and be directed to work at the hospitals. We shall be glad of any assistance you may be able to give in this direction.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The nurses of our mental hospitals perform a noble service to a most unfortunate section of the community. As so many of the people in these institutions are utterly helpless every consideration should be given to the women who devote their lives to this ministry of mercy. Everything possible should be done to bring the staffs of these hospitals up to their normal strength. I urge the Government to lose no time in taking such action as will avert all danger of a regulation strike. I pay tribute to the Deputy Director of Manpower in Brisbane, Mr. Walsh, for his efforts throughout the war to maintain staffs at these institutions. The position admittedly has been extremely difficult, and that Mr. Walsh’s efforts have not been entirely successful is proven by the present situation. Immediate action is imperative for the position is acute. I make an appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service to give his personal attention to my representations. These heroic women should be shown by definite action that their difficulties have not been disregarded.
I refer once again to the need for a change of Government policy in regard to the granting of releases from the armed forces. Men of long service who have jobs to go to in essential industries should be given their discharge without delay. I direct attention, in particular, to the need for prompt action in releasing men whose services have been applied for in the saw-milling and joinery industry at Southport, Queensland. The applications that have been made for these releases have been rejected on the ground that Queensland’s quota of 200 has already been filled. In view of the importance of the saw-milling and joinery industries in any home-building programme, the Government’s adherence to a quota system is utter folly. I am tempted to use language in this connexion which would bring me into conflict with the Standing Orders, but I 3hall try to content myself with declaring that the Government’s decision is ridiculous in the extreme. Large quantities of timber and joinery will be required for home building, not only in Queensland but also in other States, and unless the demand can be supplied, home building will be seriously retarded. The Government’s attitude is indefensible. The needs of the food-producing industries should also be given high priority, but all honorable members have had brought to their notice cases of refusal that could he truthfully described as pitiable. Elderly parents who have worked far beyond their strength during the war years in order to maintain production, because they realized how essential the maintenance of food supplies was, have met flat rejections when they have applied for the release of their sons in order to take over the responsibilities and arduous work on the properties which they have been striving to maintain in production. The following letter is typical of the replies sent by the Minister for the Army to requests made by honorable members for the release of urgently needed rural workers -
I refer to your representations . ., near Beenleigh, Queensland, who requests the discharge from the Army of his son on occupational grounds.
I have to advise that the circumstances have received careful consideration but have been assessed as insufficient to justify accelerated discharge of this soldier. However, it has been decided that demobilization of the forces will commence not later than 1st October, 1945, and that individual priority of release will be based on age, length of service, and family responsibilities.
The discharge of . will be effected in accordance with his individual priority assessed on a points system based on the abovementioned factors.
Similar communications have been received, I am sure, by other honorable members, in reply to their requests for the release of men whose services are needed in other districts in all parts of the Commonwealth. Our farming properties cannot he maintained in remunerative production unless the necessary man-power is provided for the purpose, and I appeal to the Government to change its policy in this connexion. It is the most arrant folly to keep in the services men who are not required there, because it results in a continuation of unjustifiable expense to the public in pay, dependants’ allowances, deferred pay, war gratuity, and the like, and hinders the restoration of essential industries to a normal basis. Moreover, men who know they should be doing useful service in rural industries become seriously affected psychologically by being retained in the services. Some of them may even contract war neurosis and become a charge on the Repatriation Commission. I appeal to the Government for an immediate review of the whole situation in this regard.
– I am glad that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is in the chamber, for the representations that 1 am about to make affect his department. Earlier to-day, I referred to the administration of certain other departments, but, unfortunately, the Ministers concerned were not present at the time, and the only reply I received was that the matters- I had raised would be brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned. That is not satisfactory to me. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will reply this evening to these observations. Last week, I brought to the honorable gentleman’s attention the unsatisfactory position that exists in regard to the treatment of tubercular ex-service personnel. The reply of the Minister was disconcerting to all who heard it, for he admitted that a need for additional sanitoriums existed, but said that he was unable to do as much as he would like to do in the matter, because projects for the erection of additional institutions of this description had been granted only a low priority. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. I can imagine very few building projects which are entitled to a higher priority than sanatoriums for the treatment of tubercular soldiers and ex-servicemen. Apparently, the Minister is fully conscious of this need, but his colleagues are not prepared to grant the necessary high priority to ensure that institutions shall he provided without delay. Exprisoners of war, in particular, are entitled to every facility of this kind that can be provided. The Adelaide Advertiser, in its issue of the 20th September, published the views of certain eminent individuals on this subject and expressed concern at the lack of proper equipment. The article stated -
It appears that in many cases the infection is unsuspected until it is revealed by X-ray examination for discharge. It is believed that infection arises partly from the tropical rigors to which many of the men have been subject in the Pacific campaign. Malnutrition and ill-treatment in prisoner-of-war camps is another contributing factor. If delay is to occur in taking action to deal with this problem, which is already an urgent one, the health, and perhaps the lives, of many servicemen would be menaced.
In the light of such statements, I should have thought that the Minister for Repatriation would have moved heaven and earth to insure that adequate medical provision was made for these unfortunate persons. The medical practitioners who are members of this House could bear testimony to the importance of the early treatment of tubercular cases, and I hope that they will bring their influence to bear on the Government to provide the necessary facilities. The Advertiser article quoted Dr. Brian Swift, president of the South Australian branch of the British Medical Association, as follows : -
The British Medical Association is very concerned about the treatment of the tubercular soldier after he has .been transferred from the Army, where the treatment is satisfactory, to the care of the Repatriation Department.
Surely, the views of that eminent gentleman are entitled to consideration. The inference is that whilst Army treatment is adequate, the treatment provided by the Repatriation ‘Commission leaves much to be desired. Dr. Swift proceeded as follows : -
No discretion is made between early cases and cases which are in the last stages of the disease. The surroundings are depressing and the patients are quartered in converted barracks built during the last war.
An ex-president of the British Medical Association, the medical director of the South Australian Tuberculosis Association, and the president of the South Australian Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, supported those statements.
The charges are serious. I have reason to believe that the inadequacy of the facilities for the treatment of tubercular ex-servicemen is not confined to South Australia. Last July, I took up with the Minister the case of an ex-stoker who is a patient at the Prince of “Wales Hospital, Randwick. and received the assurance that he was in good hands. That hospital houses chronic cases from the last war. It would seem to be indicated that the best is not being done for that man; because the conditions there are almost identical with those mentioned by Dr. Brian Swift. I have had several inquiries made concerning those conditions. The medical staff will admit that they are far from satisfactory, and that they do not comply with modern requirements in respect of the treatment of tuberculosis. The Minister will claim that there are difficulties in regard to staffing. He used that expression when answering my question. Of course there are staff difficulties at the Prince of Wales Hospital. On that account, the treatment of tubercular ex-servicemen should be given the highest priority. Although the Government is aware of the circumstances, it is not concerned to ensure that the provision of the necessary buildings for the treatment of these men shall be given the priority to which it is entitled. There can be no excuse for the lack of specialist routine treatment of these patients. An occasional visit by a specialist is not nearly sufficient. When the facts are revealed, the people will demand that these men shall be given adequate treatment. Tuberculosis requires the constant care of medical and nursing specialists. This is not given in wards which, for years since the last war, have provided the minimum of comfort for chronic cases. Some time ago, I advocated sending young medical officers abroad to study up-to-date methods and to undergo specialist training, in order that they might be equipped to treat the patients that were likely to need attention after this war, but my suggestion was not adopted. I urge that a report as to what are the total requirements be submitted by medical officers who are acquainted with the needs of tubercular patients. The matter of cost is unimportant in the consideration of the proper treatment of men who have voluntarily offered to sacrifice their lives in defence of their country. The Minister’s excuse that he is hampered because the building of sanitoriums and the staffing of hospitals are in a low priority, rather begs the question. The Opposition is not satisfied with his assurances. He should not attempt to cover up the shortcomings of his department by citing delay that may have been occasioned by. the nation’s concentration on a direct war effort. The people would like to know what is needed for this essential and urgent work. There should be no difficulty in securing the necessary financial support, even though the other public expenditure might have to be reduced. I know that the Minister will say, as he said recently in regard to war service homes, that he will be authorized to expend millions of pounds, if necessary, on the erection of adequate buildings. Nothing short of the provision of sanitoriums in which the most modern treatment can he given by specialists, will satisfy the people of Australia or the Opposition.
.- In his customary style, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has endeavoured to misrepresent all that has been said. He overlooks the fact that the war has just terminated. What I said previously was, that these works were in a very low priority during the currency of the war. The conflict having terminated, they will have the highest priority. Australia was in danger of invasion, and we had to do our best in the circumstances, because our defences had been neglected while governments supported by present Opposition members were in power. I realized the possibility of many servicemen contracting tuberculosis, and made every provision for their treatment. In the first few months of my ministerial career, I commenced the building of the sanatorium at Kenmore, Queensland, which was opened last week. Two more wards were added to the Lady Davidson Home at Turramurra, and that hospital is now one of the best in Australia. Two or three weeks ago, a sanitorium was opened in one of the most beautiful spots in the Boothby electorate, in South Australia. The building had to be impressed, and it is now being extended. Th«? opening was attended by 20 or 30 medical men, all of whom described the accommodation as excellent. For work in Western Australia, £50,000 has been placed on the Estimates. In that, State, we are working in co-operation with the State Government on the hospital at Wooroloo. The honorable member said that we were not having enough regard for the number of patients who might have to be provided for, and that we were giving too much consideration to the expense. It is not true that we are allowing ourselves to he unduly influenced by the cost. Our chief consideration is to give service. The honorable member urged that we should build hospitals whether they were really needed or not. I remind him that tb> great military hospitals at Concord and Heidelberg will eventually come under the Repatriation Department, so why should we build others ? No patient ha? been turned away because of lack of / accommodation. We have arranged with the military hospitals to take patients when we could not take them into our own hospitals because of the shortage of staff. I have consulted frequently with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in an endeavour to obtain more nurses, and four or five wards at the Randwick hospital have had to be closed down because of the shortage of staff. We held conferences with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in the hope that they might be able to help us, but the Minister for the Army told us that the Army itself needed 200 more nurses. Therefore, what chance had we in the circumstances?. Perhaps we could have taken some nurses from private hospitals,, but those hospital? themselves were short of staff. In the end members of the Australian Women’? Army Service had to come into the hospitals and help. During this war, women have done a wonderful job in keeping the hospitals open. It must not be forgotten that, throughout this time, the managements of canning factories were crying out for female labour to process fruit for the services. We were passing through a difficult time, and it is not right to say that because my department was given a low priority the Government was unsympathetic.
I have, in general, received the support of honorable members. Every honorable member here has some member of his family associated with the forces. Wa all have been in the war, so let us work together and get on with the job. Reference has been made to the Bedford Park Hospital. After the last war, bets used to be made in the wards as to how many patients would die during the day. It was suggested that we should add another ward to the hospital, but I declined. Mr. Eric Millhouse, president of the Returned Soldiers Association, has been of great help to me, and he complimented me on what the department has done for returned servicemen. The secretary of the Tuberculosis Patients Association 3aid that patients did not want to be sent to Bedford Park. It is not a bad hospital, but the men have a prejudice against it.
– Does the Minister know how the incidence of tuberculosis among servicemen in this war compares with that during the last war?
– I cannot give the figures, but not so many men have contracted the disease as was expected.
– Many were affected by gas in the last war.
– That is so. The honorable member advocated sending doctors overseas to gain experience. Some time ago there was an agitation to send mechanics overseas to study the making of artificial limbs. It was said that in the United States of America artificial limbs made from plastic were proving very successful. I sent abroad two of our best mechanics, both of them amputees from the last war who had since been working in artificial limb factories. They spent a month in Canada and two months at Roehampton, in the United Kingdom. When they came back they reported that we in Australia were as far advanced in the making of artificial limbs as anybody else, although they admitted that they had gained some experience that was of value. A.« for doctors, we have them in England, and America, and in every theatre of war. Eventually, they will return to Australia, and some of them will enter the Repatriation Department. We hope’ that, before long, some effective remedy will be found for the treatment of tuberculosis.
The honorable member for Wentworth said that it was difficult to know who might be suffering from tuberculosis, and that .is true. When we were getting staff for one hospital, we X-rayed all of the applicants, and one nurse who offered her services was found to be suffering from tuberculosis herself, although she did not know it, and she went in for treatment. The Government is doing everything to prevent the spread of disease. It will find as much money as is needed for the work, but money will not be wasted. In the near future, adequate staff will be available, and we shall be able to equip the hospitals properly. We know that, servicemen returning from the Pacific islands will have endured many hardships. We have seen how the terrible experience through which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) passed has aged him; yet he was a very strong man when he left here. Other men who had not been brought up to endure the same hardships may suffer even more as the result of their service, and many of them will need treatment. It will be given to them; none will be neglected. If honorable members learn of instances of neglect I trust that they will inform me. Let them not make public statements which may have the effect of giving the men the impression that they are being neglected. So long as I am Minister I shall do everything I can for the men. In this I have the support of every member of the Cabinet, and of every honorable member on this side of the House. I have also, I believe, the support of honorable members on the Opposition side.
– I do not doubt the truth of what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said regarding releases from the services insofar as it applied to the conditions that obtained three or four weeks ago, but, I propose to speak of what is happening now. Perhaps the letter to which he referred was sent out some weeks ago. The quota of releases to the building industry in Queensland has not yet been exhausted, and if more men are needed for high priority jobs they will be released. From the 1st August to the 20th September, the quota for special release was fixed at 33,000, of which 20,132 had been recommended for release up to the 20th September. Not all of them have yet been released. To-day, I got in touch with the Director-General of Man Power, and he told me that if any officer had sent out, since the 1st August, the letter referred to by the honorable member it was hy mistake. Up’ to the 20th September, the quota of men for release to timber-mills was 200, but 253 had actually been recommended for release.
– Well, my man cannot get out.
– He can get out now. For housing and other building the quota is 100, and 892 have been recommended for release. For building materials and fittings the quota is 395, and 77 recommendations for release have been made. We cannot recommend the release of men whose names have not been submitted to us.
– The mere fact that their release has been recommended does not ensure their release. The Army turns down many recommendations.
– I have no figures as to the number actually released, but the men are being discharged at a much more rapid rate than before. I am sure that 90 per cent, of our recommendations will be accepted, because the scene has changed since the 1st August. I would gamble that of the 20,000-odd recommendations for release submitted for the whole of Australia, 14,000 or 15,000 have either been discharged or are on their way home for discharge. My picture is a much brighter one than that of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis).
– The Minister says that -the man whose discharge I am seeking will he released.
– Yes, if he qualifies for special release in one of the categories of men who can be released out of turn. From the 1st August to the 20th September, out of a quota of 33,000 releases for the whole of Australia, we have submitted 20,132 recommendations, and I repeat that I will bet that 14,000 or 15,000 of those whose release we have recommended are out or on their way out of the forces.
– But that is just a guess.
-No. it is more than a guess. It is an estimate based on figures that I see every day. I would not say that it was absolutely correct. The quota of releases for Queensland to the building trade and allied trades and services was 810, but between the 1st August and the 20th September we recommended the release of 1,251 men. No limit will be placed on the number of men whose discharge will be recommended if they are wanted for the building trade. I do not think the honorable member for Moreton does himself justice when he demands that every one with a job awaiting him’ should he released immediately. I do not think he really means that.
– I asked for the release of every man who has given long service and has a joh awaiting him, but I emphasized long service.
– The honorable member said that every man who was a sawmiller or builder ought to be released. I should like to be able to accede to the honorable member’s desire, but I point out that if we allowed the discharge of every man whom we can place in employment, we should postpone the release of many men who have had five years’ service, are 30 to 40 years of age, and are married with children. In the last six months every honorable member has been clamouring for the release of the older men with long service, and for their replacement by younger men. That was why the points plan for demobilization was devised. If we went to the limit and released every man with a job to go to, or every man in whose release a member takes a personal interest, the points system would collapse, because the discharge of men with high priorities under the points system, but lacking the special qualifications of having a joh awaiting them or having aroused the personal interest of members of Parliament, would he seriously delayed.
– Is the Minister able to say that all his recommendations are followed by the Army ?
– Certainly not, because the Army says, “We need key men, too”. Moreover, some of the men whose release we recommend do not want to come out of the forces.
– What about the farmers ?
– I shall deal with them in their turn. I now desire to say something about the shortage of nursing and domestic staffs in hospitals and mental asylums. The position is tragic. The man-power authorities have been directing nurses and other women to various hospitals, but it is now thought that it might be better if there were no restrictions at all and the hospitals and mental asylums were permitted to advertise for the staffs they require. It is proposed to appeal to women to take positions on the domestic staffs. In conjunction with the authorities of the different institutions we have done all we possibly can to supply their needs. We are disbanding the Women’s Land Army and hope that from its ranks we shall be able to recruit staff for the hospitals. We have also asked for the release of women in the services in the hope that they too may be productive of the required staff. A special committee has toured Australia on this problem. It reports that in every State the pay and conditions of nurses are totally inadequate. We shall never make the nursing profession attractive unless we improve both the pay and conditions. I had a regulation drafted and gazetted for the purpose of improving the conditions of nurses and domestic staffs at the hospitals and asylums, but the employers are challenging its constitutionality in the High Court. I can say no more than that we have done everything in our power to staff the institutions.
The quota of releases to rural industries in Queensland has been exhausted, but further releases will be made as quickly as we can arrange for them. The Army is releasing men for rural industries quicker than before.
.- Honorable members are grateful that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and another Minister have been spurred to tell them something about the peace-time policy of their departments. Their lead ought to be followed by other Ministers. Henceforth conditions will be vastly different from what they were during the six years of war, and we are entitled to know what plans the Government has made to meet the changed conditions. Unfortunately the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service has not cleared the air very much. I am still in a fog as to what is being done to accelerate releases from the forces of men urgently needed for rural and associated industries in order that the country’s economy may be maintained. Nearly all the men whose release was applied for by the District War Agricultural Committees months and months ago are still in the forces, notwithstanding the fact that most of them are men who have given long service. One man, a blacksmith, who is absolutely indispensible to a whole district with a population of 10,000 or 12,000, including about 1,000 farmers, is being kept in the ranks notwithstanding that his father, the only other blacksmith in the locality, is dying of aneurism.
The end of this war finds Australia much better equipped with military and repatriation hospitals than it was after the last war. That is because the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), as Minister for the Army, established hospitals such as the 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord, Sydney, which have been invaluable in the years of war and will be equally invaluable when the Repatriation Department takes over the care of sick and wounded ex-servicemen and women from the various armed forces.
I welcome the proposed increased expenditure on health and food service* but I should like to hear from the Minister representing the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) an exposition of the Government’s policy in this regard. One should not have to delve into the Estimates in order to ascertain its intentions. I notice, however, that it is proposed to reduce the expenditure on war-time kindergartens from £21,000 last financial year to £5,000. That is a mistake. ‘ Economy should not be effected at the expense of the health of mothers and infants. The Government of which [ was a member seven or eight years ago established the Lady Gowrie Mothercraft Centres, which gave a lead that the States promptly followed. It should be the policy of the Commonwealth Government to set the example for the States to follow, and in what better way could it do that than in the establishment and maintenance of kindergartens that enable Australia’s mothers to be relieved for a few hours of the day, of the responsibility involved in rearing their children. Another way in which the Commonwealth Government has set a shining example for others to emulate is m its treatment of tubercular war veterans, whether their disease be the result of war service or not. That example has awakened all authorities to the great need to provide the most adequate means possible for the Bare of not only the victims of the disease but also their dependants.
The nation’s health depends on its food, and I find it disconcerting that the Government has not enunciated its policy in regard to food standards. The National Government of the United Kingdom led by Mr. Churchill, began a policy which the Attlee Labour Government intends to continue for at least ten years, according to its members, so successful did it prove when the nation was at war. The result of that policy was that although the range of items of food was curtailed for obvious reasons, the national standards of fitness rose. One would perhaps have expected the contrary to be the case. A part of the policy was stable prices, which helped to maintain the purchasing power of wages.
– The problem in Australia is vastly different.
– It is identical. I have discussed the plan in detail with Mr. Ernest Bevin, Foreign Minister in the Attlee Ministry, who assured me that it would operate for the next decade. This will be very appropriate during the next five years, because it is the only way in which to improve the standard of living, ensure stability in industry, and prevent inflation. It will have an extraordinary influence upon our ability to provide employment and offer to many ex-servicemen the opportunity of careers.
The prosperity of Great Britain in the next few years will depend upon its capacity to export goods, so that it shall have money with which to purchase its essential requirements, and repair the tremendous losses sustained during the war. The British Government realizes that an integral part of this plan will be to keep the cost of production down to a minimum. That can be done by maintaining the prices of foodstuffs at a low level, so that the present purchasing power of wages will be sufficient to enable workers to preserve a reasonable standard of living. Goods must be manufactured at competitive prices.. Australia is in a similar position. One-half of our total production is exported. Therefore, we must have stable prices and ensure that the purchasing power of wages shall remain constant.
– ‘What did the right, honorable gentleman do to stabilize prices when he was a Minister?
– For six months I fought in this chamber for the introduction of a stabilization scheme, but the Government rejected my suggestions. Ten days after the Parliament adjourned, the Government gave effect, under National Security Regulations, to practically the whole of my proposal. If honorable members will refer to Hansard they may read the motion which I submitted, and the speeches in which honorable members opposite condemned my plan. What amazes me about honorable members opposite is that they blindly believe that events in the future will be an exact repetition of events in the past. They do not realize that world conditions have changed completely during the last few years. If we stabilize our prices and increase our production, we shall be able to make a splendid contribution to the general rehabilitation of the world. But if unionists continue to strike against their executives and executives continue to defy the Government, Australia will not be able to play an active role in international affairs. If the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) were able to offer to the starving people of
Europe tons of food instead of words of advice, they would receive him much more cordially, and the settlement of international differences would be made easier.
Let us examine what has been achieved in Australia. Although the war has ended and many countries desperately require food, the Government is providing £285,000 to compensate Western Australian farmers for restricting wheat production. That requires an official explanation. What is the policy of the Government regarding the wheat industry? During the war, production was restricted because of transport difficulties in Western Australia ; but now, the world urgently requires wheat, and we shall be able to ship our surplus production abroad. Surely the Government should deal with the wheat industry, not on a State basis, but on a national basis ! Has the Government formulated for this industry a long-range policy, or does it alter its policy year by year? During the last few days I travelled from Taree to Brisbane, and a great proportion of the calves which I saw in the paddocks had the white faces of beef breeds, indicating that there will be a serious shortage of dairy heifers in the future. What action is the Government taking to increase the production of milk and butter? Again, this requires a longterm plan. In this matter, the Government could follow with advantage the example of Great Britain, which has provided for the distribution of milk to women and children. Australia should provide milk for infants free of cost, and for women at half price. But what is the Government doing? Recently, I pointed out that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should have delayed the introduction of the budget until he was in a position to make a comprehensive announcement of Government policy. The difficulty which confronts honorable members is that no explanation has been given of many important items. Some have been increased whilst others have been reduced, or have disappeared altogether. I trust that before this discussion concludes, the Minister will make the comprehensive statement for which I have asked.
.- I listened with interest to the right honor able member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) advocating the stabilization of prices, and condemning the Government for its handling of the primary industries and- its plans for a return to peace-time economy. What amazed me was that the right honorable gentleman, in painting his attractive picture, which -I admired so greatly, omitted to explain how the Government should give effect to those proposals.
– A government in which I was a Minister stabilized the prices of butter and sugar.
– The present Government has stabilized the prices of a number of commodities. The right honorable gentleman was very vocal during the last referendum, when he vigorously opposed the granting to this Parliament of powers, which the State Parliaments now possess, to stabilize the prices of primary products. It is true that the price of butter has been stabilized, and by an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland, the price of sugar has been stabilized. But those were not difficult problems. I agree with the proposal that milk should be provided free for all school children in Australia. That distribution would have a most beneficial effect upon their health. But the right honorable gentleman did not suggest how the distribution should be made. What power does this Parliament possess to authorize the distribution? When the Government sought additional powers to enable it to do many of the things which he advocated, he opposed them at the referendum. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to suggest grandiose schemes. When they were Ministers a few years ago, they did nothing to give effect to those schemes.
– We did. .
– The honorable member for Forrest .(Mr. Lemmon) pointed out that a feature of the stabilization schemes which the right honorable gentleman introduced was low prices.
– That is not correct.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that I am speaking the truth. When he was Commonwealth
Treasurer and later Minister for Commerce, lie made no attempt to give effect to the policy that he now enunciates. However, I give him credit for being sincere ; doubtless, his outlook has changed during the last few years, but he is endeavouring to make political capital out of the situation. Under its wartime powers, the Government has greatly assisted the primary industries. But the right honorable gentleman did his utmost at the last referendum to prevent the Government from retaining those powers in order to stabilize prices in peace-time. It is of little use, therefore, for the right honorable gentleman to talk about the advantages of a long range plan for seven or ten years to improve dairy herds, for he knows very well that the Commonwealth Government can do practically nothing of that nature without the co-operation of the six State Governments. He compared the internal economy of this country with the construction of the human body, and remarked that all the parts were inter-related. But the Commonwealth and State Governments cannot be said to be inter-related, for the sovereign power, in many matters, resides not in the Commonwealth but in the States.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) discussed at considerable length the obligation that rested upon the Government to make provision for the treatment of tubercular servicemen and ex-servicemen. I do not question the sincerity of the honorable member, but I regret to say that in my opinion he made his remarks, partly at least, for the purpose of gaining political capital. In any case, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has answered his arguments effectively. I agree that we ought to do everything possible to ensure that tuberculosis in soldiers shall be treated in the most effective modern way, but I go further and say that we have a responsibility in this regard to the general community as well as to service personnel. The Government has done excellently in making provision for the treatment of service personnel, for in spite of all the difficulties associated with the use of man-power and material resources in these days it has provided additional equipment in every State for the treat ment of soldiers. Not only have buildings been constructed where necessary, but staff also has been provided. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must have realized while the Minister was speaking that his charges against the Government of lack of concern in this matter were wholly without foundation. I hope that we shall never lose sight of our responsibility to both service personnel and civilians who suffer from tuberculosis. The belated interest of the honorable member in this subject causes us to ask why he should have raised the matter at this stage. He was a member of a government for years, but, so far as I know, he did not evince much interest in the subject at that time. If the honorable gentleman had taken the trouble to read the report of the Social Security Committee on the treatment of tuberculosis he would have realized that the Government is fully alive to the needs of the situation.
For many years past, some State governments have made commendable provision for the treatment of tuberculosis, but others have given quite inadequate attention to the matter. The Social Security Committee was informed in evidence in one capital city that the patients in a certain hospital used to wager on the number of sufferers from tuberculosis who would die each day and be taken to the morgue. These unfortunate people occupied a ward past which the bodies of tubercular victims had to be taken to the morgue. It is deplorable that their quarters should have been so situated. ‘ The Government has had under consideration a plan for dealing with tuberculosis on a broad scale, and honorable members will be required shortly to give their attention to a bill on the subject. I reiterate that we must keep within the range of our consideration not only service personnel but also civilians, for any sufferers from tuberculosis who are careless can transmit the disease to the members of their families and to other people with whom they come into contact. Yet the Social Security Committee was informed in medical evidence, and I was also advised while I was in America recently, that under certain conditions this scourge could be eradicated from a nation within 25 years. That would require a carefully prepared plan of campaign which would include skilled hospital attention in the early stages of the disease, and colonies for patients at certain stages of recovery, during which they would need to engage in some appropriate occupation. Economic provision would ako he essential for the families of breadwinners who were undergoing treatment.
I commend the Government for what it has already done for service personnel who suffer from tuberculosis, and I trust r.hat the plans it has in contemplation for dealing with the scourge on a nationwide scale will prove successful. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to think that very little is being done, and if he keeps making statements to that effect he will probably convince himself that they are true, but the fact is that the Government is alive to the importance of the subject and is adopting adequate measures to deal with it.
.- In dealing with the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department this afternoon I raised what I regard as a most important industrial development which is seriously affecting the rate of the construction of houses in this country. [ refer to the go-slow tactics that are being adopted generally in the building trades in Victoria. I asked the Acting AttorneGeneral whether he would make a statement on measures which the Government has taken or proposes to take to cope with this situation. The honorable gentleman said, in reply, that he anticipated that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) would answer me, but that honorable gentleman did not do so. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who also was invited to reply to my criticisms adroitly escaped from the chamber without doing so. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will deal with the subject, for it is of importance in connexion with the construction of war service homes. If he should fail to do” so I sincerely trust that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will face the issue, for it also involves his administration. Earlier to-day I said that although go-slow tactics were being applied to-day chiefly in Victoria, it was likely that they would extend to all States. Since then I have obtained information which indicates that my prophecy was warranted. I have read an article in the building trades journal Construction which refers to the rate of bricklaying now and in previous years. Some honorable members present to-night can recall the days when firstclass tradesmen laid from 1,200 and 1,500 bricks a day, and when good tradesmen laid from 900 to 1,000 bricks a day.
– How many hours a day did they work?
– That is beside the point. The fact is that a rate of work approaching those figures was general throughout the bricklaying industry. To-day bricklayers are satisfied if they lay 300 bricks a day, and according to the report in Construction in work done for the New South Wales Housing Commission, many bricklayers laid only 200 bricks a day. In spite of this great falling off in the rate of work some members of certain trade unions in Victoria are to-day going from, job to job persuading men to reduce their output still further. This go-slow policy should be given serious consideration by the Government. The question that I put bluntly to the Government is: Does it propose to stand by while its construction and home-building programme is deliberately sabotaged? Does it countenance the wilful inflation of building costs against trade unionists, other workers, and ex-servicemen who are desperately searching for homes at the present time? That is an issue which it cannot ignore, even though Ministers may evade it in this chamber.
– Bricklayers work under a State award.
– Bricklayers had access during the war, and still have access, to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Commonwealth has not hesitated to override State powers during war-time in order to serve war purposes. It still has supreme authority in respect of industrial relations. This is as great an emergency in the industrial field as was ever encountered during the war, and unless corrective measures he taken immediately the whole of the social and community life of the nation will be poisoned. The gentleman directing this campaign, with the Government benignly indifferent, is Mr. Don Thomson, who presides over the Building Trades Federation. He is an avowed Communist, who presumably imagines that he is putting into effect a policy which the Communists in Soviet Russia implement. I ask any citizen of Soviet Russia at present in this country: What would be the attitude of his country towards a member of the Communist party who, when the people were desperately short of housing accommodation, sought wilfully to sabotage the construction programme? He would be treated as an enemy of the people and of the country. And traitors, in essence, are the men who are doing that sort of thing in Australia. What is the Government doing to counteract their influence and their activities?
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– There are many suggestions that I could make were my party in office.
– It did not build any houses when it was in office.
– It had a definite construction programme, and there was no shortage of coal at any time while I was Minister for Labour and National Service. I challenge the Minister to produce any evidence of difficulty in having our defence construction programme carried out after we had tackled this union. This is a recent development, and, so far as we can gather, the Government is not taking any corrective action. It has the dual responsibility of ensuring that there shall be industrial tribunals to hear and determine matters in dispute and enforcing any decisions which they may give. There is no cause for a Minister to say, “ I am not going to take sides “. The Australian community as a whole, and not merely the employer or the employee, has to be represented, and it can look only to the Government for representation. The Government could also educate its supporters and the trade union movement to the belief that, in a country which has an adequate legal industrial system, there oan be no such thing as the right to strike. In a country that has a comprehensive system of industrial law, there is no more right to strike than to murder or steal. If you strike against the industrial law of your country, you violate the law of the land as surely as does the man who steals or murders. There will not be any obedience of the industrial law so long as honorable members opposite are afraid to tell trade unions that they are violating the law of the country, and Ministers make such statements as that of the Minister for Labour and National Service, “I have a brief for the workers “, without mentioning anything about the brief which, as a member of the Government, he has for the people, and that of the Prime Minister, “ We are not going to crucify the workers of this country “, when the only people with whom he is required to deal are crucifying their fellow workers and citizens. A craven and evasive attitude will not solve the trouble. If Ministers will face the issue like men, we shall have homes constructed. But if they deal with it in a pusillanimous fashion, there will be no more prospect of reaching the target of 24,000 homes than there would be if the target were 24,000 tents.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has made a lot of wild statements without furnishing a tittle of proof. He has read a report from a journal which always “ barracks “ for him and his party and attacks a Labour government.
– Does the Minister deny Mr. Thompson’s reported statements?
– I have not read his statements.
– That indicates how much the honorable gentleman knows about the matter.
– The honorable member, with a great display of heroics, has attacked the Commonwealth Government, whereas the man responsible for the trouble has just been defeated in the Parliament of Victoria, and will never return to power if he gets his political desserts - the honorable member’s “ pal “r Dunstan. Why does not the honorable member place the matter before him, or the Housing Commission of Victoria, which is responsible for the building of houses in that State?” Why does he not take it up with, the State industrial tribunals, under which these men are working? Like Dunstan has always done since he has been in power, the honorable member has attempted to “ pass the buck “ to the Commonwealth Government; he is “pedalling the wares” of that astute politician to-night. All that he has said is that Thompson made some statements, which was published in a certain journal. That is the only evidence that he can submit in regard to the adoption of a go-slow policy. I admit frankly that I do not know what would he an average day’s bricklaying. The honorable gentleman has mentioned the laying of 1,400 or 1,500 bricks a day. That might have been the rate long ago, when men were sweated, but I doubt whether it could be attained to-day. I know that no bricklayer would be required to, or could, lay that number of bricks in the hours that are worked now. The Commonwealth Government has no control over the matter. I suggest that the honorable gentleman submit his advice to the authorities that have the constitutional power to deal with it.
Mr. FADDEN” (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) [9.39 j. - I draw attention specifically to the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the only department that is to contribute very materially, if disadvantageously, to our financial economy. Compared with last year, the vote for that department is to be reduced by £2,582,591, whereas the aggregate reductions of all the other departments total only £1,194,186. The position is even worse if one compares that reduction of £2,582,591 with the reduction of £494,000 for the other war service departments, apart from the Department of “Works and Housing, the contribution of which is £717,000. If the whole of the administrative votes that have been passed by the committee be taken into consideration, it will be found that the expenditure of the other departments is to be increased by £1,535,908 and that of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture alone is to be reduced by £3,234. Let us consider some of the items which are to contribute to that reduction, in a depart ment which must necessarily affect very materially the economic well-being of this nation. Of necessity, it is of the greatest importance to our primary industries. It is hardly necessary to mention that our primary industries were required to raise Australia out of the depression, and to contribute in full measure to our war-time economy. They will also play a leading part in the post-war rehabilitation of Australia. Consequently, it is appalling to find that the Government is applying such a narrow-minded and short-sighted policy, and using the pruning knife on this department alone. The subsidies given to the dairying industry last year amounted to only £5,152,000, although the amount estimated to be expended was £7,500,000, the difference being approximately £2,400,000. The proposed vote for this year is £5,250,000, an increase of only about £100,000 on the expenditure last year. That is to be the nation’s contribution to the rehabilitation of an industry that has reached the disastrous condition so aptly described by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The assistance in respect of stock fodders is to be reduced by £1,600,000. An increased amount is being provided for the jute industry, but the wheat industry, for which £650,000 was voted last year, is not to receive anything this year. That is the treatment that is being meted out to important industries that are crying out for assistance in order that they may take their rightful place in the economy, not only of Australia, but also of the British Empire.
– They are now better off than they were under the administration of the right honorable gentleman.
– I do not propose to delve into past history. Post-mortems have never brought a corpse to life. We are concerned about the new economy that has been established as the result of the war, and the post-war rehabilitation of this primary producing country. The provision for the administrative activities of the department, including the commercial intelligence service abroad, is £374,000. The Food Control branch of the department is to have expended on it £355,000. This is to finance arrangements for the regimentation of the primary industries, but the major department is to receive only £374,000. Is any honorable member here satisfied with that arrangement? The war is over, and the referendum proposals have been defeated. The people have decided that they do not want to be regimented - that they want an absolute minimum of government control. The growth of the Food Control constitutes a public scandal. At the end of 1943 there was a staff in this branch of 326 males and 323 females, but at the 8th September last these numbers had increased to 595 males and 420 females, a total of 1,015. Actually, when Food Control, was first established, there were in the branch only 218 males and 208 females, a total of 426. To-day, although the war is over, there are 589 more persons on the staff than when it was first established. Food Control is an example of bureaucracy run mad. Apparently, the head-quarters of this amazing set-up is in Melbourne, where there is a staff of 567. The staff in Sydney numbers 305, and in Brisbane, 71.
Now we come to the cost. This year, salaries are put down at £310,157, and general expenses at £102,954, a total of £413,111. Compare this with an actual expenditure last financial year of £253,551. It is time that a halt was called, to this scandalous waste of public money. Therefore, in order to focus public attention on the way in which these Estimates have been prepared, I move -
That, in Divisions 207-210, the vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture -£13,795,000- be reduced by .11.
.- I listened attentively to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and it was obvious to me that he had no knowledge of the practical side of building construction, the subject to which he addressed himself. If I believed that he knew no more about the legal profession than he does about house construction, he would be the last person to whom I should go for advice. He said that bricklayers in Victoria were applying a “ go-slow “ policy, that some of them were laying only 300 bricks a day, whereas they should be laying 1,200. I do not know how many hours a day he would expect a man to work to lay 1,200 bricks, and it wa? certainly ridiculous for him to sug gest that the men were laying only 300 bricks a day, which would work out at 37 bricks an hour. If a “ go-slow “ policy is being practised in Victoria it is the fault of the Victorian Government. In South Australia, the average bricklayer lays approximately the same number of bricks as before the war, namely, 700 a day, which is a fair rate on a cottage job. On other kinds of work not so many are laid, whilst on some kinds it is possible to lay even more than that number. On what is called factory work, a man can lay 900 bricks a day on a 9-in. wall, with five layers of stretchers and a layer of headers to bind the bricks together. Bricklayers in my State are doing a good job, and I cannot see why the position should be different in Victoria. At the rate of 300 a day, the actual wages cost of laying the bricks for a cottage measuring 30 feet by 30 feet would be about £225, which is a ridiculously large amount. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, the responsibility for housing the people rests upon the State governments. The Commonwealth for a time exercised control over materials, but that has now come to an end. It will no longer be possible for honorable members opposite to blame the Commonwealth Government for the housing shortage. I suggest that, before the honorable member for Fawkner sets out to condemn any class of workers he should acquire some knowledge of the work. I gained my knowledge of it as a worker first, and then as a master builder.
.- Some months ago, I directed attention to the important work being done by local repatriation committees, and the even more important work which they could do if they were given more power and responsibility. These committees consist of the most prominent men in their districts, and include shire councillors, prominent business men, and professional men of good standing. I suggested that the powers of the committees be similar to those exercised by such committees in New Zealand. Given such powers they could render valuable assistance to ex-servicemen who might want to settle in their districts. Fortunately, many local committees have already been formed in my electorate, and I believe that the position is similar in other electorates. I have received a letter from one of the local committees in my electorate expressing concern about what is happening in the area in regard to returned servicemen who are going into business on their own account or taking up farming operations. The letter points out that many returned men are buying businesses and farms that, in the committee’s opinion, are not likely to give them a. reasonable chance of success. The members of the committee are fearful for their future. The position will be accentuated as time passes and demobilization develops. They urge that, on discharge, men should be advised to get in touch with the local committees in the areas in which they propose to settle, in order that they may receive advice from men in all walks of life who know the competition that they are likely to meet in businesses or the worth of the farms that they propose to buy. Men who are given such counsel will have a better chance of success than they would have if they went blindly ahead without advice. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. “Frost) to confer with his appropriate colleagues as to what steps should be taken to put that proposal into effect.
– The Estimates contain an item of £3,000,000 for land settlement, which may be sufficient for the period under review, but I should like to know how it is proposed to expend the money. Am I to assume that it will be used to meet all the costs of land settlement referred to in the Re-establishment and Employment Act, or is it intended only for the purchase of land to be provided under the agreements with the States? Does it include an amount for the provision of water? It must be realized that before land is made available to ex-members of the forces it must already be well watered or be provided with water to ensure that they shall not be victims of drought. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction some months ago said that it was primarily the function of State governments to recommend water conservation schemes. Consequently, a friend of mine in the
Queensland Parliament asked the Acting Premier, Mr. Hanlon, what schemes had been recommended and received the following reply: -
The Department of Irrigation and Water Supply’s programme submitted to the National Works Council amounts to £098,825, and includes £055,000 for 43 projects for the construction of dams or weirs on ER,Uy streams in various parts of .the State. A number of these projects, however, must be regarded as tentative at this stage pending completion of detailed investigations which are proceeding as rapidly as possible with available technical staff. Provision is also made for the construction of a number of low weirs, low banks, and excavated tanks for retreatment of inland streams to restore water holes, for bank protection works, and for watering facilities on stock routes.
I am pleased to see that schemes have been recommended. Availability of water is essential in any land settlement scheme. I advocate the piping of water from streams, where convenient, to the properties. It would be utterly unfair to settle ex-servicemen on some of the land that has been “ frozen “ for their purposes in Queensland unless provision were first made to ensure the supply of water.
– The honorable member wants the water to precede the stock.
– Yes. All practical men will agree that that is necessary. I hope the Commonwealth Ministry will do all it can to follow up the recommendations made by the Queensland Government. The proper sequence is, first, the land; secondly, the water; and thirdly, the settlement.
I am very much concerned about a statement that was made to me by a member of the Industries Assistance Board in Queensland when I sought assistance in the reopening of brickworks in my electorate. In fairness to the board, J must say that it was favorably disposed to granting assistance to reopen brickworks in order that housing needs in country districts might be met. The statement that caused me concern was made as a part of the following dialogue: The board member said, “ One of the things that the boa,rd has to consider is the fact that there are only 250 bricklayers and plasterers in Queensland “. I replied, “Surely that can be remedied! There are many young men coming out of the services who would welcome training as plasterers and bricklayers “,but he replied, “ Unfortunately, the unions will not give them membership “. That must cause concern to every one. I should like to know whether that statement is true. If the Minister for Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) cannot answer me straight away, I should like him to investigate the matter. It seems scandalous that the 250 men in those unions will not allow the apprenticeship of other men in order that they might take up the trades as a means of livelihood and to assist in the housing programme. If the position is as this gentleman stated - I fervently hope that it is not - immediate corrective action is imperative.
I see no provision in the Estimates for assistance to graziers whose stock perished in the drought. I speak not on behalf of the men financially able to restock at their own cost, but on behalf of men. on the smaller properties who have lost their means of livelihood. The Commonwealth Government should confer with the Queensland Government on this matter in order that the small graziers who do not want to admit failure and want to try again, may be assisted to do so by either a grant or a loan, or a part grant and a part loan for restocking purposes. Without again going over the ground that I have covered on other occasions, I conclude by asking whether the Government intends to assist the tobacco-growers. I hope that the questions I have asked will be answered.
– Criticism has been levelled throughout the country against the Vegetable Seeds Committee, which operates under the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The manner in which the committee operates is similar to that in which the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, which was referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), is disposing of machine tools by placing them in the hands of the big concerns and making it impossible for the owners of small factories to buy them. The Vegetable Seeds Committee is operating mainly in the interests of the big seed merchants and very little in the interests of the farmers. The committee is referred to in The Federal Guide in the following terms: -
263 Castlereagh-street, Sydney.
Chairman - Honorable F. W. Bulcock
Deputy chairman - Dr. B. T. Dickson.
Member - J. Douglas, Department of Commerce and Agriculture
Executive member - Dr. J.R. A. McMillan.
Department associated with - Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Functions. - To secure an adequate supply of vegetable seeds, trueness to type and satisfactory purity and germination.
Not one commercial seed merchant is a member of the committee. Not one practical business man is on it. Consequently, timeand time again, it has fallen down on its job to deliver seeds throughout the country. The following is an extract from a letter written by Dr. McMillan to Mr. J. M. Youman, of Black Mountain, New South Wales : -
In reply to your inquiry with regard to a supply of Greenfeast pea seed, I wish to advise that the Vegetable Seeds Committee distributes directly to seeds merchants who then sell to growers. It will be necessary, therefore, for you to obtain your supplies from those seeds merchants.
When Mr. Youman applied to seed merchants in New South Wales for Greenfeast pea seed, he was unable to obtain supplies. But I have a letter written to Mr. Youman on the 31st August last by Griffiths Limited, seedsmen, nurserymen and horticulturists, of Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. It reads -
We thank you for your letter regarding Greenfeast peas. We can supply your requirements although stocks areparticularly scarce in New Zealand. These are in 200-lb. sacks at 24s. a bushel, sacks at cost. You could have no trouble in obtaining a licence, as we know the vegetable allotment committee are short of peas, because we received a cable from them last week.
When Mr. Youman attempted to obtain from New Zealand supplies of Greenfeast pea seeds, the Vegetable Seeds Committee raised difficulties. It informed him that the price which he would pay for the seed in New Zealand, 24s. a bushel, was excessive, and that18s. 6d. was the fixed price. I have a circular dated the1st August, 1945, issued by Arthur Yates and Company Proprietary Limited, seed growers, seed merchants and nurserymen, of Sydney, in which it is stated that the price of Greenfeast pea seed was 32s. 6d. a bushel. According to the Vegetable Seeds Committee, the price in New Zealand was 18s. *6d. a bushel, which left a margin of 14s. a bushel to cover the wholesaler’s profit and freight charges from New Zealand. The margin appears to me to have been excessive, and I can see no reason why these farmers in New South Wales should not have been permitted to make direct contact with Griffiths Limited for the purpose of obtaining Greenfeast pea seed which the Vegetable Seeds Committee was unable to get for them. Mr. Youman applied to the committee on the 6th September, 1945, for a permit to import seed, but the committee, in a letter signed by the Executive Member, Dr. McMillan, stated -
We were advised recently of this possible source of supply, and we got our Auckland agent to see this firm with regard to the matter, and he advised me that Griffiths Limited, did not have one bushel to sell nor any sample to show him of any seed that might be available.
There is a distinct difference between the letter which Griffiths Limited wrote to Mr. Youman offering’ to sell Greenfeast pea seed, and the statement made by the Executive member of the Vegetable Seeds Committee. This is not an isolated instance. The committee seems to have bungled the business all the time. On the 1st August, 1945, Arthur Yates and Company Proprietary Limited, of Sydney, issued a circular in which it stated -
Since the beginning of July, when the Commonwealth Government Vegetable Seeds Committee told us that it would be delivering to us substantial quantities of Greenfeast peas over the next few weeks starting immediately (as advised in our circular dated 5th July, 1945) we have been contacting it continuously in an effort to get the promised supplies. To date we have received from the Vegetable Seeds Committee only 700 bushels, of which 200 bushels had to be withdrawn from sale after we had made representations about .poor germination tests.
It is an inefficient organization which informs wholesale seed merchants that it will provide ample supplies, and within three weeks is unable to deliver the seeds. I can see no reason why the Vegetable Seeds Committee should be retained. The distribution of vegetable seeds through the ordinary commercial channels should he resumed.
I now direct attention to the item “ Wool Appraisement Centres - Establishment and Expenses”. The estimate this year is £76,600 compared with last year’s estimate of £119,000, and expenditure of £55,391. I question the necessity for providing that amount this year for the building of wool appraisement centres, when, under new Commonwealth legislation, the appraisement system will be abolished in favour of selling wool by auction through the ordinary commercial channels. These wool appraisement centres must be paid for by the wool-growers out of the contributory charge which will be levied on them for the operation of the scheme. The Government should realize that there is no great demand for these unnecessary and costly centres. If they are erected, they will reduce the quantity of building materials available for the Government’s housing programme. The .wool should be allowed to flow to the natural places, where it has been appraised and sold in the past.
– I do, but I am not in favour of insanity for that is what this proposal is. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) does not know anything about primary producing industries, including the wool industry. He should realize that if wool is to be appraised and auctioned at centres hundreds of miles from the seaboard, large wool stores and brokers’ stores will have to he erected. The scheme will necessitate the double handling of wool, and increase the growers’ expenses. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) stated, buyers will have to go to these centres hundreds of miles from the principal wool-selling centres, and, no doubt, the only effect will he that the reserve prices will not be bid and wool will accumulate in the stores in the hack country.
I propose now to refer to the item “University Students - Financial Assistance “. I have received many complaints recently from young servicemen who were in the middle- of university courses when they enlisted for active service. Now that the war has ended, they are most anxious to resume their studies. I have made representations on this matter to the Commonwealth Director-General of Education and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). Although there has been much theoretical planning, it appears that the department is not yet ready to put any plan into operation. In this instance, no thought has been given to releasing these young students from the Army for the purpose of enabling them to resume their university courses. Many have been attempting to study in the Army, under the most difficult conditions, and have sent their papers to the university for correction. Now, they keenly desire to be granted their discharge in order that they may sit for their examinations at the university next March. By so doing, they will not be put back a year in their courses. I urge the Minister to give careful consideration to this request.
.- 1 direct the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to the occupation by government departments of commercial office accommodation, particularly in the capital cities. This is having a serious effect on the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. The matter has already been submitted to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who announced that a survey was being made in Sydney and that after it had been completed, a survey would be made in Victoria and other States. That is a too-dilatory way of dealing with a problem of great urgency. To give the Minister an indication of how urgent it is, I shall cite some of the facts which have been placed before me this week by the president of the Australian Dental Association, Dr. W. Stanley Wilkinson. He pointed out that space rented by the Department of the Interior for the Prices Commission, the Scientific Liaison Bureau, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Committee in the Temperance and General Building, Melbourne, would accommodate approximately ten dentists demobilized from the services.
– Where would the government departments find new offices?
– That is a problem for the Minister to solve. I am merely bring ing to his notice certain aspects of the problem which may not have come to his attention. The Temperance and General Building is specially fitted with compressed air, hot and cold water, gas, alternating and direct current, and facilities for the destruction of waste. The Minister will need no words of mine to confirm that most dentists are hopelessly overworked, and all the demands of the public for dental treatment cannot be satisfied. Dentists who have been discharged from the services are anxious to resume their practices, but are unable to do so because the offices which had been specially constructed to meet their needs are used for administrative purposes by government departments.
In addition to the facts which have been brought to my notice by the Australian Dental Association, the secretary of the Property Owners Association of Victoria, Councillor Higginson, who is well known to the Minister for Information, has sent to me a copy of a letter forwarded to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) early this month. The letter points out that accommodation for exservicemen starting in business as principals is urgently required in the large cities. The letter deals with the position of the Australian Dental Association, and mentions also that the Law Institute has advised that many ex-servicemen who desire to return to their practices urgently require offices. This applies also to architects, surveyors, and draughtsmen. Many apartment houses on the outskirts of the city are still occupied by the services, and the vacation of these premises is desired by their proprietors in order to provide residential accommodation and relieve the housing shortage.
– Directions have been given that most of those properties shall be vacated by the 1st October.
– I thank the Minister for that information. The only fact which I shall add, in order to make the record complete, is that on this occasion hundreds of suburban garages and stores, which are still occupied by government departments, are required for the reestablishment of their original occupiers. The Minister for Information has mentioned that instructions have been given that most of these premises must he vacated by the 1st October. I do not know whether that instruction is to apply to city offices of the kind I have indicated. I emphasize the urgency of the representations made by the Dental Association. I know that members of the legal profession returning from the services are considerably inconvenienced, and some are experiencing hardship, owing to lack of office facilities; but I should say that the needs of the dental profession should be given priority. I again ask the Minister for Information to take particular notice of the case made out by the Dental Association.
– Some months ago I brought to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, when that post was occupied by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), matters dealing with the development of the Northern Territory. I now raise the subject for the benefit of the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in the light of proposals which were outlined by Mr. A. A. Griffith, an eminent and successful engineer, in an address which he gave recently to the Rotary Club in Toowoomba. Up to date I have not received any reply which would indicate the plans of the Government for the development of the Northern Territory. Mr. Griffith, in his address, said -
Current events make the development of Northern Australia a subject of the greatest importance or, perhaps, 1 should say, have given it the prominence it deserves, but which in the past it has not received.
It has often been said that if we Australians do not populate the northern part of our continent other people will sooner or later.
That unpleasant fact is being somewhat forcibly impressed on most of us now.
It is therefore very appropriate that I should endeavour to stimulate thoughts as to how and when the work should be done, and putting the whole of North Australia to better use to support a considerable population of our own people.
The obvious first step towards populating the north is to further develop the existing grazing industry, and that means increasing the carrying capacity by effecting improvements.
Though the existing pastoral leases are large, people cannot make a worthwhile living from them, but properly improved country, provided with convenient means of access and transport, would give a better living from smaller areas.
This brings up the matter of land not being available for sub-division because it is now leased in many cases for long periods, and leases are contracts not to be lightly broken or without adequate compensation.
On the other hand a lease which is not profitable does not seem to have much value. But a railway, such as I have outlined, would add much to the value of the leases, particularly to those on or close to the railway. Would not, therefore, the building of the railway be sufficient compensation for the resumption of any land which a lessee might be unable or unwilling to properly improve? In order to avoid any suggestion of hardship or injustice, every existing lessee could have the right of a new lease of just as much of his original lease as he was able and willing to properly improve.
A lessee could not very well complain at being asked to relinquish land which he could not or would not properly use, provided, of course, that he was compensated for any improvements he had made on the resumed portion.
With accessible railways, those whose leases were reduced in area would not, I think, suffer any disability or hardship. Eather, I think, they would gain by being able to improve their smaller holdings at reasonable cost, and by being able to market their stock and other products at the point of production at prices much in advance of those now available and by having a certain means of marketing.
When this war comes to an end, the great task of demobilization will have to be undertaken. It will be easy to discharge men from the Army, but not so easy to re-absorb them in industry. Many will, of course, go back to their pre-war work, but such great changes have taken place, and are yet to take place, that there will be thousands of men from the services and more thousands from the war equipment factories who will need useful and productive employment.
Grants and doles are no solution of this problem”.
During the war the Army has acquired large numbers of vehicles, road-making machinery, electric lighting plants, pumping equipment, tents, and other gear which are particularly adapted for and could immediately be diverted to building the railways and roads envisaged in my previous talk to you.
What is to be done with all this equipment is something which is exercising men’s minds. Why not use it to develop Northern Australia?
The factories which have sprung up during the war could, to a material extent, be used to make the locomotives, waggons, carriages, water supply and other equipment required by a railway system.
The Army has trained men to use its mechanical equipment and to build roads and bridges.
We have all the means at hand lor developing Northern Australia; and it seems a pity not to vise them.
What better foundation for the future population of Northern Australia than the young men of the Army?
The iron ore deposit at Yampi Sound is apparently a valuable one worthy of exploitation. The anxiety a few years ago of the Japanese to obtain the right (to work this ore supports the view that it is rich enough for commercial economic use.
The new railway alone would require somewhere about 2,000,000 tons of steel, and other steelworks in the north or in Western Australia would encourage subsidiary industries there such as have grown up round Newcastle.
What 1 am driving at is that one thing leads to another, and that many of the men who built the railway would remain as permanent residents engaged in grazing and other primary industry, in commercial pursuits which would be incidental to opening up the country, in mining, and, we could hope, in secondary industries to serve the local population.
I do not propose to outline the whole plan, but it is worthy of very close investigation by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. I assure him. that Mr. Griffith is a very wise man. He has a great mind and a broad outlook, and is actuated by the real Australian spirit. He has made an outstanding success of his profession. His plan for the development of the Northern Territory is based on his experience in extensive properties of large pastoral companies consisting of land similar to that in the Northern Territory. He has developed those properties on the basis of irrigation schemes. He is not a crank. I have not the slightest hesitation in recommending his proposal to the Government. Admittedly, it is an ambitious scheme; but we must approach this problem with courage, particularly as the development of our sparsely populated areas will play a vital part in increasing our population.
Mr. ADERMANN (Maranoa) [10.39”. - I should like to add to my earlier remarks dealing with the proposed vote now before the committee in respect of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The manager of the Nanango butter factory has written to me inquiring whether pegged prices for the cartage of cream will continue to operate. While awaiting advice on the subject it has refrained from calling tenders, which are usually called by butter factories every three years. As a new contract period would soon commence, the company wants to know whether it has the right to call for fresh tenders for the cartage of cream, or whether it is still bound by the fixed prices.
– I cannot cover all of the matters raised by honorable members, but I should like to make a few observations in respect of a few of them. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) dealt with the amount to be expended in respect of the Pood Control of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This division carried out very many important functions during the war. Of course, following the cessation of hostilities, the activities of the division will be tapered off; but many contracts still remain to be fulfilled. The supply of food must be maintained for our fighting services until they are completely demobilized, and also for Allied Forces in the Pacific Area. It could be said, of course, that the strength of the staff of this division appears to be large; but the right honorable gentleman knows that the staffing of all government departments was recently investigated by an expert committee consisting of the Deputy Public Service Commissioner as chairman, a well-known accountant, Mr. Fitzgerald, and a representative of the departments under review. That committee made a thorough and complete investigation of every department. The right honorable gentleman may rest assured that the services of all employees considered to be redundant have been dispensed iwth.
The right honorable gentleman also dealt with the’ development of the Northern Territory. I regret that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) iq not present to deal with that matter; but as Minister for Post-war Reconstruction I have had something to do with the plans which the Government now has in mind for the development of the Northern Territory. The Government has made a thorough examination of this problem, because it is intimately associated with the defence of the north of
Australia, and it is essential to develop Darwin as a key post in defence policy and strategy. One cannot have a very strong defence outpost at Darwin unless the hinterland to the port is developed. This matter was discussed at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Premiers of Western Australia and South Australia, the Acting Premier of Queensland, the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Interior and [ participated in those discussions. It was agreed to establish a departmental committee to draw up plans for the development of the Northern Territory and to’ ensure the adequate development of Darwin as a defence outpost.
– That should have been done many years ago.
– The honorable gentleman supported a government which, although in power for many years, did nothing. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) this week placed before Cabinet a submission in relation to the matter. The plans that have been prepared will shortly be put in hand. Action will be taken in co-operation with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia, because the Northern Territory cannot be fully developed apart from the areas that are contiguous to it. The right honorable gentleman may rest assured that the Government is fully alive to the need for this development. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior will examine any plan that is submitted to him and will adopt any proposal that he regards as sound.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to office accommodation and professional rooms in the capital cities, particularly Melbourne. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) had mentioned the matter to me, especially accommodation for dentists. Accommodation is short in all the capital cities, as well as in some provincial centres, and I am unable to suggest a solution of the problem.
– The building that I mentioned is specially fitted up to meet the needs of dentists. There may be alternative accommodation for government departments elsewhere in the city. In that respect, there is scope for action.
– I have no knowledge of alternative accommodation. The honorable gentleman is aware that certain government departments have developed very largely during the war, and because of the nature of their functions they must continue to expand for some time in the future. The Departments of Repatriation and Post-war Reconstruction must be provided with more space. 1 have found it very difficult to obtain the necessary accommodation for three or four of the divisions of my department. As the Minister for the Interior has explained, a committee was appointed to examine the availability of accommodation in Sydney and later in Melbourne. I do not need to stress the importance of the departments, particularly Postwar Reconstruction and Repatriation, which are dealing with the reestablishment of ex-service personnel in civil life. Without adequate facilities, it will be impossible for them to discharge their very important tasks. However, I assure the honorable gentleman that if it be found possible to obtain alternative accommodation, the Government will be pleased to release some of the space that it now occupies in order that dentists and other professional men may have rooms in which to carry on their avocations.
– Is all the accommodation at Albert Park occupied?
– All of it is being used. Royal. Park is to be a dispersal centre from which a large number of men will be demobilized daily. The honorable member will realize that at each dispersal centre many services will be rendered to the men who are being demobilized and dispersed. The Minister for Labour and National Service will have a number of officers dealing with various aspects of reinstatement, apprenticeship conditions, and so on, so thateach discharged serviceman will be able to obtain all the information that he needs. The buildings at Royal Park will be fully taxed.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred to the amount of £3,000,000 that is being provided for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. That will be the Commonwealth’s share of the expenditure involved in the acquisition and preparation of properties for land settlement, and from it will be defrayed the costs of necessary water supply in connexion with properties on which there will be farming operations under irrigation conditions.
The points raised by the honorable member in connexion with the Vegetable Seeds Committee are under consideration and will be examined in the light of what he has said. The situation in regard to wool appraisement centres has changed and the matter is under examination by the Government.
I assure the committee that, in the opinion of the Government, the amounts included in the Estimates are necessary for the discharge of the functions of the various departments. If, in the light of what honorable members have said, it is found possible to, make any savings, undoubtedly they will be made.
– I should like to know whether the Ministry has paid any attention to the costs of the Department of Information. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was good enough to say that inquiry had been made into each department. My knowledge of governments impels me to say that the committee would be told to conduct its inquiries in accordance with the policy laid down by the Ministry. Surely the departments for which provision is made in these Estimates owe their existence to the will of the Government, and not to the decision of committees that are appointed to decide whether the expenditure on them is justified! The argument of the Minister is one of the strangest that I have heard from him during his career in this Parliament, which began with a demonstration by means of a blackboard and diagram not long after his election in 1940. The Department of Information has had a most chequered career. It was never justified. “We were given definite guarantees as long ago as 1940 that it would not cost more than £20,000 a year, yet the provision this year for war purposes amounts to £326,000. The proposed increase of £29,000 is absolutely unnecessary. There never has been in the history of the
Commonwealth a more useless and mischievous department than the Department of Information. The sooner it is abolished, the better will it be for the welfare of the Australian community. I consider that that item ought to be deleted from the Estimates. I realize, of course, that the party supporting the Government will slavishly pass the Estimates, whether or not they are in conflict with common sense.. Many of them are.
.- Can the Minister for Post-war Recon.struction state whether any decision has been arrived at as to how assistance is to be given to the workers in textile industries outside Victoria and New South Wales who take advantage of the special technical training that is to be provided under the Government’s scheme? I do not need to remind the honorable gentleman of the circumstances, other than to say that £250,000 has been set aside for the provision of special technical schools in Geelong. I understand also that £50,000 is to be expended in Melbourne, and a similar amount in Sydney. There are textile industries outside those two States. I refer particularly to the three woollen textile mills in Queensland, which have to compete with the rest of Australia. It will not be possible for them to expand, and provide increasing employment, particularly for exservicemen unless they enjoy the privileges that are given in New South Wales and Victoria. I have had lengthy correspondence with the Minister on the matter, and in his last communication a considerable time ago he informed me that it was being referred to a special committee on secondary industries. The statement announcing the provision of training for technical workers was made by the late Prime Minister early in this year. I hope that the Minister will make a full explanation, and will guarantee that these men shall have just treatment. I have represented to him that the proper course would be to provide a limited number of men from each of the mills with special travelling expenses and living-away-f romhome allowances, in order that they might take an intensive course at a college or other institution established by the Government. When shall I have reply to my many representations?
.- I again ask whether the Government has decided to acquire lambs at a fixed price of 6½d. perlb. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) evaded the question by saying that the matter did not come within the province of his department. I have reason to believe that a meeting was held during the week-end before last, at which it was decided that Australian lambs should be acquired at 6½d. per lb., in spite of the fact that the Government of New Zealand paid 9d. per lb. last year and is paying 9½d. per lb. this year, not f.o.b., but direct to the producer. The grazing interests, and the lamb producers, are entitled to know whether they are to be robbed of 3d. per lb. They have not been advised as to whether the Government is prepared to give them a fair deal, or intends to adopt bushranging tactics. The primary producers of this country are entitled to know the Government’s intentions; they should be in a position to arrange their budgets. I have definite information that it was recently decided that the primary producers should be robbed. We should know the truth. Apparently the Acting Attorney-General was not courageous enough to tell the whole story, but surely some other member of the Ministry will tell it.
– I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. Only £1 is involved. Acceptance of the amendment would please the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and enable us to get to bed earlier.
Question put -
That the amount proposed to be reduced (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. E.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous Services, £1,007,000; Refunds of Revenue, £5,000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £10,000,000; War (1914-18) Services, £929,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,120,000.
. - I desire to know whether there is any intention on the part of the Government to expend £200,000,000 on the standardization of railway gauges. On two occasions I have asked whether an opportunity would be given to the Parliament to consider the proposal before it was agreed to by Commonwealth and State Governments. A promise was given that that opportunity would be provided, but I understand that since then there have been conferences with State Premiers on the subject, leading to an agreement. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) says that he is determined that this work shall he undertaken in the interest of the defence and development of Australia. Even if the railway gauges be standardized, the destruction of a vital bridge by a welldirected bomb could nullify all that the expenditure of £200,000,000 had accomplished. The Minister for Transport is the one person responsible for the adoption of this policy for the standardization of railway gauges. We know that there have been conferences between him and the State Premiers, and we know how determined he is to push on with the project. I do not assume that the whole of the amount of £200,000,000 is to be expended on the actual work of converting existing railways to the standard gauge. Some of it will be expended on the provision of an interior railway system to enable transport to be maintained should the coastal lines be destroyed in time of war. But, if instead of expending £200,000,000 on the standardization of gauges, that amount were expended on water conservation schemes, and the provision of electric power for country districts, an asset would be created from which the Government would derive much revenue. I know that the Minister is sincerely anxious to provide work for men after the war, but why should we be satisfied with providing pick and shovel work for men on railway reconstruction, when we could put them to work on water conservation schemes which are needed so much more, especially when we remember that the continuous railway link so expensively provided at a cost of £200,000,000 could, in time of war, be effectively destroyed by one bomb. I ask the Minister not to press his policy too arrogantly, but to give an assurance that no agreement will be entered into with the State governments until this Parliament has had an opportunity to consider it.
.- I am glad that the Government has decided to go on with the work of standardizing our railway gauges. My only criticism is that the present estimates provide only £60,000 for preliminary expenses. I believe that we should commence the work straight away, because it must be done. I know that some people say that railways are a thing of the past, but I do not believe it. No primary producing country in which wool, wheat and. fertilizers have to be transported long distances can do without railways. Neither do I believe that we could successfully wage war in this country without railways, and I speak as one who has seen the ill effects in other countries of a break of railway gauge in areas where war was being waged. Varying railway gauges would be one of the most important factors’ contributing to our defeat should we be called upon to wage war in Australia. I know that it is possible to destroy railway bridges by bombardment from the air. Hundreds of railway bridges were destroyed in Germany during the recent war, but temporary repairs were always effected, and traffic was restored within a few hours.
I trust that the Government will not rely upon the advice of one man in connexion with the standardization scheme, but will obtain expert advice from the best available railway engineers overseas. When we re-organize our railway system we should aim at connecting centres by the shortest route. I am a Victorian, but I believe that a railway should be built to connect Port Pirie with Broken Hill. Some of the recommendations in the Clapp report are obviously sound, and the work recommended should be proceeded with immediately, but in regard to other suggestions, further advice should be obtained. Let us make a start without delay, because the work will provide a great deal of employment in the post-war period when there will be a danger that unemployment may develop. This project will create widespread employment and develop vast areas of this country. It; is vital to our national salvation.
– I assure the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that although only a small sum of money has been included in the Estimates for the standardization of railway gauges, that is not an indication that the Government is not sincere in its desire to press on with this very necessary work. The honorable member for Wide Buy (Mr. Corser) is quite correct in saying that I am determined, and the Government is determined, that this great national undertaking shall not he delayed. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Wide Bay has been absorbing the inspired propaganda that has been appearing in certain sections of the press which are opposed to this scheme. It is not correct to say that railways have outlived their usefulness and should be scrapped. Further, this scheme involves not only the standardization of railway gauges, but also the modernization of rolling-stock. We believe that unless something be done to modernize railway equipment and rolling-stock as well as to standardize railway gauges, the capital outlay of the States, which is more than £300,000,000, will be lost completely, because obsolete railways cannot possibly maintain their position in the post-war period against competition by other forms of transport. Because we believe that the time in which Australia can profit by the errors of the past is limited, our desire is to push on with this necessary work as soon as possible. The war is over, and has been won ; but that is not a guarantee to the Australian community that there will not be ‘Other threats to the safety of this country in the future, and for that reason the Government washes to correct the mistakes of the past. One of the worst mistakes has been the failure of past governments to do anything to remove the absurdity of a break of gauge at almost every State boundary. Visitors to this country to whom I have spoken are amazed that Australia should have permitted this absurdity to remain for so long.
To honorable members who purport to be appalled at what they regard as an enormous capital outlay - I believe that the honorable member for Wide Bay mentioned £200,000,000 - I point out that although it is true that capital expenditure upon the completed work will be approximately that sum, the first section of the scheme included in what has become known as the Clapp report, provides for an expenditure of £76,000,000 over a period of eleven years. Viewed in that way, the outlay is not nearly so formidable as has been stated ; but I prefer not to view this project in purely financial terms, because such an attitude may lead us to a wrong conception of what is involved. We should consider this scheme rather in physical terms - whether Australia will have sufficient man-power, equipment, and material, to carry out this very necessary national work. In the rehabilitation period we shall find it necessary to maintain employment in heavy industries which have been developed considerably during the war years. The construction of new rolling stock and the conversion of existing rolling stock, necessarily will not be carried out solely in the railway workshops. These establishments will not be capable of handling this additional volume of work, and much of it will have to be done in other workshops. Not more than 1S,000 men will be directly employed upon the project at any one time. Allowing for another 18,000 indirect employees, in steelworks, sleeper cutting, and other jobs, the total will be only 36,000. At the peak of the war period nearly 1,000,000 people were in the armed forces or in the defence factories of this country. In the not-far-distant future, service personnel will have been repatriated and demobilized, so that the allocation of 36,000 employees to the task of standardizing our railway gauges and modernizing “rolling stock, should not place any great strain on the Australian national economy.
It does not mean, as the honorable member for Wide Bay would have us believe, that great public works such as water conservation and electrification and housing schemes will be neglected. I believe that these undertakings, which are of the very highest priority, can be carried on concurrently with the standardization of railways. The Government has an obligation to the people to develop this country as quickly as possible, so that it will be able to maintain a much larger population than it has at present, because only in that way can our national safety be secured. Further, there is an obligation upon the Government to provide employment - -not just jobs of any kind, but useful employment which will benefit the nation. From that point of view, we believe thai this is one- of the great -national works- that should be undertaken at the earliest possible date. If the people of this country are not engaged in useful employment our national and economic resources are being wasted. We shall have to work quickly, because no one oan be sure the: there will not be another war in 25 year*. From a defence’ point of view, therefor’:, this work is of vital importance. In addition, the development of this country is essential if it is to maintain a population adequate to ensure its safety against attack. It is no use bringing immigrants here if we cannot provide employment for them and for all those who are already citizens, of Australia. The aim of this Government is to coordinate our various transport facilities in order to give to the Australian economy the best and the most economical system possible.
The honorable member for Wide Bay appeared to be somewhat disturbed because he believed that this project might be undertaken before Parliament had been given an opportunity to discuss it. He may rest assured that that will not occur. It is true that already a number of conferences have been held. Whilst the Commonwealth has not been able to secure the decisions it hoped for so that the work could be expedited, at least it is making progress. Engineers of the various States who met in conference at Canberra unanimously agreed that there would he no insurmountable technical difficulties in this project. The matter was then placed before a Premiers Conference, and although it is most difficult to break down State prejudices and to alter the belief of some State Premiers that it is more important to preserve State rights than to assist national development, we were able to get agreement to the setting up of a small directorate to go ahead with the preparatory work. That work is proceeding. A further conference is to be held with the State Ministers for Transport on the 9th October next when they will discuss in detail the Clapp report, particularly as to whether they want any additions to it or whether they want it varied in any way. All of the States and the Commonwealth have declared in favour of standardization of the railway gauges. The next question to be discussed between the Commonwealth and the States is the allocation of financial responsibility. We hope and believe that we shall reach agreement with the States. 1 assure the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that the Commonwealth will not delay in pressing on with this great national work. It is quite true that we must reach agreement with the States in order to carry out the whole scheme. Because of constitutional difficulties, we cannot control the intrastate railway services without the approval of the States, but the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may make an agreement with an individual State, and that means that the Commonwealth can, by agreement, proceed with the work in one or more States. In Western Australia already a survey has been undertaken of the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. The Commonwealth Government has made available £82,500 for that work. That amount of money will be taken into consideration when the final decisions are being made in regard to the allocation of cost as between the Commonwealth and the States. We hope to reach an early agreement with all the States, and once we have it, we shall begin the work of construction and the modernization of Australia’s railway services.
– Does the Minister say that the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle survey will cost £82,500.
– That is an estimate by the Western Australian railway authority, and the Commonwealth has made that sum available. I am not able to say whether the whole amount will be required. The work of standardization will be started as soon as we have. reached the agreement that we hope to obtain from the States. That will not mean delay- or interruption in the carrying out of all the other national works such as housing, electrification and water conservation. It amazes me that on every occasion a proposal has been made to proceed with the standardization of the railway gauges, interests have come forward and said that the work should not be undertaken because of the cost and because it was more important to expend the money on some other work. I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that there have been occasions in this country when skilled artisans have had to walk the streets looking for work despite the fact that all the national works now envisaged were equally urgently required then. The controllers of the destinies of this country were, however, prepared to allow tradesmen and able-bodied men to chip weeds off pavements rather than give them useful creative employment. We intend to use the resources of this country to the best advantage. That is why we propose to undertake projects that will not only provide work at decent wages and under decent conditions, but will also be of great national importance in promoting our defence and future development.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £20,899,000.
– The Postal Department has rendered extremely efficient service during the war years. There has not been sufficient public recognition of the splendid service given by the staff of this public business undertaking, which has had greatly increased duties placed upon it during the war and has had a very much depleted staff to perform those duties. Now that the war is over I urge upon the Government the need to restore at the earliest opportunity some of the postal and telephonic services which have had to be curtailed in country districts during the war years. There are many country towns in which a full-time post office has been converted into an allowance post office. There are also many country towns and villages in which a full-time telephonic service has been reduced to a service for only a few hours daily. The country people have accepted these restrictions because they have recognized the difficulties of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but I hope that the time is at hand when the Government will be able to restore in full those services to country towns. There are towns in my own electorate to which those conditions apply. I have reported to the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) the conditions in each of those towns, and I ask now that the- fullest consideration be given to the restoration and extension of both telephonic and postal services generally in country districts. I also urge upon the Government the need to liberalize the conditions under which telephonic service is provided for new subscribers in isolated, out-back parts of the country. The cost of providing that service has greatly increased in recent years, but the amount of money that the Postal Department is permitted to spend on the provision of this service to each individual subscriber has not been commensurately increased. The result is that to-day a number of people living in lonely, isolated parts of the country, who wish to have the telephone provided for them are unable to get a service because they cannot meet the high initial payment which the Postal Department requires from them. The extension of telephone services to remote parts of the country is an essential factor in decentralization and in the maintenance of & balance of population between the cities and the country. The cost of providing this service should be made very largely a charge on the. community as a whole. I have submitted to the PostmasterGeneral proposals for liberalizing the existing conditions. I understand that those proposals are now receiving consideration, and. 1 urge that they should be finalized as soon as possible.
During the war, it was necessary to restrict trunk line services to civilians, because trunk line channels had to be made available to the armed forces. To-day, so far as I can see, there is no longer the necessity for the fighting services to retain control of those trunk lines.
– At least, not the same necessity.
– That is true. However, it does appear that the services are very slow and reluctant to return to the Postmaster-General’s Department the trunk lines which are needed to provide a reasonably efficient service, to which the people are entitled. The delays which occur at present in making trunk line calls are a particular disadvantage to people in country districts, and I emphasize the need to restore these trunk lines as soon as possible in order fully to serve the civilian population.
At present, the Postal Department will not accept parcels for despatch to the people of Greece, and I emphasize the necessity for making representations to the British Government on this matter, because I believe that it is the decision of the British Government which now prevents the Australian postal authorities from accepting these parcels. We should feel a particular sense of obligation to the people of Greece for the part which they played in resisting oppression and tyranny, not only in this war, but also throughout* the long history of that country. The people of Greece have been particular sufferers because of the service which they rendered to the cause of the United Nations during the war.
– They have been faithful Allies.
– Yes. The Greeks who live in Australia are, in my opinion, among the finest citizens that we possess. Although faced with almost incredible odds, this nation of only 7,000,000 people refused to bow before the demands of Mussolini, rose to arms when the first bombs fell on their cities, and drove the Italians from Greek soil into Albania. They achieved that success despite lack of equipment and even clothing. Therefore, we should do our best to assist them now. They refused also to submit when the Germans came to the rescue of Mussolini, invaded their country, and rained bombs on their cities.
– Is this by way of “ passing reference “ to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– I am giving the reasons why the department should enable the people of Australia to send food and clothing to the people of Greece. The Greeks continued to resist even after the Germans had driven through to Athens, expelling the troops whom we sent to assist the Greeks. The Greek people were prepared to suffer and die rather than give up their birthright and freedom without a struggle.
– Let us send some parcels to them.
– We should do everything in our power to persuade the Bri tish Government of the fairness and justice of sending food and clothing to the people of Greece, and allowing their compatriots in Australia to do so. The Greeks have a national song which contains the following words : -
Better is a freeman’s life, if only for an hour,
Than 40 years of slavery .beneath a tyrant’, power.
That spirit enraged the Germans when they overran Greece. They could not break these outnumbered but brave people, who refused to lick the boots that kicked them. So the Germans starved the Greeks, and stole their food, clothing, and medicines. Of all those things, the people of Greece are short to-day, and Australians should have an opportunity, through the postal service, to remedy the great deficiencies of these necessities in that heroic country. Today, nearly every Greek who endured and survived the occupation, is suffering from some malady, such as malnutrition or tuberculosis. The people of Greece need food and clothing. When they write to their relatives and friends in Australia they say, “Do not send us money. Send us clothes and food.” But Greeks living in Australia are unable to comply with these pitiful requests. Australian sympathizers also are unable to assist, because of the postal restrictions on the despatch of parcels to Greece. Appeals have been made, I understand, to the British Government on this matter, but, to date, without result. It is possible to send parcels to many other countries, even to Italy.
– To Rome, Naples, and Palermo.
– Italy was our enemy in the war. Italy also invaded Greece. It must be a bitter experience for the Greeks in this country to be unable to send parcels of food and clothing to their own relatives and friends, when parcels can be sent to Italy. I emphasize the necessity for making the strongest possible representations to the British Government in regard to this matter.
– I notice that the estimate of expenditure on telephones this year is £12,800,000, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £12,270,738. Those figures tell a rather sorry story. The number of men who will be demobilized this year will give a great impetus to business activities. If telephones could be made available to would-be new subscribers, the estimate this year would show a more marked increase than it does. In war-time, extraordinary restrictions were imposed upon telephone services, and businessmen did not use telephones to the same degree as they did in peace-time. Many small importers and agents closed their offices which were taken over by government departments. In view of the expansion of commercial activity and the increasing demands of private subscribers, greater provision should be made in respect of this item.
– Adequate man-power and materials are not available at present to permit of any expansion.
– I am aware of tb at fact. However, the PostmasterGeneral must give urgent consideration to this problem. Provision should now be made to obtain the necessary equipment as soon as possible. It is high time that the department investigated the introduction of a flat rate rental in respect of private telephones to replace the present toll charge. In New Zealand a flat rate rental is charged. Under that system subscribers can use the telephone as often as they wish without incurring a correspondingly increased telephone bill. The flat rate rental system would be of great benefit to all users of telephones, and would encourage the maximum installation of telephones throughout the Commonwealth. This aspect of the matter should be borne in mind when the department is budgeting for the purpose of increased equipment.
I support the representations made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) that the department should again take over the trunk lines which have been made available for service purposes. It is also high time that the department reviewed the priority calls given to various departments in view of the delays now experienced in obtaining trunk-line connexions between capital cities. Very often these delays are as long as seven or eight hours, and adversely affect business efficiency. I can see no reason for the continuance of service priorities in respect of trunk-line calls. War-time departments should now be asked to reduce their priority calls.
– Priority calls play only a small part in the over-all delays. The main cause of the congestion is the fact that the Australian economy has expanded to such a degree that demand on trunk-line calls by civilians is far greater than it was prior to the outbreak of war.
– .The congestion can be partly overcome by the provision of additional carrier channels. I have no doubt that the departmental technicians have sufficient ingenuity to relieve the strain. The revenue to be derived from postage is estimated at £11,100,000, compared with receipts of £10,714,000 from this source last year. All of us remember Id. postage. That was increased to a 1½d. during the last war as a war-time emergency measure, but the increase was not taken off. During the depression the postage was further increased to 2d. as a means of providing revenue urgently required by the Government to meet its financial difficulties during that period. That increase has not been taken off ; and the postage has now been increased to 2£d. in order to help finance our huge war expenditure. Should we have a continuation of wars, or depressions, our postage rates would probably become the highest in the world. Already we pay the highest rates for the carriage of mails. I urge the removal of surcharges which have been imposed from time to time, and that we revert as soon as possible to the original Id. postage. I have no doubt that despite such a reduction the revenue from postage would be ample to finance improved postal services. Unfortunately, however, revenue from the Postal Department is not used for that purpose, but is transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Profits made by the Postal Department should be earmarked for the improvement of departmental services. I urge the Postmaster-General, first, to overcome the present bottleneck in the trunk-line telephone service; secondly, to give consideration to the introduction of a flat rate rental in respect of telephones and the abolition of the existing toll charge; and, thirdly, to revert to the Id. postage.
Friday, 28 September, 1945.
.To some degree I support the representations made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in respect of the reduction of postal charges. During the war the Postal Department was used as one means of collecting additional revenue so urgently required to help us meet our huge war expenditure. However, I am not so much concerned about the reduction of the postage rate as I am that the profits of the Postal Department should be devoted primarily to the provision of telephonic services in country areas. Honorable members opposite made no attempt when governments which they supported were in office to effect any of the improvements which they now advocate. The total length of telephone lines in this country probably exceeds that of lines in any other country. The department should now he investigating the possibility of introducing the wirelesstelephone in order to serve the needs of people living in isolated areas. Such a service would be a great boon in this country. For some years, a distance of 80 miles from point, to point on Flinders Island has been served by radio-telephone, by means of a land-line connected with the mainland. By the process of trial and error, the system could be improved, and be made to perform a very useful service in the outback areas of Australia. I congratulate the Government upon having improved the channels of communication with Tasmania, which have been congested during the war. The service is being extended, and communications with the mainland will be much better in the future. I notice that in respect of engineering stores, tools and equipment, the provision for Tasmania has been increased from a vote of £72,500 and an expenditure of £77,891 last year, to a proposed vote of £121,700 this year. That is a step in the right direction, but I am not certain whether it will be sufficient to cover the additional engineering services that might, be undertaken in this first post-war year. I hope that the Government will not overlook the need to instal automatic telephone exchanges in the country districts of Tasmania. These exchanges have passed the experimental stage, and are giving wonderful service in the areas in which they are operating. I have been requesting for some time their installation in two or three country centres in my electorate. Probably, the war is accountable for the delay in having them installed. Another factor is, that until recently the necessary electricity was not available. The places that I have in mind are Branxholm, Lilydale, and St. Helens. They now have electric power, and all would benefit greatly from the installation of automatic exchanges. 1 hope that the necessary equipment will be available in the not distant future, and that the matter will then be favorably considered.
The Launceston post office, which, apart from those in capital cities, is the biggest in Australia, has not- so far been designated as a general post office, and it ought to be raised to that grade. The building is very old ; it was the property of the State prior to federation. On many occasions, it has been remodelled, and I understand that extensions to it are contemplated in the near future. I have not seen the plans, hut I hope that they will provide adequately for the staff that will be required to work in the building. I do not know whether the organization which controls the staff has been consulted. The Minister might bring the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General, so that when final plans are being prepared consideration will be given to the provision of adequate facilities and amenities for the staff.
– I protest against the committee being asked to discuss- the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, in view of the fact that I have been able to obtain from the Clerk of the Papers only the report of the department for the year ended the 30th June, 1943. The reports for 1944 and 1945 have not yet been submitted to the House. The committee is entitled to more consideration. The report for 1943 discloses that the department, after charging interest on capital, showed a surplus of £6,142,645. It can reasonably be expected that the surplus was equal to, if not larger than, that amount in 1944, and probably still larger in 1945. I protest against the exactions which the Government makes, particularly on country districts. Communities have to guarantee revenue before the department will enter into mail contracts and provide public telephones.
– That has been the practice for more than 30 years, under governments most of which were supported by the honorable member.
– In those days, the department did not have a surplus of over £6,000,000. Probably the surplus last year was £10,000,000. It is no argument to say that the practice ought to be continued because it has been in existence for a number of years. Such a statement clearly shows that the Minister is not mindful of the needs of country people.
– This Government will provide for country people.
– In country areas, and in the outer suburban areas of Brisbane, and certain town3 in my electorate, the department will not provide public telephones or mail services unless it is satisfied of their economic soundness. Substantial profits are made in the largely populated areas, and funds should he made available for the extension of the facilities to which I have referred. Before the war, most mail contracts in country districts provided for a service on six days each week; to-day, service is provided on only three days in each week. The former service should be restored.
– That will be done as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister to reconsider also the policy now in force which requires guarantees in respect of public telephones. It would be easier to induce people to settle in remote districts if telephonic and other amenities were provided on more generous terms.
I hope that no time will be lost in providing additional automatic telephone exchanges in country districts. Country telephone offices are usually open from 9 a.m. till noon, and from 1 to 6 p.m. The time when the countryman wants to use the telephone is after he has finished his day’s work. Telephonic facilities should be available at least between 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock at night. The cost of extending the hours would not be great, but even if it were adequate, funds are available for the purpose.
A new general post office for Brisbane was promised by a former government but war broke out before work could be commenced. I ask that this work be proceeded with as soon as possible. I realize that housing must have prior consideration, but with the greater manpower which is now available and will be available in the future, the provision of a new general post office for Brisbane should not be delayed much longer.
In the report of the Broadcasting Committee which I had the honour to table to-day, reference is made in paragraph 43 to the congestion which frequently occurs on telephone trunk lines. The paragraph reads -
Already under existing conditions there are delays to trunk line calls of as much as six hours between Sydney and Melbourne, five hours between Sydney and Brisbane, three hours between Melbourne and Adelaide, three hours between Melbourne and Perth, and two and a half hours between Canberra and Sydney.
Frequently, the delay is greater than is mentioned in that paragraph. There is sometimes a delay of 24 hours in communicating with Brisbane from Canberra. On one occasion when I asked the reason I was told that there were at least 60 priority calls to be dealt with before general calls could be attended to. Two hours later, the number of priority calls had increased to 70. “When American troops were in Australia the department pleaded that they were largely responsible for the congestion, ‘ but that explanation cannot be advanced now. The cause of the long delays should be investigated, and in any event, more lines should be provided.
– There are still many official and Army high priority calls in connexion with demobilization and other matters.
– Members of this Parliament who come from distant States, should be given facilities to speak to their families and constituents at least two or three times a week. They are entitled to some priority, and I suggest that facilities be provided on every second day. The present session has lasted many months, and it has been most difficult for some honorable members to attend to the affairs of their distant electorates and to their private affairs.
To-day, I had to wait only seven hours for a call to Queensland, but frequently 1 have had to wait 24 hours. Recently, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was unable to get telephone connexion with Queensland for 48 hours. I make no complaint of the efficiency or willingness of the telephone staffs. The switchgirls in this building and at the Canberra Post Office are most obliging.
– The honorable member’s request is reasonable.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that. I appreciate the difficulties associated with the provision of more trunk lines, but no great manpower difficulties should be experienced in providing them. In the armed forces there are many men who have had the training necessary to enable them to perform the work required. Should effect be given to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee that parliamentary debates be broadcast, additional trunk lines will be required, but apart from that reason, the provision of additional lines is urgently necessary.
– I recognize that the Postal Department is working under difficulties, and I commend its officers for the good service that they have provided in face of those difficulties, but the time has now arrived when the future policy of the department should be decided. Many telephone lines in country districts hang on trees. Provision should he made for metallic circuits. I have received many requests from residents of country districts, but the department has always been reluctant to grant them. In one instance, the circuit was so bad that subscribers had to drive into the nearest town if they wished to ring up another centre. I have heard that the department has asked the maintenance man to fix the matter up, but he rightly refused en the ground that it was his duty to maintain the service, not to reconstruct the line. Automatic exchanges are necessary in country districts. There is a very successful one about 22 miles from where I live, and it has the great advantage that it provides a continuous service without the need for an attendant to he continuously on the job.
In some of the remote areas of Queensland there are pedal wireless transmitters of Australian construction, and there is a receiving set at Cloncurry which is operated for an hour in the mornings and an hour in the evenings. Some of the stations in the outback have sets which can both receive and transmit. There are recorded instances of flood-bound residents transmitting particulars of the illness of a member of the family to a doctor in the nearest receiving centre, and treating the patient according to the advice which the doctor gave. From as far west as the border of South Australia, telegrams can be sent by pedal sets to Sydney or Melbourne, and a reply received within 24 hours. The cost is about £100, which is beyond the means of most country residents. I suggest that the department might install a set every 25 miles or so for which residents would pay a suitable rent. The provision of amenities of this kind is necessary if country residents are to be induced to remain in the country. However, the department, far from providing further amenities, is removing some of those which previously existed. In one instance, some years ago, 50 miles of telephone line have been removed, so that the residents affected have to use a telephone circuit more than 300 miles in length in order to communicate with a town only 50 miles away. In another instance, 17 miles of line have been removed, and the residents of Condamine have asked that it be restored so that flood warnings may be given. In this case, if the telephone connexion cannot be granted, the department might consider installing a wireless telephone set. Otherwise, the telephone line should be restored.
I have frequently mentioned the need for improved mail services in country districts. During the war, the department has sometimes been unable to obtain tenders for mail services, due to the difficulty of maintaining transport. However, now that labour is becoming available, and transport restrictions are being lifted, it should be possible to provide better mail services.
I know that it is proposed to erect a new telephone exchange in Russell-street, Melbourne, and the honorable member for
Moreton (Mr. Francis) is pressing for a new post office in Brisbane. I suppose those buildings are necessary, but I am afraid that if they and similar undertakings are proceeded with there will be very little out of the vote of £4,100,000 with which to provide much-needed facilities in the country. I cannot see why city hotels should have a telephone in every bedroom when country residents cannot obtain any telephones at all. Honorable members will admit that I have been a persistent advocate of better telephone and mail services for country districts.
– There are one or two matters concerning my electorate which I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. The electorate of Boothby has the highest number of electors in any constituency in Australia. The suburb of Mitcham is growing rapidly, but is sadly lacking in postal facilities. In Upper Mitcham the post office is 60 or 70 years old. In Lower Mitcham the postal service is carried on by a greengrocer and letters are handed over the counter on which there are cabbages and potatoes. I do not complain about the people who are conducting those services, but I emphasize that this prosperous and growing district warrants better postal facilities. At Hyde Park, a book shop is used as the collection and distribution point for letters. Telegrams are sent from Goodwood and Unley. I hope that as the war is over and manpower will soon become available, the Postal Department will be able, at an early date, to improve postal services in these areas. In Lower Mitcham an excellent block of land has been purchased for the erection of a post office, and I understand that work will commence as soon as man-power and materials become available. I hope these matters will be given the consideration they deserve.
– The provision included, in the budget for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for 1945-46 can be subdivided into two main divisions, first, “ ordinary services “, covering salaries and wages - excluding those expended upon engineering works - mail services, ordinary stores and materials, and interest and sinking fund, and. secondly, new telephone and telegraph works, buildings and site acquisitions. Under “ ordinary service “ there are no important variations, the figures contrasting the provision for 1945-46 with that of 1944-45 being-
There are increases and decreases respectively in individual sections. The net overall increase is comparatively small and is required to meet normal increase of business and increased costs in the maintenance of plant. Secondly, under “ new works, buildings and sites “, the comparative figures for the current year and 1944-45 are -
Regarding b a low rate of expenditure upon postal* buildings - less than the funds provided - has been a feature during the war years since the Department of Works has been unable to meet fully Post Office requirements during those years, due, of course, to its obligations to the service departments. Considerable arrears have built up in consequence and the additional provision for 1945-46 will enable a commencement to dispose of those arrears, consistent with requirements for housing purposes, to be made. The principal additional, buildings are for engineering purposes and include several of the more urgent automatic exchanges required in various capital cities to enable telephone services to be provided and repeater stations for improving the interstate and longdistance services. Buildings at Manilla and Broken Hill for broadcasting stations are also included. As regards sites the principal addition is an amount of £80,000 for the acquisition of sites for new buildings included in the department’s post-war programme of works. Regarding new telegraph and telephone works, the provision is on a similar scale, but a little higher than in 1944-45. Here, too, extensive arrears have accumulated, due to the necessity to divert funds and available man-power to requirements essential to war purposes. The extent to which these arrears can be overtaken during the current year is limited by the same factor, namely, material supplies and man-power, and this has influenced the provision made under this heading. The post-war programme of works for the Postal Department is looked to as the means whereby the communication services can be augmented and extended. Extensive supplies of specialized equipment is on order for that purpose. The department is anxious to improve the service and remove the existing restrictions on telephone subscribers as early as possible. Depending upon the actual deliveries of material that are made and the availability of man-power, it may be found practicable later in the year to undertake further telephone and telegraph works beyond those now provided for. The following statement shows details of the more important items in the programme of telephone and telegraph works: -
Reasons for Difference with 1944-45.
Item 1. - Telephone Exchange Services. - It is necessary to make provision for some increased expenditure during 1945-40, due to the effect of lifting some of the restrictions upon the provision of telephone services, more particularly for country districts. (Examples: Removal of restrictions upon provision of business telephone services in the country and the increase in the amount of construction which the department will undertake without contribution or assistance by the subscriber £100 in lieu of £50.)
In addition, provision is made for the installing of several automatic exchanges in the principal capital cities where congestion exists and for which equipment on order has been delivered recently. (Northbridge and Epping in Sydney; Toorak and City West Extension in Melbourne.)
The net development of telephone services was 20,000 lines and 29,000 stations during 1944- 45, while provision is made for a development of 22,000 lines and 30,000 stations during
Item 2. - Trunk Line Services. - It is intended to make substantial improvements during the current year to .those trunk line services where relief is most urgently required, viz., Melbourne to Sydney, Melbourne to Adelaide, and Sydney to Brisbane, as well as a number of intra-state services. The lower provision made for trunk line services is due solely to the delivery and payment for a large and expensive quantity of the trunk line equipment late in 1944-45, for which only the installation costs require to be met in 19:45-46.
Item 3. - Telegraph Services. - The slightly increased provision for 1045-46 is to permit of the restoration to many former lessees of private-wire teleprinter services which the department was compelled during the war to take over for defence services, and also to meet some developments of this class of business for government departments and private users.
Item 4. - National Broadcasting Services. - The provision made is to cover minor extensions on studio and station equipment, but provision is included for the following regional stations: Broken. Hill and Manilla, (New South Wales) and for a commencement with an installation for Maryborough (Queensland). A new transmitter is to be installed at Sydney for existing station 2BL. This is required to replace a temporary station removed to Penrith at the outbreak of the Pacific war, with consequent reduction in reception of strength over many parts of the city area. The provision of a new radiating mast at Brisbane (station 4QG) is also included to improve the existing service. 1 come now to representations that have been made by several honorable members.’ Landlines which, during the war, were handed over to the services are being released slowly, but an endeavour is being made to have the releases expedited. This matter was first mentioned by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) and was subsequently dealt with by several other honorable members. Nobody is more conscious of the need for the expeditious return of control of these landlines to the Postal Department than the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), who is doing everything possible to speed up this work. As soon as these lines are no longer required for the purpose for which they were set aside during the war, they will again be available to the department.
The programme of the department provides also for a substantial increase of trunk-line services between various parts of Australia. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) made an eloquent plea on this matter, and his remarks were supported by several other honorable gentlemen. I am pleased to say that the department hopes to install another 24 channels between Melbourne and Sydney, twelve between Sydney and Brisbane, twelve between Melbourne and Adelaide, and two between Melbourne and Hobart. That is an example of the increased facilities that will be made available as soon as labour and materials are at the disposal of the department. There are 6,000 employees of the department still in the armed forces, who have to take their turn for release to civilian employment. Some technical men whose services are required urgently so that work may be provided for other employees are being sought now from the fighting forces, and it is hoped that they will be released at an early date.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) urged that a flat rate for telephone services be instituted. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to give to it his earnest consideration. The honorable member also drew attention to the fact that revenue from telephone services for the current financial year was estimated at only £12,800,000. I point out that these receipts cannot be increased until more telephones can be installed in the city and in country districts.
– I only quoted that figure to show that there is a shortage of equipment.
– I am glad that the honorable member admits that there is a shortage of equipment. Even if all the equipment at present in Army and Air Force establishments were made available to the general public, it would not contribute greatly to a complete solution of the problem. Large quantities of new telephone equipment must be produced to supply the needs of the Australian community. The people of this country are becoming more telephoneminded. It must be remembered also that the Australian economy has expanded greatly as the result of the war, and that there is a big task ahead of the department in overcoming shortages caused by the war, and in the production of new equipment to meet new needs. I was rather amused, if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) will permit me to be amused by his speech, to hear his plea for a return to penny postage. The honorable gentleman told us in his most airy fashion that as the result of the last war postage was increased from Id. to 1-Jd. on letters. When the depression came there was another id. increase, and, in order to meet the cost of the war of 1939-45, it was found necessary again to increase postage by another £d. All those increases were made by governments of which he was a member or with which he supported.
– Such a government i* not in power to effect the reduction.
– I know, but the honorable gentleman says “restore penny postage as soon as you possibly can “. That is a laudable objective, but I do not think that, in the present state of the nation’s finances, we can hope for an early restoration of penny postage, nor am I in a position to say on behalf of the Postmaster-General that there is an immediate likelihood of the restoration of the postage that operated before the war started. We have not yet discharged our obligations regarding the armed forces .still serving. They have not yet been demobilized. The reduction of the postage is a matter that might better be considered in connexion with next year’s budget. I can assure the honorable gentleman, however, that there will be no further increase of taxation as the result of another depression. There will not be a depression so long as this Government is in power.
The plea made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) for the provision of post-war facilities for the transmission of parcels from Australia to Greece is one that naturally touches the hearts of the Australian people.
– He has a large Greek population in his electorate.
– Then he is fortunate because they are fine people. I assure the honorable member for EdenMonaro that the Postmaster-General is conscious of the problem. Representations have been made to the British Government. It is not the fault of the Australian Government that the Australian people are not able to send parcels to Greece. The British authorities have to make arrangements to ship parcels. It has to make arrangements with the Government of Greece for the reception of parcels. It is true that the Government of Italy will receive parcels up to 11 lb. from the people in Australia. It is equally true that the British Government, in order to distribute food sent from this country over the greatest number of people, limits the weight of parcels sent from Australia and other countries to a maximum of 5 lb. That is a matter for the go vernment of the country to which the parcels are sent to decide. We will do all we can to help the people of Greece. It may interest the honorable member for Wentworth, who appears to be interested, to know that I too have a large Greek population in my electorate and have had representations made to me on the matter. I have done my best to assist them.
The honorable member for Bass appealed for attention- to he given to the needs of Tasmania. I assure him and all other honorable gentlemen who mentioned the provision of automatic exchanges that those exchanges will he established throughout Australia, where their establishment is justified, at the earliest possible moment. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is working out plans for the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in place of manual exchanges, not only in country districts, but also in capital cities.
– Even in Melbourne.
– I said capital cities, We cannot do much, of course, this financial year, because the shortage of labour and materials looms large in the matter, but in the department plans for the erection of a number of country automatic exchanges are under consideration, and Tasmania will not be overlooked in this regard. The three centres mentioned by the honorable member for Bass will probably be amongst the first to be converted from .the manual to the automatic system. I cannot assure the honorable gentleman as to when plans for the erection of a new post office at Launceston will be carried out. The housing shortage is one that demands the attention of both the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. I think that the honorable member’s request for a new designation of the post office in Launceston is worthy of consideration. It might well be designated a general post office. I assure him that his remarks about the need to provide amenities for the staff in a new Launceston post office which will be constructed in the immediate post-war period will be given urgent attention. I should like to see provision made in that post office not only for the staff but also, in a suitable way, for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate from that State and visiting senators and members from the mainland. All I have to say further about the Tasmanians who come to this Parliament is that they are too modest in their requests for suitable accommodation for themselves as representatives of the people.
– “ Swop “ them for a few in Sydney.
– There are some in Sydney that I do not think they would like to accept as a “ swop “. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has made various suggestions which will be investigated by officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I assure him that automatic telephones will be established as early as possible not only in Brisbane, hut also in every country district. The same assurance if given to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). The erection of a new general post office at Brisbane has been raised again. It has been mentioned almost every year since the war started. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) has been particularly assiduous in his requests for a new general post office ‘or that city. When a member of the Ministry the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) lost no opportunity to bring the claims of the capital city of Queensland before his colleagues. Unfortunately, during the war it was not possible to do all the things that we should have liked to do.
The honorable member for Moreton was entitled to make his plea that in respect of trunk-line calls greater consideration be given to members of Parliament who are not Ministers. It will be sympathetically considered. He did not ask for priority calls on more than every other day. Until priority calls are abolished altogether I think . there is something to be said in favour of his suggestion, which applies, of course, to every member of Parliament. The suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa for the provision of metallic circuits and pedal wireless sets in the outback districts of Queensland will receive consideration. It is true that the department has a surplus of £6,000,000, and it is equally true that much of that money will be expended, not to reduce taxation on the wealthier sections of the community, but to provide facilities for the residents of outback districts who help to produce the real wealth of the country - wealth which is not produced by those who benefit from the work done by these people. It is the early intention of the Postmaster-General to overtake all arrears of work which have accumulated as the result of the war.
Earlier, I said that provision would be made for automatic telephone exchanges throughout country districts. I am happy to say that the number contemplated is 450, and particularly in those districts where the hours of attendance are limited will attention be given to the provision of such facilities. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) mentioned difficulties in his electorate. He, too, may rest assured that his claim for a new post office at Mitcham, which, he says, is between 67 and 70 years old - the business being conducted in a greengrocer’s shop - will receive attention.
– Many examples of that are to be found in the country districts.
– I have no doubt that what the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) said is correct. The claims of his wide-flung electorate will also receive consideration. The honorable member for Boothby asked that officers of the department should investigate the possibility of granting greater facilities at Lower Mitcham and Hyde Park. That will be done. In conclusion, I point out that the Postal Department iE a wonderfully efficient organization and a splendid example of the success of public ownership and control.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Part 3 - Territories of the Commonwealth, £828,000 - agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That the following’ resolution he reported to the House: - That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1945-46, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £202,240,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty, for the service of the year 1945-46, there be granted out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund a sum not exceeding £146,689,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed fromthe 7th September (vide page 5214).
Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1945-46, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £8,640,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and passed through all stages, without amendment or debate.
Bill presented by Mr. Holloway, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is with a feeling of real satisfaction that I now bring before honorable members a bill to put into effect the Government’s plan to intensify the attack on tuberculosis in Australia. The bill embodies a long step forward in the Government’s social services and health programme; and when it is considered together with the Commonwealth Hospital Benefits Bill and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, the House will appreciate that the Government’s comprehensive social policy is taking definite shape.
That authorities should take positive measures against tuberculosis has been long and widely recognized. In 1937, the National Health and Medical Research Council stressed the importance of action along certain lines and more recently the Social Security Committee in its sixth interim report made a number of recommendations. The main principles of the campaign against tuberculosis as set out in this bill were discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August, 1944, and unanimously accepted. The proposals fall under four headings: diagnostic facilities, hospital treatment, after-care facilities and special allowances for sufferers and dependants, which I will deal with in that order. The earlier the disease is recognized the better is the prospect of recovery for the patient and from the community’s point of view the danger of spreading the disease amongst numerous contacts is diminished. Accordingly, the first part of the Commonwealth’s proposals is aimed at encouraging the States to establish additional diagnostic facilities. Clause 4 (1) of the bill provides for the Commonwealth to subsidize £1 for £1 the expenditure of the States on the maintenance of diagnostic facilities such as clinics, dispensaries and X-ray photographic equipment, established after the commencement of the act. The Commonwealth will provide up to a maximum of £50,000 per annum on this basis to be distributed amongst the States ‘ as determined by the Minister.
Clause 5 of the bill provides for a Commonwealth contribution towards the maintenance expenditure on tuberculosis hospitals. The Commonwealth will pay to the States a subsidy of 6s. a day for each bed occupied in tuberculosis hospitals. This represents a very substanmil contribution to the total cost of maintaining beds in these hospitals, and is a very real measure of encouragement to the States to enlarge their hospital accommodation for tubercular patients. The payment is subject to the condition that free treatment is given and no fees are charged in the public wards of the hospitals. This subsidy will apply in respect of tubercular hospitals established after the commencement of the act. Tuberculosis hospitals already established will come within the Commonwealth Hospital Benefits Scheme, and patients in these hospitals will receive the benefits provided under the Hospital Benefits Act 1945.
Many patients after .a. period in a hospital or sanatorium require further care and training, and many are unable to do any heavy or prolonged work. Various types of occupational therapy and industrial colonies have been developed abroad to enable such persons to gain a living for themselves and their dependants in suitable conditions and environment. The Papworth settlement in England and the Altro workshops in New York have shown what can be done. Little progress, however, has «yet been achieved in this country, although experiments such as the labour colony established in Western Australia have been made. To assist the States to expand after-care facilities the Commonwealth proposes in clause 4 (2), as in the case of diagnostic facilities I have just dealt with, to make available up to £50,000 per annum on a £1 for £1 basis for maintenance expenditure on after-care facilities established after the commencement of the act The distribution of the amount amongst the States will be determined by the Minister.
Tuberculosis authorities are generally agreed that an adequate level of nutrition should he maintained as a first line of resistance to the disease. To ensure this, definite action is necessary in the interests of the community generally, the dependants of sufferers and the patients themselves. To this end, the Government proposes to provide special cash allowances for the families of sufferers additional to any other Commonwealth social services benefits for which they may be eligible. The allowance will be paid in those cases where the fight against the disease will be positively assisted. I stress this because it is not intended that an automatic increase shall be made of existing Commonwealth social services payments paid in respect of incapacity caused by tuberculosis. Each case will be considered on its merits and periodically reviewed by medical authorities. Commonwealth and State health officers and tuberculosis experts are now examining ways and means of distributing the allowance so that the purposes of this bill are achieved. It may take some months to complete preparations for adequate distribution of the allowance, and it may, therefore, be necessary to proclaim clause 6 dealing with the special allowances after the other provisions in the act have been brought into effect. It may be some time before the States are able to avail themselves of the full amount for diagnostic and after-care facilities provided in the bill and to establish a substantial number of additional tubercular hospitals, so that expenditure under the bill will not reach the full rate this year. I estimate .that for the current year the total cost will not exceed £300,000; it is likely, however, that in a few years’ time the cost will be at about £1,000,000 a year. Expenditure on tubercular benefits provided in the bill will be met from the National Welfare Fund.
The’ worthy objects of the bill, representing as they do a balanced approach to the problem of tuberculosis, will, I feel sure, commend themselves to honorable members. This is the first real, scientific effort to tackle one of the greatest problems that confronts the people of this country. The people of the world have been wondering for decades when a real effort would be made by a government to get at the root of this disease. During the war, many of us have greatly increased our experience by seeing service men and women, internees and others X-rayed. The evidence of those who can speak with authority is that if the terrible scourge be tackled in the embryonic stage 15 or 16 per cent, of potential cases can be cured. A government which had discovered the possibilities which would flow from the tackling of the matter in the early stage would be criminally neglectful did it not begin to tackle it scientifically. The bill provides for after care, segregation, and allowances for families while their dependants are in sanitoriums or are otherwise isolated from them. I am sure all honorable members will agree that the problem should be tackled. The only criticism that I can expect is that the provision will not be sufficiently large in the initial stage. I am very proud to be associated with the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to authorize the execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, of agreements with the States for a scheme of land settlement for discharged members of the forces. The terms of agreement are set out in the schedules of the bill. These terms were finally decided upon at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held .on the 22nd August, 1945, and represent the result of discussions between Commonwealth and State representatives extending over a period of about twelve months. It will be noted that the bill authorizes the execution of two different agreements; that in the first schedule being used in the agreements to be made separately between the
Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and that in the second schedule being used between the Commonwealth and the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Although the main principles of the scheme are identical in the two agreements, the financial commitment of the Commonwealth varies, and is greater under the scheme contained in the second schedule than it is under the scheme set out in the first schedule. This is due to the fact that the views of the States varied as to the extent of the financial responsibility they were prepared to bear, and also as to the extent of Commonwealth supervision which they were prepared to permit.
In respect of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, the Commonwealth will provide the capital funds required for acquiring, developing and improving the land, and will make a capital contribution equal to three-fifths of any excess of the total cost of such acquisition and improvement over a valuation which will give the settler an opportunity to make a reasonable labour income after meeting all costs associated with the holding. In order to assist the settlers in the early stages of production, provision has been made for an assistance period of about twelve months, during which the Commonwealth will provide living allowances for settlers and will meet the cost of any remission of rent and interest. The Commonwealth will also bear any losses arising from approved advances by credit authorities for the provision of working capital, for effecting improvements, and for the purchase of stock, plant and equipment.
In respect of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which will act as principals, the Commonwealth will make a capital contribution of one-half of any initial writing down, and will bear onehalf of any losses arising from advances approved for working capital, as well as for such purposes as effecting improvements and acquiring stock. During the assistance period, the Commonwealth will provide living allowances for settlers, and will bear one-half, of the cost of any remission of rent and interest. In all cases, the Commonwealth will bear the cost of Commonwealth administration, and will provide training, including the payment of living allowances to applicants selected for training, and of certain transport and other expenses incidental to training.
In drafting the present .plan for war service land settlement, the Government has recognized the need to take adequate precautions in order to avoid a repetition of the disasters which followed land settlement after the last war. It has had the benefit of the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which discussed in some detail the present problem in relation to the lessons of the past. An examination of the information presented in that report indicated the need for some fundamental variation of the manner of approach. In the interests of exservicemen themselves, it is necessary to ensure that they have the qualifications needed for farming before being permitted to assume the financial and other managerial responsibilities of a farm holding.
With the experience of the past in mind, we must also recognize that it would he a mistake to settle men on the holdings, and then find that, satisfactory markets did not exist for their produce. For this reason, it is essential that settlement shall take place only where economic prospects for the production concerned are sound.
One of the most important causes of the losses on previous soldier settlement was the high prices that had to be paid for land, stock and equipment. The matter of price control generally has been discussed with the State Premiers, and an assurance has been obtained that it will be possible to maintain such control for some time at least. So far as transactions in land are concerned, the Commonwealth has recently issued a proclamation under National Security Regulations to prevent the transfer of land considered suitable for the purpose of war service land settlement. It will be noticed that it is provided that, where it appears that the capital cost of the property will need to he reduced, the writing down of capital values will take place before a settler’ is placed on the holding.
Many of the areas selected for soldier settlement after the last war were unsuitable for the purpose for which they were used. The technique of land selec- tion for settlement has advanced considerably in recent years, and the value of soil surveys, market surveys and agricultural economic surveys, is now generally recognized. Under the proposed agreements, a careful examination will he made of all the areas proposed for land settlement, and steps will be taken to ensure that men shall not be settled on farms which are too small to give a reasonable living. With regard to the form of tenure to be adopted, it is expected that land will be allotted on a freehold basis by the Victorian Government, and in the other States on a perpetual leasehold basis.
In view of its responsibilities, -the Commonwealth has appointed a Director of War Service Land Settlement, who will be responsible to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction for the administration of the agreements. It is not intended to duplicate .State administration, and care will be taken to respect the experience of the States in the field of land settlement.
In regard to specific proposals for settlement, the broad procedure is that the States will select land which appears suitable for settlement, and will submit to the Commonwealth such particulars as location, area, rainfall, soil types and fertility, topography, suitability for cultivation, liability to erosion, water resources, present and potential use of the land, amenities available, and transport facilities. On the basis of this information, the Commonwealth and State authorities .will decide whether detailed surveys are necessary, and whether the area can be acquired at a reasonable price. Upon approval being given to this action, the States concerned will proceed with the necessary arrangements, and will prepare a plan of the proposed subdivision, indicating the size of the individual holdings, their use, valuation and other relevant information. After Commonwealth approval of the plan, the State will set apart Crown lands, or acquire the area and carry out the sub-division, development and improvement up to the point where it can he brought into production by a settler within a reasonable time, having regard to the type of production proposed.
In anticipation of this legislation considerable progress has been made in the investigation of certain areas that may be suitable for settlement. The New South Wales Government has submitted proposals for the acquisition and subdivision of 21 estates involving a total area of about 360,000 acres. It is estimated that these areas will provide for the settlement of about 400 servicemen. Investigations have already proceeded to the stage where the Commonwealth has been able to inform the New South Wales Minister of Lands that a prima facie case has been established for the approval of eleven of these properties containing about 155,000 acres as suitable for settlement, and that the State should proceed to negotiate with the owners with a view to acquisition. A proposal for the acquisition of about 60,000 acres for the establishment of an irrigation settlement in the Murray Valley district has been received from Victoria. Queensland has submitted proposals for the acquisition of about 1,700,000 acres, to be subdivided into about 1,300 holdings, which after allowing for retention areas, would mean an additional 900 holdings. Some areas have already been examined, and the State has been informed that about 440,000 acres at least appear sufficiently attractive to warrant more detailed investigation. The proposals in respect of the remaining areas are now being considered. A proposal has been received from Tasmania for the acquisition and development of an area of approximately 36,000 acres. This proposition provides for subdivision into about 140 maintenance area farms.
The Government has introduced this bill as early as possible following the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, as it recognizes the need for urgent action in this matter, and if expects that the State governments also will take action to introduce legislation as early as possible. It is recognized that the parliamentary draftsmen of the various States may make certain alterations to the arrangements of the clauses and that the actual words used may differ slightly in the various States. Under the bill as now presented, it would be competent for the Government to make any agreement with a State for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, provided that it was not inconsistent with the proposals set out in the appropriate schedule to this bill. The passage of the bill will enable the Commonwealth to make such arrangements with the States and to proceed in partnership with them in the settlement of returned men on the land and thus provide an additional means of rehabilitation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 1.32 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Can the Service Departments, after consultation with the British and Dutch authorities, arrange for making available for publication the names of released British and Dutch prisoners of war whose relatives are in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Local representatives of British and Dutch Services possess only incomplete information regarding the identity of members of their services recovered from enemy hands and whose next-of-kin may reside in Australia.
Advices of recoveries are notified by commanders in theatres of recovery direct to the respective home authorities which advise nextofkin direct irrespective of where they reside.
The local service representatives concerned are therefore reluctant to ask their home authorities to undertake the extra work of compiling lists and telegraphing them to Australia for press publication.
y. - On the 24th July, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked a question relating to soil conservation, in the course of which he suggested that considerationbe given to the introduction in Australia of a scheme similar to that operating in the United States of America.
During the planning of the Commonwealth’s role in the control of soil erosion, the experiences of the Soil Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture are being kept fully in mind. In the most recently published report of the service, it is stated that up to the 30th June, 1944, more than 65,000,000 acres in the United States were producing, under comprehensive soil conservation systems, as compared with 36,000,000 acres’ at the end of 1941. Great benefits have been derived and, apart from the conservation aspect, an actual average increase of 20 per cent, in production per acre has been obtained a3 a result of improved farming practices employed. Approximately 860,000,000 acres of various kinds of cropland, grazing land and woodland still need treatment. The cost of the service during the year ended the 30th June, 1944, was 26,000,000 dollars. The director of the service estimates that, after the war, he could effectively utilize a labour force of 17,000 for three to four years, and by so doing safeguard a further 200,000,000 acres of farm lands and, at the same time, carry out many additional improvements. The Soil Conservation Service provides technical, advisory and other assistance to the States, but the States have the main responsibility of carrying out the work. This is done largely by means of local soil conservation districts, defined on a watershed basis and designed to obtain the active support and co-operation of land-owners and operators in achieving soil conservation. Soil conservation districts are legal subdivisions of local government, established by initiative and referendum under State laws. They administer their own affairs through elected boards of supervisors, formulate their own work programmes based on local needs and conditions, and set up specific work plans for executing the programmes. On the 15th December, 1944, there were 1,203 districts in 45 States, including 3,100,000 operating units and covering more than 660,000,000 acres. The main function of soil conservation districts, however, is not, as the honorable member stated, to give ex-servicemen practical assistance in finding land to settle on, or farm work to do, although the service is co-operating with settlement authorities. The first step in planning the work within a soil conservation district is to survey, classify and assess the productive capacity of the land within the district. This detailed knowledge of land capability is being used in planning settlement projects, and local members of the soil conservation districts will also be able to advise prospective settlers of the true capabilities of any particular property. In Australia, detailed scientific knowledge of land capabilities is not available except for relatively limited areas where modern soil surveys have been carried out, hut Commonwealth resources in the Soils Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are fully extended in surveying, when requested by the States, properties selected by a State as likely to be suitable for war service land settlement. The administration of war service land settlement projects and final allocation of properties is the responsibility of the States, hut I understand that consideration is being given to the setting up of regional advisory committees. The Commonwealth recently initiated discussion by the Australian Agricultural Council on soil conservation. It was recognized that the control of erosion was primarily the responsibility of the States, and it was recommended that each State should set up an adequately staffed soil conservation authority, that the Commonwealth should do likewise for its own territories, and that a standing committee on soil conservation should be established to co-ordinate activities of States and Commonwealth. The Government approved these recommendations put forward by the Australian Agricultural Council and submitted them for the consideration of State Premiers at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Premiers did not endorse the proposals, but the matter is again to be taken up with the States by correspondence.
PETROL and RUBBER: Supplies.
– On the 19th September, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr.
Hutchinson) asked whether I could give any information regarding future supplies of rubber, following on the occupation of Malaya, and also if I could give any additional information regarding petrol supplies, with particular reference to the quality of petrol.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has now supplied the following information : -
No authentic information is yet available as to how soon supplies of natural rubber in worthwhile quantities will come out of Malaya. Suitable representations have been made to London, however, with a view to receiving some early reliable information on this important subject. On the petrol side, it now appears that, on an overall basis, both supplies of petroleum products and tankers will be available henceforward in sufficient quantities to meet overall needs. It is clear also-, however, that for some months yet the refineries situated in the sterling areas will be unable to meet all requirements of the British Commonwealth, thus some proportion of supplies would have to be drawn from dollar sources to enable a return to unrationed conditions. The extent to which dollar funds can be provided for the purchase of petroleum and other essential materials is now being examined closely. Every endeavour is being made to have the quality of the petrol improved at the earliest date possible, but this aspect is linked up with that of obtaining maximum gasoline production from sterling area refineries. Definite advice as to how soon an improved grade will be marketed in Australia cannot, therefore, be given at present. Close attention is being given to all aspects of the petroleum problem to ensure not only that rationing may be lifted at the earliest date possible, but also that th quality of motor spirit be improved.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he, on or before the first day of sitting next week, furnish the House with a statement of (a) the number of (i) Italians, (ii) Germans, and (iii) Japanese, alleged by Australian prisoners of war to have been guilty ot ill-treating them while they were confined in enemy prison camps; (6) the number of each of the above nationalities “who have been arrested and who are being held for trial as war criminals; and (c) the nature of the organization for apprehension of such persons (i) in the European Zone, (ii) in the SouthEast Asia Zone, and (iii) in the South-West Pacific Zone, giving full details of the organisation within the Australian armed forces for such purpose, and, in particular, stating if within the Australian forces there exists an organization similar to the Criminal Investigation Branch for the purpose of tracking down and apprehending Japanese against whom allegations have been made which warrant their arrest for trial as war criminals?
– The information iB being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as early as practicable.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As for previous years during the war period, treasury-bills have been issued to meet temporary requirements. From the 1st July to the 20th September, 1945, the figure is £20,000,000 as compared with £27,000,000 for the corresponding period last financial year at the end of which all bills issued for the year had been redeemed.
n asked the Prime Minister, - upon notice -
Are the following duties imposed mandatorily on the Public Service Board by statute to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of departments by. inter alia -
the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure,
the establishment of systems of check in order to ascertain whether any inefficiency or lack of economy exists, and (rf.) the maintenance of a comprehensive and continuous system of measuring and checking the economical and efficient working of each department ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e. - Speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 13th September, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) raised the question of fodder supplies for horses in the Emerald area of Victoria.
The honorable member is advised that, under instructions from the Victorian Wheat Distribution Committee, an inspector of the Australian Wheat Board visited the Emerald, Cockatoo, and Gembrook potato-growing areas recently and reported on the feed position. Difficulty with regard to horse feed is due to shortage of chaff rather than wheat, and for this reason the matter was earlier referred to the Victorian Department of Agriculture, which controls distribution of bulk fodders. However, additional wheat would assist the position, and arrangements are being made to supply one truck load of 150 bags of crushed wheat, which will be distributed equally by the three main distributors in the area for horse feeding purposes. This special quota will be supplied from wheat approved for release during October, and it is all that can be released to cover requirements for the balance of September and for October. It is considered that this should be sufficient to meet the additional demand for wheat until anticipated supplies of hay and chaff become available during October.
Rationing: Cotton Clothing; Household Linen.
e. - On the 18 th September, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) asked a question concerning the coupon rating of cotton goods. The honorable member asked that the rating be reduced for Queensland.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
The supply position of cotton goods is not good. There is a world shortage of these goods and, as Australia is almost entirely dependent on imports for her cotton requirements, that shortage prevents us from obtaining all the supplies we require. In this circumstance, it is not possible to comply with the honorable member’s request for a reduced rating. Reductions have, however, been ma.de in the coupon rate of other rationed clothing and these reductions will, in fact, enable residents of Queensland to . purchase more cotton goods than previously.
On the 18th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question concerning supplies of household linen. The honorable member asked that supplies he augmented and the rationing scale liberalized, in view of the return of large numbers of servicemen to Australia.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
Every possible step is being taken to increase the supplies of household linen available to the public. In view of the world shortage, however, it is unlikely that sufficient supplies can be obtained for some time to meet the full demand. In view of this shortage, it is not possible to meet the honorable member’s request that the coupon rating of household linen be reduced. When supplies improve, steps will immediately be taken to reduce the rating.
Galvanized Iron, Wire, Wire Netting and Piping.
y. - On the 19th September, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked questions regarding a dispute at Lysaght’s Proprietary Limited, -Newcastle, said to involve 2,000 men in almost complete idleness.
Inquiries have been made, but as far as can be ascertained, there is no industrial dispute at Lysaght’s Proprietary Limited in Newcastle, and no notification has been lodged by the company in accordance with the provisions of the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations. However, a dispute has occurred at Lysaght’s Proprietary Limited, Chiswick, Sydney, in which approximately 245 men are involved and 88 other employees are stood-off as a consequence. The dispute is connected with a decision of the New South “Wales Industrial Commission in regard to the payment of piece-work rates to wire drawers and the cancellation of the payment of the basic wage minimum and war loading to these piece workers. The union concerned has been de-registered by the New South Wales State Industrial Commission, and although developments are being closely watched by officers of my department, it is not the intention of the Government to interfere in a matter which is being dealt with by the State industrial authority.
Armed Forces: Statement by “Army Spokesman “ ; Releases.
Mr. BEASLEY. - On the 20th September, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) made an inquiry concerning a reply to questions asked by him previously on statements by an Army spokesman.
The Minister for the Army has forwarded to me the following report by the Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces: - “ The statement in answer to Mr. Cameron was prepared by me and was sent from a forward area to Melbourne for release to the press.
Mr. Cameron’s original allegation was made in the public press and not under the privilege of Parliament. I insist on my right, in common with every other subject of His Majesty, to deal with any attack made upon me, private or public, not made under privilege.
I did not reply previously on this subject personally, as the matter was dealt with in my absence in a forward area.”
As I pointed out in my reply of the 8th May to the honorable member’s previous question, statements made by an anonymous Army spokesman are a con travention of instructions, and the attention of the Commander-in-Chief has been drawn to these instructions.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
As no provision has been made for releases to your industry, I regret that your application cannot be acceded to.”
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 19th September, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to official correspondence which he had received from the Queensland Lines of Communication Area and from the District Agricultural Committee, in which it was stated that applications for release for employment in rural industry were not being considered at the present time, and asked whether the Army and Man Power authorities were opposing the release of men for rural industry.
At the time I expressed the opinion that the information supplied to the honorable member’s correspondents was out of date, since a policy of more rural releases had been approved.
However, I have had inquiries made, and am informed that the DirectorGeneral of Man Power has recently allocated a quota of 3,000 special occupational discharges for rural industry. Amendments to army instructions have been promulgated advising that applications may now he received from members desiring accelerated discharge for employment in rural industry. Such applications will be submitted to Man Power for recommendation. If Man Power recommends discharge, action is taken by Army to arrange discharge at the earliest possible date. Owing to shortage of shipping, there is unavoidable delay in returning members from overseas, but everything possible is being done to obtain additional transport.
Enemy Prisoners of War: Treatment in Army Hospital.
e. - On the 19th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked whether it was a fact that, as reported in the press, Japanese and Italian prisoners of war were being given attention as patients of 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord, that Australian nurses and V.A.D.’s had to wait on Japanese and Italians, and that Australian walking patients also had to attend to them. If so, he asked that these arrangements be changed so that aliens could be put into hospitals on their own.
At the time I replied that I had no direct knowledge that Italians and Japanese were patients in 113th Austra lian General Hospital, but that I would have inquiries made.
I arn now advised that no Japanese or Italian prisoners of war are at present inmates pf 113th Military Hospital, Concord. When ill, these prisoners of war are cared for in camp hospitals attached to the internment camps. In rare instances of critical illness in which specialist surgery or other treatment is required, prisoners of war have been admitted to 113th Military Hospital, Concord, and during the entire progress of the war eight Japanese in all have been so treated. When thus admitted, they have been segregated in rooms under prisoners-of-war and internee guards, who wait upon them and feed them, members of the Australian Army Nursing Service only being involved for essential nursing treatment.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice- -
– The statistics, which are immediately available for the twelve months from the 1st July, 1944, to the 30th June, 1945, indicate that -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450927_reps_17_185/>.