17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
. - by leave - I have prepared a statement which, with the consent of the House, I shall have incorporated in Hansard :
There is one important point of difference between the settlements now being worked out in relation to Europe on the one hand and the Pacific on the other hand. In the former case, the principal Allies had a real opportunity to plan and prepare for the armistice and post-armistice arrangements. In respect of the Pacific, however, the sudden termination of hostilities and the pre-occupation of the Allies with European problems found the major Powers somewhat less prepared to tackle the problems of this area. In Europe, the initiative in planning was taken, as the circumstances of the war required, by the principal belligerents. Australia has pointed out from time to time the inherent dangers of such an exclusive procedure, which cannot prove satisfactory in peace. Although I consider that the general view of the result of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London is too pessimistic, and that there has been Teal value in the frank exchange of views there, it is clear that the constitution of the council is too limited for its tasks. The Australian and New Zealand Governments have consistently advocated that countries which have made a substantial contribution to the defeat of enemy Powers should also take a direct and active part in the armistice and peace arrangements. From early in 1942, all the principal belligerents in the Pacific war were associated in planning its strategy through the Pacific War
Council, which was established at the request of the Australianand New Zealand Governments, and met under the chairmanship of the President of the United States. The consultations of this council covered the prosecution of the war against Japan and some aspects of the future Pacific settlement. We are therefore, glad that a similar body is being set up to deal with the problem of Japan. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) made a considerable contribution in London in the discussions leading to the creation of the Ear Eastern Advisory Commission, having been in close consultation with members of the United Kingdom Government and representatives of other nations. The proposed membership of the commission, which includes the five major Powers, together with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and possibly India, is a tangible recognition of the principle for which Dr. Evatt, representing the Australian Government, ‘had striven, namely, the establishment of a body enabling countries which had taken a prominent part in the defeat of Japan to participate at the highest level in the consideration and formulation of post-armistice policy. The commission will meet first in Washington, and later, perhaps, in Tokyo. It could, and I believe should, ultimately be invested with important functions in the framing of Allied policy in the whole of the Ear East. At the very least, it should be capable of initiating greatly improved Allied cooperation for the control of Japan. The Australian Government is determined to spare no efforts in seeing that the proposed commission, which will meet in the near future, shall be successful in its immediate task of the control of Japan, and also in the additional tasks of Pacific policy which it is fitted to consider. The establishment of the commission has well been described as a victory for “international democracy”.
- by leave - I desire to refer to the reply given by the Minister for Munitions (Mr.- Makin) to charges that I had made con cerning the disposal of equipment by officers attached to his department. The Minister will recall that ho introduced his reply with these words -
I am happy to demonstrate that the charges of malpractice levelled by the honorable member for Wentworth are as false as were those of the Leader of the Australian Country party.
I believe the House will agree that that was a particularly strong statement, and one which a senior Minister would not make unless he was confident that the information he had received could not reasonably be doubted. The honorable gentleman gave to me “the lie direct”. I shall return the compliment, and hope that he will enjoy the experience. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) can adequately defend himself. Indeed, I consider that he did so on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday. I take this opportunity to refer again to the charges that. I originally made, and trust that the House will bear with me while I relate, in addition, what has come to my attention since the Minister questioned the veracity of my charges. The honorable gentleman’s reply caused me some concern and misgivings, especially as he had presented his case in so convincing a fashion.. I considered that, as a senior Minister, he would have taken extreme measures to verify the statements of his departmental officers.
– They are not my departmental officers.
– I shall prove to the Minister that they are. Experience must have weighed heavily with the honorable gentleman. He would not accept’ without question the assurance of his departmental officers “ that what I had said was false “. I have no doubt that, should the Minister discover that he hasbeen misled, he will take suitable action to bring to task the officers responsible. I admit that I should have accepted his explanations had I not been confronted with a disturbing appeal by an officer of his department when I returned to Sydney last Saturday morning. The Minister will recall that last week I informed the House that I had knowledge of a heresy hunt that was going on in his department, with a view to discovering the officer who had been my informant.
The materials disposal officer of the Department of Munitions, not a member of the staff of the Disposals Commission, as the Minister would have the House believe, was responsible for the sale of equipment for the Munitions Department. He came to me and revealed these amazing facts. I do not want to use names, but I can supply them to the Minister if he wishes. Two days after I had first made the charges in this House, the officer was accused by the chief disposals officer, of whom he has no knowledge, of being a traitor in the camp. This charge he very properly denied, but the word got around and it was said that it was easy to pick the traitor, and close friends of the officer concerned deserted him.
– Docs the honorable member think that there is anything political in all this?
– No ; I am making an attempt to clear this man’s name. He was obviously under suspicion until the following Wednesday, when he was called into the staff superintendent and informed that his services were soon to be terminated. He was advised unofficially to look around for another job and was warned that official notice of bis dismissal would come in about a week’s time. The staff superintendent advised him thatt the chief disposals officer in the Department of Munitions bad alleged that he was an informer. Could there be any stronger case of victimization? This officer was to be SUSpended, not on concrete evidence of his failing to carry out the duties entrusted to him, but solely on suspicion. On Friday of last week the staff superintendent handed him his dismissal notice. In response, he told the staff superintendent a few home truths, with the result that he was brought before three very senior officers of the department. The most senior of these officers pleaded ignorance of the assertions which the ^accused man made. He said he was unaware that the things indicated by the officer were going on in his department. He was surprised that the officer had not brought the facts to the notice of the staff superintendent previously. In the light of the information before him, he had no alternative but to withdraw the dismissal notice. He tore it up there and then. “Forget you ever got it”, he said. “ At the same time he commented, “ You must have told something to somebody in the department “.
The’ officer replied that he had said something. He had brought to the notice of his senior officers several developments that, in his opinion, were open to question. “Tes, yes,” said this very senior officer, “ But, directly or indirectly, the information which Mr. Harrison had must have come from you “. The officer then challenged the heads of the Munitions Department on the ground that he was being made the scapegoat. Hie pointed out that he had no regrets, but that he intended to come to me and get a letter to clear his name. All three senior officers attempted to dissuade him from this course of action. It was pointed out by one of these senior officers that if the chief disposals officer, under whom the officer who was being suspected was employed, had been more forthright in his explanations, it could have been explained to “ the Minister that in two instances - the sale of the hot water system, and the sale of the work benches - he could not accept the offers he had received because the firms concerned were not engaged on defence works. Under these circumstances, it was stated, the chief disposals officer was quite correct in rejecting the offers. 1 can readily understand why the Minister did not make use of this explanation. The equipment in question - the hot water system and twelve work benches - was eventually sold, not to firms engaged on defence works, but to dealers. Continuing, the most senior officer said a new inquiry could be held, but no good purpose could be served as such inquiry would only result in more dirty linen being washed, and “ the chief disposals officer would not get out of it any dirtier than he already was “. I put it to the Minister that, if this statement was made, it represents a very serious allegation by a responsible officer against the chief disposals officer. However, to continue the account of the interview accorded the misjudged officer. I am advised that he remonstrated with his interviewers that the Minister’s reply in the House last week made him out a liar. The charges which I had levelled were, in fact, those he had brought under the notice of the chief disposals officer at the time the equipment was being disposed of. There was no denial of this. All that could be said was that no records appeared ou the files to bear out what the officer had stated. Allegations were then made by the officer that letters were missing from the files. I think the Minister will agree that the absence of documents from the files of his department is a very serious matter. In this regard, the officer ro whom I have referred has taken pains to rectify this strange loss of documentary evidence. He has obtained a letter from each of two firms - both covering the offers of which the Minister denies all knowledge. What is more, he has brought these letters to the notice of the staff superintendent and the most senior officer who interviewed him. Iri bringing the letters to the attention of these officials he warned them that he hoped that “ it, will not subsequently be found that these letters, too, are missing from the files”. 1 say most emphatically that, the officer who suffered this victimization and who was so cursorily and unjustly treated was not my informant. I have given him a letter stating, without reservation, that to the best of my knowledge I have never had any political or departmental con.tacts with him; never at any time has he established contact with me: nor has he divulged in any way any matters associated with his department. The senior officers of the Department of Munitions have inflicted a grave injustice on this officer, and I demand that his name be cleared.
– I thought, that this “waa to be a short statement.
– It is not so long u statement as some that we have heard, made by leave, but it is a very serious one, as the Prime Minister will agree. yow let us examine some of the charges 1 made and the replies the Minister gave. I have not had the opportunity to check th ern all, but I shall concentrate on the ones T have checked, and I leave it to the Minister to investigate more fully the remainder. Let us take the case of the hot .water system. The Minister said it was entirely incorrect that an offer of £150 had been made for this equipment and that there was no record on the file of any such offer having been made.
I have here a letter written yesterday by the person who made this offer. I am not at liberty to disclose his name in the House, but the Minister may have it and I trust that he will check the accuracy of the statement by contacting personally the writer. The letter reads -
On the 15th Mardi last, I visited Villawood with Messrs. (mentioning two witnesses) and h member of the Disposals Section from the Liquidation Brunch of the Munitions Department, to inspect curtain equipment amongst which was a 900-gallon copper hot water system. I made an offer verbally of £150 for the hot water system to a member of the Disposals Section and he in turn submitted it to the Chief Disposals Officer of the Liquidation Branch. This was turned down, so it did not necessitate a further offer in writing.
Now, on the Minister’s own admission, this equipment was sold for £42 10s. The offer was £150. The Minister agreed that the equipment, at its installation, cost the Commonwealth Government £395 and it was used for four years. I ask the Minister : Would a copper hot water system which cost £395 only four years ago depreciate to the extent that it is now only worth £42 10s. ? Was this the pegged price beyond which bids were refused? If so, there must surely have been something wrong with the department’s valuation ! Who fixed this ridiculously low ceiling price? Was it the ex-railway clerk, or the expostmaster, or the ex-washing machine salesman to each of whom I referred in my budget speech? If not, what was the pegged price for this hot water system? If it was more than £42 10s., and the Minister does not state whether the ceiling price was received for the service, why was it sold at auction? It was known to the disposals officer who handled the hot water system that an offer of £150 had been made. Was this officer overruled by the chief disposals officer and was the chief disposals officer content to see it go at £42 lOs.’f Apparently, the Minister was satisfied, because he made no comment on the small return to the Commonwealth for equipment that cost the taxpayers £395 four years ago. Is this the manner in which, the Government is to recoup £40,000,000 from the disposal of wartime equipment during the current financial year? If so, the people of Australia will also want to know the total original -expenditure on all items disposed of and the percentage which the £40,000,000, if returned, bears to the total.
Let us examine the next statement by the Minister. He said -
The next charge Wy the honorable member for Wentworth on thu subject of work benches is equally unfounded.
He continued - lt is quite correct that the work benches -cost £207 Sis. and nil honorable members will realize that, in the liquidation of goods specially produced for war purposes, there is no alternative but to quit them for what they will bring in the open market for commercial purposes.
I digress here to offer the comment that there is an alternative. “Whilst I
Agree that public auction is preferable to sale by private treaty, surely there can be at auction sales a reserved price which, if not reached, will determine whether or not the goods arc to be sold. In this instance, twelve benches were sold for £5 the lot. Yet. although the Minister -denies it, an offer was recorded in his department at £10 each for the benches. The Minister’s statement concerning this allegation reads -
As in the ease of the hot water tank, the benches were offered for sale by public auction and sold to the highest bidder, lt is quite untrue that an offer of £ 10 a. piece bad previously be«n made by an engineering firm.
Here, again, I submit that the Minister has been misled. If he checks more carefully his departmental files he should find a letter headed “Department of Munitions, Reference No. NT.1857 MK/L/MK,”, dated the 14th July, and signed “Byrnes”.
This letter, I suggest, refers to an offer for benches and advises the firm which made the offer that the benches were “ not now available “. The history of this case - and I have checked my facts - is that this firm made an offer first of £5 s bench and it was understood that this price would be accepted. Later, the principal of the firm was advised that the price was too low and he made another offer, also in writing, that he was prepared to pay £10 a bench. I suggest that the Minister also should contact this firm. I was given the name of the firm by an officer of his department. I communicated with the firm. The principal was very loath to discuss the matter. Such is the duress under which private enterprise labours at present. If an employer “ spills the beans “ he has little chance of continuing profitable negotiations with the bureaucratic officials of war-time government departments. I shall give the Minister the firm’s name, but, in doing so, stress that this firm did not approach me. I know the Minister will accept my word for this, and in the light of any disclosures he will see that the firm is not penalized by his department. The gentleman to whom I refer vouches for the accuracy of my charge. I suggest that, the Minister should ring him and find out whether what I have said is correct. If it is, I trust that the Minister will retract the statement he has made that my charge in this instance if also unfounded.
Concluding his reply, the Minister referred to a grinding machine which. I had been informed, was sold by auction for £1.50. The Minister stated this machine was sold for £300. I am quite happy to take the Minister’s word for this. If the price I mentioned was incorrect. I have, in this instance, been misinformed. However, the point of my criticism concerning the grinding machine is .still warranted. The Minister will recall that I charged his department with having sold a machine at auction. This machine, I wa3 informed, was resold on the floor of the auction-room at a profit of £100. The Minister made no reference to this charge. He purposely avoided my criticism. He took cover in the statement that the machine was sold at the ceiling price determined by the Prices Commissioner. But surely the Prices Commissioner was a little inconsistent in letting it be resold on the same day, without removal from the auction-room, for a profit of £100. There must surely have been something wrong in the determination of the ceiling price, or was it determined by the inexperienced auction clerks to whom I referred when I brought this matter before the House previously? However, I refrain from further comment on this item and ask the Minister to re-examine the matter.
Government Members. - Hear, hear 1
– I can quite understand that honorable members opposite do not like having to listen to the disclosures that I am making on this subject, which indicate that there has been victimization of people by officers of a government department. “Without doubt, certain transactions affecting the sale of goods have been of such a nature as to be. open to serious criticism and suspicion. I trust that, before the rising of the House this week, tie Minister will inform honorable members whether he is still satisfied with the reply he has given me and whether, in the light of the further information that I have now given there is cause for retracting the very damaging accusation he has made against me. I consider that we have evidence here on which the Minister must decide whether he is to order a close inquiry and whether he will take action against those officials who have so obviously misled him. Concluding his reply, the Minister said -
In view of the facts which have been brought forward, which entirelyrefute every charge made by the honorable member for Wentworth, it is not proposed to waste any time on his criticism of the alleged faulty administration of those responsible forthe disposal of surplus war goods.
In the light of what I have said to-day, does he still adopt the same attitude? The House will be interested to hear from him. Without doubt, the honorable gentleman’s department has victimized an innocent man. There is no doubt, either, that letters have disappeared from the files because the person to whom I have referred has replies to the letters which he wrote. There is urgent need for the closest investigation of this whole matter and for action to he taken to clear the person concerned of the suspicions which have been raised against him. In particular, the Minister should deal effectively with the officers who have so obviously misled him.
– by leave - The charges made by the honorable member will be investigated very fully. The honorable gentleman asked for leave to make a short statement; he has abused the consideration of the House by occupying so much time. In view of that fact, and of his having taken time which would have been available to honorable members had he made only a short statement, I ask that any further questions be placed on the notice-paper,
HouseTenancy of Soldier’swife.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Committee of Inquiry concerning the issue of certain “notices to quit” in respect of Government-owned houses in Canberra - Reports by -
the Honorable J. A. Beasley, M.P. (Chairman), Senator Finlay and the Honorable R. T. Pollard.. M.P., and
the Honorable J. P. Abbott, M.P., and the Honorable T. W. White. M.P. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– Many months have elapsed since an effort was first made to have these reports tabled, and the whole of the facts in connexion with the eviction notice served upon the wife of a prisoner of war investigated by the Government and the Parliament. I regret that the Government has taken so long to do what obviously had Ministers the desire and the will to do that justice which the situation demanded, could have been done in a few days. Last February, an eviction notice was issued against a member of the Australian forces who, at the time, was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese. He had been a tried and trusted officer of the Department of the Interior, the very department which issued the eviction order against him. Enlisting in 1940, he sacrificed an income of approximately £10 a week, to accept as a sapper’s pay less than one-half of that amount. The reward which he, his wife and family received, was to be served with a notice of eviction, almost on the anniversary of the fall of Singapore, when he had been taken prisoner, namely, the 14th February, 1945. I have in my hand the notice of eviction, signed by the Minister for the Interior, directed to Leslie John Pedvin, then in the hands of the Japanese, and served by the bailiff of Canberra upon his wife. The House may be interested to learn a little about Leslie J ohn Pedvin, especially as news. has been received of the recovery of prisoners of war from the hands of the Japanese. It was not known for very many months whether he was alive ‘ or dead, but when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) returned to this House last week, and was appraised of the matter, he stated that Pedvin had been his close comrade in the prison camp, and but for him probably he, the honorable member, might ever have returned, because Pedvin had smuggled food to- him when he was in the hands of the Japanese Gestapo, and had succoured him. While that gallant soldier was performing those acts of mercy in Singapore, the Government was attempting to evict his wife and family from their home in Canberra. More than one Minister is involved in the matter, and there are worse aspects of it to be discussed than the eviction proceedings, f. am glad that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) is in the chamber, because [ intend to make certain references to his association with the case. I shall noi. deal at length with the merits of the Government’s action, because doubtless that phase of the matter’ will be dealt with by honorable members who are to follow me.
Unfortunately, due to the manner in which the reports have been tabled, we have not so far been able to peruse them; consequently, I am speaking, at the moment, without any knowledge of what they contain, or of whether the concession claimed in regard to the rent in dispute has finally been granted. However, that is a very small matter indeed compared with the subsequent developments. Whether or not fr3. Pedvin was evicted is insignificant compared with the cruel and unfounded insinuations against her character by the Minister for Defence, the chairman of the committee that inquired into the matter.
– The honorable member is now taking a new line.
– I am discussing something that developed in the course of the inquiry, and it requires ventilation. One of the most cruel and unjustified things ever done in this Parliament was perpetrated by the chairman of the committee in respect of the wife of this prisoner of war. Mrs. Pedvin told m? later that had she been evicted she would not have been homeless. because her own people “would have succoured her. But the foul attack upon her character, made without any justification whatever, cannot be remedied by these reports. The Minister who made the allegations should either substantiate them before this debate concludes, or do the manly thing by withdrawing them and apologizing before Pedvin returns to Canberra ; otherwise, he should leave Canberra before the return of the serviceman. The fifteen-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs Pedvin had to be .restrained, with some difficulty, from seeking out the Minister and demanding personal satisfaction. Attacks are made not only on this lad, but also on every one who goes to her defence; they are besmirched because they take up the cudgels on her behalf. From time to time during the course of this inquiry, I have been subjected to the most vile attacks by honorable members opposite ; yet not at any stage have I been deterred, and I intend to see the matter through to the end. The Minister who made the attacks has not retracted them. I now give to him the opportunity to withdraw them, if he is man enough to do so. On the 31st August I asked a courteously worded, question which did not contain any propaganda. By it? means I simply endeavoured to learn from the Minister for Defence,’ who was in charge of the inquiry, whether the report in relation to it would be tabled at an early date, and whether an effort would be made to expedite it. I said that, in view of the fact that Japan had surrendered, and Pedvin might be back in Australia soon, it was desirable that the matter should not still be undecided when he returned. The Minister replied -
It might bc a very good tiling if Pedvin were back in Australia. I am particularly anxious that he should return at an early date. Another prisoner of war involved in similar circumstances has already returned, and his comments when invited to discuss domestic matters which had arisen during his absence were very interesting to the department, which was pleased to discuss his case. The honorable member for Ballarat has been back in Australia only about a week, and the House has been in session during this week. I had hoped to secure the attendance of an honorable senator from South Australia. The interests of some persons might not bc well served if matters of a strictly domestic character were ventilated.
– Do not make insinuations; they have been made time and again.
– I am answering the question as I see fit. The honorable gentleman has made many insinuations.
– I have made charges.
– The honorable gentleman litis tried to make party political capital, and has told lies.
– I call for a withdrawal of that statement.
– The statement being offensive to the honorable member, the Minister should withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I have no wish to be offensive to the honorable gentleman, or to anybody else. Statements have been made which have not been substantiated.
– The Minister is merely being offensive to a prisoner of war.
– The prisoner of war in question, I hope, will be back in Australia in due course I should like to take special steps to have his return expedited, because what, he has to say may prove very interesting. .The matter will be considered as early as possible.
– Is the Minister in possession of any information, rained through the investigations that have been made by officers of thu Commonwealth Investigation Branch, or from any other source, which he lias not communicated to members of the committee who have been in or outside Australia?
– If I had, I should regard it as highly improper to discuss it in this Souse.
– I do not want the Minister to discuss any information he may have, but merely want to know whether he has information which he has not given to members of the committee.
– It would bc highly improper to answer a question of that” kind in this House before the matter had been placed before the committee.
– In view of the Minister’s statement that there is certain information which it might be best not to reveal, or words trf that effect, has he any reflection to make du the character of either Corporal Pedvin or Mrs. Pedvin in connexion with the case?
– When the committee has completed its inquiry, its report, will disclose whether any reflection has been cast on anybody.
These insinuations caused Mrs. Pedvin to write a letter to the Minister in which she pointed out how serious was the effect on her reputation, of innuendoes which were not followed up by charges. In her letter she stated -
The terms of your insinuations are capable of any interpretation that anybody cares to place upon them, and yon therefore cannot leave the matter as it stands. I invite you. under cover of Privilege, to give definite details and to make perfectly clear what your insinuations amount to. Then, and not till then, can
I take steps to cleaT my character.
That is a fair request.
– I think the honorable member himself wrote that letter.
– That is a foul thing to say, having regard to the facts of the case. When I spoke on this matter previously, I made it clear that I had met the lady only once, and that I had no hand or part in the writing of any letters, nor had I had any communications with her at that time. Later, J asked the Minister whether he had received the letter written by Mrs. Pedvin, and he passed the matter off in a facetious manner, pretending that the letter had been written by me. It is a lamentable thing, that when the character of a lady is attacked in this chamber by a senior Minister, he should treat as a joke attempts made by honorable members to have her character vindicated. What would honorable members opposite think or do if similar innuendoes had been made about their wives? In this case, however, the lady’s husband is a prisoner of war, and no one could come to her aid except, outsiders. The threat of eviction does not matter very much now. It is only a question of money. I believe that Mrs. Pedvin was entitled to every concession that could be given to her. There should never have been any threat of eviction, but that pales into insignificance now against, the attack which has been made, not. only upon Mrs. Pedvin, but also upon every one who went to her aid, including myself. The Minister has made no retraction of his innuendoes. I do not know whether, before he leaves for England to take up the highest office which “the Commonwealth can bestow upon a citizen, he will do anything to clear this lady’s character which he has besmirched. In case he still regards the matter as :i joke, and in case he thinks that Mr. Pedvin will regard it as a joke when he returns, I propose to read a letter written by Mrs. Pedvin’s next door neighbour because she considered that Mrs. Pedvin’s character had been unjustly attacked, and because she was in a position to speak with first-hand knowledge of the matter. I have made many inquiries from reputable citizens in Canberra, and have been assured that Mrs.
Pedvin has lod an exemplary life. She has been a model wife, and has tried to maintain a home for her husband when he returns. She has looked after her young child, and nothing whatever can he said against her character. This letter which was written from 73 Flin. ders Way, Canberra, states -
To Whom it may Concern
In view of the recent statements made in the Federal Parliament and thu wrong construction that could be placed upon the same I can state very sincerely that, having known both Mr. and Mrs. Pedvin lor many years, f am distressed at the mental anguish that these statements have caused Mrs. Pedvin and Iter sou Brian.
Mr. and Mrs. Pedvin were respectable citizens with nothing to conceal and nothing to reveal and were decent and kindly neighbours to our household.
Since Mr. Pedvin enlisted and went overseas, afterwards .being a prisoner of the Japanese, I have been very closely in touch with her and Brian, helping as best I could to comfort them in their long anxiety.
Mrs. Pedvin has conducted herself and her home in an exemplary manner. She went to an office job until sickness overtook both Brian and herself, and she was forced to give up the job.
I have known both Mr. and Mrs. Pedvin’s close relations, especially Mrs. Pedvin’s family, who are a well known family all over New South Wales.
Mrs. Pedvin has shown a very high devotion to her husband and son during Mr. Pedvin’s long absence - hast even denied herself a holiday. Any time she has been away from Canberra has been spent with her mother in Sydney.
During these times I have always been in touch with her by letter and telephone.
This letter is written in an effort to lot itbe understood that my household and myself can vouch for Mrs. Pedvin’s character as being of the very highest. My only very real regret is that incidents have arisen to make this letter a necessity.
– Did the honorable member write that one, too?
– There is another foul insinuation by the Minister. The Minister may make whatever inquiries he likes, but he will find that I had nothing to do with the composition of that letter. It was written by Mary Steel Stevenson, Mrs. Pedvin’s next-door neighbour for seven years or more. She is local commandant of the Canberra Voluntary Aid Detachment.
– She is now charged with having put her signature to a faked letter.
– Yes. She is also secretary of the Canberra Repatriation Committee and a member of the executive of the Canberra Bed Cross Society. That is sufficient answer to the foul suggestion of the Minister that anybody who comes to Mrs. Pedvin’s aid has been prompted by some one outside and is not acting with the decent purpose of defending her reputation. This case now far transcends what we originally sought to achieve, namely, the withdrawal of the eviction notice. The late Prime Minister, the Bight Honorable John Curtin, was very distressed over this case. I know that had his health stood by him and had he lived he would have ensured justice bo this unfortunate woman. The correspondence in the case indicate? his very sincere sympathy for the Pedvins and his strong desire to right the wrong done to them. I say that’ in justice to his memory. But the other Ministers who have been associated with the case have gone out of their way to put them in the wrong. Pedvin will return to Canberra a few days hence. Unfortunately, or fortunately - I do not. know which - he does not yet know anything about this matter, as far as his wife knows.
– He may be looking for ihe honorable member.
– The Minister may make his own defence when the time comes. I invite the honorable gentleman, as Acting Attorney-General, to ascertain from the Solicitor-General whether his statements, made under privilege in this chamber, would not have subjected him to action for criminal slander if they had been made outside. His action in his last week in this chamber before leaving Australia to take one of the highest posts that this country can confer on one of its citizens is an action of which the lowest citizen would not have been guilty.
.- I do not propose to take up much of the time of the House on this matter. In every other walk of life, we meet men with very foul minds, men whose thinking is on a very low level. Man expresses his character by his words and deeds. His mind works according to his antecedents and training. I am not here to defend my character, but my life, morally and otherwise, is open to the closest investigation. I do not want to besmirch the character of Mrs. Pedvin. As a matter of fact, as the honorable member for- New England (Mr. Abbott), one of my colleagues on the committee that investigated this matter, will recall, at the inquiry, before she left the committee room, I said that I regretted the whole business and that she was a very respectable woman. I made that utterance.
– Not in public.
– At the inquiry. If the honorable member wants to misconstrue something that I said here in order to give it a foul interpretation-
– Evil to him who thinks evil !
– Exactly. He is entitled to do so. The word “ domestic” does not necessarily apply to moral character. ‘’ Domestic affairs “ are affairs within the household, maybe the financial transactions in the conduct of the household and the way in which the household is being attended to, managed, and so on. If any one wants to confine the application of the word “domestic” to the sphere of character he has the kind of mind that gives words the lowest meaning. Mrs. Pedvin’s character was not in my mind. If the honorable gentleman has a mind that sinks to low levels, quite frankly, I do not want my mind to accompany his- In the eighteen years that I have spent in this Parliament I have had as colleagues men of all kinds, some of them tough men, men accustomed to expressing themselves forthrightly, but I have never before heard one descend to matters concerning the morals of people. The records will show that I have never done so. If any mistaken ideas about Mrs. Pedvin’s character have arisen, the fault rests with the honorable member for Richmond. I am happy to know that Corporal Pedvin is on his way home, for I am almost certain that he will have a lot to say to the honorable member for having dragged his family’s affairs into this House for political purposes. This matter reeks with politics. Do honorable members opposite think that even if we are busy attending to affairs of the nation we do not hear the gossip and see the political manoeuvring that is going on in this matter? We hear gossip. Unfortunately, some people would rather gossip than attend to the larger national questions that the Commonwealth Parliament is daily confronted with. The honorable member for Richmond would be better occupied in attending to national problems on the. highest level than in trying to makepolitical capital out of the family affairs of a woman, which are important to her and worthy of the closest attention, but are unworthy of being brought under public gaze, as the honorable member for Richmond has brought Mrs. Pedvin’s affairs into this House in the last few months.
I mentioned that another prisoner of war, Sergeant Evans, had returned to Canberra, and the House will recall that in the course of my comment I stated that T based some of my remarks on the Pedvin case on the attitude adopted by Sergeant Evans. I shall read to th« House a copy of a statement by three officers of the Department of the Interior, because it indicates the view which prisoners of war hold regarding the discharge of domestic obligations during their absence. It is unfortunate that I ha ve to ventilate this matter in the House, but as the subject generally has been raised, I feel justified in referring to it. It is not necessary for me to defend my statements. My mind was free of suspicion, and I did not reflect in any way upon the character of any of the parties. Whether their characters were good or bad was not my concern. The statement prepared by three officers of the Department of the Interior reads -
Notwithstanding the tenancy of block 28. section 30, district of Ainslie, is in the name of Mrs. Tj. Evans, her husband, a former prisoner of war very recently returned to Canberra, voluntarily called at this branch on the 22nd August, 1945.
Sergeant Evans paid £20 and stated Inwould pa-y the balance £43 15s. - due to the 29th August, 1945 - on his return from Sydney in a few weeks. No payment Was sought by any officer of this branch - the payment and offer of balance of indebtedness was wholly a voluntary action.
Sergeant Evans advanced no criticism of any nature whatsoever with respect to recovery, action taken by this branch. He voiced an understanding of the difficulties associated with the collection of rent from the dependants of soldiers and- and 1 ask honorable members to note this - his appreciation and thanks for the action taken towards preventing the accumulation of very substantial arrears.
Sergeant Evans was pleased that steps had been taken to ensure that, during his absence, substantial arrears of rent would not accumulate. To him, that was a distinctly important domestic matter. It is also a distinctly important domestic matter to Corporal Pedvin, who will return to Canberra shortly. The statement concludes -
This is a correct summitry of this interview, which, having regard to its Iwa ring on cases which are the subject of an inquiry, was in the presence of the following officers at the one time and with Sergeant Evans.
The statement is signed by . V. D’Oultrte. recovery officer; J. A. Smith, acting accountant; and G. A. Crease, acting chief accountant. I believe that the attitude adopted by Sergeant Evans must be a guide to the view that will be taken by Corporal Pedvin and many other people. If it is not, then I am not able here to interpret the domestic side of a man’s affairs.
The report will be printed. I assume that I shall not be in order, at this stage, in dealing with the details of the reports, and that other honorable members also will not be entitled to do so. The majority report contains general details regarding property matters and the like, because it is important that not only the residents of Canberra but also the people generally whose husbands or sons are prisoners of war, shall know what has occurred. In my electorate, and, I have no doubt, in other electorates, many people, unfortunately, have not had the opportunity to own their own homes, or be granted rent concessions by landlords. The report is not limited” to the Pedvin case, but deals with wider aspects of this problem.
– I fear that the Minister is under a misapprehension. A motion having been made that the reports be printed, the Minister is entitled to discuss the contents of the report.
– I thank you for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I thought that if I referred to the contents of the report, subsequent speakers would be placed at a disadvantage, because the document has not been circulated. I did not desire to seize that advantage.
– The honorable gentleman need not be concerned about that, because some copies of the report have been circulated. Therefore, he need not curtail his remarks in any way.
– I did not intend, at this stage, to discuss the contents of the report, because it covers a wide field and deals with many problems. If the necessity to discuss the contents of the document arises as this debate proceeds, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who has an intimate knowledge of the Pedvin case, will deal with the matter.
The honorable member for Richmond declared that I was not a fit person to represent Australia in any other part of the world. Usually, I do not like making comparisons, but I shall do so in this instance. If my qualities and qualifications of character, ability, length of service, Australian spirit, and fitness to represent the Commonwealth in London or any other part of the world are not superior to those possessed by the honorable member for Richmond, I should not be a member of this Parliament. The honorable member adopted a low mental approach to this case. To use his own words, it was “foul”. As my utterances regarding this case were above suspicion, they require no defence. If the honorable member, the lady next door, or the lady on the other side of the street were disposed to write letters in connexion with this matter, that is their business. If Mrs. Pedvin’s character has been besmirched in any way, the speeches and letters of the honorable member for Richmond are alone responsible. His tactics in dealing with this case were lower than any other that I have known in this Parliament. When he ceases to he a member of this chamber, he will leave behind him a most unenviable record. He applied a foul mind to unambiguous remarks which did not traduce any person. When all is said and done, it is against our mind and our mental approach, and capacity that our actions must be measured in matters of this kind. Having heard the honorable member for Richmond several times on this subject, I wish to say that when I do leave this Parliament, I shall leave it with the knowledge that his attacks on me have left me very cold. I believe that they will leave honorable members on both sides of the chamber equally cold, for my association with honorable members, not only of my own party, but also of other parties, during the eighteen years I have been in this Parliament, have been of the closest and most intimate character in many respects. I do not think that there is one of them who would accuse me of having “ played dirty “ with any honorable member. Whatever my final association with the Parliament may be, my record is clean and aboveboard, and it will stand comparison with that of any one who has ever sat in the Parliament.
– At no stage hitherto have I made any remarks about the Pedvin case. I do not think that I would have felt disposed to intervene now except for the quite astonishing speech to which we have just listened. The defence of the Minister (Mr. Beasley) has really consisted of a long attack upon the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for having brought the case before the Parliament and repeatedly ventilated it here. For myself, I feel that a grave injustice has been done.
– It is the manner in which it has been done.
– What is the honorable member trying to say ? I hear only a somewhat dull chattering sound. In my opinion, it would be a great pity if it should be thought that the Pedvin case represents merely some personal controversy between the honorable member for Richmond and the Minister. That would be a very grave injustice. We are now told that this is a small matter, and that the matters which concern Mrs. Pedvin are small matters, though, after all, they concern a citizen in a community for which this Parliament is solely responsible. Let me say this, as to the Pedvin case itself: The former Prime Minister thought it sufficiently important to appoint an all-party committee to investigate it. That disposes completely of any suggestion that it is a trivial affair. It has been said that the honorable member for Richmond is responsible for the public discussion of Mrs. Pedvin in relation to this matter. All I know on that point is that I have before me a statement made by the Minister on the 31st August, and a copy of a letter which, I believe, every member of the House has received, from Mrs. Pedvin. There is no escape from this point, that if Mrs. Pedvin wrote this letter she has herself invited the attention of the Parliament to her case, and to the criticism of her reputation that has arisen. It is, of course, easy to suggest that some other person wrote the letter. After all, the Minister did not scruple to suggest, from his place on the treasury bench, that the honorable member for Richmond had written it. When confronted by another letter written by a woman with apparently some standing in this city the immediate suggestion was made that the honorable member also wrote that letter. No Minister could accuse a private member of the Parliament of engaging in a fraudulent conspiracy of that kind and then expect the whole matter to be brushed aside as if it were of no importance.
I now turn to the next aspect of this matter. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), I notice, is laughing. I realize that the reputation of Mrs. Pedvin, in this matter, may be a mere laughing stock to him.
– The Leader -of the Opposition is damaging the lady’s reputation. It is cheap political matter which he has raised. The right honorable gentleman has said that he had kept out of it hitherto, but now his party has pushed him into it.
– I tell the honorable member for Forrest that now I am in, I am going to say what I have to say.
– I rise to order. I demand an apology from the Leader of the Opposition for his reflection upon me in relation to my respect for Mrs. Pedvin.
– What are the words of which the honorable member complains? Frankly, I did not notice any reflection, on the honorable member.
– We may just as well get back to the basic facts of this affair. As a matter of fact, I did not heaT the statement made by the Minister in the House on the 31st August. The first I knew of it was when I read Mrs. Pedvin’s letter. “We should face the fact, also, that Mrs. Pedvin has directed the attention of the Parliament to the remarks made by the Minister, and has demanded that he should either explain or withdraw them.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition say that that letter was posted to all members ?
-.- Mrs. Pedvin says in the letter that she intended to send a copy of it the next day to every member of the Parliament.
– The letters were not posted; they were placed in the letterboxes of honorable members.
– I do not caro whether they were posted or not; I do not care how they were delivered. Is the honorable member for Adelaide suggesting that there is some fake about the delivery of the letters?
– I am suggesting that they were not posted, but were placed in the letter-boxes of honorable members by an officer
– What is behind that statement? Is the honorable member suggesting that Mrs. Pedvin had’ nothing to do with the letters?
– That is my suggestion.
– I suggest that both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Forrest should address the Chair.
– Though I may have had my back turned somewhat to the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I am really addressing you. I refer now to the astonishing suggestion that Mrs. Pedvin did not write this letter. That would indeed be a serious allegation to make against any one. The purpose of the letter was to direct the attention of the Parliament to what had been said by the Minister. I propose to quote from page 5074 of Hansard, the remarks made by the Minister
– Is that the Hansard if this session?
– If the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has a point of order to take in that regard I invite him to take it; otherwise, I shall proceed to quote the Minister’s words. The Minister said -
It might he a good thing if Corporal Pedvin were back in Australia. I am particularly anxious that he should return at an early date. Another prisoner of war involved in similar circumstances has already returned, and his comments when invited to discuss domestic matters which had arisen during his absence were very interesting to the department, which was pleased to discuss Ms case.
A few lines farther down in the- report he is reported to have said -
The interests of some persons might not be well served if certain matters of a strictly domestic character were ventilated.
And later again we read -
I should like to take special steps to have his return expedited; because what he has to say may prove very interesting.
The honorable member for Richmond is accused of having a foul mind because he reads that as containing an attack upon, the character and reputation of Mrs. Pedvin. All that I can say is that if ever I have read a statement which, in the truest sense, was defamatory of somebody, that statement is defamatory of Mrs. Pedvin.
– Then the right honorable gentleman has never read what I have said about him.
– I shall clear the mind of the Minister. There are statements of two types, known to the law, which reflect upon the character of people. The one is plain defamation, but the other is known to the lawyers as “vulgar abuse”. Those of the Minister always fall into the second category. I say in the first place that the words of the Minister for Defence are most plainly defamatory of this lady, and that she, therefore, has a perfect right to have the position cleared up. I really had expected, when the Minister rose, that he. would have said to this House: “I see, looking at these words, that they are undoubtedly capable of containing a reflection upon the character of this lady. I had no intention of that kind in my mind. I therefore want to make it publicly clear, in the same place as that in which I made the original statement, that I make, and have made, no reflection on the character of this lady”. Has the Minister done that? Not at all. All that he has done is to concentrate his fire upon an honorable member who has been chivalrous enough to defend the reputation of this lady and to assert that because he reads into these words what 999 people out of 1,000 would read into them, he has a foul mind and is unworthy to be a representative in this Parliament.
– This National Parliament must have a feeling of disgust at the trend which events have taken in connexion with this very unfortunate episode. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), who has a suave manner and is very adroit in extricating himself from a difficulty, endeavoured to clear up the position by discarding defence and attacking both the character and the intention of my colleague the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). If ever a man deserved credit for straightforwardness and chivalry in an important matter, it is the honorable member for Richmond, who should be placed on the highest pedestal, because he has been aware throughout these proceedings that whenever he rose in his place he would be the recipient of unfair attack and, indeed, abuse. But that has not deterred him from discharging what he regarded as his duty and responsibility in putting the case of Mrs. Pedvin in right perspective, in order that justice might be done to her. The integrity and straightforwardness of the honorable member are appreciated by all who know him, and there has been no detraction from those qualities by what has occurred this morning. The Minister, in his efforts to convert defence into attack, stated that the matter was most trivial. His estimate of the gravity of the situation is much less than was that of his late lamented leader, Mr. Curtin, who was fully seised of the apparent injustice that was being done to Mrs. Pedvin, because he accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond when the matter was first ventilated. When he conferred with me, he was very greatly concerned and agreed unhesitatingly to the appointment of an all-party committee, the reports of which we are privileged to have had placed before us this morning. It is interesting to note that the Government members on the committee who signed the majority report based the whole of their findings on the fact that Corporal Pedvin has property in Sydney which earns a gross income of £6 15s. a week.
– That is a grossly lying statement.
– Order ! The honor.orable member for Ballarat will be named if he continues to use such language.
– The majority report states -
In addition, Mr. Pedvin’s property in Sydney earns a gross income of £6 15b. a week. During the period he was a prisoner of war these rents, on that basis, would have accumulated to an amount of over £1,000 gross.
If that factor was not taken into consideration in arriving at the finding, why was it mentioned ?
– The right honorable gentleman first said that the findings were based solely on that fact. He now says that it is a factor which was taken into consideration.
– I said that it is an important factor which apparently had been taken into consideration in arriving at the finding. The report con.tinued -
Mr. Anthony’s statement on page 197 of Hansard of the 28th February, 1945, that the increase of Mrs. Pedvin’s allowance was in no way connected with her husband’s elevation in rank is not in accordance with the statement of allotments set out above.
In order that honorable members and the public may have a proper appreciation of the matter, I shall quote from the minority report submitted by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). It contains this statement: -
On the 28th March, 1945, the Minister wrote a most remarkable letter to the Prime Minister which said, inter alia - “Mr. McLaughlin has advised me as follows: -
The Prime Minister considers that it would be advisable to allow the reduced rental of £1 2s. fid. to operate in the case of Mrs. Pedvin, having regard to her income, the fact that her husband is a prisoner of war, and the sentimental value of the home to Mrs. Pedvin. Before taking action on these lines.
I think you should give consideration to the following points: -
1) About 100 cases of rent reduction operate at present. Many of them would be entitled to further reductions if Mrs. Pedvin is to get this one. Further, a large number of applications for rent reduction have been refused, though their situation is Suite comparable with, if not worse than, that of Mrs. Pedvin. All these cases could reasonably expect similar concessions.
) Mrs. Pedvin does not plead inability to pay. She claims that a concession extended to some soldiers’ dependants should be extended to her too. This cuts right across the present system whereby rental concessions are based on ability to pay.
3 ) Two other points which I have hesitated to use publicly but which weigh considerably with me are -
That Mrs. Pedvin’s son attends the Canberra school - an expensive method of education compared with government controlled schools.
It is very reliably stated that either Mr. or Mrs. Pedvin owns considerable property in Sydney from which substantial income is derived ‘ “.
The foregoing points strongly support the statement that this is not a case of inability to pay.
Let us see what the investigation discloses in connexion with the Sydney property. In this connexion the report states -
The Minister stated thathe had seen Mrs. Pedvin’s file when the notice to quit was recommended to him for signature. After examining that file he decided she should pay the rent “because her income enabled her to do so “. He said that he was simply guided in signing the order to quit by the amount of £4 7s.6d. which she received from the Army. Vet when the matter was raised in Parliament, a sI have said before, Mr. Lazzarini, in the statement given to him by the Minister, said - In addition her husband owns substantial property in Sydney from which income is derived. This income is not shown in Mrs. Pedvin’s Statutory Declaration “. When asked whether she received that income, Mr. Lazzarini replied - “Yes, I am simply stating the facts which the Minister for the Interior has supplied me with “.
When called before the committee. Mr. Lazzarini said that he did not know whether she got it or not, but that if Mrs. Pedvin had been wronged he was willing to make a statement to the House to put her position right.
Mr. Lazzarini was evidently misled by the Minister’s statement. At that time neither the Minister nor the department had any accurate knowledge as to whether Mr. Pedvin was the owner of property or not. The Minuter himself states that he made no inquiry as to other sources of income of Mrs. Pedvin before this committee was appointed. Yet he hands Mr. Lazzarini the statement to make in Parliament.
Mr. Carrodus, Secretary, Department of the Interior, has stated in evidence that he prepared the statement but that he did not put anything in it relating to Mrs. Pedvin’s property or anything else like that. When asked - “Then who put those words in? “ he replied, “ I should say the Minister himself “.
The Minister said that “ I made no inquiry before this committee was appointed as to other sources of income “. This statement was incorrect, as the Minister had issued instructions for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch to inquire into the ownership of certain properties of Mr. Pedvin. Mr. Carrodus, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Smith all denied that they or any officers of their department had instructed the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. The Minister admitted he had. The Minister stated that he could not remember when he instructed the Commonwealth Investigation Branch to make its inquiry.
The notice to quit was signed on the 14th February, 1945. On the 28th February, the matter was raised in Parliament, on that day a statement was supplied to Mr. Lazzarini by the Minister which was prepared by Mr. Carrodus, but the Minister made certain additions of his own(vide Mr. Carrodus’s evidence), regarding property owned in Sydney by Mr. Pedvin. Of this property, on his own admission, the Minister knew nothing. He said, “ I was not aware of those facts when I made my decision. I did not attempt to get any facts about her income until the whole matter was grossly misrepresented in Parliament “.
I submit that the members of the committee who signed the majority report made their findings on absolutely erroneous and unfair premises, because they have assumed, despite the weight of evidence to the contrary, that Mrs. Pedvin received income from certain property in Sydney. I reiterate that the honorable member for Richmond deserves all the credit that can be given to him for his courageous and correct stand in connexion with this matter, particularly because he knew that whenever he defended this wife of a prisoner of war he would be abused, and would he accused of being actuated by party political motives. If matters of this kind cannotbe ventilated in Parliament, where can it be done? The only two courageous things which this Government has ever done is to prosecute a nurse and persecute the wife of a prisoner of war.
.- Any one who has been associated with this case, and has heard the statements of those conversant with the facts, can only come to the conclusion that it constitutes a difficult problem. When I was informed by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, that I was to be a member of the committee to investigate the matter, I knew that it would be difficult to present a report that would entirely satisfy every one.
It is evident that members of the Opposition desire to convey the impression that the Government has set out to persecute the wives of prisoners of war, and even the prisoners themselves. The fact is that members of the Government have as much at stake in respect of prisoners of war as have members of the Opposition. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has recently been informed that his son has been released from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Senator Nash lost one son over Germany, and only recently received word that another son had died in Borneo. Senator Fraser lost one son as a prisoner of war, and another, who was taken prisoner, is not yet accounted for. Therefore, members of the Government cannot be charged with lack of sympathy with prisoners of war, and those associated with them. Honorable members opposite supported a government which sent soldiers to fight overseas on 5s. a day, whilst an allowance of 9d. a day was paid for their dependent children. The present Government increased the. pay and allowances to their present level.
Although the facts are available, it i3 notable that the debate this morning has turned on a side issue, namely, the meaning, sinister or otherwise, of a statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) in respect of a letter circulated among honorable members. Mrs. Pedvin is a woman of very high character, who, I would say, is possibly highly strung. She learned that certain people in Canberra were continuing to receive rent concessions which had been denied to her, and because of her sensitive nature she believed she was suffering a grave injustice. The committee appointed to inquire into the matter found that certain persons were receiving rent concessions to which they were not entitled. This was because the department had not required them to fill in a form stating any increase of income, and because of the conscious or unconscious dishonesty of the persons concerned in failing to report such changes of income. However, that hardly justified Mrs. Pedvin in refusing to pay the rent which she was legally obliged to pay. Because of the low rates of pay received by members of the services in the early part of the war, the then Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) generously ruled that where the income of a serviceman’s wife was below a certain fixed amount, a rent concession of 33£ per cent, would be given to her. On the 14th February, 1941, Mrs. Pedvin, upon application, had her rent reduced from £.1 12s. 6d. a week to £1 ls. 9d. In July, 1942, she obtained employment in a government department at a salary of £3 8s. a week, but, notwithstanding the fact that her income was thus substantially increased, she applied in July, 1942, to have her rent concession continued. The department, acting upon the ruling of the previous Minister for the Interior, naturally refused to continue the concession. In. December, 1943, Mrs. Pedvin resigned her position for which she had been receiving £3 8s. a week, and applied for the restoration of the rent concession. She said in her application that her military allotment was the same as when she was first granted the concession in January, 1941. That statement was incorrect. I do not say that it was deliberately incorrect, but the fact is, that when Pedvin first enlisted, her allotment was 8s. 6d. a day, whereas when she re-applied for the concession in December, 1943, she was receiving a total Army payment of 12s. 6d. a day. I am prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. I do not question her honesty, but whether or not she knew that the allotment had been increased, the fact remains that her income had increased. The department required her to make a statutory declaration regarding her income, and in March, 1944, she did so, clearly stating her income, namely, £8 15s. a fortnight. Her application for a rental concession was not approved, because it was held that she was not entitled to it. Much has been made of the subsequent issue of an eviction notice. Before it was issued Mrs. Pedvin had allowed arrears of rent amounting to £20 to accumulate.
After the matter was first raised in this House, the question arose as to whether
Mrs. Pedvin had any other income besides her allotment. It was found that her husband owned property in Sydney valued at about £3,500, which returned an income of £6 5s. a week. Mrs. Pedvin declared emphatically that she received no part of this income. On the other hand, she was equally emphatic that at some time in the future the property would become hers. However sympathetic one may feel towards Mr. and Mrs. Pedvin, it is not possible, because of the attitude of the Opposition to the matter, to avoid stating some pertinent facts. Pedvin enlisted in January, 1941, and sailed from Australia in June of that year, six months later, having spent part of the time in camp and part of it in hospital. I suggest that, during that time, he had ample opportunity to arrange that .a part, at any rate, of the rent from his property in Sydney should go to his wife.
– Does the honorable member happen to know that he sailed without obtaining final leave?
– The honorable member for Richmond has been a soldier himself, and he knows that any man who was fortunate enough to have been for six months in camp in Australia must have been remiss in his business and domestic arrangements if he failed to make adequate financial provision for his wife and family. It should not be forgotten that when he enlisted he was employed in the Department of the Interior where he was receiving about £8 a week. Nevertheless, he sailed away leaving his wife on an income of Ss. 6d. a day. I am sorry that f have to state these facts. No evidence has been given that his property in Sydney was encumbered, and the least he could have done was to make better provision for his wife and family.
– It may have been encumbered.
– It may have been, but that has not been stated. Much has been made of the fact that Corporal Pedvin was a prisoner of war, and it has been stated that, although his military pay was increased, he had no opportunity to increase the allotment payable to his wife. The fact is that he did increase the allotment to his wife when he was promoted.
– And the Government increased the rent.
– It did not. The rent was increased some time before that, when Mrs. Pedvin took a job in a department ,at £3 8s. a week. I do not intend to be side-tracked. It has been said that Corporal Pedvin did not have the opportunity, being a prisoner of war, to increase his allotment to his wife, but the fact is that he did increase it, probably when he was in Malaya or Singapore before the capitulation. His pay when he Increased the allotment was 10s. 9d. a day. He increased the allotment from 3s. to 5s. a day and retained for his own use 5s. 9d. a day. It may well be asked why he did not make increased provision for his wife from his military pay. I know of soldiers in the war of 1914-1S who, because of their family responsibilities, keptonly sixpence a day for themselves and allotted the rest to their dependants. Sixpence a day is little enough, God knows, for a soldier to struggle along on. So, surely, this man, whose wife was accustomed to the standard of living given by an income of £8 a week, might at least have been expected, when his military pay was increased to 10s. 9d. a day, to have allotted to her more than 5s. a day instead of retaining the balance for himself. He did not have to provide for his son or feed or clothe himself, yet he retained for his own spending more than he allotted to his wife, who had all those responsibilities. These are unpalatable facts for a returned soldier to state about another soldier, but the people who have dragged this case into the light of day and made charges might at least consider the facts presented in the report submitted to the Government by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), Senator Finlay, and myself.
It has been said, of course, that the Government was not justified in issuing the notice to quit, but in our report we say -
Mrs. Pedvin objects to paying the full rent because she contends that she is being unfairly treated because others in similar circumstances are receiving concessions and she is not. The Committee found that there were some tenants who. judged on the same standards as Mrs. Pedvin’s case, should have had their concessions reviewed.
It is true that they were not reviewed, hut the departmental officers did not go out on a hunt, inquiring whether the incomes of these tenants had increased. The report continues -
Under existing conditions, where it depends on the honour of the individual to report increases in income, unless there is an interruption in the concession as in Mrs. Pedvin’s case–
It was interrupted because she took employment - anomalies are likely to occur, but this would not justify giving Mrs. Pedvin something she is not entitled to.
In view of the facts disclosed in this report, the Minister’s action in endeavouring to enforce compliance with the principle of rent fixation and rent concessions were justified.
We trust Mrs. Pedvin will appreciate the findings of the committee and make arrangements with the Department of the Interior for adjusting her rent arrears.
Many soldiers’ wives, similarly placed, received no rent concession from their landlords. It might be said that soldiers’ wives living in Canberra are lucky to have been given a concession that other soldiers’ wives were not given.
– Many of them being much worse off.
– Yes. I regret all the circumstances of this case. I regret particularly that it was not dealt with solely on facts, but was misrepresented and was debated with heat. I only hope that when people read the facts presented in the report they will take into consideration the mental strain suffered by Mrs. Pedvin and realize that hut for that she might not have pressed the case as she has done. I hope that they will also take into consideration that she was probably encouraged to persist; and that they will realize that this case would never have seen the light of day if departmental officers and the Minister badbeen harsh in regard to other people who receive rent concessions and had insisted on the supply of regular statements regarding the amount of income received. Had that been done, as it is done in the case of invalid and old-age pensioners, who are required to make periodical returns of income, there would not have been discrepancy between the treatment of Mrs. Pedvin and other soldiers’ wives in the matter of rent concessions. Had it not come to Mrs.
Pedvin’s ears that Mrs. So-and-so was receiving a rent concession of 7s. a week, whereas Mrs. Pedvin was not, although their cases were similar, I do not think that we should have had this matter to worry us. Another fact that must not be overlooked is that, taking into consideration Corporal Pedvin’s pay and the allotment he made to his wife, the family income, free of taxation, but admittedly not all accessible to her, was of the order of £8 a week.
– How does the honorable member make that out?
– Pedvin’s income was free of federal tax and included deferred pay.
– She was not getting that.
– I said that.
– How much was she getting? That is the main thing.
– I said that she was not getting all that. Unlike the honorable gentleman, I do not flinch from facts, whereas he in this House, far from revealing the facts, skated around them and built up his case on some letter said to have been sent about this matter. I have stated the facts, unpleasant though it hasbeen for me to do so, because my sympathy is very deep for both Corporal and Mrs. Pedvin. It must he realized, however, that Mrs. Pedvin was encouraged, by honorable members opposite, to bring her situation to the light of day. It has served no good purpose. I hoped that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who, unfortunately, is absent through illness, knowing the facts, would have decided to leave well alone, realizing that there was no justification for the case that they had submitted. I leave it at that. I am quite satisfied that members of the public, including the wives of other prisoners of war and prisoners themselves, will judge the case on the facts presented in our report, and that no more will he heard about it.
– I rise to speak about this investigation by the committee set up by the late Prime
Minister, Mr. Curtin, because I consider, as I have said in the report, which was signed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and myself, that a deep and grievous wrong has been done to the wife of a man who, at the time of the committee’s inquiries, was a prisoner of war in Malaya. The history of rent concessions in the Australian Capital Territory for the dependants of men on active service is that no formula was devised on which the concessions were based. Witness after, witness from the Department of the Interior informed the committee that each case was dealt with on its merits, and that there was no equality of treatment of all cases. All that I have heard to-day about the then Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and departmental officers not having known that anomalies existed is nonsense, and is not borne out by the evidence put before the committee. The Property Officer of the Department of the Interior, Mr. Edwards, as far back as the 18th November, 1943, put before the Minister a recommendation for a new formula for working out rent concessions. Senator Collings minuted the submission as follows : -
In view of action contemplated by the Government, it would he wise to withhold action on above for the present.
And he did not even know, when he gave evidence, what action the Government did contemplate. Nothing has been done since the 18th November, 1943, about the matter. Mrs. Pedvin distinctly told us that she was unable to pay the increased rent because of family sickness affecting her son and herself. She gave evidence that she had had to give up her job in the Department of Trade and Customs because of her own ill health. She discovered - I suppose it was common talk in the Territory - that other people receiving the same military income as she was getting, and. with only one child, too, were being treated better than she was. During the inquiry, the department prepared for the committee a statement of rental concessions to dependants of servicemen occupying governmentowned houses in Canberra as at the 30th September. 194.3. Case No. 75 in the departmental list bears a remarkable resemblance to Mrs. Pedvin’s case, except in one particular, that being that case No. 75 was treated differently. In our minority report we said -
This bears a remarkable resemblance in some respects to that of Mrs. Pedvin. Each was a wife with one child, each has a present family income of £4 7s. (icl. per week. But at this point there are extraordinary differences. The rental concession in 75 was 9s. 0(1. per week, but that concession was granted when 75 was a recipient of £4 7s. fid. a week. A regrant of Mrs. Pedvin’s concessional rent was refused her when she was receiving that figure. Mrs. Pedvin owed the department nothing when she was turned down. No. 75 was in arrears of rent at the date of the concession to the extent of £28 5s. 9d. When the notice to quit was served on Mrs. Pedvin she was in arrears to the amount of £25 5s.
That shows extraordinary discrimination against Mrs. Pedvin. These anomalies were frequent, but the then Minister, for some extraordinary reason, adopted a most harsh attitude towards her and gave her no relief whatever. All the witnesses agreed that the refusal to grant a rent concession to Mrs. Pedvin was merely based on the fact that she was receiving £4 7s. 6d. a week. Not a word was said at the time, nor was it taken into consideration, as to whether she was obtaining any income from property in Sydney owned by her husband or herself.
– Order ! The time allotted for the discussion of motions of this kind has expired.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the retention or acquisition of British nationality by women married to aliens.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
REPORT of Public WORKS Committee.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Additions to the Institute of Anatomy, Canberra.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the trial and punishment of war criminals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Nearly twelve months before the termination of hostilities in Europe, the Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir William Webb, was appointed under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations to inquire whether any war crimes had been committed on the part of members of enemy forces against persons who were resident in Australia prior to the outbreak of war. As the result of that inquiry, His Honour reported that war crimes had been committed by many Japanese against members of the Australian forces and against the native populations of New Guinea and Papua. The inquiries made by Sir William Webb did not completely cover the field whether as to the persons concerned in the commission of war crimes or as to the nature of the crimes themselves.
With a view to obtaining as full information as possible with regard to the commission of war crimes by Japanese, a Board of Inquiry consisting of Sir William Webb, His Honour Mr. Justice Mansfield, of the Supreme Court of Queensland, and His Honour Judge Kirby, of the New South Wales District Court, was appointed on the 3rd September, 1945, to inquire into, and report on, the following questions : -
For the purposes of the inquiry the commissions issued to Their Honours enumerated the various kinds of war crimes in relation to which their investigations were to be carried out. At the present time, His Honour Mr. Justice Mansfield and His Honour Judge Kirby are prosecuting their inquiries outside Australia. They are engaged mainly in the examination of prisoners of war who have been released from Japanese prison camps. In the meantime, it is expected that a number of the Japanese as to whom Sir William Webb found in his first inquiry that they had committed war crimes will be apprehended and liable to be charged. In those cases in respect of which it is decided that a charge should be laid, it is most desirable that the trial should be held without delay.
For the purpose of these trials, it is proposed to set up military tribunals which will function very much along the lines of a field general court-martial. In relation to the trial of war criminals in the European zone, the military tribunals set up by the British Government are constituted under regulations issued under a Royal Warrant. In the case of Australia, however, it is considered to be preferable that the military tribunals should be established under legislation of this Parliament. For that purpose, the present measure has been presented to this House.
The measure follows generally the lines of the regulations for the trial of war criminals made by the Royal Warrant executed on the 14th June, 1945, by His Majesty the King. Under the bill, theGovernor-General or a delegate of the Governor-General will have power to convene military courts, appoint officers to constitute the courts and to give effect to the sentences of the courts, and, if necessary, mitigate or remit or suspend any such sentences. A military court is to consist of not less than three officers, and power is given to include in any court officers of allied or associated powers, provided that not more than half the members of the court, excluding the president, are such officers. A military court will have power to sit either within or outside the limits of the Commonwealth for the purpose of trying persons charged with war crimes committed either against a person who has been resident at any time in Australia or against any British subject or person of any allied or associated nation. The measure gives a military court very wide latitude in regard to the matters which it may take into consideration in trying war criminals. It will not he bound by the ordinary rules of evidence, and power is taken by the act to provide by regulation or rules for the procedure of the courts and for the nature of the evidence which may be received or admitted by the court.
Generally, as in the case of the regulations under the Royal “Warrant issued by His Majesty, the provisions of the Army Act and the rules of procedure relating to field general courts-martial will apply, but those provisions may be modified, adapted, or added to by regulation made under the measure before the House. The punishments which may be awarded by a military court under the act range from the death penalty to a fine of any amount. In addition, where a war crime consists of the taking, distribution, or destruction of property, the court may order the restitution of the property or the payment of a pecuniary amount where restitution is not possible or is not made. In order to facilitate the prosecution of war criminals, military courts are required to act in aid of each other, and in aid of similar courts set up by allied or associated powers, where courts of those powers are required to act in aid of our courts.
To sum up, with the object of effecting the trial and punishment of war criminals, the Board of Inquiry presided over by His Honour Chief Justice Webb will make exhaustive inquiries and report as to the war crimes that have been committed, and the enemy subjects who have committed them. The report of the board will be considered by the United Nations War Crimes Commission. That commission will determine in what cases charges are to be laid. When the persons who are to be charged are apprehended, they will be brought to trial before a national military court such as those to be set up under the present measure or before some tribunal such as that provided for the punishment of major war criminals in the European zone. It is proposed that sentences imposed by the courts shall be carried out in those places where their effect will be most impressive. The measure is necessary in order that war criminals may be adequately and expeditiously dealt with. I commend the bill to the House.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– The purpose of this bill is to provide for the trial and punishment of war criminals by the convening of military courts, the rules for the establishment of which fall into the general pattern for such tribunals throughout the British Empire. I take no exception to these provisions.Four aspects to this subject which need attention are: the Army investigation, which naturally is not dealt with in this measure; the speedy detention and arrest of those who have been responsible for, or are suspected of having committed, war crimes ; the organizing of the evidence to be produced; and the establishment of the necessary tribunals. I say nothing about the first three points, urgent and important as they are, for the bill does not deal with them. As to the fourth matter, I take no exception to the provision that is being made in this bill.
– The whole community will be relieved to know that this bill has been introduced, for everybody is anxious that war criminals shall be tried and punished. I hope that the provisions of the bill will be carried out in their entirety. Those who have committed atrocities should be punished with the full rigour of the law. The bill provides that criminals who are found guilty may be hanged or shot. I consider that shooting would be too easy a death for persons who have been guilty of the crimes that have been traced to the Japanese. One point that is related to this subject ought to be considered carefully. The principal shrine of the Japanese Army, Yasukuni, which stands just outside the gates of the Emperor’s palace in Tokyo, is the centre of worship of the military cult in Japan. It and the shrine Ise and other similar shrines in different parts of the country should be utterly destroyed. This matter may not come strictly within the ambit of the bill, but because the destruction of militarism in Japan is essential to the preservation of peace throughout the Pacific areas I feel justified in referring to it. The peace terms should be of such a character that the Japanese people will be left under no misapprehension as to how civilized thinking people regard the atrocities that have been perpetrated throughout the Pacific areas during the war.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government a letter which I received a day or two ago from a friend of mine, a colonel in the Australian Imperial Force, who had been a prisoner of war in Borneo since the fall of Singapore. During his term in Japanese prison camps he observed many of the brutal acts of the Japanese soldiers. These were dreadful and revolting in the extreme. My friend has asked me to urge the Government to take steps to ensure that no Japanese in Malaya, Borneo, Siam or Singapore who may have had any part in these atrocities shall be permitted to escape. He says that these people should be compelled to remain where they are until such time as Australian prisoners of war have an opportunity to identify them. It may be necessary for some of our personnel to return to the areas concerned to identify Japanese war criminals. It will be obvious, I am sure, that if any of these Japanese are allowed to leave the areas where their crimes were perpetrated it will be extremely difficult to trace them and secure identification. They should be kept in the areas where the atrocities occurred at least until such time as they have been identified for record purposes. That is a reasonable suggestion which I hope will be acceptable to the Government and will be acted upon strictly in the areas where Australian forces are located. It should also be conveyed to the officers in charge of Allied occupation forces in other Pacific areas. As far as possible, Japanese war criminals should be tried in the localities where their horrible deeds were committed.
– in reply - I. consider that the remarks of honorable members have been well justified. I appreciate the difficulties of identification that will occur if Japanese are permitted to leave the areas where they are known.
– Unfortunately many of them had left before hostilities terminated.
– I give an assurance that the views expressed will be conveyed to the Australian authorities in the areas which they now occupy, and also to Lord Louis Mountbatten and to the American officers in charge in other occupied areas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee : Consideration resumed from the 3rd October (vide page 6429).
First Schedule -
The form and conditions of tenure on which a holding is to he held by a settler shall be determined by the State.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to clause 17: - “ The State shall give the settler the opportunity to take up his holdingunder conditional purchase lease terms. If the settler takes up kia holding under perpetual leasehold tenure, he shall have the option to convert his holding to conditional purchase lease.”.
This schedule relates to the form of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. It provides, among other things, that it shall be within the discretion of the States concerned to determine the form of tenure under which ex-servicemen will hold their land. In regard to New South Wales and Queensland, I understand that a decision has been made in favour of the perpetual leasehold form of tenure, [n Victoria, the usual tenure is conditional purchase leasehold, which provides that, eventually, settlers may secure the freehold of their property. The policies of the present Governments of New South Wales and Queensland favour the perpetual leasehold tenure. The purpose of my amendment is to make it possible for soldier settlers in New South Wales and Queensland to take up blocks under conditional purchase lease, and for those who take blocks up under perpetual leasehold to convert them later, if they so desire, to conditional purchase lease. I desire, in short, that all soldier settlers shall be enabled ultimately to obtain the freehold of their property, for that is the form of land tenure which is favoured by the overwhelming majority of people in British communities, and particularly in Australia. I know that adherents to certain political and economic doctrines justify the perpetual leasehold system on the ground that it prevents the alienation of Crown lands. I do not subscribe to that policy and, in that respect, I stand with the great majority of British people. Our roots are very deep in the freehold ownership of our homes and farming properties. The men who have fought for this country should have the right, if they so desire, to take up land under such terms as will enable them eventually to own it. The point is clear cut. I do not seek to make freehold tenure exclusive. The amendment merely proposes! that the settler shall have the option of choosing whatever tenure he desires. It is considered in some quarters that perpetual leasehold is advantageous to the settler, on the ground that the payments under it are lighter. Two considerations arise. One is whether it is right that the settler should have the opportunity to acquire the freehold of his property; and the other is whether it would be advantageous to him to be restricted to perpetual lease, on the ground that he would be involved in lighter and easier payments. There is no need for me to justify the traditional practice of freehold tenure. But I want to dispose of the story that has been circulated and has gained some credence, that the settler would have a financial advantage under a perpetual lease. Perpetual lease terms apply only to the striking of a rent on the unimproved value of the land; there cannot be a perpetual payment for an improvement that wastes. That is beyond argument, and is recognized in every quarter. Therefore, in areas where the tenure is perpetual lease, invariably the rent is levied only on the unimproved value of the land, and the improvements have to be placed on the land by the settler or, if already there, have to be bought by him, either with cash or through some form of credit. In Queensland and New South Wales the rent is represented by a percentage of the fixed capital value of the land. That necessitates a valuation, and the determination of the percentage. Under some leases, a concession is given by charging as rent only 1^ per cent, for the first five years, and H per cent, subsequently. Under every form of perpetual lease of which I have any knowledge, there is provision for the periodical revision of the unimproved value of the land, because that goes to the root of the theory of the matter, which is, that on the long view unimproved land values rise, and that, therefore, the ground rent ought to be reviewed.
I want to make two points. The first is that a concession can be given by striking an interest charge for the first period. It is possible to give exactly the same concession in respect of a conditional purchase lease, by fixing a low rate of interest for the first two years, and a somewhat higher rate in subsequent years. Because the rate of interest in respect of many conditional purchase leases is 4-J per cent., and in respect of many perpetual leases is 2^ per cent., there is no proof that the payments are easier under the perpetual lease system. The matter is merely one of government policy and, decision. Probably, the majority of the settlers “will engage in intensive forms of farming, such as dairying and wheatgrowing. That is the nature of the settlement in my own area. All through the years, in closer settlements, the unimproved value of the land has approximated to the value of the improvements which have had to be erected for the purpose of developing the land fully. An analysis will disclose that the unimproved value of a developed dairy farm valued at, say, £4,000, is approximately £2,000. Under the perpetual lease system, .the rent would be levied only on ,the one-half of the total value which represented the unimproved value of the land and the other half which represented the improvements would have to be purchased by means made available to the settler through the Government. A settler holding a conditional purchase lease in respect of a farm of a total value of £4,000 - £2,000 for the unimproved land value and £2,000 for the improvements - with an interest rate of 3 per cent, and amortization at the rate of li per cent., would pay £1S0 a year, and the whole of the debt would be extinguished in 40 years. Under perpetual lease terms, he would pay at the outset 3 per cent, on £2,000, which would be £60 a year, and 4£ per cent, on the remaining £2,000 for amortization, which would be £90, making a total of £150 a year. The man who paid £180 a year would own the farm in 40 years, whereas the man who paid £150 a year would never own it, and at the end of 40 years would begin to pay £60 a year for ground rent, which payment he would make for the rest of his life, or a greater payment if the rent were increased as the result of a review of the capital value of the land. The whole purpose of perpetual lease tenure is to give to the Government the opportunity to review upward the unimproved value of land. Therefore, in all probability, long before the 40 years had elapsed the unimproved value would have been increased, first to £2,500 and eventually to £3,000. If this country develops as we expect, and unimproved land values increase as we hope they will, the perpetual lessee would pay ju«t as much as the conditional purchase lessee, without ever hoping to achieve on«cf the most natural aspirations of mae - to own his own home and the land itis working for his living. I am not asking the Government to abandon the perpetual lease tenure. All that I desire if that ex-servicemen shall be given th? option of embarking on a project with the intention of eventually owning thfarm, or of accepting perpetual leases which .this Government considers would be better for them and the country. » *1 hope .that the Government will accept the amendment.
– It is impossible for the Government to accept the amendment, for the simple reason that that would mean delay, which we cannot afford, because the agreement having been substantially altered, would have to be referred to another conference of Commonwealth .and State Ministers. I could argue at length as to the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the perpetual lease and freehold systems, but do not propose to do so.
– I am ju.st as astonished at the Minister’s rejection of this amendment as I was yesterday when he rejected another amendment. We are only humbugging ourselves, and wasting our time, if an alteration of the agreement is not within our competence. The Prime Minister said the other evening that the agreements with the States must be accepted in their present form or rejected; therefore, the committee is not invited to put forward suggestions for their amendment. The honorable member for Indi moved his amendment on the ground that, as the land settlement scheme is to be Australiawide, settlers in one .State should not enjoy better conditions than those in another, particularly in regard to land tenure. It is obvious that if one State has better conditions than those in another, servicemen will tend to go to that State to settle, which might be disadvantageous to the States with small populations. The amendment provides that a settler shall have the right to select what he regards as the most favorable system of tenure. In Queensland, land is held under a variety of tenures. I am a believer in the perpetual leasehold system in certain circumstances. People take up agricultural land, in particular, for what it will produce, and continuity of tenure is an important factor. It is far better for a man to put all his available capital into improvements rather than into paying the purchase price of the land. In the Queensland Year-Book for 1940, the various systems of land tenure in that State are discussed in the following terms : -
Pastoral Leases. - The more remote pastoral lands are dealt with under pastoral lease tenure, with a term of lease up to 30 years in ten-year periods. The opening period rental is fixed by the Crown, and that for the remaining periods by the Land Court. A number of pastoral properties are still held in large pastoral leases, areas of 500 square miles being not uncommon for sheep, and for cattle, 1,500 square miles or more, particularly where the country is far removed from the railway or is drought or dry country with a lower stock-carrying capacity. Conditions as to animal and vegetable pests may be imposed; also the maximum area held by the applicant is restricted in the case of preferential pastoral holdings (those requiring residence). Pastoral holdings are subject to certain rights of resumption of up to one-half of the area for closer settlement purposes.
Grazing Selections. - Grazing selections represent the closer settlement of the more accessible and better quality pastoral lands and are made available in areas of about 20,000 acres for sheep and up to60,000 acres for cattle. Grazing homesteads and grazing farms have a term of lease up to 28 years in seven-year periods, rents fixable as in pastoral leases. Development selections may have 40-year terms, with appropriate periods. Pest control and stock and improvement conditions apply, and the selection must be fenced within the first three years.
Perpetual Leases (Farming and Dairying Lands). - Land suitable for mixed farming and dairying is made available under perpetual lease. These leases have periods of fifteen years, the second year being rent-free; opening rents are 11/2 per cent. of the notified.capital value, rentals for subsequent periods being determined by the Land Court. Conditions as to residence, occupation, pest control, cultivation and development may attach.
Perpetual Lease (Prickly Pear Development Selections). - These leases are opened in land that hasbeen reclaimed from prickly pear by Cactoblastis and other insects.
The following table shows the areas held under each main class of tenure at the end of 1939 : -
As for soldier settlers, the fairest way would be to give them the right to convert a perpetual leasehold, or other form of lease, into freehold, or such other tenure as he might prefer.
– I realize that the Government will be averse to accepting amendments to the proposed agreements with the States, seeing that the drafts were prepared only after close discussion between Commonwealth and State representatives. Yesterday, we debated the matter of housing. First, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction declared that he did not believe in freehold, and later he said that he did. We know that under the Acts Interpretation Act, the most recently passed legislation shall prevail, so we may take it that the last statement of the Minister on the subject is to be regarded as representing his opinion. Speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister said that there was no objection to exservicemen owning their own homes, and he stated that he, personally, did not object either, in spite of what he had said the day before. The trouble is that, outside Victoria, for which special provision is made, no soldier settler will be entitled to become a freeholder.
– No special provision has been made for Victoria. New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are all treated in the same way.
– The f act remains that, although a soldier may enjoy the freehold of the land on which his house is built in a city or country town, he may not enjoy the freehold of a block taken up under the soldier settlement scheme. Evidently, the Government does not like the freehold tenure, because we know that it has gone to a lot of trouble recently to get rid of it in
Darwin. It is unfair that this invidious distinction should be drawn between the occupants of the government houses in the cities and towns and soldier settlers. The bill does not meet the request of the returned soldiers organizations that exservicemen should be given the freehold. Personally, I am not so keen on the agreement-to-purchase system as on the right of a man to make his block freehold as soon as he has the money to do so.
– ls it not provided in South Australia that a man may make his land freehold after ten years?
– That is not quite the position. If an ex-soldier entered into a covenant to purchase under the legislation passed after the last war he became liable to the payment of interest on a graduated scale. At the end of seven years he was entitled to a lease. If he agreed to purchase the land be paid per cent, interest, and repaid the principal at the rate of 1+ per cent., which would amortize the debt in about 60 years. Of course, not many of the settlers expected to live so long. I am familiar with the system, because I worked under it. It was later modified to provide that a man could reduce his indebtedness by £100, or multiples of £’100, and his repayments would be reduced accordingly.
When the Minister meets the State representatives on some future occasion, he should try to get them to agree to a system under which the settler, after a certain, period of occupation, may be given the freehold of his block if he has the money to pay for it. In such an event, the purchase money should immediately be paid into the Sinking Fund in order to extinguish the debt incurred in the first place by the Government to purchase the laud. I do not think that we should try to force any one system of tenure on all settlers. In the dry areas of South Australia, the system of patoral leases has been satisfactory, and few graziers would choose to have the freehold. In that country, rents are reckoned at so much a square mile, not an acre. In the higher rainfall areas, however, whore settlers will have to deal with hanks in order to get financial accommodation the system of land tenure is important when a nian has to put up security. Unless a. man’s lease is negotiable - -within certain definite limits - it stands to reason that it is worth nothing as security if he wants to borrow money on it. If the practice of private borrowing for land development is eliminated, development will be seriously retarded in man-y of the newer districts. I do not know whether the honorable member for Indi would accept an undertaking from the Minister to have the system of tenure reviewed at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– I would.
– Unless the Minister gives that undertaking the Opposition will force a division. We stand for the rights of those who own land. I believe in private property. A man is a far better landlord to himself than any benevolent State government, can be. The owner of a block takes a greater interest in its welfare than he would as a life tenant.
– Leasehold tenure is quite as good as freehold.
– The honorable gentleman could never have held a tenure, or he would know that if he held a piece of land on leasehold and wanted to raise money to spend on improvements, which he knew would be profitable, he would be at a disadvantage. It would not matter whether he went to a private bank, the Commonwealth Bank, a State government or the Commonwealth Government, all would look askance as soon as he put his lease in front of them and said, “ My tenure is leasehold, but that lease says that the property cannot be transferred from me or you to a third party without the consent of the local commissioner of Crown lands or someone of that description.” Those are things which honorable gentlemen opposite, whose only experience of land matters is gained in Collins-street or Pitt-street, at St. Kilda beach or Taronga Park, do not know. They have very peculiar views. Those who from time to time witness transactions dealing with the tenure of land realize the necessity for some measure of negotiability. As this agreement does not give the right to negotiate, every nian who is tied down by it, as it is now drafted, will in due course be going to the political representative of his district for a review of the agreement which the Government is demanding that we accept now.
– The Minister f.or Information (Mr. Calwell), has said that leasehold is quite as good as freehold, and, I am sure, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) would endorse that.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Information said so, but the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction evidently does not share his views and thinks that freehold is the better.
– I have said nothing one way or the other. The honorable member must not put words into my mouth.
– I have taken words out of the mouth of the Minister for Information. He said that leasehold was as good as freehold. If that is the opinion of the Government, why are returned soldiers at Gympie not given, the opportunity to build homes there? If the Queensland Government would transfer from leasehold to freehold the mining areas of Queensland the department would make advances for soldier settlement there. In some instances leasehold is preferable to freehold. That applies to the Queensland grazing areas where no one would care to lay out the vast capital necessary to convert the lands into freehold. But there is no greater security than freehold tenure in the ordinary areas of settlement in regard to the provision of houses and improvements. I claim that it ought to be optional for the prospective settler to choose which form of tenure he desires - freehold or leasehold. In Queensland, at any rate, it is not too much to make available in fee-simple grants of land to returned soldiers. That concession was given to the pioneers. It is not too great a concession to ask for on behalf of young men who fought to preserve the land that the pioneers opened up. Until a .few years ago in Queensland, a land less man was able to secure practically freehold title to a piece of land for half a crown payable in ten years. I see no reason why that should not operate now, especially in that State, where only 7 per cent, of the land is alienated or in process of alienation. In Queensland, the disability of leasehold is the periodic re-appraisement of rents. In the small grazing areas I believe it occurs every seven years. No one knows what rent the magistrate will decide is reasonable. The man who buys his land knows what it has cost him, but the man who holds a lease never knows what it will cost, because he cannot tell what rent will be fixed at the next reappraisal, and it could occur that the rent fixed would be so high as to force him to vacate either the whole or a part of his holding. Although this scheme has been drafted in the interests of prospective soldier settlers, it contains no safeguard against the possibility, at any rate in Queensland, of reappraisement of rent placing upon the settlers a much greater burden than he anticipated.
– As amendment of the agreement would involve its being sent back to the States for their concurrence, to which the Government has objections, I am prepared to accept an assurance from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that he will agree to the request of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that he will undertake to have this matter reviewed at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– I cannot give an undertaking that it will be reviewed at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. All I can say that the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtis suggested, and it was accepted by the Premiers, that the agreement should be reviewed five or six years hence. That is as far as T can go.
Schedule agreed to.
Second Schedule -
.- The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) was not able to be present throughout the second-reading debate, and, in consequence, a few points raised by honorable members were not replied to. I should like the Minister to take this opportunity to reply. The first matter agitating the minds of honorable gentlemen is that this legislation does not specify the rate of interest to be levied on advances to soldier settlers or the capital values on which the rents of perpetual leases are to be based. The Minister will realize that it is essential that there shall be no discrimination between settlers in different
State3 owing to their striking of differing rates of interest. It should be simple for the Minister to give us an assurance on that point. It should be equally simple for him to give us an assurance that there shall be no discrimination in the treatment of soldier settlers by the States that will act as principals in this matter and the States that will act as agents for the Commonwealth either in interest rates or perpetual lease rents. It is a matter of interest to the public, and particularly to prospective settlers and .their relatives to know what period will be given to settlers in Victoria to amortize their capital obligations under the Victorian scheme of conditional purchase leases of which the Commonwealth men will be in charge. Will it be 20, 40 or 60 years? What maximum capital value is intended in respect of the blocks ? After the 1914-18 war, some of the settlements in certain districts and in certain kinds of farming were rendered hopeless from the outset by too low a maximum capital value having been determined for the blocks; £2,500 was never big enough for a grazing property. What is the intention of the Government in that regard ?
– That point is covered in the schedule. Regardless of the nature of the farming operations, the area will be sufficient to give to the soldier settler a reasonable living.
– That is a very indefinite intimation to prospective settlers.
The implications of this legislation should have been carefully examined when the agreement was being formulated. Clearly, no specific figure has been fixed. If it had been, it would be revealed in the agreement.
– We cannot fix a specific figure to cover all types of farming.
– No one has suggested a single figure to cover all types of farming. But this is the first legislative proposal in our history of land settlement which .does not include a ceiling price in regard to the maximum valuation.
– Is not provision made for a living area?
– My whole purpose in raising these matters is to satisfy myself that an adequate living area shall be provided for each settler.
– That provision is made in clause 5 of the schedule.
– Clause 5 may be so construed that the area to he made available to each settler shall be only large enough to enable him, by his own efforts alone, to meet his commitments and get a reasonable return for his labour. If that is intended, I point out that some branches of farming cannot be profitably undertaken by one man. From my own considerable experience, I know that some branches of farming can be profitably undertaken only, with a minimum of two men.
– Surely, the other man would be entitled to receive wages for his labour! Wages are a cost of production, and, as such, are taken into consideration.
– I am sure that the Government will not provide capital to enable a settler to acquire a large area which will necessitate the employment of four other persons. The Minister may reply that the wages will be labour expenditure. I should like to know whether the Government intends this to be a subsistence form of farming, in which the owner will be the only operative. In the opinion of some persons, that is an ideal arrangement, but, personally, I do notregard it as satisfactory. What is the attitude of the Government on that matter? Does the Government propose that the area shall not be larger than the owner alone oan work? I urge the Minister to give us some information about these points.
I find it impossible to believe that in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States over a period of years, and in the investigations undertaken by the Rural Reconstruction Commission, the rate of interest was not thoroughly examined, and a decision reached thereon. But no figure is given in the schedule to show what rate of interest will be charged. We do not know whether different rates of interest will he charged on loans granted for long periods and short periods. When [ examined rural credits in the United States of America, I discovered that federal moneys were made available to farmers as capital loans at 3 per cent, and 4 per cent, according to the category of the advance. In addition, the Federal Government made short-term loans at an almost unbelievably low figure to cover the operating expenses of primary producers. The money is paid, not direct to the farmers, but to farmers’ associations at a rate of £ per cent. That is the prevailing open market rate for short-term loans.
Doubtless, the Commonwealth Government will borrow money for the purpose of financing the land settlement of exservicemen. To-day, it is borrowing money at 3f per cent, on long-term loans and 2i per cent, on short-term loans. An even lower rate of interest is paid on money borrowed “ at call “ from the Commonwealth Bank. As honorable members are aware, the private trading banks are obliged to deposit a percentage of their funds with the Commonwealth. Bank at a very low rate of interest. Farmers will require both long-term and short-term loans.’ For example, a dairyfarmer who purchases stock will not be able to repay the advance until several years have passed. But a farmer who purchases some sheep for fattening purposes will be able to repay the loan within n few weeks. Thus settlers will require financial assistance for different periods, and, therefore, different rates of interest ch ould be charged on long-term and shortterm loans. The prevailing financial practice is that the shorter the period for which the loan is made, the lower shall be the rate of interest charged. These matters should have been considered by the Government. If they have not, this bill has not been properly studied. Some of these matters have been investigated by the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which offered observations upon them. If we are to retain our confidence in .this settlement scheme, let the Minister indicate the Government’s intentions.
– If the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) had read the bill more carefully he would not have needed to ask those questions. First, he sought information about interest rates. In five of the six States land will be made available as perpetual leasehold. As it will be on the basis of a rental system, the matter of interest rates will not arise.
– What about advances?
– Advances for working capital are covered in clause 16 of the schedule. Interest rates for advances as working capital cannot be fixed by the Commonwealth alone. They must be fixed as the result of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
– That does not apply to the States which are acting as agents for the Commonwealth.
– I stated that in five of the six States land for settlement will be provided on a perpetual leasehold basis, and therefore on a rental basis.
– Only in respect of the unimproved value of the land.
– Because the land will be on a rental basis, the matter of interest rates does not arise. Rentals in New South Wales are fixed on the basis of 2$ per cent. In Victoria the interest rate will not be material, because whatever amount is fixed as the value of the land, and whatever the interest rate may be, the settler must be assured of a reasonable living. That point is covered in clause 5 of the schedule. If the interest rate is high, the valuation at which the settler will get the land will be lower. The mechanism is self-adjusting. The settler himself will not be affected by the rate of interest. I believe that the lowest possible rate of interest should be charged, and honorable members may rest assured that the rates will be as low as the Commonwealth can possibly make them. However, the rates will not be fixed by the Commonwealth alone. The figures must be agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States.
The honorable member for Indi referred to the maximum valuation which may be permitted to a settler. Of course, there are different types of farms. If a farm requires a minimum of two men, allowance will be made for the wages which must be paid to the person employed, other than the actual soldier settler.
– Has the settler to repay to the Commonwealth or the State the wages which he paid to the employee?
– That is a part of the working expenses of the farm. If a soldier settler employs a man, obviously he must pay the employee wages. Those wages are a cost of production, and allowance will be made for them under clause 5. The settler must be assured of sufficient to provide a reasonable living for himself after he has met all costs of production, which, of course, include wages. The honorable member suggested that a particular type of farm requires five men. Four of them would have to be paid wages; those wages would be a cost of production; and allowance would be made for them in arriving at what would be an adequate amount to provide a reasonable living for the settler after meeting his commitments, including wages.
– “Will the Minister inform me whether any agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the rate of interest which will be charged for the money to be made available by the Commonwealth? If that has not been done, people will not take up land. They must be told what their commitments will be. It is ridiculous to say that settlers will not need to know the rate of interest they will be expected to pay. Am I to understand from the Minister’s remarks that, in certain circumstances, some settlers may pay i per cent, whereas others may pay 3 per cent, or 4 per cent.? Will there be differentiation between settlers in this matter?
– Then the Minister’s explanation has made an already involved subject still more involved. Do I take it that even in Victoria, where the freehold tenure is accepted, no arrangement has been made as to the rate of interest to be paid? This is a matter of great importance to both the soldier settlers and the general community. When we attend meetings of ex-soldiers interested in land settlement and are asked what rate of interest will be charged, we shall have to reply that the rate has not been fixed and is dependent upon an agreement that still has to be made between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Whatever the rate of interest, it will not affect the prospects of the settler.
– Does the Minister say that interest is ‘not a factor at all?
– I did not say that.
– Any one who has had any experience of land settlement knows that interest is a vital factor in its success or failure. The Minister should be more explicit. An ex-soldier who wishes to settle on a block of land will expect to be told the rate of interest to which he will be liable. The present situation is most unsatisfactory.
– It is most important that the position in relation to interest should be defined. The first of the two schedules of this bill relates to an agreement between the Commonwealth and certain States as principals and the second to an agreement between the Commonwealth and certain other States as agents. Clause 15 of the first schedule provides - ( 1. ) The States shall make such arrangements as may be approved by the Commonwealth for the making of advances to settlers upon such conditions as may be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States for the purpose of providing working capital and paying for and effecting improvements and acquiring stock, plant and equipment.
But no provision is included in relation te the rates of interest. Yet it “will be practicable for the agreement to be varied, with the result that the settlers will not know where they stand. The Minister stated that the interest to be paid in respect of the land acquired under the conditions of the agreement will be self-defined, inasmuch as the land will be held under the perpetual leasehold principle and the rate of interest is fixed by State statute at per cent, of the defined capita value of the land.
– That is in Queensland.
– The rate in respect of New South “Wales is 2 per cent. We wish to know what the rate will be for advances for the acquisition and construction of improvements, the stocking of the land, and so on. I cannot allow to pass the remark of the Minister that interest is not a factor. It is a factor. It always has been, and always will be, a .factor in land settlement.
– My statement was suited to the State of Victoria.
– I remind the committee that these draft agreements are full of detail in respect of certain matters. The first schedule contains seventeen clauses and the second eighteen; yet no provisions appear in relation to interest charges. Provision in relation to interest charges could have been inserted in the second agreement, in which the States will act as agents for the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth ought to have been most careful to have this point covered. Surely it is highly desirable that our soldier settlement scheme should be on a Commonwealth-wide, as against a Statewide, basis. There should not be differentiation between the States. I consider that the Government has been negligent in this respect. Provision should have been made for the imposition of a uniform rate of interest. Members of the Parliament should be informed of the rate that the Government has in contemplation.
.- I regret that the Minister did not see fit to reply in some detail to the appeals that were made to him during the second- reading debate. Had he done so, we would at least have been in a position to determine whether the honorable gentleman knew anything about his bill or not. Honorable members opposite keep repeating that the difficulties that have arisen are due to the failure of the recent referendum. The referendum was defeated because of the duplicity and underhanded tactics of the Government. Had the Government approached the people in a straightforward way the result would have been better for all concerned. I asked the Minister last night what maximum amount of money would be made available to individual applicants for land under this scheme, having regard to whether the land was to be held under leasehold or freehold tenure. That is a reasonable question. In New Zealand ex-soldier settlers know where they stand. Those who desire to take up dairyfarming are entitled to an advance of £5,000 and the Government undertakes to make the properties which they will occupy practically ready for production. Exsoldiers who wish to settle on pastoral properties are entitled to a maximum advance of £6,500. Surely the docile followers of this Government will demand something more definite than they have received up to date. I consider that returned men are likely to come to hate this Government for the humbug and hypocrisy of its land settlement scheme. I appeal to the Minister to break his silence and not to remain “ as close as an oyster “. He should tell servicemen frankly what amount of money will be available to them and what rate of interest they will be expected to pay.
– I know that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is hard shelled, but I have never before heard him likened to an oyster. The honorable gentleman has dabbled in economics, and I think that he will agree with me that the three points that must bttaken into consideration in all rural settlement are land, labour, and capital. These involve payments in the forms of rent, wages and interest. Under this bill, the Government is providing for certain advances on which interest will have to be paid. It is also stipulating only one form of tenure, to which will be attached a rental payment. From the viewpoint of the settler, these matters are almost indistinguishable. He will be required to make certain payments in the form of either rent or interest, so as to satisfy the Government. The scheme put forward some time ago by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia contained the provision that the maximum rate of interest in respect of the settlement of ex-servicemen should be 2 per cent. I take it that in respect of a perpetual lease it would be argued that the rent should not exceed the interest payment of 2 per cent. One objection that I had to that proposal by the league was that if there was to be a long tenure with a rate of interest of only 2 per cent, in the event of covenanttopurchase agreements, or ‘ if the rental rate were very low and the leases became negotiable, they would be bought on the market at a fairly heavy premium by persons who wished to enjoy the advantages of such low rents. I have been a party to the occupation of the land in my State under leases .in perpetuity, the rent of which was id. an acre and was not subject to review. There are people who are anxious to obtain leases of that description in anything like decent country, just as certain investors have a great liking for taxfree loans. The Minister cannot dismiss these matters lightly. The settlers, and more particularly and immediately the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, will require concise and specific answers. The statement made by the Minister this afternoon will not enable me to go into my electorate and say what the attitude of the Government is. I have no wish to speak for the Government and I wish that the Minister would go down to N”arracoorte in my electorate in the near future and meet ex-servicemen. Since we are to have so long a recess, he may be able to arrange that visit. The only answer that I can give in the circumstances is that I have yet to learn that the Ministry knows what are the conditions. If it does, then that knowledge has not been disclosed to the House of Representatives. There is a very heavy onus on the
Ministry to determine exactly the naturi of this agreement, including the conditions to which the settlers are te be expected to conform and whether there are to be certain remissions of interest and rent in respect of men who are not able to . make good. It stands to reason that that would postulate the subsidizing of the less efficient at the expense of the more efficient. That i* the worst feature of this agreement. According to one provision, clearing and fencing are not to be a charge on the settler. I have been through the mill. The best type of settler is the man who is prepared to go on to virgin country and make a farm of it. He is the sort of settler we need. We do not want those who wish to have everything handed to them on a platter. I have heard a lot about the conditions under which ex-servicemen are to be settled on the land. After the last war, I took up a block of 1,500 acres of scrub that had not been ring-barked and had not a fence. I am not asking that everybody should be treated in that fashion. But I do contend that there will be many defects under this scheme.
One defect is that there is no provision for group settlement. I have failed to observe any indication of an intention to place settlers individually in districts which already are fairly heavily occupied. The whole basis of the scheme appears to be to acquire a large block, subdivide it, and place on it a certain number of settlers whose only neighbours will be other ex-servicemen. The best conditions will prevail where exservicemen are in close contact with men. who already have made a success on the land. Some people can pass examinations in anything; that applies in the Army as well as in other spheres. It does not follow that the men who do best in agricultural colleges make the most successful agriculturists. On every occasion I lean towards the man who wants to go out and make his own improvements - do his own fencing and clearing, quarry his own stone, and help in the building of his own house. I do not believe that the problem will be solved by the conditions that are laid down in the agreement. Nor do I believe that the Government can expect he very beat consideration and cooperaion from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia when it is so parsimonious in supplying information on what, after all, is one of the most vital features of the bill. If interest is not vital, the report of the Wheat Commission, so often quoted by my friends opposite, ought to be burned, because, according to it, the interest rate has been one of the most important factors in the cost of production in the wheat industry. That would be found to apply also in the wool industry or any other industry, either primary or secondary, in respect of which an inquiry on economic lines might be conducted. Whatever the conditions may be, the settlers, who are most concerned, are entitled to know the facts before they sign.
.- I have endeavoured to be helpful and constructive, having in mind the interests of the Commonwealth, which will be heavily involved financially, and the settlers. I have sought to elicit from the Minister a statement in respect of the interest or perpetual lease rents of the settler, as well as the nature of the Commonwealth’s obligations - the capital expenditure in which it will be involved, and the revenue that will flow to it. I am becoming increasingly impatient at the unwillingness of the Minister to attempt to make a lucid explanation of the position of either the Commonwealth or the prospective settler. With a lot of “ mumbo jumbo “, he explained that the rate of interest did not really matter to the settler, because some capital adjustment in a nebulous form is to be made, the result of which will be that, should the rate of interest be high, the capital lvalue will be low. The honorable gentleman has said that the rate of interest in relation to freehold properties will be determined by the State of Victoria. The agreement makes that provision. It also sets out that there shall be a valuation subsequent to the acquisition of the property, for the purpose of establishing the settler’s obligation. The outcome of that valuation will be, to leave a reason.able living to the settler; in other words, if the rate of interest be high, the capital valuation to the settler must be low. It further sets out that, if the capital valuation to the settler be lower than the cost of acquisition, the Commonwealth will share in the resultant writing ofl” by one-half. Therefore, the Minister has really said that the determination of the rate of interest in respect of the Victorian settlement project will not be within the ambit of this Parliament, but should it be high there will be a substantial writing down of the capital value, and the Commonwealth will bear one-half of the cost. It is not good enough for the Minister to say, “We have handed over to some other authority the determination of the rate of interest “, the outcome of which will be, among other things, the decision of how much capital loss the Commonwealth will have to bea at the very inception of the scheme, before the settler has paid one penny. I ask the Minister to deal with that point. His clear statement that the rate of interest to the settler does not matter, is so impossible to sustain that I leave the matter to the judgment of the settlers, the Parliament and the people. I have endeavoured to elicit from the Minister, first, the rate of interest; and secondly, the basis upon which the” perpetual lease rents will be levied. The honorable gentleman has said that, in respect of five States, the rate of interest will not matter, because it will be, not a rate of interest, but a rental rate. Surely to heavens it will be determined in the form of a rate of interest returnable to the Government and a rate of rent charged to the settler upon the capital valuation ! In respect of the three States which are to act as agents the Commonwealth is to undertake to find the whole of the capital for the acquisition of the land. Having done so, the rent payable under the lease will include an amount calculated at a rate to be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the tb tate. Has the Government brought this measure before the Parliament without having given any thought to what is to be the rate of rent that is to be calculated by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State? I am at a loss to know why the State should come into that matter, because it is not to bear any financial obligation in respect of it. The Commonwealth is to find the whole of the capita: for the acquisition of the land. It will have the role of principal, and the State will be designated as its agent. I am completely at a loss to know why the Commonwealth should surrender its autonomy in the matter of determining the rate of interest or the rent.
– The honorable gentleman considers that the Commonwealth should go into the States and undertake land settlement irrespective of their wishes.
– I do not imply anything of the sort. It is clear that, from the outset, three of the States have been willing to lend their experience and the machinery of their departments, but have not been prepared to undertake capital obligations. The agreement clearly states that the amount that is to be calculated on a basis agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States is to be collected as rent by the States and to be credited to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is finding the capital, and will receive the rent, which will become a part of Consolidated Revenue. The payment of this rent by the settler will be the determining factor in the success or failure of his undertaking. It is silly to say that in five States it does not matter because the settler will make his payments in the form of rent rather than interest. The same amount of money will have to be paid, and it will represent the same burden on the settler. The Minister avoided any reference to the rate of interest on advances, for the development of the farm, for the purchase of stock and equipment, and for the operation expenses. Is the Commonwealth to have no say in these matters? Is Parliament not to be told what is proposed for the sons of Australia who are to be repatriated? Are the men themselves to be given no indication of the rates of interest which the Government has in mind ? Members of the Labour party have made a great many speeches condemning high rates of interest, recognizing as they do that interest rates determine the conditions of life for many thousands of persons; yet, when a scheme of this kind is brought before Parliament, not only does the legislation itself contain no reference to interest rates, but even the Minister is dumb. We know that the prevailing rate of interest for longterm borrowing is31/4 per cent., and on short-term loans 21/4 per cent., whilst there are different rates for treasury-bills. What is to be the relation between those rates of interest and the rates which soldier settlers will be required to pay?
During the consideration of the first schedule to the bill, I referred to housing standards on farms. I do not propose to repeat my arguments now, but I again bring the matter before the committee at this stage because I was told that an amendment which I proposed to move to the first schedule would, if agreed to, necessitate a reconsideration of the whole agreement by those States which were to act as principals under the scheme. However, in this second schedule we are considering an agreement with States which have chosen to act merely as agents for the Commonwealth. There is no reason why, in regard to settlement in those States, the Commonwealth should not prescribe housing standards.
– The assurance that I gave last night covers both schedules.
– I accept that assurance, hut I see no reason why it should not be written into the second schedule. Therefore, I move -
That the following paragraphbe added to clause 3: - “ (f) Such steps as are appropriate shall be taken to ensure that the standards of construction and services of houses of settlers are at least equal to the standards generally adopted in Government and Government approved housing schemes in Australia.”
Question put; -
That the paragraph proposed to be added (Mr. McEwen’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J.F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Second Schedule agreed to.
A bill for anact to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to War Service Land Settlement.
.- I move -
That the following words be added: - “and for other purposes”.
My intention in moving the amendment is to widen the scope of the bill so that Australian servicemen may be entitled to take up land under this scheme in territories under the control of the Commonwealth. At present, we have the almost incredible position that Commonwealth funds are to be made available, and Commonwealth machinery is to operate, to enable servicemen to become settlers in any part of Australia except in those parts which are under the exclusive control of the Commonwealth Government itself. This matter might havebeen disposed of satisfactorily if the Minister had had the courtesy to reply to the second-reading speeches of honorable members who directed attention to the lack of provision for settlement in the Northern Territory, Papua, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. However, the Minister chose to say nothing. I tried to meet the situation by moving an earlier amendment, but it was ruled out of order, and I am, therefore, driven tomake an attempt to widen the scope of the measure. There can be no justification for omitting a provision to extend this settlement scheme to the Northern Territory, which is in need of settlement if any part of Australia is. The Minister has said that there is no reason why the States should not have legislation ready to permit the immediate settlement of ex-servicemen in their own areas. It is incredible that the Minister should castigate the States for not having developed soldier settlement schemes - and. of course, they are dependant on the Commonwealth for financial assistance - and, at, the same time, give no indication of any intention to engage in soldier settlement in the Commonwealth’s own territory, to carry out which only the authority of an ordinance, not an act of Parliament, is needed. So I have no option but to fall back on the expedient of moving for the addition of the words “ and for other purposes “.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 18th September (vide page 5493). on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The States Grants Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and it, may therefore be, as usual, accepted by the House. The commission has built up a very high reputation for careful investigation and sound judgment. Its work is an excellent illustration of how much more satisfactory problems between the governments can be dealt with by having a mass of preliminary work done outside the political field than by the method of direct political negotiation and argument. My real purpose in addressing myself to this bill is not te discuss the merits of the grants that are proposed in it, but to say something on the general problem of the financial relation between the Commonwealth and the States, and to suggest, in particular, that the time has come for very great extension of the work of the commission, so that it shall deal not only with specific claims made by South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania but also with the position of all the States in relation to the Commonwealth. In every federal system there is an inherent problem of the financial relations between the central government and the provincial governments. In the case of Australia we have a broad division of financial power. The relatively flexible sources of revenue, customs and excise, were given exclusively to the Commonwealth. The relatively inflexible sources, the direct taxes, were left to be imposed concurrently by the Commonwealth and the States. In the course of time - and the Constitution has now been at work for 44 years - there is in every federal constitution inevitably a sort of centrifugal movement and we have had, in the last twenty years, in particular, without formal changes of the Constitution, a very great aggregation of effective Commonwealth power. In particular, that has been associated with the growing dominance of the field of finance by the Commonwealth. Thus we are presented with the problem of the central government being paramount and the State governments being steadily weakened financially. That is a problem which no parliament in. Australia, certainly no Commonwealth Parliament, can afford to ignore. In recent times two developments have occurred that must be borne in mind. The first is that Commonwealth expenditure has grown to enormous proportions. It will not shrink to its pre-war proportions. In other words, Commonwealth expenditure is permanently on a much greater scale than it was before the war, and as Commonwealth expenditure has grown, inevitably Commonwealth taxation has grown, and as Commonwealth income tax has risen, so, apart altogether from the uniform tax law, the taxable capacity available to the States has, in fact, diminished. I just add these words to what I have said on that point by way of recapitulation. The States have no power of indirect taxation. Their only effective source of tax revenue is from direct taxation, which their ability to impose is inevitably limited by the level of Commonwealth taxes. There is a very great problem from the point of view of the States.
– The right honorable gentleman says that the States have no power to impose indirect taxes?
– They have no power because it is difficult to find fields to tax.
– What about the stamp duties, amusement taxes, and so on?
– And the railways?
– I would call the amusement tax a direct tax. We will not quarrel about the railways. The fields of stamp duty, estate duty, land tax and amusement tax can be completely occupied by the Commonwealth. There are certain charges that the States can make in business undertakings, particularly the railways. Broadly, the position is that, putting the unif orm tax laws to one side, the field of direct taxes available to the States inevitably diminishes as the Commonwealth’s demands upon it increase. It is well to recall that the uniform taxation laws were upheld by the High Court not under the defence power which the Commonwealth possesses in a temporary character as a matter of constitutional right, but under the taxation power and, consequently, there is no legal reason why the uniform taxation laws should not be made permanent. Taking a realistic view of this problem, I must concede that if the Commonwealth makes uniform taxes permanent and extends the principle to the land tax and amusement tax, we can readily reach the stage at which the States will, in effect be excluded from direct taxes altogether.
– Does the right honorable gentleman approve of that?
– I am stating facts. I shall’ indicate my own view in my own way. But it is as well to be able to visualize this problem, because it is a real problem, not only for the States but also for the Commonwealth. By reason of these processes, the States have, as a matter of right, very limited resources. There are certain charges which the State “ imposes by way of licence-fees for this and that, and certain receipts, which are, in normal circumstances, fairly well balanced hy expenditure, on great public undertakings like the railways, and a form of reimbursement out of the taxes that the Commonwealth has levied. That being the problem, I just glance back shortly. I very well remember that at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers early in 1934, I represented Victoria as Acting Premier and made a very lengthy analysis of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, very largely from the constitutional point of view. I do not desire to repeat it now. I recall two things about it. First, I said that it was inconsistent, as I believed then, and I still believe, in theory, at any rate, with the principle of financial accountability of governments that one government should raise moneys for another government to spend. That is still, I believe, as a matter of theory, a sound principle, though in a moment I shall have something to say about the qualification that must now be put upon it. Secondly, as a sound principle, it led to a second step. The practical problem was either to transfer some responsibilities from the States to the Commonwealth in order to reduce the financial liabilities of the States to accord with their financial resources, or to make available to them new financial resources, for example, by admitting them to the field of indirect taxation, the field of excise. Those were the two propositions that I put forward then and, reconsidering them after an interval of eleven years, I still feel as perhaps I might be expected to, that there is great force in them. But the revolutionary developments in the last twelve or thirteen years make it necessary to modify that analysis if we are to reach a practical conclusion.
Uniform taxation is the law and I am bound to say that in the present state of politics it seems unlikely to cease to be the law. Therefore, I approach it from that point of view. In any event, should the uniform tax not be extended when its normal time under’ the statute runs out and we revert to the state, of affairs in which the Commonwealth collected its taxes and the States collected their taxes, the Commonwealth income tax would still be so high relatively, having regard to demands for Commonwealth expenditure, that the capacity of the States to increase their income tax in order to match their increasing obligations would be nonexistent. Therefore the practical position is this: The extensibility of State revenue is sharply limited, yet State expenditure must substantially increase during the next few years if the social problems of this country are to be dealt with adequately. I know that there is always a danger in over simplification, but I do come down hard on these two propositions. I do not see how we can provide a large extension of State revenue by the States’ own act, and avoid a considerable expansion of State expenditure if the needs of the Australian people are to be met. We have only to think of such problems as education, housing and land settlement to see that the States, if they are to provide effective social benefits and an effective way of living for their people, must spend far more money in the future than. they have in the past. Therefore, the problem which presents itself is this: How can we expect the States to do that justly, and on the assumption that there is no constitutional change, because it is useless to discuss this matter in terms of some constitutional change which remains a mere contingency ?
There is another aspect of the problem which I commend to the attention of honorable members. State revenues have been very buoyant during the war, but they have been buoyant primarily because of Commonwealth war expenditure, and, in particular, because of the enormous but temporary increase of the carrying business of the State railways. These circumstances have given a fictitious air of prosperity to State budgets. I use the word “ fictitious “ because after the war, railway revenue can hardly be expected to maintain its special war-time level, and other Commonwealth war expenditure will fall, whilst the States themselves will face very large expenditures in the form of deferred capital expenditure in bringing their railway systems up to the mark. So I believe that under those conditions, some new approach is needed to the CommonwealthStates financial problem.
For a very long time it has been recognized that section 96 of the Constitution, which enables grants in aid to be made by the Commonwealth to any State or to all States, is a very flexible instrument for adjusting Commonwealth and State finances. It is quite true - one recalls it very vividly - that grants under section 96 have not always been well regarded by the States which received them. In the earlier days, it was held very strongly that for the Commonwealth, to make a grant to a State and to impose terms and conditions which appeared to be an invasion of State rights, was an impairment of State sovereignty.
Some honorable members may recall that at the time of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which was sponsored by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), some States challenged in the High Court the validity of the whole proposal on the ground that the Commonwealth was unable validly to attach to the grant conditions which appeared to invade the ordinary rights of the State. Since then, opinion has moved on a good deal, and the truth is that if grants in aid by the Commonwealth to the States present the only practical method of restoring State finances, they really assist some measure of qualified sovereignty, and certainly do not impair it. Personally I believe that from a practical point of view, grants in aid by the Commonwealth to the States represent the only effective solution of this problem.
– In other words, the position has been aggravated by the introduction of uniform income tax?
– I do not desire to enter into controversy about reasons, if I may be excused from doing so. ! am primarily concerned with the fact that, first, there is a real problem us between the Commonwealth and the States and, secondly, it must be attacked :lot on a partial basis but on an all-round basis In other words, the problem must t>e considered; not as one existing between the Commonwealth and three States, but as one existing between the Commonwealth and all the States.
One of the advantages of the work of :he Commonwealth Grants Commission is i hat financial, statistical and other officers of the governments concerned meet constantly. They endeavour to keep records on a common basis and exchange masses of information on a staff level. The result is that an enormous amount of work in collating and analysing information is done before the commission itself proceeds to sit in judgment, and arrive at its ultimate conclusion. In my opinion, that work should be extended. Instead of Commonwealth action being invoked by some special application by a State, whether it is in relation to a general grant, or a grant in connexion with some special rural disability or some casual s;rant of the kind with which we are familiar, the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be expanded with a suitable staff of Commonwealth and State officers into a body which will permanently have under review the needs of all the States and their resources, and the general financial position of the Commonwealth as a whole. If we had a body so expanded, then through it periodical adjustments could be made, after detached and objective examination, in the amounts payable by the Commonwealth to each State. In other words, we recognize that it is a permanent problem. To take an extreme case, New South Wales next year may reasonably require more money than it will receive under the States Grants (Income Tax Reinbursement) Act. It may not be probable, but it is possible. The same might apply to Victoria and Queensland. That being so, I say, “ Let us make the commission which we have used so successfully a general body to deal with this matter. Let it be “quipped with staff from the Common wealth and each State, so that year by year the financial resources of the Commonwealth and the States may be brought into some kind of balance “. Victoria, for example, strongly believes that its reimbursement under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act is unjust and inadequate. All I know about it is that that claim has been made and pursued with great vigour and earnestness. . I am not, nor is any one else in this House, in a position to form a detached judgment on the matter. But Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia or Queensland may consider that developmental works which have an Australian significance, and not merely a State significance, should be undertaken within their boundaries. In those circumstances, they may contend that there should be some diversion of resources from the Commonwealth in relation to those works. The financial implications of all matters of that kind could be thrashed out by and under a CommonwealthStates finance commission representing an expanded Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– Does the right honorable gentleman sUggest that those works should be financed out of revenue?
– I am not discussing whether any particular works should be financed out of revenue or loans. I am pointing out that there are plenty of things in a State which may involve substantial revenue expenditure. If we are dealing with something which involves purely loan expenditure, the Loan Council will attend to that matter. But if the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) imagines that the capital obligation is the only thing which arises in relation to a new work in a State, I commend him to have a conversation with a few of the people who conduct State government. At this stage, I can do no more than sketch the idea, but I firmly believe that our course is clear. As I see it, there are three possible choices. I put them again, because, theoretically, 1 consider that they exhaust the field. First, we can eliminate State governments and concentrate all financial power and responsibility in one authority.
The second choice could be to proceed with our present rather ad captandum method of making sporadic grants, in response to the pressure which is; exercised, according to the temporary judgment of some Commonwealth Government or Parliament. The third choice could he to face up to the fact that adjustments are permanently needed and that if they are to he wisely made they should be made upon the merits of, and in accordance with, some broad consistent policy for reconciling State resources and liabilities with Commonwealth resources and liabilities. I strongly urge upon the Government the adoption of the third choice, which I believe would produce in the long run much more economy and value in public expenditure and would be calculated to make the federal system work.. So long as we have a federal system it should be enabled to work, and no federal system can work unless the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations is clearly and adequately dealt with. I suggest to the Commonwealth that it should ask the Commonwealth Grants Commission, some members of which I know have given close thought to this problem, and all the members of which nave no doubt given some thought to it, to make a special report on the subject to the next Premiers Conference, because, as the result of some contact with the problem both as a State Minister and a Commonwealth Minister, I have reached the conclusion that there will be no permanent solution of the difficulties except through permanent machinery which will take into consideration all government liabilities and resources on the footing that we all are Australians operating through various instruments of government for a common purpose.
.- I agree, in the main, with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), with the qualification that if his idea is to establish a kind of super-financial machine I do not think that any permanently good purpose is likely to be served. At the beginning of his speech, [ thought that he envisaged the need for wider powers for the Commonwealth in order to effect the reforms that he had in mind. In my view, wider powers and wider functions are essential so that Commonwealth and State relations may be put on an entirely new footing. There can be no doubt that under existing conditions a good deal of bad blood exists between the Commonwealth and certain States, for the federal system has reacted adversely to some States. “Whether the disabilities of what we know as the claimant States are real or imaginary, the relations between them and the central government are not satisfactory. No one who has had close association with State and Commonwealth Governments can deny that that is so. This is a vast continent and the development of the southern littoral as, for example, in Victoria, and the establishment of a denser population there than resides in some of the other States, has introduced economic factors, that must be carefully considered. In such States health and social services can be provided on a basis that is not practicable in a small State like Tasmania. When such a State attempts to improve its social conditions in order to bring them on to a footing comparable with conditions in the more highly developed mainland States, it lays itself open to rebuke by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That also tends to increase the ill will between Commonwealth and State Administrations.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that as the result of the disturbed conditions of the last six years, Commonwealth and State relations have been seriously affected. Even though the Commonwealth may have expended somewhat similar sums for war purposes in certain States, the value of that expenditure may have had only an ephemeral or temporary result in one State whereas in another it may result in permanent and substantial benefit.
I direct attention to a statement that was made at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to the effect that there was need for the decentralization’ of industry in this country and that, in fact, decentralization was fundamental to the safety and good government of the nation. That statement has some relation to State grants. Many people are beginning to subscribe to the view that the decentralization of industry is essential* if Australia is to be developed properly; but we must realize that it is not enough to say that one industry shall be located here, another there, and another somewhere else. Industry will establish, itself in the places best suited for its particular purposes. Merely to say that we must decentralize will not achieve that desirable end. The problem must be approached in a modern and rational way.
We need, urgently, a review of our legislative and governmental machinery. The Commonwealth was brought into being at the beginning of this century after many conferences extending over eleven years. Success was achieved in days when the Upper Houses wielded effective power in the State Parliaments. To me, the establishment of the Commonwealth in those days and under the conditions then obtaining, with a Constitution which granted universal adult suffrage for both the Senate and the House of Representatives, was an amazing achievement. The success was attained as the result of conferences and conventions that were representative of the whole community. Since then more than twenty referendums have been held for the purpose of obtaining approval for alterations of the Constitution and nineteen of them have failed. I suggest, therefore, that there is something to be said for the old-fashioned way of doing things. If we are to achieve decentraliza-.tion, and the time is more than ripe for it, we shall have to provide a more efficient form of government. The idea that the State governments and parliaments can be abolished and all power reposed in the central Parliament and Government at Canberra is never likely to appeal to the Australian people. If, however, aa the result of conferences of people who are actuated by considerations of the common good, and not handicapped by party politics, an agreement can he reached which will provide a system of government consisting of provincial and municipal bodies with the sovereign power in the central Government, I think we may get somewhere. To achieve economic success we need a number of local-governing bodies. The new form of government must be written into the Constitution, but our experience has shown that to achieve that end we require the goodwill of the whole of the people.
– Does the honorable mem- her visualize the abolition of the States?
– Yes, and the provision in their place of a number of provinces. In New South Wales during the last 20 or 30 years, many movements have arisen for the subdivision of the State into provinces. There has been the Northern Rivers Movement, the South Coast Movement, the Riverina Movement, and so on.
– And what has become of them all? They are as dead as the dodo.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) has been a member of this Parliament for so long that he seems to forget that the States still exist. The sooner he realizes that they still function the better it will be.
– I merely said that the movements mentioned by the honorable member were as dead as the dodo.
– If the honorable gentleman thinks that the people of Australia will ever be satisfied with a. Central government located at Canberra, without provincial governments or municipal bodies, or both, to carry out administrative work and even certain legislative duties, it is time he woke up. Let me make it clear that I agree that there should be a central government in Canberra, but there should be administrative machinery in local centres. I do noi believe that we shall ever achieve this reform in government by the process of party politics. We have tried that method a score of times and we have failed miserably. The time has come foi a new approach. It is of no use for us to say that everything will be all right and that the problems that face us will adjust themselves. The great disturbances of Commonwealth and State functions during the last few years make it essential that some complete and effective review shall be made without delay of our whole governmental machinery. At present the great bulk of sovereign power resides in the State Parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament is able to exercise power under only 39 headings. So long as this state of affairs continues we shall live in a condition of topsy-turvydum. The time has come for the convening of a thoroughly representative convention to consider this subject with the object of clothing the central Government with the sovereign power, and of providing for the establishment of provincial and municipal bodies to discharge administrative duties. I believe that if an authoritative convention made a declaration on this subject, after a thorough investigation, the people would accept it.
– What ground has the honorable member for believing that the [eople will accept anything?
– I believe that they would accept a declaration which had been drafted after a thorough investigation and apart from party political considerations. The people at large desire the country to be properly governed. A grea t mass of good legislation has been spoiled during the last few years because it has been considered from the standpoint of party politics. Great problems will confront this country in the immediate future, and as these will relate to fundamental economic and security requirements, the best attention of the nation should be given to them. So we ought to have a good look at the problem. It is not sufficient to say that it can be approached without having any regard to the disabilities of the States. If we want to remove from our political field the anger that exists between the States and the Commonwealth, heed must be paid to their needs in the future. I am not appealing only on behalf of the claimant States; the other States also have grievances. During the last six years, the psychological approach has vastly altered. A few years ago, the States stood entirely on their rights, but to-day we have the anomaly that when they are in a difficulty they say, “We shall pass it on to the Commonwealth; it is responsible “. They do not know the difference between Commonwealth and State functions. Our country has been developed during the last six years largely by means of National Security Regulations. For a long time after these have been repealed, the people will continue to think federally, even though power has been restored to the States. So I see some merit in what the Leader of the Opposition has said, always provided that the actuating motive is to establish a proper ratio of power between the Commonwealth, the new provinces, and municipal government. There would then be a financial machine prescribing for the broad needs of, the States in different stages of development, and some progress would be made. But if the States are to be uncertain as to whether or not uniform taxation is to remain, or the Commonwealth grant is to be fruga or generous, they naturally will always have grievances against the Commonwealth. These will become magnified, and there will be more bad blood between the two authorities. If uniform taxation is to be the rule, there is greater reason for applying ourselves more seriously to the problem of finding means of wider decentralization for security as well as for economic reasons. At the present stage of our knowledge, security reasons should be given precedence over economic reasons. We might well apply ourselves to the best means whereby a centra! authority could be established and be given expression in the Commonwealth Parliament, the Constitution having embedded in it provisions in relation to provincial and municipal government. We have seen signs of breakaway movements in New South Wales. I am told that there is a “ north and south “ feeling in Queensland, and I know that it exists in my State. Some governmental machinery will be required for the Northern Territory at any time. Surely the time has never been more opportune for an intelligent and dispassionate review of Commonwealth, State and municipal relations, in order that the best means may be devised for the development of this country towards its logical political system, its greatest security, and a better and higher economic life. If uniform taxation is to continue, and the Commonwealth Grants Commission is to dole out money in the present way, the States will always be dissatisfied with the Commonwealth, and generations will be needed to reach the goal that we desire - the Commonwealth Government being the supreme authority, and the State machinery being administrative, with power to develop local areas. But I should not b«s satisfied merely with the establishment of a new super-financial machine which would take precedence over municipal, State, and, indeed, Commonwealth Governments. Our differences would not be composed in that way and, in practice, valuable results would not accrue. So long as there is an intrusion into the field of party politics and State disgruntlement, there will always be the elements of a row. Reason will depart, and Australia will continue to suffer as it has suffered in the past. The solution is to be found in an entirely non-party convention of reputable citizens, with ample time to develop effective central, provincial and municipal authorities. It should approach the matter as our fathers did when they established the Commonwealth on the generous plan that has served us so well for 45 years.
– As a representative of the smallest State, I welcome the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), because it exhibited a new approach to the subject of Commonwealth and State financial relations. The right honorable member traced the development of the situation with which we are confronted to-day, and showed conclusively the need for this newer approach. I direct the attention of the House to the development of the same kind of situation throughout the world, and to the realization’ of the need for a new approach to all ‘ problems. When the Atlantic Charter was promulgated, the hopes of free men everywhere rose high, because here was an expression of ideals on behalf of two great democracies. Although that Charter has since lost some of its popularity because of the turbulency of the years that have intervened, at least it has left us with a real knowledge of what the world should do to meet the circumstances of the times. There is not one of us who has not experienced the gravest disquiet in the last day or so at the news that has come from the conference of Foreign Ministers in London; because we know now, as we never knew before, that only by the coming of a co-operative spirit throughout the world in the conduct of human affairs can civilization hope to survive. So we very truly stand on the threshold of a new era, and the spirit that must guide us in our international relations is no less an indispensable factor in the progressive development of the government of the Commonwealth, which is our heritage. It is in the light of that realization that T ask honorable members to approach the subject with which this bill deals; because, unfortunately, the whole subject of Commonwealth and State financial relations in the last several years has come to be argued on a very low plane indeed. There have been those taunts of mendicancy of which the right honorable member for Kooyong spoke; and, in the last few weeks, some very regrettable and intemperate language. That kind of talk is not in any way in keeping with the larger implications of victory which have laid upon us responsibility for the development of the era into which we now step. The States have constitutional rights, and it is quite wrong to reproach them for their inferior resources or their greater difficulty in providing for the needs of their people. There is a call for fair and even generous treatment in connexion with this problem. That it is a problem of a major kind has been demonstrated this afternoon. No longer can we allow it to rest where it is, because no longer can we say that the Commonwealth Grants Commission covers the whole field. Indeed, as the right honorable member for Kooyong pointed out, we are fast coming to a time when there will be no State which can be outside what is now called the claimant group. Soil erosion and drought have laid upon us such obligations for the future that no State will be able to cope with those problems unaided. Only nation-wide effort will suffice. It so happens that both New South Wales and Victoria are two of the greatest sufferers in connexion with those problems. It is doubtful whether the very nature of existing Commonwealth and State financial relations has ever been adequately considered. I should say that the matter cannot be expressed only in terms of statistical assessment or financial balance. The contribution of any one State to the prosperity of the whole of the Commonwealth cannot be determined solely on the mathematical basis of the monetary expenditure of every State per head of population. Many factors that are. generally overlooked must be taken into account; for example, the movement of population from one .State to another, with the consequent disturbance of economic conditions. That point was raised by Tasmania in its approach to the
Camm on wealth Grants Commission this year; but its statement was overlooked, or at least set aside, largely, I believe, on the ground of the great difficulty of finding a formula to cover the situation. The financial benefit that has accrued to certain of the States by reason of Commonwealth capital expenditure within their boundaries, has . been markedly apparent during the war years. But the revenue benefit derived by reason of Commonwealth activities, mainly discernible in railway returns, is not, as a rule, considered. Yet those States that are nearest to the Federal seat of government must inevitably derive a great deal of benefit thereby. Also frequently overlooked is the expenditure of the Commonwealth on social services, and the like. I direct the attention of all of those who have been accustomed to think of the claimant States as mendicants to one very striking fact. The total disbursement by the Commonwealth to the States is between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000, and the whole of the financial adjustment covered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission represents £2,500,000. That, I suggest,” is not a large proportion. But the outstanding consideration is that certain States, by reason of both natural superiority of resources and the advantage of the working of the federal system, occupy a position of increasing relative wealth, whilst other States progressively decline, through the operation of factors that are beyond their control. Yet each State is a partner in the Commonwealth, contributing according to its ability to the general welfare, and having equal constitutional right. Therefore, in common with the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and the right honorable member for Kooyong, I urge an early review of the whole situation, not in a purely statistical fashion as hitherto, but on such a basis as will, give full recognition to the principle of co-operative effort which is inherent in the political concept of a commonwealth.
I shall say very little concerning the specific claims of the various States, as they are set out in the report of the commission. I cannot, of course, pass them by entirely, because they have given rise to a good deal of comment and much think- ing in the States concerned. One of the main points of criticism that I made when I spoke on the matter earlier has, happily, disappeared. At that time, the grants to the States were calculated partly on the basis of those States maintaining social services at a level 8 per cent, below that of the standard States. That is no longer required of them. Although the 8 per cent, penalty no longer operates, it is still not open to any of the claimant States to take a lead in social legislation. It is at least arguable that this represents a disservice to the Commonwealth. This expenditure includes money spent on education. The work of Tasmania in that field has been of enormous benefit to the whole Australian community. Tasmania provides a training ground for future citizens, and is also a demonstration centre for experimental work in education which has impressed all visitors. With adequate resources, that work could be continued and expanded, but the State Government is handicapped by a shortage of money. The teachers are paid very little compared with workers in other fields, so it is difficult to get even sufficient staff for existing educational establishments. Special federal aid will overcome that difficulty to a degree, but the situation is one more argument in favour of a complete review of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the State.
It is evident from the report of the commission that South Australia is to get an increased grant in response to a special claim for drought relief. That is only just, and I take no exception to it. The Tasmanian grant, on the other hand, has been reduced by reason of the non-admission of two items in the accounts - one, a sinking fund provision to liquidate the cost of transferring a maturing London loan to Australia, and the other, losses incurred by the State in respect of soldier settlement and closer settlement schemes. Both these items are warmly defended by the Tasmanian Treasurer as examples of sound government finance. It is somewhat disappointing that, when we encounter such a refreshing example of government intention to pursue a policy of debt liquidation, it should receive such scant recognition. I have no doubt that the commission’s decision was influenced by the restrictions of the Commonwealth acts under which it operates, but if the recommendations of the commission prove to be insufficient to meet the needs of a State, it is provided that the State shall have full access to the commission in support of a further grant.
The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) mentioned the surpluses arising out of the enormous war expenditure in some States, which has enabled them to build up huge financial reserves for deferred maintenance and other costs. That was not possible in the claimant States. The commission has steadfastly Bet its face against their . making provision in their budgets for future expenditure of this kind. It has taken the view that no State, in time of war, should be allowed to make any unnecessary drain on the resources of the Commonwealth. However, the commission has definitely promised - and I particularly wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to this point - that provision for work which had to be deferred during the war would be made good as soon as the States could obtain labour and materials. The State governments will look forward eagerly to the fulfilment of that promise.
I have suggested that a purely statistical approach to this problem of the claimant State can never fully take into account the effective contribution of any State to the welfare of the Commonwealth, nor take cognizance of the full range of disability, whether geographical, political or purely economic, under which it labours. Tasmania suffers more than any other State from an accumulation of deficiencies which are prejudicial to financial prosperity within the Commonwealth. Its small population makes difficult the provision of proper services because of relatively high overhead costs. Take, for instance, the cost of administration. In Tasmania there is a population of only 250,000, roughly the same number as inhabit a large suburb in Sydney or Melbourne, and yet that population has to bear the whole cost of a Parliament and of all the departments indispensable in the administration of a modern State. This is illustrated by the following table, which appears on page 127 of the Twelfth Annual Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission: -
This table shows what overhead really means in a small State. Tasmanian loan losses for 1943-44 represent £5 7s. 7d. per head, as against £2 0s. 5d. in New South Wales and £1 17 s. 7d. in Queensland. This high loan loss per head is the true reflection of the effects of a small static population and of inadequate resources. The loss upon railways is £2 per head, or about one-third of the total, and I point out here that no relief from this burden can be gained from any Commonwealth scheme of standardization of gauges, since the State obviously is outside the scope of any such proposals. Loss on land settlement has also been great. These rail and settlement losses contributed in earlier years to Tasmania’s very difficult position, and it was here that federal aid should have been applied in a large and understanding manner to meet Tasmania’s rightful claim for economic equality. Because the loan burden fell so heavily on Tasmania, and because federal aid was not forthcoming in the first two decades of the Commonwealth, Tasmania had to charge much expenditure to loan instead of being able, as many of the other States wore, to charge it to revenue.
Another factor in the high relative cost of overhead is the large proportion of children and the aged to the whole population. The Tasmanian birth-rate has always been relatively high and the climate is conducive to longevity, but there is not an effective increase of population. This is due to the constant loss to other States because of their greater industrial development and the attraction of large cities, which is one of the distinguishing marks of our civilization. The result is that social services in regard to education, health and other matters related particularly to the welfare of youth, impose a much greater comparative burden upon the effective working population than in other States.
The State’s second great disability lies in its low taxable capacity. When the first case for financial assistance was submitted to the Federal Government some twenty odd years ago - and I remember it well because my husband was prominently associated with it - it was found that less than ten persons paid tax on incomes exceeding £2,000 a year. It may be mentioned in passing, however, that over most of the field of non-income taxation, which might be called taxation of “ extras “, Tasmania imposes rates of greater severity than many of the other States, as will be seen from this table on page 85 of the twelfth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission -
1 draw particular attention to motor tax, which is 20 per cent, above the standard rate.
Yet another source of difficulty, and it may cause some surprise to many honorable members, is the small proportion of the State capable of higher economic development. Possibly only Western Australia is in a comparable position. Mainlanders are accustomed to think of /Tasmania as a land flowing with milk and honey. They visit the settled portions, where soil is rich and agriculture flourishing, and assume that what they see is typical of the whole. But it is an island of mountains which, although unsurpassed in scenic beauty, are for the most part not capable of production. The first-class land, which is probably the richest in the whole Commonwealth, is confined to a narrow coastal strip along the north, ending abruptly at the northwestern corner, and growing less fertile down the eastern coast as it extends south. The greater part of the central plateau is suitable only for grazing, and most of the land in the vicinity of Hobart, an area of relatively light rainfall, is given over to orcharding. For the rest, the island is largely inhospitable, and uninhabited, except where mineral deposits have led to mining activity. One of the results of this physical conformation we have already seen in its heavy development costs. Railways and roads had to be built skirting large areas of nonproductive land, engineering and maintenance charges were high, and a burden of debt was thus incurred out of proportion to the ability of the population to sustain it.
Isolation from the rest of the Commonwealth has been another major cause of financial embarrassment, again a disability shared with Western Australia. There is cost of transport to be reckoned with in connexion with both its exports and imports, and there is a further considerable burden imposed by the inequitable treatment of the State in this field. Whenever a crisis arises, shipping services to Tasmania are the first to suffer. Over and over again, I have protested against the lack of consideration given to this problem by the Government. Not only are producers hampered in the export of their products, but also severe inconvenience and expense are imposed upon local residents by the inadequacies of the services maintained for the tourist industry, which has always ranked as one of the State’s most important activities, and with proper transport facilities and wise development of tourist attractions, including proper hotel accommodation, is capable of enormous expansion and might well become the greatest of all its industries. With the expansion of air transport, this position may be expected to improve, but already very serious checks in this field have been encountered, and are the subject of constant representations to the Government, by all Tasmanian members.
Migration from the State has already been touched upon, but I should like to amplify my remarks a little. Those who leave the State for residence elsewhere are always the young and vigorous ; they are the enterprising ones who seek opportunity and advancement, and whose departure represents real loss to the revenues and resources of the State. It is a noteworthy fact that throughout the Commonwealth Tasmanians are to he found in responsible positions in numbers out of all proportion to those of other States. Frequently these are people who have received training in skilled trades or professions in Tasmania, and have been educated in State-maintained schools. Just what the aggregate of such losses would be it is not possible to determine, but it must represent a considerable amount.
I have already referred to the low taxable capacity of the State, and in this connexion a question may have arisen in the minds of some honorable members concerning the several large-scale industries which operate there. Electrolytic Zinc, Burnie Paper and Pulp Company, Mount Lyell Company, Associated Pulp Mills, Paton and Baldwins and others are all prosperous concerns, but all are built of foreign capital. They provide work for many people whose wages are spent within the State, but the dividends leave Tasmania, and in almost every case come to other States of the Commonwealth. Some of the disabilities and deficiencies I have enumerated exist elsewhere, but their cumulative effect is such as to place Tasmania in a position where it can offer no effective competition with the other States, in the effort to promote the well-being of its people. Only by a complete reorientation of existing thought on the subject of federal relations can the State be rehabilitated. All that I have said serves to emphasize two points, first, that between the States there are great inequalities both of resources and opportunity, and, secondly, that there can be no economic democracy in Australia while these inequalities are allowed to be reflected in differential prosperity in the various States. These inequalities can be corrected only by 00-operative and correlated effort between the- various governments, State and Federal, and only by the adoption of some plan to ensure that co-ordinated effort can Australia hope for a harmonious development as a real Commonwealth.
Federal and State financial relations have never been rigid, and if I rightly read the history of the agreement which we call federation, any intention that they should be rigid was early abandoned.
Downe Enid Lyons.
Every student of federal finance realizes that any plan for the future must be flexible, and it must be applicable to all the changing circumstances of the prosperity of the member States. No fixed formula can work as is evidenced by the change of method adopted at intervals by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and by the different financial arrangements that have been entered into at various times by the Commonwealth and State Governments. There must be provided by the Parliament of the Commonwealth machinery for continuous review of changing economic and financial circumstances.
The growing necessity for coping with soil erosion, water conservation and reafforestation on a nation-wide basis emphasizes the need for such a plan. The functions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission suggest an excellent method of approach. The appointment of an expert body clothed with the power to initiate inquiry and collect data on all Government financial projects, to report to Parliament, and make recommendations from year to year, would tend to stabilize and equalize development throughout the Commonwealth. Its sole power would be one of recommendation, but it would serve to advise adequately Government and Parliament on the full sweep of national development. Its purpose would be to co-ordinate Commonwealth and State developmental expenditure in terms both of revenue and loan appropriations.
I think the point is not contested that the States are the best existing agency for the performance of many social and administrative functions. For instance, it is nowhere proposed, so .far as I am aware, that education should become the direct responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, although the necessity for Commonwealth intervention to give financial aid is generally accepted. For my part, as I have said on other occasions in this House, I am more and more convinced of the danger of the concentration of too much power in any one authority. The more we decentralize administration, the greater the hope for a stable economy which takes full cognizance of those human and personal considerations which, fundamentally, alone make necessary the function of government. But there must he also some co-ordinated plan of development for the whole of the Commonwealth, and I believe that machinery of the kind proposed can best achieve this end.
Marriner Eccles, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States of America, has made a plea for a much wider study of the dependence of rural regions upon the higher prosperity and greater capital resources of the industrial regions. He shows that the rich industrial States must, if the American Federation is to progress on sound lines, meet the needs of the primary producing regions with larger and more scientifically applied financial aid. Some such adjustment is equally necessary here. To approach this matter in a spirit of parochialism, to treat it from the standpoint of purely statistical data alone and, above all, to make it the subject of envious or contemptuous comment, is to act in a manner unworthy of the realities of the present and the possibilities of the future.
.- I am sure the whole Parliament will welcome the contributions of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), especially for the manner in which they approached this problem. I think it is opportune that the position of the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the States should be reviewed, because the Commonwealth Grants Commission, though it has done admirable work, is recognized as a makeshift. In the twelve years since its establishment its work has brought into existence a number of intergovernmental contacts that have been admirable in placing a proper appreciation of State finances and State industries before the Commonwealth Government and the rest of Australia. It has done good work in making better estimates of what should be given to the States to enable them to carry out their developmental work and social activities, and it has created a better atmosphere between the States and the Commonwealth than existed before it was created. Nevertheless, it is purely a makeshift. It tends to make the States that claim con sideration appear to be mendicants. That condition should not be allowed to persist. When the Commonwealth Constitution was drafted a body that could deal with the matter of Commonwealth and State relations on a very much wider basis than that upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission acts and would be able to initiate, handle and develop problems without the States having to go cap in hand to the Commonwealth, was provided for. That was the Inter-State Commission. Unfortunately, it has had a chequered career. It was first appointed, I think, in 1914. Then, because certain decisions made by it were held to be invalid, its activities were so curtailed that when the original appointments lapsed they were not renewed. In 1938, a bill was passed through the Senate to re-establish the Inter-State Commission. Unfortunately, owing to the intensive war preparations, it did not pass through the House of Representatives. The terms of reference proposed for the Inter-State Commission were set out in clause 18 of the bill as follows: -
– (1.) The Commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon -
I think honorable members will see in those terms of reference practically all the functions that the Leader of the Opposition has indicated should be performed by a permanent body. The functions that should belong to it are so important, and have been brought into such sharp emphasis by the events of the war and the necessity to get this continent ready for the maximum population that it can carry in the shortest possible time, that the time is overripe for this body to be reconstituted.
The problems confronting Australia fall into a number of categories. Some, such as roads, are continental problems. The Federal Aid Roads Agreement was introduced, not because certain of the claimant States requested it, but because the Commonwealth considered that the large, sparsely populated States like Queensland and Western Australia, could not possibly provide modern highways without Commonwealth assistance. Therefore, the Federal Aid Roads Agreement was devised, and the amount of money which each State receives is calculated on a population-area basis. Consequently, the large, less populous States of Queensland and Western Australia receive from the Commonwealth substantial payments which enable them to construct modern highways. The Commonwealth, in formulating the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, had in mind the future needs of this country rather than the disabilities of the less populous States, because the Commonwealth considered that eventually those disabilities would disappear entirely.
Other problems affect, not the continent as a whole, but one, two or three States. I have in mind the development of the Snowy, Clarence and Murray Rivers. Although proposals had been submitted to State governments and endorsed by every prominent engineer, nothing has been done to develop the Snowy River or the Clarence River, because of the absence of a central coordinating authority to deal with the problem. Sir Joseph Cook informed me that the development of the river Murray was undertaken only because the Commonwealth offered to contribute onequarter of the cost. Other necessary projects are within the boundaries of one State, but the cost of undertaking them may be beyond the capacity of the State concerned. For instance, the Blair Athol coal-field in central Queensland is a huge open-cut proposition, which, if commenced, would probably enable the electrification on a large scale of two-thirds of Queensland. The money which would be invested in that project before the completion of the work would not produce any immediate return, and would impose an enormous burden upon the State budget. Therefore, Commonwealth assistance would be required to develop Blair Athol. That illustrates my contention that a central co-ordinating authority should be in existence to examine these matters.
I do not advocate the establishment ad hoc of new organizations such as the committees dealing with the examination and development of the Clarence River and the Snowy River, respectively. I suggest the appointment of a permanent body to undertake these tasks. In addition, such an organization could examine the conditions of our great primary and secondary industries, and recommend sites for the establishment of new industries. In 1934, a royal commission inquired into the wheat-growing industry, and submitted a most valuable report. If a permanent body had been in existence to collate all the data year by year since, the Commonwealth would have experienced less difficulty in dealing year by year with the problems of changing world conditions and seasons.
All these problems of development are closely associated with the productivity of industries in various regions throughout Australia. One of the principal reasons why provision was made in the Commonwealth Constitution for an Interstate Commission was to ensure that no injustice would be done through freight rates. In those days, the framers of the Constitution did not visualize the extent to which electricity would be used to-day, or the importance of water conservation and irrigation. Now, it is necessary that freight rates and charges for water supplies and electricity should be uniform, and. be calculated on the basis of the needs of development. The same applies to all communications including telephones and, possibly, air transport. We are making international
agreements for the disposal of our wheat, butter, and wool: For maximum success, those industries need the benefit of a permanent body constantly to review the whole position. If that were done, the necessity to compensate States for their disabilities would disappear, and Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania would have prosperous industries.
Any industries the development of which was beyond the financial capacity of the State concerned, should be assisted by the Commonwealth. We must have proper regional development and- decentralization of industry. By that means, we shall strengthen our defences against any potential aggressor. I share the view of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) that the existence of- this suggested permanent body would enable us to persuade the people to agree to alterations of the Constitution much more readily than they have done in the past. Alterations of the Constitution may be facilitated by two means: First, by subdividing the large States, thus increasing the number of partners in the federation, and, secondly, by increasing Commonwealth and State co-operation in dealing with mutual problems. In 1936 a majority of all the people voted in favour of giving to the Commonwealth power to control intra-state aviation, but “the referendum was defeated because majorities in four of the States opposed it. If we had seven or nine States, the prospect of inducing a majority of them to agree to alterations of the Constitution would be improved. Voluntary co-operation for four years between the Commonwealth and the States in the Loan Council was the real reason why we were able to secure a majority of four to one in every State in favour of the Financial Agreement. Every State voted for the Financial Agreement because the people knew that the machinery had been in operation, and were not afraid that the Loan Council would be detrimental to. the national interest. If we can secure progress along those lines, development in Australia will proceed rapidly, and we shall be able to absorb the large numbers of migrants whom we are desirous of inducing to settle here.
.- I disagree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the
Commonwealth Grants Commission should be expanded into a larger organization for the purpose of dealing with the financial relationships of the Commonwealth and the States. Australia adopted the federal system of Government, with all its disadvantages. We are not alone in that. In the United States of America the federal system has just as many anomalies, and the difficulty of altering the Constitution has been just as great as in Australia. The only way in which the American Constitution has been made workable has been by the very liberal interpretation which the Supreme Court has given to the section relating to interstate commerce. The Dominion of Canada also has a federal system of government; the central authority is clothed with wider powers than is the Commonwealth Government, but the courts have interpreted the Constitution very narrowly. The distribution of authority between the central government and the provincial governments creates all manner of anomalies in administration.
However, the federal system in Australia will not be improved by the creation of another organization which would be empowered to make recommendations and generally exercise the functions which should be performed by the elected representatives of the people. The Leader of the Opposition dealt with his suggestion most comprehensively. Every honorable member will agree with the principle of finance which he enunciated. For the proper administration of the country, the raising of money cannot be divorced from its expenditure. In my opinion, it is not a sound principle for one government to raise money, and another government to spend it. The real solution of the problem is an alteration of the distribution of powers as between the Commonwealth and the States. The approach which members of the Opposition made to this problem this afternoon is in the nature of a deathbed repentance. Their opposition was responsible in a large measure for the defeat of the referendum proposals and the present difficulties of administration. The distribution of powers as between the Commonwealth and the States is increasing the difficulty of administering the Government’s post-war plans for the civilian population, and for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. It is not, and cannot be a sound principle to transfer authority from a government, whether Commonwealth or State, to a body like the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The decisions, which, according to honorable members opposite, such an organization should make, should be made by the elected representatives of the people. The only permanent solution is to summon another federal convention to reconsider the present division of powers. A referendum should then be held for the purpose of obtaining for the Commonwealth the powers recommended by the convention.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), which was delivered with her usual charm, but how far are nicely turned phrases likely to get us unless” they touch the problem that faces us ? Undoubtedly, the. States that we describe as the claimant States are suffering from many disabilities. The honorable member said that these difficulties could not be dealt with on a merely statistical basis. But what other basis can be adopted? We must make a statistical approach to problems of this kind. No other basis will be satisfactory, for the difficulties of the States are related to economic facts, and the circumstances of the six States must be taken into account in dealing with them. The honorable member referred to the action of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in relation to a sinking fund established by the Tasmanian Government to liquidate a debt which it had recently repatriated from the United Kingdom. In my opinion, the commission’s approach was the right one. The Tasmanian Government had made arrangements to liquidate, in eleven years, a debt which, in the normal course, would not have been redeemed for a much longer period. It proposed to pay into the sinking fund £85,000 a year, which was much more than a normal sinking-fund contribution. The commission, after investigation, determined that it would not recommend a special grant to meet the deficit brought about by this provision.
Had it agreed to the Tasmanian Government establishing a fund to liquidate this debt in so much less than the normal period, it is obvious that other claimant States would have adopted the same procedure in regard to their debts, and it is easy to see what would be the effect of such a policy.
There can be no doubt that, in some respects, Commonwealth policy bears somewhat harshly on States such as Tasmania and Western Australia, which came late into the field of industrial development. Western Australia has a population of less than 500,000 and an area of almost 1,000,000 square miles. It is true that the inequalities that have arisen- between such a State and the more highly industrialized and betterdeveloped States should be adjusted. It has been the duty of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to endeavour to make these adjustments on the most equitable basis possible. That it has succeeded in a large degree is obvious from the manner in which its work has always been commended. Attention could be directed to many matters in connexion with the adjustment of the circumstances of the claimant States to those of the . standard States. The question arises, for example, of whether such adjustments should be on a basis which will permit claimant States to show a surplus of some kind, or merely permit them to balance their budgets. I freely admit that Tasmania has been progressive in regard to social services, hospitalization and education, but it would hardly be argued that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should recommend grants to meet the cost of these various innovations in Tasmania.
Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) considers that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be equipped with larger powers or that it should be reconstituted on a different basis to enable it to deal with Commonwealth and State finances on a broad basis. I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman. The practice which the commission has followed has been reasonably satisfactory. I do not think that our financial and economic needs will be met or our difficulties adjusted by the constitution of some kind of outside financial authority. A more realistic approach would be the appointment of a thoroughly representative convention to consider the whole subject of the distribution of power between the Commonwealth and the States. There can be no doubt that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with greater power, but every effort to achieve this end has been defeated because of party political propaganda. Those who have indulged in such propaganda have done disservice to the nation. We shall face greater difficulties than ever in the postwar years. I consider that the Government would be well advised to arrange for an elective convention to consider what extra powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the difficulties that are undoubtedly ahead of us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed. Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1945.
Hospital Benefits Bill 1945.
War Crimes Bill 1945.
Debate resumed from the 27th September (vide page 6105), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As I have found it necessary to condemn certain of the medical measures brought down by the Government because they did not conform to expert advice, I am very pleased to he able to congratulate it on bringing down this measure, which is in accordance with the advice of the National Health and Medical Research. Council. The death-rate from tuberculosis in 1940 was 2,339. The ravages of tuberculosis in the community, however, are also reflected in very great sickness and invalidity, quite apart from the vital cases. I am gratified with the measure, but should like alterations to be made in some respects in regard to the proposed expenditure. I regard the measure as the result of a long, hard fight by the National Health and Medical Research Council to secure Commonwealth recognition of the necessity for attacking the tuberculosis problem despite the feeble health powers of the Commonwealth Parliament under its Constitution. This legislation is a triumph for the co-operative persistency of the combined Commonwealth and State medical effort. At the first meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council in February, 1937, a comprehensive resolution was carried in these terms -
The council considers that, for the efficient control of tuberculosis, adequate attention must be given to the following considerations : -
The economic factor is definitely the most important aspect of the campaign against tuberculosis. It is necessary that the resistance of all members of the family should be maintained at the highest possible level. The wage-earner of the family frequently will not leave his family so long as he is able to contribute anything towards its support. He is usually unable to do this adequately. Possibly the greatest advance towards the effective control of tuberculosis would be the provision of adequate financial support to ensure the effective nutrition of the family under suitable environmental conditions.
The removal of the source of active infection from the family is of fundamental importance, since it is recognized that children are very vulnerable to the disease. This involves either the admission of infective patients to sanatorium s or the removal of children from the home. Sufficient accommodation should therefore be provided in sanatoriums for the treatment of all infective tuberculosis patients. Provision should also be made in suitable institutions for the accommodation and treatment of children whom it is considered advisable ‘to remove from their homes.
For these reasons it is desirable that, in respect of patients suffering from tuberculosis, provision should be made for a pension to be paid similar to that paid by the Repatriation Department and Commonwealth Invalid Pensions Department combined in respect of tuberculosis soldiers receiving a service pension.
That the pension paid to the tuberculous patients should be paid in full irrespective of whether the patient is undergoing treatment in a State institution or not, in orderthat the nutrition of his family may be adequately maintained.
That every State Health Department should ensure the full development of an efficient system of tuberculosis clinics and with particular reference to the periodical examination of close contacts and the immediate treatment of conditions suspicious of, or leading to, incipient infection.
The emphasis was there placed on the removal of contacts, the provision of sufficient accommodation, and the periodical examination and treatment of contacts. In 1940, the council again emphasized the importance of the economic factor, the necessity for ensuring the nutrition of the families of tubercular patients, and the need for investigation. The difficulties in the way of providing immediately for an adequate system of allowances were realized, but it was believed that important measures directed towards the control of the disease could be proceeded with immediately. In this connexion, it was especially necessary to determine the tuberculosis infection rate in the community, the reasons for the high mortality rate which persisted in young women, and the incidence of human tuberculosis of bovine origin. The extent of the infection in the general community was revealed by Dr. Wunderly’s investigations on young women in South Australia. X-ray examinations of 1,110 reactors to the Mantoux test in the 15 to 30 years age group revealed 61 cases of active or probably active pulmonary tuberculosis. All of these 61 young women were at full work and were supposed to be in good health. All were diagnosed when their disease was in a curable stage. All responded very satisfactorily to treatment, with good prospects of cure, and have probably been saved from developing as active disseminators of infection. The X-ray survey of the Australian Imperial Force revealed a number of cases of quite unsuspected active tuberculosis in this very select group of men who had already passed a strict medical examination. There can be no doubt of the presence in the community of a considerable number of persons who are suffering from early tuberculosis, with no clinical signs, they themselves having no suspicion of illness. These are carriers of present and future infection to the community, who will keep the reservoirs ‘ of infection replenished. We have reason to believe that most of these early cases will be found in the age groups from 15 to 30 years. It is obvious that, if the disease is to be controlled, these early cases must be found and placed under treatment. It would be a tragedy, and a damaging reflection on any administration, to find the cases, only to advise them that, because of lack of accommodation, they must await their turn for treatment under suitable conditions. It is essential that many more beds shall be provided. The accepted view is that the number of beds available should be two for every death from tuberculosis per annum. Some authorities claim that the number should he three. At the present time, the more one considers the position, the more one is driven to realize that we are ignoring the possibilities of prevention of disease at the earliest stage, from infancy to childhood. Infant welfare centres are doing good work, but there are not nearly enough of them. We are doing comparatively nothing in respect of children between the infant stage and the school stage. Examination of school children is very scanty. In 1933, the total number of children of school age was 1,252,602. Of this number, 142,429 were medically examined. Of these, representing 11 per cent, of the total, 50 per cent, at least were physically defective. The health problem demands that we should do something more than extend our medical effort along the conventional lines, which are directed towards the control of individual diseases.
More important still, and infinitely greater in respect of the effort that will be required, are the care and the culture of the body of the infant and of the school child, and his education in the care of hia body. The fight against tuberculosis has been progressing steadily for many years. In Australia, the incidence was 88 per 100,000 in 1910-12, but it dropped to 44 per 100,000 in 1932-34. In the same period, the incidence in England and Wales dropped from 104 to 80 per 100,000 of population. This drop has occurred despite the opportunities for more intense detection of concealed cases of infection in the general community which modern methods have made possible. Nevertheless, there are still many carriers of infection without obvious symptoms. This emphasizes the importance of diagnostic and institutional treatment. Both of these aspects should have first claim on our money, so as to ensure the removal of infection from families and the adequate treatment of infected cases under suitable conditions. When the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was before the House, I was pleased to note the fight that was waged by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), with a view to ensuring the most generous treatment of tubercular ex-servicemen, including the provision of nutrition for their families and the segregation of infected cases. I hope that what has been done in regard to exservicemen will ultimately be done in regard to the community generally. Much more must be done than is being done. Rather than the provision of free medicine, money could be more wisely expended in making certain that there will be hospital accommodation which will enable tubercular patients to be segregated and treated. Nourishing foods, containing essential vitamins, should be in plentiful supply.
During the war, the housing conditions in Great Britain became deplorable, owing to the devastation caused to cities by bombing, at least 90 per cent, of the houses being destroyed. These disadvantages were offset by increasing the supplies of milk, fresh fruit juices, and other foods with a high vitamin content, to children, especially nursing children and those of pre-school ages, with the result that they are now an inch or one and a half inches higher than children of corresponding ages were before the war, when the housing conditions were much superior. This proves how important are foods of the right kind. I trust that that experiment, carried out on a huge scale with the nation at war, will be borne in mind. The most lurid commentary on the need for this action is the fact that the incidence of infection among the children of tubercular soldiers who remained at home, or who only spasmodically entered hospital, was found to be four times as great as among the children of those infected persons who were segregated. Most infection occurs in the first five years of life, and 65 per cent, of the infection occurs before puberty. We should make it possible for families to be better nourished, and hospital beds should be provided for infected persons so that they may be kept away from their families.
.- I am pleased that the Government has realized the grave threat to the population of Australia, which tuberculosis constitutes. I support the bill, but T believe that it is just a beginning of a service, which, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said, is long overdue. When considering the treatment of tuberculosis sufferers I am most impressed by the lack of hospital facilities. Nowhere has there been any real attempt to provide proper hospital facilities for the treatment of patients. About twenty years ago, a tuberculosis sanatorium, costing £200,000, was built in South Australia on a site where one part of it faced a prison, another a mental institution, and another an infectious diseases hospital. That was an outrageous thing to do. The Government should consult with members of the medical profession in order to learn what should be done for the care of the bodies and minds of tuberculosis victims. With the passage of this bill, sufferers will be relieved to some extent of the economic difficulties which have been responsible in so many cases for failure to make a complete recovery. I have known young persons to go into hospital for treatment, and after staying there for six or seven months, and being partly cured, they were compelled, because of financial embarrassment, to leave and resume their occupations. All the time they were subject to constant worry, and there can never be a complete cure while there is mental distress. The bill is designed to meet such situations, and it also provides for diagnostic facilities, hospital treatment, after-care and special allowances for sufferers and their dependants. I am sure that among returned prisoners of war, particularly those who were held by the Japanese, the incidence of tuberculosis will be found to be high. I hope that the Government will see that facilities are available for giving them proper hospital treatment. I am glad to say that in South Australia, through the good offices of the Red Cross Society, arrangements have been made for the expenditure of £150,000 on the construction and equipment of a modern sanatorium for the treatment of tubercular members of the forces. I hope that similar accommodation will be provided in other States. I am confident that if we clothe our children properly, if we give them the food they need, if we house them as they should be housed, and let them enjoy the Australian sunshine, we shall, before very long, completely overcome the menace of tuberculosis.
Mi-. RYAN (Flinders) [8.40]. -I welcome the bill as a first step towards the control, if not the eradication of, tuberculosis. I believe that, by the application of efficient methods, it will be possible finally to solve this problem. Experts believe that it could be completely eradicated in about 25 years, if the proper measures were taken. As a beginning, the Commonwealth Government should take steps to determine the extent of the problem. This can be done by applying what is called the skin test to all children, a test which is simple and efficient. Then, micro-X-ray photographs should be taken of all persons who have attained puberty. Having ascertained the number of persons affected, a complete investigation should be made of all those who give n positive reaction to tests. This will require the co-operation of physicians, radiologists and bacteriologists. At present, there are mobile army medical units equipped with radiological and bacteriological gear and staffed by technicians, and I suggest that they be used in this campaign for the eradication of tuber- ‘culosis. The skin test for children can be made by local practitioners and by area health officers, whose numbers may have to be increased for the purpose. The work would be done by the States, under the supervision of Commonwealth health authorities.
The next step is to treat those persons who have been diagnosed as active tubercular patients. Those whose sputum gives a positive test should be segregated so as to protect others and so that they themselves may be properly treated by specialists. In Victoria, to-day, there are no fewer than 9,000 diagnosed cases of tuberculosis, but there are only 800 beds available for them. Of course all the 9,000 cases are not active in the sense that they are infectious, but the fact remains that we have too few beds for too many sufferers. The Victorian death-rate from tuberculosis is SOO per annum, which proportionately is about equal to that of the other States. In more progressive countries like the United States of America and Canada it is considered that there should be at least from 3.5 to 4 beds for tubercular cases to every death. On that basis, Victoria needs about 3,500 beds for tubercular cases known to exist. Probably the check of the population that I hope will soon be undertaken to discover the incidence of tuberculosis, will disclose the need for another 3,000 beds in Victoria, and the position would be proportionately the same in the other States. We have so few beds available in Victoria that we can keep tubercular patients in hospital for only six months instead of the minimum of eighteen months that is regarded as essentia], and the result is that people are discharged when only patched up. Many of them slip back again and spread their renewed infection.
As the result of the war we have in every State military camp hospitals equipped with operating theatres, X-ray apparatus and bacteriological services. Many are situated near towns which have medical centres. I suggest to the Government that these establishments might very well be placed at the disposal of the medical authorities for use in the treatment of tuberculosis. Pulmonary tuberculosis is a disease that should be treated only by specialists. Treatment by general’ practitioners is not satisfactory, and many instances have occurred of wrong treatment as the result of want of specialized knowledge. Young physicians and surgeons ought to he sent to Great Britain and the United States of America for post-graduate study and experience of the latest methods of treating tuberculosis. Inoculation of contacts is a practice that we have not developed, although it has been adopted with marked results abroad. The disease strikes notably at the nurses, doctors, medical students and staffs that come into contact with tubercular patients at sanatoriums. In other countries, particularly Sweden and Norway, inventions have been developed recently in respect of inoculation methods with good’ results. There have also been important developments in the field of occupational therapy and rehabilitation. Collapse therapy, which means putting a diseased lung at rest in order that it may heal itself, helps patients very considerably and also prevents them from spreading infection. That therapy requires skilful and welltrained physicians and surgeons. So the Commonwealth Government would be well advised to send men abroad to study the latest methods. We hope to obtain a large influx of migrants, but I hope that before landing permits are issued to them prospective immigrants “will be medically examined to ensure that they are not active carriers of the tuberculosis germ. If the new plan is to be successful, as I hope it will be, education of the people will be needed, particularly in the schools. Teachers ought to be instructed by physicians and surgeons skilled in tuberculosis treatment so . as to be equipped to impress upon their pupils the dangers of the disease and how to guard themselves against infection. By proper treatment we can eradicate tuberculosis for ever from this country, but the initiative must be taken by the Commonwealth Government, because it is useless for one State to try to eradicate it from its area, unless the other States do likewise, when we have unrestricted movement of the people.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that the Commonwealth Government unsuccessfully asked the people at the last referendum for complete power in the field of health.
– The Commonwealth can still take the initiative by co-operation with the States, though the States will be responsible for the medical treatment. I am glad of the honorable member’s interjection because it gives me the opportunity to say that the Commonwealth’s financial strength will enable it to provide the assistance that will ensure that the States shall co-operate with it in this great task. If we are to do anything the time to do it is now when we have the prospect of diverting to the treatment of tuberculosis military hospitals and medical equipment, and when young doctors are leaving the armed forces, many of whom would be anxious to go abroad to complete their education in the treatment of tuberculosis. They would provide the nucleus of a medical staff to set about the eradication of this terrible scourge, which has created so much misery and harm in this country!
.- Under this bill a maximum of £50,000 a year is to be paid by the Commonwealth Government to each State, in respect of both diagnostic and after-care facilities in the treatment of tuberculosis. Payments are also to be made to the States in respect of tuberculosis patients in hospitals. A. further sum is to be provided for the making of special allowances to sufferers and their dependants. I understand that the States are willing to provide the accommodation necessary to deal with the problem of tuberculosis on the understanding that the necessary capital will be made available to them.
– That is so.
– In the last few months I was the chairman of a committee that toured the country in the course of an inquiry into certain aspects of tuberculosis nursing in Australia and as to how best we could cope with it. It is well that the House should know the background of the problem that confronted us. A solution is not so simple as perhaps would appear. The Commonwealth Year-Book shows that in 1921 167 male deaths occurred in the professional group, compared with 784 in the industrial group. The percentages of the total deaths were 7.69 and 36.11 respectively. Those figures show the influence of poverty, bad bousing and poor industrial conditions on the incidence of tuberculosis. The figures were better in 1939 when the percentage of male deaths from tuberculosis in the professional group was 5.84, and in the industrial group 20.93. la Australia, the tuberculosis death rateis diminishing. I am amazed to find that deaths from tuberculosis per 100,000 Europeans in South Africa in 1936 were 341. The Australian rate was 39 per 100,000. In the United States of America, where an intensive campaign has been waged against the disease, if was 56. In England and Wales it was 69, and in .Sweden, to which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred as a country that had shown progress in its efforts to counter the disease, it was 103. S’o it appears that other countries too have a long way to go.
The committee that I presided over went into certain aspects of the disease with people in authoritative positions qualified to speak on the problem. We learn I; that we must approach this disease in a different way. I asked almost every renowned authority in this country whether better results could be got from nursing people in country sanatoriums rather than in sanatoriums next door to the General Post Office, but I could not get one to say that result’s were better in the country than in the city. It is extremely difficult to get staff to go to country sanatoriums when far more attractive posts are offered, with all the amenities of city life, in the big centres of the population. We were not able to secure any satisfactory evidence that the old notion of erecting a sanatorium on a hill-top in the wilderness yielded better results than erecting it in the centre of a city. If, in the future, we are to expend large sums of money upon the erection of sanatoriums, we must consider such matters as transport, and whether suitable administrative and nursing staff can be obtained for the institutions. A responsible authority should investigate that matter.
My second point was that the incidence of tuberculosis is higher among the junior nursing staff than among the senior nursing staff. I am gratified that a large sum. of money has been provided for “ incidentals “, and hope that a portion of it will be devoted to the payment of the salaries of senior nursing staff who should be employed in sanatoriums. The incidence of the disease was high among nurses under the age of twenty years, but the infection was almost unknown among nurses over 30 years of age. Consequently, we must endeavour to maintain a senior staff to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis, and because of their seniority they will require additional remuneration.
I understand that the Prime Minister, at the appropriate time, will make available money to provide sufficient beds for the treatment of all sufferers from tuberculosis. The figures cited by the right honorable member for Cowper indicated that if we make a determined attempt to combat this disease, the death rate will be greatly reduced. The incidence of tuberculosis is four or five times greater among the industrial section than among the professional section of the community. Therefore, certain social aspects must command our attention. They include overcrowding, malnutrition, bad housing conditions, and our inability to remove infected people. Those problems must be dealt with immediately.
Both as a former Minister for Health, and as Director of Public Health, in Tasmania, I failed miserably to convince the people of that State of the necessity to insist upon the pasteurization of milk. As a practising surgeon, I am convinced that the whole of our milk supply needs a drastic overhaul.”” Because the milk supply is associated with primary production and no government has been able to resist the. pressure of primary producers, we have not been able to deal with the problem on a rational basis.
– Pasteurization is compulsory in Victoria.
– I am glad to hear that. In the United States of America, 99.8 per cent, of the milk consumed is pasteurized. The figure for Canada is nearly as high. Consequently, bovine tuberculosis is almost unknown in those countries. Our problem will not be solved merely by making a contribution towards diagnosis, after-care, extra nutrition and accommodation. The social problem also must be considered. That this disease can be eradicated I have no doubt, and this bill is a step towards it. If we can initiate a wide campaign to induce people to co-operate in order to eradicate tuberculosis from their midst by concerted action on the social and medical sides, I am convinced that our efforts will be successful. This bill will assist to achieve that desirable aim.
.- I am gratified that the Commonwealth is interesting itself in a national way in the eradication of the dread scourge of tuberculosis, but I propose to be mildly critical of some omissions from the bill. Unfortunately, the Minister did not give to the House information relating to the incidence of the disease, or explain the existing facilities for diagnosis and treatment in the States. The Commonwealth can do no less than assist the States financially to combat this disease. When the Commonwealth, by introducing the uniform income tax, deprived them of their principal source of revenue, it was hound to see that the States were granted sufficient money for the treatment of disease.
Tuberculosis is a national problem. According to medical authorities, there were 30,000 cases of tuberculosis in 1943 and the death-rate was 2,500 per annum. Consequently, the obligation to combat the disease is greater than the States alone can bear. The Commonwealth -must interest itself in the matter. The mortality rate from a disease, which, all authorities say can he eradicated by proper treatment, is too high. It is a blot upon Australia. Clause 4 provides for payments to States in respect of diagnostic and after-care facilities. What are those facilities? Are they satisfactory at present? If not, will they be brought up to date? I understand that the Government proposes, under this legislation, to provide £300,000 for combating tuberculosis in various ways. That is a large sum. The Commonwealth should not be interested in this matter only in the sense of pounds, shillings and pence. It must show concern for the health of the community. Otherwise, the bill will not be so effective as it should be. The Social Security Committee, in its sixth interim report, stated -
That is severe criticism of the methods adopted by the States for combating tuberculosis. Consequently, the responsibility of the Commonwealth will not end when it has made available this sum of £300,000. The Commonwealth must prescribe conditions under which the money shall be expended.
– The bill already makes that provision.
– I disagree with the Minister. The bill provides only for payments to States in respect of diagnostic and after-care facilities, and patients in hospitals. The Commonwealth should insist that the facilities provided by the States shall be most modern, so that the disease may be detected in the early stages and the treatment may be effective.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the money made available by the Commonwealth and the States will be sufficient to enable every facility to be provided?
– A few moments ago, I read the Social Security Committee’s criticism of the methods of the States. Therefore, I suggest that those methods have not been effective. Surely th at is logical. We should make sure that any money we vote for the treatment of tuberculosis shall be used wisely. It is not enough to vote money and then wash our hands of the problem. The most modern equipment should be installed in the various institutions that treat this disease, and unless the Government takes steps to achieve this objective the voting of money is not likely to get us very far.
It is proposed that 6s. a day shall be paid to tuberculosis hospitals for each occupied bed. I agree with that. A few days ago we approved of a payment under prescribed conditions of 6s. a day to certain hospitals. Will this 6s. constitute a double payment in any respect?
I quote once again the report of the Social Security Committee on this subject, paragraph 105 of which reads -
Unfortunately, the deficiency does not only apply to bed accommodation, but medical opinion indicates that there is a serious shortage of up-to-date facilities and equipment to provide treatment on lines recognized in other countries as essential in certain cases, including an absence of adequate surgical apparatus and operating theatre facilities. Tuberculosis specialists have stressed the need for separate accommodation for the patients in various stages of the disease as being essential to proper segregation, control and treatment. This is an important aspect for which the earliest possible provision should be made.
In the light of such statements, I emphasize that the payment of 6s. a day in respect of occupied beds in tuberculosis hospitals does not meet the needs of the case. A good deal more than that is necessary. Clause 8 of the bill gives power to make regulations and to impose penalties for the non-observance of such regulations. I ask the Minister to do everything in his power to ensure that the regulations will be sufficiently stringent. It is deplorable that this country should continue to lose 2,500 citizens a year from a disease that is admittedly preventable.
The most up-to-date methods for the diagnosis and treatment of the complaint should be adopted, not only in public hospitals, but also in our repatriation institutions in which tuberculosis is treated. I bring to the notice of the Government, once again, the case of a young stoker who was being treated for tuberculosis at a repatriation hospital. I received a letter from his mother a day or two ago in which she stated that as she was not satisfied with the treatment the boy was receiving she had taken him to a civilian specialist for examination. He had reported that the boy had a cavity in one lung almost as large as a mandarin and that the other lung was also affected; he had recommended that the lung should Abe collapsed. The mother said that she had taken the boy back to the repatriation hospital and informed the medical authorities there of the specialist’s advice. The repatriation doctor said that they had no need of outside advice, that their treatment was effective, and that they did not propose to collapse the boy’s lung. Not being satisfied, the mother took her son back to the civilian specialist for treatment. The boy’s lung was collapsed, and I am given to. understand that he is now making some progress. Many ex-prisoners of war and other servicemen who have suffered from the rigours of prison camps or from jungle exposure will need treatment for tuberculosis, and I urge the Minister to take all possible steps to ensure that the equipment of the repatriation authorities is up to date in every respect. Subject to this rather mild criticism I support the bill.
– I support the bill and congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) upon its introduction. I listened with interest to the speeches of our medical colleagues, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), and I desire to bring to the notice of the House views that have been expressed by another eminent medical practitioner, Dr. D’Arcy Cowan, of Adelaide, who is one of the most distinguished authorities on tuberculosis in South Australia. The Bedford Park Repatriation Sanatorium and Kalyra Sanatorium of South Australia, are situated in my electorate, and I am particularly interested in this subject. I have taken the opportunity of visiting the inmates of these institutions and I assure honorable members that such visits are greatly appreciated. Dr. Cowan has published a booklet on this subject, entitled The Comprehensive Attack on Pulmonary Tuberculosis, from which I shall quote a number of passages. He points out that this scourge attacks persons in early adult life just when they are becoming most useful members of the community. He stresses the great importance of boiling all milk intended for feeding infants. Dealing with South Australia, Dr. Cowan says -
In this State, quite apart from the Repatriation Department, of which I have no figures, there are over 1,000 persons receiving an invalid pension on account of this disease. This represents an annual outlay of over £50,000 by the Commonwealth Government.
The cost to the State Government in its tuberculosis services is about the same. In addition to this we are losing citizens at the rate of about 200 each year. At the accepted value of a human life to the State of £500 this represents a further loss of £100,000 - a total of about £200,000 a year. In the past 30 years well over 100,000 people in Australia have died of tuberculosis, a preventable disease. In the last quarterly bulletin of health notes for South Australia, reference to the infectious diseases return shows 56 deaths from tuberculosis and ten from all other infectious diseases. Over the years deaths from tuberculosis outnumber by more than twice the deaths from all other notifiable infectious diseases combined. This state of affairs constitutes a challenge to the medical profession, and a test of the statesmanship of our democratic institutions. It has always puzzled me why money in almost unlimited amounts can be found for defence against enemy outside our gates, while there is the greatest difficulty in securing supplies for a concerted attack on the more insidious, but none the less dangerous, enemy within. It might well be asked, “ If this is a preventable disease, why is it not prevented?”.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked what steps were being taken to ensure that value shall be received for the money provided by the Commonwealth to combat this disease. I remind the honorable member that although £300,000 was provided in the Estimates for the treatment of tuberculosis and £50,000 was provided for certain other health purposes, the Commonwealth has only limited power to deal with such matters. Dr. Cowan refers to this point in the following words : -
Our organization is basically wrong. We have a Commonwealth Government responsible for the prevention of infectious diseases coming into Australia from overseas, but with no powers over the control of disease within tho States. Health is a national asset, and 1 believe should be controlled by the National Government.
Had the referendum been carried the Commonwealth Government would have had power to deal in a proper way with all problems affecting the health of the nation. If we are to remain a healthy nation it iS essential that the central government shall be equipped with additional power over public health. Dr. Cowan also said - .
Too often there has been divided control a* between Commonwealth and State, with the result that neither takes responsibility and nothing is done. I think full powers over health should be transferred to the Commonwealth Government.
With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard these further statements by Dr. Cowan -
In the campaign against tuberculosis the essentials ore: -
A scheme such as that outlined may seem a policy of perfection, and for economic reasons may not ‘be possible of immediate attainment. But it is an ideal to strive for. The main parts of the scheme are already in existence; they need only proper organization.
The matters that I have spoken of are not new. They have been discussed over and over again and are now generally accepted as the basis of any scheme of control. Where we fail o sadly in this State is in having no controlling influence. Dr. Holmes in his report says -
In order that the control of tuberculosis may be developed along efficient lines, it is considered essential that an officer should be appointed in whose hands would be placed the co-ordination of all the activities with the control of the disease, and who would link up the administration of the legislation with the work of the. treatment institutions and of the school medical service, and with the activities of a fully developed tuberculosis dispensary system extending out to the homes of all affected people.
This association has approached the Government by report and deputation on the control of tuberculosis, and among other things lias recommended the appointment of a whole-time chief tuberculosis officer. This recommendation was endorsed by the heads of both the Health and Hospitals Departments. But there has been no response. Later, when the matter of a re-organization of the Health Department was considered, among the recommendations made by this association was one to the effect that a medical officer to control a tuberculosis division should be appointed. A carefully prepared report was forwarded to the Government, and this was followed by a deputation, but with the same result.
The inconsistency of our governments is amazing. They will cheerfully spend £100,000 on a home for patients with advanced tuberculosis, and then refuse to provide an adequately paid medical personnel. They expend huge sums each year on the care of patients with established disease, but cannot see that money spent on prevention is a better investment. It is strange that the average intelligent layman, when it is explained to him, can at once appreciate the fact that it is better to spend a relatively small amount of money on preventive measures than it is to continue to spend large amounts in a futile attempt to overcome established disease. But the politician seems totally unable to grasp this simple fact. When we approach him, he seems to think we are trying to put something over him. The Government raises an outcry at the idea of a cemetery being established at Northfield which it says would be an “ unforgivable social crime “ or “ a -proposal of the most callous nature “. But a similar sentiment made no appeal to it whatever when it allowed a tuberculosis clinic to be established within a stone’s throw of a hospital mortuary; and tha’ fact that patients in a tuberculosis ward run sweeps on the number of corpses they 6ee brought into the mortuary leaves it untouched. The Government will legislate for betting shops and appoint a commission to inquire into lotteries; but it turns the cold shoulder to a carefully considered recommendation, from an authoritative source, concerning the maintenance and improvement of the health of the people.
From the experience of the past few years it seems that deputations are politely received and reports promptly pigeon-holed. And that is all. It is not easy to see what can be done in these circumstances; but there is no need for despair. Time brings changes, even in fiveyear parliaments, and we may be permitted to hope that some day a government or a ministerial head will appear who will agree with us that, in dealing with a disease like tuberculosis, a little money spent in creating an efficient organization to prevent its ravages will be money well spent; and will do something about it.
The Red Cross Society in South Australia has offered to build a sanatorium at the cost of £150,000. The site suggested is in my electorate, and the proposal is that it shall be used for the treatment of ex-service personnel of the last war and this war. I have studied the plans. If erected, the sanatorium would be “ the last word “ in up-to-dateness. The idea is to have a building of three stories, with the stories “ stepped back “ to enable air and sunlight to enter every part of the building. Dr. Cowan and Colonel Wall have asked me to press strongly for a favorable decision by the Commonwealth Government, and I should appreciate any information on the project that the Minister can furnish. In this measure, the Government has taken a big step in the right direction for the eradication of tuberculosis.
.- This bill is further evidence of the Government’s intense interest in the welfare of the people and the betterment of their health, by the provision of social services and other facilities. It provides for a total outlay of £300,000 during the first year, increasing ultimately to £1,000,000.
– That is the Commonwealth’s quota.
– There is provision amounting to £50,000 for diagnostic facilities, and an equal amount for maintenance and after-care, as well ‘as subsidies for various State hospitals and tuberculosis institutions, and allowances to sufferers from the disease. I hope that the Government will not overlook the need for preventive action. I noted with pleasure the comments of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), with whose submission in regard to proper dipt, the prevention of malnutrition, the supply of fruit juices and the distribution of milk in the manner that proved so successful in Great Britain, I entirely agree. I hope that the Government will make facilities available, particularly at hostels in the country, not only for those who have contracted this disease, but also for the community generally. The availability of facilities at mountain and seaside tourist resorts would enable the people to increase their resistance, and make them immune from disease. I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) that there are also other factors, particularly the social conditions of the people. Better housing, the abolition of slums, and economic security would aid materially in improving health. The honorable member for Denison made it clear that industrial workers contract this disease to a particularly high degree, doubtless due to their labour conditions, and to the fact that they have to work long hours in a dust-filled atmosphere. I am somewhat diffident about questioning theories advanced hy eminent medical men. Nevertheless, I affirm that great discoveries have not always been made by medical or other professional men; laymen have sometimes been responsible for them, the most notable being Louis Pasteur, the discoverer of the theory of bacterial infection. T was interested in the statement of the right honorable member for Cowper that there is a very high rate of tubercular infection in the early years of life. At an early age, 1 was diagnosed by the medical profession as a sufferer from a tubercular hip ; consequently, I am strongly in favour of the provision of better diagnostic facilities. It was fortunate that I refused to accept that diagnosis; otherwise, one of my limbs would have been amputated, because that was the only solution which medical practice could suggest at the time. The diagnosis was subsequently found to be wrong, and I am now more or less cured of the condition from which I then suffered. I submitted myself to treatment by probably twenty medical men, many of whom stood high in the profession, and I can now give the benefit of my experience to others. It has been said -
He who gains a new idea or has a fresh insight into an old one is thereby invested with a new responsibility. He has no right tr> live exactly as he did before. A duty is L. id upon him to bring it into .practical operation and, as far as possible, for the general welfare.
Bacterial infection as a primary cause of disease has been proved to be a fallacy. We have overlooked the fundamental mechanical side of the human machine. There, has been deep research in regard to tuberculosis, and many new theories have been advanced and panaceas tried from time to time. I recollect that ten or fifteen years ago a Swiss doctor proclaimed throughout the world that he had discovered a cure for tuberculosis, but he was not prepared to disclose his theory , to the community generally and thus pass it on for the benefit of mankind. To-day, we do not hear anything about it or of other new theories that have been advanced from time to time. They have been merely a “ nine days’ wonder “. The simple fundamental causes of disease have been overlooked. We have not appreciated that the human body is merely a machine, and should be treated in the same manner as any other machine. When a motor car breaks down, a mechanic is called in, and he applies the fundamental principles of his trade by first testing the water in the radiator, the petrol in the tank, the oil in the sump, and the state of the battery. If those prove to be in order, he next examines the plugs and the cylinders, which often become dirty and need cleaning. Do we ever consider that the human machine needs from time to time a little internal cleansing? We are more concerned about, being clean on the outside. There are many new appliances for the cleansing of the human body, but unfortunately they are not installed in many public hospitals. I hope that such facilities will be provided by means of this measure; because, when the body is not functioning efficiently, it becomes prone to various diseases.
I again refer particularly to a method of treatment that has come to my knowledge. I have had personal experience of it, and the opportunity of investigating it very thoroughly. It relates to the manipulative- treatment of the vertebrae, and is simply explained in a small booklet which I commend to honorable members, and particularly to the Minister and the officers of his department. It is entitled Manipulative Surgery, Relating to Chiropractic, and was written by Mr. J. A. Scott, M.A., a New Zealander. In it, he says -
What is chiropractic?
The theory on which chiropractic is based is clear and simple, and one which appeals nt once to the average citizen’s intelligence and common sense.
From the chiropractic viewpoint the human body is a wonderfully contrived machine, in which, when all is right, every cell, tissue, organ, and system of organs is perfectly adapted to perform the work for which it is specially intended. But the human machine, like every other machine, in order to keep going, must have “ power “ - just as the electric motor will not go and your electric light will not work unless they have their proper “ juice “ or current. Moreover, this “ power “ must be supplied not only to one or two central and so-called vital organs, but also to every cell and tissue of the body; for, as we have said, every cell and tissue has its own work to do.
He explains that pressure on the nervous system through the spinal cord causes the organs to degenerate, thus enabling disease to set in, because the body has not the necessary flow of nervous energy or life force. At page 15, he says -
If, then, nerve pressure, accompanied by interference with the flow of vital energy to particular organs or tissues, is the primary fundamental cause of disease, and if - as has been abundantly proven - chiropractic possesses the means of releasing and removing such pressure, it follows that the range of chiropractic usefulness and help is practically co-extensive with the whole field of human ailments. In other words - with the three classes of exceptions above noted - whatever your ailment may be it is primarily caused by nerve pressure; and, therefore, whatever your ailment may be you may safely conclude that it will come definitely within the scope of chiropractic. The only factor that brings an element of doubt in any case is not that of the class or kind of disease involved but the question of degree, and this applies particularly, of course, to diseases of a destructive or wasting nature, such as cancer and tuberculosis. If tissues are too largely or entirely destroyed it is impossible to restore them. But if only partially so, the tendency under chiropractic adjustments is to repair and restoration. For instance, if a lung is entirely destroyed it cannot be restored, tout if only part is gone, and the disease is taken in its early stages, recovery under chiropractic is, generally speaking, rapid and certain.
The Proof of the Pudding.
The proof of the pudding, says a homely Scotch proverb, is in the eating of it; and the test of a theory is the way in which it works out in actual practice. The principle above set forth - that chiropractic is applicable to practically every form of human ailment - is being acted upon and “ tried out “ by chiropractors in New Zealand, in Australia, in America and England, and throughout the world. If the average citizen, or even a member of the medical profession, were to have a glance at the case books of any of our city chiropractors ho would open his eyes at the number and variety of the diseases which are being handled - and successfully handled - under chiropractic. No amount of apparently learned theorising, no exhibition of prejudiced scepticism, can alter the cold adamantine fact that in every clime and country where it is fairly tried, chiropractic is getting the people well.
That, after all, is the acid test; that, and not mere theoretical disputation, is what really matters. The “ Whereas I was blind, now I see” is still the unanswered and unanswerable argument that it was in Gospel days. It is because chiropractic is making the lame to walk, and the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, that it has leapt almost at a bound into the very forefront of the healing systems of the world. Chiropractic has come to stay; and time and the future are with it.
Why is it that members of the medical profession have been completely misled regarding the cause and treatment of disease? I have investigated hundreds of cases, and most of them have benefited from this form of treatment. Medical men are sceptical, and will not investigate. This may be partly because of economic reasons, but it is also due to conservatism and complacency, which make them prefer to accept the existing order. There is also another reason : Medical men contend that it is physically impossible for pressure to be exerted on the spinal cord because a vertebra is out of position. I am concerned that the right methods of diagnosis should be employed. It is not enough that the chest be X-rayed in order to seewhether the lungs are affected. There should also be an X-ray of the vertebra in order to discover if pressure is being exerted on the spinal cord. The spinal column is the only place where bone meets bone, and where an interruption can occur to the flow of the life force. When this occurs, it must affect the health of some organ, which then becomes subject to disease. Autopsies immediately after death have shown that the spinal cord fills the entire neural canal. Twenty-four hours after death it fills only 75 per cent, of the cavity, and 48 hours after death, only 50 per cent, of the cavity. The training of medical students does not include such study as this, because they are trained only on corpsee. They do not see the live vertebra, and the condition of the live spinal cord. We know that there is a tendency on the part of medical practitioners to oppose change. It is not so long ago since Dr. Harvey advanced the theory of the circulation of the blood, but twenty years elapsed before the medical profession generally accepted it as a fact. There is one thing which is proof against all argument, something which can keep a man in everlasting ignorance - condemnation before investigation.
. -in reply - All work undertaken in the course of this scheme will be new, and in addition to any now being done. Moreover, it must receive the approval of the Commonwealth. The members of the National Health and Medical Research Council have been advising the Government, and no one will deny that theyare well qualified to do so. They are to meet in conference again in November in order to settle the final details of the scheme. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is anxious that we should make a survey in order to dis cover the full extent of the problem of tuberculous infection. This will be done by the diagnostic section, which is to be expanded. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was concerned with theproper feeding of sufferers, and this will be handled by the after-care section. As the right honorable member pointed out, one of the most important things is to ensure that patients get the right kind and quantity of nutritious food. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) referred to the mental strain suffered by tubercular patients. We know that they sometimes fear to enter a sanatorium, and are reluctant to be separated from their families, particularly when, by bo doing, they must leave their families in want. It is proposed to remove the cause of that fear. The amounts to be paid to the dependants of sufferers have not yet been fixed, but they will be decided by the conference in November. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) may rest assured that the money to he expended under this legislation will be on new work, and will not merely be applied to carrying on work which was in progress previously. This point is covered by the definitions in the bill, which provide that - “ after-care facilities “ means any facilities, clinics or institutions (other than tuberculosis hospitals) which are -
Clause 4, which provides for payments to the States in respect of diagnostic and after-care facilities, provides -
The amounts payable under this section in respect of each year shall be determined by the Minister.
– Is it intended to insist that the States shall bring their diagnostic and after-care equipment up to date?
– It is a matter not so much of bringing existing equipment up to date as of the provision of new equipment.
– If the Government insists upon that I shall be perfectly happy.
– This plan was devised by the Commonwealth and State
Ministers for Health and endorsed by the Commonwealth and State Governments. The watch-dog will be the National Health and Medical Research Council, the most eminent body in this country. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan)referred to the need to send young surgeons and physicians overseas for training in modern methods of treatment of tuberculosis. That will be one of the functions of the council.
– Has the council jurisdiction over tuberculosis wards in repatriation hospitals, which are very often in a poor state?
– We hope to improve that. ‘I agree with the honorable member for Flinders about the availability of tuberculosis diagnostic equipment in this country. Not only have tbe members of the forces been radiographed to detect tuberculosis. I, myself, have seen hundreds of internees and prisoners of war X-rayed, and I have been assured that the work done with them can be repeated with school-children. The equipment and the radiologists will be available for that work now that the war is over.
– Is the Government taking steps to ensure the use of military camp hospitals for the accommodation of tuberculosis sufferers when they are no longer required for their original purpose ?
– I have taken a note of that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Clause 6 provides for the payment of special allowances to tuberculosis sufferers and their dependants. I should like to know whether people who cannot get hospital attention and are presumably limited to drawing the invalid pension on account of their illness will receive additional benefit from this provision.
– The living allowance will be additional to other social services that tuberculosis sufferers may receive. Everything in this bill is in addition to what already exists. The conference to bc held in November will discuss the rate of allowance, but I would say that it will be equal to the basic wage as a minimum. People drawing sustenance from lodges or otherwise will receive the proposed allowance in addition. Under this scheme, the 6s. a day subvention to be paid in respect of occupied hospital beds generally, will also apply to tuberculosis patients in hospitals, and henceforth they will be able to enter hospital free of charge. The allowances to be paid to both the sufferers and their dependants will relieve the sufferers of the strain imposed on people fearful that their families are suffering deprivation during their illness.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This is a bill to amend the High Commissioner Act by adding to it a section enabling a Commonwealth Minister to exercise the powers and perform the duties which by that act are vested in the High Commissioner. As honorable members are aware, Mr. Bruce’s term of officeas High Commissioner expires on the 7th October, 1945. The Minister for Defence, the Honorable J. A. Beasley, will be proceeding to London as Australian resident Minister in the United Kingdom and on arrival there will assume all the responsibilities of the High Commissioner. As certain of the powers and functions of the High Commissioner, such as the appointment of officers, &c, are, by the High Commissioner Act, vested in the High Commissioner, it is necessary to amend that act in order that those powers and functions may lawfully be exercised by the Resident Minister.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was good enough to supply me with an advance copy of the bill and of the Minister’s second-reading speech. Insofar as the bill provides that certain functions normally performed by the High Commissioner may be performed by a resident Minister acting as High Commissioner for a time, [ take no exception to it, because, quite plainly, the work of the High Commissioner’s office must go on; but I should like an assurance from the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Lazzarini) that the appointment of the resident Minister, who will act in place of the High Commissioner, will be of limited duration.
– On the face of it, there always does seem to be some support for the view that a resident Minister in’ London can perform a useful service, and I recall that at a certain stage just before Mr. Bruce was appointed High Commissioner, he acted in London as resident Minister for the Commonwealth. But it is on the whole not a good thing that the resident Minister should be too long away from his responsibilities to Parliament. It is perhaps worth reminding honorable members that the Constitution provides in clear terms that members of the Parliament are not to hold office of profit under the Crown except the office of one of the King’s Ministers. Sections 44 and 45 deal with that matter, and of course the whole idea, is that primarily the only office under the Crown which is to be held by a member of this House is one in which as a Minister of the Crown he is directly accountable to this Parliament, directly responsible to its members and available for criticism. There must be some exception in practice in this sense: particularly in a state of war or emergency, it becomes necessary for the Prime Minister or other Ministers to go a.broad on high matters of state from time to time. But it would not be desirable to have an indefinitely continued appointment of a resident Minister, who was by legislation of this Parliament empowered to act as High Commissioner without ceasing to he a Minister of the Crown, retaining his seat in the Parliament of this country, while absent from it and, therefore, not subject to the criticism of the Parliament. But as the Minister has indicated that this is to be a temporary arrangement to overcome technical difficulties which would otherwise arise, I support it.
– I support the measure, but I also support the view of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that a definite limit should be set to the period for which a resident Minister may go to London and be absent from the Parliament. I have always held very strongly that the best form of representation of Australia in London is by means of Ministers of the Crown. My view has been that if in the first two years of the life of a parliament two Ministers from the House of Representatives each acted for a term of twelve months as resident Minister in London, and a Senate Minister succeeded to the office in the third year, the election year, when members of the House of Representatives need to be in Australia, but senators with another three years of their term to go need not, we should gradually develop a team of men who had made contacts in the Mother Country and had become intimately acquainted with foreign affairs. They would form the nucleus in this Parliament of a foreign and Empire affairs committee, which, as changes of government occurred, would be able to formulate a traditional foreign and Empire policy that would be common to all political parties.
– Would there be any disadvantage in breaking the continuity of office?
– I do not think so. Mr. Bruce was the representative of the Australian Government in the British War Cabinet. His deputy handled the affairs of the High Commissioner’s Office during his absence on other duties. A deputy High Commissioner, who would be a permanent public servant, would ensure continuity of policy. This Parliament would gain from such a system. I think our Empire and foreign policy needs to be continuous and to have the unanimous support of .all Australian political parties. One of the reasons for Great Britain’s strength in its foreign policy, and its ability to influence world affairs, is that there has been a traditional Empire and foreign policy. The policy enunciated by the new Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bevan, is identical with that implemented by Mr. Anthony Eden. Continuity of policy is most important.
I desire now to pay a tribute to Mr. S. M. Bruce who is retiring from the office of High Commissioner in London. He has held that office for twelve years, and during that period he has gained an international reputation. As High Commissioner in peace-time and then in wartime, he participated in many important negotiations. For two years he was chairman of the Council of the League of Nations, and as Australia’s representative, “ proposed the marriage of Nutrition and Agriculture “. That advocacy will be adopted by the world, and his work will, for many years, be a monument to his greatness. He has served the Commonwealth faithfully and well, and we should place on record our appreciation of his splendid record of achievement.
– The Australian Country party associates itself with the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) regarding this bill. The Government is to be congratulated upon the appointment of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) to the office of resident Minister in London. I also associate the Australian Country party with the expressions of gratitude to Mr. S. M. Bruce for his long and excellent service as Australian High Commissioner” in London. He has been ever watchful of Australian interests in Empire and international affairs, and has stated our views vigorously in the councils of the British Empire and the world. Australia is grateful to him for the services which he has rendered. I know that the Government appreciates them. The - late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, both in this chamber and elsewhere, paid tributes to the activities of Mr. Bruce on behalf of the Government and Australia. Every honorable member, and the general public will endorse these expressions of appreciation of the services of this great Australian.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa- Minister for Works and Housing and Minister for inform the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the Government does not intend to prolong the appointment of the resident Minister in London. The Honorable J. A. Beasley will either be appointed High Commissioner, or return to Australia before the next election. The Government proposes to appoint a High Commissioner in the near future, and in the meantime the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will perform the duties of that office in London. I join wholeheartedly with the expressions of appreciation of Mr. Bruce’s services to Australia. I was a member of this House when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister. We had many hard political battles, but I acknowledge that no man could have served his country better than Mr. Bruce has served Australia as High Commissioner in London during the strenuous years of the war. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported for committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th September (vide page 6135), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– Some little time ago, I had the opportunity of expressing, at substantial length, my views on the problem which is dealt with by this bill, and honorable members on both sides of the House were good enough to honour me with their attention to the remarks which I then made. I do not propose to repeat them now. The bill gives effect to what the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said on that occasion in reply to the debate on the motion which I submitted on behalf of the Opposition. Insofar as the bill gives effect to those ideas, many of which were endorsed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, I warmly support it. I still confess to a feeling of some disappointment that we have not taken the opportunity to undertake in Australia some special investigation of the latest developments in other parts of the world, because I believe, as I have said before and as I hope to say again on many occasions, that the problem of education is our post-war world problem number one.
The Minister indicated that the Commonwealth Director of Education, who will be appointed under this bill, will be Professor E. C. Mills. I take this opportunity to say that I welcome that appointment. Professor Mills is handicapped, so far as I know, by only one thing, namely, that he is a product of the same school and the same university as T attended. He is a man with a very wide culture and very wide experience of the practical and theoretical aspects of education. All I hope is that Professor Mills will not be invited, and I am sure that the Minister will not invite him, to do too much ordinary routine administrative work. The main function of the Commonwealth Office of Education, as I understand it, will be to engage in what I may describe as “thinking on education problems”, constantly to conduct research into them, and constantly to endeavour to co-ordinate the activities of the Commonwealth and the primary activities of the States in this field. Occasionally we take a man of first-class gifts for a particular kind of work, and set him too many routine jobs of administration.
The Minister and I may disagree about a number of things, as I have rather gathered during the last six months, but I really believe that we agree very much about this matter. Indeed, I compliment the Minister on his approach to the problem of the Commonwealth’s responsibility in the educational field. I am sure that he will agree with me when I say that when a government undertakes to deal with a vast problem, the first and most important thing is to appoint a first-class man who will devote his time to that task. My experience of public affairs has been that even more important than the devising of general plans is the finding of the right man; and I believe that a good man has been found as Commonwealth Director of Education. We should give him every backing, so that the Commonwealth in due course will find itself supporting educational schemes which have been hammered out in con sultations between the Commonwealth and the States, and which are, in themselves, the best product of the latest ideas evolved in the world. It is a great problem. I congratulate the Government on the step which it has taken, and support the bill.
.- We in Western Australia found that our greatest advances in education occurred when the Director of Education was a Scot: It is fairly well known that that part of the British Empire which most values education is Scotland. One might say of both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that, as Scotsmen, they valued education. I welcome this bill because it will enable the Minister to be as progressive as the Government of the day will allow him to be. If honorable members will examine Part II., which relates to the Commonwealth Office of Education, they will see some of the enabling points which’ are of the utmost importance. The functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education are contained in clause 5, and shall be, inter alia -
to establish and maintain a liaison, on matters relating to education, with other countries and the States ;
I hope that the powers which are contained in paragraph / will be used to the fullest extent. I know that, so far as the Minister is concerned, they will be. Of course, I realize that the Commonwealth will be impeded in its grants in aid to the States by the necessity for financing the needs of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation, but this is the first bold step of the Commonwealth into the field of education, and I warmly compliment the Minister upon it. I hope that the provision which empowers the Commonwealth to grant financial assistance to the States will be fully utilized.
Western Australia has a scattered population, and cannot give to its children an education equal to that which is possible in places where there are concentrations of population. We have in Western Australia about 700 one-teacher schools. That is an expensive form of education, because the salary of the teacher is spread over a comparatively few people and the per capita cost is increased by the “ scatter “ of population. Paragraph / should be used to introduce into Australia the principle which exists in South Africa. The Union Government gives to the provinces a grant of money which is “ weighted “ according to the “scatter” of population.- If that suggestion be adopted, Western Australia will benefit considerably.
Part III. of the bill deals with the Universities Commission. The protraction of the life of the Universities Commission and the continuance of the scheme for granting financial assistance to university students are very important matters. Only about 10 per cent, of the population of Australia are able to afford a university education, but it is extremely doubtful whether Nature concentrates any more than 10 per cent, of the higher abilities in that 10 per cent, of the population. By granting financial assistance to students, we increase the standard of ability of the persons entering professions, and there is very little doubt that that was done by the Commonwealth scheme to assist university students during the war. I have received a letter from the ViceChance Hor of the University of Western Australia in relation to this scheme which reads, in part, as follows: -
Concerning the second paragraph of your letter two or three observations can readily he made from the last few years’ admissions. For instance, we have a far higher application from Western Australia for admission to medicine than we had in former years. Whereas we used to get from fifteen to twenty applicants for medicine, doing first year here, and then going on to an eastern States university, since the scheme for assistance came in we have had about 40 applicants each year. The quota for this State was fixed at. twenty - quite a generous quota in fact - but the fact that there were so many applicants meant that the twenty best could get away and I have no doubt that the quality nf students going from Western Australia to the eastern States to study medicine has gone up somewhat as a result of the assistance.
In engineering, too, the number of applicants for admission to the university has much more than doubled during the war, and as the quota was set at 40 with an application of about SO, the 40 best could be admitted, and consequently in engineering, too, there has been, in my opinion, a raising of the academic standard due, apparently, to the scheme of assistance, but probably in addition, to other causes.
I believe that this constructive piece of legislation will result in a continual lifting of the calibre of students in the universities, and I congratulate the Government upon its introduction.
One other aspect of the Government’s educational activities is of great assistance to the States. Ex-soldier teachers are being financed by the Commonwealth to continue their courses, and that is lifting a burden from the States in respect of teacher training. In Western Australian a double period is being given to teacher training with a resultant increase of efficiency in the education department of the State. I hope that the Government will not forget the need for assistance to those on the lower rungs of the education ladder. I am confident that the Minister will desire to apply this scheme to the secondary level of education. As a teacher I know of the tremendous wastage of ability that occur* at the secondary level of education because parents cannot afford to maintain their children up to matriculation standard. The Government’s scheme for assisting students through their university course applies only to those whose parents can take them to the Leaving Certificate standard. It is a tragedy observed by all teachers that many intelligent children who reach the age of fourteen or fifteen years are taken away from school because their parents cannot afford to maintain them at school any longer. I hope that the Commonwealth scheme will be extended to be of assistance in that respect.
We can see in Canberra the result of the fusion of Commonwealth and State action in education. The capital outlay on the Canberra High School was borne by the Commonwealth. The State Government supplies the staff. I should be very happy if the Commonwealth Government could finance educational activities to an even greater degree in the postwar years, when a far heavier capital outlay will be required on technical, secondary and primary schools than was the case prior to the war. 1 know thai this is not contemplated in the bill, but I hope that consideration will be given to the subject.
.- I wish to deal with only one aspect of education - the urgent need to enable persons in the forces to obtain their discharges so that they may resume studies which were interrupted by their war service. Broadly speaking, my remarks apply to two groups, although others may also be involved. IT refer, first, to those whose university studies were interrupted by the war, and secondly, to those who were about to enter upon university courses. These individuals should be given their discharge as early as possible. When the Government’s demobilization plans were under consideration recently I said that they appeared to be too rigid for satisfactory operation. I hope that some elasticity will be possible in relation to the discharge of students. Unless the scheme is flexible the effect on students may be very serious. The university year begins in February or March, and if students now in the forces are not discharged by that time they may miss a year or be obliged to suffer the big handicap of beginning their university work after the year has opened. This must inevitably result in a wastage of human material. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not apply the points system strictly to service personnel who desire to resume or begin university studies.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that all the people who were attending universities should be released to attend by the beginning of next year?
– Yes. I believe that that would be in the best interests of the community. There is a large degree of urgency in enabling students to resume their studies at the earliest possible date. Persons who can return to the occupations which they followed prior to the war, and in respect of whom employers have obligations, will not be greatly affected if their demobilization is delayed in some cases for two or three months. At any rate, their prospects in life will not. be prejudiced. But the students why miss the beginning of the university year may be greatly handicapped thereby. I believe that the demobilization plan should be sufficiently flexible to meet the circumstances to which I have referred.
– Would the honorable member say that those individuals should be released before professional men who are badly needed in their former occupations ?
– I say that the general demobilization scheme should be sufficiently elastic to allow such cases to be met, and I ask the Minister to give consideration to my submission.
– I am pleased that the Government intends to carry its educational activities into the post-war period and that a permanent liaison officer will maintain contacts that have already been made with
State educational authorities, particularly through the Universities Commission. I am glad also that the Universities Commission is to continue to function. The Government is to be complimented also upon its wise choice of Professor Mills as chairman of the Commission. His work has been beyond praise. The men who return from the war with the intention of continuing their studies or beginning university courses should be given every consideration. These men are disturbed mentally, and in the whole of their nervous system, by the war anxieties through which they have passed. Most of them will be problem cases which will need special treatment if the best results are to be obtained. If they are placed in big classes at the principal universities, where a more or less mass production system of education is followed, the result to many of them will be tragic. In the circumstances, the Government should specially consider making certain the education of as many as can be satisfactorily housed and taught at the smaller universities. The value of personal contact in such universities is a matter of common knowledge and everyday experience. The Universities Commission made last year a remarkable report in regard to the New England University College, which is a comparatively small institution. This is what it said -
Despite the significantly lower leaving examination success of science students entered at New England University College in 1943, the success of these students in the first-year university examinations was higher than for Sydney science students generally, and also for reserved students generally. Despite the small numbers involved the New England students tended to be significantly superior (probable) in their results at ,the annual examinations alone to the general run of reserved students at these examinations.
The difference in their favour, with respect to Sydney science student’s, however, is not statistically acceptable. When the total pass rates are taken into account (including the deferred examinations) the New England students were significantly superior to Sydney science students and also to Sydney reserved students.
In general, the New England students tended to be significantly weaker in their leaving (certificate) results to the Sydney students, but, despite small numbers, those who eat for the first-year (university) examinations in 1943 tended in turn to be significantly more successful iri, these examinations than the Sydney students. The total pass rate of the New England students was 100 per cent, as against 84 per cent, for Sydney science students who entered on leaving results, and 77 per cent, with 4 per cent, carrying subjects for first-year reserved students at Sydney with leaving entrance qualifications.
There is no difference, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) will bear out, in these men as students. The whole difference is in the approach to their education. With problem cases returning from the war, the Universities Commission should concentrate on making certain that the maximum provision shall be made at the smaller universities in connexion with the temporary buildings that are being erected and the teaching facilities that are being provided.
– More tutorial work oan be given at the smaller universities.
– In addition, the lecturers make more personal and intimate contact with the students. The medical school that I attended was a comparatively small one, consisting of’ about nineteen students in my year, all of whom felt that they were personal friends of the professors. Where there are 150 or 200 students, each student is merely a number or a name, and does not have anything like the same contacts with his teachers. During the last six years, the life which young men and women have led in the services has unfitted them for constant study, and they should be restored to the normal condition. On that account, I welcome the proposed development in regard to university and technical education. In the smaller technical schools, many of the students will be closer to their- homes, and that will make a good deal of difference to them. The bigger universities are fortunate in having at their disposal substantial endowments. I have been struck by the generous treatment which the State of New South Wales accorded to the Sydney University from the very beginning. This enabled that institution to erect 80 or 90 years ago buildings which are still the pride of the whole city, the State, and the continent. Noble surroundings are much more likely to build noble minds and thoughts than ar« mean and parsimonious surroundings. I therefore urge the Minister to impress on the Universities Commission the need for attention to the buildings associated with the smaller universities. When the immediate necessity has passed to erect temporary buildings, co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States should make it possible to give the best start to the men and women who, by reason of having trained minds, must become the leaders in the business, professional and political life of the nation, and ultimately lift the rest of the nation to the highest level. There is a wonderful opportunity, not merely to render a temporary service but also to establish a standard that will enable us to rival the work that is done in the Scottish universities, which for many years have been noted for their learning.
.- The universities should display greater interest in agricultural education. I have been fortunate in having had the opportunity to witness the invaluable work in respect of agricultural education that is being done by some of the American universities, most notably the University of California, which has gained world-wide renown for its activities in regard to that subject. Almost every great university in America not only has a chair of agriculture, but also provides education in regard to very many aspects of agriculture. They are not satisfied merely to impart agricultural education within the university, or to publish bulletins; they also engage most actively in the education of the farming community on the farms themselves. The University of California, a State which has a population greater than that of the whole of Australia, has a Director of Agriculture, and a chair for this and that branch, covering the whole gamut of the agricultural, pastoral, horticultural and livestock industries. It also has a most comprehensive library, and a system for the publication of the results of its investigations of not only theoretical matters but also the practical, everyday problems of the land industries. These are carried to a superb conclusion by placing a representative of the university in almost every town of any consequence in the State. Wherever there is a town with a, population of a few thousand, one find’s a representative of the agricultural section of the University of California. He does not teach students, and is not clothed with any authority to insist on the adoption of agricultural practices. He gives advice and help to the farmers who go to him, and is also clothed with the responsibility of going to the farmers and ascertaining what are their problems in respect of the growth of lucerne, beans, poultry or livestock. They are assisted on the spot.
There is a professor of engineering, who has the responsibility not only of training students in those aspects of engineering which impinge on the agricultural industries, but also of examining the peculiar engineering problem* which confront the man on the land. He acquaints himself with problems before they are taken to him, not only those that demand solution, but also problems the solution of which would result in more efficient farming or the lowering of the costs of production. For example, an agricultural machinery company may place on tho market a bailer to pick up and bail hay cheaply. This professor of engineering might then say: “Here is something very valuable, and it would be even more valuable if we had another machine to pick up the bales and load them on to the waggon “. Another machine might be adapted to pick up bags of grain in the paddock. It might be possible to install on a truck some device to shake nuts off trees, thus saving the laborious work of picking them, or for shaking prune plums off the tree and gathering them up. These are some of the practical applications of agricultural education which had not previously occurred to me, but they would be of great service to farmers. We have been prone to think of education as something imparted to classes of children in school, or by professors lecturing to university students or giving university extension courses. We have not previously thought of carrying industrial education right into the factories, the farms and the homes. It is true that we have a magnificent organization in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but it does not usually go beyond the publishing of a bulletin which may or may not reach those whom it could benefit.
That criticism also applies in the case of publications issued by State Departments of Agriculture. I am sure that whatever cost is involved in this plan will be amply repaid in, the form of an increased national income, due to a reduce tion of the cost of production, thus enabling us to sell cur products more cheaply within Australia, and to meet more successfully the competition of others on the markets of the world. “We have here an opportunity for the universities to make a valuable contribution to the success of the primary industries, and I hope that the Government will keep this aspect in mind. We have a great deal to learn from the work done at the University of California, and other institutions of the kind.
– in, reply - I am. gratified at the reception of this bill by all honorable members who have spoken. They all are in agreement that the Government is taking a desirable step forward in the educational field. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) suggested that students should be instructed in small classes, and with that I agree. Even though classes may be big because of the return of men in large numbers from the forces, the reconstruction training authorities, working under the Universities Commission, have made provision for special tutors for students who may be judged to need that form of tuition. The matter of demobilization of men whose careers at universities were interrupted by their military service, and of men who want to begin university careers, is receiving careful consideration, and I assure the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that everything possible will be done to arrange for their early release, [t is estimated that about 10,000 men in the services will ask for professional training at the universities, and it is not physically possible to provide accommodation and teachers for all of them at once. A scheme of priority is being considered, and we shall release as exceptions to the points system the largest number of prospective university students that, it is possible to deal with.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) mentioned agricultural education, the importance of which the Government realizes. It has appointed Dr. Currie, of the University of Western Australia, to make a survey of this field. He has submitted a number of recommendations, in the light of which the Government is preparing a scheme of rural training. This will cover some of the points raised by the honorable member. I am sure that, having regard to the goodwill shown by all honorable members towards the bill, this lusty infant will grow to a healthy maturity, and will come up to all our expectations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th September (vide page 6132), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to provide for the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, and it sets forth the terms of his appointment. It provides in addition that -
The judge shall be capable of accepting and holding the office of Judge Advocate-General of any part of the Defence Force and of holding any other office (other than a place of profit) if his appointment to that other office is made or approved by the Governor-General.
I find it impossible to support this measure. I listened attentively to the speech of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) when he introduced the measure, and I am still completely at a loss to understand what case exists for this proposed change of the law. The business of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is extremely limited. No one could suppose that it would require the full-time attention of any judge. By the courtesy of the Acting Attorney-General, I was able to obtain from the Solicit.or-General a record of the business of the court over the last three years. In 1942, there were ten sittings in court and five in chambers, a total of fifteen days, on which there were some proceedings, which may or may not have lasted for the whole day. In 1943, there were eleven sittings in court, and nine in chambers, a total of twenty, while in 1944 there were eight sittings in court and nineteen in chambers, a total of 27.
Also, in 1944, there was a number of sittings, bringing the total up to 43, arising out of the fact that, under the National Security (External Territories) Regulations, there was temporarily vested in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory the jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts of the Territory of Papua and of New Guinea. When the jurisdiction of those courts is re-established in the Territories, such cases will no longer come before the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Therefore, we may take it that the Supreme Court of the- Australian Capital Territory sits from 20 to 25 days a year. At the present time, the work is being performed by Mr. Justice Clyne, who is a Commonwealth judge in bankruptcy. There is power under the Bankruptcy Act to appoint another judge in bankruptcy if one is required. If the Government had said that another appointment was necessary because of the volume of bankruptcy work, no one would quarrel with its decision. But here, almost at the end of the session, is a proposal for the appointment of an entirely new judge, whose qualifications are set out in the normal terms, the whole proposal apparently being that he shall be a new judge, appointed from the bar, and that his prime job shall be that of a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, whose duties in that capacity will occupy from 20 to 2-5 days a year.
– He will not be employed exclusively on that work.
– No. The Minister, realizing that that would he a grotesque reason for appointing a judge, proceeded to fill in the gaps. They are pretty big gaps, because, after all, when from 20 to 25 days a year have been accounted for, a considerable portion of the year still remains, and for it provision must be made. What is that provision ? It is, first, that he shall be capable of acting as Judge Advocate-General of any of the services. In other words, he is to be capable of acting in a capacity which is already adequately dealt with by other persons who are experienced in military law - a branch of law of which he, in all probability, will know nothing. Is there any ‘real occasion for having a Supreme Court judge appointed to act as Judge Advocate-General? I have not heard of that before. I do not believe that such ;m arrangement exists in any other British country. It certainly does not exist in Great Britain. The services have gone through the period of their greatest expansion, when hundreds of thousands of men have been in the forces. Each service has had- its own Judge Advocate-General, but now, when the war is over and the services are largely to be demobilized, and the work of every Judge Advocate-General will begin to fall off, we are told that there is another justification for whatever appointment is in the wind : the .Supreme Court Judge is to take on the work, or is to be entitled to take on the work, of a Judge Advocate-General. Even if he is made Judge AdvocateGeneral of the Army he will still have a lot of time on . his hands. And so the Minister said, “ We will fill that in by using him for royal commissions “. I ask the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who appears interested in this matter, whether he has ever heard of anything more ludicrous? This is the most fantastic case for the appointment of a Supreme Court judge to which I have ever listened. 1 say that with respect to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The legitimate work of a judge of the Australian Capital Territory - the hearing and determination of matters in court - can be disposed of in from 20 to 25 days a year. He is to fill in the rest of the year attending to matters into which a royal commissioner might inquire.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested sufficient work for royal commissions to keep two judges occupied.
– Does the Prime Minister’s interjection indicate that the Government’s reluctance to appoint royal commissions has disappeared and that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), may now expect that the royal commissions that he has advocated will he appointed?
– If the Government appointed all the royal commissions that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition desires, it would need to appoint three commissions a day.
– I do not expect the Prime Minister to he familiar with this bill, or its background, and so, for his benefit, I say that when the Parliament is asked to provide for the appointment of another judge, who is to exercise judicial functions and will he provided with a salary and status commensurate with the responsibility of his office, at least the Parliament should be presented with a case which justifies the appointment. In all my experience I have never known of a proposal for the appointment of another judge for which such inadequate reasons had been advanced. For his duties as Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory the appointee would be required to work on only from 20 to 25 days a year. There is, of course, the possibility that he will be asked to act as a royal commissioner in matters yet to arise, and which may never arise; and in order to fill in any spare time which he may have he has to be capable of acting as Judge Advocate-General of any of the services. But, as I have said, the necessity for such an appointment to the Navy, the Army or the Air Force has practically disappeared. Is it desired to find a job for some one?
– Perhaps the Government has the right honorable gentleman in mind for the appointment.
– It might; but if so, I shall still be here after the appointment has been made. One can only speculate as to the reason for the proposed appointment, but I submit that we ought to be told the reason. If this is supposed to be a bill which presents a real case for the proposed appointment, and is to be judged on its merits, I can only say that I have never listened to such humbug.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has shown that the duties of a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory would occupy only from 20 to 25 days a year. The only information before the House regarding the proposed appointment is contained in the second-reading speech of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley). Of that speech I have to say that the Minister did not take the House into his confidence, because honorable members are still unaware of any good reason for the appointment of an extra judge. I approach this proposed appointment with a knowledge of the position of the judiciary in Queensland. Some pertinent remarks were made recently by Mr. Justice E. A. Douglas who lodged an emphatic protest, from his place on the bench, against the utilization of members of the Queensland judiciary to carry out functions which appertain to Commonwealth administration. His Honour said that the Chief Justice of Queensland, Mr. Justice Webb, had been absent from Queensland almost continuously for nearly eighteen months carrying out work for the Commonwealth Government. It will be remembered that the services of Mr. Justice Webb were loaned to the Commonwealth, and he was generously released from his State duties by the Queensland Government for special duties. Mr. Justice Douglas also said that Mr. Justice Philp, a senior judge and a member of the Queensland industrial bench, had much of his time taken up in carrying out the requirements of the Commonwealth Government, and that Mr. Justice Mansfield was associated with Mr. Justice Webb in investigating atrocities. At the moment he is in Tokyo. The position in Victoria is somewhat similar: Mr. Justice Clyne is carrying out work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. That is true alsoof Mr. Justice Reed, of South Australia. In addition to performing the duty of judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, the proposed appointee would be engaged in relieving the judges whose services have been made available to the Commonwealth by various State governments. Much dissatisfaction exists in the States whose judges have been seconded by the Commonwealth. Indeed, deputations have waited on the QueensHand Department of Justice to draw attention to the arrears of work and the cases still unheard- after many months. The deputation asked that the arrears he overtaken and that Queensland judges be relieved of other duties. Every aspect »f this matter should be surveyed. The Government should be able to present to the House a better case for the appointment of an additional judge than it has presented so far. In his second-reading speech the Acting Attorney-General said -
It is recognized that, at the present time, the judge will not be fully occupied with the duties of his judicial office. The bill, therefore, provides that the judge may hold the office of Judge Advocate-General of any part of the defence force, or any other office, not of profit, which the Governor-General may approve. It is confidently anticipated that the judge first to be appointed in accordance with the proposed provision will, pending the business of the court increasing to such degree as to demand the whole of his services, be able to give full and valuable service in other directions. In addition to performing the functions of Judge Advocate-General of, say, the Army - for some time this position will make fairly heavy demands on his time - he will be available to make inquiries on matters which heretofore, in many instances, have necessarily been performed by judges of State courts. The Commonwealth “is greatly appreciative of the co-operation of the States in the past, in making judges available for these inquiries.
Summed up, the position is that whoever is appointed to the position will be, first, a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory ; secondly, a person to relieve the pressure on judge’s in bankruptcy; and, thirdly, a person to undertake commission duties now being performed by judges of some of the States.
– Why does the right honorable gentleman say that the new appointee would relieve the pressure of bankruptcy work?
– It has been said that Judge Clyne should be relieved of special duties that are now being performed by him for the Commonwealth. If that were done he could give the whole of his attention to bankruptcy work. I have been asked to interest myself in the unsatisfactory position which exists in Queensand, where important litigation has been postponed because Queensland judges are carrying out work on behalf of the Commonwealth. J agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that a much stronger case should be presented to the House for the appointment of an additional judge.
.- The Government has not made out a good case for the appointment- of an additional judge. In his second-reading speech the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) admitted that, so far, no cause for complaint on the ground of delay appears to have arisen. There is good reason for that statement, when we examine the figures relating to sittings of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory cited by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I shall not cover the ground already well covered by the right honorable gentleman, but shall confine my criticism to what, in my opinion, is an even more unsatisfactory aspect of this proposal. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition dealt with this himself, but I desire to develop it a little. It is the proposal to give the judge a variety of duties to perform, either administrative or quasi administrative, at the request and convenience of the Government. It is about time that this Parliament had a good look at the practice that has developed in the last few years of appointing members of the judiciary, whether from a Supreme Court or another court of a State or the High Court to carry out either diplomatic or administrative functions. I believe that that is an utterly unsound departure from the well-established practice of British courts. I think it is entirely unsound that you should have, for example, a member of the High Court taken from his place on the bench, however willingly, and sent away to represent this country on a diplomatic mission, and in the course of that misson be subject to the instructions of political government in his own country. I should be surprised to learn that Great Britain had substantially departed from the long-standing practice that once a judge is appointed he holds his appointment for life and cannot expect promotion. Very good reasons exist for that practice. The principle one is that it gives a sense of independence to the judiciary, which results in courageous and impartial treatment of matters brought before it. The moment you allow a judge appointed to a particular position to feel that he may by a course of action on his part become entitled to promotion at the hands of a government, you undermine the stability of our judicial system and weaken the spirit of impartiality and sense of independence that a judge should at all times exercise.
We have seen most extraordinary developments in the last few years in the practice of asking judges to undertake extra-judicial functions. It is amazing that a judge of the High Court should carry out a diplomatic function, in the course of which he is under the instructions of a government whose actions on the constitutional plane twelve months later he may be called upon to examine. We have had judges appointed in recent times as chairmen of purely administrative bodies dealing with matters affected by the political atmosphere of the day. We have had judicial chairmen of the Stevedoring Commission, the Maritime Industries Commission, the Australian Wool Board, and so on. One could mention a number of instances. Now, under this bill, the Government proposes to extend that unsatisfactory practice, as I view it, and have, apparently at call, a permanent justice of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, who will be available for such royal commissions as may be appointed from time to time to investigate matters.
– And as Judge AdvocateGeneral he will be under the orders of the chief of the general staff.
– Well, a royal commission is not ordinarily a judicial inquiry. Most royal commissions in this country have about 10 per cent, law and about 90 per cent, politics in them, and I believe that it would create a most undesirable state of affairs if a judge appointed by the Government, who, according to recent practice, may expect a diplomatic appointment or promotion to the High Court bench, should be called upon to investigate matters in which the actions of the Government may come under question. The Leader of the Australian
Country party (Mr. Fadden), in supporting this proposal, pointed out the congestion in various .State courts. That is a matter that the State governments might very well attend to. It may be that the appointment of an additional judge in one or more of the States would satisfactorily meet the problem.
– The congestion hae occurred because the judges are doing the Commonwealth work. That is the position in Queensland.
– That may be partly the case, but it would be more satisfactory to have judges of the Supreme Courts appointed from time to time than to have a judge directly answerable to, or looking directly to, the Commonwealth Government for promotion or advancement, called upon to probe matters raised inside or outside of Parliament that call for the sort of inquiry that a royal commission would conduct. We frequently find that certain judges have special capacity in some particular direction or some special knowledge of a particular field of industry. In New South Wales, for example, Mr. Justice Davidson has made a special study of the coal-mining industry. It may be found useful to appoint a man to conduct a royal commission of inquiry into an industry of which he has some first-hand knowledge. A royal commissioner suitable to investigate one matter might not be suitable to investigate other natters. All governments have tried to appoint as royal commissioners men qualified to deal with matters that have arisen for inquiry. No real attempt has been made by the Government to justify this appointment. Nothing was said in the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Beasley) to justify it-
– Apparently it is quite urgent, because we get the bill at the last moment.
– That is also a proper comment. Because the proposal outlined by the Minister has the unsatisfactory features to which I have referred, I join with the Leader of the Opposition in resisting its adoption.
.- There can be no dispute, as was stressed by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) when introducing this bill, and admitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), thatthe judges in the various State courts are working at high pressure. It is unsatisfactory to both the States and the Commonwealth for the Commonwealth to borrow the services of State judges who can be ill spared from their jurisdictions. I agree, therefore, that it is time that provision was made for the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
– How does the honorable gentleman suppose that that will effect the work done by the State courts?
– It will enable State judges to carry out their State duties. The court lists are congested. Litigants have to wait many months to have their cases heard. The congestion becomes accentuated when State judges are diverted to hold inquiries in relation to Commonwealth matters. That also applies to the High Court. It is well known that judges of the High Court cannot be spared. Their work is in arrears. They have not been able to attend to lists in distant States for a considerable time. This is equally true of the Arbitration Court. Unionists and others have been waiting a considerable time to have their claims determined, and that is causing friction in industry. It applies, too, to the bankruptcy jurisdiction. The only way in which to handle the situation is by making this appointment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that the new judge would have only a limited number of cases to attend to in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, but here will be plenty of other scope for him. If we take notice of all the wild charges of some honorable members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), be will be kept busy for years. Luckily for the judiciary most of the charges are disproved very easily. It is advisable to have a judge on the spot ready to deal with those matters if inquiry should be necessary. The honorable member raised the matter of the impartiality of the judiciary, but his implications would be equally applicable to a judge appointed as a royal commissioner by a State government. At any rate the impartiality of the judiciary of the Commonwealth is absolutely safeguarded. Afederal judge cannot be subjected to the control of the government of the day, no matter what it may do, because he is appointed for life. He would be more impartial than a judge of a State court might be, because in some States there is a retiring age for judges, and it might be that a judge would lean towards a government from which he hoped for an extended term after reaching the retiring age. Extensions of terms of service are granted by State governments. In the Commonwealth sphere judges are appointed for life, and need have no like fears. It is unfortunate that the Constitution provides that Commonwealth judges shall be appointed for life, because, as the result of that provision, some justices of the High Court are octogenarians and others are well over 70. One is, I believe, S3.
– Discussion of the ages of members of the High Court bench is not in order on this bill.
– The judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court at Canberra will not be subject to political control because he will be appointed for life. Other duties than those which he may be called upon to do in the Supreme Court will be given to him by the Government. He will be kept fully occupied. In the Northern Territory matters which will arise from time to time will keep him occupied. A lot of his time will be spent in travelling.
– Has the honorable gentleman forgotten the existence of the justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory?
Sitting suspended from11.45 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 5 October 1945.
– Under the Constitution, a judge must be appointed for life, and he cannot be removed from office except by resolution of both Houses on the grounds of proved incapacity or on other grounds specified in the Constitution. Thus, the appointee has full protection with respect to not only salary, but also retiring allowance and pension; and with such protectionhis integrity would be assured.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) contended that in view of the limited number of cases likely to arise in Canberra, there was no need for this appointment. During the last few years the Commonwealth repeatedly has had difficulty in obtaining the services of judges from State governments. I recall offhand that on three or four occasions it was not easy to obtain the services of any State judge at all, each of the State Premiers intimating to the Prime Minister or Acting Prime Minister at the time that the work in the State courts was so heavy that a judge could not be released without throwing an undue strain upon his brother judges. Only as the result of strong appeals have we been able to persuade the States to loan judges to undertake work for the Commonwealth. During the last few years the Commonwealth has been obliged to bor- row from theStates the services of many judges, including the following: - New South Wales - Mr. Justice Davidson, Mr. Justice Owen, Mr. Justice Roper, Mr. Justice Maxwell, and Judge Kirby; Victoria - Mr. Justice Lowe, Mr. Justice O’Bryan, and Mr. Justice Martin; Queensland - Chief Justice Webb, Mr. Justice Mansfield, Mr. Justice Philp, and Mr. Justice Douglas; South Australia - Chief Justice Napier, Mr. Justice Reed, and Judge Paine; Western Australia - Chief Justice Northmore; and Tasmania - Mr. Justice Hutchins. During the time that Mr. Justice O’Bryan was with us doing work connected with the Army, and carrying out other inquiries, he rendered extremely valuable service; but all through that period the Victorian Government pressed for his return.
– The Prime Minister will agree that most of those judges, if not all of them, were engaged on wartime work for the Commonwealth.
– I can only say that the responsibilities of the Commonwealth are gradually extending over a very wide field, and every justification exists for the Commonwealth itself to have a judge available to undertake work arising from time to time thus obviating appeals to the State governments which have been very generous in their responses to our appeals.
– And the Commonwealth has been obliged to engage a number of eminent King’s Counsel to undertake special work.
– That is so. Apart from normal court sittings, thereis every justification for the Commonwealth to have available the services of a judge for work such as I have described. On one occasion when we wanted a judge we had to appeal to five States before we were able to get one._
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933-35.
Resolution reported and - by leaveadopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time. .
Debate resumed from the 3rd October (vide page 6431), on motion by Mr Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 3rd October (vide page 6430), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini-
That the bill be now reada second time.
– I do not propose to initiate any general debate, although no doubt on the crowded benches there will be many who will want to discuss the Supplementary Estimates. I wish once more, just briefly, to mention the case I raised the other night with relation to the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Shortly, the case with which I am concerned is one in which the issue of preference will arise as between two Australians, one of whom served in the Australian forces and the other in the United Kingdom forces, in the war of 1914-18. If that question arises as it very well may - indeed, within the next few days - the position under the law as it stands will be that the Australian who served in the United Kingdom forces must be treated as not being a returned soldier In other words, he is excluded from the preference provisions of the act. I do not raise this matter by way of criticism at all, because I confess that I entirely failed to notice this position although in common with other honorable members 1 devoted a great deal of attention to the bill in committee. But this position has arisen. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary result that a man who served for years in the United Kingdom forces in the war of 1914-18 should be regarded, for any purpose, as not being a returned soldier. We are not dealing with the case of some one who served in the United Kingdom army, being himself a resident of Great Britain ; because that raises questions which I know the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has been looking at. I understand that questions of reciprocity are involved in that problem. This is the case of an Australian, born and bred in Australia, who happened for one reason, or another, to serve in the United Kingdom forces in the war of 1914-18. Perhaps, there were many Australians who happened to be in England at the outbreak of that war, and served in the United Kingdom forces; or Australians who, perhaps, having been rejected in Australia for military service, went to Great Britain and joined the Imperial forces. _ This particular case exercises
Day mind a great deal. It concerns a firm of solicitors, one of the partners in which has been solicitor to a public body which would desire to carry on its business with the same firm, because all the clerks and personnel are familiar with the work. This gentleman whose case I am raising is himself a partner in that firm, and as the law now stands he will be excluded from appointment unless the public authority comes to the conclusion that his qualifications so far outmatch those of anybody else that the preference provisions do not apply. I invite the Prime Minister to have another look at this matter. I dare say that at this stage of the session it would be difficult to bring in an amending bill. If the Government came to the conclusion that this was an anomaly which it proposed to rectify an announcement of that fact would be of value in cases of thi3 kind. I ask the Prime Minister to consult with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has given me some of his time on this matter. I hope that he will agree that this is an anomaly, that no possible harm can be done to any one by rectifying it, and that a great deal of good will be done in similar cases if it is rectified.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) mentioned this matter to me earlier this week and I intended to examine the position. I apologize for not having done so, but the right honorable gentleman will understand that I have been extremely busy.
– I realize that.
– Early next week I shall inquire what can be done about the matter.
.I ask the Government whether it intends, before the Parliament goes into recess, to make a statement covering the industrial situation which is developing throughout Australia. From time to time the word “ anarchy “ has been used in relation to industrial conditions in particular parts of the Commonwealth, and we should have to go back a long way to find a period in our history when there was such a widespread incidence of industrial trouble, with such serious ramifications, as that which we are experiencing today. Frequently last week honorable members sought to obtain from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers a statement of the policy of the Government on these matters. I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), who represents the Minister for Supply and Shipping in this chamber, questions about the number of ships which are held up in various ports of the Commonwealth and what the Government proposed to do to see that those ships shall be serviced and kept moving.
Earlier this week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to enunciate his policy regarding the go-slow tactics which have been adopted by members of the Building Trades Federation in Victoria. I reminded him that a meeting would be held in Melbourne this week of members of the Building Trades Federation for the purpose of discussing this go-slow policy, and I asked him to endeavour to persuade the officials concerned not to hold up construction, which would inevitably result from .a stop-work meeting, over such a wide field. I asked the honorable gentleman whether he had attempted to persuade members of the federation to follow the constitutional course of having their complaint dealt with by the Arbitration Court. All the Minister would say at the time was that he hoped that the men would decide against a go-slow policy. I point out to him, if he has not already read the account, that at that particular meeting, which, according to the press, was attended by about 3,000 operatives, a unanimous decision was reached to continue the go-slow policy in the building trades in Victoria - a policy which cuts right across the home-building and factory construction programmes upon which so much of the Government’s postwar rehabilitation policy depends.
I could discuss this matter for an hour, because the incidents are so serious and the effects so grave upon the economy of the Commonwealth. The strike in Newcastle, which has prevented the despatch of coal from that port, is having serious consequences in Victoria and doubtless in other States. Already the Government of Victoria has intimated that the rationing of gas will have to be introduced in industrial concerns this week-end. Indications of more serious trouble have already been made manifest. The Government cannot maintain this attitude of casualness, apathy and indifference to a situation which, if allowed to drift, will affect gravely the financial position of the Commonwealth and will prejudice the possibilities of absorbing returning servicemen and persons displaced from war-time industries. The Prime Minister and his Government owe it to this House, as they owe it to the country, to tell us what they intend to do.
It may be, as has been said in respect of the various incidents which have occurred, that State tribunals must deal with these matters. But these are not isolated occurrences. The Government itself interpreted the dispute in which Indonesian seamen were involved as a sinister move on the part of the Communist party to further its opposition to the White Australia policy. Therefore, if these are not isolated instances which can be redressed by a hearing in the courts, what does the Government propose to do? If this is a concerted move on the /part of one militant industrial section, does the Government propose to leave that development unchecked, and does it propose not to place any curb on the activities of the persons concerned? These are queries which not only come from the ranks of the political Opposition, in this House, but also are in the minds of citizens of the Commonwealth as a whole. The Government will be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty if it allows the Parliament to go into recess without telling us what it proposes to do regarding this industrial unrest.
– I desire to direct attention again to the unfortunate circumstance surrounding the erection of the Kenmore Tubercular Soldiers Sanatorium in Queensland. In Wednesday’s issue of the Brisbane Courier-Mail. I noticed an article stating that further delay had occurred in completing the amenities at the chalet and some comments by the secretary of the Tubercular Soldiers Association, Mr. S. C. James. I know Mr. James well. He is a public-spirited man of sterling worth, and does not make statements which are not in accordance with the facts. His utterances are temperate. The article reads -
The chalet waa opened by the Governor (Sir Leslie Wilson) on the 24th September, said Mr. James.
On the 29th September six of the eight carpenters working on the recreation room were withdrawn to other jobs.
The recreation room was essential to patients’ welfare, but for seven weeks returned sick servicemen had been left there with no means of entertainment. “ There is nothing for them to do at night except lie on their beds and read books supplied by the Red Cross”, Mr. .Tames continued. “They have not even a sitting room. In the day time patients are quite happy, but the lonely nights oppress them. “ Promises to have the recreation room finished have been broken repeatedly. The patients have besieged the contractor (Mr. R. Wilson) to complete at least the building of the billiard room. He is doing the best he can, and is working as hard as his employees when he is not scouting around for material. “ The whole set-up is heartbreaking for the patients. Unless the Government puts labour on the job and gives some amenities patients will leave the institution before they are ready to go out”.
Mr. James added that although work on the recreation rooms had to stop, men were taken away to clean up the ground and build an entrance to make a show for the Governor’s visit.
Air. Wilson said last night that the mcn had been diverted to urgent work at Greenslopes hospital, but the work at Kenmore was also urgent. He had exhausted every possible avenue to get men. He could get no help from either government departments or unions. Materials were also difficult to obtain.
The Repatriation Commissioner (Mr. H. G. Turner) said that building was a matter for the Department of the Interior.
Recently, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) stated that during the war the Repatriation Department had experienced great difficulty in obtaining manpower and materials for the Kenmore Sanatorium. He pointed out also that now that the war had ended, the highest priority had been given to the department’s projects and almost unlimited finance was available for them. I should like him to explain why the recreation building has not been completed. In response to the Minister’s invitation to attend the opening ceremony, I visited the sanatorium on the 29th September, and saw that the building was almost completed. I regard the chalet as being excellently arranged and constructed, but it must be equipped without delay with the necessary amenities. The workers have been diverted to other jobs. “What is the prospect of restoring labour to Kenmore, so that the facilities which have been promised to the patients may be provided?
-Because of urgent business in Canberra, I was unable to attend the opening of the Kenmore Tubercular Soldiers’ Sanatorium on the 29th September, but at the first opportunity I shall visit the institution. I am aware that amenities have yet to be provided; the difficulty is to get the necessary materials. The work will proceed just as fast as we are able to obtain them.
– The work cannot be completed if tradesmen are diverted from the job.
– .It is useless to keep tradesmen on the job if they cannot be supplied with materials. I shall investigate personally the matter raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and I assure him that everything possible will be done for the comfort of the patients. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) has stressed to me the importance of providing telephone facilities at the institution and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) has also mentioned certain requirements. Their requests will receive attention. I hope to meet the patients when I visit Kenmore and to have these matters adjusted.
– Yesterday I received a letter from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) consequent upon my complaint in this House in regard to a communication which I received on the 20th September. I shall read this letter, because by no stretch of the imagination can I believe that Cabinet ever gave this matter reasonable consideration. It relates to the return to the Northern Territory at their own expense of people who were compulsorily evacuated owing to the war situation. The letter reads -
In the House on 20th September, you sought confirmation of a statement appearing in a letter which you had received from me the previous day to the effect, inter cilia, that the Commonwealth is not in a position to undertake any financial responsibility in regard to civilians returning to their homes in evacuated areas.
I have since made a point of consulting the official record of this subject and I am now in a position to confirm to you that my letter correctly stated a decision taken by the Government after full consideration of a lengthy Cabinet submission which recorded the many aspects of this difficult question and the observations thereon of the several departments who would be concerned in the implementation of the Government’s decision.
In the circumstances, should you wish to pursue .the matter further in relation to civilians who may return to the Northern Territory, I would suggest that you take the matter Tip with the Minister for the Interior. It would then be a matter for his consideration whether he would reopen the question with the Treasurer, or with the Cabinet.
I am sure that no mem ber of this chamber can say he honestly believes that people who were told to pack their belongings and leave Darwin within two hours, should be compelled to return to their homes at their own expense. This letter is one of the most astounding communications I have ever received. I honestly believed that the letter which was sent to me on the 20th September was a mistake. Therefore, I raised the matter with the Minister for the Army to give him an opportunity to correct what I believed to be a genuine error. I am now informed, however, over the signature of the Minister for the Army himself, that the decision was arrived at after a lengthy Cabinet submission - I do not know whether or not there was any discussion. I am also told that it is a difficult . question. I say that there cannot he anything difficult about it at all. The people were ordered out for Commonwealth purposes.
– Many people left of their own accord.
– And many did not leave of their own accord.
– They were lucky to get out.
– There was no more heavily bombed territory on earth than Malta, but civilians were not ordered to leave that island. One of the most amazing actions ever taken by a government of this country was the forcible evacuation of people from their homes in the Northern Territory when there was no real need for that to be done.
The Government cannot possibly justify this astounding decision.
.- I wish to speak on a matter which ii of great importance to every honorable member, and to the Government’s postwar rehabilitation plans, namely, the demobilization of servicemen. To-day, 1 received the following telegram: -
Try overcome existent anomalies surrounding compassionate releases ridiculous Army indifference displayed in completely genuine applications would be grateful your assistance in reference this position.
I have had voluminous correspondence on this matter during the last few days. I should like to know from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) whether the practice of granting leave or discharge on compassionate grounds has been abandoned. One would have thought that with so many troops idle it would be much easier now to grant leave or discharge on compassionate grounds, than it was while the war was on. I should like to know also what has become of the long-service release plan. Some months ago the Government announced that servicemen who had served in prescribed areas for certain periods would be automatically discharged from the services. Despite what was said in this House yesterday, I have been informed that the procedure which was being followed at Victoria Barracks, .Sydney, in regard to the release of these men, has been discontinued during the past two or three weeks, and that officers engaged upon that work have been switched to other duties. I should like to know on whose authority Army officials have taken that action. I fail to understand why the release of these men should be any more difficult now that the war is over than it was a few months ago. In fact, one would expect an acceleration of the discharges. A definite promise was given to those men and it should be fulfilled. A similar position exists in regard to occupational releases.. There seems to be a serious bottle-neck. Yesterday I had brought to my notice the fact that the man-power authorities had refused to recommend the release of a man whose job was in the wholesale butchery and export trade - a vital food production, undertaking. Another case was that of q man who has been appointed, subject to release from the Air Force, as Assistant Health and Building Inspector in the Bankstown municipality. That municipality has been labouring under adverse conditions throughout the war. tt includes a large residential district in which big housing plans are under way; but plans and specifications, which after all are the foundation of any building programme, . cannot be handled with sufficient speed unless additional staff is provided in the building inspector’s office. Although this man has definitely been appointed to the municipality, man-power authorities have informed me that they cannot recommend his release. At present he is stationed at a depot only a few miles away so that no transport difficulties exist. He Ls not doing important work and could more usefully be employed, in his new job. I have had brought to my notice other cases concerning servicemen who are seeking leave or discharge from the services to go to definite occupations. We were given to understand that when demobilization started, servicemen would be given leave with pay until their discharge could be effected. Many servicemen are only too willing to accept employment, without Army pay, whilst they are awaiting discharge, but if the Army authorities a’re prepared to continue their normal Gervi.ce remuneration well and good. It appears, however, that that plan is not being carried out. I am satisfied that there are individuals in official positions who are not in sympathy with the policy of this Government, anc! are frustrating and undermining the Government’s plan. E realize that Ministers are doing their best, but officials occupying key positions could easily form a bottleneck, and thus retard the Government’s programme. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to get the Co-ordinator-General of Demobilization, General Savige, on the job immediately, to find out why the hold-up has occurred, and to deal promptly with the individuals concerned.
I have received from a member of a Labour league in my electorate the following letter: -
As a member of Guildford Labour League, [ take this opportunity of bringing a few things to your notice, and ask that you investigate same.
On behalf of my mates over here in Borneo, I am asking you to investigate our mail position.
We are in the Balikpapan area, members of the 7th Division, and now that the war is over we naturally long to be home, but failing this our next wish is for mail from home, and also that our mail reaches our people in good time.
I have it on good authority that no mail has left the Balikpapan area of Borneo for 9 (nine) days.
Apart from this, our incoming mail is very, very, irregular. I made investigations re the plane position, and find ‘planes are coming from Australia, and I have asked numerous postal officials “Why the hold-up?” The answer has been “ The Air Force “.
Surely in a civilized time like this, when hostilities have ceased, our Government can make tilings a little more comfortable for us. Maybe Senator Ashley, or the Air Minister can supply the answer to the general bungling of our mail over here.
The ordinary civilian cannot realize the importance of mail to us. In itself it appears a small issue, but the soldiers are not going to always forget this general bungling of affairs. Mail, I say, is our mainstay in forgetting the shabby way in which we are and have been treated. It means in short, happiness, as much as Borneo can give us happiness.
The men here are beginning to grumble, and why not? We have had next to no fresh meat, no fresh butter, and very little fresh vegetables. We have read where demobilization begins in October, but we laugh when we realize there are still hundreds of five-year men still in Borneo.
I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to have a clear statement of the position conveyed to these men. They are a long way from home and apparently they have little to do. Naturally, they are discontented and they should be told exactly where they stand.
.I draw the attention of the Government once more to a matter which has arisen, apparently on the initiative of the Government of the United States of America, namely Empire reciprocal tariffs. According to this morning’s press, rumours which have been circulating for some time that this matter was likely to be raised, have been confirmed. To-day’s newspapers carry the story that discussions are actually proceeding in Washington, on the initiative of the United States Government, which has urged that there should be a review of the system of .reciprocal Empire tariffs. I cannot think of anything that could deal a more deadly Wow to
Australian primary export industries than interference with the protection that our major export primary industries enjoy on the United Kingdom market, which of course, is the principal overseas market for our most important export products. There would not be any worthwhile market for our butter, cheese, condensed milk, &c, if there were a serious alteration of the degree of preference which Australia enjoys in the United Kingdom market. A similar position arises with regard to meat, poultry products, wine, sugar, and fresh, dried and canned fruits. These industries not only provide a livelihood for scores of thousands of farmers, but they are the very industries on which we must rely,’ to not less than 80 per cent., in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. It would be almost impossible to engage in soldier settlement with the prospect of success if the markets we enjoy to-day for those products in the United Kingdom were to be taken away from us through the abolition of the preferential Empire tariffs.
I found in the United States of America a strong suspicion among American manufacturers that there is a nefarious scheme in the British Empire to exclude them from Empire countries in the sale of some of their manufactured products, and that this scheme is implemented through the medium of the Ottawa Agreement and the preferential tariff system set up under it. Whilst the export trade is vital to the existence of some of our industries, it is not so important to some American industries. Take, for instance, canned fruit. We export normally from Australia about half of the pack of that fruit. If we established more settlers in the industry, we could expect to export substantially more than half of the pack, and the principal market for it is Great Britain. The United States of America normally has a surplus of about 10 per cent, of its pack for export, and it prefers to sell that surplus every year. The American manufacturers turn their eyes to the United Kingdom as the greatest single importer of food, and, therefore, the United States of America is our great competitor in that market. But the 10 per cent, of its production, which it is prepared to dump at any price in order to clear its stocks, is approximately equal to about 50 per cent, of Australia’s total pack. If America dumped its 10 per cent, surplus on the markets of Great Britain, the result would be fatal to the Australian industry.
Industries of this kind are carried on in Australia at a. narrow margin of profit, and any substantial , reduction of their export trade would be fatal. This position is exactly duplicated in the case of dried fruits, and it is substantially the same in respect of some of the other products which I have mentioned. Although the United States of America is not our competitor in the sale of dairy products, wine and sugar, the circumstances are similar in each case. I cannot urge too strongly on the Government, for the purpose of defending our present primary industries, and also having successful soldier settlement, the essential need to maintain for Australia a market upon which we have built our industries in th, last decade or two in the United Kingdom and certain British Dominions, which has come as the result of the Ottawa Agreement and the consequential tariffs that were imposed. These may be regarded as in some degree inconsistent with the doctrine expounded in the Atlantic Charter. All I can say is thai we cannot afford to destroy the basic industries of Australia for the sake of any doctrine.
– We must not allow our industries to stand still.
– There must be an increasing volume of production. Some people contend that we should not plant another fruit tree until we can find a market for the product, but we must have planned production. The cold fact is that the primary industries of Australia have never found it possible, on a profitable basis, to enter any other overseas market than that of the United Kingdom. Nothing could deal a more devastating blow to our primary industries than the abolition or a substantial reduction of our Empire tariffs. It cannot bf imagined that the great export industries can suffer loss and the rest of the country escape the consequences. A reduced national income, and the reduced productive capacity of our farming lands during the last depression, had a terrible repercussion on the rest of the Australian economy, and that was immediately reflected in widespread unemployment and hardship.
– The depression affected all countries.
– The effects, which impinged upon our export primary industries, had an accumulative and immediate effect on the rest of our economy. I urge the Government to be most active and vocal in defending the system of Empire preference, until something at least as good can he substituted for it.
– Two or three weeks ago, South Australia had the privilege of a visit from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). A successful conference was held on that occasion between representatives of employers and employees, and much was achieved. Nobody is held in greater respect in South Australia than the Minister, and I should like to know whether he will be able to visit that State during the forthcoming parliamentary recess, and meet in conference the various employers and the representatives of the employees in certain industries, so that there shall be a smooth transition from war production to peace-time activities. South Australia has a good record in the matter of industrial peace.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 3rd October (vide page 6430), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Will the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) make a statement on the matter which I raised earlier in this sitting : that of the general industrial unrest throughout Australia?
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Ser make a statement on that matter at this juncture or during the present sittings. As soon as the Parliament rises for the recess, I and others will do the best we can, through the medium of round-table conferences, to get most, if not all, of the industrial disputes settled. It may be a bad policy and it may do more harm than good to discuss the matter at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure gives effect to the desire of the Government to increase the pensions of two classes of widows. In the first class is the widow who is required to maintain a child under the age of sixteen, years, that being, as honorable members know, the age of dependency under this legislation. A widow who has a child under sixteen years of age now receives 27s. a week, plus 5s. a week for the child who is unendowed. The proposal is to increase the pension to 37s. 6d. a week. In the second class is the young widow who, under the act, if in necessitous circumstances, is entitled to a pension of 27s. a week for six months followng the death of her husband, the object being to pay her a weekly amount until she is able to provide for herself. It is proposed to increase such pensions to 32s. 6d. a week. These increases will cost £200,000 to the end of the present financial year, and £260,000 for a full year. I commend the bill to the House.
.- I commend the Minister for giving this additional benefit, which will bring widows’ pensions into line with invalid and old-age pensions. It is a very worthy step forward. But there is one class of widow that has been overlooked, namely, the widow under 50 years of - age with a dependent child. When the child becomes of age, not only it but also the widow automatically loses the benefit of the pension, and the widow, not being over 50 years of age, is not entitled to the oldage pension. At that age, widows are not able to enter employment. Many of them have not had previous experience, and are left more or less destitute. I realize that the Minister may not be able to deal with the matter now. All that I ask is that he shall give sympathetic consideration to it when the act is to be further amended. The circumstances of many widows in my electorate who are in this category have been brought to my notice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House will recall that some time ago a Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill was passed. Later, as the result of overtures to the Acting Minister for Health, the bill was amended in the Senate. That amendment did something which, after consideration, the Government decided it did not desire to do. A deputation of representatives of friendly societies from all over Australia claimed that an injustice had been done to the societies. The Government finally agreed that an injustice had been done by pegging the friendly society branches at the existing numbers, even in regard to catering for their own members. In some of the States, as honorable members know, friendly societies have the right under State law to do business with the general public, whereas in other States they may do business only with their own members. The Government did not intend at any time to interfere with the situation in the States. Therefore, it could not allow participation under this legislation so far as trade with the public was concerned, because that was a matter of State law. But it did not intend to lii-event friendly society dispensaries from catering for their own members and their families. That was done by the amendment made ira the .Senate. The Government now desires to remove that provision, and’ to restore the legislation to- its originalform. That is the substance of the bill. It provides that if friendly society dispensaries extend their branches by any number, they will be entitled to do business under this legislation, but to cater only for their own members and their wives and children.
– Have any representations been made to the Government?
– Can the Minister answer the query in the telegram that honorable members have received?
– We made it clear that we intended to amend the actand restore it to its original form, which was agreed to by everybody.
– Has there been an amending act between the principal act and this bill?
– Yes ; the principal act was amended in the Senate.
– It is not referred to in this bill.
– It was amended, not in this House, but in the Senate.”
– The bill went through the Senate, but did not come here?
– That is so. Before it came here, it was amended again, by removing the amendment that had been inserted by the Senate. Conferences and discussions were held with the Friendly Societies and the Pharmaceutical Chemists Guild. The representatives of the guild admitted that, by confining the dispensaries to their own members when branches were extended, we were effecting a reasonable and fair compromise. I do not say that they were satisfied, but they accepted the compromise, and went back to recommend it to their members. How successful they have been I do not know ; we have not yet had a reply from them.
– How long ago was that?
– Not more than eight or nine days ago. We had a conference with each section separately. Both sections were advised of the result of our deliberations, and of what we proposed to do. The friendly societies were not satisfied. They wanted to participate in the struggle for open trade in the States. We did not agree to do that, but we said we would permit them to do business under the government scheme if they extended their activities only for the purpose of giving additional service to their members.
– Sub-section 4 of the proposed new section 10, for which clause 5 makes provision, states that the approval of a pharmaceutical chemist (being a friendly society), shall be an approval to provide a pharmaceutical benefits to persons generally.
– That can be explained. It was found necessary to extend the registration of the persons concerned to the registration of premises as well.
– I understand that in the original bill only one shop owned by a firm which controlled a chain of shops could be registered, but it is now proposed that all the shops of the chain may be registered. Clause 4 relates to friendly societies, and provides that they may trade with every one.
– The law in some States gives friendly societies the right to trade with the general public, but the law in other States does not. We say that premises used for trading under this measure must be registered and in satisfactory order.
– Is it provided that friendly societies dispensaries can participate in the scheme if they sell only to members and their families?
– Friendly society dispensaries in existence on the 1st August will be approved, but no others. In some States, they were allowed to do business with the public, whilst in others they were not. In the original bill, it was provided that all friendly societies dispensaries operating on the 1st August could be registered to do business under ‘ the scheme, both with the public and with members and their families. The societies strongly objected to that, saying that they ought to be able to increase facilities to do business with their own members. This seemed reasonable, but we stipulated that if they extended their businesses, the new shops could do busi ness only with their own members. That compromise was accepted. The chemists were prepared to accept proposed new section 10 when the bill was introduced in the Senate. I cannot believe that the action of the Government in giving permission to friendly societies to extend their premises to trade only with their own members constitutes a threat to the existence of the chemists. I am sure that when they study the measure more carefully they will see that there is no reason why they should not co-operate with the Government.
– Protests were received that the friendly societies were being restricted to the use of the existing dispensaries, thereby being unduly penalized as compared with members of the Pharmaceutical Guild. A conference of the parties w.as held with representatives of the Commonwealth, and it was decided to amend that section of the bill which had provided that only those dispensaries operating on the 1st August should be registered for the purpose of trading with the public. In Victoria, there are 56 dispensaries which are not open shops and do not trade with the public, and in New South Wales there are 22 such shops. However, the law was amended to give them this right. The original measure provided that the friendly societies might be registered for trade only in respect of existing dispensaries, whether they were open or closed shops. In view of protests by friendly societies, the Government agreed to an amendment to cover new dispensaries opened after the 1st August, but such new dispensaries will be authorized to supply free medicine only to their own members and not to the general public. The protests which have been received are due to wrong information appearing in newspapers, which made it appear that the act was being amended to enable all new dispensaries to supply medicines to the general public, whereas in fact they would be entitled to supply only their own members. That is the only change from what was agreed to previously. Last Monday, when I was in Melbourne, I met three representatives of the guild, including its president, and together with an expert in the law, I explained what the amendment meant. Should a State government allow a new friendly society dispensary to be opened, it will be approved for the supply of free medicine to members of friendly societies only.
– Did the president of the guild approve the change being made after the right honorable gentleman had explained to him what was intended?
– I would not say that, but I do say that the executive officers present did not appear to see much wrong with it.
– If they were satisfied, it is a pity that they did not tell their members.
– The press statements certainly appeared to indicate that a departure from the original agreement was intended. Members had seen the press statement and were easily persuaded to send telegrams of protest. They did not understand that it was not an official statement.
The basis on which premises belonging to friendly societies will be treated is the number of premises existing on the 1st August, 1945. In some States premises can be changed from one place to another, but in other States that is not permitted. In New South Wales they may be moved a mile. The Commonwealth Government is not concerned about that aspect, so long as the number of premises does not exceed 157, which was the number in existence on the 1st August, 1945. I am not now speaking of new branches. Should a friendly society wish to transfer its premises from Collins-street to Smith-street, Collingwood, the transfer could be approved. The amendment is . a simple one and I think that it has been satisfactorily explained to the guild. I am sure that the telegrams would not have been sent in such numbers if the true position had been understood. I do not say that the officers of the guild accepted the amendment; they still want to submit it to their members.
– They put a wrong interpretation on it.
– That is so.
– I confess, with regret, that I am still not entirely clear on this matter - and my own stupidity is not the only cause of my lack of understanding. Although the original legislation was passed in April, 1944, the Government has waited until the closing hours of what are probably the last sittings of the Parliament for this year to introduce this amendment. I am puzzled about sub-sections 4 and 5 of proposed new section 10. The explanation given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in relation to proposed new sub-section 5 satisfies me. Let us suppose that a pharmaceutical chemist, being a friendly society, had five premises on the 1st August, 1945, and later desired to open another branch, making a total of six dispensaries. Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 10would apply, because six dispensaries is not less than five dispensaries. The sixth branch would be able to do business only with members of the friendly society.
– Five branches could do business with the general public, and the sixth with friendly society members only.
– Speaking without any great knowledge of this subject, I cannot see much objection to a friendly society which conducts a dispensary opening another one to provide medicine for its own members, and so sub-section 5 of the proposed new section 10 seems to be reasonable. Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 10 reads -
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the approval of a pharmaceutical chemist (being a friendly society) under this section in respect of any premises shall be an approval to supply pharmaceutical benefits to persons generally.
– That provision is subject to sub-section 5 of the proposed new section.
– But sub-section 5 relates to new premises only, whereas sub-section 4 relates to premises which existed on the 1st August, 1945. We are told that the new provision will not alter any State law, and we know that in some States friendly societies which conduct this kind of business are able to deal with the public and not only with their own members. I understand that that is the position in Victoria. But what I want to know is, does not sub-section 4 of this proposed new section overrule the State aw in relation to the pharmaceutical benefits to be provided under the Pharma- ceutical Benefits Act as it is proposed to be amended by this bill? Surely the effect of proposed new sub-section 4 is to say: “Here is an act under which certain pharmaceutical benefits are to be made available to the people “. If pharmaceutical chemists desire to participate in that scheme they secure approval. “When a friendly society secures approval under proposed new section 10, then, as I understand it, it can provide pharmaceutical benefits to persons other than members, whatever the State law may be, and, if I am right on that, then I begin to understand why the ordinary dispensing chemists are alarmed about the legislation, because they see that, irrespective of the law of the State that ordinarily governs these matters, under the Commonwealth law pharmaceutical benefits may be provided by friendly societies for other than members. In other words, friendly societies can enter into full competition with the ordinary pharmaceutical chemist. Those are matters which trouble me. I have no objection to proposed new section 10 (5), because I have no objection, in principle, at all to a friendly society’s providing benefits to members. That is what it has a dispensary for primarily. But I should like to be quite clear. On a rapid perusal of this matter it appears to me that the proposed new sub-section 4 overrules the law of the States.
– Friendly societies sell to the public in New South “Wales.
– But not in Victoria. The question is whether the proposed new sub-section ‘4 overrules the State law on that point.
.I realize that full implementation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act rests on the co-operation of the Pharmaceutical Chemists Guild and the medical profession. There is some uncertainty apparently regarding the chemists, and I understand that so far the British Medical Association has declined to co-operate. So the scheme may not come into full effect, although it may be made partially effective by the friendly societies. Therefore, I am glad of the amendment, which allows them to develop in certain directions, although they will be limited in new dispensaries to supplying only members. In the principal act a provision was inserted at the request of honorable members for the supply of free medical certificates in certain cases. Section 16 provides -
The Minister mit V. on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into an agreement (on such terms as to remuneration, allowances and otherwise as lie thinks fit) with any medical practitioner providing that the services of the medical practitioner shall be available without charge to members of the public for the purpose of furnishing prescriptions and orders for the purposes of this act.
I ask the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) whether, if the cooperation of the medical profession generally is not forthcoming, seeing that there are members of the profession willing to co-operate with the Government
– I rise to order. This bill has nothing to do with the issue of free medical certificates.
– The right honorable gentleman anticipated me.” It is quite obvious that this bill has nothing to do with medical certificates. It deals only with the registration of dispensaries.
– Apparently, you have not read the bill, Mr. Speaker. If you refer to it, you will find the following provision : -
The proposed new section lays down a penalty for the breach of the conditions laid down for the writing of a prescription.
– Even so, the fact remains that the bill is an amending bill to deal with dispensaries and has . nothing to do with the issue of free medical certificates.
– No, but it opens up the circumstances under which medical certificates .may be issued.
– I have ruled that the honorable member is dealing with (he issue of free medical certificates, which, is not in order. If he wants to deal with penalties associated with the issue of certificates, he will be quite in order.
– If the co-operation of the medical profession is not forthcoming, some other procedure will have to be evolved to ensure that medical certificates shall be issued to certain people, for instance, invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Order ! The honorable member is circumventing my ruling. The issue of free medical certificates is not an issue in this bill.
– Then I commend the Government for having proposed this extra provision for the extension of benefits to friendly society members. A friendly society is a non-profit-making co-operative business. All profits are divided between the members. At friendly societies’ dispensaries, medicines are disposed of at relatively low prices. So I welcome this proposed extension of their activities.
I am still not quite clear as to the exact situation. Does the proposed new section 10 (4) permit pharmaceutical chemists, who, under the State law, are not able to distribute medicines to the public, to do so under the Commonwealth law?
– In other words, friendly society dispensaries are to be allowed to deal with only their own members.
– That is so. The guild is quite clear as to that.
– Does this clause propose to alter the situation in regard to friendly society chemists?
– Yes: the Minister will ay “No”.
– It is regrettable that this important amending bill should be brought down at this hour and at this stage of the session. The principal act, which this bill proposes to amend, became law on the 5th April, 1944, and was to have been implemented from the 1st July, 1944, but I understand that its validity is being challenged in the High Court by the Pharmaceutical Chemists Guild.
– No. The then Victorian Attorney-General, Mr. Macfarlan. linked himself with three members of the British Medical Association.
– Something like that.
– It does not matter who the plaintiffs are.
– Mr. Macfarlan is now Premier of Victoria. Is this legislation the subject of a High Court action J
– It seems strange thai this matter should be considered to be of such urgency, and that such a contentiousmeasure should be introduced, at this stage of the session. Obviously, the position is not as the Prime Minister or the Minister for Labour and National Service are endeavouring to lead honorable member to believe. Under the principal act “ pharmaceutical chemist “ is defined to mean -
Any person registered as a pharmacist or pharmaceutical chemist under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or territory of the Commonwealth providing for the registration of pharmacists or pharmaceutical chemists, and includes any friendly society or other body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporate) carrying on business as a pharmaceutical chemist in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth or States or territory of the Commonwealth;
Section 10 of the principal act which it is sought to amend by clause 5 of the bill, provides -
Under this measure it is sought to repeal that section, and substitute a new section consisting of proposed new subsections, of which the Leader of the Opposition has dealt with proposed new sub-sections 4 and 5. I consider this matter to be of such importance that I ask that the debate be adjourned. Obviously, the measure is not urgent. Every honorable member has received numbers of telegrams dealing with this measure as the result of doubts which have arisen concerning the Government’s intentions under this legislation. Those doubts have not been removed in this debate. In the absence of an assurance from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that those doubts are unfounded, I protest against the action of the Government in forcing, the measure through in the existing circumstances. The following telegrams are typical of many which I have received in connexion with this matter: -
Emphatically protest against legislation pharmacy benefits act relative to friendly societies with other chemists refuse participate in scheme if carried. No objection to act otherwise.
Protest against bill enabling friendly societies to open dispensaries anywhere.
This new Government action will ruin private pharmacists crush all ambition and individualism thus lowering standard of medical service present-day lodges dispensaries public hospitals provide free medicine for all who want free treatment why must we stoop to accepting free goods when we are happy to pay fair value …
Friendly societies are doing’ a noble work, and so are the chemists. The interests of both should be adequately safeguarded in order to prevent both from being ruined by action which, apparently, is envisaged in this measure. The concern of the small chemist in country towns is that under the bill friendly societies will he enabled to extend their dispensaries to country centres. The Prime Minister should give an assurance that that is not so.
.Once again we find the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) opposing action designed to benefit the masses of the people. The objective of this measure is to assist the people. The private chemists have attempted to hold a gun at the Government’s head. The Government has met representatives of the Pharmaceutical Chemists Guild and has compromised with the guild by agreeing to allow friendly societies., to extend their activities to various areas in which they will cater for members only. This should be in the interests of the people whom the right honorable member for Darling Downs claims to represent. I cannot understand why he should oppose such action. If private chemists are allowed to set up in practice in any country town, I can see no reason why friendly societies should not be allowed to open branches in country towns in order to cater for their members. I also have received a sheaf of telegrams from private chemists in my electorate, but, unlike the right honorable member for Darling Downs, who runs for cover the moment he receives a few protests, I am not perturbed. It is provided that friendly societies may be allowed to carry on in their existing premises, and, if necessary, establish new premises in various parts of the States. Honorable members opposite are opposed to that. They desire to prevent any extension of the activities of the friendly societies even though they apply only to their own members. The Government considers that any member of a friendly society should be catered for irrespective of where he resides. If the friendly societies decide to extend their activities in the capital cities or in the country districts in order to cater for their members, there should be no opposition to the proposal. I fail to understand why the Leader of the Australian Country party is objecting to it. He should have no objection to friendly societies establishing premises in such towns as Toowoomba and “Warwick in his electorate for the purpose of catering for their members.
– They have done so.
– Then the right honorable gentleman should not object to this amendment. The Opposition strenuously opposes anything designed to benefit the masses of the people. Chemists in my electorate have forwarded to me sheafs of telegrams protesting against certain amendments to the bill, but I am confident that they do not understand what the Government proposes to do. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has been in consultation with the Pharmaceutical Chemists Guild, and pointed out that the Government desires to provide free medicine for the masses of the people. Of course, some interested parties who desire to make big profits hope to restrict the friendly societies to the premises which they already occupy. The friendly societies provide medicines for their members at a substantially lower price than pharmacists charge.
– The telegrams which honorable members have received state specifically that the contents of this bill constitute a breach of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth on the one hand and pharmaceutical chemists on the other. The Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) has not clarified that point. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden) mentioned that certain litigation is pending before the High Court of Australia. If the appellants - the British Medical Association and the Attorney-General of Victoria - succeed, this legislation will become inoperative. In my opinion, this legislation is not urgent. Its provisions have not been satisfactorily explained and I remind the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that ‘possum’s legislation generally proves to be out of order when it sees the light of day. Let us adjourn this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section ten of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “10. - (1.) The Director-General shall, on application by a pharmaceutical chemist who is willing, subject to sub-section (5.) of this section, to supply pharmaceutical benefits on demand, approve that pharmaceutical chemist for the purposes of supplying pharmaceutical benefits in accordance with this Act.”
– During the second-reading debate, I raised the question as to the effect of sub-section 4 of proposed new section 10, and queried whether that sub-section would have the effect of overruling the relevant State law in relation to friendly societies. My attention has since been directed - I say this by way of general explanation, because the point troubled more than one honorable member - to the fact that subsection 1 of the proposed new section 10 provides -
The Director-General shall, on application by a pharmaceutical chemist who is willing, subject to sub-section (5.) of this section to supply pharmaceutical benefits on demand . . .
The view taken by the officer who drafted this legislation was that the word “ willing “ connoted legal capacity, so that a pharmaceutical chemist would not be deemed to be a willing person when applying for approval unless the State law permitted him to be a willing person. In other words, sub-section 1 preserves the position of the State law. But I believe that that should be put beyond any doubt and for that reason I move -
That, in proposed new section 10, sub-section (1.), after the word “ is”, the following words be inserted: - “permitted by law and is”.
– Knowing the law, these two proposed new sub-sections are perfectly clear in my mind. I point out that in some States the law is different from what it is in others. The wording of the proposed new section is quite clear. As the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, the word “ willing “ means that there could not be a violation of the law, but as he wishes only to make the provision quite clear, I am prepared to accept his amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Wool Realization Bill 1945.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill 1945.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill 1945.
War Service Land Settlement Agreements Bill 1945.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to 12 noon this day.
The following papers were presented : -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtyfourth Report, for year 1943-44.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1944-45.
House adjourned at 2.19 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Would he indicate whether it is considered feasible - («) for money and food to be contributed in this way; (ft) for shipping to be made available; and
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - ;
On the 26th September the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) directed my attention to a cablegram from Washington in connexion with food requirements for Europe. In my reply I referred to the question by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) to the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in connexion with increased supplies of food from Australia for Great Britain. I now take this opportunity to reply to both questions and to direct the attention of members to the statement made by the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the 12th September, 1945, on the subject of food supplies to the United Kingdom, and to the report tabled in this House on the 26th September, 1945, on Food Consumption Level’s in Australia and the United Kingdom. This report was prepared by a joint committee of Australian and United Kingdom officials. Honorable members must be aware of the action which has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to secure the maximum quantities of foodstuffs for export to the United Kingdom and to such other destinations as are designated by the British Ministry of Food. In all instances the Commonwealth Government has worked in the closest consultation with the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America in directing foodstuffs to those avenues where they are most urgently required. It is still adhering to the policy determined by the Combined Food Board, and the London Food Council, even in respect of contributions of foodstuffs made to Unrra.
I am not aware of any further measures which could be taken to secure additional quantities of the two essential foodstuffs, meat and dairy produce. Both commodities are severely rationed and as has already been pointed out, Australia has made, and will continue to make, its most valuable contribution towards making good the world shortage of the two foodstuffs mentioned. Th* suggestion has been made by the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tha; Australian citizens who feel that the ration « of any class of food made available to them are more than they personally need, should destroy unwanted coupons in the knowledge that, as long as the existing Australian rations are not increased, all savings will bt available for export for the essential need of British civilians or the hungry people of other countries. Members can be assured that the Commonwealth Government will continueto make the maximum contribution of food stuffs to the world shortage, but it will aci in accordance with the procedure laid down and in continued consultation with the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Increasing quantities will be available as the service demands upon Australia lessen, but it still remains for us to supply the demands of the various fighting services, particularly in the Pacific, where Australian foodstuffs are playing a very vital part. With the return to those areas of civil administration, Australia will still bt called upon to continue to supply foodstuffs for the populations concerned.
Few people realize the urgent need fo; foodstuffs more than I do, as I am fully aware of the requests submitted by governments and by representatives in Australia of Unrra foi supplies of food to meet the needs of hungry people. All these requests receive sympathetic consideration, but must be dealt with in accordance with the guiding principles which have been laid down on behalf of governments by the Combined Food Board and the London Food Council. If any honorable member feels that these principles are unsound or that the procedure followed is incorrect, I shall give detailed consideration to his proposals. In the meantime, it will be the policy of thi* Government to maintain production of essential foodstuffs to the greatest possible degree during such period as world shortages con-, tinue, and to ship available surpluses to areas where they are most urgently needed.
Industrial Disputes: Right to Strike - Broadcast by Mr. J. A. Ferguson.
– On the 13th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question concerning a recent broadcast made by Mr. J. A. Ferguson from station 2BL. The matter was ‘brought by the PostmasterGeneral to the notice of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has furnished the following reply: -
The quotation given consists of portions of two sentences taken from the context and this has had the effect of distorting the real intention of the script. The speaker commenced his talk- “Naturally, I share the general opinion in deploring* the incidence of strikes and industrial disturbances. Most people subscribe to a similar opinion and without any exception trade union executives have striven to avert strikes and helped to build Australia’s successful war effort.” The speaker asked that people try to understand the conditions which led to strikes rather than merely condemn them on every occasion. In this portion of the script the speaker used the sentences from which the honorable member has quoted an extract. The full statement reads - “Despite assistance rendered the State during the trying periods of the war, the trade union movement will stoutly resist any attempt to interfere with the workers’ right to strike and we insist that it is no use looking for people or groups responsible for precipitating trouble. Nowadays strikes just seem to occur and represent a spontaneous expression rather than carefully guided intention.”
With regard to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I remind him that, under the terms of the Australian Broadcasting Act, the commission is permitted almost complete freedom in the matter of the selection of speakers and material for broadcasting purposes.
The War: Australian Forces on Emirau Island.
e. - The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) yesterday asked for particulars of the action which was being taken for the relief of the Australian Military Forces at Emirau Island, whom he alleged were without medical facilities and had been inadequately supplied with rations.
Members of the Australian Military Forces were sent to Emirau Island, in addition to other islands, for the relief of United States forces and in order to defend naval and air installations situated thereon. After the termination of hostilities, immediate consideration was given by the First Australian Army authorities to the evacuation of these personnel to a larger base as soon as shipping should become available. Arrangements were accordingly made for the Riser Glenelg to be routed to Emirau Island, and it is expected that this ship will lift all Australian Military Force personnel from that island on approximately the 4th October, 1945. It is anticipated that some personnel will return to Australia and some will rejoin their formations in the First Australian Army area, according to their priority for return under the demobilization points system.
Motor Body Building.
n. - In further reply toa question which the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked on the 2nd October, concerning the supply of sheet steel for motor car manufacturers in South Australia, I am informed that manufacturers were recently in Sydney after conferring with the Director of Materials Supply and expressed satisfaction with the indications of supply evident at the time. About 90 per cent, of sheet steel production is now being allocated for civilian use, and this should ensure sufficient supplies forimmediate requirements. Possibly the reason for failure to effect deliveries at the moment is associated with the present industrial disputes in both the manufacturing and shipping industries. Permits have been granted for the importation of limited supplies of sheet steel, and this should assist the position.
British Colonial Service.
y. - On the 2nd October, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) asked whether the British Government some time ago invited Australia to make available qualified young men from the Australian forces for appointment to the British Colonial Service in Malaya and elsewhere for emergency restoration of civil administration in those countries.
I desire to inform the right honorable member that the Colonial Office has for some years been assisted by a voluntary organization in Australia, under the general direction of the Prime Minister’s Department, for considering applications from Australian University graduates and other similarly qualified candidates for appointment to the British Colonial Service. Recruitment to the Service was suspended until shortly before the cessation of hostilities, when arrangements were set on foot to reopen recruitment on a considerable scale, in the first instance from among members of His
Majesty’s forces. The Commonwealth Government was asked whether it would agree to the extension of the service’s recruitment scheme to members of the Australian forces. The Government agreed to do so, and a representative of the Colonial Office made preliminary arrangements for special machinery to be s et up for the handling of applications from Australian servicemen. A service order giving information about post-war opportunities in the Colonial Service, and about the procedure to be followed in making application, is already in the hands of the appropriate service authorities in Australia and is on the ooint of being issued.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Authorization and control of public expenditure which are exercised independently of the Commander-in-Chief, the Commander-in-Chief possesses powers substantially the same as those of the Military Board.In addition, he possesses further powers conferred upon him by National Security Regulations, particularly National Security (Military Forces) Regulations; and by certain delegations from the Governor-General in Council under the Defence Act.
Land Head-quarters, Melbourne, in the respective positions held by them on the Military Board. The designation of Mr. J. T. Fitzgerald was altered from that of Finance member to Chief Finance Officer. He was the financial adviser to the Commander-in-Chief, but was directly responsible to the permanent head ot the department for financial administration and control of Army expenditure.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The whole question of the price ot mica is at present under examination.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
For the current half year provision has been made for 33,000 service personnel to be released on occupational grounds to essential industries on the recommendation of the Man Power Directorate. Quotas based upon recommendations made by the War Commitments Committee have been allocated in each State. 2. (a) Quotas and numbers of recommendations submitted up to 20th September, 1945, are shown in a statement attached.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished.
Prices Commission: Case of John M. Murray.
e. - On the 13th September the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred to a letter sent by the Deputy Prices Commissioner, Brisbane, to the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in that city regarding the case of one John M. Murray.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The letter in question was an interdepartmental memorandum which was apparently irregularly extracted from the files. The letter alleges that Murray’s official conduct had notbeen regarded as satisfactory and thathe had been absent from duty without leave. These allegations were reported tu the man-power officials - the proper authority. Because certain of the alleged irregularities were regarded as offences against the National Security (Man-power) Regulations, the man-power authorities were requested that all possible disciplinary action should be taken against Murray. There was no suggestion of going beyond the law. All that was desired was prosecution in accordance with the law and the honorable member has expressed agreement with .this procedure.
It was also suggested to the man-power authorities that Murray should be directed to an occupation which would not give him the advantages he previously enjoyed. This suggestion was based on previous experience that officers desirous of obtaining release from reserved occupations for the purpose of engaging in more attractive employment ‘ had conducted themselves in a manner that would ensure acceptance of their resignation, or their dismissal, and thus give them the opportunity they sought The efficiency of the whole staff is impaired and discontent engendered if officers, by acts nf indiscipline, are able to defeat the National Security (Man-power) Regulations and improve their position in the process. There was no request that action to the financial prejudice of Murray should he taken; it was merely that his new occupation should not hold the advantages -and privileges associated with his position in the Prices Branch. .
There is nothing in the letter or in the action taken by the man-power authorities to suggest that powers exercised hy public officials have been used wrongly and oppressively.
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The above figures do not include dwellings erected by service departments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19451004_reps_17_185/>.