17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Resignation of Mr. A. Wilson : Issue ofandreturntowrit- Mr. W. G. Turnbull Sworn.
– I have to announce that during the adjournment of the House, I received from Mr. Alexander Wilson a letter resigning, as from the 31st December, 1945, his seat as member for the electoral division of Wimmera, in the State of Victoria. On the 8th January last I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for that division. I have received a return to such writ, and by the endorsement thereon it is certified that Winton George Turnbull has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
Mr. Turnbullmade and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– I have to announce that during the adjournment of the House I received from Mr. Arthur
William Coles a letter resigning, as from the 11th February, 1946, his seat as member for the electoral division of Henty, in the State of Victoria. On the 25th February I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for that division.. The dates in connexion with the election were fixed as follows: - Issue of writ, the 25th February, 1946; nominations, the 11th March, 1946; polling, the 30th March, 1946; return to writ, on or before the 20th April, 1946.
– I regret to inform honorable members of the death of the honorable Sir David Gordon, a former member of the Commonwealth Parliament and President of the Legislative Council in South Australia, which occurred on the 12th February, 1946.
Sir David Gordon was elected to the House of Representatives for Boothby, South Australia, in November, 1911, and held that seat until 1913. He was a member of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry from 1912 to 1914.
After leaving the Commonwealth political sphere, Sir David Gordon served in the Parliament of South Australia, having been elected to the Legislative Council for the Midland District at the general election of November, 1913, which seat he held until his retirement in 1944. He was a member of the State Government from July to August, 1917, holding the portfolio of Minister of Education and Expatriation, and. was President of the Legislative Council for twelve years. He was knighted in 1925. For many years he had been a leading figure in the public life of South Australia. Honorable members will, I am sure, wish to join me in extending our deep sympathy to the ‘members of his family who are left to mourn his “loss. I move -
That this House records its sincere regret (it the death of the Honorable Sir David’ John Gordon, a former member for the Division of Boothby and a member of the- Legislative Council of South Australia, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to the members Qf hie family in their bereavement
– I second the motion. Sir David Gordon was a man who lived to a ripe age. Although he had been engaged in politics, it is safe to say that he died enjoying the respect of men of all. parties. He was an extraordinarily fine type of man. I have early boyhood recollections of him, because he sat in this Parliament as the member for- Boothby when an uncle of mine was the member for Wimmera. In my school-days I met him and fell under the influence of his great charm, great knowledge and great kindness, and it had been my pleasure ever since then to enjoy his friendship. Australia is indeed fortunate- to have from time- to- time, but in such full measure, sons like Sir David Gordon. He himself has a son who carries on the family tradition of political service, and I would like his family to know that though many years have elapsed since he served in this Parliament, his loss is sincerely felt by all those who- now sit in it.
– The Australian Country party associates itself with the sentiments expressed in this sad motion. I was privileged to know Sir David Gordon, whom I met during many of his visits to North Queensland, where he often w.ent_in the winter to visit his daughter. There is no doubt as to the truth of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said about the deceased gentleman. He had a charming personality, and one was always proud and pleased to meet him. The Australian Country party shades in the expression of sympathy conveyed by the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members- standing in their places.
– It is my sad duty to record the death of another former Senator, James Patrick Digger Dunn, who passed away at his home in Dee Why on the 21st November, 1945. Digger Dunn was a member of the Senate from 1928 to 1935. He was Government Whip in the Senate from August, 1929, to March, 1931, and Leader in the Sena.te of the AustralianLabour party from March,. 1931, to June, 1935. Digger Dunn left Liverpool, England, as a young -man and went to New Zealand, where- he- was a prominent figure in trade union circles,, as he was in this country in later years. A member of the Australian Imperial Force in the 1914-18 war, he was always a strong supporter of the returned soldier organizations. All his- life Digger Dunn was a fighter and stickler for principles-, and I know that honorable members will: wish to join me in extending deep sympathy to the members of his family in their loss. I move -
That this House records its sincere regret nt the death of Mr. .James Patrick Digger Dunn, a- former senator for the State of’ New South Wales, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders ite deep sympathy to the members of his family iri their bereavement.
.-! second the motion. Ir was not my privilege personally to know the late senator, but I have gathered from those to whom I have spoken about him that he was regarded by all as a very robust fighter for any cause in which he believed. Indeed, it is perhaps permissible on this occasion to recall that he incorporated the word “ Digger “ in his name, and it appeared perfectly to express his willingness to- battle for his beliefs.
In these circumstances, we must all regret the passing of a man of that type, because those who will fight strenuously for their beliefs do a great service to this country.
– Members of the Australian Country party wish to associate themselves with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley)’ and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) regarding the death of ex-Senator Digger Dunn. I did not know him, but everything that I ever heard about him was to his credit. He was a typical Australian, a man with deep-seated convictions, and a determination to fight for them.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– It is with much regret that I have to place on record the death of yet another former senator, Oliver Uppill, who died in South Australia on the28th February, 1946. Oliver Uppill was elected to the Senate for South Australia at the general election in 1934, but resigned his seat in 1944 owing to ill health. Born at Nantawarra, ex-Senator Uppill spent the greater part of his life as a farmer. His knowledge of primary production, and his close touch with every phase of life on the land, led to his appointment as a producers representative on the South. Australian Bank Board. Honorablemembers will, I know, wish to join with me in extending deep sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement. I move -
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of Mr. Oliver Uppill, a former senator for the State of South Australia, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and members of his family in their bereavement.
– It seems only a month or two ago that Oliver Uppill resigned from the Senate, and his place there was filled. He resigned, as honorable members know, on account of ill health, and he had obviously been a failing man for’ some time. Notwithstanding that, the news of his death has come to all of us with very special sadness. The late senator, although quiet, and perhaps the least controversial of men,had a pro-found knowledge of rural problems, and a great willingness to place his knowledge at the service of the people. But above that, the thing which I will remember most vividly about him was his extraordinarily lovable character. It is not speaking in extravagant terms to say that every member of my party who was closely associated with him loved him, and will miss him more than any of them can say.,
– Members of the Australian Country party desire to express their sympathy with the relatives of the late ex-Senator Oliver Uppill. I endorse what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said of him, particularly the reference to his modest and lovable character. He endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact, and his passing is sincerely regretted..
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I have received the following communication from His Royal Highness the Governor-General: -
I desire to acquaint you that the address from members of the House of Representatives to the King on the occasion of the victorious conclusion of the World War has been laid before His Majesty. The King has directed me to convey to members of the House of Representatives his sincere thanks for the kind congratulations contained in the Address and his appreciation of the loyal sentiments to which it gives expression.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation Bill 1945-46.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1945-46.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill 1945.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1945.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1945.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1945.
National Welfare FundBill 1945.
Bankruptcy Bill 1945.
Commonwealth Public Service Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1945.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1945.
Tuberculosis Bill 1945.
Hospital Benefits Bill 1945.
War Crimes Bill 1945.
Wool Realization Bill 1945.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill 1945.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill 1945.
War Service Land Settlement Agreements Bill 1945.
States Grants Bill 1945.
High Commissioner Bill 1945.
Education Bill 1945.
Widows Pensions Bill 1945.
Seat of Government Supreme Court Bill 1945.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1943-44.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings)Bill 1943-44.
– I have to inform the House that Mr. A. G. Turner has been appointed Serjeant-at-Arms in place of Mr. H. A. Dodd, who has been seconded for other duties in the Commonwealth Public Service. -
Mr. CHIFLEY (Prime Minister and
Treasurer). - I have to inform honorable members that during the absence abroad of Senator Keane, Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Dedman, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, will act in his stead. Senator Collings, Vice-President of the Executive Council, will, during this period, represent the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in the Senate. I have also arranged for Mr. F. M. Forde, Minister for the Army, to act in the place of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), who has taken up duties in London as Resident Minister.
– by leave - From time to time representations have been made tome by members and senators that they should be granted some alleviation of the disabilities under which they carry out their public duties. Not only must they incur substantial expenditure within their electorates in attending to the wants of their electors, but, in addition to maintaining their own homes within their respective States, they must also meet the cost of travelling to and from Canberra and of living expenses in Canberra while in attendance during the parliamentary session. The Government has given careful consideration to these representations and has come to the conclusion that some financial’ relief should be afforded to meet the cost of main tena nce of senators and members in Canberra during the sittings of the Parliament.
A Commonwealth officer in receipt of a salary of £1,000 a year receives a daily allowance of £1 2s. 6d. when required to travel on official duty away from his home. The payment of a similar daily amount to members of Parliament would be a fair recompense of additional expense incurred by them while absent in Canberra from their homes. Members and senators travelling to Canberra from New SouthWales and Victoria will therefore be paid £1 2s. 6d. a day for each sitting day on which they a ttend to their duties in Parliament, with a maximum payment to each of £100 in any financial year. Members and senators travelling to Canberra from the other four States and from the Northern Territory will be paid £1 2s.6d. a day for each sitting on which they attend to their duties in Parliament and for days at week-ends between sitting days on which they remain in Canberra during parliamentary sittings, the maximum to each to be £125 in any financial year. Payments will commence from to-day and provision will be made in the Appropriation Act to cover the expenditure.
– I give notice that tomorrow I shall move that the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to, with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice tor the next sitting, and that such motion take precedence of all other business until disposed nf.
– I move -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
The motion is, of course, in the most general terms, but I have little doubt that in the course of debating it, honorable members on this side will be able to level against the Government, particularly with relation to recent events, some charges which the Government will .find it particularly difficult to answer. I shall not endeavour to cover the whole field myself, but I do want to concentrate my attention on two or three matters which seem to me to be of- first-rate current importance; and my colleagues will, in their turn, take up not only these matters but also other matters which will arise.
The first matter upon which I want to rely in support of the proposition that if the Government has not lost the confidence of this House, it should have done so, is to be found in the relations of Australia with the Netherlands East Indies. I put this matter first, because it is of urgent importance. The incidents that have occurred in Australia of late in relation to the Netherlands East Indies are such, I believe, as to disturb the minds of most serious Australians. Ever since September of last year - and that is a long time ago now - ships containing urgently needed food, medicine arid clothes for the relief of the civilian population of the Netherlands East Indieshave been held up in Australian ports. They have not been held up in Australian ports as the result of some order by the Government ; they have not been held up in Australia by the exercise of some democratic authority in this Parliament: they have been held up by the undisputed will of a section of the “Waterside “Workers Federation. No attempt has been made by the Government to expound or to enforce any policy towards the Netherlands East Indies that runs counter to the views of a few Communist-led agitators on the waterfront. At first the demand of the waterside workers was related, so they said, to munitions and military supplies. They demanded that no vessels carrying such supplies should go to the authorities of the Netherlands East Indies, because, they said, the contents of those cargoes might be used against the Indonesian Nationalist Movement and that attitude, which denied to the Dutch, our allies in this war, military supplies, was feebly subscribed to not only by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), but also by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself, although the
Government of the Netherlands East Indies, like the Government of the Netherlands, was still in alliance with us and, in conjunction with the British forces, was then and is now engaged in the work of rounding up the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies and of releasing and relieving thousands of persons interned .during the Japanese occupation. I venture to believe that, apart from all other questions, that was an extraordinary, attitude to adopt towards an ally, particularly towards an ally engaged in a common military task with Great Britain itself. Later it appeared that only civilian goods were involved and that the real question was whether they should be sent to the Netherlands East Indies. Then further impudent demands were made by these people on the waterfront. The latest was made at a conference called by Mr. D. V. Morrison, the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner. He is a government official, and, in opening the conference, according to all reports in the newspapers, he indicated to them - and I think the words were rather naive for the ordinarily shrewd Mr. Morrison to use - that the Government was concerned because the hold-up of the Dutch ships was being used as a ground for criticism of it. I should have thought that higher concerns than that were involved in this issue. But the hold-up of the Dutch ships, which is producing death and misfortune, became important only because criticism had been launched at the Government! As the result of that conference the union’s representatives agreed that one trial ship should sail if an approved union observer went with it. What for? Presumably to see that the Dutch authorities did not misappropriate or misapply the cargo ! That last demand by the union concerned was a studied insult to the Dutch authorities, and I am very happy to say that it was properly treated as such .by the Dutch authorities and was rejected. There, apart from daily promises of settlement, the matter rests. For all these months these ships, urgently needed for the relief of not only natives, because there are many of them involved, but also white people and Eurasians, people fighting in truth our battle in the Netherlands East Indies, have been tied up at the wharfs because the Government of Australia lacks the ordinary authority to enforce the law and to ensure that our foreign policy shall be in the hands of the Government and not in the hands of a lot of irresponsible people.
All that extraordinary history has some very strange results. One of the results is this: It has not only irritated the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies, as indeed it might, and it has. not only irritated the British who are doing their best to co-operate with them in the Netherlands East Indies, as indeed it might, but also it has induced in the minds of a .great number of people in Indonesia a belief ‘that Australia is actively supporting the Indonesian republican or revolutionary movement. The Government, following its usual practice in connexion with this dispute, has been completely silent and completely supine. It would have been not silent but vocal, not .supine but aggressive, if what had arisen had been the expression of its views on some policy being pursued by the Government of Great Britain which it did, not like; but this Government passes by in complete silence a policy pursued by a few waterside workers, though it is utterly damaging to Australia’s highest and most urgent interests.
All that, of course, seems to relate to considerations of prestige - Australia’s prestige, our reputation in other countries - -but this matter goes far beyond pres- *tige. I desire to put two or three aspects of it to the House. The continuation of Japanese influence in the Netherlands East Indies, either directly through Japanese themselves or through collaborationists like Soekarno, would produce an ever-growing menace to Australia in the future. Surely nobody in Australia wants to feel that, in this spot, which is vital to our security, we have a population that either is directly influenced by the Japanese, or has at its head people whose only claim to history, is that they collaborated with the Japanese during the war. Soekarno, the man who visited Japan to pay his tribute to the Japanese people in this war! Soekarno, the man who led the feeling against the British and Americans in the course of this war ! If the Australian waterside workers, with the Australian Government doing nothing, are to install him in a position of authority in the Netherlands East Indies, then I say that Australia must look to its security. Instead of having, in a political sense, a barrier reef in the northwest, Australia will have a potential base of attack against itself.
There is another aspect of it. The whole silence, the whole passivity of the Government appears to rest upon this : That this is a simple case of selfdetermination. Those who hold this view believe that it is for the .people of the Netherlands East Indies to decide in their own way how they shall be ruled, and, consequently, if some of them or many of them, say that the white people who colonized those -countries long ago are to be removed, then they are to be removed. That is a simple doctrine, but it is an extraordinarily false one. It acts on the assumption that all these people are fit for self-government. Some people talk constantly of countries like this, as they sometimes do of India, as if they were made up of populations all of whom “were so fitted for self-government that they could be given complete autonomy at one stroke; whereas the truth is that in the Netherlands East Indies, those who, by reason of intellectual development, are fit to cope with the democratic instrument could probably be numbered by hundreds, certainly not by . millions. If, as some people, including the waterside workers, think, this doctrine is good enough to justify the eviction of the
Dutch, with the passive assistance of Australia, then again I say to honorable members that the same doctrine will completely justify the eviction of Australia from New Guinea and of the British from India, Burma and the Malay Peninsula. When we have, in this absurd frenzy, cleared our powerful friends out of places that are vital to us, we in Australia will know all about isolation. I hope that time will never come.
This dispute in the Netherlands East Indies is, first and foremost, a dispute between the Dutch and some of the Indonesians, and I can imagine that, broadly speaking, it could be solved in one of three ways: First, it could be solved by the suppression or abandonment of the revolutionary movement. Secondly, going to the other extreme, it could be solved, by the expulsion of the Dutch from the Netherlands East Indies and the establishment of a purely native government, or series of governments which, having regard to the state of development of the native population, and its complete inexperience of administration and of normal trade and commerce, would turn out inevitably to be government by a handful of intellectuals, and therefore in no sense a democratic government. The third possibility, which [ believe will commend itself to most men who think about these matters, is that a compromise could be effected under which the Dutch and the Indonesians would co-operate for the good of the Indonesian countries on a system designed to develop a higher general standard of education, and a gradual assumption of full, selfgovernment on the part of the Indonesian races. Because the Dutch authorities and the more responsible ‘ leaders of the Indonesians such as Dr. Sjahrir, who is now conferring with Dr. Van Mook, realize that some compromise which will produce a gradual development of government in Indonesia is essential, they are negotiating1; and because the British Government attaches much more importance to this than some people in Australia do. it has sent Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, the Ambassador Designate to Washington, to Indonesia to act as negotiator in these matters. The talks are at a very delicate stage: yet Australia’s only intervention takes forms .which are calculated to impair the negotiations, to create false ideas in the minds of at least one of the parties, and Jo render all the more difficult the work of the British Ambassador and the Dutch negotiators. There is another aspect of the matter. We can no longer think of the defence of Australia in an isolated way. If after our experience of the last six years we are to adopt the attitude that the problem of our defence is still something which is concerned with our dispositions inside our own borders, we shall lose the next war before we begin it. It is clear, surely, that a proper conception of the defence of Australia, particularly sea and air defence, involves the very closest integration of our position with that of the British in Malaya and . Burma. In other words, we must visualize that phase of our defence as if we were establishing a defensive axis between Australia and Malaya, and on the lines of communications of that axis the Netherlands East Indies are of supreme importance. From the point of view of British Empire defence, and therefore from the point of view of world security, it is essential that we should not have the lines of communications in those vital areas disturbed or rendered precarious by blundering diplomacy, or by allowing the delicate problem of our relations with these intervening peoples to be handled, not by responsible Ministers, but by an irresponsible group of entirely uninformed people on the waterfront. Finally, on that point’, there is another consideration which we must not overlook - the development of our post-war markets. Very few honorable members of this House have not. on some platform at some time, said something about the need for full and continuous employment and good wages anr! decent living standards. Whatever things may divide us, at least we have some common ground on those matters. But how do we propose to convert those things into actualities unless wo provide constantly expanding markets for the products of Australia so that notonly will there be more and more things for the homes of those who earn salaries and wages, but also more and more things to sell to other countries so that we may develop our capacity for giving things to our own people? From the point of view of markets, the Netherlands East Indies presents an unequalled opportunity for us, if only we have the wit to realize the fact. I think it is safe to say that we must have lost, perhaps irrevocably, millions of pounds worth of normal orders from the Netherlands East Indies by what has been regarded as our hostile intervention in the affairs of that country. I remind Ministers that those who conduct the trade and commerce of the Netherlands East Indies are not Soekarno, Tau Malakka or any other of those gentlemen whose names have figured in the newspapers ; they are the representatives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands East Indies, who have the sole responsibility for business organization and conduct as well as public administration. What has this Government done in relation to those matters? Perhaps’ we shall be told at some stage, but up to now there has been a deathly silence and, judging by all that the normal man may know, the Government has clone nothing. It has allowed our relations with the Dutch and with the Netherlands East Indies to be entirely controlled by others. It is of no use for the Government to wring its hands and say, “ We cannot make the waterside workers work, and therefore thismatter is beyond our control I remember very vividly an earlier occasion in the history of Australia when some waterside workers decided to take charge of the foreign policy of Australia. I have been known in Communist circles ever since as “ Pig Iron “, and I wear my title with some pride because it recalls to me that, in those days, a government was in office which believed that foreign policy was in its charge, and not in the charge of a few people on the waterfront. If the goods to be transported were munitions of war, food, or clothing for Australian troops fighting in the islands and if, for some whimsy, the waterside workers decided that they would not load them on to the ships, would the Government wring its hands and say, “We are sorry, but we can do nothing about it”? Why, public opinion would blast it out of existence for adopt ing such a craven attitude. Yet on this matter, which, properly considered, is of immense importance to Australia and to. common humanity, the Government says, “ Sorry. We can do nothing about it “. Unless these people, a mere hopeless minority on the waterfront, decide that their policy is to send ships with certain cargoes, then ships with certain cargoes will not go.
Finally, what has the Government done apart from the silence it has observed? It has actually - andI forgot this for the moment - performed one overt act : Through one of its Ministers, it has committed the unspeakable folly of sending back to Indonesia at the most critical period of these negotiations, hundreds of Indonesian natives who had been in Australia for months, during which time they had been constantly indoctrinated with Communist nonsense; nothing to do with democracy, because Communism, as even the Minister for Transport might agree, has nothing to do with democracy exceptto serve as its enemy. These men, who have been indoctrinated in this fashion with a few superficial ideas of a revolutionary kind acquired in Australia, have been sent back into the middle of this country at a very delicate moment in these discussions, in order, no doubt, to add fuel to the fire, and to complicate vastly the task of those who are endeavouring to arrive at a peaceful solution. I understand, from those who have some first-hand knowledge of these matters, that Sjahrir, who is at present conducting these negotiations, has a much more realistic approach to the problem than has Soekarno or that other rabble rouser, Tan Malakka. I can imagine, as can other honorable members, that the decision to precipitate into that country at this time, as the one Government contribution to its problems, hundreds of natives who by this time are calculated to be fanatically opposed to Dutch authority, and fanatically persuaded that Australia is anti-Dutch and antiBritish, may have nothing but disastrous results for the Netherlands East Indies. Surely it is clear that every government must, in relation to its international affairs, accept responsibility for the actions of organized groups of people whom it makes no attempt to disown or to discipline. On the objective facts as the world would view them, Australia’s policy has been one of partisan intervention in the affairs of the Netherlands East Indies. If some other nation offered to intervene in the same clumsy fashion in our attempts to solve our problems in New Guinea, where we have a numerically preponderant native population, or in the various problems which Great Britain is encountering in relation to the Government of India, Ave would resent it most bitterly; and our resentment would not be modified, indeed it would be changed to contempt, if the government of the country which was intervening said : “ We should like you to understand that whilst our country is making this intervention, we wash our hands of it. and are innocent of the whole transaction”. No government can wash its hands of matters like these.
I turn now to the second problem, about which I want to say something. That is a problem which has been very much canvassed of late, and recently has been made the subject of a joint public statement by the Leader and the Deputy Leader of each of the Opposition parties. It is the problem of food for Britain. I am not going into this matter in close detail, because I expect that other honorable members will want to develop certain details very closely. Perhaps it will be sufficient if I summarize a few outstanding facte. The Australian Government has been repeatedly warned, particularly in the last, two years, and in this House, that the shortage of man-power in rural industries tended and threatened to destroy a great deal of food production, and that the alleged demands of the Military Forces for man-power which could not be spared for rural industries was not a real demand, since it was notorious over the whole of that period that many thousands of men in the services, even with the best will in the world - and all of them had high goodwill - had very little chance of ever going out of Australia olof being usefully employed in war operations. The Government’s first answer to what was said - and a lot of members, particularly those representing country districts, repeatedly spoke of this matter in this House - was to deny theexistence of the problem. I have a warm attachment to the Minister “for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), whom I am glad to see looking well after the parliamentary break.
Mr. Lazzarini interjecting,
– I have far more than a warm attachment to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini). I regard him as my vade mecum, if he knows what I mean. But in spite of my attachment to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, which I am not going to disown, I am bound to recall to his mind that in June, 1943, he told us that Australia’s food position was better than that of any other country, and that it would show an improvement. In October, 1943, he declared that nothing had occurred to suggest a serious decline of production since this Government had taken office. That was an attitude of very great complacency. Later - very late in the day - the problem was admitted, and a measure of rationing was put into operation, though it does not appear to have been put into force; because only a few days ago we were informed through the press, and I believe credibly informed, that investigation had shown that the quantity of meat disposed of on the black market in Australia amounted to one-sixth of the total quantity which it was proposed to export during this year. So I say that rationing was put into operation; though very dubiously into force. Then the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), on the 12th September of- last year, ju3t before the Parliament rose for the recent recess, made a statement to this House. It must be said in favour of the right honorable gentleman that it was not his statement; he was making it on behalf of some other Minister, and he was, as it were, merely the mouthpiece - a role which, I know, he does not enjoy. The burden of what he told us- was that we in Australia were very closely rationed in regard to food, so closely that our capacity to help Great Britain was very sharply limited. Indeed, he left on my mind the impression that, for all practical purposes, we were on about the same footing as the inhabitants of Great Britain. What are the facts in relation to this matter, apart from theories? The facts are that, in net result, Australia’s food exports to’ Great Britain, for a long time, have fallen to a mere fraction of the quantities which we were glad to contract to supply before the war. When my mind goes back to negotiations in which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and others of us, participated before the war, when we were desperately trying to secure a greater entry into the United Kingdom market with more beef, mutton, lamb and dairy products, and when my mind runs on to the bulk contracts that .were made subsequent to that time, which would have represented a magnificent contribution by Australia, I almost blush to realize, at the sight of the figures, to what a mere trickle our supplies have fallen at the very time when they are most needed. I have heard so many different explanations. I have heard the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) tell us in the most impressive manner that shipping is the great problem. Yet I have spoken to no expert in the last three months who has not told rae that there is sufficient shipping to lift everything we . are willing to send to Great Britain. While this has been going on, the food position in Britain has gone from bad to worse, and there is reason to believe that it is now more critical than at any stage during the war. At the present time a well-fed British population is essential to the world. Great Britain has to accept responsibility for world leadership on problems of enormous difficulty, yet to cope with that task it has a population which is physically exhausted. I was talking the other day to a friend of mine who has just returned from Great Britain, and he said something to me which was unutterably pathetic. He remarked that he could not understand why, when walking in Picadilly and along the Strand, he was passing everybody. He did not think he was walking rapidly, and he then realized that everybody else was moving slowly. Everybody else was tired.
– Where did the right honorable gentleman get that one?
– Undernourished !
– Do honorable gentlemen opposite deny the existence of this problem in Great Britain? No. Am I to understand from these facetious interjections that anybody in this House fails to understand that the people of Great Britain know more about sheer physical exhaustion than anybody in Australia has any reason to understand ?
– The right honorable, gentleman is exaggerating the position.
– Mr. Beasley did not exaggerate the position.
Mi1. Pollard. - The Government is just as keen about giving assistance to Great Britain as the right honorable gentleman is.
– If I accept the honorable member’s assurance, all I can say is that it is a gross reflection on the competence of the Government. The more their goodwill is established the more their incompetence is proved. This matter has been discussed in public for weeks past, almost entirely in terms of parcels for Britain, and school children getting money or goods together, or patriotic funds being raised. Nobody wants to discourage those efforts, but the problem of feeding an entire people is one that has to be dealt with not by private effort but by public effort. Last month the leaders and deputy leaders of the Opposition made a public statement, and asked these two questions -
What steps does the Government propose to take to divert food resources now available here to meet the desperate need of our British kinsfolk?
What steps are being taken to increase our food production to the utmost to meet the shortages which must continue for some time to come?
This is not a problem for a month or two or even a year or two. These questions came to us on top of an appeal to all the dominions from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, yet apart from the announcement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that 5,000,000 bushels of wheat otherwise intended for stock feed is to be diverted to Britain no statement has been made to show that the Government has taken any real or drastic action in this matter. This is not a problem which can be solved by private action on the part of generous citizens. It can be solved only by a concentrated effort of production in Australia, bv a resolute combing out of all existing resources to see how much can go to Britain, and by a determination that that effort shall continue until the crisis in Britain has passed.
The third matter to which I direct attention is that of production. Un- doubtedly, the most urgent present problem in Australia in the economic sense is that of restoring and increasing civil production, because without large production the re-housing programme will lag, food for export will remain scarce, the effective rehabilitation of ex-service men and women will be delayed, increased wages will be nominal rather than real, and the development of much needed markets will be either postponed or prevented. War-time finance required, and nobody criticized it, the drastic contraction of civil production. It had to be cut so that ultimately over 40 per cent, of the national income was diverted to war expenditure and over 40 per cent, of the national effort diverted to war production. At the end of the war we have the potentially dangerous <state of affairs in which there is an accumulated reservoir of spending power and the volume of civil goods a mere fraction of what it was in normal times. If those two things are to be brought into harmony it is surely elementary that the first task is not so much to set up artificial limitations on spending as to build up production itself, because, in the long run, when production is at its full in Australia the dangers of currency depreciation and conditions of that kind will largely have passed away.
There is, quite properly, a lot of discussion about restoring and increasing standards of living. There is an agitation for better wages and a shorter working week. All these things are perfectly normal and natural* but surely we understand that the real purpose of wages is to buy things. Standards of living are not expressed in tokens but in goods. What can we buy for our money? Any addition to the wages bill in Australia will not be worth a snap of the fingers unless the production effort in the next few years is such as to enable goods to be made available for the money we get. In the course of this war the development of Aus tralia’s manufacturing equipment and knowledge has been far more rapid than in any other period of five or six years in our history. War has been a forcing house in connexion with these matters, and we come out of the war with a manufacturing capacity we did not dream of a few years ago. But having it we are to use it, and if. we are to use it we must look far beyond the market that is provided by a population of 7,000,000. We must look for markets elsewhere in the world. Unless we have those markets, and unless, in order to supply them, we produce as we have not produced before, it is inevitable that living standards in Australia will fall and not rise. Whatever is done with the money tokens, what counts is what a man can buy and put in his home - the kind of things that he can provide for his family. How are we to go about getting increased production ‘s I agree that you cannot get it by mere exhortation, but exhortation has something to do with it. I notice that a few days ago the Prime Minister of Great. Britain delivered to the whole British people a powerful appeal on this subject. He did not waste time promising a Utopia to the people. He called them to a great effort of national production. He told them in words of irresistible truth that unless Great Britain could develop exports to a value hundreds of millions of pounds greater than before the war living standards must decline. Therefore, he said, “ I call you to a great effort of production.” He set out to make the people understand the basic importance of production at this time. For months past I, in common with other honorable members, have waited in vain to hear one such statement from Commonwealth Ministers directed to the people who would listen to their words, and hundreds of thousands of them, in a political sense, owe them allegiance. I have waited in vain to hear one word directed to them about production or its importance. We have become familiar wi’.h the peregrinations of Ministers. Every now and then we notice that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions wishes to have a conference on the subject of a 40-hour week or something of that kind, and Ministers literally fly to confer with them in various parts of the country. But I have not noticed that there has been a conference to discuss the problem of increased production, nor have there bee-k. adjurations to members of the trade union movement to realize that here is a moment in the history of organized labour when it can perform a service to the country that would never “ be forgotten. Think what could be done during the next three or four years, both in Australia and abroad, if every trade union leader were to impress upon unionists that greater, more efficient, and cheaper production was vital to the development of Australia.
Again, I thought that action might have been taken to get rid of artificial restrictions upon output. One has only to refer to the famous darg in the coalmining industry, or to the present standard number of bricks that may be laid by a man in a day as compared with the much greater total of some time ago, in order to realize, as the Prime Minister of Great’ Britain said, that all artificial restrictions which prevent people from doing their best are inimical to the interests of the country. We should encourage the introduction of a system of payment for work done, payment by results, bonus payments, profit sharing in appropriate circumstances - any system which would induce in the mind of .the wage-earner an understanding that he is engaged in an enterprise in common with his employer, and that its success would be profitable to them both. I can see no reason why, when an industry enjoys outstanding prosperity, the people employed in it should not have a good share of that prosperity. We shall never be able to take advantage of the great opportunity now before us, and never really raise living standards, unless the people are encouraged to realize that there is a production gap to be filled, and then an enormous superstructure of additional production to be placed on top of that.
Finally, I urge the Government to make it clear- to the Australian trade’ union movement, that while a shorter working week and higher real wages are proper objectives to be sought, two of their greatest enemies are industrial stoppages and the go-slow spirit. There seems to be an idea that if the worker goes a little slower, the job will be spun out, and there will be more work in the future. The right way to ensure that there shall be more work in the future is to produce more to-day. That will ensure higher real wages now, and more markets in the years to come. When I mentioned industrial stoppages I resisted a temptation to make an extensive speech on the subject.
– I shall have a few words to say on that subject.
– I have no doubt that my colleague will deputize for me in that regard, but for the moment I content myself with the following curt summary of my own view. Whilst the most flexible provision should always be made for the prompt and impartial settlement of industrial disputes, it should be understood that you cannot have at the same time in regard to one dispute the right to the benefit of industrial law and the right to direct action. In this regard it is time we grew up. When we abandon the law of the jungle we come into the presence of the law of the land. The feeble attitude of the Government seems to be, “ It is a pity you are on strike, but nothing can be done about it. The last thing we shall do is to deprive you of the right to strike if you do not like an award of the court “. While that attitude is persisted in we will, of course, have industrial stoppages. There will be a slowing of production and we shall miss a great opportunity. The Minister in charge of housing (Mr. Lazzarini) knows in his heart that the housing pro”blem cannot be solved by the holding of academic discussions or by accumulating blue-prints. It can be solved only by increasing the production of building materials. Production, production, production, are the three key words for the solution of this problem.
There is another matter which has a bearing on production, namely, ‘taxation. The present heavy burden of taxation is one of the factors restraining real effort on both sides of industry.
– This is an electioneering point.
– Of course it is, but I fail to convey myself to the honorable member if I have not made him understand that I am making a special effort to-day for his benefit, because this is one of the last occasions upon which he will hear me speak in Parliament. The heavy burden of taxation notoriously restrains enterprise on the part of the investor. It also notoriously restrains enterprise on the part of the employee, because we know well that, so long as tax rates are .very high, the wage-earner will, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has pointed out in the case of the coal-miners, decide that there is nothing to be gained by earning more, because so much of what he earns goes to the Government. Consequently, if the Government really means to do anything in the way of restoring production, it should understand that the shortest way is to make a real and effective cut in taxation. If the Government wants to’ do something in that direction without deranging its finances the first thing it should do is to make a real cut in its wartime expenditure. I shall not trespass on the preserves of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who made a most telling speech in public recently about the way in which war expenditure had been maintained, but it is clear that for Australia to be spending as much on what may be described as war purposes six months after the war with Japan came to an end as during the war is fantastic indeed, and is maintaining a burden of taxation which is a great enemy of renewed production. For myself, I do not understand how any government in Australia can fail to appreciate that within the next few years this country will have perhaps the greatest material opportunity in. its history. Our cities and towns >and the Australian countryside have been practically untouched by war; we have an economy which has survived the strains of war astonishingly well. I give full credit to all who have participated in that result. ‘
– Thanks very much.
– I myself was one of them. Some of Australia’s greatest competitors in a marketing sense have problems of reconstruction which are immeasurably more acute than ours, and one of the greatest potential market areas in the world is, in geographical terms, perhaps nearer to us than to any other belligerent country. In the circumstances - with all the accumulated technique we have gained during the war, and the skill of technical men ‘available for the development of Australia - we have a chance to become a mercantile and exporting community in the next few years if we will only take our chance. But in order to take it we must demand from the Government that it shall give real leadership to the people of Australia in arriving at an understanding of the basic truth that this country will gain no markets, will make no expansion, and will seize no opportunities, unless during the next few years its people are determined that they will produce to the utmost. Only by so doing can full employment come out of the realm of theory and become an established fact and the living standards of all the people be permanently raised.
– I propose to deal briefly with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in regard to certain matters arising out of the Indonesian problem and this country’s relations with the Dutch authorities. I cannot imagine anything more detrimental to the maintenance of good relations with the Dutch authorities than the action of the right honorable gentleman this afternoon in bringing into this House solely for the purpose pf indulging in political propaganda-
– Drivel !
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) talk? of drivel. I have heard the honorable gentleman speak on a number of occasions and I sincerely hope that he will not attempt to draw me into a discussion of hi* .speeches.
– Do so by all means. I shall speak to the motion later.
– What the Leader of
I he Opposition said this afternoon will do nothing to improve the relations between Australia and other allied nations. I realize that the speech of the right honorable gentleman was,’ as on* interjector indicated and as he himself admitted, a preliminary election speech designed to deal with n number of matters which might be calculated to tickle the ears of certain sections of the community. 1 want to make it clear that the original trouble in relation to certain Dutch ships arose out of the refusal of Dutch nationals to work them. That fact is fundamental to this discussion. The .crews of the ships were Dutch nationals who–
– Had been incited not to work them.
– The fundamental fact is that the members of the crews of those Dutch vessels were Dutch nationals.
– They were Indonesians.
– That is. so, but I think that the honorable member will agree that they were nationals of the Dutch Empire, and under the control of the Dutch authorities. If it be true that they are not nationals of the Dutch Empire, then the Dutch authorities have no claim to rule over them. By walking off the vessels the crews threw some responsibility on the Government of this country. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) interjected that they were -encouraged to take certain action, and I agree that -there are always some people willing to encourage others to do this or that thing. Later, either the owners of the ships or the Dutch Government brought Lascars to work the ships, but a good many of them also refused to work. Of the 25 Dutch vessels which were in Australian waters all but five or six got away from Australian ports. I deeply regret that a discussion of the relations between the Dutch and A ustralian Governments should be taking place in this House, as my (personal relations with the Netherlands Minister in Australia have been at all times most harmonious. However, as the subject has been raised in public, there are some points which I wish to make. dear. First. I mention that sense of the ships had. been loaded .and were lying in various harbours for weeks because cither their owners or the Dutch Government could not obtain crews In take thom out of Australian waters. I do not say that that occurred in respect of a great number of ships, and I shall not worry the House with specific details: but it is true that that fact was brought out very clearly by the Director i)/ Shipping when discussions on this matter were taking place. At once, I express regret that it was not possible to come to some arrangement for the loading of purely mercy supplies and hospital equipment for the relief of people in distress in Indonesia. The fact of the matter is that we were having poured in upon us crew after crew of Dutch nationals who were walking off their ships and refusing to load them. I do not wish to go too deeply into this delicate matter; but it is useless for any honorable member to deny that a great deal of feeling exists over this incident, [n this country there i3 a considerable body of opinion that the set of circumstances which originally existed with respect to the Administration in the Netherlands East Indies required a good deal of reformation. I am driven to say that to-day, because this matter has been raised. 1 am not attempting to argue the merits, or demerits, of the matter; .but the feeling I have indicated runs very deeply through the whole trade union movement in this country, and does not exist merely among a few Communists. It runs much wider than the trade union movement ; and if honorable members opposite believe that by making loud noises they can remove that feeling they are merely deluding themselves. The Leader of the Opposition, when speaking this afternoon, had no great’ enthusiasm for the arguments which he himself put forward. The fact of the matter is that at first, when conferences were being held it was clear that some Dutch ships were being loaded with arms and ammunition.
– Did not the Government itself sell arms to the Dutch?
– I shall answer that question if it is put to me. at the proper time. The fact is that at first the majority of the Dutch ships were loading arms and munitions. Rightly, or wrongly, a feeling arose, particularly among those associated with j he water-front, that they would not be parties to the loading of military supplies which might be used in what would, in effect, be a civil war in Indonesia. However. T repeat that there was no justification for the refusal to load ships with foodstuffs and hospital supplies when it was certain that nothing- was being loaded that could be used for military purposes.
– What did the right honorable gentleman do about it?
– Does the honorable member suggest that in order to have a. limited quantity of supplies loaded for some particular part of the globe we should have allowed an industrial dispute to flare up on the waterfront that would have involved the whole industrial movement and the whole of the shipping trade of this country? The honorable member asks whether I was prepared to apply a policy of repressiveness, putting men in gaol and applying, perhaps, even more violent measures, in order to have a very limited quantity of goods loaded. Such action would create a complete hold-up on the waterfront in this country. I tell him frankly that I was not prepared as Leader of the Government to be a party to doing that. A great deal has been said about the quantity of supplies involved. Some man with a very loose tongue, and an equally loose mind, stated in the press that some £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth of supplies for Indonesia was being held up. To talk in those figures is complete rubbish, because tha value of the supplies held up would, in my opinion, be probably abo.ut ‘ £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. or, at the most, £5,000.000. I could say a great deal more about the capacity of the Dutch authorities to purchase in Australia supplies to the value of as much as £80,000,000 or £40,000,000. First, the Dutch authorities would not be able to do so; and, secondly, I am satisfied that their resources would not permit’ them to buy goods to that value in this country. My own opinion is that the value of the goods which they did buy, and which were held up, would not exceed £3,000,000; and I was not prepared to have the whole of -the waterfront in Australia held- up over, the matter.
Mk. Harrison.- - So, the right honorable gentleman capitulated.
– No. What, the Government has attempted: to do has been to try. by conference after conference, to find some solution to the difficulty, in order to enable the goods to be loaded without creating further disturbance which would assuredly prevent the loading of the goods.
– Government by conference !
– Order ! This is a very serious matter. The motion before the Chair is one of censure upon the Government, and the Leader of the Opposition was heard in perfect silence. While he was speaking more interruptions came from Opposition members than from Government members. From the time the Prime Minister commenced to speak there lias been a continual fire of comment from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). If either of those honorable gentlemen again interjects I shall name him.
– Honorable members opposite imply that the Government has been doing nothing in this matter. The Government has been constantly arranging conferences, and, recently, the matter was referred to Conciliation Commissioner Morrison in an attempt to reach some settlement. Mr. Morrison is an officer of the Arbitration Court, and he has been conducting these negotiations on behalf of the Attorney-General. He is well known to all in New South Wales who are interested in industrial affairs. I was advised this morning that he had made the following announcement regarding the discussions between the Australian, British and Dutch Governments: -
The matter of loud ing Dutch ships witta relief supplies consigned to Java has been th<>subject of discussions between the Australian. British and Dutch Governments.
The consultation between the Government* has resulted in an understanding as to thidistribution of supplies of the kind mentioned on arrival at Java. The goods will be distributed amongst those former internees, prisoners of wai- and others who are in the greatest need, without repaid to nationality or political persimsion and with absolute preference to women and. el i i lcl tei) .
Thi? actual distribution will bc effected through South-East -Asia Command, which organization has arranged that the British Genera! in command at Batavia will be responsible for directing and arranging the dis- 1-ribiili’jn. Thu Australian Government, as a party to this arrangement, has taken necessary steps to see that the agreement entered into is carried out. both in the letter nuri in the- spirit. The Australian Government’s- representative in Batavia will be instructed to report
In the Australian Government to ensure that the distribution of all goods shipped shall be in accordance with the understandings reached between the Dutch and Australian Governments. fu view of the position which is in accordance as outlined above, I direct that steps now be taken by all unions concerned to see that any relief goods or medical supplies are shipped without any further delay.
I pass on to the right honorable gentleman’s comment on the SOO or so Indonesians returned from this country to Batavia. It. is true that the original arrangement was that 700 Indonesians should be sent back to Batavia on the Manoora. Later the number was increased. I take this opportunity to thank the Dutch Minister in this country for his co-operation with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), in the general arrangements made and for having concurred in the return of the Indonesians. When arrangements for their loading and transport on the Manoora were under way, it was found that some objections had been raised in a quarter that we had not previously ‘been dealing with. All our communications had been with the Supreme Commander of the South-East Asia Command, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and all roy communications had been dealt with by him. Meanwhile, however, a new plenipotentiary on behalf of the British Government, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, had gone to Batavia, and when I sent a cable about this matter to Lord Louis Mountbatten, he intimated to me that he was referring- it to Sir Archibald Clark Kerr in order that he might deal with it. I do not propose to traverse all the cables that went backwards and forwards; I shall merely read the closing message to me from Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, because I think it entirely refutes all the statements of the Leader of the Opposition that there has net been co-operation between the various governments concerned. The return of the Indonesians to Java was a matter for the Supreme Commander, not for the i utah. to determine. However, the Dutch authorities were helpful and cooperative in the arrangements made to send them back to their own country.
This message from Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, which is dated the 20th February, is a convincing reply to the right honorable gentleman’s talk about lack of cooperation -
Many thanks for your messages and for the efforts you are so kindly making to help me. I have consulted with Dr. van Mook and he agrees to the coining of the 700 about the 12th March. Both of us would be happier if yon could make it the 15th March.
In other words, the Dutch would have liked them a few days later. He said -
I am .grateful .to you for your good wishes.
– That is just a diplomatic message.
– I do not know what the honorable member says, but it is clear that Sir Archibald Clark Kerr sends his thanks for our efforts to help him.
– That only confirms what we all know, that he is a distinguished diplomat.
– It. is easy for the right honorable gentleman to cast sneers around the chamber. He now sneers at Sir Archibald Clark Kerr when he says that that message proves that he is a good diplomat.
– So he is.
– In other words, the right honorable gentleman says that it is not a sincere message. I want to say only this about the whole trouble: beyond question there is very strong feeling, and it is not confined to trade unions. I say nothing about the merits or demerits of the dispute, but I agree to a considerable extent with what the Leader of the Opposition has said. There is a very strong movement in Indonesia for .freedom for the Indonesians. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not believe the Indonesians have had sufficient administrative training to take upon themselves the responsibility of self-government. I think there is a good deal of truth in that. It is also completely true, I think, that the old order in Indonesia will not go on, after the final settlement has been made. If the Indonesians whom the right honorable gentleman talks- about are such obnoxious persons, why are the Dutch authorities negotiating with them? If they are of such a type that no decent citizen would consider them to be worth training in administration, or able to take a part in the government of their own country, why is it that distinguished Dutchmen and a distinguished British diplomat have gone to Java to find some sort of compromise between what is believed to be in the interests of the Dutch Government and what might meet some of the aspirations of people who are fighting for what they are pleased to call “ freedom in Indonesia “?
The right honorable gentleman talked about trade with Indonesia. I had never thought of this problem exactly in the terms in which he has thought of it. He thinks our actions should be dictated by how much trade we can have with the various people engaged in the negotiations. That is a materialistic approach. I did not approach the problem in that way.
– Does the right honorable gentleman mean to say that as Treasurer he does not think of the trade balance?” Is that what he tells us?
– This is a delicate matter as between nations, and, therefore, I considered it far more important that we should do everything we could to help to effect some harmonious settlement than take the materialistic view presented by the Leader of the Opposition. We are not taking tiny active part in the negotiations in Indonesia, but our representatives in that country are keeping the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) informed and are helping wherever they can. I thought it far more important to work with higher motives than those that would influence the right honorable gentleman, who would be guided by how much we might make out of the parties engaged in a civil dispute in Indonesia, for that is what it is. But if I did conic down to that plane and thought of this problem in terms of how much money we might makefrom some one, I should think that 70,000,000 Indonesians might be very good customers. The Indonesians are the great mass of the population of Indonesia in one area there are 40,000,000Indonesians and a very limited number of other people. I repeat that I have not been thinking in those materialistic terms, but if I had been, I should have thought that after the final wash-up this country would be as likely to get trade from the Indonesians as from the Dutch. The Leader of the Opposition said that all trade in that area would be controlled by the Dutch. I am not quoting the right honorable gentleman’s exact words, but that was the implication of his remark. I assume that his statement, in effect, means that every action of the government which happens to be in office in Indonesia will be controlled entirely by the Dutch Government. However, I shall say no more ‘about this particular matter. I am not perturbed by the right honorable gentleman’s attempt to heap odium upon the Government. I know something of the public feeling on this subject, even if he does not, and I do not desire to inflame the passions which have already been aroused.
The Leader of the Opposition referred also to the necessity to increase production, and to accelerate deliveries of food to Britain. In the course of the debate, Ministers will deal with those subjects. Doubtless, other members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), will refer to food production and the necessity to increase production generally.
– How does the Prime Minister know that?
– It is just a guess. Regarding production, I recall that honorable members opposite, when Australia was still at war, constantly agitated for the release of considerable numbers of service personnel for the purpose of increasing production, particularly primary production. I propose now to cite the Government’s record in demobilization since the termination of the war against Japan. Briefly, 325,000 persons have been demobilized in that period, and 40,000 of them have found employment in rural industries. Twelve months or two years ago, honorable members opposite declared that if the Government released the requisite number of service personnel, its requirements of primary products would be fulfilled. If that statement were true-
– We told the Government that the dairy cows would be slaughtered for meat bythat time.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me how many of the 325,000 persons are now employed in secondary industries ?
– I stated that 40,000 have found employment in rural industries, which are the principal medium of food production. In addition to the 325,000 persons to whom I referred, 100,000 have been diverted from munitions work and other employment of that character. Consequently, 425,000 persons who, at the cessation of hostilities with Japan, were engaged directly as members of the services or in producing military requirements, have since been made available to engage in production generally.
– That is not borne out by the last man-power figures for December, which were issued by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I do not propose to go into details on this subject. Later in this debate, Ministers will give all the facts about these matters. And they will be cold hard facts, not generalizations.
Great difficulties have to be overcome in food production. Large numbers of service personnel, upon demobilization, are not anxious immediately to return to civil employment, or even to the occupations in which they were previously engaged. Quite a number of men who, prior to the termination of the war were released on occupational grounds for specific occupations, have now left those occupations for more congenial employment. We are dealing with human nature. Man-power controls having been lifted, people are at perfect liberty not to work if they so desire. I do not contend that service, personnel, upon discharge, are not entitled to a respite before they return to civil employment. They may be able to maintain themselves for a while without working at all, or by working for limited periods. We are passing through a transition period when we are not getting a full productive effort by all the people who have been released from the services.
Reference has been made to the necessity for increasing exports of food to Great Britain. In this matter, some very peculiar circumstances have arisen. At the outset, I make it clear that I do not question for one moment the decisions of the British Government regarding the kinds of food that the United Kingdom. will take from Australia. That is entirely a matter for determination by the British Government. I shall not be led into an argument with that Government, which is confronted with all sorts of economic and production difficulties. After one of the epic efforts of history the United Kingdom has emerged from the war with tremendous economic and other difficulties, and has great obligations and responsibilities. A thousand problems worry, those public men who are charged with the responsibility of governing in the United Kingdom to-day. Regardless of their political philosophy, I shall not start any quarrel with those persons responsible for the tremendous task of reorganizing the United Kingdom. Therefore I shall not question the decisions that they make about the kinds of food that they ought to import from Australia. We have pressed them to make ship? available for various purposes, and after we have propounded our case as fully as possible they have said that they were able to accede to our requests. The Commonwealth Government has been anxious to secure the return to this country of all Australian troops who are still overseas, and shipping has to be provided by the British Ministry of Transport, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Commander-in-Chief in South-East Asia,’ and General Douglas MacArthur, Commander-in-Chief in Japan. Australia has been very generously treated by its allies, and I express my thanks to them. I shall not start a quarrel with the Prime Minister of Great Britain or his Ministers when they say that they do not want to take a particular class of food from Australia, or cannot provide ships to transport various kinds of food. Australia could export to Great Britain vast quantities of apples, but the United Kingdom wants only very limited quantities. The reason, I assume, is the shipping difficulty. However, that is the decision of the British Government. In addition, the United Kingdom does not want from Australia fairly large quantities of canned meats which we offered. Again, that is the British Government’s business. Furthermore, Britain is not prepared to take from Australia dehydrated meats or glandular mutton. Again, that is the British Government’s decision. In those circumstances, we can only do our best to supply the foods which the British ‘Government decides are the ones most urgently required, having regard to the nutritional needs of the British people and the shipping shortage.
– What are those foods?
– When I discussed this matter with Sir Henry French, he informed me that the three particular requirements of Great Britain were meats, fats and dried fruits. When he spoke of “ fats “, I assumed that he included butter. Australia is sending many kinds of food to Great Britain, but for reasons best known to the Government of the United Kingdom, Britain does not want from Australia certain classes of food. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that quantities of wheat had been diverted. The Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), in a statement, explained the reason for that action. The Minister also offered to Great Britain rice originally intended for the first distribution of that commodity to civilians of this country for some years. That offer was accepted-. No doubt small quantities will be consumed in Great Britain, but as a great number of the allocations are made by the combined food boards, it is possible that much of the rice will be diverted to other countries. Once again, that is a matter for the British authorities. We have made the offer and it has been accepted. The British authorities are aware of the needs not only of the United Kingdom itself, but also of other peoples of the British Empire for whom the United Kingdom, is responsible to some degree, and undoubtedly the best possible allocation will be made.
I come now to production generally. It is of little use for. the Leader of the Opposition to say that the Government should tell the trade unions or somebody else that it is necessary for the people of this country to work harder. No matter what political policy may be implemented, true national greatness can be achieved only if the people of a country are determined wholeheartedly to do their best in whatever walk of life they happen to be. I have never hesitated to tell that to the trade unions, and I did not wait until I entered Parliament to tell them. I told them so far back as 1928.
Clearly, it is the duty of every man and woman in the community, whatever hi* avocation may be. to give of his very best.
– -Then why does the right honorable gentleman permit “ go slow “ strikes?
– The Leader of the Opposition spoke of strikes, and from the right honorable member’s remarks one might .gather the impression that no strikes had occurred .during his term of office as Prime Minister or during his association with a government of this country. He spoke of the darg on the coal-fields; but I remind him that the darg has been in operation for many ye*ars. What did he do about it when he led a government of this country? The truth is that during his term of office, not only did the coal miners cease work for a lengthy period, but also other industrial disputes occurred. It is not until the men who carry on what may be regarded as the more arduous physical tasks of life stop work that we realize that they are the real workers, and are responsible for the well being of the community. All the bank directors, and indeed all the politicians-
– And all the lawyers!
– Y”es- these people could have a long holiday without causing serious repercussions in the economy of this country; yet these individuals lecture to the workers on what they should do. If they all went on holiday it would not matter very much; but when the coal miners, the waterside workers, and other individuals who carry on the essential tasks of life, cease work for a week or two, we begin to realize how important they are to the economy of the community. I admit that at times stupid things have been done ; but (hat is true of all sections of the community, and of all human beings. People do silly things, and I shall not attempt to condone foolish actions. After J Japan’s entry into the war 90 per cent, of the people of this country, under the administration of a Labour government - I am speaking not only of manual workers, but also of all sections of the community, because I, as Treasurer, had the co-operation of individuals in every walk of life in all appeals that I made - did a splendid job. They were prepared to do their best, not because- any particular government was in office, but because the liberty of their country was at stake. However, the fact remains that some individuals, including politicians, newspapermen, and editors - I am not referring to ordinary pressmen because they sometimes are called upon to work long hours - receiving high remunerations and working under the most advantageous conditions have set out to lecture wharf labourers and coal miners. It would not matter if all the editors knocked off work tomorrow; but when the coal miners, wharf labourers, winch men on a boat, orengine drivers at a mine knock off, production is seriously affected.
I wish to add only this : so long as I am in this chamber I shall not be prepared to allow members of the Opposition, or any one else, to attempt to demean the efforts of the great body of workers of this country. There are too many “ stinking fish” merchants in this country who, for the sake of a little political propaganda, are prepared to demean their nation in the eyes of the world.
– I second the motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). If any further justification were required for this action by a vigilant Opposition, it is to be found in the specious, complacent and ineffective presentation of the Government’s reply to the Opposition’s indictments. The least that this Parliament and the country can expect is a definition by the Government of its policy on our international relations and responsibilities. Instead, however, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) endeavoured to brush aside his Government’s ineffective acceptance of this country’s international responsibilities by accusing the Leader of the Opposition of introducing matter calculated only to harm or disrupt the friendly relations between ourselves and theDutch authorities in the Netherlands East Indies.
The Leader of the Opposition presented his case most effectively, in striking contrast to the feeble reply made by the Prime Minister. The facts presented by the Leader of the Opposition constitute an indictment of the Government because of its ineptitude and irresponsibility in the handling of the Indonesian problem, particularly in regard to our relations with the Dutch authorities. I ask the Prime Minister why he did not get down to the root of the evil which is holding up Dutch shipping in Australian ports. Why did he not tell us straight out who is responsible for the Government of this country - the communistic minority of industrial disruptionists or the Government elected by the people? Let us examine the facts underlying the actions that have militated against the Dutch authorities securing effective occupation. of their own territory in the Netherlands East Indies. These facts have been ventilated before, but they have never been disputed or satisfactorily explained by the Government. I have here a copy of an open letter addressed by the captain and other officers of the Dutch ship Bontekoe to Mr. Healy, secretary of the Trades and Labour Council, Brisbane, and published in the Brisbane CourierMail on the 13th December last. It states -
A few days ago an investigation was made by union people about the coal stock on board the S S. Bontekoe. They estimated our stock at 30 tons, which is enough for only four day’s maintenance in port. In the afternoon we were informed that you had decided that no coal would be supplied to the SS. Bontekoe or to any other Dutch ship.
This means, Mr. Healy that -
The situation is thus, Mr. Healy, thatit you moreover succeed in coaxing the bakers, butchers and grocers in Brisbane not to sell us any food and you can persuade the Harbour Board to have us shifted to a berth where no fresh water is available, you really will have created a very unpleasant situation for a former Allied unit.
Mr. Healy had threatened to employ methods of victimization and intimidation by calling out the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers, and all the other suppliers of provisions and services for the ship. The letter continues -
Besides meddling with the Indonesian question, upon which we deny yon the capacity to pass judgment, you are trying to make life unbearable for us in your country.
For three and a half years we have been carrying troops from Australia to ‘the islands and back. With them we fought for the same cause. We have done our best to make these trips as pleasant as possible for both officers and men (your countrymen, Mr. Healy i from whom we received several letters of appreciation. A true account of what you have done in those years would bp read with great interest.
And now, soon after the Japanese surrender, we were declared “ black “ by the Trades and Labour Council, of which you are the secretary. We wonder if this treatment is in principle the wish of the majority of the Australian people. Time is speeding to Christmas and New Year, and our minds are filled with very sad thoughts, not only. Mr. Healy, because we are even longer deprived of a re-union with our families, who now, nearly four months after the surrender are still in concentration camps in Java, but also about the future of a country in which nien like you apparently have to decide between right and wrong.
It is a disgrace lo this country that the ship is still held up in Brisbane, yet the Prime Minister says, that in stating the facts and in presenting them in their true light, we are disturbing friendly relations with another people Those friendly relations have been disturbed by a coterie of irresponsibles which the Government has not the intestinal fortitude to tackle as it should do as the trustee of our fair democracy. The Prime Minister threw up his arms and surrendered to the waterside workers this afternoon when he said, in’-effect: “I am not going to ,do anything to enable Australia to accept its international responsibilities. I will not do anything that would disturb the communistic waterside workers df this country “. In the final analysis, and on the basis of obvious facts, the waterside workers constitute the real government of .Australia. If for no other reason than that, .the motion of want of confidence in this spineless Government is well justified. What excuse do the Communists advance for delaying Dutch ships in our ports? The excuse which the Prime Minister submitted was that Dutch nationals would not handle the ships, and therefore Australian unionists would not do so. He said that they did not want to interfere in a matter which he was pleased to describe as a “ domestic squabble “ and therefore beyond the sphere of influence of our so-called nationally responsible Government. The Netherlands East Indies Government Information Service has supplied me with a summary of broadcast statements made by Dr. Soekarno during the war and monitored by Allied listening posts. In June, 1943, he created the slogan - “ America we will iron out. England we will break open with a crow-bar “. That nian is the hero of the Australian waterside workers and the Communists, who a re interfering in the “ domestic squabble “ of another country. His statements show what sort of man he is. Hi: Australian supporters, enjoying the freedom of a democracy, have benefited from the comradeship of our great Dutch allies. In November, 1943, Soekarno went to Tokyo to offer thanks at the Yokusumshrine to the spirits of Japanese who fell in the course of Java’s “ liberation “. Hirohito conferred on him the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Second Class) in recognition of his co-operation with the Japanese military authorities in Java. On the 20th July” 1944, during the festivities to commemorate the Japanese Marine Day, Soekarno said, “We Indonesians will continue to co-operate with Japan, even should we be defeated. I am convinced that Japan is right in this war “. There are twenty other statements of a’ similar nature by Soekarno, giving incontrovertible evidence, if further evidence were needed, of the attitude of this “ quisling “ to democracy. Fortunately, he is regarded as a hero only by a minority of Australian industrial workers. He has encouraged that minority indirectly to delay Dutch ships in our ports.
What part did the Communists play in this affair? At Bundaberg, they spread a series of unfounded rumours about the bashing of Indonesians by the Dutch, for the purpose of making the Dutch unpopular in Australia. So flagrant was this attempt that they were denounced by the Bundaberg Trades and Labour Council’. The matter was ventilated in that council; which passed a resolution and then telephoned the Brisbane Trades Hall and demanded that
Communist members be taken out of Bundaberg before they did more harm. At Casino, where Indonesians were camped, Communists were actively engaged in spreading their propaganda. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) can furnish proof of this, because he made a press statement in connexion with the matter along lines similar to that of the Bundaberg Trades and Labour Council. In fact, only recently it was stated that those behind the tying up of the Dutch mercy ships had observers at Indonesian camps fomenting trouble by alleging maltreatment by the Dutch. The Communists are engaged in insidious propaganda all the time, in order to poison the minds of the Indonesians,, and of the public generally, against the Dutch. The reason advanced for the refusal to allow the Dutch ships to leave Australia is that the Indonesians have been ill-treated by the Dutch. Last October, when a batch of Indonesians was being sent from Brisbane on the Esperance Bay, I made a press statement in which I said that I had been reliably informed that their luggage had not been searched and that they carried firearms, knives, and other weapons of war. The spokesman for the Government took me to task. He denied the allegations, and said that they were without foundation. The facts are open to the world. The luggage was not. searched, and the Esperance Bay had to be escorted by a destroyer and a military guard from Darwin. There is no need to emphasize that. The facts cannot be obliterated. Communists have taken a very active part in connexion with the Indonesian dispute. When searched recently, the bags and other belongings of Indonesians were found to contain Communist literature and propaganda of all descriptions. Theroot of this -evil is the Communist movement in Australia. What does the Government propose to do in regard to it? The Prime Minister throws his arms in the air, and virtually says “ I am powerless to act. I am not going to interfere with the workers of this country”. Yet all the time the Communists arc pulling down the whole structure of this democracy, and are planting seeds of sedition which are designed to disrupt the British Empire throughout the world. It is time that this Government and Parliament said in no uncertain way where they stand. Either we are on the side of Britain, or we are not. Either we are in favour of the British Empire, or we are not. There can be no “sitting on the fence”. The clays are too grave, and this war-torn world is too full of distrust for us to remain inactive. We who sit on this side of the House regard ourselves as a united, responsible and integral part of the British Empire.
Let us consider the history of the Communist movement, and the lack of action on the part of the Government in connexion with it, knowing very well, as everybody does and as the facts prove, . that Communists are responsible for the hold-up of the Dutch ships in this country. It must be remembered that on the 18th December, 1942, when this Government lifted the ban on the Communist party, the announcement was made that the prohibition was being removed on the distinct . understanding that the Communists would do all in their power to assist in the effective prosecution of the war, to increase the production of war materials and the provision of services for war and industrial purposes, to. promote harmony in industry and to minimize absenteeism, stoppages, strikes or other hold-ups. It was specifically provided that if the undertakings which had been given by the Communist party were not observed, the Government would reimpose the ban. Is the Government, as the trustee of this democracy, satisfied that the Communists have faithfully carried out their pledge, and that they should continue to follow the lines that they have been following? Is the Government not mindful of its responsibility? Is it satisfied that the Communists have faithfully and conscientiously done what they undertook to do - an undertaking which encouraged the Government to remove the party from the list of illegal organizations? I leave that question to be answered in the course of this debate.
– I would take all constitutional steps to deal with these people; and so would the Minister, but he is not courageous enough to say so here. We who sit on this side of the House believe only in constitutional methods. We would take constitutional steps in order to prevent revolutionary steps from being taken. I have expressed in no uncertain terms the reasons for holding that the Government is deserving of censure.
There are other internal matters on which I shall now touch. Obviously, a grave and important matter which is disturbing the minds of the people of Australia in these days of peace concerns the conditions of the men who have been in the services and have ])laced their lives between us and the enemy during the war. That brings me to the subject of demobilization. Six months ago, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) outlined the Government’s plan for general demobilization. Shortly after the scheme came into operation last October, it became apparent to everybody that the. Government was in a hopeless mess. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction were responsible between them for such a gigantic bungle that members of the Australian Country party were absolutely “ snowed under “ with letters from servicemen all over the country. On one day I received 167 letters from men in the islands. Petition after petition was forwarded to me. In their bitterness, anger and despair, servicemen all over Australia have condemned the Government’s plans in the strongest terms. Not all of those men can be wrong. The Government needed a lot of prompting to awaken it to the need for sending the men out of Australia, and it appears that just as much pressure will have to be applied if it is to be induced to bring them back. The main causes of complaint are the points system, and the unfair treatment of servicemen in regard to leave. Notwithstanding the assurances of the Minister for the Army to the contrary, men with long service were left in the islands without leave. Virtually, they “had’ their legs pulled “ by promise after promise that they were to be brought hack. The Government postponed their return as long as it could. Despite the many promises by the Minister for the Army that the men would be home for Christmas, many of them ate their Christmas dinner in the islands.
– I did not promise that all would be brought home for Christmas.
– During this debate, evidence will be furnished to prove that what I have said is correct.
– Everybody knew that it was im possible to bring all of them back by Christmas. There were 180,000 men there, and all the shipping available could bring back only 6,000 a month.
– The right honorable gentleman has made so many promises that he cannot remember all of them. Last August, before the points system was introduced, other Opposition members and I advocated that servicemen with assured employment should be released to go to such employment. Obviously, that was the most sensible thing to do. It was also obvious that demobilization could not be placed on a perfect basis; that there had to be anomalies, disadvantages, complaints and mistakes. But basically, and weighing the debits against the credits, it was obvious that the men who had jobs to go to should receive first consideration from the Government. The reason must be clear to everybody. In the first place, this was the cheapest method of rehabilitation. It was selfrepatriation. When a man went into a job he became a tax-paying unit and assisted in improving production, which is such a dire necessity in this country because of the many commodities that are in short supply to-day. The adoption of this procedure would assist in the speedy transition of industry from a war footing to a peace footing. It would relieve the taxpayers of the burden of having to help to meet’ the cost of keeping these men in the forces. The released men would, as I have said, become tax-paying units. Yet the Government rejected our proposal. Nothing could be more absurd than the explanation of the Minister for the Army that the Government was opposed to the proposal because “it would be unfair to the long-service personnel in the islands who probably did not have the means of contacting employers but who on their return to Australia wouldhave no difficulty in getting a job.” That presupposes, in its simplicity, that the men in the islands had no means of communication with their former employers. They had not need for such means of communication, because every member of this House has received representations from employers who were seeking to have men released.
– Themen in the islands are very hostile to any further discharges on occupational grounds. They say that the points system should apply. Already, 40,000 discharges have been made on occupational grounds.
– The story which they tell the Minister must be different from that which they tell me. Ithas been stated that no commander of a fighting formation was asked for his view, or that of his troops, before the points system was introduced. Will the Minister say whether or not that is correct?
– That is not true. The Minister in charge of demobilization can tell the right honorable gentleman that a special committee was appointed, representative of the services, the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, and the DirectorGeneral of Demobilization, to report on the points system.
– It has also been reported that the Co-ordinator-General of Demobilization had to admit that the troops had some justification for their complaints. What is the position? We are told one thing on one day and a different thing on another day. The Government is bound to adopt an effective policy which will bring men back into production as expeditiously as possible. The man who has a job waiting for him is entitled to receive first consideration.
I come’ now to the shocking position which the Government has allowed to develop in regard to the unemployed serviceman. Let us look at some of the facts.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8 p.m.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) declared that some of my statements were inaccurate, and in reply I propose to quote the following open letter which appeared in one of the most important country news papers in Australia, the Warwick News -
Troops Question Minister. (To the Editor.)
Sir, - As a Warwick man in the forces now serving on Bougainville I wish to convey to you a short interview which I had withMr. Forde to-day. I was appointed spokesman for the unit, and it was up to me to compose a list of questions, which he would endeavour to answer or else have investigated. I am forwarding herewith the list of questions I put to him, and also the answers that he and the First Army General who came with him gave.
Question 1. - What was done with the low point men who were in Australia when the war ended ?
Answer. - Already 1,200 have left Australia for the First Army area, and the remainder have been posted to base jobs to relieve high point personnel.
Question 2. - Why were ships handed over to the civilian runs when they were still’ required for moving troops from the islands?
Answer. - Know nothing about it, if so other vessels have been allotted to take their place.
Question 3. - Why were ships kept waiting in Torokina Harbour for a fortnight for cargo when they could have been loaded with troops as soon as they arrived?
Answer. - Know nothing about it, but will have it investigated.
Question 4. - Why were ships used for returning empty 44-gallon drums to Australia instead of troops? Name of ship, Empress of Singapore.
Answer. - Know nothing about it, but will have it investigated.
Question 5. - Why will it take until the end of February to clear the Torokina area, when two Liberty ships would do it in a fortnight?
Answer. - We have no Liberty ships.
Question6. - Why do men returning to Australia after two years in the islands without leave only get 24 days leave, instead of all the leave that is due to them?
Answer. - Answered by General Roberts: This is not correct. Mcn returning to Australia can get all the leave that is due to them. Mr. Forde: I will investigate it.
Question 7. - I have been 25 months without leave. Why is it that the order states that you must have had two years service without leave up to December 31?
Answer. - Answered by General Boberts: I will have this investigated, and men with two years leave will get away immediately. Mr. Forde: These menwill not return to the islands, if they have already had twelve months’ overseas service.
Q104168 Cfn. C. W. P. Henricksen. 212 L.A.D., A.I.F., Bougainville.
That demonstrates the unsatisfactory nature of the investigation carried out on behalf of this man during the visit of the Minister for the Army to the islands.
It shows that there was no positive policy, df any policy at all. as to when the long service men should be allowed to leave the islands, and that there was bungling in connexion with their demobilization.
Now I turn to the subject of unemployment among ex-servicemen. The Government is responsible for the shocking position that has arisen. It has clearly let down the ex-serviceman. It has no definite policy in this matter, much less a policy of preference to ex-soldiers. Recently the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) took me to task for a statement I made regarding the number of unemployed ex-servicemen in Australia, and queried the figures. which I gave. Here is a remarkable example of lack of co-operation between the different organizations dealing with this important matter. I said that 35,164 discharged service men and women were unemployed on the 12th January. That total was taken from an official statement issued on the 12th February by the Department of Post-war . Reconstruction, which is, of course, administered by the Minister himself. It is obvious that the rate of discharge has been tapered off in recent months, because the Government has been unable to find employment quickly enough for those who have already been discharged. There is clearly a shocking lack of 00-ordination of Commonwealth and State instrumentalities. Some time ago it was disclosed in Brisbane that a large number of ex-servicemen were in receipt of the “ digger’s dole “. Unemployment among ex-servicemen is so widespread that it is futile for any department to endeavour to cover up the Government’s bungling. The increase of unemployment among servicemen is alarming, and I predict that there will be a nationwide revolt of jobless servicemen unless something is done without delay to grapple with the situation. To prove that there is no effective co-operation between Commonwealth and State instrumentalities I shall read several letters. [Extension of time granted.’] I received the following letter dated the 15th January from the Acting Minister for Munitions (Mr. Dedman) : -
Dear Mr. Fadden
I refer to your representations on bell alf of Mr. L. Prothero, Manager, Dieselectric Com pany, J 2-16 Union Street, Toowoomba, who wishes to obtain supplies of oxy and acetylene gases.
As the control of materials is now vested in the State authorities, it is suggested that representations should be made to the Queensland Minister for Housing in this matter. Your correspondence is accordingly returned herewith.
I then took the matter up with the Minister for Housing in Queensland, Mr. H. A. Bruce, to whom I wrote as follows : - 3Iv dear Minister..
Mr. Jj. Prothero, Manager, Dieselectric Company. 12.10 Union Street. Toowoomba, has written to me stating that he is experiencing much difficulty in obtaining equipment and material, namely oxy and acetylene gases for the purpose of carrying on his business.
He and his two partners are returned soldiers from this war, and consequently I should appreciate it if you could advise me as to whether more regular supplies of this equipment can be made available.
The reply I received to that communication was in these terms. -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
Further to your letter of 4th instant on behalf of Mr. L. Prothero Manager, Dieselectric Company, Toowoomba, whom you state is experiencing difficulty in obtaining supplies of oxy and acetylene gases, I have been in touch with the Director, -Bureau of Industry, and. as pointed out in my previous letter, there is no State act or regulation controlling these materials.
Then I raised the matter again with the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), who told me that the rehabilitation of soldiers was a State matter and he was surprised that the State authorities disclaimed responsibility. I received a reply from the Minister for Munitions on the 26th February as follows : -
Dear Mr. Fadden
Tu reply to your letter of 18th February regarding Mr. L. Prothero, Manager, Dieselectric Company, 12-16 Union Street, Toowoomba, I wish to advise that this is definitely a matter for the State authorities.
I am sure that the State Bureau of Industry will be able to supply you with the information which you desire
This partnership is composed of three exsoldiers, but I and they are being pushed from pillar to post in connexion with the matter. Is it surprising that over 35,000 ex-service men and women are out of employment? This position should not be tolerated, and will not be tolerated when servicemen return in larger numbers than at present.
I now direct attention to the importance of providing houses for ex-service personnel. I stated on a previous occasion that we should’ take care that Australia does not lose’ on the home front what the men on- the battle front have sought to gain for us. Nobody will gainsay the importance of food and shelter, backed- up by security,’ but the housing position is not being alleviated by the Government’s policy of bungling and the lack of co-operation between Commonwealth and State instrumentalities. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction on the 2Sth- February,, only 299 houses were built in Queensland under the government housing scheme from April,. 1944,, to December, 1945, yet the official estimate of the Queensland Government is that 38,000 new homes are required in that State alone. Mr. Colin Clark, the Government Statistician in Queensland, -estimates that the requirements -of that State .will not be met before 1960. These figures are probably a little at variance with those issued by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini), but we have come to expect such differences in ministerial statements claimed to be authoritative.
– ( have already pointed out that the Queensland Government statistician has declared that Queensland requires 33,000 new houses. At the present rate of construction it will take until 1960 to fill our requirements. The public is realizing more and more the truth of the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) in April last that, with things as they were, “ We “ - meaning the Government - “ could not build 50,000 dog kennels.” The Commonwealth Housing Commission suggested that Australia would have to build 80,000 homes a year soon after the war ended if the people were to be properly housed within a reasonable period. With regard to war service homes, I point out that here were over 288,000 discharged persons from the forces in the first six months of peace. In Queensland, the rate of discharge was approximately 2,000 a week. How is it proposed tohouse those ex-soldiers who want, to marry and settle . down ? According toan official statement by the Deputy Commissioner for Housing in Queensland,, the War Service Homes Commission aim3to construct only 100 homes in that Statefor the year ending in June- next. By mid-November, 1945, only seven homes had been completed in the initial programme. The failure of the Government to produce more than a token number of houses throws the wouldbehomebuilder on to his own resources. He then finds that there is no’ galvanized, iron, no piping, no nails, no timber and no fibro roofing - except after a wait of ten and a half months - no stoves, no baths, notiles and no bricks. However, there arealways plenty of excuses. First it wasthe war, which for a long time was thestock excuse for Government inefficiency.. Then it was the man-power shortage, and this served until unemployed discharged soldiers began to register in increasingnumbers at labour exchanges. The manpower excuse goes back to the time of theGovernment’s bungling of the demobilization of servicemen. Under the Government’s points system, carpenters, bricklayers and tradesmen of various kinds who had jobs waiting for them were refused discharge while others were released.
The chairman of the Health Committee of the Brisbane City Council, speaking on the 27th February, drew attention to some of the disquieting results of over-crowding in the city of Brisbane, particularly in regard to the spread of infectiousdiseases. When a case of leprosy wasinvestigated it was found that three families totalling ten persons occupied a weatherboard room 16 feet by 5 feet,, with, a detached kitchen, in Bishop-street, Toowong. When a case of diphtheria was investigated, it wasfound, that in a house in Beard-street,. Auchenflower, suitable for the accommodation of five persons, there were in fact twenty persons, comprising four families. Three of them were exservicemen’s families. When a case of hookworm was investigated, it was found that a house suitable for six persons was occupied by seventeen. The City Health Officer, Dr. McLean, in the same report,. stated that over-crowding must facilitate the spread of all airborne diseases, including tuberculosis. Of what use is it to expend millions of pounds on social services, if the elementary precaution of providing good housing is neglected? The real basis of social service is the provision of adequate housing, and if we are to encourage immigration, we must ensure that houses are made available. I have given some examples of over-crowding in Brisbane, and it is certain that the position is even worse in the other cities.
– Private enterprise is responsible for that.
– I welcome the honorable member’s interjection. The present situation is due to the fact that private enterprise has not been encouraged by the Government. No encouragement has been given to co-operative building societies, for instance, and this is not surprising when we recall that the very man who has for so long been in charge of these activities, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), declared in this House that the Labour Government was opposed to the people owning their own homes.
– That is not true.
– It is recorded in Hansard, and, as Omar Khayyam putit
The moving finger writes: and, having writ, Moves on : nor all your piety and wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
What the Minister said is recorded in Hansard, and he cannot now erase what is there recorded. He said that Labour was opposed to the people owning their own homes because it tended to make them little capitalists. Is it any wonder that the present housing debacle exists? If we are to encourage migration it is essential that shelter shall he provided for the people, and particularly for ex-service- men. Of what use it is to talk about encouraging migration when we cannot properly house the people who are already here?
We have heard much from Ministers about the Government’s dread of inflation, and of the precaution which it is taking to prevent another depression. [Further extension of time granted.] The actual fact is, however, that there is a depression at the present time - a production depression. The safeguards against inflation, can, like excessive taxation, defeat their own purpose, and the fact is that the policy of the Government has brought about a condition of deflation resulting in a shortage of the means to satisfy the physical needs of the people. As the Leader of the Opposition stated this afternoon, money is no more than a token. What really matters is what money can and should buy. The best way to prevent inflation is to increase production, but the Government has discouraged production by mal-administration, and by failing to bring about proper coordination between various departments.
Time and time again honorable members on this side of the House have warned the Government that it was necessary to increase the production of food. The right honorable member forCowper (Sir Earle Page), when he returned from England, pointed out that the responsibility devolved upon Australia to produce food, not only for its allies, but also for the United Kingdom and for the peoples of devastated Europe, but his warnings were not heeded. Rural production has declined to an alarming extent. During the last election campaign, I emphasized the need for effective control of man-power. I quoted the statement of Mr. Lloyd George after the war of 1914-18, when he said that if the army organization had had its way England would have starved because an insufficient number of men would have been left in civil production. Similarly, during the last war, no proper balance was maintained in Australia between the strength of the fighting forces and our requirements in the way of food production. Australia, one of the premier food-producing countries of the world, is not now able to honour its obligations to Great Britain entered into in 1938, much less to discharge its duty in the way of supplying food to Europe. Between 1939 and 1944 agricultural production in Australia declined by 30 per cent. The economic equilibrium of the country can be maintained only by increasing primary production. The Government has offered many excuses for this decline of production, including drought and man-power shortage. In the light of these excuses, it is interesting to read that, on the 12th May, 1942, almost four years ago, the then Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley) said -
This proves that the Government had ample warning of what, in fact, subsequently occurred. Last year farmers in Western Australia were paid almost £500,000 not. to grow wheat. The result was such a shortage that, in October, 1945, the first shipment of wheat to be imported into Australia from America since the 1914 drought arrived in Victoria. It is difficult to imagine a country like Australia, with all its immense resources and potentialities, having to import wheat, but it is stranger still to reflect that that had to be done at a time when about £500,000 a year was being paid to the greatest wheatproducing State in the Commonwealth not to grow wheat. Yet the Government remains complacent in the face of such an extraordinary state of affairs. Despite frequent warnings that the Government was denuding the dairying industry and other primary industries of man-power, such a serious decline of production took place that major food-producing industries reached a chaotic condition. The latest instance of this policy of restriction in respect of primary industries occurred this season when the production of potatoes was restricted to one-quarter of the previous production. The result is that potatoes are practically unprocurable in Brisbane to-day. Despite the chaotic conditions which exist on the food front, the Government appears unconcerned and is giving no encouragement to primary producers to increase production. In order to illustrate the confusion that exists I shall relate the procedure which a primary producer who wishes to buy a second-hand tractor must follow. I point out that tractors are available in large numbers; there are acres of them near to Brisbane. First the primary producer has to approach the local War Agriculture Committee. Should his application be approved, it is then sent to the State Department of Agriculture and Stock which, in turn, passes it on to the Director-General of Agriculture in Melbourne. From there it goes to the Commonwealth Department of Works, and thence to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. That body has then to approach the Department of the Army in order to ascertain whether a tractor which has been declared to be surplus equipment is available. After that the tractor is appraised by the Prices Commissioner. Should its value exceed £500 permission for the sale to take place must be obtained from the Directorate of Mechanical Equipment in Melbourne. My experience is that it takes about a fortnight to obtain that approval. When the money is finally paid to the Army, through the District Finance Office, there is generally a further delay of about 24 hours. Should the primary producer desire to purchase a new tractor, the Division of Import Procurement must be consulted. It will be seen that in order to obtain a tractor which is a part of surplus Army equipment a man has to approach ten separate departments. Is it any wonder that a vote of no confidence in the Government has been moved ?
During the absence of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) the foreign policy of Australia was dictated by waterside workers and Communists. Throughout the Commonwealth the White Australia policy was white-anted. Yet the Government is unperturbed. The men in the Army who served their country in the fighting line now want to serve it in peaceful avocations. They want to make their contribution towards increased, production in order to. meet the world’s need for food. There is an urgent cry for more and more production. The onlyway in which inflation can be controlled is- by greater production and the conversion of surplus money into goods. Whereever the searchlight is thrown on Government administration and policy the Government is found wanting; both nationally and internationally it “has failed. It does not appear to realize the needs of a hungry world. I associate myself and my party with the vote of noconfidence in the Government.
– I shall not deal with all the matters referred to b’y the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), because my colleagues, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will deal with certain aspects. It is clear that the motion of no confidence in the Government has proved a squib. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has dealt effectively with the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in regard to shipping and certain other matters. I shall deal with the criticism by the Leader of the Australian Country party regarding the return of Army personnel from overseas. Australia’s record in . the war compares more than favorably with that of any of our Allies when the population of the several countries is taken into account. The fact that S00,000 men and women were attested in the fighting services and that 350,000 more were transferred from peace-time occupations to war production is evidence that great organization was necessary if the dislocation of industry was to be kept at a minimum. When fighting ceased 578,000 Australians were still serving their country in the fighting services- 39,000 in the Navy, 380,000 in the Army, and 159,000 in the Royal Australian Air Force. Of that total, 2410,000 members of the fighting, services were overseas. Australia did not have sufficient ships to bring them back at the rate of more than about 6,000 a month, and therefore the Government appealed for assistance to the Navy and Army authorities in Great Britain and to the British Ministry of Shipping. The response was most generous. First, prisoners of war in the Singapore-Siam area were brought back. Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Command made available sufficient ships to bring back to Australia the whole of the 14,000 Australian prisoners of war within five or six weeks of the cessation of hostilities. When the war ended 180,000 members of the Army were overseas. To-day that number has been reduced to 29,166. In this matter the Government has had the willing and able co-operation of various instrumentalities, with the result that a wonderful achievement stands to their credit. It is all very well for the Leader of the Australian Country party to say that men at Bougainville, Rabaul and elsewhere want to return home. We know their desire, which we realize is only natural.
– The right honorable gentleman promised that they would all be home by Christmas 1945.
– I did not, because I knew that it would be impossible’ to bring them back by Christmas 1945. I was aware of Australia’s commitments for the guarding of 340,000 Japanese prisoners of war. There were 140,000 in the New Guinea-Solomons area. The Government approached General MacArthur with a view to obtaining additional ships to send Japanese prisoners of war back to Japan, with the. result that sufficient ships have been made available to repatriate 22,300 Japanese prisoners’ of war. There will be a shuttle service .between the islands in which the prisoners .are now located and Japan. The 29,000 Australians still abroad include the force which will occupy Japan. It is estimated that by June next the number of guards at Rabaul, who now number about 13,000, will be reduced to approximately 9,000. If the additional shipping which is now in sight be made available, I estimate that before the end of the present year there will be comparatively few Japanese prisoners of war remaining to be sent back to Japan. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will be able to give details of the demobilization plan. The Leader of the Australian Country party criticized the points system of demobilization, but I make no apology for the system, which I believe to be a good one. It was adopted only after a most careful investigation. The right honorable gentleman said that the Army was not represented on the committee which made recommendations as to the system of demobilization, but that is not so; the three fighting services were represented on the committee. During my visit to the islands I found everywhere that soldiers wanted the points system adhered to. They deprecated discharges on occupational grounds. The right honorable member says that every serviceman who says that he has a job to go to should be released. Such a policy would be disastrous,’ because it would mean that many thousands of servicemen now in the islands would he left there for a much longer period whilst others with low points who could claim that their father had a farm, or a bakery, and could employ them immediately, would be released. The soldiers themselves resent that suggestion, and demand that the Government adhere to the points system. It has been said that the Government had disregarded the claims of primary production in respect of man-power. That is not correct. A blanket exemption was imposed in March, .1942, on all enlistments from essential primary-industries. No farmer’s son was subsequently called up. It is true that 70,000 farmers’ sons left their farms and took jobs in the cities, principally in the munitions factories. In order to assist the . f farmers of Australia, the Government agreed to discharge, first, 30.000 servicemen, and later arranged for the discharge of two groups of 10,000 each. That was done before hostilities ceased. In view of the fact that 325,000 service personnel have been demobilized since the cessation of hostilities, no one can say to-day that the shortage of labour is so acute as to justify, rgardless of the points system, the accelerated release of additional servicemen who can say that he has a job to go to. The right honorable member for Darling Downs, in the course of the recent Queensland by-election campaign in the State electorate of East Toowoomba, made the speech which he has made in this House tonight. He urged that that election should be decided on federal issues. He was expected to create a good impression among his supporters, but his story did not “ go down “ with the majority in that electorate, which is in the heart of the electorate he represents in this Parliament. It was thought that he would receive a good hearing but the result of it was that that seat, which has been represented in the State Parliament hy con- servative parties for over 30 years with the exception of a period of three years, swung over to the Labour party. That is a fair indication of what is going to happen at the next federal elections. These spurious attempts to exploit the natural discomfort of men who have been serving iri the islands for some time, and the inconvenience of their relatives at home on the mainland, ill becomes a right honorable gentleman who would like to lead the people of Australia to believe th at he is a statesman. The people of Australia realized that unpopular things had to be done if the job of winning the war were to be seen through to the finish. After previous governments had allowed things to drift to such a degree that this country was on the verge of disaster, it fell to the present Government to gear the nation to a total war effort. It did that work most -successfully. Now, the unwinding process is equally difficult; but we tackled the job, and we have been too successful to please honorable members opposite. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the verdict given by the electors in the East Toowoomba State electorate last Saturday. The Government realize^ its responsibility to bring back from the islands the men who are still serving there, and to give leave to those who have not had leave for lengthy periods. The whole of the base establishments in Australia are being combed, and surplus personnel with low points are being sent to the islands to replace longservice personnel. There are 4,000 with under 125 points serving at present on the mainland. They will be sent to the islands - 2,000 this month and the balance later to relieve personnel there. Furthermore, recruiting was resumed on the 25 th February. Already 1,300 have enlisted, whilst just over 3,000 additional recruits a,re now awaiting medical examination. . I believe that we shall be .able to obtain the necessary number of recruits to relieve the forces still on service in the islands. The Government appreciates fully the magnificent job done by the men who have served Australia in every theatre of war. They have made an indelible name for this country. I have no doubt that all sensible members of the fighting services become disgusted at these attempts to exploit their inconvenience and disabilities because they are still obliged to serve away from their homes. They realize that the Government has not let them down, but will return them to their homes as quickly as possible. My colleagues, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction will deal in greater detail with the matters that come within their administration.
.- 1 support the motion. I do not intend to reply to any of the matters raised by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) except to draw the attention of honorable members to a statement published recently in a Queensland newspaper under the heading, “ Mr. Forde to press for a review of points system”. From that statement it is clear that the right honorable gentleman promised the troops in the islands to review the present points system.
– That is not correct.
– I shall leave it to the right honorable gentleman to make his explanation on that matter in another statement to the’ troops.
If any justification were needed for the motion it is provided in the weak and class-conscious speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Even his own supporters will agree that his speech was not a convincing rebuttal of the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concerning the delay in the loading of Dutch mercy ships and the misery which this has caused to the Dutch and Indonesians. The Prime Minister said that he was in touch with public feeling. He also said that this trouble originated amongst the Dutch and Indonesians. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has read a statement by a Dutch captain, whose ship has been delayed here for five months, expressing his disappointment that this country, with whom the Dutch were allied and for whom the Dutch made great sacrifices during the war, could not overcome this problem. It is not a big problem. We do not need to be unfair to the Government in this matter. We know that the stresses and strains of Avar must tax the efforts of all governments; but this Government has shown shocking incompetence in this matter. The Prime Minister . made a speech which would have been justified, perhaps, at - a trades’ hall gathering when he wanted to rouse the fury of trade unionists. He said that it was only when these men went on strike that we missed them. They were the democrats; they were the men who matter. Is the Labour party and this Government representative of the traditional British democratic system, or is it merely a trades hall government? The implication to be drawn from the whole of the speech made by the Prime Minister to-day is that the trade unionists disagree with Dutch, policy in Java, and, therefore, the Government has not raised a finger against them. The right honorable gentleman said that he -was in touch with public feeling. Has he seen the report in the press of the offer of certain returned soldiers to load the ships. Those men, whose names are given state -
We, a. group of servicemen who happen to be together and disabled in hospital, feel gravely concerned .that our Federal authorities are so weak as to allow any union to interfere by direct action in international affairs and over a prolonged period.
They go on to say that they would be prepared to load these ships. I remind honorable members opposite that that is what happened during the war. When the waterside workers were overpaid, or were too lazy to work, or, for political reasons, would not work, who loaded and unloaded the ships? That work was done by the members of the army and air force who did not receive the rate of pay which these men receive. And, now, when the war is over, this gallant white ally of ours is treated in this way. Sitting in the House at the moment are two Ministers who have spent considerable time abroad in recent months. I refer to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for the Wavy (Mr. Makin), who has just returned from the conference of the United Nations. They have spoken to the representatives of many nations and have participated in discussions designed to adjust the problems confronting other nations. We know, of course, and I say this with respect, that the Minister for the Navy, as the representative of Australia, was the first to preside at the Security
Council because, taking the countries represented in alphabetical order, Australia came first. At that conference, he heard discussions by the representatives of many nations upon matters of urgent importance. Now, he is back in Australia with the Minister for External Affairs; but between them apparently, they cannot solve this little problem on our waterfront. What is the reason? The Prime Minister in his speech to-day apologized to the workers,, and praised them ; but he made no criticism of the Communists. He uttered not one word of criticism of the men who are at the bottom of this infamy. Many honorable members opposite say that they . dislike and distrust the Communists. Why cannot they as a Government deal with the Communists who dominate industry in this country and plan to cause international trouble? In this afternoon’s Sydney press is published a statement by that great statesman Mr. Winston Churchill, to whom the world owes so much, in which he says -
An iron curtain had fallen on Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic, behind which a dozen countries were under Russian influence and democracy had not a chance to raise its head.
All of us have read the text book of communism. The tactics of the Communist are the same here as everywhere except in Russia where the Communist has less liberty. Mr. Churchill continued -
However, in a great number of countries far from Russian frontiers, world-wide Communist fifth columns are established and at work in complete unity and absolute obedience to directions received from the Communist centre.
– He is an old tory.
– He is an old tory who worked well with Stalin, from whom the Minister draws his inspiration. Mr. Churchill speaks in great admiration of the Russian army and its leaders, but he has never withdrawn a word of what he 3aid before the war that the Communists, wherever they are, are. a revolutionary party. Honorable members opposite are socialists, and they have signed the socialist’s pledge. They . believe that they can establish socialism by constitutional means.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing; “but honorable members opposite who have been elected by the people have sold out to the Communists. Can any honorable member opposite deny that the president of the coal miners’ federation and the president of the Building Trades Union are Communists ?
– Many members of the Opposition parties organizations are Fascists.
– That is the old parrot cry of the Communists - everybody who is not a Communist is a Fascist. I have been in Russia. I do not condemn the Russians for their system. Their policy is their own; but I want traditional British democratic government to survive in this my native land. Some, although perhaps not all, honorable members opposite are prepared to let a revolutionary party disrupt the trade unions in order that so many men shall be thrown out of work and such great discontent caused that the state of affairs they desire may be achieved. Thornton, whose fare and expenses the Government paid when he went abroad, has come back from Moscow with his orders and has said, “We have planned strikes because we make strikes our business “. The handbook of the Australian Communist ‘party, not the Communist party in some other part of the world, says -
Strikes are to be encouraged and .exploited by the party wherever possible, as “ schools of war in the class struggle “.
Australia is not a country in which to speak of class struggles and bitterness. I am trying to urge honorable members opposite, who have said nothing in denunciation of the waterside workers, to wake up before it is too late. The Government is most remiss in not taking action to help the Dutch, an ally whom we need. Does any one believe that Australia, with a population of 7,000,000, can hold itself aloof from its friends? The first great war missed our shores and the second only touched the fringe, but another war will be infinitely more frightful and we shall not escape. Mr. Churchill has said that we must make all naval, army and air bases free of access to Great Britain and the United States of America, and I hope that the Government, especially the service Ministers, will take note of that, and ensure that Manus Island, to the north of New Guinea, which has been in the news lately, shall be open as a military base, not only to ourselves, but also to Great Britain and the United States of America. I say that now .because of the doubt that has been created by press reports as to Australia’s willingness to allow access to it. It is possible that the Government has decided to do so, and I hope it has. I return to the general disappointment and disillusionment of the people in regard to this Government because it has not condemned the go-slow policy of certain industrial unions. It has the duty to get people back into employment and to encourage production, not to allow go-slow tactics and to support the demand for shorter hours.
– What is private enter- prise doing?
– If the Government releases the controls on industry, private enterprise will do the job all right.
– What controls?
– The control on imports, for instance. Very little can be imported without permission. The Department of Import Procurement, which sprang up in war-time from the Department of Trade and Customs, controls all imports, and all sorts of formalities have to be gone through before one can import the smallest item, whether it be for the building trade or anything else. Instead of being abroad to-day, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) should be here exploring this matter with the object of ensuring that trade shall be allowed to flow and that private enterprise shall have its opportunity. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), whose interjections betray his ignorance, ought to know that building supplies are controlled too. Cement is controlled.
– Private enterprise is refusing to make bricks.
– The honorable member shows an appalling lack of knowledge. Cement is manufactured in Australia, but one has to obtain a permit before one may buy a bag of it. All sorts of officials have to be interviewed, delays are endless and refusals and delays frequent. I have had many requests, as we all have, for help in this regard. I need not go into detail, all I need say is that the Government has shown that it has neither the spirit nor the ability to govern. It has the haziest ideas about trade. During the war, when the Government had millions of money from taxation to play with, it did not worry about trade. No tariff schedules were tabled, and no trade policy was discussed. Everything’ was done by regulation. Why has the Prime Minister never made an announcement that he believes that reciprocal Empire trade should go on? Now, when Great Britain is in such difficulty, he. could easily make a pronouncement that the Government believes that Empire trade reciprocity, which has done so much good for us and the rest of the Empire, should be continued.
– He has never said that it will not be continued.
– But why does he not announce that it will be? Why, there is not a Minister in Australia who can answer a” question about trade. The Prime Minister has let the Minister for Trade and Customs go abroad at a time like this when he should be here taking the necessary steps to ensure the continued application of an Empire trade policy that is vital to Great Britain in view of the difficult plight it” is in. Great Britain is the greatest benefactor the world has seen, yet to-day it is the greatest debtor nation. Do the Government’s withers remain unwrung The country that saved civilization so reduced its circumstances in doing so that it is now trying to borrow over £1,000,000,000 from the United States of America, where there has been a great deal of discussion inside and outside Congress as to whether Great Britain should be loaned the money and as to the conditions that should be attached to the loan if it should be granted. Great Britain’s bill for the repair of its war-battered houses amounts, to £1,400,000,000, which the loan would not cover, and that is only one domestic item. Great Britain has turned to America, because it must export or die, for a loan in order that it might buy immediately essential raw materials and food. Has Australia said anything about approving of this?
– Has the Australian Government taken any steps to supply Great Britain with food and raw materials? No ! It has left to the generosity of the individual the despatch of food to Great Britain. The people have responded magnificently,’ but the Government has done nothing. If it has done anything, let the Minister responsible rise and say what it has done. I do not want to be merely critical of the Government. If Government supporters knew the plightof the British people to-day and during the war years, they would know that it is more serious even than the newspapers tell us. So they should make their best efforts to solve Great Britain’s problem instead of just laughing or bawling out senseless interjections.
– The Government is inviting every one to assist.
– Then let the Government itself help. Let it reduce the excessive postage on parcels which equals the value of the goods sent. .
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member must send parcels that cost more than most people can afford to send.
– Let the honorable member send some parcels himself, and he will know that he is wrong.
– I have been sending parcels to England regularly for years, and I know that the postage is extremely high. Instead of profiteering on postage the Government might well reduce by one-half the postage on all parcels sent to Great Britain. I hope the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber will be able to have that brought about.
– The shipowners are at fault.
– It does not all go to the shipowners. Daily we read in the press different reasons why Great Britain has not got more from Australia. One Minister says one day that it cannot lift the food that is available. The next day that is denied. The Prime Minister said to-day that the British people did not want tinned food, that they wanted fats and so on.
-no, he said that they did not want certain kinds.
– Oh ! Anyway, once before in this chamber I talked about the waste of tinned food and told how it was thrown away by the Army and the Air Force. Instead of allowing it to be thrown away, why cannot the Government ensure that it shall be sent to starving Europe, if the British do not want it?
– What shall we use for ships ?
– The honorable member knows that ships are coming here and going away again without full cargoes. My suggestion is that the Government acquire food to the value of some £2,000,000 and send it to Great Britain as a. gift.
– Where shall we get it from?
– When we lost Canberra, Great Britain gave us Shropshire without any quid pro quo. About a century and a half ago Great Britain gave us the democratic system of government that the Labour Government is trying to lose. I do exhort theMinister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to examine my proposal. There may be a reason why it cannot be done, but I cannot see it. Let there be no quibbling. Let the Government go into the market to acquire butter, meat, tinned fruits, and dried fruits. Let the ships come here. Let the Commonwealth pay for the food, and let it be sent to the people of Britain who need it so much.
D o honorable members opposite say that the Commonwealth cannot afford it? Surely not !
The Government’s management of its own affairs is deplorable. Many months ago I asked the Minister for Munitions how much had been expended on the manufacture of tanks in Australia and whether any of them had been used. The Government should not be parsimonious. It has limitless resources. We are the heaviest taxed people in the world. The Government should be reducing the taxes. The heavy taxes are the reason why so many men will not work, and t,ny include professional men as well as artisans. That is apart from the point, which is that I asked the Minister for Manila as how much had been expert!..: on the manufacture of tanks in -Australia and how many had gone into action. He told me that £7,500,000 had been expended on them and that none had been finished. Honorable members may verify that by reference to page 525 of the Hansard issued on the 8th March last. Now the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is offering to sell 62 Australian cruiser tanks “in fair condition, but no guarantee can be given “. So the Government expended £7,500,000 on something it cannot guarantee, and is now seeking to get back some of” that money at an auction sale. Honorable members can see the ineptitude of the Government. It has also gone into the aluminium business. It decided to manufacture aluminium in Tasmania. Three million pounds of the taxpayers’ money will go down that sink, but it has not started yet. The Government has decided to nationalize interstate airlines, although they provide the most efficient transport service in this country, and has rewarded two former members of this Parliament for “ services rendered “. One of them has been appointed Administrator of Norfolk Island, and the other has become the chairman of this unnecessary excrescence, the Australian Airlines Commission. Many former members’ of the Royal Australian Air Force, who are now unemployed, could occupy those jobs more efficiently. Why, then, did the Government, select as chairman of that commission a member of Parliament who, on a previous occasion, crossed the floor of this chamber and assisted the Labour party to take office? The Government will expend millions of pounds on nationalizing interstate airlines, and will pay large salaries to members of the commission. At the same time, the Prime Minister is exhorting taxpayers to subscribe to a £70,000,000 loan which -he claims . is for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Waste has been colossal, and it will continue. Consequently, this. Government deserves censure, and its wasteful administration deserves all possible publicity.
If any honorable member opposite is still a disbeliever, let me cite another example of colossal waste. Some time ago, I asked the Government to inform me how many Webley revolvers had been manufactured in Australia, and at what cost. The answer showed that only a few hundred Webley revolvers had been made, at a cost of £237,000, or an approximate cost of £200 each. Is not that an instance of colossal waste? Yet the Minister for Munitions has often informed the House, with great pride, of the achievements of his department, and has described it as being “ highly efficient “. I could deal also with waste in aircraft production, although I admit that some good work has been done in that section. For nearly two years, government establishments have been engaged in the manufacture of RollsRoyce engines for aircraft, but they have not yet produced a complete engine. Yet jet-propulsion will soon be fitted to all fighter aircraft, and the money which has been expended on the manufacture of Rolls-Royce engines will have been wasted. Unfortunately, those facts are lost on honorable members opposite. They simply are not interested. They are only interested to know whether or not some militant union has been displeased. It is time that they learned the true meaning of democracy. .
Regarding the Government’s administration, I have a letter which would be amusing if it were not so ironical. It concerns particularly the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), and I shall give him an opportunity to answer the points raised in it. A former officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, who has been demobilized, desires to engage again in the small business which he conducted before his enlistment. These small businesses receive scant consideration from the Government. He is not a navvy, a coal-miner or a waterside worker. He simply wants to re-establish himself in his former business.
– Is his name Boland ?
– I know all about that case.
– Prior to his enlistment this man had an office and factory in Melbourne. When he was demobilized recently, he desired to re-engage in business. His landlord had promised him the premises .which he had formerly occupied, but he found that the very department which was established to assist the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen was occupying those premises, and would not vacate them.
– What is wrong with that?
– Some of the accommodation which the department had engaged, was unoccupied. The applicant said, “I do not mind if the department keeps my office if it will give me one of the offices on the same floor.” But no! That could not be done. This man has tramped the streets of Melbourne for three months in a vain endeavour to obtain office accommodation, and has written to or telephoned every real estate agent in the city; but the very department which should be helping him to re-establish himself in business is occupying his former premises. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction wrote to me about this case. He referred, first, to the fact that the department had previously occupied four buildings before moving into the new premises and that Mr. Boland’s office would ultimately be required for departmental purposes. But this is the gem -
I am satisfied that the course which will result in the maximum release of office space to help ex-servicemen and others is that which I have just set out, and that to break up accommodation to meet individual cases would not only reduce efficiency and render administration more difficult and costly but would result in more space being occupied by government departments than would otherwise ‘be necessary- all considerations which would operate against the good of the country as a whole and ex-servicemen in particular.
I ask honorable members opposite to put themselves in the position of the recipient of that letter. He cannot re-establish himself in business, and is rapidly exhausting his deferred pay. He has to be satisfied with the statement of ‘the Minister that his former office will be occupied by the very department which was established to assist ex-servicemen. Nothing could be more ironical or ridiculous. The Minister should do the reasonable thing, and find for this man other office accommodation. Is that not the reason for the establishment of this expensive depart ment? Why does not the Minister do that for this man?
Of late, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has figured prominently in the press. In particular, he has been explaining what he is doing on behalf of the wives of servicemen abroad. More than twelve months ago, I asked why the wives of members of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Forestry . Corps in Great Britain were not placed on the priority list for passages to Australia. The then ‘ Prime ‘ Minister, Mr. Curtin, informed me, and I know that he believed his statement to be true, that those persons were placed on the priority list. Despite that assurance, the following news item appeared in the London Daily Sketch, on Monday, the 10th December, 1945, as a statement from Australia House, under the heading “ Hundreds ask Australia, ‘ Let us in ‘ “ : -
Limited passenger accommodation at present available in cargo ships is reserved for business men and officials travelling in the interests of Australia’s national effort.
If honorable members opposite do not believe what appears in the press, and I know that the Minister for Information is one of them, I can supply some information from Australia House itself to an Australian who has been endeavouring to secure a passage to Australia since 1942. He served in the war of 1914-18 and in the last war. His wife also is an Australian. They have been unable to secure passages to Australia,” and, finally he was informed that until he could produce a document or a cable from the Commonwealth Government showing that there was a job in Australia for him that no one else could fill, he could not bo granted a passage. From my own observations in- London, I know that these matters are being shockingly handled there. I do not minimize the difficulties. I realize that -only a few ships are available to transport passengers to Australia. However, a few days ago at a protest meeting at Coburg attended by many members of the Royal Australian Air Force who demanded that shipping accommodation should be allotted for the purpose of enabling their wives to be brought from’ England to Australia, I said that if the Commonwealth Government had pressed for ships as the United States of America and Canada had done, the requisite number would have been allotted. Then the Minister for Information denounced me, and said that my statement was nonsense. Yet on the same day the Agents-General in London were reported as having said that -
Much firmer action by Australia House officials would have cleared the war brides when shipping was more plentiful last year.
That confirms my own opinion. Here, too, is a letter from an official at Australia House to an Australian who enlisted in the Royal Air Force and who desires to return home -
Passenger shipping has become more difficult since you called upon me in the latter part of 1943. You know of course there is no regular passenger service now operating between this country and Australia.
That will surprise some honorable members. The letter continues -
There are a few berths available on cargo and semi-cargo ships, but most of these are required for persons who must travel in the interests of the national effort. The few remaining berths arc allotted to returning Australians who were caught up here during the war, and are still eligible for travel facilities, as well as the wives and children of Australian servicemen, who married abroad.
The last mentioned have not yet reached’ Australia. I could cite many similar instances. Honorable members will recall that on many occasions I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to provide transport facilities for these people. Undoubtedly, he has sent cablegrams to London with the necessary instructions, but his requests have been ignored at Australia House. Yet I know that some residents of Melbourne have visited Great Britain and have returned to Australia. They had no right to be granted facilities for travel when the wives of servicemen are stranded in England.
– For years Australia House was under the administration of Mr. S. M. Bruce.
– But the Minister for Information is assuring the public that everything possible is being done to provide transport facilities for the wives of Australian servicemen. It is not being done. If pressure were applied, shipping could be provided for them. If Australia is magnanimous in supplying food to Great Britain, the ships which are sent here for those commodities could be utilized to transport servicemen’s wives to Australia.
Definitely, this censure motion is justified. I have dealt with only a few items, some of which have been of international importance and others of domestic interest”. Honorable members may think that my representations on behalf of the wives of servicemen, who are overseas, may have been out of proportion to the others, but I do not agree with that view. T told hundreds of irate husbands, who are protesting against the delay in granting to their wives passages to this country, that I would raise the matter in this Parliament. I hope that the Government will heed my remarks. The Government could tackle many domestic problems. For example, housing has not been handled as it should have been. During 1944, not one war service home was erected. For the reasons which I have stated, I heartily support the motion of want of confidence .and I hope that at the forthcoming elections the Government which has brought discredit to Australia will be removed.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– This debate has developed into an omnibus motion of want of confidence in the Government, but the omnibus so far has carried so little weight that it has been very easily overturned. We have heard three speeches from members of the Opposition. Even the warmest admirers of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) would have to admit that he delivered a very feeble speech indeed. Then we heard from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), an admirable exposition of dialectical pettifoggery. After, that, we listened to a twittering diatribe from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). In due course, we shall doubtless hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) flogging his joss, and we shall also hear members of the Australian Country party generally giving utterance to those Jonah-like statements in which they indulge from time to time, whilst members of the new Liberal party no doubt will advocate their tin-horn arguments. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make three points. I . shall not say anything at all about the first of them. It referred to our relations with the Dutch people and the Dutch Government, and that point has been admirably dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I do not propose to say very much about food for Britain - I leave that to my colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) - but I do desire to make some observations on that aspect which concerns rationing, because at present I am the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, and rationing comes under my administration.
Now, it is understood that food for Great Britain may he provided by stepping up production on the one. hand, or by allocating our limited supplies of resources in certain ways. I ask the House and the country, what was the record of the Government led by the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies in regard to supplying food to Great Britain, and what was the record of the government led by the Leader of the Australian Country party? Let us examine these matters. The rationing of foodstuffs in Great Britain was introduced early in 1940. The governments, led by the right honorable member for Kooyong, and the right honorable member for Darling Downs were in power throughout the whole of 1940, and for the greater part of 1941. During that period Great Britain was nearer to defeat than at any subsequent stage of the war which has just concluded. The retreat from Dunkirk occurred about the middle of 1940. The submarine campaign was at its very worst, and the- food position in Great Britain during 1940 and 1941 was worse than it has ever been since. The people of Great Britain were nearer to being starved into submission during 1940 and 1941 than they were at any subsequent period of the war; but what did the Australian governments in office during those years do? The Government led by the present Leader of the Opposi- tion and that led by the present Leader of the Australian Country party, did not have the elementary guts to impose rationing upon the people of this country. They were too concerned with what would happen at the next general elections. A Minister for War Organization of Industry was appointed, but he lost his seat at the subsequent elections, and has since been rejected as the Liberal party candidate for the electorate of Parramatta in New South Wales, indicating that the people of Sydney have no faith in him. “Whilst that gentleman held office as Minister for War Organization of Industry, he did not do anything to allocate the food resources of this country in such a way as to assist Great Britain to the fullest possible degree at the time of that country’s most pressing need. A similar charge may be levelled at the Administration led by the present Leader of the Austraiian Country party. I admit that that Government held office for only -five weeks - and that was five weeks too long - but the fact remains that during that period the right honorable gentleman made no attempt to ration the people of this country so that we could make extra supplies of food available to Great Britain. What is the record of this Government? Early in 1942, I, as Minister for War Organization of Industry, recommended that rationing of foodstuffs in Australia be introduced so that we could send greater supplies to Great Britain than had ever been sent before by this country.
The Leader of the Opposition made certain statements in regard to exports. Amongst these was an allegation that exports had fallen. It is quite true that exports of. certain types of food have fallen, but the Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well the reason for that. He knows that in addition to supplying the Australian people under a rationing scale, we had to supply the large forces of the United States of America that came to this country, and without whose assistance we would not have remained a free people. It was because of the necessity to supply these forces, and also British forces in the Far East, that we were not able to continue to export certain commodities on the same scale as before the war.
– Does the Minister admit that there has been a substantial decrease of production?
– Statistics prove it.
– I said when I started that I would not deal with the production side of the food problem. That matter will be dealt with by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I am sure that that honorable gentleman will make just as good a case on that subject as I am making for the Government in regard to rationing and food conservation to increase exports to Great Britain.
The Leader of the Australian Country party developed an argument on demobilization, and I shall deal with his charges at some length. The right honorable gentleman alleged that the Government had bungled demobilization, and that the points system was wrong. He also said that that system, which, I point, out, was adopted by this Parliament last year without any criticism from any member of the Australian Country party, was introduced without consultation with any of the commanders in the field. Let us examine the_ Government’s record in regard to demobilization. Since fightingceased, 325,000 men have been demobilized in this country. Having regard to the total strength of our fighting services, that is a better record of demobilization in seven months than that of any other country. It is interesting to note how the civilian economy has been able to absorb this large number of men. [ remind honorable members that that was not the only problem, because during the same period a large number of war contracts had to be cancelled and approximately 1.00,000 civilians had to be diverted from war-time jobs to a peace-‘ time economy. The Leader of the Australian Country party deliberately distorted a certain set of figures issued by my department, and endeavoured to show that they meant something that they were not intended to mean at all. An analysis is made week by week of demobilization figures as the men pass through the dispersal centres. That analysis shows that on the average every week 15 per cent, of the men who pass through these centres have no specific jobs to go to. That does not mean however, that they are unemployed in the ordinary sense of the word, because quite a number of them do not want to take up work immediately. They want a rest after their very strenuous work in the services. Some of them say, “ After I have had a look around I will come back and look for a job “. Therefore, the mere fact that 15 per cent, of the men arc not provided with specific jobs is not proof that they are all unemployed for any length of time.
– Quite a lot of men leave their jobs.
– Yes, and they are provided with other jobs. The Leader of the Australian Country party took that 15 per cent, over a period of four weeks, and arrived at the figure of 35,000 which he said was the number of men unemployed. That statement is completely untrue. When a soldier is demobilized he is entitled to a period of leave during which he can either go to work or remain idle, but during, the whole of that period he is, of course, entitled to his Army pay and allowances for his dependants. When his leave has expired, he is entitled to draw a special re-employment allowance for three months. That allowance is a fairly generous one. If anything can be taken as a criterion of the number of ex-servicemen who are unemployed upon discharge, it is the number of applicants for that special allowance.
– They would not all ask for it.
– Possibly, but they are all entitled to it. I am merely stating that the test to apply when estimating the number of ex-service men and women unemployed is the number of applicants . for the special reemployment allowance. The total number of such applications throughout th Commonwealth to date is 5,000. Of course some claimants have been paid the allowance for a period and then have found employment and so ceased to be eligible. When one considers the colossal task of absorbing . 325,000 discharged servicemen into the civilian community and diverting 100,000 civilians from war work to peace-time production in a postwar period in which economic conditions have been upset by many other factors, I say that 5,000 applications for the special re-employment allowance is a mighty small figure indeed. That figure includes, of course, men waiting to begin reconstruction training. Technical training classes are not always just about to begin at the moment a soldier is demobilized. It may be a week or a month before the training centre at which he wishes to undertake his reconstruction training is ready to receive him. Business colleges also do not start their courses every day of the week. Technical training and other similar colleges start, at particular times throughout the year. Consequently, ex-servicemen eligible for training sometimes may have to wait for a few weeks before they can be accepted at the. appropriate institutions at which their training is to be carried out. During that waiting period these men are entitled to draw the special re-employment allowance. It can be seen, therefore that the 5,000 individuals who have applied for the allowance from time to time have not necessarily been unemployed. Many of them, in fact, have been waiting to undertake training. That figure of. 5,000 applicants for the re-employment allowance, out of a total number of 325,000 men discharged in seven months, represents only 1.3 per cent., so that in actual fact, taking into account those men who have been paid the allowance whilst waiting to begin training, the actual number of unemployed service personnel is approximately 1 per cent. In other words, of the 325,000 men demobilized, in only one case out. of every 100 have we been unable to find a job for an ex-serviceman in the civilian community. That is an extraordinarily good record, and anybody who characterizes as bungling the demobilization plan that has been in operation in this country does not know what he is talking about.
The Leader of the Australian Country party raised another matter. It was, that . the Government had rejected the policy of occupational releases advocated by the Australian Country party, in favour of the points system, and in doing so had neglected to adopt the cheapest method of rehabilitation. I do not_know whether occupational releases would have been the cheapest method of rehabilitation to adopt. But the Government was not looking for the cheapest method of rehabilitation, as was the Australian Country party; it was looking for the method which would meet with the approval of the vast majority of the nien in the services. The points system was evolved by my officers, considered by the Government, and (placed before and approved by this Parliament. Having read the debates that took place after the introduction of the White Paper on Demobilization in this House, I can say that scarcely a member of the Opposition made any criticism of the points system of demobilization at that time.
– We did ; we asked the Government to operate it in conjunction with other methods.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party also said that no commander in tks services had been consulted in regard to the points system. As a matter of fact, the points system was worked out in the first place by a committee that was representative of the services, and it was only after it had been approved by those representatives that it became a matter to be dealt with by my department; and the civilian side of my organization worked out the plan which finally was placed before this Parliament. So it is untrue to say that no commander in the field was consulted. If there is any criticism of the demobilization plan at the present time, it is because too many occupational releases are being made. If the Leader of the Australian Country party had had his way, and a. plan based completely on occupational releases had been adopted, I am sure that it would have been totally unacceptable to the members of the fighting services, and would have been wholly unfair.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) mentioned a case of alleged injustice to a discharged serviceman. He said that my department had written a letter to him. I have a copy of that letter, which I signed and sent to the honorable gentleman only to-day. He had represented to me that a discharged member of the Royal Australian Air
Force should have restored to him accommodation which, he had occupied in Wentworth House, Melbourne. That building is the head-quarters in Victoria of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Government departments have found it very difficult to obtain the necessary accommodation to undertake their work. Plans for demobilization cannot be made efficient - and I claim that our plans are efficient - without a certain staff. So far, the work of my department, on account of the shortage of accommodation until very recently, had to be carried on in four buildings in Melbourne. Mention has been made of controls. Of all the controls imposed by the Department of War Organization of Industry - and I suppose that that department imposed more controls, necessarily, than any other government department - only three remain, and they will be revoked very shortly. As the work of the Department of War Organization of Industry tapered off, naturally accommodation became available in Wentworth House, which had been the head-quarters of the Department of War Organization of Industry before I became Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the two departments were merged. As- that accommodation became available, I had a close examination made of the whole position, and decided to concentrate in one building the four divisions of my department that were accommodated in separate buildings in Melbourne as far as and as soon as it was possible to do so. After examination, I decided that the concentration should take place in Wentworth House. It is perfectly true that the individual regarding whom the honorable member for Balaclava made his representations had accommodation in Wentworth House before the war. But imagine what the position would have been had I restored that accommodation to him ! His would have been the one business on the whole of the two floors of that building which were occupied by the department.
– There are three other tenants who are not ex-servicemen. Where does preference come in?
– They are not on the same floor. The honorable gentleman bas been pressing for the relaxation of controls. I know what he would say if we decided to put into operation another regulation ordering tenants about, now that the fighting has ceased.
– Why does the honorable gentleman not find him another place?
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that we placed certain proposals before the people in the form of a referendum. We told the people that we needed the extra powers that we then sought in order to ensure the proper rehabilitation and reestablishment of the members of the fighting services. Who campaigned against that referendum? The honorable member for Balaclava was one who did so.
– What a poor excuse!
– It is not a poor excuse. The honorable member for Balaclava knows perfectly well that we have not the constitutional power te deal with the aspect he has just mentioned; and it is because he and others campaigned against the last referendum that we have not the constitutional power.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the concluding part of his speech, mentioned the need for extra production, and the Leader of the Australian Country party stressed the same point. Both of those gentlemen, I believe, alleged that no member of the Government had advocated at any time the necessity for increased production. That is a complete misstatement of fact. If honorable members opposite will look through the White Paper on Full Employment, which I presented to this House, they will find the matter of increased production dealt with at some length in it. Not only so, but also in the numerous addresses, speeches and public statements that I have made from time to time I have always stressed that the welfare of the people depends finally upon the volume of goods produced. Nobody can deny that. Let us consider the record of governments prior to the Labour Government taking office in 1941. I have in my hand the figures in relation to national income submitted to this Parliament as an appendix to the budget statement; they appear in table 2 on page 4 of that statement - gross national pro- duct at market prices. These figures give an indication of the value of production in different years.
– Give us the units of production; they are the test.
– The value of production is an excellent test.
– I suppose that they include the production of aeroplanes in war-time.
– It does not matter what they include, the question is still one- of production. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is only a political accident in this House, and should keep quiet. I have included the gross national product at market prices for the year 1937-38, which does not appear in the statement, only the following years being given. I wish to compare the gross value of production under antiLabour governments with the value ofproduction when Labour has been in office. The gross value of production at market prices was £779,000,000 in 1937- 38 and £930,000,000 in 1938-39, whilst in 1944-45 it was £1,437,000,000. Under a Labour government in 1944-45 the gross value of production at market prices was nearly double what it was in 1937-38. That shows how production has increased under a Labour government.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party made certain allegations against the present Government. The latter alleged that demobilization had been bungled, and that the unemployment figures were very large. Let us compare them with what they were when the Leader of the Australian. Country party was Prime Minister. I have already said that the total number of applicants for the special unemployment allowance for discharged servicemen is only 5,000, but there were still 100,000 persons unemployed when the Labour Government took office at the end of 1941. In other words, unemployment to-day is less than one-twentieth of what it was when the Leader of the Australian Country party was Prime Minister. During that period, of course, he had not to contend with all the difficulties of reconversion from a war-time to a civil economy after a prolonged war. The Leader of the Opposition contended that, we had not done anything like as much as we ought to have done to assist in the campaign for food for Britain. I have shown what was done by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. Early in 1940, just before the fall of Dunkirk, when Great Britain was almost beaten to its knees, the Leader of the Opposition, in taking part in the election campaign in Corio, in March, 1940, used as his slogan the expression “ The eyes of Hitler are on Corio “. His suggestion was that if Labour won the Corio seat the war would be lost. He did nothing to assist in supplying foodto Great Britain in 1940-41, but the very man who won the election in Corio later became a. Minister and did more to assist in sending food to Britain that either the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– I have listened to the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has given the same kind of reply as he always makes in this House to any criticism of the Government. He never tells us what the Government is doing or has done at the time immediately under- discussion, but goes into the hoary past and makes unfair comparisons. Instead of using units of production, he takes advantage of an inflated currency in order to show that, increased production has occurred by using the monetary units in an inflated, currency, whereas in fact decreased production has been achieved. The people are getting tired of the inefficiency and bungling which the Minister has shown in his department. I shall not refer, to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) both of whom dealt fully with the relations between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies, and little more need be said about them. The reply by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was one of the weakest speeches we have heard from him. He put forward two curious propositions. One was that this Parliament, is not a place where the people’s representatives should discuss the relations between the Government of
Holland and the Government of Australia. I ask where else should these relations be discussed than in the forum of the people ? They should certainly not be discussed in some back office of the wharf labourers union, or in the trades halls throughout the Commonwealth. The other curious statement of the Prime Minister was that if the Government had taken action with regard to the hold up of the Dutch ships there might have been a strike on the waterfronts throughout Australia, and the exports of food from this country to Great Britain and other parts of the world would have been prevented. According to the Prime Minister, there is no question of whether the Dutch had right on their side. That was not to be the test of the Government’s decision. The wharf labourers union, led by its president, Mr. Healy, an avowed Communist, has been given a very high place by the Government of this country. Mr. Healy has only to say to the Government, “ Unless you give us what we demand we will bring out all the wharf labourers on -strike and hold up the exports-“. Some day the Prime Minister and the Government must realize that a policy of appeasement cannot continue. What he said to-day merely encourages Mr. Healy and hi3 friends to play up in the same way as heretofore. It is easy to see how great is the influence of the Communists to-day in the Commonwealth and on this Government.
I direct attention to several matters seriously affecting the welfare of the people because of mismanagement on the part of the Government. If a person visits a tailor’s shop, either in a city or in a country district, it is practically impossible to get a suit of clothes. Tho shelves are bare of suitings, particularly in the shops of tailors in small country towns. I know that it is the policy of the Government to destroy small capitalists, as was explained by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in one of his franker moments in reply to an interjection by the honorable member interjection by the honorable member for for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) during the last period of the session. There was a shortage of clothing during the war because the mills in Aus tralia were making material for the use of our forces and those of our allies. Since the cessation of hostilities, 325,000 men have been released from the forces, and they need civilian clothing. Many soldiers have told me that it is impossible to get suits, and tailors have told me that they cannot get materials. In order to provide 325,000 men with a suit of clothes each, 1,137,000 yards of cloth would be required.
The present acute shortage of cloth has been accentuated by our export policy, in regard to which the Government has paid no attention to the requirements of civilians and ex-servicemen. In 1938-39, the export to the United Kingdom of woollen piece-goods, or goods containing wool, was 2,887 square yards. During the period from July to December, 1945, the quantity was 220,000 square yards. For the same periods, the figures for Canada were 6,700 square yards, and 22,8SS square yards respectively, and for New Zealand, 10,000 square yards and 437,573 square yards. Cloth is being exported now to countries which previously never took a yard from us. For instance, Iraq last year took 30,000 square yards from us; Egypt, which previously imported no cloth from Australia, last year took 3,000 square yards; Czechoslovakia took 11,000 square yards and the Netherlands East Indies 31,477 square yards. The United States of America, which imported only 3,631 square yards from Australia in 1938-39, took 28,964 square yards during the last six months of last year.
– Where did the honorable member get his figures?
– The honorable member, like a wise man, wants to know where I got my figures. He wants to see for himself what a mess the Government is making of things, and to find out why the shelves of country storekeepers are empty. The figures were supplied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Perhaps the honorable member has more reliable figures that he made up himself. In 1938-39, our total exports of woollen piece-goods amounted to 33’,575 square yards. During the period from July to December, 1945, our exports amounted to 786,000 square yards. During the period from
July to September, New Zealand took 262,000 square yards. No work was done by the mills during December because of the strike and holidays, but for a period of two months exports to New Zealand amounted to 175,000 square yards. Thus, exports to New Zealand increased during the last two months of the year. Indeed, so bad has the position become regarding exports of piece-goods to New Zealand that I am informed that cloth is being smuggled back from New Zealand and sold on the black market in Australian cities. The figures which I have cited do not include piece goods supplied to Unrra. I am told that such material as imitation camel hair coating is being exported by Unrra, although I cannot believe that coolies in China or people in other distressed countries would have need of such material, which is made by the mills of Myer Emporium Limited at Ballarat. It does not seem to bo the duty of any one to see that suitable goods are supplied to Unrra. I understand that Yarra Falls Limited is sending two men overseas to develop an export market for its goods. It should be remembered that woollen mills in Australia have been developed under the protection of heavy duties. The duty on cloth imported from Great Britain amounts to ls. per square yard and 30 per cent, on the value. Seeing that the factories have been established and developed under the protection of high duties, it is surely only reasonable to ask that sufficient cloth should be retained in Australia to enable the Australian people to be clad decently. That, however, does not seem to be the policy of the Government, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is not worrying his head about it. I have been informed that, in some eases, when export licences were refused by one inspector, another was sent along who proved more amenable to reason. The piece goods now being exported are being sold overseas for higher prices than would be ^permissible in Australia. Even so, there is a margin of 10s. per square yard in favour of Australian cloth as compared with that exported from Great Britain, the average mice for British being 23s. as against 13s. for similar Australian cloth. The product of Australian mills is being sent to overseas markets which we cannot hope to retain in normal times against British and American competition.
– What a great Australian the honorable member is !
– I am an Australian who .believes in treating the people of Australia, properly, instead of exporting overseas the goods which are urgently required here.
I come now to the important subject of housing. This evening the Minister for Post- war Reconstruction refused to answer a plain, straight-forward question put to him in a polite manner. His answer was rude and offensive. I asked him how many ex-servicemen were being trained under the Government’s post-war rehabilitation scheme. That was a fair question, and I should, have been given an answer. I shall . show why the Minister refused to answer it. It is well known that the people not only in our cities but also in country towns are becoming desperate because of the lack of housing. ‘ To-day we. heard, from the Leader of the Australian Country party that in Queensland seventeen people are sharing one room and from . time to time we have seen in Sydney newspapers photographs of returned servicemen living in ill-equipped tents with their families whilst many others are separated from their families. One woman who is given a bed in a Salvation Army shelter can see her husband only at certain times during the day because of lack of accommodation. Such conditions not only lower the health of the people; they also tend to break up marriages. Yet the Government does nothing to remedy the position except to make lavish promises. In to-day’s Canberra Times there is an advertisement calling for eleven more economists. Does the Government think that houses can be built merely by appointing economists? Except for his looks, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction reminds me of a beautiful woman who Ls always adding more pearls to her necklace. He is always adding more economists to his staff, but he is not getting the work done. I shall remind the House of some of the promises made by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) and ais colleagues. In June, 1945, full Cabinet endorsed a plan which set 24,000 dwellings as the target for 1945-46. Of that number, about 10,000 homes were to be built in New South Wales, which is the Minister’s home State. Let us see what results have been achieved in New South Wales. With only three months till the end of the financial year in which 10,000 houses were to be built in that State, fewer than 3’,000 buildings have been erected. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ( does not speak of his Government’s lack of achievement. He says, “ Look what previous governments did “. He goes back into the past, whereas the people of Australia want him to do something to provide houses. In July, 1945, the Minister for Works and Housing said that there was little truth in the assertion that the target of £4,000 houses for the year would not be hit. In- the same month the Prime Minister wrote to the State Premiers saying that the target for 1946-47 was 50,000 homes, and in September, 1945, an official announcement stated that by Christmas it was expected that materials would be available in sufficient quantities to ,meet the needs of the Government’s housing programme. The fact is that sufficient materials to meet the needs of that programme are not yet available, although five months have elapsed. About 30 houses a week are being built in the metropolitan district of Sydney and the Wollongong district.
– That is because a pre’vious non-Labour government in New South Wales sold the State brick works.
– The reason is the lack of business ability on the part of Labour governments in New South Wales and the Commonwealth. According to an excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd March the State Housing Commission has applications for 15,000 homes, which at the present rate of construction >vill take more than ten years to erect. Despite the demand, only 2,284 houses’ were completed in the metropolitan district of Sydney and the South Coast district of New South Wales in 1945. The article stated that so bad is the bungling in government departments that no one knew how many new houses had been built until the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board published certain figures. If that be true it is essential that this motion of want of confidence should be carried. The figures available indicate that the buildings completed total only one-quarter of the number ‘built in 1917, which was the worst years of the war of 1914-1S. The present Government is inconceivably inefficient.
– At least the’ Government does not rave.
– I notice that the Minister for Works and Housing is at the table. He is the gentleman responsible for the Government’s disastrous failure to provide houses for the people. He probably has blue prints showing houses everywhere, and can quote from statistics prepared by economists who live in the arctic atmosphere of Canberra. These gentlemen do not know the conditions under which thousands of their fellow citizens are forced to Jive. The Minister himself lives in a pretty .bungalow in the Liverpool district and is not interested in the housing of the people. Figures provided ‘-by the Water Board show that in the Sydney and Wollongong areas there is need for 10,000 new or remodelled houses a year. As those houses have not been erected there is now a shortage of 75,000 dwellings. Thus, if the State could complete 10,000 homes a year there would still be a deficit of 35,000 houses by 1950. I have no doubt that the Minister for Housing will, like Pontius -Pilate, wash his hands of this business. He will say that it is a State matter; and the State will say that it is somebody else’s responsibility. But the people who are suffering as the result of the shortage of houses do not care whether it is a State or a Commonwealth responsibility. They know that the Commonwealth can supply the necessary funds and labour to erect the houses provided it exercises the necessary initiative. In 1939 there were 41,000 skilled tradesmen in the building industry in New South Wales. Recent surveys show that from 30,000 to 3G.0Q0 skilled tradesmen will not be sufficient to build houses at the rate of 10,000 annually. It is. said that 54,000 skilled tradesmen will be required for major reconstruction, including housing, in New South Wales in order to achieve results absolutely essential. The substantial recruiting ground available to the Commonwealth for its reconstruction work is among servicemen; but between November, 1944, when the ex-servicemen’s training scheme was commenced, and November, 1945, this magnetic personality, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is always telling us what he has done and intends to do, and what previous governments have failed to do, has under his scheme produced only 110 tradesmen for the building industry. Whereas thousands of tradesmen are required, only 110 have been ‘trained under the Minister’s brilliant training scheme. If those men were supermen, or Mandrakes, 110 would be sufficient; but: they are not Mandrakes. When I asked the Minister to-night to give the number of servicemen in training he was very impertinent and refused to answer my question. And he had a good reason for refusing to do so, because there are only 2S3 servicemen being trained as bricklayers, and they are being trained on a six month’s term. It is estimated byexperts that, about 600 men may be trained under the Government scheme. Thus, where thousands of -bricklayers are required the scheme now in operation will provide only 600 mcn in two years. However, the most illuminating facts with respect to the position in the building trade are given in a statement made by Mr. McLeod Bolton, the representative of the ex-servicemen on the Regional. Training Committee. He points out that of 2,325 people accepted for training in New South Wales, only 1258 are actually undergoing training, but the number includes only 3S4 carpenters and 199 plumbers. Those are microscopic figures when compared with the numbers required to overcome the present shortage of houses. Mr. Bolton also said that the employers’ representatives estimated that when housing material was available at least 5,000 bricklayers would be required. But the official target is only 680 to be trained over two years! Is it any wonder that bricks are not being made, or laid, when evidence of such colossal bungling is revealed in the figures which I have quoted.
I now propose to deal with soldier land settlement, particularly in New South Wales. I believe that approximately 5”,000 qualification certificates have been issued in that State alone. That number of men are qualified to go on the land, and to take up holdings. But Mr. - Bolton points out that in the whole of New South Wales, as at the 2nd of March last, ‘only eleven servicemen were receiving rural training under the exservicemen’s training scheme. Yet the Minister boasts of an army of 800,000 and of the fact that 325,000 service personnel have already been discharged. Out of that number the Government so far can train only eleven men for settlement on the land! .Yet the Minister gets up in this chamber and talks about. the record of this Government. He, and all of the motley crew behind him, should hang their heads in shame. Despite the issue of this large number of qualification certificates the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Tully, stated only a fortnight ago that his Government, in co-operation with the Commonwealth, had settled 65 ex-service personnel on the land in New South Wales. Incidentally, Mr. Tully is making a quick “getaway” to London. Perhaps, he will go away as well equipped as did the right honorable member for West, Sydney (Mr. Beasley) when proceeding to London to take up his- duties as Resident Minister. Much of Great Britain’s food difficulties will be solved should these gentlemen be forced to disgorge their larders. One question which many people in Australia would like answered is how did Mr. Beasley get the necessary ration tickets to obtain so large a quantity of food. He took with him an enormous quantity of food, and in that respect he behaved disgracefully. Mr. Tully would be ashamed to mention the number he gave. It “is a. disgrace to this Government and the Government of New South Wales that only 65 ex-servicemen have been settled on the land in New South Wales. Despite all the Government’s promises, not a single estate has been resumed in New South Wales for soldier land settlement. Some honorable members opposite have
*aid that the owners are unco-operative and will not make their land available and that th«y want too high a price. Howover, under an act of parliament in New South “Wales the Government has power to resume estates at a valuation fixed by the Land Valuation Court, and owners must accept the decision of the Court. It if no excuse to say that because an owner will not agree to a price the Government cannot obtain estates for soldier land settlement. The real reason for the failure of the Government in this matter is that it is afraid to face up to the problem. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) if lie is prepared to give an assurance that every ex-serviceman who is given a block of land will have the right to grow wheat.
– Yes, definitely; and the Government has never intimated at any time that licences to grow wheat would lie refused to any ex-serviceman.
– I am not referring to licences for the next couple of years only, but for the future generally. Will the Minister give me a guarantee on that basis? I note that he refuses to do so. The Government’s bungling with respect to land settlement is as great as its bungling with respect to housing and the building industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scully) adjourned.
National Security Act: Duration - Formosa?; Ex prisoners of Wak ‘..’n Internees.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley). proposed -
Thai the House do now ad journ.
.- .1 raise a matter that I believe to be both urgent and important. The matter that 1 raise for definition and for the guidance of the public by the Government is the duration of the National -Security Act. The National Security Act, as honorable members will recall, was passed in 1939. lt. was assented to in September, 1939, and the concluding section, section 19, dealt with the duration of that legislation. It reads as follows : -
This act shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer.
I emphasize the reference to the present state of war and the concluding phrase - a period of six months thereafter and no longer.
The National Security Act was a very fertile parent. I have by way of an exhibit for the interest of honorable members two of the manuals of national security legislation subsequently made under the general authority conferred by the National Security Act itself, and 1 have no doubt that the -1.000 odd pages of these two volumes by no means cover the total number of regulations and orders made as the result of the passing of the National Security Act.
– Most of them have been repealed.
– That may be so. I am not in a position to know, nor do I think the general run of legal practitioners, let alone the general run of lay men, can say what proportion of the regulations has been repealed, and there is unquestionably a great deal of uncertainty in the commercial community of Australia as to what obligations remain, under the regulations or how much longer the regulations are to endure. I. took the opportunity to-night to read the speech of the then .Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, on the second reading of the original National Security Bill, and it, is of significance, having regard to subsequent experience, to note this comment -
In the conduct of thi* war wc shall create something in the nature of a bureaucracy, and therefore, I ask that a time limit bc placed upon the operation of the bill.
The bill, even at that stage, contained a clause in the words of the section that I have just read, but the then Leader of the Opposition had some very natural qualms as to how long regulations made under the then proposed act would continue, and as to the nature and extent of the bureaucracy that would be created by this war-time legislation. He sought even then to have a more definite limit placed on the life of the measure. In fact, lie suggested that it come up for review every twelve months and that it should receive the endorsement of the Parliament every twelve months.
– The honorable member is getting tired of bis baby.
– I should like to claim parenthood, but the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) carries that distinction.
– I mean that the authorship of the National Security Act was the responsibility of the Menzies Government.
– Yes, indeed, and it was supported by the then Opposition as a necessary part of the measures that had to be taken for the defence of this country. But, like all good things, it must .come to an end sometime, and what I am asking the Government to do to-night is to state as clearly as it can for the guidance of the people of Australia how long this act is to be deemed to last and how long the regulations made under it are to endure, I .realize that the regulations made under it have no greater force than the defence power which the Constitution confers upon the Commonwealth Government, but whereas it would be open to some organization or body of citizens to challenge specific regulations in the High Court on the ground that they were no longer valid under the defence power, that is an expensive and cumbersome procedure which it should not be necessary to adopt. In August, last year, the joyful tidings of the cessation of hostilities reached ‘us. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has taken the 2nd September as the starting point in respect of some of the legislation relating to national security matters. For the purpose of preference in employment, and the payment of war gratuities, for example, the 2nd September has been taken as the date of the practical conclusion of hostilities. The phrase, “During the present state of war “, I suggest, clearly relates to a practical problem as to when we ceased to be in a state of war. It may.be argued, and I gather from a reply given by the Attorney-General to my colleague the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) just after the last referendum that he then took the view that a peace treaty would bring us to the point where we ceased to be, in a state of war. He is reported in Hansard as having said -
The National Security Act will cease to operate on a date to be fixed by proclamation. That proclamation must be issued not later than six months after His Majesty “ ceases to be engaged in war “. The words quoted must be applied to facte which have not yet happened.
That was prior to the cessation of hostilities. He went on - and it is impossible at this stage to give an opinion covering every contingency. If, however, there is an armistice and subsequently the state of war is brought to an end by a treaty of peace, the date on which His Majesty “ ceases to be engaged in war “ will no doubt be the date fixed by or under the treaty of peace - or the last of them, if more than one - and not the earlier date of the cessation of hostilities between His Majesty and the last of the belligerents.
– That is clear enough.
– It is clear enough to the Minister, for he says, “ You can take it from the date of the conclusion of a peace treaty “, but what is not clear to me and, I am sure, to a great many other people is how and when a peace treaty is concluded in the extraordinary circumstances attached to the conclusion of the war. Most of the leaders of the enemy governments are either dead or on trial with the very likely prospect of death or long terms of imprisonment. There is no responsible government functioning in the principal countries with which a peace treaty would be necessarily concluded. Axe we to understand that with Japan functioning under directives issued by General Douglas MacArthur there Ls some responsible body in that country with which. a peace treaty could be concluded? Are we to believe that Germany, which, is divided into three spheres of control, is in a position to have a peace treaty concluded with it? Can we conclude peace treaties with countries that for all practical purposes are under Russian domination ? Those are practical questions. If we are to take a peace treaty as the determining date for the. conclusion of the operation of the National Security Act and the regulations made under it, it may be many years before the legislation and regulations will cease to operate, and that may be a time without any practical relationship to the actual cessation of hostilities. So I think that the Government is under the obligation to state something clearer than it has. There is to be, I understand, an international gathering in May to discuss matters connected with peace, a peace conference of a sort. But it is not suggested that that itself will produce peace treaties with the former belligerent enemy countries. Therefore. I ask the Government to-night to give some clear lead and indication to the Australian people and. in particular, to the commercial community so that the many matters of uncertainty which are likely to arise while the present state of indefiniteness continues, may be resolved.
– Does the honorable member require a considered answer this evening, or will he be satisfied if I make a statement within a few days?
– I ask the Government as early as is practicable to make the statement.
– I think that the view which 1’ expressed previously is correct, but I shall be glad to elaborate it.
– I believe that the Minister for External Affairs appreciates the point which I have raised, and I look forward to a clear statement from him regarding the position.
– I am in receipt of an urgent telegram from Sydney relating to a matter which is causing very great concern at the moment. The telegram reads -
Formosan business disgrace to Australia’s reputation fairplay. Strongly urge your taking action to’ have ship recalled.
According to my information, 1,000 Formosan women and a number of children have been placed aboard a Japanese destroyer which is carrying Japanese prisoners of war away from Australia. When these women were brought down to the boat, the chief officer, I understand, refused to allow them to go aboard. He pointed out that they did not understand the Japanese language; that they would most assuredly be, as he. expressed it, killed by the Japanese, who did not understand the circumstances, because the women had resided in Australia for a number of years; and that, at least, they would be subjected to ill treatment of some kind. Therefore, he would not accept the responsibility associated with embarking those women. It is then stated that this matter was referred to a higher authority. This “ higher authority “ could only be a higher authority .at Canberra, and what I want to know Ls, who was the higher authority at Canberra who allowed these women to be shipped aboard the Japanese destroyer against the advice of the chief officer, because he knew his own nationals, and the treatment to which the women would be subjected. I am concerned to find that such a direcnon was given, that the women were taken aboard, and that the destroyer has sailed. This situation has caused a storm of protest in Sydney, and I have received a number of telephone calls, and the urgent telegram which I read.
This is a matter of common humanity. We are sending Japanese prisoners af war away from Australia, and rightly so. They are going back to Japan. But aboard the destroyer which is carrying those prisoners of war are a number of defenceless women and children. They do not know the Japanese language, and the customs of the Japanese. They are being asked to mix with these fellows who have already proved their brutality against menfolk. Despite the protest of the senior officer, they were taken aboard the destroyer. This was done only on the say-so of a “ higher authority “, and that higher authority must repose at Canberra. As I stated, I desire to know who is that higher authority, and why he gave such a decision. If any dispute arose regarding this matter, and there was any possi-‘ bility of these < women being subjected to maltreatment, he should have delayed the departure of the destroyer, in order to permit him to make the necessary inquiries to see whether the suspicions of the chief officer were well grounded. If they were, other arrangements should have been made for the transport of those women and children. But that has not been done, and the ship has sailed. If these fears are well founded, there is only one thing which this so-called “higher authority “ at Canberra can do, and that is to recall the destroyer immediately so that the authorities may provide the necessary protective measures to safeguard the women and children until they return to their own country. If the higher authority has made inquiries and is satisfied, is he prepared to take full responsibility for the lives and well-being of those women?
– I had intended to raise the same matter as that related by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). There are two points involved which, I think, are of primary importance to this country. One is the shipping of Formosan. citizens who are now, according to their papers, under Chinese authority, under conditions which, to say the least, if my information be correct, are degrading. The second is the surrender, in respect of their transport to Formosa, of all the principles for which we have fought. I understand that the Japanese destroyer which, technically, is an American vessel under American control, sailed from Sydney this afternoon and carried in all well over 1,000 persons, of whom 100 were Formosan women and 112 Formosan children ranging in age from two months to fifteen years. I should like to have my information checked, because, if my’ information is checked, I think that it will be found to be correct, and, if correct, it calls for immediate action on the part of the Government. I am told that these 100 women” and their children, under somewhat heart-rending conditions, were compelled to board this vessel with the most scanty, elementary and crowded accommodation and provisions. I am not directing my criticism at the moment against the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). I am told that the reference was made; not to Canberra, but- to Melbourne, and that the Army officers in charge at Sydney did not desire to compel these women to go aboard the destroyer with their children. But upon reference being made to Melbourne, they were told that it had to be clone, and ultimately the women and children went on board this vessel, compelled to travel under the conditions which I have described. They are housed in a portion of the vessel which, I am told, in ordinary circumstances could not house more than 70. I am not so very much concerned” about the conditions under which Japanese men are repatriated to their country, after the manner in which, they treated our own prisoners of war, but entirely different considerations apply in respect of women and children, particularly Formosan women and children, who claim that in no circumstances are they Japanese citizens and who are now, as’ I think the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) will agree, under the control of China. I understand that their nationality papers are in Chinese. Two questions arise. First, they having gone, who is responsible for sending them under those conditions? Secondly, they having gone, what can now be done to repair, if my facts are correct, something which reflects very much upon the dignity, sense of decency and fair play of this nation. In good faith I make a suggestion to the Minister for_the Army. I do not for a moment believe that he had any prior knowledge of what has taken place. 1 suggest to him that this vessel, which’ is in wireless communication with Australia, should be re-directed to call at Brisbane, and that these women and children should be taken off and returned to their homeland under conditions more acceptable to our ideas of proper conduct.
– When I was approached this afternoon by a representative of the press in regard to the repatriation of Formosan ex-internees by the disarmed Japanese destroyer Yoizuki that was the first I had heard of the matter. I had no knowledge whatever of the numbers to be taken or the conditions on the vessel. That was determined by the American shipping control in Tokio. I am not responsible, neither is the Government. I requested an officer to telephone Lieutenant-General Berryman, the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command for information as to numbers and conditions. I have ascertained the following facts : The total number of persons . embarked on the Yoizuki was 1,005, of whom 97 are Formosan women, and 112 Formosan children. The ship is under orders to sail to Formosa, not Japan. The destroyer Yoizuki cleared Sydney Heads at 3.40 p.m. to-day. Brigadier Prior, the officer supervising the embarkation, was in attendance throughout the operation, and he received protests from approximately 50 of the Formosans on the ground that’, they were being sent to Japan and not Formosa. The situation was explained fully by a representative of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney who was present at the embarkation. On the situation being verified, the embarkation was carried out without further incident. The conditions and numbers on the ship were regulated by the American authorities responsible for sending prisoners of war and internees back to Formosa. The responsibility of the Australian Army was solely for embarkation and despatch. The personnel were held in Australian camps on behalf of the American Army authorities. I am advised that one man, a Chinese, was forcibly placed on board, because he was convinced that the ship was going to Japan. However, subsequently, he was quite satisfied .that everything was in order. The captain of the ship stated that his orders were to embark 1,005 persons. The movement of the vessel is under the control of the United States of America. I rang Lieutenant-General Berryman rand Brigadier Prior to-night, and they informed me that the facts stated above are correct. 1 mentioned to them the statement that Army officers at Sydney «d id. not want to embark these people. They denied that emphatically. I was assured that the ship was provided by the Supreme Command, Allied Powers, which had laid down the number the vessel would carry. Naval authorities at Sydney advised the Army authorities there to-day that arrangements had been mede for the ship to put in at an island port within the next few days to check conditions on board. Commander Knight, of the Royal Australian Navy, travelled on the ship down the harbour. He reports that those on board had changed their attitude when they knew that they would be taken to Formosa and not Japan. I also received the following telegram to-night from the Military Base, Sydney : -
The following is a statement handed to the press in Sydney and relayed to Melbourne in connexion with embarkation of .Japanese nationals in Sydney to-day. Message begins: The total number embarked on the ship Yoizuki was 1 ,005, being 505 prisoner of war and 440 internees approximately half of whom were women and children.
– And they are all Formosans?
– That is so. There are no Japanese travelling on the vessel as internees or prisoners of war. The message continues -
These, people were held in Australia on behalf of overseas governments who requested the
Australian authorities to arrange for their repatriation.
The ship was provided by a central authority in Tokyo, which was fully aware of the number to be carried. The Japanese captain admitted lie was instructed to pick up 1,000 nationals, some of whom would be women and children.
Accommodation was held up pending a rearrangement of the space available.
The internees were addressed by the Chinese Vice-Consul, who explained that they would lie disembarked at Formosa, and on this assurance they were quite happy to continue the voyage. the ship will be calling at an island port in a few days when it may be possible to make the accommodation position easier if found necessary.
The Chinese Vice-Consul stated that the internees had expressed their appreciation of the treatment they had received from the Australian authorities during the whole of their enforced stay in this country.
.- This is alarming news to most members of this House. I ask is the Parliament to be satisfied with the statement that has been made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). The fact that the crew may be Formosans or Japanese is not the point. No doubt the Formosans were sailors of the Japanese navy prior to the cessation of hostilities. Is the Minister satisfied that 1,000 people can be transported on a destroyer?
– Four hundred would be its normal complement.
– Obviously 1,000 is far too many. The Minister must know what a destroyer, a cruiser, or a battleship can carry. In this case, a cruiser complement is being placed on board a destroyer, and in addition, there are a number of women and children who normally would require a little more space. We all know what a blot Altmark was’ on the German nation. People were transported on that vessel in hideous confinement. We cannot allow the charge to be made that we permitted 1,000 people to be carried from our shores on a small destroyer.
– Who said it was a small destroyer?
– If it is a destroyer it is small, and it is not capable of carrying 1,000 people without serious overcrowding. This is not a party matter, it is a matter of humanity. I wholeheartedly support the suggestion that the vessel should be radioed to call at the nearest port so that the women and children may be disembarked.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1945, Nos. 175, 190, 201. 1946, No. 33.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945-
No. 48 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 49 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 50 - AmalgamatedEngineering Union; and others.
No. 51. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Nos. 52-55 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 56 - Amalgamated Engineering Union; and others.
No. 57 - Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association; and others.
No. 58 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association of Australia.
No. 1 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 2 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 3 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 4. - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
No. 5 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service; Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association : Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association; Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’* Association; Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia; and Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Report by Auditor-General upon accounts of Trustees of Fund, for year 1944-45.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 16.
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals - Reports for year 1944-45.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - L. B. Tulloh.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 22.
Twenty-first Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by Board of Commissioners dated 18th February, 1946.
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 21.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet and Liquidation Account, together with Auditor-General’s report thereon, for year ended 28th February, 1945.
Copyright Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 198.
Customs Act -
Customs Proclamations - Nos.637-643. 647-650.
Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1945, No.186. 1946, No. 10.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regu lations - Statutory Rules . 1940, No. 13.
Darwin Lands Acquisition Act, Lands Acquisition Act, and Lands Acquisition Ordinance of the Northern Territory - Land acquired for purposes of re-planning and development, and institution of system of leasehold tenure - Darwin, Northern Territory.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1945, Nos. 180, 195. 1946, Nos. 6, 7.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1945, Nos. 157, 172. 1946, Nos. 8, 31.
Designs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 200.
Hospital Benefits Act - Regulation’s - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 2.
Immigration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. No. 20.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 169, 192.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated Kith October, 1945.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Belmont, Western Australia.
Broome, Western Australia.
Byford, Western Australia
Camden, New South Wales.
Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
East Adelaide, South Australia.
Greta, New South Wales.
Holland Park, Queensland.
Kempsey, New South Wales.
Lake Boga, Victoria.
Lilli Pilli, New South Wales.
Mascot, New South Wales.
Merredin, Western Australia.
Mount Nebo (near Wollongong), New South Wales.
Narromine, New South Wales (2).
Newington, New South Wales.
Onslow, Western Australia.
Pearce, Western Australia.
Port Hedland, Western Australia.
Robertson, New South Wales.
Roebourne, Western Australia.
South Brisbane, Queensland.
Sydney, New South Wales (2).
Wagga Wagga,New South Wales.
White Rock (near Cairns), Queensland.
Wollongong. New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Cannington, Western Australia.
Caulfield South, Victoria.
Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia.
Glen Iris, Victoria.
Henley Beach, South Australia.
Konong Wootong, Victoria.
Mayfleld, New South Wales.
Miriam Vale, Queensland.
Mount Barker, South Australia.
New Farm, Queensland.
Northbridge, New South Wales.
Penrith, New South Wales.
Perth, Western Australia.
West Melbourne, Victoria.
Telephonic purposes -
National Security Act -
National Security (Agricultural Aids) Regulations - Orders -
Hay, straw and chaff (New South Wales), (Queensland), (Tasmania) and (Victoria) -Revocations.
National Security (Agricultural Machinery) Regulations - Order - Agricultural machinery (No. 5).
National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition Regulations - Order - Apple and pear acquisition 1945-46.
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Orders - Exemptions (2) .
National Security (Economic Organization ) Regula tions - Orders -
Economic organization (Interest rates).
National Security (Fish) Regulations - Orders -
Fish markets (New South Wales) - Revocation.
Sale of fish (New South Wales) Revocation.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations -
Orders- Nos. 23-31.
Orders by State Minister for Agri culture - New South Wales (Nos. 3,4),
National Security (General) Regulations -
By-laws - Controlled areas - Revocations (4).
Bacon and smallgoods (South Australia) - Revocation.
Bread industry (Queensland) - Revocation.
Canvasware - Revocation.
Chain manufacture - Revocation.
Clothing materials investigation -
Cocoa, chocolate and confectionery - Revocation.
Control of -
Bitumen - Revocation.
Canned fruits - Revocation.
Collapsible tubes - Revocation.
Dextrose - Revocation.
Elastic materials (No. 3).
Electric dry battery manufac ture - Revocation.
Electric torch case manufacture - Revocation.
Essential materials (Nos. 17, 18).
Footwear (Styles and quality) (No. 8). .
Hand and garden tools - Revocation.
Horse-shoe manufacture - Revocation.
Ice (Queensland) - Revocation.
Leather - Revocation.
Leather goods (No. 3).
Leather goods - Revocation.
Liquid paraffin - Revocation.
Liquor (No. 5).
Packages - Revocation.
Production and distribution of footwear - Revocation.
Radio service - Revocation.
Radio spare parts - Revocation.
Refrigerators and refrigeration equipment - Revocation.
Retail delivery of commodities - Revocation.
Solder - Revocation.
Tra i ler man u f actu re - Revocation.
Dry cleaning industry - Revocation.
Egg vendors (South Australia) - Revocation.
Feminine outerwear (No. 3).
Fish (Estimates and returns) - Revocation.
Fishing industry (Estimates and returns ) - Revocation.
Ice industry (Victoria) - Revocation.
Knitted goods (No. 3).
Laundry industry - Revocation. Male outerwear (No. 2).
Manufacture of -
Domestic furniture (No.6).
Fur garments - Revocation.
Omnibus bodies - Revocation.
Merchant ships (Passive defence) - Revocation.
Milk industry (Queensland) - Revocation.
Milk vendors (Geelong), (Tasmania) - Revocations.
Navigation and anchor lights - Revocation.
Navigation (Aquatic racing on Sydney Harbour) - Revocation.
Navigation (Control of public traffic) - Revocation.
Navigation (Darkening ship) - Revocation.
Navigation (Recognition procedure) - Revocation.
Navigation (Small craft) - Revocation.
Prohibited places - Revocations (45).
Prohibition of non-essential production (No. 19).
Protected area - Revocation.
Protection of exposed personnel ( Merchant ships ) - Revocation.
Protection of shipping (Accommodation for defence personnel) - Revocation.
Protection of shipping (Defensive armament) - Revocation.
Protection of shipping (Paravane equipment)- Revocation.
Retail grocery (Queensland) - Revocation.
Rubber (Relaxations ) .
Rubber (Relaxations) (No. 2).
Shirts, collars and pyjamas (No. 2).
South Australia milk vendors - Revocation.
Taking possession of land, &c. (23).
Use of land.
Utensils (Miscellaneous) - Revocation.
Watches in Australian ships.
Wholesale butter trade control ( South Australia ) - Revocation.
Wooden tool-handles (Manufacture and sale) - Revocation.
Woven underwear (No. 2).
Orders and by-laws - Protected areas - Revocations (3).
Orders by State Premiers -
New South Wales (Nos. 58-60). Victoria (No.62).
National Security (General) Regulations and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order by State Premier - New South Wales (No. 57).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (486).
National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations - Rules - Fair Rents Board, 1945 (Tasmania).
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Orders -
Land transport orders (South Australia) - Revocation.
Passenger vehicles control ( Western
Australia ) - Revocation.
Revocation of certain road transport orders (dated 1st October, 1945).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders- Protected undertakings (33).
National Security (Maritime Industry ) Regulations - Order - No. 52.
National Security (Meat Industry Control) Regulations - Order - Meat (No. 35).
National Security (Mobilization of Electricity Supply) Regulations -
Determinations - Electricity ( Australian Capital Territory) (2). Orders -
Electricity (Australian Capital Territory) (3).
Electricity - Revocation.
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration - No. 158.
Orders- Nos. 2197-2328, 2330-2406, 2408-2415.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Orders -
Prisoners of war camp (No. 15).
Prisoners of war (Pay arrangements ) (No. 5).
Prisoners of war (Payment) (No. G.I. A.2).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders- Nos. 106-114.
National Security (Salvage) Regulations - Order - Sal vage - Revocatio n .
National Security (Shearing of Sheep) Regulations - Order -Exemption.
National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations - Orders-
Nos. 106-110. 1946, Nos. 1-3.
National Security (Supplementary). Regulations -
Order - Deferment of banking business Orders by State Premiers -
New South Wales (No. 50).
Queensland (2 - dated 23rd October, 1945, and 2nd January, 1946).
South Australia (No.4 of1945). Tasmania (No. 4) .
Victoria (dated 21st December,. 1945).
Western Australia (dated 7th December, 1945) .
National Security (Vegetable Seeds) Regulations - Notice - Returns of Vegetable Seeds.
Regula tions - Sta tutory Rules - 1945. Nos. 155, 156, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 165, 166, 167, 168, 173, 178, 179, 184, 187, 188, 189, 203, 204, 205. 1946. Nos. 1, 3, 4, 11, 12. 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 26, 32.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Crown Lauds Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservation of certain lands near Alice Springs (Jay Creek Aboriginal Reserve)..
Ordinance - 1945 -No.8 - Inquiries.
No. 2 (Inspection of Machinery Ordinance),
No. 3 (Co-operative Trading Societies Ordinance). 1946-No.1 (Inquiries Ordinance) .
PapuaNew Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances - 1945 -
No. 1 - Native Labour (Wages and Conditions of Employment).
No. 2 - Treasury.
No. 3- Supply (No. 1) 1945-1948.
No. 4 - Ordinances Interpretation. Patents Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No.197.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945.No. 194.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1946, No. 17.
Re-establishment and Employment Act -
Regulations- statutory Rules- 1945, Nos. 181, 182. 1946, Nos. 5, 14, 15.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1-9) -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945.No. 193.
Science and Industry Endowment Act -
Report by the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for year 1944-45,
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1945-
No. 11 - Liquor.
No. 12 - AdvisoryCouncil.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1944-45.
Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 181.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty-second Annual Report, foryear 1943-44.
Supply and Development Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 174.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 199.
Tuberculosis Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948,No. 9.
War Crimes Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1945,No. 164.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 170.
War Service Homes Act - Regulation - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 202.
Wine Grapes Charges Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1945, No. 171.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act- Regulations -Statutory Rules 1945,No. 177.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1945,No. 186.
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945,No. 170.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
COMMONWEALTH GRANTS commission’.
– Matters of the nature mentioned are receiving the consideration of the Government, and it is expected that an announcement in this connexion will be made at an early date.
– The question of the removal or modification of the means test as applied to old-age, invalid and widows’ pensions is at present engaging the attention of the Government. A very important matter of Government policy is involved and it is not possible to make a more detailed statement at the present juncture.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The provision of this information will involvea considerable amount of work. Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request to be supplied with these particulars.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460306_reps_17_186/>.